Irish Republican and Staunch Atheist of Thirty Years Accepts ISLAM
The purpose of writing this is to record my epic journey into Islam and to hopefully enable others to understand that journey. For people who know me will know that this was a not an easy straight path, there were many twists and turns along the way. My new Islamic life began on the 12th of Raby`al-awal 1436 A.H. (aka the 3rd of Jan 2015).
But where did I come from to get where I am now? Both my parents were devout Roman Catholics, and so my early formative years were spent as a Roman Catholic. However, by the time I had reached the age of fifteen I became an agnostic and later became an atheist. I remained a staunch atheist for over thirty years. So how did I go from being in the darkness of atheism to a light of Islam? In November 2010, I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. I underwent chemotherapy and surgery for the cancer in February 2011. I was meant to be have been in hospital for about four or five days. However, due to multiple medical complications, I spent several months in Beaumont Hospital, four weeks of which was spent in an induced coma, as well another month in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire due to Acquired Brain Injury.
While I was in the coma, I was gravely ill at this time, and the doctors told my family, on at least three separate occasions that I would die. On the last occasion my family was told I would not survive longer than 2 hours. This was all unbeknownst to me at the time. Later, I do recall an elderly nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) telling me that I was sickest person she had ever known to leave the ICU alive. When I awoke I was unable to breathe on my own due to clots on my lungs, and so I had a tracheotomy in my neck and therefore was unable to speak. So I requested my brother for pen and paper, and wrote that I wanted to see a Roman Catholic priest. My poor brother was somewhat perplexed, me being such a staunch atheist, but agreed to my request anyway.
A Catholic priest duly arrived. I explained to him that the only memory I had in the coma was when my late mother appeared to me and said I was not to worry as it was not my time. This revelation was so real to me that from that moment I had no doubt whatsoever as to the existence of God. So I began to practise once again my lapsed Catholic faith, attending Mass, saying regular prayer and so on. So how did I jump from this to the true deen (religion) of Islam? Allah does indeed work in mysterious ways!
To be perfectly honest I was totally unsure as to which was the ‘correct religion’. So as my physical health gradually recovered, I started a quest to find the ‘true deen’. By this stage Roman Catholicism was doing nothing for me. I could not find a genuine connection with God. As with the vast, vast majority of Roman Catholics my religious practices were confined to mass (i.e. 30 to 40 minutes of religious service once a week at most). This became inadequate for me; so I began to look elsewhere. For the next few years I explored various religions. A very good neighbour of mine is a Baptist and so I went with her to the Baptist Church in Balbriggan. However, as with Roman Catholicism I did not develop any close bond or relationship with God.
I looked then at other religions, such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and so on. None of these religions appealed to me as I did not make a spiritual connection with God. I even briefly explored Islam. On the internet the image of Islam given was that it was a fundamentalist religion that did terrible things to non-believers. I remember thinking at the time that I wanted nothing to do with a religion which carried out such terrible atrocities and totally disrespected women. What I now realise of course is that I was examining certain obscene practices that are carried out a tiny number of Muslims, rather than examining the deen of Islam.
I now know is that Islam, the only religion given to humanity directly by God is perfect but that Muslims who practice Islam are not perfect. And so at the time I ‘concluded’ that Islam was not for me and that perhaps there was not a ‘true deen’ after all. I even developed my own ideas as to what religion was all about and what was the purpose of life was. In a sense I set up my own Church of Free Belief based on my own way of thinking and research into religious study that I had done. However, I continued to remain unconnected spiritually with God, that is until I started to explore Islam once again and when discovered the truth about the deen of Islam. And this is how it happened:
I have been a big fan of Facebook for many years and would spend many hours posting and chatting with different people from the four corners of the earth. As an Irish Republican, I always had a keen interest in the plight of oppressed peoples in particular the Palestinian people. At this stage I had quite a number of Palestinian Facebook ‘Friends’ many of whom were Muslim. I began to notice that every so often my Palestinian friends would inform that they needed to log-off Facebook, and go wash and pray! So I asked them about it, and they explained that as Muslims they performed wudu (ablution) before prayer five times a day. I became fascinated and asked them to tell some more about Islam, which they did. The more he told me, the more fascinated I became. I started to feel really excited at the prospect of discovering the true deen.
Also at this stage I began doing some research on-line into Islam. The summer of 2014, had a massive influence on me. Thousands of Palestinian civilians, mainly women and children, were being slaughtered by the Zionists, yet there was no outcry in the West; it was as if Muslims lives were of less value than non-Muslim lives. I knew at this stage I would become a Muslim, it was not a question of ‘if’ but rather ‘when.’ Indeed, approximately six months before reverting to Islam I stopped drinking alcohol, I guess in preparation for reversion.
The events that unfolded in Palestine during the summer of 2014 had an immense impact on me. At the time I recall posting the following on Facebook: “Discrimination against Muslims has increased markedly over the last few years. Without doubt horrendous and inhuman attacks by extremists, which outrages the world’s population including the vast majority of Muslims, undoubtedly increases anti-Muslim prejudice. However, as a matter of balance it is important to also consider such matters as the number of Israelis and as opposed to the number of Palestinians killed in the conflict in recent times: Between 2009 and 2014 a total of 86 Israelis were killed, while during the same period a total of 2,761 Palestinians were killed (with 2,269 killed in 2014 alone).
www.ifamericansknew.org/stat/deaths.html) Yet there is no outcry about the number of Palestinian deaths. Are Muslims less important than anybody else? The world needs to wake up to the reality of what is going on. The Israelis are seeking to annihilate the entire Palestinian ethnic group. Zionist Israelis are seeking to create an enlarged Israel just as the Nazis did with their Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation). For me the problem is not with Judaism but with Zionism. And if we remain silent we are guilty of supporting genocide or Shoah as the holocaust is known in Hebrew.”
That said I continued to explore Islam. A good Facebook friend even sent me a translated copy of the Holy Qur’ān. I also began chatting on-line with IslamReligion.com, which is a help chat-line for people with questions about Islam or for those who wish to revert to Islam. Prior to taking the Shahada (Testimony of Faith), I spend a year investigating Islam. So I went into the light of Islam with both eyes and mind open. I looked at Islam trying to see if there were any faults or contradictions in the Qur’ān; I found neither as Islam is a prefect religion given to humanity directly by God, all other religions are of human invention. And that is the very reason that I am so happy to be a Muslim, knowing that I am following the true will of God.
On Saturday evening, the 3rd of January 2015, at approx. 21.00, I took the bold step and reverted to Islam and have been a practising Muslim ever since. Earlier I wrote about how I have developed my own thoughts as to what religion was all about – my Church of Free Belief, if you wish. It seems somewhat strange now but most of what I had concluded before I discovered the truth about Islam is in fact what Islam teaches, especially the oneness of God, who alone is worthy of worship; for as it states in the Qur’ān – “And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:163)
For me the teachings of Islam are simple and intelligible. Islam is free from superstitions and irrational beliefs. The oneness of God, the prophethood of Muhammad, and the concept of life after death are the basic articles of Islamic faith. These articles of faith are based on dispassionate deductive reasoning and sound logic.
All of the teachings of Islam flow from those basic beliefs and are simple and straightforward. The greatest piece of advice I would give anybody exploring Islam, is not to judge Islam by other religions. Islam, to be fully understood, needs to be examined clinically and not cynically. Moreover, as it states in A Brief Illustrated Guide To Understanding Islam, 2nd Edition 1997, p4, “If we would like to know if a religion is true or false, we should not depend on our emotions, feelings, or traditions. Rather, we should depend on our reason and intellect. When God sent the prophets, He supported them with miracles and evidence which proved that they were truly prophets sent by God and hence that religion they came with is true.”
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