A Sleepless Night
A British Man Finds Faith After Doubt
I was raised as an Anglican (Church of England), the youngest (by one hour – I have a twin brother) of eight children. My father died when I was about 10 years old.
I attended Sunday School, was confirmed, sang in the choir, would have been an altar boy but National Service intervened, went to Youth Fellowship classes.
I went regularly to church every Sunday morning and evening. I was called up for National Service in 1958 at the age of 20.
After initial training I was posted to Malta, from there I spent 3 months in Tripoli in Libya. After demob I came back to the UK and was still practising Christianity.
Searching for Faith
Doubts started to enter my mind. When we turned to face the altar to say the Creed, I found myself asking why I was doing it? Then I began to doubt it and then to disbelieve in it.
When I spoke to the Vicar about this he told me not to think about it as I was in danger of stepping outside the Church – becoming a heretic.
The doubts wouldn't go away; they increased to include the resurrection, inherited sin and so on. Then I felt I wouldn't find God in the Church and I would be a hypocrite if I continued to attend the Church. So, I stopped going.
For some 8 years I had no formal religion. I did have a code of life, a set of values based on: always telling the truth, helping others where possible and not taking advantage of certain situations I might finds myself in.
I initially called myself an atheist but was told, as you are still looking for a God you must be an agnostic. I discussed belief systems with the various people I came in contact with and what they got out of their belief system. I read any books I came across on various religions.
In this way I found out a little about Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Sikhism, Roman Catholicism (and probably others) and the ism of my day was Swedenborgenism – philosophy. Anyway, for various reasons I felt none of these were what I was looking for.
Then, I went to work in a Research Lab in Rutherford outside Oxford. I moved into the senior staff hostel where we used to discuss Religion and Politics. There were people there from Iran, India and Pakistan.
The Opening of a Heart
One evening after dinner someone described the Prayer in Islam with respect to al-Fatiha and the hadith Qudsi. This had an impact on me as tears came to my eyes when the Fatiha was explained.
I went to the Information Bureau in Oxford to find out about a Mosque. They didn't know of one but gave me the name of a man who might be able to help me.
I phoned him up and told him, "I don't know if I can be a Muslim but with no knowledge I will never find out."
We arranged that I would visit his house two evenings a week and discuss Islam. He was an Englishman who had embraced Islam about 20 years earlier and was the Imam of the Masjid in Oxford at that time.
After 6 months I was following him in the prayer and beginning to practice Islam on my own. I used to attend Thursday evenings in the Masjid for Tafsir. I moved to computers and shift work.
One Friday about 18 months after our first meeting, I was asked after Juma' if I had said the Shahadah. When I said "No!" I was asked, "Don't you think it's time?" I asked in all humility, "Do you think I know enough?"
I said the Shahadah in March 1970.
During 1972 I kept wondering if my faith would be strong enough, if there would come a time when I would want to go away from Islam (as I had gone away from Christianity).
I asked the Imam who told me "First you get a little knowledge then you begin to practice it. If you continue to practice it is because you believe in it (otherwise you would stop). In this way your faith develops."
This still left the question open, of whether I would be able to pass every test of my new found faith.
A Sleepless Night
One night I couldn't sleep. In my mind came, "O you who believe, go not astray from the right path, the path that leads to Allah." Shivers ran up and down my spine. I sat up and switched on the light.
I reached for a pencil and paper and wrote those words down. Then I laid back down. As I was going over them in my mind… it continued, …:The One God, Lord of all Creation."
Again I sat up and wrote the words down. Then I went to sleep.
In the morning I looked at what I had written:
"O you who believe." Did I really believe, was this confirmation?
"Go not astray from the right path." The right path… which is the right path?
"The path that leads to Allah." To Allah, the Muslim name for God, the right path is the path to Islam.
"The One God." Was this a denial of my Christian (trinitarian) past?
"Lord of all Creation." There is only One God. There is only one Creator, call Him what you will.
My doubts evaporated (al-hamdulillah).
Water-Pistols and Marriage
The person who had explained the Prayer to us had gone back to Pakistan in 1972 and I had requested their address. I used to send postcards explaining my experiences as a new Muslim.
Within a short time, I was now 32 years old, I realised there was a meeting of the minds and I wrote to the family with a proposal of marriage. I received a reply which wasn't exactly helpful as there was a reference to burying "Ghora's" in the Christian Qabristan (graveyard).
I wanted to turn such a comment around and finally decided to write: "Since you are challenging, I have the choice of weapons and I choose …… water-pistols."
In subsequent postcards I mentioned how expert I was becoming with the water-pistols and in 1973 the family invited me to Pakistan.
I was met at the airport by the brother, mother and a sister.On the drive to the house we passed the Ghori Qabristan and this was pointed out to me. On arrival at the house I opened the large suitcase I had brought with me and prepared to take out what gifts I had bought for the family.
But first, I took out a pair of beautifully matched water-pistols and requested the brother to take his pick. He promptly embraced me and we got on very well from then on.
It transpired the brother had written to the Imam in Oxford for a reference about me, what he received was positive, al-hamdulillah. My proposal was accepted and I was married.
I phoned the British Consulate in Karachi and told them I was an Englishman who had just married a local girl and I wanted to take her back to the UK with me, what should I do?
I went to see them and in the interview I was told it takes six months to arrange an interview for the girl, what will I do. I said, "I will cable my company and tell them I am unavoidably detained and stay here."
The guy didn't quite know what to say to that, but called for Queen's Regulations. He thumbed through these and then said, "Ah! Here is something she can go back as your fiance provided you have a civil marriage within a certain time."
My wife started to protest that she was not going as my girlfriend, but I told her we were married in the sight of Allah, and what this guy was saying was not important, let's get the visa. So, within an hour we had the visa.
I managed to get my ticket changed so we could visit Saudi Arabia and perform Umrah on the way back to the UK. We actually met another brother in the Haram Sharieff who had been unable to get to the wedding and he paid for us to go to Madina, al-hamdulillah.
We both wanted to raise any children in a Muslim country so I wrote to Saudi Arabia for a job. Eventually, we went to the University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in 1974.
In 1986 I voluntarily moved to King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The job was finished in 1997 (and we don't have any children – Allah karim).