A journey of exploration, leading to Islam

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality, Featured Topics: Converts, Islam Views: 7956

I became a Muslim when it seemed I had already accepted Islam in my bones, as if beyond choice, and I only had to make a leap to embrace it formally. Outwardly I was content; inwardly I was coasting. My three year old theatre company was disbanded after a hilariously chaotic production for a Tim Leary Benefit at the Family Dog in San Francisco, circa '68 - naturally, the orange juice everyone had passed around was spiked, so that the chorus members were doing the final scene in the first ten minutes - and for six months I had been typing out poetry manuscripts in my attic in Berkeley preparatory to a big publishing push.

I considered myself a Zen Buddhist, but I was other things as well. My normal routine was to get up, sit zazen, smoke a joint, do half an hour of yoga, then read the Mathnawi of Rumi, the long mystical poem of that great Persian Sufi of the thirteenth century.

Then I met the man who was to be my guide to our teacher in Morocco, Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, may Allah be pleased with him. At first, the meeting was simply remarkable, and my guide a simply a remarkable man. But soon our encounter was to become extraordinary, leading to a revolution in my life from which I have never recovered, and never hope to.

The man looked like an eccentric Englishman. He too had only recently come out of the English version of the Hippie Wave. He was older, refined in his manners, spectacularly witty and intellectual, but of that kind prevalent then who had hobnobbed with the Beatles and knew the Tantric Art collection of Brian Jones firsthand. He had been on all the classic drug quests - peyote in the Yucatan, mescaline with Laura Huxley - but with the kif quest in Morocco, he had stumbled on Islam, and then the Sufis, and the game was up. A profound change had taken place in his life that when far beyond the psychedelic experience.

It is hard to put forward any kind of explanation of Islam, to try to suggest the beauty of its totality, through the medium of words. The light of Islam, since it is transformational and alchemical in nature, almost always comes via a human messenger who is a transmitter of the picture by his very being.

For the three days following our meeting, two other Americans and I listened in awe as this magnificent storyteller unfolded the picture of Islam, of the perfection of the Prophet Muhammad, and of the 100 year old plus Shaykh, sitting under a great fig tree in a garden with his disciples, singing praises of Allah. It was everything I'd always dreamed of. It was poetry come alive. It was the visionary experience made part of daily life, with the Prophet a perfectly balanced master of wisdom and simplicity, an historically accessible Buddha, with a mixture of the earthiness of Moses, the otherworldliness of Jesus, and a light all his own.

The prophetic knowledge our guide talked about was a kind of spiritual existentialism. It was a matter of how you enter a room, which foot you entered with, that you sipped water but gulped mild, that you said "bismillah" (In the name of Allah) before eating or drinking, and "alhamdulillah" (Praise be to Allah) afterwards, and so on. But rather than seeing this as a burden of hundreds of "how-to's", it was more like what the LSD experience taught us, that there is a "right" way to do things that has, if you will, a cosmic resonance. It is a constant awareness of courtesy to the Creator and His creation that in itself ensures and almost visionary intensity.

It is hard to put forward any kind of explanation of Islam, to try to suggest the beauty of its totality, through the medium of words. The light of Islam, since it is transformational and alchemical in nature, almost always comes via a human messenger who is a transmitter of the picture by his very being.

Face to face with our guide, what struck us most was his impeccable, noble behavior. He seemed to be living what he was saying. Finally, the moment came, as a surprise, when he confronted me with my life. "Well," he said one morning after three full days of rapturous agreement that what he was bringing us was the best thing we'd ever heard. "What do you think? Do you want to become a Muslim?"

I hedged. "It's the most beautiful thing I've heard about so far. After all my Zen Buddhism, all my yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu gurus, this is certainly it! But I think I would like to travel a little, see the world, go to Afghanistan (then unoccupied), maybe meet my Shaykh in a mountain village far off somewhere."

"That's not good enough. You have to decide now. Yes or no. If it's yes, then we start on a great adventure. If it's no, then no blame, I've done my duty. I'll just say goodbye and go on my way. But you have to decide now. I'll go downstairs and read a magazine and wait. Take your time."

When he had left the room I saw there was no choice. My whole being had already acquiesced. All my years up to that moment simply rolled away. I was face-to-face with worship of Allah, wholly and purely, with the Path before me well-trodden, heavily sign posted, with a guide to a Master plunk in front of me. Or I could reject all of this for a totally self-invented and uncertain future.

It was the day of my birthday, just to make it that much more dramatic. I chose Islam.

 

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore was born in 1940 in Oakland, California. His first book of poems, Dawn Visions, was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books, San Francisco, in 1964, and the second in 1972, Burnt Heart / An Ode to the War Dead. He became a Sufi Muslim in 1970, performed the Hajj in 1972, and has lived and traveled throughout Morocco, Spain, Algeria and Nigeria, landing in California and publishing The Desert is the Only Way Out, and Chronicles of Akhira. Living in Philadelphia since 1990, in 1996 he published The Ramadan Sonnets, and in 2002 a new book of poems with Syracuse University Press, The Blind Beekeeper. He is also widely published on the worldwide web: The American Muslim, DeenPort, and his own website: www.danielmoorepoetry.com among others.


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  5 Comments   Comment

  1. tom from usa

    To John Carr, I think you need to grow up in your thinking . Muslims are thier own worst enemy can be said of every individual group of people that believe in ANYTHING . Not all Catholic priests are child molesters as TV evenglists are crooks as all liberals are Commies Etc. I happened to talk to a Catholic priest at my wifes church after mass one day. He was a Missionary from South America that has spent alot of time amoung Muslims in South East Asia. I asked him what type of people they were and he told me they are the nicest people he has ever met. You as most people want to generalize " they are corrupt every where " mode. Grow up and don,t kill the message with the Messenger .

  2. Muslimah from Japan

    Assalam alykum wr. wb.

    Ya,I agree that most of the muslims in this world are corrupt . Please don't judge islam by its followers.If you really want to know islam read the Qur'an and Sunnah of prophet(pbuh).Qur'an being the book of Allah has answers to all questions and remedies to all problems. May Allah swt guide all to the right path. Allahafiz

  3. Muslim from UK

    As our beloved Prophet (Sallalahu alaihi was-salam) conveyed the message, that this day our Deen was perfected. Islam is transcendent & not subject to the vagaries of time & space. Islam is protected absolutely & that is the promise of Allah. The ijma of the Ahl-e-Sunnah is the human expression.

    Naturally the agenda-driven Islamophobes, the heretical Quran-only fanatics & the ignorant are content to facile thinking & glib remarks. However, Muslims should strive to understand the basis of their faith & not leave it at a superficial level.

    Muslims are to hold onto the Quran & the Sunnah of Rasulullah. He was the expositor in practise, to the extent he was called the "living Quran". To highlight the necessity of the Sunnah, we cannot hardly even perform our salah without referring to the clarifaction by living example!

    Thus, we need the Quran & its clarifaction the Sunnah, a human agency by the Insan-i-Kalim.

    Furthermore the study of the how the hadith were actually compiled shows the most thorough methodology. Are the anti-Sunnis aware of how many claimed hadiths were ruled out on the tiniest of doubts, & how the hadiths are graded into many differing levels?

    No, it is all to easy to casually dismiss the core of Islam if one is ignorant or wants to breed new fitnas. The Quran & Sunnah are a check against corruption of the Deen al Haq.

  4. John Carr from Canada

    The greatest threat to the spread of Islam is Muslims. This is a profound statement. There is no doubt massive propaganda is unleashed against Islam all over the world, however, at the end of the day, Muslims have to blame themselves. When you read the verses of your holy book, hardly any person will remain unaffected with the book. I travelled to many Muslim countries. Muslims are corrupt. They lie. They cheat. They covered the beautiful teachings of the Koran with foolishness of jurisprudence and other material. I firmly beleive that if Muslims place 100 thousand people on the road with the Koran, just 100 thousand with the basic teachings, nobody can stop Islam. The fundamentals are character. When I read the book, I got the message that Koran demands Character building. Look at the characters of Muslims. Look at the character of their scholars. They dwell into the side issues of hadeet, jurisprudence and they give precedence to those teachings over the most dynamic book I have ever read it. Your scholars are behaving exactly like the scholars of Children of Isreal. Rabbis deceived their people, so do your scholars today. Hindusim suffered the same way. The greatest hurdle to Islam is within, not outside. No propagada will work if Muslims follow the very very very very basic teachings of Islam removing the manmade garbage surroundings. I am sorry the words may be harsh, but leave the Koran open and clean without other teachings. Do not allow other teachings to cover the Koran. Leave it open, clean, shining and untouched. The job is done. Muslim themselves have to reform first according to the Koran. Instead, they have 1 million divisions. They even crossed the record of Children of Israel. I think somebody is not telling the truth. Look at their marriages, their funerals, vow, nothing is Islamic.

  5. Hassan Khalid from Kenya

    this the noor of Allah and whoever Allah guides no one can misguide. the one misguided by Allah no one can guide.