Faces of Islam
FACES OF ISLAM
By Sajid Iqbal. Editor, The Revival
© The Revival 2004
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and has an estimated 1.6 billion followers throughout the globe. But who are the faces and personalities behind these converts to Islam? Khadija, wife of Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), was the first to convert to Islam.Some of the more well-known converts to Islam from more recent times are the following:
* YVONNE RIDLEY is the latest high profile conversion which hit
British journalist Yvonne Ridley, detained by Taliban last year,
has embraced Islam, saying `Islam is the religion of salvation.'
Ms Ridley, 44, working for the British "Sunday Express" newspaper -was detained in September 2001 near the eastern city of Jalalabad, for entering the country illegally. She was released after ten days. "Taliban had told me to convert to Islam after my release and reaching London. I had told them that it is not possible now but promised them to study and understand Islam," the BBC quoted her as saying.
She said she studied the Holy Quran and several other books and
converted to Islam.
In a book written after her release, Ridley said that she met Dr. Zaki Badawai, head of the Islamic Center in London and discussed with him Islam. In her book, she has explained how she was arrested and how much Taliban respected her in detention.
Ms Ridley, originally from Stanley, County Durham, is a former
assistant editor of Newcastle's Sunday Sun and deputy editor of
Wales on Sunday. Ms Ridley also worked for the News of the World, the Daily Mirror, The Sunday Times, The Observer and the Independent before joining Express Newspapers three years ago. Ms Ridley is one of many female converts to Islam.
* JERMAIN JACKSON- Brother of Pop Star Micheal Jackson
A very short interaction with a group of children in Saudi Arabia in 1989 ultimately led Jermain to have long discourses about Islam with Muslim scholars. "A great ripple had taken place in my thought. I made failing attempt to console myself that nothing had happened but I could not conceal this fact any longer from myself that at heart I had converted to Islam. This I disclosed first to my family friend, Qunber Ali. The same Qunber Ali managed to take me to Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia. Till that time, I did not know much about Islam. From there, in the company of a Saudi family, I proceeded for Mecca for the performance of "Umrah". There I made public for the first time that I had become Muslim." He is now known as Muhammad Abdul-Aziz. His wife, seven sons and two daughter who, like him, are fully Islamic-oriented.
* Muhammad Ali ? Formerly Cassius Clay; three-time Heavy Weight
Champion of the World. He converted to orthodox Islam in 1965.
"I have had many nice moments in my life. But the feelings I had
while standing on Mount Arafat (just outside Makka, Saudi Arabia) on the day of the Hajj (the Muslim pilgrimage), was the most unique. I felt exalted by the indescribable spiritual atmosphere there as over one and a half million pilgrims invoked God to forgive them for their sins and bestow on them His choicest blessings. It was an exhilarating experience to see people belonging to different colours, races and nationalities, kings, heads of state and ordinary men from very poor countries all clad in two simple white sheets praying to God without any sense of either pride or inferiority. It was a practical manifestation of the concept of equality in Islam."
source: Islam in America, Jane Smith
* Malcom X - Black-rights activist and religious leader. In 1964, after a pilgrimage to Mecca, he announced his conversion to orthodox Islam and his belief in the possibility of brotherhood between blacks and whites. "...America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem.
Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met,
talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white -- but the "white" attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespecitve of their color.
My pilgrimage broadened my scope. It blessed me with a new insight. In two weeks in the Holy Land, I saw what I never had seen in thirty-nine years here in America. I saw all races, all colors, -- blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans -- in true brotherhood! In unity! Living as one! Worshipping as one! No segregationists" . Autobiography of Malcolm X
* Chris Eubank -- In March 1997, after former super middleweight world champion Chris Eubank defeated Camilo Alocon of Columbia at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in a light heavyweight contest, Eubank embraced Islam. The former boxer studied the Koran for three years before becoming a Muslim and took the name Hamdan.
* MTV Presenter Kristiane Backer ? Kristiana in her prime went to Boston to interview the Rolling Stones, and went on the road with Prince for a week. She was the number-one woman on MTV and was literally on television all the time. She presented the Coca-Cola report and the European Top 20 and interviewed bands and millions of people recognised her all over Europe.
"I was still at MTV, still finding my faith, and I realised I wasn't fulfilled by that whole rock 'n' roll lifestyle. I felt that what I was doing was pointless; it wasn't a great contribution to society. They wanted me to look good on camera, but I didn't want to be a sex symbol any more. As a modern westerner with a career, of course I had to look into Islam's attitude to women. I discovered that it is pro-women and pro-men."
* Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Before the 1971-72 season Alcindor converted from Catholicism to Islam and took the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He played 20 seasons in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. By the time the 7 foot 2 basketball player retired in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was a six-time Most Valuable Player and is now one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He began to study the Quran, for which he undertook to learn basic Arabic. In 1973 he travelled to Libya and Saudi Arabia to get a better grasp of the language and to learn about Islam He professes a strong belief in what he calls the Supreme Being and is clear in his understanding that Muhammad is his prophet and the Quran is the final revelation. Objecting to having been pushed into the Catholic faith by his father, he insists that his children will be free to make their own choices...For his part, Kareem accepts his responsibility to live as good an Islamic life as
possible, recognising that Islam is able to meet the requirements
of being a professional athlete in America. (source: Islam in America, Jane Smith)
* Jemima Khan ? Formerly Jemimah Goldsmith, Jewish daughter of
billionaire Sir James. At the age of 21 she married famous Pakistani cricket player Imran Khan and converted to Islam. Changed name to Haiqa Khan. "It would seem that a Western woman's happiness hinges largely upon her access to nightclubs, alcohol and revealing clothes; and the absence of such apparent freedom and luxuries in Islamic societies is seen as an infringement of her basic rights. However, as we all know, such superficialities have very little to do with true happiness...."
* Art Blakey - American drummer and jazz musician. His contribution to jazz from 1954 to 1990 as leader of the Jazz Messengers established the sound Hard Bop, greatly influencing later generations of musicians and entertainers. Now known as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina
* Cat Stevens, world famous British pop singer.
He converted to Islam in 1973 and changed his name to Yusuf
Islam. "I tried Zen and Ching, numerology, tarot cards and astrology. I tried to look back into the Bible and could not find anything. When I received the Quran , a guidance that would explain everything to me - who I was; what was the purpose of life; what was the reality and what would be the reality; and where I came from - I realized that this was the true religion; religion not in the sense the West understands it, not the type for only your old age. In the West, whoever wishes to embrace a religion and make it his only way of life is deemed a fanatic. I was not a fanatic; I was at first confused between the body and the soul. Then I realized that the body and soul are not apart and you don't have to go to the mountain to be religious. We must follow the will of God. Then we can rise higher than the angels. The first thing I wanted to do now was to be a Muslim."
* Danny Williams- Currently the Commonwealth and British Heavyweight Boxing Champion.
* Queen Noor of Jordan -- Born Lisa Najeeb Halaby to a prominent Arab- American family. Raised by Christian parents, she converted to Islam when she married the late King Hussein, a Hashemite and descendant of the prophet's line, on 15 June 1978. When she converted, she changed her name to Noor al-Hussein --
the light of Hussein.
* William Henry Quilliam - an affluent lawyer from Liverpool and a descendent of Nelson's first Lieutenant- Captain John Quilliam, accepted Islam in 1887. Quilliam adopted an Islamic name Abdullah. During his time around 150 other Liverpudlians also accepted the reality and truth of Islam. Abdullah Quilliam established the first mosque in the British Isles in 1887.
* Rt. Hon. Sir Rowland George Allanson Peer, Statesman, and Author.
He was born in 1855 A.D. and was a leading British peer, statesman and author. Educated in Cambridge, he became a peer in 1877, served in the army as a captain and later on as Lieut. Colonel in 4th Battalion of North Minister Fusiliers. Lord Headley embraced Islam on 16th November 1913(8) and adopted the Muslim name of Shaikh Rahmatullah al-Farooq. He was also the author of several books, most well known amongst them being: A Western Awakening to Islam.
* Sir Charles Edward Archibald Watkins Hamilton embraced Islam
on 20th December 1923. A well-known English statesman, fifth baronet of the first (1770) and third baronet of the second creation (1819) Sir Abdullah was born on 10th December 1876. He was a Lieutinent in the Royal Defence Corp. and was also the President of the Selsy Conservative Association. "As the time progressed, I wished to be at peace with my Creator, and I found that both the Church of Rome and the Church of England were of no real use to me. In becoming a Muslim I have merely obeyed the dictates of my conscience, and have since felt a better and a truer man."
* Micheal Barry- TV Cook and radio programmer who changed his name to Micheal Bukhit.
* Joe Ahmed Dobson: Son of former cabinet minister Frank Dobson, Joe turned to Allah at university. While his contemporaries drank away their student grants, Dobson was diligently praying the standard five times a day. He works on inner city regeneration, finds spiritual satisfaction in Islam's constant impetus to do the right thing, and credits his first-class degree to the structure his faith has brought to his life. The 26-year-old is now chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's Regeneration Committee and has the full support of his family - his dad buys him Islamic books for Christmas.
* John Birt Jr. son of John Birt- former head of BBC. Changed his name to Yehia Bert after embracing Islam. Jonathan Birt, forsook a fast track into the ranks of the great and the good by
converting in 1997 and starting a PhD on British Islam.
* Michael Wolfe ? Author of The Hajj: An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca, and One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing About the Muslim Pilgrimage. Born of a Christian mother and Jewish father, he is most well known for his documentary on ABC's Nightline which aired on April 18, 1997 called An American in Mecca.
* Gai Eaton, a former British diplomat now in his seventies. His
influential work `Islam and the Destiny of Man' has become required reading for bright young Anglo-Saxons turning to his adopted faith, often as an expression of dissatisfaction with a Western culture that appeared to have offered them everything.
* Matthew Wilkinson made headlines when he converted and changed his name to Tariq in 1993; he was a former Eton head boy. He and Nicholas Brandt, another Etonian and the son of an investment banker, swapped their destinies as scions of the Establishment for a Slough semi shared with four other Muslims.
* Colonel Donald S. Rockwell, U.S.A. Poet, Critic and Author.
"The universal brotherhood of Islam, regardless of race, politics, color or country, has been brought home to me most keenly many times in my life -- and this is another feature which drew me towards the Faith."
* William Pickthall now known as Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall ? He was born in 1875 in London. He converted to Islam in 1917 and by 1930 Pickthall published The Meaning of the Glorious Koran; which was an English language translation (meaning) of the Qur'an.
* Margaret Marcus now known as Maryam Jameelah Jewish American
essayist, poet, journalist and author of several books. She converted from Judaism to Islam in 1962.
* Matthew Franklin - world champion boxer. In 1977, in just his 21st pro fight, Matthew knocked out veteran Marvin Johnson in the 12th round to win the NABF light heavyweight crown. By 1979, he was ready to challenge Marvin Johnson for the world title and the WBC champion.
They met on April 22nd, Matthew scored an eighth-round knockout
to win the title. Shortly after becoming champion, he
converted to Islam and changed his name to Matthew Saad Muhammad.
* Eddie Gregory - world champion lightweight boxer. It was March 31, 1980, and Gregory -- a light heavyweight from the Brownsville section of New York City -- had just defeated Marvin Johnson by 11th-round knockout in Knoxville to win the World Boxing Association championship. He marked the occasion by announcing his name change, to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad,
in deference to the Islamic faith he had recently come
* Boxers Mike Tyson, Mustafa Hamsho , Akbar Muhammad and Dwight
Braxton - world champion boxer now known as Dwight Muhammad Qawi
* Daniel Moore - Anglo-American poet now known as Abd al-Hayy Moore
* Aminah Assilmi - Denver area broadcast journalist; now director of the International Union of Muslim Women (former Baptist)
** CONCLUSION **
These are some of the famous converts to Islam. They have found
happiness and peace of mind in Islam. They have found the answers to the questions of life in Islam. No matter who you are if one studies Islam they will be in no doubt that it is the religion of truth which is from God Almighty and the best way of life.
...nice Jazakallah Khair...
its tru no matter who you are, famous or not..
True what raeesa ben said
assalamu alaikum wr wb
JazakuAllahkhairun for sharing with us.
It would be interesting to read how others that are 'not so famous in the media' to share how they found islam....insha'allah.