My Journey from Christianity to ISLAM

My Journey from Christianity to ISLAM  

Those whom Allah [in his plan] willeth to guide- He comforts their chest to Islam “.

The holy Koran; 6:125

Prologue

I thank Allah for his gift to human kind: Islam; a gift that all the gratitude in this universe cannot give it its due right. I thank him for leading me to the right path [that of worshipping Allah the one & only God with no partners] after 40 years of being on the wrong side. I hereby testify that no one is God but Allah without a partner, that Muhammad is his messenger & that Jesus [the son of Mary] is also a messenger of Allah created in his mother’s womb by the will of God being just as much the same a human as Adam was (peace be upon them all). I hereby repent to the Lord the years of my life that I spent in infidelity & non-righteousness as a Christian. I cannot fully rid myself of all the past sin, for God has given me a sound mind to think & the knowledge to realize that I was wrong. I did not follow the light for so long. I was afraid of losing kin & friend, I was afraid of losing material heritage. I had this deeply implanted grudge against Islam & Muslims. It had to be a long & tedious journey to the serenity & righteousness of Islam. I’d like very much to make the reader share it with me.

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Planting the black fruit of prejudice

[The early years in Sunday school]

            My father was a well-known Coptic (eastern Christian) preacher. He worked in the “Society of friends of the Holy Book” in Alexandria. His job was to attempt to lure poor Muslims living in underprivileged districts of the city to convert to Christianity. He was a strictly religious person who insisted that all his sons join the Sunday school of the Church as soon as each reaches the age of six. These schools graduate vicars who assist priests/pastors. The elite of vicars are chosen to be priests themselves when they get older. There are myths of holiness of priests in the Coptic culture as they are thought to be given the powers to heal the sick, help the needy & ablate sins of the sinners. Pupils of the Sunday schools are brainwashed into believing such superstitions right from a very young age. Along with such myths, plenty of false concepts & lies about Islam are engraved into the minds & souls of young kids attending such schools:

1.                    Egypt was the land of Copts & Muslims seized it from them through war. When they occupied the land, they tortured its Coptic Christians cutting their tongues so as not to talk in their native language & not to worship Christ. Muslims stole all church treasures, then they turned churches into mosques. They forced Copts to convert to Islam or pay a large sum of money, & killed all those who refused both. As this sum was too much for the poor Copts, flocks of them unwillingly denounced their religion. Coptic priests in Egypt still wear black mourning the atrocities committed by Muslims against their ancestors. They will take it off once they regain their land.   [The truth is that Copts were tortured by fellow Christians “the Romans”, so they welcomed Muslims who offered them freedom of faith & acknowledged their religion. Muslims entered Egypt without any fight with its natives, but rather with its occupants. They preserved the Coptic heritage that stands as a witness to their forgiving reign to date].

2.                    Muslims are infidel pagans who will become the fuel of hell. Their book, the Koran is not a holy book as it was put down by Muhammad. He filled it with superstitions & regulations that would allow him to marry whomever he fancies & control his followers. He got most of its content from the teachings of a Syrian monk “Bohyrah” whom he met in his early life & later killed to bury this secret. [The Koran stands for itself defiant for 14 centuries showing one miracle after the other in literature, science, history & all other branches of human knowledge. This is solid proof of its holy source & distance from any human contribution].

3.                    Muslims carry deep-rooted hatred towards Copts. They envy them, as Christianity does not have the restrictions Islam imposes on dressing, eating & drinking [spirits]. Muhammad himself married a Copt & permitted his followers to do the same as Christians are much prettier & more liberated than Muslim women. [Actually, Muslim women are the ones who are much prettier! Coptic instructions impose more restrictions in life than Islam. Muslims are ordered, as an essential entity of their faith, to acknowledge Christianity & Judaism and to honor their followers. Christianity does not acknowledge Islam or its prophet, & preaches hatred towards Muslims].

4.                    Muslims persecute Copts to force them out of Egypt & keep the whole country to themselves. They are eager to wipe Christianity out of Egypt, but are deterred by the power of Europe & the US. Copts should know that Muslims are their real enemies. They should strive to get money, as it is the means to regain their land. Till they have the wealth & power, they should flatter Muslims & continue to plot against them. They should avoid mosques as Muslims slaughter those Copts who enter them. They should not touch the Koran as it is a book of evil & magic. [I have no comment on this. It shows which side is evil].

5.                    Propagating the Solomon skeleton myth: Christ will return only when the Jews rebuild the skeleton, at which time all Jews will become Christians & all Christians of the world will unite to kill Muslims & control the world. Coptic faith also propagates the myth of the “Jews being God’s chosen people”, as Christ will return to them. [In this way Copts are hypocrites denouncing in Public the Jewish State, while favoring it in secret. It is ironic that many Christian/Jewish sects have recently emerged, all denouncing such myths & believing that Jesus will build the skeleton himself].

            During this critical period of my life, it was my father who first opened my eyes to the aberrations of the current Christian faith. He used to tell us secretly at home that true Christianity is against worshipping statues & pictures, against putting all this holiness to clergymen, against all those luxurious complicated rituals & against all these superstitions that they keep feeding into their people. He could not dare declare his points of view, as this simply meant losing the respectable monthly salary he gets from the Church, besides losing all the aura that surrounds his job.

            There is an event whose memory is still fresh in my mind. I was around 9 years when my mother gave birth to 2 male twins. For fear of being envied, she did not go to the church to baptize them. When one of the twins got gravely sick, my mother hurried to the priest to heal him. He looked to her in a fierce blaming way & shouted, “What do you think you were doing? Did you want them to die as muslims?!” The deep hatred to anything Islamic that showed on his face remained haunting me for years to come.

 

The black fruit gets ripe

[Church lessons in adolescence]

 

            At the age of 18, I became a teacher to young vicars in Sunday school. As a pre-requisite, I ought to attend all the church lessons, the special church meetings & pay extended summer visits to monasteries where famous anti-Islamic preachers lecture. As you get older, you get exposed to increasing doses of prejudice against Muslims & their religion. In these meetings, there were elaboration on & confirmation of topics previously taught in Sunday schools:

1.                    A true Christian should not listen to the recital of Koran or the call for prayers when broadcast through radio or TV. Reading any verses of the Koran or even touching it is an unforgivable sin & should be totally prohibited. The Koran is full of contradictions & lies. It is an explicit book having too many sexual topics, both directly & in insinuation. It is derived from the instructions of Arias of the 3rd century who preached that Christ was just a human who is not equal in any respect to the Father God. Bohyrah, a Syrian monk following Arias, met Muhammad & taught him to write then made him learn the principles of Christianity to preach to the Arabs. Instead, Muhammad invented a new religion to make himself a prophet & invited the monk to Arabia, made him drunk & killed him to bury the secret. Now that Muhammad has lost the source, he began extracting from old historic tales, from Moses’ book & from his wild imaginations on paradise & hell. He lived thereafter not to preach & not to fight infidels, but to marry as much women as he fancies. His “religion” found good acceptance among Arabs because of this “polygamy issue”! His followers served to spread the religion by sword & oppression. Muslims are well known, eversince, for their special adoration of women, progeny & violence. Muhammad controlled them through magic, astrology & through his epileptic fits. He personally hated pigs, & so he prohibited their rearing & use. [Could there be a bigger bunch of lies & false allegations than all this nonsense? The Koran has stood defiant to any contradictions for centuries & still amazes its learners day after day. If Muhammad’s followers did that only for women, why did they sacrifice their lives so cheaply for the religion? If Islam was spread by the sword & through oppression, how did it reach countries that saw no battles whatsoever? & How were there still minorities of other religions living safely & prospering very well in Muslim territory?]

2.                    There was a repeated concentration on the topic of the violent nature of Islam. Stories were told over & over mentioning the rape of Christians, demolishing their homes, seizing their properties & forcing their women to marry Muslims. The Coptic Pope keeps on giving public patriotic statements to the local media that he refuses any foreign “custody” on Egyptian Copts & that the government is taking a very just stand on their side. While doing so, his clergymen work from behind the scenes to revolt Copts against their fellow Muslims by propagating totally unfounded & largely exaggerated tales of persecution. Copts keep on flocking on European & American embassies with falsified stories in order to get access to these countries & gain social/financial support. Those who have already immigrated keep on disseminating such allegations in the western media to create a deeply implanted spirit of hatred between the followers of the 2 religions. Although of a different affiliation than western Christians (Copts are Eastern Orthodox following the Church of Alexandria & Abyssinia & having their own Pope), & although they look to Protestants & Catholics as infidels; still they looked forward to western support to help them topple Muslims. They’ve repeatedly focused on the Islamic law that allows the killing of those who retreat from Islam to any other religion [although this is not particular to Islam, as it is derived from the old testament & is a genuine part of the Jewish faith from which the Christians take their laws!]. They preached in these meetings how we should stay away from Muslims & never make friends with them unless our purpose is to distance them from their faith. When the Egyptian army lost the 1967 war with Israel, Copts were jubilant claiming that the defeat came from Heaven as Muslims were planning to slaughter them if they won. 6 years later when the Egyptian conquered the Israelis in the October 1973 war, they claimed that the victory was because their Pope contributed to the war plans & that one of the top Egyptian generals in the war was a devoted Copt! [See how they contradict themselves: the mere presence of such a high-ranked Coptic officer discards all the claims of persecution. Was the Egyptian army composed of only Muslims? Once it won the war, why didn’t they “slaughter” Copts as was propagated before? It all goes to show how the Coptic Church strives to agitate its followers against their fellow countrymen].

3.                    Although many of us were already brainwashed by the Sunday schools’ preachings & by the repeated implantation of such lies into our souls, still some had some brains to argue (including myself). One Coptic youth (a would-be pastor) asked the preacher: “What do you think of Muhammad?” & the preacher replied: “He was a bright man who succeeded in gathering devoted followers.” The young man continued: “Plato, Socrates & Einstein were all brilliant persons praised by everybody up till this day. But their followers are never on the rise & their cult is not spreading all around the world.” The preacher had no reply. Another young man would ask: “What do you think of the Koran?” & the preacher would try to find a compromised reply “It is a book that Muhammad has wrote. It contains the stories of the old nations & their prophets. It preaches righteousness & the worship of God. However, it has a lot superstitions & contradictions included.” The young would carry on: “If it is so, then why do you prohibit us from reading it to cling more to our faith? Why do you read it yourselves?” The preacher would evade replying by confirming that any Copt who dares touching the Koran [let alone reading it] is an infidel that will never get absolution. A third would ask: “Do Muslims worship God?” “Yes.” “Then why do we consider them infidel & will dwell in hell?” “Because they do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord.” “But they still worship God. They call Him Allah [God in Arabic] & we call Him Jesus. In the end He is the same Creator of this universe & all what’s in it.” The preacher would attack the poor guy as he lacks the logic answer. A 4th would say: “Isn’t it written in the old testament & in Jeremiah’s book that God has pledged to vanquish anyone who claims prophecy when he isn’t a true prophet of God? Muhammad has preached for 23 years, conquered the 2 major powers of the time: the Persians & the Romans, his religion did spread to the whole world & persisted for more than 14 centuries. Why hasn’t God fulfilled his pledge if Muhammad was a liar?” Again, there was defamation instead of a proper answer.

 

Perplexity

[Suspicions in the heart of a young man]

 

1. My father, being a famous preacher, had good connections with higher Coptic clergymen, all the way up to the Pope [Kirrollos VI, at the time]. During the reign of Emperor Hela-Silassy of Ethiopia, whose Eastern Orthodox Church follows that of Alexandria, the Patriarch visited Abyssinia. On his return, my father was among his welcoming committee. They went to congratulate him in his Alexandria residence. My father came back furious after such complementary visit. He said, “this foolish Pope brought back with him lions. He sent them to a monastery in Upper Egypt. He jubilantly told us that the purpose of these lions was to [devour any Copt who dares to convert to Islam! Our ancestors conserved the Christian faith by being fed to the lions by the Romans. We shall maintain that tradition. We shall feed those who wish to abandon our religion to the lions. Let this be deterrent to any would-be infidel].” I was stunned. Is this the mercy of Christianity that has been repeatedly mentioned by our clergymen? They have planted in my head how our religion is lenient & merciful compared to the brutal Islam which instructs on the “killing of any Muslim quitting the religion”. Is this now the truth: we Christians are the ones who do that, & in this grotesque way. Fortunately, the Patriarch died shortly after this encounter.

2. A close friend of my father was ordinated as the senior priest of a big Church (in Macks of Alexandria). He was a respected clergyman, an authority in theology who is much beloved by a wide mass of population attending his preaches. Suddenly, & after 2 years of his ordination, father Mathew disappeared. He showed up in Germany, from where he returned all his clergy possessions to the Pope announcing his conversion to Islam. The Church started spreading rumors around that Mathew was insane. I loved the guy very much, so I asked my father what really happened. He told me, “Mathew is much more sane than any of these fools who are tarnishing his reputation. He ran for his life. If he had declared his conversion here in Egypt, they surely would have killed him.” I turned to my father of confession[1], Reverend Mattias Rafael, for the truth behind killing Copts who convert. He said, “This is done for the sake of preserving the integrity of the Church. Slaughtering aberrants will deter others from following this infidel path. We keep them as Christians. When we know of any intention to convert, we lure the person into a church, force him to seclusion in a remote monastery, brainwash him there by temptation & threats. If he is still insistent, we literary torture him to declare repentance. Whether he succumbs or resists, his fate has already been decided: death. It is for his own good. He dies as a Christian before having second thoughts. When insisting on aberration, then we kill him for the good of other Christians, so that no one follows suite.”

3.  In 1971, I became a student of Medicine. In that same year, Patriarch Shennoudah was ordinated as the Pope of Coptic Church. Most senior clergymen did not love him for his arrogant non-forgiving nature. Yet, he controlled matters by an iron-fist Machiavellian policy. He used to send spies to all Churches’ preaches/ceremonies to bring him news of what is being said & done. Those clergymen who did not follow his instructions by the letter or even dared to defy his authority were harshly punished. I’ve seen this happening to a close clergyman. Father Rafael was a senior monk in the Meena monastery of a suburb of Alexandria (King Marriott). It came to the knowledge of the Pope that his name was not mentioned in the prayers conducted by this monk. Rafael was prohibited from praying for 6 months. According to Coptic faith, the Pope had the authority to suspend the prayers from being accepted in heaven! So even if someone prohibited by the Patriarch prays in secret, still his prayers wouldn’t find its way to God! This is a very severe punishment. When I went for my customary summer stay in the monastery, I went with another close clergyman [Samuel] to visit the punished father Rafael in his room. Samuel was doing his best to persuade Rafael to remove such humiliation by going to the Pope & arguing with him that one prays to God & not to the Pope, so that this vindication is unfounded. Rafael was very much intimated, he feared the Pope might prohibit him from paradise in the after life! Father Samuel left angrily, I followed trying to calm him down. We were walking in plain desert when he suddenly said, “Could a high Muslim clergyman prevent any Muslim from praying? Never. They will kill the clergyman, being infidel, if he did what our Pope did. Muslims know God well & they pray only to Him, not to a human like we do. Have you read anything from the Koran?” My instant reply was, “Certainly not. Why would I do something like that?” He started reciting some verses from the Koran in a heart-capturing angelic voice, but came to a sudden stop. I was touched, so I said, “Why did you cease?” “I forgot a word.” “Fill it with anything that carries the same meaning.” He looked sarcastically to me, “Do you think the Koran is like our bible? We recite a verse & skip ten, we change words as we please, and we translate it from one language to another to another so that when we return to the starting language we find a totally different thing. My boy, in the Koran each letter has been in its place for centuries & will stay so till the end of time. God preserved it &it will never change.” “How did you learn to recite the Koran like Muslims do?” “I always keep my radio tuned to the Koran channel. I am old & have no skills that can support me or a kinsman who can take care of me if I leave here. Otherwise, I would have become one of them.” I knew he was a Muslim in heart. I now understood the reason for his continuous sarcastic gestures on exaggerated Coptic rituals.

4. My once strong Christian faith was now shaking from the roots. I began to dislike the absolute authority of the Pope that raised him to the level of God in the eyes of his Coptic followers. To them, everything he says is divine being revealed to him from Heaven through the Holy Spirit. He never does mistakes, absolutely infallible. Trying to win the love of those who did not like him, Shennoudah started easing many Coptic restrictions. He issued decrees permitting the drinking of milk to fasting Copts with peptic ulcers (any animal product is prohibited during fasting), he allowed processed cheese & butter to weak ones. The Catholic Pope of Rome did something similar by declaring that the main objective of fasting is to use oil instead of butter/ghee. Accordingly, a fasting Catholic can eat meat & eggs on condition that they are fried in oil! That’s how rules of Heaven are modified by humans.

5. In 1982, a serious Christian event took place. A “new international version of the New Testament of the Holy Book” was issued. This “Book of Life“, as it was called, has in its preface the following quotation “the Holy Spirit has inspired its writers & gave wisdom to translators so as to help you understand the Scriptures.” So, we are free to change the words of God at will for others to be able to understand! Christians were tempted into exchanging their older editions of the Bible with this new luxuriously-packaged book by offering it for free. Older editions were withdrawn from Churches & monasteries. It was planned that within 10 years the old editions would have vanished from circulation & new generations will have no knowledge of them. When I sat down to compare both editions, I came across considerable differences. I wandered, “Is Man free to change what God has revealed to his prophets/messengers? Would the ones who do so escape heavenly punishment on account of their earthly-ordinated Church titles?” Islam came to my mind as a religion that does not allow one letter of God’s words in the Koran to be changed or merely displaced.

6. When I read deep into Christian history, I grew more resentful. From as early as the 4th century AC Patriarchs were incriminating one another. Each one had the “true faith”, while all the others & their followers were “infidels with whom no prayers should be shared”. Father Rafael (my confession priest) acknowledged this adding that stigmatizing others as “unfaithful” holds true in heaven before earth! I told him, “So our Patriarch considers all non-Copt Christians infidels, & the Pope of Rome[2] tags us Copts as infidels. And since the decrees of both hold true in Heaven, then all Christians should be infidels one way or the other! What would be our fate, then, in the other life?” He answered in a broken mood, “God have mercy on us all.” This was the last time I’d seen him. He died of liver cirrhosis a few months later. Like most Copt clergymen, he was an alcoholic.

7. When I was in my last year of studying medicine (1977), a close friend of mine had already graduated from the Faculty of engineering. Doss studied theology & had major participations to the Church. He was appointed as the pastor of a small church in a poor district of Alexandria & he took me as head vicar in his church. As part of our duties, we had to visit the homes of poor Copts in the district. Doss became furious when he found that most kids were not baptized. He used to shout at the parents, “What are you? Do you want your children to die infidel Muslims?” This confused me. If Christianity was the religion of God, why then was it necessary to “christen” the newborns in church by a priest? Why weren’t they born Christians? When I asked senior clergymen if kids were born Jews or infidels, so that it is necessary to baptize them to turn them faithful; they all gave the same answer, “Kids are born pure & angelic.” I became more confused.

8. My elder sister got married to a Protestant physician whose father had converted to Islam some years before. My brother-in-law despised Coptic clergymen saying that they survived on sucking the money from their poor followers. He spoke sarcastically of Coptic Church being studded with statues, pictures, candles, scent,・He used to say, “these are not churches, they are art galleries or rather pagan temples”. As for the absolution through confession to a priest, he just couldn’t accept that. “How on earth would someone commit all the sins in the book, go to a clergymen & tells him what he has done

& the latter would say to him [go boy, your sins have been forgiven. You are now as pure as a child]? Is this logic in any way?” When we once asked him to join us in church to share with us “the flesh & blood of Jesus Christ”, he simply refused & told me, “go to your father of confession & he will tell you that they added this ritual to the book of John.” I did just that, & father Rafael smiled at me saying, “Your brother-in law is right. Yes, they added some parts to the bible to clarify some obscure verses.” I was shocked. So these rituals that we dignify are man-made!

 

Seeing the Right Path

 

1. Every time I went into a church I was confronted by a huge picture of Jesus &/or a statue of him suffering on the crucifix. I started wondering how this poor helpless creature could be the God that we worship. We should be worshiping his Almighty Creator instead. As these truthful thoughts crossed my mind, I immediately got intruded by the devil, “How can you throw away the religion of your family & ancestors? Are all the millions of Christians in the world imbeciles not to have realized what you found? Do you think you’re the only smart one?” But then my sound mind would answer, “There are more pagans, atheists & infidels in the world than Christians. They too think wrongly that they are on the right path. Despite including a lot of intellectual bright ones, they are still wrong, & so are Christians. I now realize this clearly.”

2. When I graduated in 1978, I had my internship in the department of “Plastic surgery & Burns”. One day there was a fire in a big downtown restaurant [Santa Lucia] & the casualties were rushed in. The Chef had the most extensive burns I’ve ever seen & he was surely going to die. Once his agonizing pains were sedated, he asked for the doctor & I came to him. He whispered in my ears in a confident serene tone, “I used to be in the medical corps of the army, so I know a lot about burns. I know I will die shortly. Thanks God I am a faithful Muslim. I worship one God & I am not afraid to meet Him. Please, let me die in peace. No need for all those injections, infusions & manipulations. Let me pray in those last hours of mine. I’m longing to meet Allah my Creator in faith.” His lips started murmuring verses of the Koran  & his face showed a content calm expression. He died peacefully within a couple of hours, but he left a deep impact on me. God bless his soul. His face haunted me for several days. I couldn’t sleep. I was a doctor & he just a cook, yet my inside seemed a vacuum compared to his. He had solidarity, confidence & serenity in the face of death. I had internal emptiness, horror & deep fear. I wondered, “Is it the Koran? Is it the faith of Islam? Is this the difference?”

3.  In 1981, & after completion of my internship, I moved to the east of Alexandria to start a private practice in Sidi Bishr. As I settled, someone told me that a Copt in the vicinity had converted to Islam. I hurried to the Priest of the district to inquire & to blame. He said, ” The devil has begotten him. Stay away from him”. But I simply couldn’t. I grew curious & went to watch him from a distance. He worked as a carpenter in a nearby shop. I wanted to see how this Satan-controlled soul looked like & behaved. To my surprise, he had the same content serene facial expression of the burned-to-death Chef. I wanted to approach him & have a conversation, but I was afraid. I didn’t want to harass him. Instead, I had a chance, through my practice, to become close to many Muslims & watch them closely. My relation grew stronger with a nearby mosque preacher & a neighbor [Ahmad]. To my astonishment, two Copts in the district later approached me & threatened to kill me in cold blood if I carried on like that making friends with Muslims. I defended myself by mentioning who my father was, how I was brought up in church as one of its faithful sons, how I studied theology & became a clergyman myself. This encounter made me wonder. Though I had serious doubts of my faith, yet up to this moment it hadn’t crossed my mind that I could become a Muslim. Now I started thinking.

4. I used to have extended arguments with my neighbor Ahmad about Islam & Christianity. One day he was speaking to me about “Justice & Equality in Islam”, then he asked me, “Do you have in your religion anything compared to that?” He had explained a comprehensive system that took notice of all possibilities & provided guidance for everything in a practical just way. My previous disfigured picture of Islam was now rectified in that respect. I couldn’t give him an answer. These arguments saved to broaden my thinking & correct the misconcepts fed to me in the Sunday schools & church. I grew fond of that religion by the day. Now I became curious to read about it from its own sources & not through the distorted visions of others. Throughout these extended arguing sessions with Ahmed, whenever the prayers called, he excused me, washed for prayers then went down to pray in a nearby mosque. When I asked him was it permitted to pray in the clinic instead of going to the mosque, he replied, “All God’s land could be used for prayers. It is just because praying in a group in a mosque gives you more credit with Allah, it is this which drives Muslims to be keen to go to mosques.” He prayed once infront of me, I watched how he bent & knelt, how he recited verses of the Koran & how he was taken up to another world during the ritual. I was impressed. He told me that Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day in fixed timings. When I inquired, “If the Imam [preacher] was absent, do you still pray in time, wait for him or cancel prayers altogether?” He said that any Muslim who knows his religion well & could recite several verses of the Koran would lead the prayers. The prayers have to be done in time & it waits for no one. Islam does not have in its original core the profession of “clergymen”. Every Muslim is encouraged to learn about his religion & to study the Koran. When he does, he can then be a virtual clergyman besides his other earthly profession. Islam is a religion open to all; not something secretive kept to clergies. We pray to God [not to humans] & He revealed all what we need to us. He then asked me, “What if the priest was absent?” I shyingly answered, “There’d be no prayers. We can only pray in the presence of an ordained priest.” That night I was thinking to myself: Muslims are the real monks. They work, read about their religion & pray 5 times a day. Those lazy ones in monasteries sleep, drink spirits, eat, stay away from life problems & live leisurely secured on the backs of poor working people. I now recalled how donations & gifts poured into churches & monasteries to end up in the laps of clergymen. These ones who are wrongly “holified” by the mass of Christians do nothing but indulge themselves in earthly pleasures, & lazily pray once a day in haste.

5. I became more attached to Islam by the day as I read more into it. All those precise regulations for each & every expected event, how could one human put them down by himself [Muhammad as Christians/Jews claim]? How was this wealth of knowledge, prophecies, principles & narration of events be revealed in such a precision without a single fault or contradiction? How did the Koran & Islam survive all those centuries of plotting & denouncing without scratching its holiness & correctness? Was Muhammad such a genius [as they told us] or was he a true prophet of God?

6. My father died & we went to court to divide his wealth between us as a family. I was astonished to find that the regulations Copts apply for inheritance are none but the Islamic ones of the Koran. When I asked: Why don’t we apply Christian or Jewish regulations? I was answered, “But there are none!” I returned to my neighbor Ahmed & asked him to explain those Islamic inheritance regulations to me. He recited a couple of verses of the Koran & that was all. Those few eloquent lines contained a comprehensive documentation of all possibilities. I was envious. It now looks clear that Islam has rules for everything in life & we borrow from it. My faith now looked deficient. Have I spent all those years on the wrong side?

7. During the period extending from 1982-1990 I worked as a chest physician in Kom el Shokafa Hospital, on the west district of Alexandria. I began to despise my religion & my heart grew more attached to the rituals & rules of Islam. But still the new faith had its limitations. I used to wonder, “If I became a Muslim, would I be able to cut the time for 5 prayers each day out of my leisure? Would I withstand fasting for one whole month every year when I’m a known glutton? Would I give away my money for alms when my highest goal of life was to get money & spend it on my vices? Could I endure the bodily & financial hardships of the pilgrimage to Mecca?” I was still shaky with one leg here & the other still there. In this hospital I had a colleague who kept on talking to me about the merits of Islam. For every current event that took place, he had an appropriate verse of the Koran or saying of Prophet Muhammad that fitted it precisely. It seemed that I was passing the critical envious phase to an Islam-loving & adoring one. I had a Copt colleague who shared with me the same views. We used to talk about the wonders of the Koran, how its words carry beauty & eloquence when recited, and how they are to the point being in congruence with the most recent scientific knowledge. Our Christian holy books lacked all that, being studded with aimless meaningless text. When I conveyed some of these thoughts to some Copt clergymen, they again referred the wonders of Koran to the fact that Muhammad was a lucky genius. I was not convinced. To me, I was now sure that he was a prophet of God, & a great one too.

8.  In 1991 I started my post-graduate studies. All my colleagues were Muslims. They were talking about a famous Muslim preacher of the time [Sheik Sha’arawy]. One of them was always harassing females. When we blamed him for that, he said that this was his “written fate” & that he can’t change it. I told him that the Sheik said that we make our own fate & for that we are accountable. The fate for which we are not accountable is what happens to us that we have no control of [as death, disease, and disaster]. God knows in advance [through his comprehensive infinite knowledge] what our choices will be & how we shall behave. He does not interfere, but he knows. It is wholly entitled to us, & for this there is heavenly reward & punishment. As I spoke, the others looked at me with amazement. It seemed that I was defending their religion in a better way than they could have done.

Some guiding lights along the way

[My father]

1. In the early 70’s we used to live in an apartment in Moharram Bey. The building seemed to be “haunted”. All the inhabitants [save one] were frightened of the mischievous events that they encountered. We were all Copts, except for this peaceful Muslim family who had the Koran recited from the radio around the clock & who were used to praying regularly in the mosque. There were banging doors, shattered glass, lights on & off, haunting sounds・We sought help form Copt exorcists of the church. They drained us out of money for their services, but in vain. In the end, my father got furious & shouted at one of them, “I should have used the Koran instead of you blood suckers.” They called him a sinful infidel. We moved to another residence to discard ourselves from this haunting & the disgrace brought upon us [as Copts] by my father’s remarks. I knew now of that friend of my father {Doss}who left to Germany & converted to Islam. My father stayed in contact with him  & began acting differently. He stopped preaching, attending church & kissing the hands of senior clergymen (as it was customary; such hands are sacred having held the flesh & blood of Jesus Christ & kissing them is a blessing!). Instead of going early to the church on Fridays, he now overslept. When he woke up late, he showered & left to come back after lunch. He ceased to have a regular afternoon nap, found excuses to get out & returned after nightfall. He forbade my sisters from going to the hairdresser or wearing any revealing clothes. Even his regular speech has changed with the intrusion of some Muslim phrases. One day when my father & mother had a family feud & I was trying to intervene, she told me, “Go & ask your father why did he abandon church & the Bible. Ask what he is doing on Friday noons & all those evenings outside home”. He screamed to silence her, “Shut up woman.” I sat down later when my father cooled off insisting on finding answers. He told me; “in time you will know. It is you in particular who will know & appreciate.” I began to suspect that my father became a Muslim in secret. Later I was passing by a mosque not far away from where we lived when some old man coming out of the mosque shook hands with me & said, “I haven’t seen you pray with us lately. Do you pray in another mosque? We hope you’d join us again.” My suspicions were exalted.

2. My father passed out in 1988. I inherited his books & notes. As I was revising his Bible, I came across several handwritten remarks. He pointed out to some incorrect verses, & to other verses that were changed in different editions. Up till now I had sound belief that the Bible was revealed from God to his prophets through the Holy Spirit. His notes revealed otherwise. When I revised them, I was saddened to find them true. When I confided my doubts to a close clergy friend, he said; “It’s not a big deal. There are a lot more of mistakes than your father pointed out in the Holy Book. Just pass them by & everything will be all right. Don’t panic.” But I did. I went through the Bible page by page. I was shocked to find it full of mistakes, contradictions, statements that defied any logic & prophecies that never came true. Is this really the word of God?

3. I got hold of my grandfather’s bible. It also had handwritten references to many additions/omissions [to/from previous editions respec.] that were done around 1930. The most striking were changing terms like “our master/our teacher” (used by the apostles when addressing Jesus) to “our Lord”. I found an essay written by my father about the history of writing the Bible. As Islam started its rise in the 7th century, the Pope in Rome panicked. He used force to gather all Christian books from nations under his rule (practically all Europe & North Africa) & burned them. His famous statement was, “Ignorance is better for religion.” At that time, only the rich could afford owning books. Otherwise, books were found in churches & monasteries. He issued a decree allowing the killing of anyone who refused to deliver the books he owned. For that reason, whole villages were wiped out of existence in extreme brutality. His given reasons were protecting Christianity from heresy & preserving the integrity of the religion in the face of a new rising faith. A new “unified” Bible was then issued, from which all our current Gospels stem. This explains the lack of any complete Bible copies dating before Islam. My father’s remarks on that Pope were, “This is the anti-religious monster who introduced paganism into our Christianity. He gave himself [& senior clergymen] the powers of God. Those who died deprived of clergymen’s forgiveness will end in hell. Rules & regulations came from clergymen, not from God.”

4. Among his papers, I found an explanation of a prophecy in Daniel. There was to be a principal Messiah in 620 Hebrew years from the fall of Babylon (this was Jesus Christ), then in another 620 years a principal prophet (was this a reference to Muhammad who started preaching Islam about that very same date?).

On the way to the mosque

1. My debates with my clinic’s neighbor had served to clarify a lot of misconceptions I had about Islam. He was such an attractive speaker who knew a lot about Christianity, as well as his religion. He had a smile that never left his face & talked in a confident low voice. As I attacked polygamy, he replied in his usual calm tone, “You know very well how the church society is full of extra-marital relations, affairs & out-of-bed lock liaisons. It is all a consequence of prohibiting divorce & limiting marriage to one wife.” When I attacked Muhammad’s sexuality & multiple wives, he said, “How many wives did David or Solomon have? Compared to these, it seems now that Muhammad has limited marriage, not expanded it. Who were their wives? They always chose the most beautiful young & wealthy girls. Most Muhammad’s wives were not young, not wealthy & not pretty. He married them when he was old. There were reasons other than sex for all such marriages, mainly political & religious.” I knew he was right.

2. I kept bombarding Christian clergymen with my doubts & got no decisive answers. Once I asked, “Why has God sacrificed himself for the sake of mankind in this humiliating way? Why did he expose himself to being kicked at, spitted upon & beaten by Jews? What has all that corporal degradation to do with saving humanity & carrying its sins? What is the use of sacrificing Christ’s blood (by killing him on the crucifix) when God has gave Moses/Jews the benefit of sacrificing animals (sheep/cows) for absolution? If these could save the purpose, was it necessary for God to come down to earth as a human & endure all these undignified torturing? Why has God chosen red wine to symbolize Christ’s blood? Couldn’t he have chosen another liquid that is more decent than alcohol?” I got vague philosophic replies. Others told me that these are secrets of the Church not to be revealed to ordinary Christians. Some told me just to have blind faith & not carry on asking unanswerable questions.

3.  Ahmed once embarrassed me, “What had Jesus to say about God?” I couldn’t answer. There was a lecture by the Pope in the big church of Alexandria in which we were permitted to write down questions for him to answer. I attended & wrote some Biblical quotations [John 17:3 “..That they may know You, the only true God & Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 20:17 “Jesus said: I am returning to my Father & your Father, to my God & your God.”] I elaborated that Jesus acknowledged that he is not a God, & that he (like all other humans) prays to one God, the One who sent him to preach [“My teaching is not my own. It comes from Him who sent me” John 7:17]. The same bible stated that “all believers are the sons of God”. Jesus, then is not a God & is not alone the son of God. The Patriarch read what I wrote out loud, then replied, “When Christ was in a human body he was the God of that body & of all the same bodies. God never departed that body.” I immediately wrote back to him, “Was God divided to 2 parts; one being greater than the other & his God? Does this mean that Jesus lied when he said that the father is the only true God? Was Jesus, then, not a true God?” When the paper reached the Pope, he did not read it out loud. Instead his features turned stiff & he said in a firm stern note, “the person who wrote this shall wait for me after the meeting.” He ordered me sent to a monastery for one month to rectify my aberrant thoughts. I was overburdened there with hard labour & prayers & lived on bread & water. The intention was to brainwash me. They did, but only temporarily. As soon as I was over my body weariness, the same confusing questions returned back to my head. Ahmed, my neighbor told me, “We Muslims worship one God with no partners. How can you say we’re going to hell?” A senior priest said in reply, “Yes they are sure going to hell because they do not believe that Jesus is God.” I replied, “But they worship God faithfully. No, I don’t think they’ll go to hell.” I was stunned by a slap on the face, “If you go on repeating this nonsense, you too will be forbidden from paradise by me.” They sent me back to the monastery.

4. We were taught in the Sunday Schools of the Orthodox Coptic Church that ours only is the right religion of God, & that all other Christian sects are infidels that will end in hell. Protestants believe in the bible literally & practice accordingly. They don’t have the “hierarchy of churchmen” nor the “7 secrets of the church”; they don’t have much of the paraphernalia attached to the religion throughout the years (statues/crucifixes/pictures/fancy clergymen clothes/endless rituals for every small event). God has addressed Jesus not to make a statue or picture of himself & then kneel or worship these; they stick to this. In their eyes, the biggest sin of the Orthodox sect is worshipping Mother Mary being to them “the mother of God”. They argue that there isn’t a single mention to this in the whole bible. Long before the Protestants came to light, a Patriarch “Nester” wrote in 431 AC that it is impossible for Mary to be the mother of God, as a created creature cannot give birth to a Creator. What comes out of the body is another body. So, Mary gave birth to Jesus the human. Jesus is much of a human as all other human beings. The Church turned against Nester & his followers, they were captured, tortured & deported for saying out simple logic thoughts. And these were revived in the 15th century by Martin Luther. Catholics I had a female catholic colleague whom I wanted to marry, but my priest forbade that. He told me that Catholics are infidels deprived by our Patriarch from Heaven. They believe that Christ had two natures: one human & the other heavenly (Copts say that he has only one nature: a humanly God!) Like Orthodox, Catholics dignify Mother Mary, but they take that to an even higher level. In all their churches, her statues & pictures are always larger than those of Jesus (their God) himself. She is mentioned 1st in all their prayers. I inquired about this from a catholic priest. First he wouldn’t meet me at all, then he wouldn’t let me into his home when he knew I was Copt. He talked to me on his doorstep. He said that the Pope of Rome considers us infidels. To Catholics, Mary is like the mother of a King who adores his mother & obeys all her wishes. She should be dignified more than the king himself!

5. I got acquainted to another Muslim neighbor [Farouk] who seemed to love me very much. He once told me, “You are an honest intellectual man. If you read about Islam evenly, freeing your head from the burdens of your past, giving it an honest thought; God will lead you to the right path.” In some other occasion he said, “I really think you are too good to remain a Copt. At least when it’s time for you to die, please just say the word [the testimony of Islam] & God will forgive you.” We used to laugh & not take his words seriously. Now I did. His, together with my other neighbor’s [Ahmed], were penetrating deep into my soul. They said, “The principles of Islam are very simple & logic. There is absolute unity: one God with no partners. In Christianity, man made things more complex & unlogic. Divinity is divided between God/Christ/Holy Spirit/Mother Mary/Pope/Patriarchs/Saints/Priests & so on.”

6. Because of problems with the inner revenue service, I had to abandon my private practice & leave Alexandria. I went to a nearby small town in the middle of the countryside [Delengatt]. I started reading about Islam with a new vision devoid of all the hatred & prejudice implanted into me by the Sunday school’s teachings. I also was reading the bible via a new perspective. I read in John 3:22 “..Jesus & his disciples came into the land of Judea, & there he remained with them & baptized“. A couple of paragraphs later in the same page John 4:2 stated, “though Jesus himself did not baptize“. I must have passed through this direct contrast a thousand times before, but never took notice. God has removed the cloud & cleared things for me. There was no logical explanation for this contradiction, none whatsoever. Again, when I was reading the Acts of the Apostles 1:9-12, it is stated that Jesus was taken up to Heaven on the Olivet mountain near Jerusalem; yet in Luke 24:51, the ascension is stated to have occurred in Bethanyネ桄 レ蓖ヌ. Still, in Mark 16:19, the same event is said to have taken place in Galilee. I was stunned. Were we fooled all those years? Were we so blinded so as not to have seen these contradictions before? Would God ever contradict himself or not remember exactly the place where he rose back to Heaven? How did millions all through the years disregarded such non-sense & still believed in it? I decided to stop all my church activities at once. It is over as far as I am concerned.

7. As I was approaching the right path, the devil had to find ways to deviate me. My mind became pre-occupied by confusing thoughts: a) Christianity, as has been revealed to you, is no more a sound belief of you. b) Copts will never let you convert & spread out their deficiencies. They may have to take away your life. c) Muslims will not accept you as one of them, there will always be skepticism & doubts surrounding you. d) You were brought up in a strict Coptic milieu, you can’t just simply take your skin off (let alone your soul). Whatever you try, you can never become a faithful Muslim. e) You’ll be discarded from the Coptic community, & not allowed into the Muslim one. You’ll end up nowhere & die an infidel. I lived in this turmoil for several months, then I decided to follow my heart & mind wherever they would lead me. In 1992, I went back to Alexandria & met my old neighbor Ahmed. I told him that I wanted to convert to Islam. He thought I was joking. When he saw how serious I was, he said; “God directs whom he loves to the right path. The irony of fate is that a dedicated vicar now is turning to a Sheik. God help you my friend.” My other neighbor Farouk told me, “Please, don’t convert for any earthly cause. Think deeply before taking this step. Don’t do it unless you are sure in your heart & soul. A Muslim should be faithful with God & with himself. There is no coming back, you know.”

8.  When I returned to Delengatt after this enlightening visit to Alex, I decided that I should leave my apartment there (as it faced the Church of town & as the churchmen were acquainted to me & used to spend time with me in it). The head priest summoned me to blame me for not attending prayers & participating in church activities for sometime. Words just were uttered out of my mouth before I could think about them, ” I am a Muslim now.” [I wasn’t yet!] He could not believe & went into tears. He thought I was angry with him for some reason & wanted to amend things. He sent a clergyman to my apartment to perform rituals to rid the flat & my soul of the devil. He asked me to attend prayers in the church & left. I didn’t pray with him & I didn’t kiss his hands as was customary. I moved to a smaller far away apartment where I spent time reading more about Islam & revising the Bible. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22, God said to Moses that any fake prophet claiming to convey the words of God (when they are his own) will die & his words will not happen. The same meaning is stated in Jeremiah 14:14 & in Acts 5:35-42. Now when we apply this rule to Muhammad, the Koran has given many prophecies that all took place. Fourteen centuries have passed, & still Islam survived & propagated to all parts of the world. So he must then be a true prophet of God. Now let’s take Jesus. The Bible is full of prophecies that never took place. As the Koran acknowledges him to be a true prophet of God, then the writers of these gospels are the ones at fault [not Jesus]. There goes another proof from the Holy Book that many of its scripts are not the true words of God.

9.  Back in the days of my private practice in Alexandria, there was a mosque not far from my clinic. I used to look inside whenever I passed by. It was no comparison to our churches. It was painted in plain white & had simple rugs on its floor. There were no big chandeliers, no statues, no big drawings & pictures, no seats, no precious carpets & no musical instruments. The Imam or Sheik was plainly dressed in a wide simple dress (galabeyah) & had a simple turban covering his head. He always looked content, smiling & serene despite being clearly poor. Our churchmen had all those fancy black dresses, big gold crucifixes & weary envious looks. I sometimes watched Muslims pray. They used no clapping, no music. They moved all as one standing up, bending & kneeling. Men were segregated from women, the latters could not be seen. With more sneaking around, I found out that they went before prayers to wash their limbs & faces from several water taps located in a place adjoined to the mosque. They stood for prayers in well-organized rows, shoulder to shoulder with no difference between rich & poor, old & young. They were all looking to the floor infront of them in respect to God as the Koran was recited. I knew from Ahmed that they did the same ritual 5 times a day, all at the exact same timings each day. Their prayers’ destiny was unified: all pointing towards Mecca wherever they were on earth. I was comparing this to the 450 (& rising) sects of Christianity, each having its own rituals & each denouncing all others. The poor ones did not dare to show in the front rows preserved for the rich & elite. Some Coptic churches even advised the poor {Brothers of the Lord, as they called them] to attend a special prayer on Wednesdays so as not to offend the rich on Sundays. Prayer times depended on the local priest’s mood & schedule. Though Copts wear suits for prayers, yet they do not wash & the odor of sweat is an inevitable accompaniment of any church gathering. Comparisons were always in favor of mosques. As we finished prayers one day in church, we sat in the churchyard. Some poor-looking person came over smilingly to salute the priest. He said, “My prayers will not be accepted in Heaven unless I greet my neighbor.” When he left, the priest said that this was the Imam of the nearby mosque & that this was his habit before the weekly Friday prayers. I wondered then, “Why was he that poor when our priests were filthy rich? Doesn’t he make use of the money donated to the mosque in much the same way as priests do with church donations? Clearly not.” Another very poor Muslim approached the priest asking for his help to rid his young girl of the devil possessing her (i.e. to exorcise her). The priest told him that he must believe in the Lord Jesus who will heal her. The poor ignorant guy gave an amazingly eloquent reply, “Jesus the son of Mary, PBUH[1], is not a God. He is a prophet of God.” He left swiftly with his ailing daughter despite of being in desperate need (as it seemed). He stuck to his faith & couldn’t just utter a few words that he didn’t believe. He amazed me.

10.  I grew more hooked to mosques. There was shining pure white light that they emitted & that attracted me. I used to find excuses to linger around them (as lighting a cigarette or reading a newspaper). I wished I just could get inside & get the feeling. One day my neighbor Ahmed was hurrying into the mosque when he noticed me. I asked if I could go into the rest room of the mosque & he said, “Yes, of course.” “But they will know that I’m not a Muslim & hurt me.” He laughed & reassured me, ” This did not & will never happen.” When I asked him to escort me in, he apologized saying that prayers have already started. I hesitantly stepped in. People were bending down to the taps washing their faces, arms, feet & murmuring prayers as they washed. Each was in a spiritual world of his own & no one bothered me. I wished I was affiliated to them.

11. Now a few years later I was recalling all this in this remote apartment of Delengatt. I had found out how the Bible with all its deficiencies & contradictions could not satisfy my spiritual needs. I had abandoned church. I was in need to read the Koran. I went down and bought a copy. I had known that one must wash to be clean & pure before touching/reciting the Koran. I did not know how to wash, so I decided to take a bath. It was a cold winter night & I was out of fuel for heating water. Still I was determined. I trembled under the cold shower water. I dried, asked God for guidance & sat down to read. The Koran is written in eloquent Arabic. Though I didn’t comprehend a lot of what I read, I found inner peace & serenity embalming me. A few days later I was in a nearby pharmacy of a Muslim friend when I found that he had this Koran with explanation of words in its margins. I asked to borrow it & he gave it to me as a gift. I avidly read through the Koran over & over again. Each time I understood more & more. I found gentle preachings, logic words about punishment & reward, live depictions of paradise & hell, stories of all prophets in a decent precise narration, many scientific facts about Man & the Universe[2]; I even found what we [as Copts] used to say in secret about Muslims mocking their religion & its rituals. Muhammad was informed that he is a dead man, but his nation will survive till the end of time. I became mesmerized with what I read. This is a true revelation from God. It could never be written by a man (or men), however brilliant they were. I had a vision that night in my sleep: this all dressed-in-white man shining light & pointing to the Koran. This was a sure indication that I am on the right path. I was relieved. A few days later I became gravely ill & the medications that I took did not give any response. The fever was rising, the diarrhea became severer & the headache unbearable. I had come across a verse of the Koran that said, “and when I am ill, it is He who cures me“26:80. So, I lied down, placed the Koran on my belly & recited this verse over & over till I went into deep sleep. I woke up next morning totally intact & healthy. I said to myself that it was time.

Crossing the line

1.  I went to visit my mother in Alexandria as she was ill. I told her that I wanted to convert to Islam. She gave me an astonishing reply, “There is no harm in that. I can’t find something bad in Muslims. In fact, they are better than we are. They fear God more than most of us.” She died later, but she seemed to have told my brothers about me. They confronted me very harshly. They seized my ID card so as no to use it in my conversion procedures. They offered me a sum of money to travel & live abroad should I insist on what I was intending to do.

2. I called upon my friend Ahmed. I asked him how could I officially become a Muslim. He told me to consult a lawyer for the legal matters [which I did later]. As for the rituals of conversion, these are very simple. I had to wash for prayers (ablution), say the testimony [I testify & believe that no one is God but Allah, alone without a partner; & I testify & believe that Muhammad is his messenger], then pray a 2-cycle prayer. He then taught me how to wash for prayers & how to pray. By the time I returned to Delengatt, I forgot most of it. A friend gave me a small book (the official book of religion given to students of the 1st grade) which explained the steps illustrated & in text. I used to wash & pray with the book opened in front of me. I did not know to which direction should I pray till some patient attending my clinic prayed there when it was time for prayers. I now knew which way to face. I prayed 5 times each day on regular basis till it was time to go back to Alexandria & start the paper work.

3. It was august 1993. I spent the night in our old apartment. It was now empty after my mother had died. I couldn’t get to sleep with all those conflicting thoughts swirling inside my head. I went down before it was 6 a.m. I roamed around aimlessly only to find an open church. I stepped inside to be faced by all those pictures on the wall (Jesus/Mary/Apostles/Saints/Popes). I found myself talking to them, “if you are all right & I am wrong, please do something now. Give me a sign that I’m deviating, curse me in any way you can!” I spent close to an hour in this monologue, and then tears gushed out of my eyes. When I stopped crying, I was calm & serene. I went out of the church regretting the 40 years that I lost on the wrong side. I was now crossing the line, but to the right track.

4. I walked all the way to the Internal Security building & went up to the “department of Religious Affairs” to start rolling the ball. Things were not easy. There was a lot of red tape governmental bureaucracy compounded with skepticism from every person I met there. There was filling of forms, interviews, inquisitions & investigations. This took around 2 or more weeks till I was given a formal certificate declaring that I am now officially a Muslim. However, it took much longer to be able to get an ID card with my new Muslim name & with my religion printed as “Muslim” [I got the new ID card in October 1994]. The authorities summoned my family to sign a statement denoting that they’d stay away from me & abstain from doing me any harm. So now my secret became public knowledge in the Coptic community. They were furious & wanted revenge. A few days later, & after I paid the lease of our apartment & was on my way out of the house, 2 cousins of mine (apparently they were watching the apartment & waiting for me to show) tried to run me over with their car. I was not seriously injured, but they kept following me as I ran trying to escape them. They abandoned my pursuit only when I found refuge at a Muslim friend’s house.

5. I stayed in fright for more than a year: I was not yet a Muslim & Copts were on my tail. I was only secure in the presence of my close circle of Muslim friends: Ahmed & Farouk of Alexandria, Nabeel & Mohamed Assei of Delengatt. I didn’t dare go into a mosque with an ID pointing to me as a Copt, so I prayed at home. While awaiting my new ID card, I stayed in Delengatt. Nabeel, skeptical at 1st, now trusted me & began teaching me more about Islam. He explained a lot of the things I couldn’t comprehend, corrected the wrongs I did in practicing rituals & encouraged me a lot. However, he was afraid of the authorities & made all his visits to me by night. When he left abroad, he delegated a friend [Assei] to take care of me. He ,too, was a real help as a companion & tutor.

6. This was a real hard time for me. The devil could not leave this poor soul of mine alone. There were these discouraging thoughts of not being welcomed by Muslims & not being forgiven by Copts. There were also some financial hardships. My practice was deteriorating & the income was decreasing exponentially. I had to sell all what I had, even the TV & refrigerator. Was this a curse from Heaven for what I did? Faith gave me patience. I knew now that God was testing me. After a short while the good times began. There was this letter from an insurance company informing me that an old policy of mine [I had forgotten all about that] is due. Now I could come forward & collect the money [which I did]. I got another considerable sum of money from the Secretary of Defense in response to a letter I had sent to him asking for help. I was invited to the wedding of a Muslim friend in a mosque & they all treated me very affectionately wiping out a lot of the fears I had inside. Still, I feared Copts & had these apprehensive feelings of being killed by them while entering/leaving a mosque. These devilish thoughts kept me away from mosques for sometime. When I finally got my new ID card, this worked together with true Islamic faith that overwhelmed me, &I was now able to boldly enter any mosque in public & pray with fellow Muslims in group prayers. What a relief it was. There were no ceremonies or parties when I got the card, I just lowered the billboard hanging outside my clinic & changed the name written on it to my new Muslim name. The majority of Muslims rejoiced, they came to greet & congratulate me. There were emotional scenes of ones who insisted on hugging (& even kissing) me. Some volunteered to stand as guards for me around the clock against any probable Coptic revenge. Others invited me to their homes as their brother & offered to give me anything I asked for. However, there were a few Muslims who stayed away from me in respect to the Copts they have business relations with. On the whole, I was happy for God has substituted the loss of kin by all those sincere Muslim brothers. There was one eminent Muslim personality in this small town who did not share in this demonstration that surrounded my conversion. Dr. Ali Eissa, the only orthopedic in town, was no hypocrite. He was blunt & direct when I met him, “You have to congratulate yourself for affiliating to Islam.” I sensed his integrity & sought his help as a religious guide & tutor. He always confronted me with my mistakes right in my face. I respected him very much & remain indebted for what he taught me. Now it was time to look for my other half.

7. I asked my friends in Alexandria to seek me a wife who knows her God well. I did not seek wealth or beauty, just faith. They were to explain to her my special situation & my financial hardship. I did not expect the gift that God has endowed upon me. She was a blessing sent from Heaven. She came from a poor but religious & respectful family. Her father, God bless his soul, was one of those faithful Muslims who lived by religion & prayed regularly in mosques. I learned a lot from him. We got married in April 1996 & she escorted me to Delengatt. There, I was asked by a group of Muslims to pray with them in a particular mosque. I saw that the mosque was not plain as it should be, but was very much ornamented. It had inside it the grave of one of the dignitary Sheiks of that particular sect (against Islamic rules of not burying persons where we pray). To me it was reminiscent of a church rather than a mosque. It was a Sufi sect & I felt that I did not belong to them. I abandoned their mosque & prayed elsewhere. The Sufis did not like that & started spreading rumors that I am not a true Muslim, but rather an informer of the police under cover. As everybody feared the system which fought Islamic fundamentalism fiercely, I soon found myself practically isolated in that small town. I was back to square one with only a small inner circle of close friends who knew me well. I had to leave. I dwelled in another nearby small town [Etay el Baroud]. There I met the most faithful of all Muslims & became close to them. They were followers of Sunnah [Prophet Muhammad’s path]. They taught me not to argue/debate much with others, to concentrate on myself & my immediate family guiding them to the right path, & only after that I could preach to others, but always peacefully & in wisdom. I returned to Alexandria & now live/work there. I have 3 nice daughters. I Thank God for His guidance & pray Him to sustain my progeny on the right track of Islam.   

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Conclusion

                 I have this to say to every Muslim: Thank God for every moment you live in His light, thank Him for the gift of Islam. You may not give this gift its due appreciation because you have never been on the other side [like I was]. Please endear your religion & treasure it, for it is the most precious thing in this universe. Nothing else really matters. Through it you will live happily, both in this earthly life & in heavenly paradise. It is the only way. No one now unifies divinity except Muslims, & no religion provides a comprehensive code for the body & soul except Islam.

                 I have this to say to every Christian: Fear no one but God. Go to your church & ask all those crucifixes, statues & pictures: could you bring me a benefit that God Has not endowed to me? Could you do me harm that God Has not decided for me? Read your bible with an open mind & clear heart. Should you feel unsatisfied or skeptical, carry on. Don’t just stop there at this point. Search for the right thing, for the truth. Go to the Koran & read it after ridding yourself from the demons implanted in you. You shall surely see the light & feel the difference. Go to where your heart takes you, surely to the right path. I know it is not easy, but the prize is immense.

                 As for myself: I will carry on (as long as I live) asking for forgiveness, praying for absolution, thanking God for His guidance (after all those years of aberration). I will carry on living as a Muslim, defending this true religion & hoping to die a faithful Muslim.

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Appendix [I]

Some Old Memories

1.        I used to admire the harmony & unified movement in Muslim prayers, their organized rows with no difference in wealth, age or clothing.

2.        I used to wonder why Imams/Sheiks hardly ever talked to girls/women, while Christian clergymen fancy only female companionship. I used to wonder why Imams were poor but happy with smiling content faces, while filthy rich priests always looked worried, distressed & uneasy.

3.        I used to feel defective as Muslims had five prayers/day & one whole month of fasting/year, all written in their book; while Christian prayers & fasting are non-authentic decided by our Patriarchs/ Popes. These put the rules & change them as they like.

4.        Muslims pray to only one God & they have only one messenger (Muhammad) whom they dignify dearly, but have never raised to the level of God. All their religious rituals [fasting, praying, alms-giving & pilgrimage] are for God. Christian prayers, on the other hand, are directed to the Lord, to Jesus, to Mother Mary, to the Holy Spirit, to apostles, to saints, to Popes, to senior churchmen, & the list goes on. I used to wonder: Who was really in control among all these?

5.        When I debated with my neighbor friend Ahmed & told him, “In our churches only the ones dressed well & in suits go for prayers. In your mosques people in the front rows had this ragged clothes. Your clergymen are poor while ours are rich. Doesn’t this tell you that God favors us?” He replied with verses from the Koran & sayings of the Prophet, “Those most dignified in the eyes of the Lord are those who are most faithful.”/ “The Lord does not look to your clothes & how you look like, but to your hearts & the amount of faith in them.” I knew that he was right.

6.        I used to attack Islam as it prohibits being a monk. No one should discard worldly matters completely & dedicate his whole time to prayers. This was a rule I couldn’t get into my mind. Yet, when I visited monasteries & spent sometimes there, I found out that Islam was right. Monks were not there for purely religious purposes. Each had a distressing event in his life that he wanted to escape or a psychologic problem that he wanted to solve. They all had earthly ambitions which they wanted to fulfill through being monks. Some loved not working & living a luxurious leisurely life by the donations of others; others had their eyes on higher church posts (with all its wealth & authority) attainable only to monastery dwellers. Most of them were heavy smokers, gluttons & alcoholics. They even had their sexual vices! Muslims do not kid themselves & live this double life; they pray & they live as humans (eating/marrying/working).

________________________________

Appendix [II]

Remarks on the Bible

1.       When I decided to revisit the Bible & see it in a different perspective, I was amazed how I stayed blinded all those years. The extent of mistakes & contradictions are unbelievable. This book that we call “Holy” is by no means from God. It is certainly human written, & even not tactfully so. The Koran stands defiant. It is simple & clear, but also deep & comprehensive. There are no contradictions or obscure myths. It is logic & persuasive. It blesses the heart, nurtures the body & expands the mind. It is a true revelation from God to mankind.

2.       I found that Islam is no stranger to the other religions that preceded it. They all come from the One God, so the rules are almost the same. The Prophet Muhammad said that Islam is like the final brick in the building without which the building would not be complete. It corrects what the years & humans had distorted in the preceding religions & adds to them. Its sources will stay intact till the end of time, & that’s a vow from the Almighty. I found that worshipping one God with no partners [an essential principle in Islam] is preached in the old & new testaments. “I am the Lord your God・You shall have no other Gods before Me.” Exodus 20:2-3, “To whom will you liken God? What likeness will you compare to Him?” Isaiah 40:18, “So Jesus said to him, [Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God]” Luke18: 19. I found that many of the regulations in Sharee’at of Islam are present in the old testament including prohibiting pork {“these you shall not eat among the animals that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves・and the swine, though it divides the hoof, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, & their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:4-8}, killing married adulterers {“the man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, the adulterer & the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10}, ablution {“for Aaron & his sons shall wash their hands & feet in water..” Exodus 30:19} & bathing after ejaculation {“if there is any man of you who becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night・hat he shall wash with water・quot; Deuteronomy 23:10-12}.

3.       I found that (as the Koran mentioned) Jesus is but a human messenger of God in his own words [Jesus said to the Jews, “..but now you seek to kill me, I am a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God・I came from God, I didn’t come from myself, but He sent me.” John 8:40-42]. Jesus is named “the son of Mary” (same as in the Koran) in Mark 6:3, a term the Christians do not like to use. He is not God as he does not know when is doom’s day “Heaven & earth will pass away・ut of that day & hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son; but only the Father.” Luke 13:31-32. As to calling God his father, this is not literally, all Jews at the time considered themselves the sons of God [vide supra].

4.       I found that there are many mentions in the Bible of a prophet that will come after Jesus [Daniel 9, John 1:19-25 where John prophecies 3 prophets after him Christ/Elijah/the Prophet, John 16:12 where Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the spirit of truth, has come he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak in his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak. He will tell you things to come.”]

5.       Jesus said that he does not preach a new religion & that he came to apply the true rules of the Old Testament only on Jews. “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mathew 15:24; “I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill・Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments & teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” Mathew 5:17-19.

6.       I found out that the gospels are written by humans & are not the true words of God. Luke says in the first paragraph of his book, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us・t seemed good to me also to write to you, Theophilus, an orderly account..”. So Luke is writing a story, not a holy book revealed to him from above! John says in conclusion of his book John 21:24 “This is the disciple who testifies of these things & wrote these things & we know that his testimony is true.” So it is his testimony not a revelation! The Acts of the Apostles has no relation to the gospels. When Paul addresses Jews, he applauds them & their book. Yet, when he addresses Romans or Greeks, he curses Jews & cancels their book. Paul criticizes the gospels, says that he completed the wounds of Jesus on the crucifix as they were not much, claims to be greater than Jesus as he (Paul) will judge angels at the end of time!

7.       I found that the current practices of Christianity are against frank instructions of the Bible. “Do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” Mathew 23:9. Christians call every priest “father”! Jesus said that the commandments are to be followed by the letter, Paul followed this by allowing polygamy & marrying a divorced according to the old testament rules [Exodus 21:9-10, Deuteronomy 24:1], the gospels curse anyone who does so!

8.       I decided that, if God helps me, I shall have a more comprehensive look on the Bible, compare it to the Koran in a future work of mine. The aforementioned are just hints that currently crossed my mind.

Now I end by these verses of the Koran.

The angels said, “O Mary, we shall relate to you a divine glad edict: God announces to you a happy event, the arrival of a male child, the product of a word from Him, his name will be Messiah Jesus the son of Mary. He will be distinguished in honor in the world on earth & the Hereafter, he will be among those nearest to God・God shall teach him the book of knowledge/wisdom, the Torah & the Gospel. And he shall be appointed as an apostle/messenger to the children of Israel・amp; he will preach them that God is his Creator & their Creator as well, that He must be worshiped and that this is the path of rectitude・nfront of God, the similitude of Jesus is exactly like that of Adam, He created him from dust then said to him “Be” & so he was.” Imran (2): 45-59. 

 

http://www.geocities.com/wadee3_ahmad/MyJourney.htm

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