"One of the first things I was asked by Family was that why do I want to follow a religion that was meant for only a certain ethnic group. This made me think for days - I found many Verses and chapters in the Quran on this very topic - I've concluded that God Created all humans - we are all equal before him except by our piety."
*Abang Ebrahim Bester, a member of the Pukulan Melaka Silat family in Cape Town shares some inside info about his realisation of Islam. We hope to inspire and invite many more to the fold of Islam. Please read and share the article with family & friends :) *Abang means brother in the malay language, and its a title of respect used amongst pesilats (silat exponents).
What was your perception of Islam and Muslims prior to reverting?
I've had no perception of Islam or Muslims prior to reverting. I knew that Muslims went to Mosque
on Fridays which I could never understand. I even raised a challenging question to a present day
friend and colleague during a job interview. 4 years later, I find myself in the same situation which I
questioned not too long ago...
Which religion were you following before?
I was a non-practicing Christian - brought up with the N.G Church teachings.
Can u explain what motivated u to revert to Islam?
I was brought up in a very liberal family with good morals but no religious foundation. Yes, we
went to Sunday school after service (Dutch Reformed Church - N.G Kerk) and learned about all the
prophets of the Old Testament. The focus was more on the prophet Jesus - even though I never
knew much about him, the belief was that you only need faith to enter heaven. That was easy - I
never had to ask questions as all I had to do was belief that you can only enter heaven if you accept
Jesus as your saviour.
We were taught that what happened in the Old Testament was not that relevant and the Gospels in
the Bible were fact.
After I had left school in 1996 my faith washed away as adulthood and the pleasures of this life
seemed more appealing to me. Yes, I still went to church on Easter and Christmas holidays and by
doing those religious acts, it brought fulfilment into my life.
Life passed by and in 2008 (After marriage and during my wife's first pregnancy) I was sent to work
at a customer site for four weeks in Dubai (UAE). The first representation of Islam I witnessed was
that the employees of that company would stop what they were doing and then pray next to their
desks in the most humbling of prayers I've ever seen - putting their foreheads onto the ground.
This was a strange concept and provoked me to ask more questions. This is when I learned about
Allah, Muhammad, The revelation of the Quran, The concept of Trinity and the history thereof,
why there are shower taps in the toilet area, Why they play "Arabic chanting songs/poems" over
the loudspeakers in the marketplace of downtown Dubai (which I later learned was the Athaan),
The paying and earning of interest on money, and many more other observances. Another striking
point that made me pay attention was being Vegan at the time - I asked about Honey and Milk and
Meat (which was quoted in the bible and the Quran) – Being Vegan you can’t eat any of those – yet
God mentions the goodness of these in the Quran and versus in the Bible reports on these as food
sources. This made me think that I’m abstaining from something for the wrong reasons, and why
would God promote it in the Quran.
Before my visit to Dubai, even though I had many Muslim colleagues and friends, I never knew a
single thing about Islam. Not even the 9/11 events made me think about other religions until those
four weeks of my time in Dubai.
I started doing introspection and reflected on my own life as a Christian. One night I was sitting on
the beach at the hotel in Dubai and had dialogue with God - not Jesus or the Holy Spirit as taught in
Christianity - by directly with God. All I asked for was for Him to Guide me in this conflict I found in
So I had lots of my questions answered, but yet I needed to know more. On my last off weekend I
planned a tourist outing for the day and one of the options was to visit a Mosque - The tour cost
10 Dirham (R20) and I thought that should be interesting and not too expensive, I never knew I was
allowed to enter a mosque and thought this would be a perfect opportunity. The money was for
donation and a good cause – so why not.
Upon entering the mosque it was requested that all women on the tour should cover their hair,
entering the mosque there were Quranic verses playing over an electronic device which sounded
very melodic and tranquil. I felt no scepticism about entering this beautiful building. The carpets
were soft and elegant, a smell of musk in the air, very inviting.
The visit to the mosque included a demonstration of the Islamic praying ritual with transliteration
of all the actions during prayer - The Imam also discussed the basis of Islam in comparison to
Christianity - which answered many of my questions.
After the tour, I pulled the Imam aside as he said he had booklets on what's permissible and non-
permissible in Islam. I was interested in such a booklet so I asked him for one. He said he has none
left and went to the back to give me an English Translation of the Holy Quran.
I could not stay much longer as it was time to leave with the tour bus. Next stop was the
marketplace. I purchased some dates from one of the shops and opened my bag to place the dates
inside and when the shopkeeper noticed the Holy Quran in the bag he asked me if he can take it out.
With much respect he took it out and browsed a few pages, closed it, and kissed it with much
respect before placing it back into the bag. I realised at that point that this religion is well respected
by its followers as nothing I've ever seen before.
I had to make a decision as I realised I was exposed to something very powerful - More powerful
than only having Faith. Islam included Faith and Fact to back it up. I never thought of the my
relationship with my maker in this way, and knew for certain I had to take action on it.
I phoned my wife and informed her of what happened and that I am considering becoming a
Muslim. She never thought I was serious about it - probably another phase I was going through.
One thousand questions later, One month after the trip to Dubai and One Week after my daughter’s
birth, I decided to make my Shahada. I thank Allah for guiding me to the straight path, and Allah
What was your best and worst experience after reverting (if any)?
Best - experiencing Taqwa (God Consciousness) during the month of Ramadan
Worst - Explaining myself to family, friends and Colleagues - announcing my chosen name was
a great challenge - in hindsight a test from Allah, which after some perseverance made me more
confident to have interfaith dialogue with anyone.
There are many misconceptions about Islam; one of them is that Islam is a modern religion
belonging to Arabs. What is your advice and perceptions of this which u could advise any non-
One of the first things I was asked by Family was that why do I want to follow a religion that was
meant for only a certain ethnic group.
This made me think for days - I found many Verses and chapters in the Quran on this very topic - I've
concluded that God Created all humans - we are all equal before him except by our piety.
How do you see the mosque compared to churches and temples? And do you find any
similarities you found in the role or status of the imam and priests?
The first noticeable difference between the two would obviously be the lack of chairs in the mosque.
I found that being no issue as I never liked sitting on those hard benches in church.
The total respect and character a Muslim presents in the Mosque stood out for me. You could walk
into any mosque around the world and feel the same "vibe" which to me symbolises unity - Visiting
different churches, there is definitely a different feeling you get at each one. Each church represents
their same message differently. Each mosque represents the same message the same...
At church there is a hierarchy of priesthood which is well structured and respected by the
community. I found the same level of respect in Muslim community with the difference in example
- If the Imam would be ill the day, then anyone most knowledgeable could step up and deliver the
Islam is very flexible on that regard.
How did u choose your Muslim name?
I've embraced Islam in the period of Hajj and close to Eid Al-Adha. I was familiar with the story of
Prophet Abraham and found it to be a very solid name.
All my family and 'friends' still call me by my birth name: Etienne (French name)
I take no offence to those as I can't expect them to accept the change I had to make by the will of
Allah. Changing name is not a prerequisite when embracing Islam, but it definitely opens others eyes
to the fact that this person with a new name is making a very strong statement.
I've had many interesting conversations with people whom thought the Ebrahim on the other side of
the phone line is not whom they expected to see in person - and this is some form of Dawah in my
Tell us a bit about yourself, work and family. Are u married?
I love the outdoors, enjoy hiking and mountain biking. I am also a keen carpenter and the family’s
local DIY guy.
My wife is my foundation. I've known her since 1994 (We shared the same classroom at school,
but never dated back then) we remained good friends until we got engaged in 2002. We've been
married since 2005. Our family have grown with two siblings.
Mea - she is 4 years old and Aaron - he is 5 months old. (At the time of writing)
How did u get involved in Silat?
I was sitting at Stegman Rd Mosque one Friday and the Imam announced a form of Martial Arts
presented at the Mosque. This was fascinating to me as in Christianity; Martial arts were always
frowned upon. Possibly because you can't have martial art without accepting the spiritual aspect
Most Eastern Martial arts have a Taoism/Buddhism spiritual aspect to it.
What is your experience of Silat thus far? Do you have experience in other martial arts? And
how far do you see yourself taking your Silat training to?
I use to do Tai-Chi, it was slow and calming – but not as 100% fulfilling as Silat is to me. When I
started with Silat, the spiritual foundation I discovered is Islam.
This was great as I was not prepared to take on a martial art without having some spiritual
I intend to continue with Silat training for as long as Allah spares me. I would like to see my children
learn the art - if not from the school, at least from myself.
Silat Pukulan Melaka is a Malay Islamic art. Do you find this to be true and how does this style
Training is opened and closed with Dua and reciting the first chapter of the Holy Quran. We also
make salutations on the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after class.
There are many teachings in Silat which perfectly synchronises with the teachings of the prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him) for example: the pesilat should at all times have good character.
Another example is that the best form of Silat in a confrontational situation is to first talk your way
out of it and NOT just attack the person.
Another example is that the pesilat should always have the kalima-e-tayyabah on the tip of their
tongues when in a confrontational situation - because in the end - it is only by the will of Allah that
things happen and turn out the way they are.
What's hot around the silat world!