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By Selma Cook

This article is based on an interview with Eesa Ashby, London.

 

Eesa was only thirteen years old when he became a Muslim. Before Islam, when he was still a ten-year-old child he had a normal life of going to school and hanging out with his friends. Then in secondary school his cousin, who was fifteen years old at the time, embraced Islam and she used to come around to the house and tell his family about Islam. The family members all had different opinions and there were many debates but he was quiet and just listened.

 
One day when he was at home she called and asked him to come to her house which was about a 15 min walk away. This was his aunty’s house. His cousin showed him the Quran and asked him if he knew what it was. He said no and she explained that it is like the Christians have the Bible and that this is the book of the Muslims. He admits that he did not know anything about Muslims. He only knew what his mother had told him about Christianity. His cousin spoke to him about Almighty Allah and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) saying that he was the messenger from Allah and that he had brought the Quran from Almighty Allah. She clarified that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did not write it, but was given it.

 
It was the scientific miracles in the Quran that caught his attention. He mentioned how other people talk about a spiritual experience when they embrace Islam, but for him it was facts and figures. What stands out in his mind was the formation of the baby in the mother’s womb, the stars, the oceans and how science today acknowledges all these facts. He was blown away by this; he didn’t know there were people long ago who had talked about the stars and so on and had been right.

 
Praying five times a day, following the dietary code, and the dress code wasn’t difficult for him. After his cousin explained the basics of Islam, he started reading about prayer and the dress code and he decided that he would concentrate on one thing at a time. He thought to concentrate on prayer first. He had basic books with Arabic transliteration and diagrams of stick figures. He says that since he learned about Islam there is a lot more material to help new Muslims.

 
At first, he did not tell anyone he had become a Muslim because he felt he was not ready to face the comments and criticism. He still did not know exactly what Islam means. He comments that his years of travel and study in Egypt and Yemen have taught him so much about the vastness and mercy of Islam. But back then, he thought he would keep it to himself for a while. He did not know anyone else who was Muslim except his cousin. He got books on Tawhid from the local Islamic book shop and books on prayer, fasting, the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the Companions as well as the four rightly-guided Caliphs.

 
After three or four months he attended a talk at the house of Abdur Rahman Green in South London.  The talks were in the front room of the house and everyone was sitting cramped up but listening attentively. Eesa says that he learned many of the basics of Islam in these inspiring meetings.

 
Growing up a Muslim got Eesa through school and college without getting into trouble. He noted that it is very easy to get involved in the wrong crowd but all he could think of when he was young was if he had wu’du or when is Maghrib! Such concerns filled his mind while everyone else at school or in his neighborhood was talking about a rave going on in some place.

 
He was fifteen when he started to talk about his Islam. He had a friend who also became a Muslim and he added that the two of them were in their own little world and that they hung around together and even went to the mosque together. They often got into trouble for leaving the school in order to attend the Friday Prayer.

 
Despite his young age, Eesa did not think Islam is strict; he found that it just made sense. He understood why alcohol was haram.  It made sense to him that people should not drink because he could see all the harm that came from it.

 
Eesa said that he was not isolated from non-Muslims but there was always a line he would not cross, because there were things they were doing that he would not do, like raving. At Green’s home he learned about the kind of places and environment a Muslim should be in, and what he should and shouldn’t do. Eesa sees that there is nothing wrong to interact with non-Muslims until it comes to doing something wrong. He said that he and his non-Muslims friends talk and have fun and are nice to each other but when they want to go out he makes lots of excuses.

 
Speaking about the multitude of different Islamic groups in the UK, Eesa had this to say,

“The Muslim community is made up of so many different groups but this is because there isn’t enough knowledge. People follow blindly and they do not know. They are given proof and a reason for doing something a certain way and they just do it, because they haven’t searched for the knowledge.”

 
He says that you can find real information on Islam but you have to search and you should not be lazy. The best place to get knowledge and be sure it is the right knowledge, is to read the Quran and then look to the Hadith, especially Al-Bukhari and Muslim. Then, Eesa suggests that new Muslims should do some research on the lives of the Companions and see how they put Islam into practice. The Companions received Islam from the hands of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He believes that we should look at issues like how they divorced and then see how they went through that difficult time. He also sees that there is a lot of anger and other negative emotions and behavior when it comes to issues like divorce but sometimes it has to be done but, at the same time, we have to look at how did they do this and how do we are doing it. There is a big difference. If we want to fix our own internal crisis we have to get more knowledge. The crisis inside the Ummah exists because people act without knowledge; without knowing if this is the correct way of doing things. After that the problem gets out of hand. Eesa says that we have to go back to the root of it all. We should ask ourselves what we should have done in our lives. The Sunnah is the best way.

 
Youth nowadays are out of hand and are uncontrollable and violent. There is a lot of anger because they are not being cared for; they are being left to figure life out for themselves. Eesa sees that he was lucky, because he learned about Islam when I was 13. He learned from someone (Green) who was reading from Ibn Taymiyyah and he used to attend his class. He had a lot of help and support. Eesa says that the kids these days don’t have this. They are told to memorize Quran and that’s it.

 
He says that the difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is accepting Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was the only Muslim at first then the people became Muslims and they changed their state automatically.

 
He says that one of the biggest problems about being a young Muslim in London is that although everyone is allowed to work, and there should be no race or religious differences to prevent opportunity, when a Muslim applies for a job he can’t get a job easily. Then because this is difficult he gets angry. It is easier for the non-Muslim to get the job because he is the same as the guy offering the job. This happens often between non-Muslims and Muslims because of racism. Simply put, people usually prefer their own kind.

 
Eesa comments that for new Muslims it is important that they do not get angry and frustrated. At the same time, the Muslim community should stop all the talk about the UK being dar al harb and so on, as this kind of thinking is potentially dangerous. He adds that new Muslims must study Islam properly. He adds that such negative talk happens because the people do not understand about dar al harb. Eesa says that there is nothing new in Islam; it’s already been taught and established; the religion is perfect. The knowledge is there and problems come from misunderstanding and misapplication.

 

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