LONDON PRAYER TIME DAWN: 05:17 SUNRISE: 06:50 ZOHR:: 12:53 MAGHRIB: 19:09
American soldier in the Vietnam War: "Islam gave me peace, happiness"
Life was good for Jay. He was living the American dream. He had served his country well as a young soldier in the Vietnam War. Now he was a mechanical engineer with a highly successful private firm. Happily married with a loving wife and son, he felt content and well settled. Nothing could go wrong for Jay. But it did. Sept. 11 happened. He suffered no personal loss in the terrorist attack on the twin towers in NY, but he felt a new stirring in his heart, an emotion he had not experienced before — an extreme hatred for the Muslims.
Born a Catholic, Jay was not a religious man. He accompanied his devoutly Christian wife to church for Easter and Christmas but never felt close to God. Sept. 11 changed that. “All the hatred I felt toward Muslims created a lot of dissonance so I started going to the church to rectify my behavior”. Jay studied the bible, the old and new testaments for four or five years and even started teaching a bible class. But the more he knew the less convinced he felt. “I was now 65 and finding it hard to believe in many of the Christian doctrines.”
Afshan was a young Pakistani woman who was going through her own personal crisis. She had come to the US from Multan after getting married to a distant relative. Her dreams of happiness and love shattered when her marriage ended in a divorce thanks to non-compatibility with a highly westernized husband.
Afshan took up a job in a gas station/convenient store to support herself. Life was very challenging for this small-town Pakistani girl who had led a very sheltered and uncomplicated life. The only thing that kept her going was her strong and unflinching faith in Allah. She also remembered her mother’s advise to her as she was leaving her home. She told her that she was a representative of Islam and should always show everyone the best Akhlaq.
Fate was doing its own thing. Jay was a regular customer of the gas station that Afshan worked in. He knew of Pakistan only because of the drone attacks that were mentioned in the news once in a while. He was curious about Pakistan and started talking and asking questions. He was amazed by what he heard Afshan tell him about the beauty of the family life in Pakistan about the importance of religion in their life about the five prayers. He found it amazing that Afshan had suffered so much but she still thanked God and still turned to Him. She didn’t say why me?
Jay started reading about Islam on his own. He even started visiting the mosque every Friday to listen to the sermon. “I listened to the khutba very intently. Every time I went to the mosque, I felt very peaceful and calm. I even started feeling close to God.” He did this for nine months. He was very confused. Islam appealed to him but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to convert. He told Afshan about it who told her mother about it. She said tell him to pray for guidance. She said ask him to say "Ya Raheemo and Ya haadio”.
“On Jan. 16, 2012, Wednesday, in the early morning hours I don’t know if it was a dream or if I was awake. Something came to my heart which felt very warm. I experienced intense white lights and I heard a voice telling me to follow my messenger and then it went away. That made up my mind. That day I called the mosque and told them I wanted to become a Muslim. On Jan. 18, I took the shahadah at the mosque at the age of 65. I experienced tranquility, joy, happiness but most importantly closeness to 'Allah' which I never experienced before. It’s interesting to know now I have no animosity toward Muslims; I view them as brothers and family.”
This Ramadan was Jay’s first. He did not find fasting hard even though he was doing it for the first time. “It’s a small thing to do for Allah.” He also celebrated his first Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. He had a $500 cow sacrificed in Pakistan and had all the meat distributed to poor people. Jay said he was absolutely amazed by the way the Muslims came together on the Eids. “I have never seen such a thing before. It’s beautiful how the whole community prays together and greets each other.”
Jay has taken the Muslim name, Ali. He wants to be the best Muslim that he can be. He treats Afshan like his daughter, she too calls him ‘Abba ji’ (Dad). Jay is very devoted to his wife and family and hopes that they too will become Muslims someday. He feels very blessed that he found the truth, the Qur'an and Islam at an age, most people find hard to change.