Danish Scholar Reverts to Islam
As a Muslim of Scandinavian origin I am often met with the question of why I became a Muslim. Yes, I even ask myself from time to time, why Allah had picked me, out of the multitude of people, and brought me to this blessed path of Islam.
When I look back upon my life, I can see that my present situation is a logical consequence of the sum of my acts and thoughts up to this point, but that, of course, is always the case for anybody. Thus my converting to Islam — or rather my accepting the fact that inwardly I have always been a Muslim — was inevitable.
I could start my story by telling that at the age of about 16 or 17, I resigned from the Danish Church. It did not satisfy me, neither intellectually nor, for that matter, spiritually, and I truly wanted to be free from any affiliation as I started on my search for answers for the big existential questions in life.
For many years after this decision I was a free thinker. I did not associate myself with an “established religion.” I was a confirmed believer that there is a power greater than all of us, which had to be found in all and everything. I believed in the One and was uncompromising in accepting anything less than a God without partner, all-pervading, an energy unbound, without limit or name.
In the late sixteens, I got attracted to the flower-power movement and focused my way of living on the principle of generating love and peace for myself and a healing for the entire world. Also at the same time I stopped eating meat. Not as a result of long and deep thought, but more as a sudden inspiration. I was, so to say, caught red-handed with a piece of meat on my fork on its way to my mouth, when suddenly it struck me that I should stop eating it. I had, at the time, no idea why this suddenly came to me. Yet it came with such force and clarity that without a second thought I put it down. The next moment, to my parents’ surprise, I turned to them and told them that this was the last time I would eat the flesh of animals.
At the age of 21 I left Denmark to travel the world with a close friend. It was not with any spiritual search in mind, only a desire to move.
We traveled through Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Our guiding principle on our journey was to live by the natural laws of Yin and Yang. We applied it to our diet, which was strictly vegetarian, and to our movements throughout the trip. We supported each other, helping each other in the harmonious and inspiring way that came to our hearts.
During our travel, we naturally came to live among people of many different cultures and religions. This inspired in me a desire to know where I fit into the scheme of things. What was my religion? And where did I belong? I felt that now I needed to define myself and the meaning of my life in a more specific way.
As I said earlier, at the age of 17 I had reached some kind of conclusions about my religious beliefs; at least I knew what I was not, but until then I had not spent much time and thought pondering on what I might be.
It was soon after we arrived in India, being so deeply impressed by the spectacle of that wonderful country, that I dug myself into Hindu culture and life and became a practicing Hindu. This experience lasted for several years. These years opened up my interest in God and my formal search began. It also led me to some conclusions within myself. But before specifying what these were, I wish to relate some experiences I had as a Hindu in India which were of great importance for my proceeding on my spiritual search.
Once when I was staying with my guru (spiritual guide) near Ajmer Sharif in the Rajasthan Province of India, I got a sensational feeling within. No matter what question about life I could put to myself, a voice inside would answer it with the very same answer over and over again. Namely “Love, God, or Truth.” These came not as three individual answers but combined as a single one. This was all that is and will ever be. From then on for me, everything else was a projection from this fundamental principle. I was totally saturated by the result of this condition, completely exalted and obliterated in this sensation for a period of maybe three consecutive days, which were spent in a trance-like frame of mind. But the overwhelming sensation of this Love-God-Truth opening did not cease after this. Rather it lingered on in my mind and heart for years to come.
The other experience I want to relate took place again in India in the ancient city of Humpy, now mainly consisting of ruins that remind the visitor of the former days of glory and splendour. Outside Humpy, right on the top of a mountain, is a temple from which chanting can be heard constantly, flowing down and over the old city. Together with a group of other seekers, mostly foreigners, I decided to visit that place. On a fine afternoon we set out on our journey. The first leg of the journey was to cross a river; the only way getting across was by the local “ferry.” This ferry to our utter amazement turned out to be a huge cooking pot that seated four passengers in very precise places not to tilt the balance in the pot. In groups of four, spinning and whirling, we slowly crossed the river without any incident. Once we all were together on the other side we headed up the mountain.
The temple was placed right above a place where two gigantic slabs of rock met at an angle. At the very bottom of this angle a loudspeaker had been lowered down. As we approached, it became clear to us that the chanting we heard constantly in the old city was not as we imagined it, rows and rows of chanting monks in their constant devotion. It was only an illusion. The sound came from a recording playing on and on.
After some hours of walking we found the night coming upon us and decided to stay where we were for the night, as climbing a mountain at night has never been a particularly good idea. During this night of waiting, that something else happened to me, which should change my way of comprehending myself for ever. The chanting went on through the night and it became more and more intoxicating. All of us in the group felt our hearts soar and little was said between us the entire night. The only communications were the knowing glances and reassuring smiles toward one another as the full moon became brighter and brighter. Each one of us was engulfed in some kind of meditation.
At one point I went to a nearby stream to refresh myself and while I was there by the water, it suddenly struck me that if I wanted to get closer to God, I could do it immediately. All I had to do was to surrender. This thought came, as I was flat on the ground, reaching down for water. And from being a normal situation of reaching for water, this posture suddenly became my first prostration for God. I found myself for the first time head on the ground in front of the Creator, submitting to the one and only God, Allah!
I had come to this experience with complete certainty of the One and only God. It further came to my heart that if this was indeed true, then all truth, all religion, and everything came from this same source. It struck me with such a force that night on the mountain that 30 years later I can still recall the awe I felt.
Upon my return to Europe I did not bring much of my Hindu practice with me. The only thing I kept as a practice was yoga. I had now seen the similarities between all the world’s religions and I instinctively knew that they were all the same. They were all the message of peace. They were all the original manual for man, so we can know how to operate this wonderful machine, which we have been equipped with for our travel through this existence. And it seemed to me that the transmission through time and environment had made them appear different.
In some cases extra material had been added to the original message, and in other cases something had been removed. So I only had to seek the source from where all religions stemmed forth. A place where I could drink from the purest of waters. I knew it had to be out there somewhere, but I did not know where or how to look. I had just taken the first step and was at the threshold of the world.
I moved into the countryside in Denmark where I spent a lot of my time tending the garden. I tried to turn my attentions towards the Lord in everything I would do. From time to time I would retreat to my room sitting there quietly in a cross-legged position, praying and seeking His guidance. I was afraid of asking anybody for guidance because I knew that the world is full of crooks and conmen who could easily take me for a ride, green as I knew that I was. Therefore I just kept asking God.
I would talk to God and say, “If You are there, You can hear me. If You are there, You can see me. If You are there, You know my needs. I am blind, deaf, and dumb and I don’t know what is good for me, and what is not. Give me a way. Open a door for me. Give me guidance!” To my friends I would often speak about God and the eternal principle of God. And being a musician, I wrote songs about my longing for God.
One day I was approached by one of my old friends whom I had not seen for years. He had become a Muslim in the meantime. We met a few times, always talking more and more about religion and subjects connected to it. He was planning a trip to the Sahara desert to learn some things from the Tuareg tribes. He asked me to join him, as he knew that I had crossed the Sahara desert before. I immediately agreed to come along. The desert always fascinated me. Before setting out, I made it a point to let him know that I was not the least interested in becoming a Muslim. I would not mind living among them, but I would not convert to Islam.
A few days later I left my house in the countryside and went to Copenhagen to participate in the last preparations for the travel. He lived in a house along with other Muslims. I moved in with them waiting to get ready for the trip south.
The first night I spent with them was in the month of May in 1982. In the deep of night I suddenly heard somebody shouting. After the initial shock I believed that this person had “flipped his lid”. But the others just got up quietly, started washing and preparing for prayer. I was ashamed as I had never been ashamed before. I had wanted to pray for several years, and I had prayed occasionally, but always only giving God the leftover time, when I had tended to all my personal needs and whims. And here were these guys giving Him prime time.
Giving Him the time when the bed is at its sweetest shortly before the break of dawn. I asked if I would be allowed to pray with them, to which they willingly agreed. In my quiet mind I thought that they could pray to their “Arab God”, and in the meantime I would try to set things straight with “my God”. I did not yet realize that I was heading straight for my permanent place at the praying carpet.
Living with them, praying with them, eating with them, and discussing with them, I finally came to see what until this point I had been veiled from. I had arrived at the starting point. I could now put into practice outwardly what my heart was yearning for inwardly. The entrance to Islam was only to confirm what I already knew for certain to be true. There was no choice; my heart did not lie in what it now perceived in front of it. The door was open and I took the first blessed step inside. After entering I realized that this is not only what I had always been looking for, but it was also what I, in reality, already was. I had always been a Muslim in my heart. I am and will always be grateful for being able to be gifted with this path and having certainty of the ever-flowing generosity of my Lord.
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