My real turning point came when speaking to one friend about Islam, I was given a book to read, The Choice. Quran and Bible, by the late Ahmad Deedat (MAY ALLAH grant him a high place in Jannah inn sha ALLAH).
In this book he speaks of how Jesus (PBUH) never said he wants to be worshipped and never proclaimed himself as God. The book also explained how the Bible in fact describes the coming of the comforter and the description given in the Bible matches that of our Nabi Muhammad (PBUH). Furthermore, the book highlighted numerous flaws found within the bible.
After reading this book, I felt relieved, encouraged and excited, I actively sought out other reverts to hear from them about their call to Islam and their experiences. I was then directed to a sheikh who was also a revert to Islam. This was another influential step upon my journey to Islam. I remember the day I met with this Sheikh vividly, in was a stormy winters day and I rode on my then motorcycle to meet this sheikh at his house to discuss Islam. He recited beautiful verses from the holy Quran and explained the meanings thereof, I was in awe, that a revert could recite that well and was so knowledgeable about Islam. He recited about the fetus and how children are conceived and the steps there of, and how the Quran provides evidence of this (Qur'an, 56:57-59) (Qur'an, 75:36-37) (Qur'an, 76:2) (Qur'an, 32:7-8) (Qur'an, 75:37-39) (Qur'an, 96:1-3) (Qur'an, 23:14) (Qur'an, 39:6). As well as how the rain clouds are formed to the specifics (Qur'an, 30:48). As well as the oceans that meet and whose waters never mix (Qur'an, 55:19-20). This gave me further hope and encouragement that it is possible to revert and become a good Muslim. This added to my hunger to learn more and more about Islam. Most importantly, I finally realized that the Quran was a divinely inspired book. For there is no way that an illiterate man who lived more than a thousand years ago in a remote desert, with no technology could ever have written or known such intricate details on science and biology as described in holy Quran. It is unfathomable.
Humans have only provided scientific evidence of the above natural occurrences less than a mere 100 years ago. ALLAHUAKBR! The following Thursday evening I drove in the cold to the sheikh, and said my kalimaah shahada. ALHAMDULILLAH.
What was your perception of Islam and Muslims prior to reverting?
I must admit, I believed most of the propaganda perpetuated in the media and society. I viewed Muslims in a very stereotypical way, and generalized that most Muslims (besides my friends) were extremists and terrorists or supported terrorists. I remember the day of 9/11, the so called “terror attack” on the twin towers, we were told it was perpetrated by Muslim terrorists, images displayed on the media, showed Muslims in different parts of the world rejoicing and supporting the attacks. Even here in South Africa, many Muslims were defending the attacks and were fully in support thereof. Again this did very little to improve my opinion of Muslims in general, instead, it made me dislike Islam and what Muslims stand for, however, I was not aware that that was the thinking of ignorant Muslims to support such an act. Despite all this “negative publicity” Muslims received during this period, I was intrigued to figure out what Islam is about and what it teaches. I was not unique in this respect; events surround 9/11 served as a great catalyst for introducing people to Islam.
What was your best and worst experience after reverting (if any)?
Worst experience had to be distancing myself from good loyal friends, as I could not hang out with them as I did before, most of the activities and events were not appropriate for a Muslim, for example, going to parties, intermingling between sexes, etc. inevitably, I grew apart from these friends and our relationship slowly died. However, I was meeting new and different Muslims all the time, and quickly made good friends which not only strengthened my Imaan, they taught me about Islam and made me more Deen conscious. However, it took a while before I made genuine friends, initially, I was just invited around from time to time for meals with different Muslim acquaintances, these invites were sporadic and often fleeting and during my first year of being a Muslim, I often was left feeling lonely and isolated having lost my core group of friends and now being the outsider trying to break into the group of Muslim friends. However, as time went on and I met more and more Muslims, I eventually made long lasting friendships, and even gained some family in the process. I would therefore, like to urge our Muslim community to be more inviting to people who revert, as it can be a daunting journey and even if you don’t end up being good friends down the line, at least you would have been there to help them get on their feet for that short while of their new lives.
There are many misconceptions about Islam, one of them is that Islam is a modern religion belonging to Arabs. What is your opinion on this matter and what would you advise non-Muslim readers?
Islam is a way of life. It addresses not only the religious and spiritual aspects of our lives, but also science and socio-political issues amongst others. It is structured and everything has wisdom behind it. The most useful advice I could give, would be to have an open mind, shed all preconceived prejudices you may have about Islam and use social media as a platform, watch youtube videos by Zakir Naik,The Deen Show, Habib Ali Jiffri and see the beauty of Islam. They cover a wide range of great Islamic topics as well as issues pertaining to revert Muslims in general.
How do you see the mosque compared to churches and temples? Do you find any similarities in the role or status of the imam and priests?
I find the mosque to be a place of serenity, peace as well as power, a place where one can just sit and meditate without any disturbances, the beauty of the mosque is the tranquility that it has, the quietness and cleanliness it offers. If I compare the mosque to that of the church, I guess each worshipper will feel the same amount of serenity from their respective house of worship provided that they feel spiritually engaged. The major difference between the mosque and church is that the mosque is open for all Muslims, it is not confined to a specific sect of Islam, and all Muslims are welcome. There is no such thing as in Christianity where you only attend the church to which your specific denomination is affiliated. Furthermore, the mosque is open most of the day.
Another difference that I have found in Islam (this may just be an opinion I have) is that the Imams are much more approachable and more in touch with the community that they serve. I have found that the sheikhs and imams are more straight-forward they speak openly and don’t sugar coat, they are firm when they speak about what is right and what’s wrong, regardless of whether or not what is said hits a sore nerve and the congregation. I didn’t find the clergy of the church to be as approachable and often found that their lectures were often dampened down so as not to “offend” their congregation, particularly when it comes factors regarding lifestyle. In the church there is often a “free-for-all” attitude which is most apparent in the way members dress and behave within the church. This is definitely not the case in the Islam. When we attend the mosque there is a degree of etiquette involved. We dress appropriately and act in a respectful manner.
How did u choose your muslim name?
Before reverting I was speaking to a group of friends, and asking them what would be a nice name once I reverted. We brainstormed the clichés of Sameer, Sulaiman etc, names beginning with "S" as the name my parents have given me was Steven. I always admired the name of one of my favorite cricket players, Amir Sohail (former cricketer for Pakistan),
I looked up the meaning (leader, general) and thought, “wow nice name”.
I then spoke to couple of friends and they said it suited me, and that’s how Ameer came to be.
Are you married?
On the 15th June 2013 I got married to a lovely Deen conscious lady Laila.
How did u get involved in Silat?
I heard sheikh Riyad Walls (imam of Stegman rd masjid, claremont) mentioning it one day on the Mimbar during Jumua announcements, at the time I was a keen runner and never had time, then one day I decided to go check out Silat, practiced in class with Faheem and Muneeb and I was hooked.
What is your experience of Silat thus far?
Silat is awesome! As it is not only focused on fighting, but also on self defense and overall exercise. More importantly it has Islam at its very core. For example, you start and end the class off with a duah and recitation of al-fatihah and the 3 khuls.
Silat pukulan melaka is a malay islamic art. Do you find this to be true and how does this style practice Islam?
That’s a difficult question lol.
I think it’s definitely a more holistic form of martial arts; this is especially true regarding the various techniques involved in Silat. Islamic teachings resonate throughout the sport, for example, one does not view your training partner as an enemy, instead you are there to help and assist with training techniques. We rectify each other and offer advice and even in class we speak allot about Islam and share our knowledge and opinions during training. So it serves as a great forum to share ideas and knowledge.
Silat being practiced in the mosque. What was your reaction when you heard this, and do you find this practical?
It is extremely practical; it keeps one’s head focused on the Almighty at all times. It prevents one from speaking idol talk and stay focused on becoming spiritually and physically stronger.
Do you derive any benefit from Silat training which you can apply in your daily life and activities?
I’m a physiotherapist, which requires me to lift patients daily, my work is physically taxing. I also counsel and have to listen to the patient’s problems on a daily basis, which is emotionally taxing, as many have poor home circumstances. Silat helps me escape for a little while every week so that I can go back to work relaxed, and physically and spiritually stronger. It helps me approach life with a different and more positive view point. Furthermore it helps me feel good, and healthy. I can’t stop speaking about it as I simply just love it. I wish I was introduced to Silat during my childhood.
What is your favorite and not so favourite part of Silat training?
My favourite aspect is definitely the self-defense skills learnt, the throws and the overall fitness it provides. I don’t really have a least favourite part of training; I guess my least favourite part is that I don’t always have the luxury of time to attend Silat with my busy schedule. Furthermore, I do find Jurus challenging, but that’s because I am bit lazy and don’t practice as often as I should.
Describe your perfect day.
Spending time with my Wife and having Silat is the added plus.
Final words of encouragement for people interested in islam and silat training?
For people interested in Islam.... Don’t judge the people who practice the
Religion, we are not perfect, but Islam is perfect. And read up before
making comments. Read the books and web sites I suggested, and see that we are not terrorists, it’s a small percentage of people who have hijacked the name of Islam to advance to their own agendas. Making uninformed generalizations about Islam is like someone accusing all catholic people of being colonialists and tyrants after invading the Americas and other lands for their own material gain.
Come for one Silat lesson, and see the beauty of Silat, if you’re looking to get fit then Silat is great, but it has so much more to offer, like self-defense, relaxation. We aren’t competitive with each other, but we compete to better ourselves in class, and we strive to help those in class to improve their skills, something which other martial arts tend to not do. We are a family and when one is weak then the whole family feels that weakness, thus we help each other get strong.
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