By Ibrahim Karlsson
I was born in an ordinary , non-religious Swedish home, but with a very loving relationship to each other. I had lived my life 25 years without really thinking about the existence of God or anything spiritual what-so-ever; I was the role model of the materialistic man.
Or was I? I recall a short story I wrote in 7th grade, something about my future life, where I portray myself as a successful games programmer (I hadn't yet even touched a computer) and living with a Muslim wife!! OK, at that time Muslim to me meant dressing in long clothes and wearing a scarf, but I have no idea where those thoughts came from. Later, in high school, I remember spending much time in the school-library (being a bookworm) and at one time I picked up a translated Qur'an and read some passages from it. I don't remember exactly what I read, but I do remember finding that what it said made sense and was logical to me.
Still, I was not at all religious, I couldn't fit God in my universe, and I had no need of any god. I mean, we have Newton to explain how the universe works, right?
Time passed, I graduated and started working. Earned some money and moved to my own apartment, and found a wonderful tool in the PC. I became a passionate amateur photographer, and enrolled in activities around that. At one time I was documenting a marketplace, taking snapshots from a distance with my telelens when an angry looking immigrant came over and explained that he would make sure I wasn't going to take any more pictures of his mum and sisters. Strange people those Muslims...
More things related to Islam happened that I can't explain why I did what I did. I can't recall the reason I called the "Islamic information organisation" in Sweden, ordering a subscription to their newsletter, buying Yosuf Ali's Qur'an and a very good book on Islam called Islam - our faith. I just did!
I read almost all of the Qur'an, and found it to be both beautiful and logical, but still, God had no place in my heart. One year later, whilst out on a patch of land called "pretty island" (it really is) taking autumn-color pictures, I was overwhelmed by a fantastic feeling. I felt as if I were a tiny piece of something greater, a tooth on a gear in God's great gearbox called the universe. It was wonderful! I had never ever felt like this before, totally relaxed, yet bursting with energy, and above all, total awareness of god wherever I turned my eyes.
I don't know how long I stayed in this ecstatic state, but eventually it ended and I drove home, seemingly unaffected, but what I had experienced left uneraseable marks in my mind. At this time Microsoft brought Windows-95 to the market with the biggest marketing blitz known to the computer industry. Part of the package was the on-line service The Microsoft Network. And keen to know what is was I got myself an account on the MSN. I soon found that the Islam BBS were the most interesting part of the MSN, and that's where I found Shahida.
Shahida is a American woman, who like me has converted to Islam. Our chemistry worked right away, and she became the best pen-friend I have ever had. Our e-mail correspondence will go down in history: the fact that my mailbox grew to something like 3 megabytes over the first 6 months tells its own tale. She and I discussed a lot about Islam and faith in god in general, and what she wrote made sense to me. Shahida had an angels patience with my slow thinking and my silly questions, but she never gave up the hope in me. Just listen to your heart and you'll find the truth she said.
And I found the truth in myself sooner than I'd expected. On the way home from work, in the bus with most of the people around me asleep, and myself adoring the sunset, painting the beautifully dispersed clouds with pink and orange colours, all the parts came together, how God can rule our life, yet we're not robots. How I could depend on physics and chemistry and still believe and see Gods work. It was wonderful, a few minutes of total understanding and peace. I so long for a moment like this to happen again!
And it did, one morning I woke up, clear as a bell, and the first thought that ran through my brain was how grateful to God I were that he made me wake up to another day full of opportunities. It was so natural, like I had been doing every day of my life!
After these experiences I couldn't no longer deny God's existence. But after 25 years of denying God it was no easy task to admit his existence and accept faith. But good things kept happening to me, I spent some time in the US, and at this time I started praying, testing and feeling, learning to focus on God and to listen to what my heart said. It all ended in a nice weekend in New York, of which I had worried a lot, but it turned out to be a success, most of all, I finally got to meet Shahida!
At this point there was no return, I just didn't know it yet. But God kept leading me, I read some more, and finally got the courage to call the nearest Mosque and ask for a meeting with some Muslims. With trembling legs I drove to the mosque, which I had passed many times before, but never dared to stop and visit. I met the nicest people there, and I was given some more reading material, and made plans to come and visit the brothers in their home. What they said, and the answers they gave all made sense. Islam became a major part of my life, I started praying regularly, and I went to my first Jumma prayer. It was wonderful, I sneaked in, and sat in the back, not understanding a word the imam was saying, but still enjoying the service. After the khutba we all came together forming lines, and made the two 'rakaas'. It was yet one of the wonderful experiences I have had on my journey to Islam. The sincerity of 200 men fully devoted to just one thing, to praise God, felt great!
Slowly my mind started to agree with my heart, I started to picture myself as a Muslim, but could I really convert to Islam? I had left the Swedish state-church earlier, just in case, but to pray 5 times a day? to stop eating pork? Could I really do that? And what about my family and friends? I recalled what Br. Omar told me, how his family tried to get him admitted to an asylum when he converted. Could I really do this?
By this time the Internet wave had swept my country, and I too had hooked up with the infobahn. And "out there" were tons of information about Islam. I think I collected just about every web page with the word Islam anywhere in the text, and learned a lot. But what really made a change was a text I found in Great Britain, a story of a newly converted woman with feelings exactly like mine. 12 hours is the name of the text. When I had read that story, and wept the tears out of my eyes I realized that there were no turning back anymore, I couldn't resist Islam any longer.
Summer vacation started, and I had made my mind up. I had to become a Muslim! But after all, the start of the summer had been very cold, and if my first week without work was different, I wouldn't lose a day of sunshine by not being on the beach. On the TV the weatherman painted a big sun right on top of my part of the country. OK then, some other day... The next morning; a steel grey sky, with ice-cold gusts of wind outside my bedroom window. It was like God had decided my time was up, I could wait no longer. I had the required bath, and dressed in clean clothes, jumped in my car and drove the 1 hour drive to the mosque.
In the Mosque I approached the brothers with my wish, and after dhuhr prayer the Imam and some brothers witnessed me say the Shahada. Alhamdulillah! And to my great relief all my family and friends have taken my conversion very well, they have all accepted it, I won't say they were thrilled, but absolutely no hard feelings. They can't understand all the things I do. Like praying 5 times a day on specific times, or not eating pork meat. They think this is strange foreign customs that will die out with time, but I'll prove them wrong. InshaAllah!