SHAFAQNA-An interview with Ho Ming Lee (Ahmad Hasnain)
Please give us a biography of yourself. Your name, where and when you were born, where you passed your education, your educational level and anything you see necessary to mention.
I was born as Ho Ming Lee in Hong Kong on March 23, 1989. Alhamdulillah I went to local schools until primary 4, when my parents decided to enroll me into Hong Kong International School, which follows an American curriculum. I studied for 4 years and obtained a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois after completing high school in Hong Kong.
How did you get familiar with Islam? And when?
In this day and age, with our Imam (ajfs) being in occultation, we are constantly confronted with the question of how we can truly become counted as ones that prepared for his return. In this sense, I would say that getting familiar with Islam will InshaAllah continue to be an ongoing process. Officially, the shahadatain was uttered June 2015, and all praise belongs to Him for its taking place, though the goal is to live this life in such a way that InshaAllah when my time is up, I am in a state of submission and will be eligible to receive His mercy and in conjunction, the intercession of Muhammad and aale Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them) on the Day of Judgement.
What happened that you became a Shia Muslim? What made you to know about Shiism?
The following four books were instrumental in the beginning:
1. Shi’ite Islam by Allama Sayyid Tabataba’i (translated by Sayyid Hussein Nasr)
2. Alone with the Alone by Henry Corbin (translated by Ralph Manheim) esp preface written by Harold Bloom
3. Vision of Islam by William Chittick and Sachiko Murata
4. The World Turned Inside Out by Tom Cheetham
You mean these books were guide to know more about Islam and Shiism. Well, who introduced you these book? Or how did you get familiar with these books?
Alhamdulillah those books you could say, sparked an interest. I had just been browsing on the internet about different subjects like philosophy and psychology that came across them.
I want to know what specifically attracted you to Shiism. You read these books. They sparked an interest. You started to read more about Islam. But Why Shiism? What did you see in Shiism?
In the beginning, especially the love and brotherhood shown from the people who adhere to this school of thought; the common practice of combining prayers. Alhamdulillah and more recently also a warm feeling that i get most of the time when i think about the Holy Prophet (SAW), Bibi Fatima (SA) and the Imams (AS), the way they lived their noble lives.
Tell us about the reaction of people around you and your family after they realized you are a Muslim.
There was shock and confusion. People started to ask why and some tell me to read up on other religions or philosophies.
And your family’s reaction? Did they continue to associate with you? I mean when they saw lots of change in you.
Most of them expressed skepticism in the decision. Alhamdulillah yes, they continue to associate with me.
What was your religion before you become a Muslim? And do you see any connection between your existential need and converting to Islam?
Atheism/agnosticism. There’s a line from an American movie that is perhaps worth mentioning, “I have so much love to give, I just don’t know where to put it.” This is very much related to our existential need as human beings to worship. Through religion, we are taught to address and InshaAllah fulfill this need. At the time, I would have said I was searching for guidance, inner peace and the purpose of life. Different words, same idea.
How do you see the spread of Islam in your country?
InshaAllah there needs to be more interfaith dialogue. The Muslim community here, though substantial size-wise, as a whole is relatively isolated.
What do you know about the founder of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (RA)?
Alhamdulillah he’s an inspiring figure, notably in his dedication to reading namaz even shortly before he passed away (the video of him on his hospital bed) and anecdotes about his family life.
Have you ever been to any of the Holy shrines of our Imams (AS)?
Alhamdulillah yes, I was in Iran this past late March/ early April and I had the opportunity to visit Imam Ridha (AS).
What was your feeling when you were in his Shrine for the first time?
Somewhat bewildered, I felt like a stranger. There was also some anxiety.
Anxiety? Why? What you have done and are doing as a Shia Muslim is surely much more valuable than What we do as people who were born as Muslim. Did you feel anything different by entering the shrine?
Alhamdulillah the trip as a whole was spiritually uplifting. Visiting Masjid Jamkaran was another highlight.
When was the first time you read the Holy Quran and what was your feeling?
I can’t remember exactly when and what took place (which surah(s) read, how I felt), but I was exposed to the English translation of the Holy Quran probably some time in May last year before accepting Islam.
And what was your feeling when you prayed for the first time? Wasn’t it hard for you to pray 5 times a day at the beginning?
Alhamdulillah it took some time to learn the recitation and actions of the namaz and then reading it 5 times a day quickly became an indispensable part of a day. Not quite sure where/when I read my first namaz, but going into a mosque for the first time was a spiritually uplifting experience. I hadn’t really learned how to perform namaz yet and I just tried to follow behind the brother who brought me there.
What is the most beautiful Ayah of the Quran in your opinion? And why?
I think Surah Fatihah, Ayah 6 that says, “Guide us on the straight path,” is the most beautiful one. Because Allah is teaching us here arguably the most important thing to ask from Him.
Do you hold commemorations for the days of Muharram in your town?
Alhamdulillah yes, in fact we just had one for 20 days after the Day of Ashura. The brothers here do an admirable job organizing and participating in these majaalis. May Allah reward and bless them.
Thank you very much for your attention.