Hajj Mustafa Ali
I Became a Muslim By Abdur-Rahman Bundgard
time to time I have deeply reflected upon how I came to embrace
Islam. Not because I
consider my person or my story to be something special, but rather
due to the fact that few Europeans have embraced Islam, it warrants
this story being told and shared with others who might benefit from
my experience. It is my
intention to put forward the events leading up to and just after my
becoming Muslim, and to focus some on the reasons why there has not
been a more wide spread acceptance of Islam by westerners in
general. Finally and
ultimately the reasons are with Allah in His all encompassing
wisdom. For even now as
I reflect on how I came to this most glorious of paths,
I find myself not in a position to give the final answer.
embraced Islam during my stay in Kenya in the year 1975.
People at that time also asked me the same question, alas
they did not get the same reply as I am about to give today.
This path is one of revolution, dynamic and in constant fluctuating
change. It is a path
that evolves as you evolve, so that I am constantly uncovering and
discovering new points of significance each time I consider this
deep question. For the
purposes of this story I will begin with the one experience that
moved my heart more than anything else at the beginning of the
journey. In Kenya I
became so deeply moved by the good behavior of the Muslims I met.
Their courtesy amongst themselves and towards me touched me
like nothing else had done before.
There was a code of behavior that made it possible for there
to be harmony amongst family, friends and society in general.
Everyone and everything had its place in the whole.
It impressed upon me and acted as a reminder of the perfect
balance that is the universe and here in a microcosmic way it
reflected the harmony and meaning of the entire cosmos.
went to Kenya as a member of the Danish peace corps, which is linked
to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the beginning of my stay in Kenya I worked in the western
part nearby a town called Kisumu at Lake Vistoria.
Then in 1973 I was transferred to Isiolo which is located in
the frontier area. This area was mainly primitive, small villages and tribes
living as they have for centuries, with spears arrows, body paint
made of clay and a simple loin cloth covering their private parts if
any at all. It was also
from here going north that the majority of Muslims lived.
In Kenya Muslims make up about 15-20 % of the total
population. There are
areas that are almost exclusively Muslim, they are along the coast,
Mombassa, Malindi and in the north eastern areas.
I arrived in Isiolo in 1973 I saw a population of Muslims that had
experienced a great deal of suffering, mainly due to the civil war
in the years just before independence 1964-67.
Most Muslims belonged to two tribes called Boranas and
Somalis. The civil war
was brutal, government forces pushed through the villages
confiscating lands and property whenever there was the least suspicion
of collaboration with rebel troops and often with no reason at all
other than for personal gain, steeling property and the open abuse
of innocent people. The people I had met were still suffering from the results of
this most devastating war.
work was to take care of the orphan population and destitute
children who out of necessity succumbed to roaming the streets like
scavengers, scrounging for food and shelter.
An orphan house was constructed and we began a poultry farm
project to support and feed ourselves. An extensive agriculture scheme for the destitute nomads was
also established, these noble nomadic tribes had lost all their
animals and the entire way of life crushed by the end of the war. They were now digging ditches and learning to grow their own
food. I was here
amongst these seemingly devastated people that my heart became moved
so deeply. In all their
trouble and outward disaster not once did I ever hear them complain
about their situation. They
remained patient with everything that was happening around them.
They still laughed and had plenty of time to play with their
children and pour out kindness and welcoming, wearing what little
ever they had with those around them.
I began to see that there was inner reality that was like
water in a clay vase sipped out into everything.
Soon I found my role reversed, rather than I being there to
teach, it was I who was the student. The more time I spent with these people, the more in-depth I realized
my ignorance was. I
soon was invited to their homes always being treated with respect
and generosity, what little they had they shared with me.
These Muslims were untied in that their actions and their
words were one in the same. Their
reality was Islam. Their
actions spoke louder to my heart and mind than any thing else I had
ever encountered before.
it dawned on me that I am a prisoner of my conditioning and that
meeting these people showed me and opened up a way for me to
consider that I had another option.
That there was another way to live, and that way was opened
up for me at this point and for anyone who could see it.
I could not deny what was so clearly and profoundly in front
of me. I had no choice.
If I am to call myself anything then let it be a Muslim.
From the little acts of daily life, those small kindnesses,
and generous behavior I saw the one hand behind the many.
It was like everything had come into focus for the first time
in my life. I often
wondered how was it that I had never seen it before or how I had
even existed as anything else other that one submits to the One and
returned to Denmark in 1978 a changed man.
returning to Denmark I began to mix with other Muslims residing in
Denmark. Most of them
came to the west seeking a better standard of living.
Mostly a mix of immigrant workers, doctors and other professionals
and businessmen. It
always struck me deeply that whenever anyone of them would be
introduced to me, inevitably the first question they would ask me
is, why I became a Muslim? Setting
curiosity aside and those rare cases there were those asked
sincerely, out of Iman.
I found that most asked because of their own lack of
knowledge and practice. As
though they were looking towards me to provide an answer to why they
are Muslims. So
often whenever asked this question, I would turn it around and ask
them: Have they ever pondered the reasons that they are Muslim?
Have they reflected on their own reason for being?
Where did they come from?
Where are they going? What
are they doing in the west? What
will happen to their children without the encouraging Islamic
environment needed to raise Muslim children?
non-Muslims it was the same. They
would always with arrogant forcefulness put the question to me.
Why did you become a Muslim?
I would ask them how is it that you have followed an empty
way of life that has led themselves and society around them to the
lowest in man? Glorifying
material life! Only to
wind down six feet under! Did
they ever ponder that there might be a real way to live, in harmony
with what God wants for them, to achieve the highest place in the
encounters with people would always bring about in me a deep sense
of gratitude. Having come from a western society, bereft of any dynamic
spiritual movement, that Allah in His Mercy would have seen fit in
His wisdom to gift me this glorious path to knowledge of the
all-Mighty. I could not
find the events or situations to justify reasonably how is it that I
was somehow different. I
grew up the same as others and eat and lived in similar conditions.
I can only lower my head knowing that it was only by grace
and generosity that I came to this path.
having been said, I can now reflect on my past and see that the hand
of guidance was always with me and that it is without a doubt with
everyone, anyone with an awakened heart, to see His hand over
everything and everyone.
was a young man during the sixties.
It was a time when the wheels of so-called progress were
turning at high speed. Material standards of living were being improved on all
levels of society. At
the same time there was a movement amongst the youth of the world
that began to question the very foundations of the western society.
Ideas, such as self-discovery and enlightenment circulated
through the movement. Young
people everywhere in the west began experimenting with different
modes of living. Whether
they went to the land or to the cities, there emphasis was on the
spiritual and a turning away from traditional western materialism.
For a while it seemed like the whole world was going through
a change and for some it was thought to be the heralding of a new
golden age of peace and love for all.
But with all things good in their intention it was not strong
enough or wise enough to protect itself from those who would
misdirect it for their own personal power and gain. Soon this movement became co-opted. The vision went from universal peace to world peace to peace
in oneself. Here it
became subjective and individual with redefining the movement's goal
to material remedies. Hence
by the late seventies the pendulum swung to the other direction.
All the high ideals became drowned in a conditioning of desecration,
with its only way out the all-mighty buck.
So hippies became Yuppies and innocents became corrupted.
reflection many years later I realized it had to end this way.
For it was in truth only a semi-local phenomenon.
While we had the luxury of time and material well being to
sit and discuss alternative life styles
the people of the so-called third world
were becoming poorer and poorer.
That for the most part these peoples who make up the majority
of humanity on this planet, had not in the least had been effected
by what we called the heralding of the golden age.
Life had not changed for these peoples for some in thousands
is what really began to wake me up.
The contradictions and polarity of east and west, north and
south. I soon became
aware of how narrow the vision and perspectives are in the west, and
how little we really know of the rest of the world.
The real story has not been told!
It has been purposefully hidden!
I had to find out. The more I looked the more lies I saw. The more lies I saw the more convinced that there had to be
the truth. This was the
hand of guidance. Opening
my heart to the question: Who
led me to study eastern philosophy, politics and culture together
with religion. As I
soon found out in most case these two were inseparable.
I realized after my studying that it was not satisfying just
to read about them, like reading a menu.
I wanted to have the meal, so I set out to experiment with
them. I wanted to go
out and try them on. This
led me to Africa and back to the beginning of this story, my
embracing of Islam.
in Denmark there are at least 30,000 Muslims, 500 plus are native
Danes. I have been
dealing with Islamic affairs and the improvement of conditions for
the Muslim community in Denmark. I have been working as the secretary of the Islamic Cultural
Center, which is the largest Islamic organization in Denmark.
We have established a primary school for Muslims which has
been approved by the Danish authorities and receives subsidies of
85% plus. I also work
together with an Islamic radio program called Radio Al-Fatiha.
It delivers programs in Turkish, Arabic, Urdu and English.
These efforts are not only supported by local government, but
by the entire Muslim community.
strong dialogue has been set up between the Muslims and the local
Muslim must be a vehicle of light into the world.
This means that by correct behavior, service to others in
need, that he purifies himself and the world around him.
This inner purity and clarity comes with struggling with
oneself. We have all
been brought up with a set pattern of conditioning.
Once the path of Islam comes into your life it begins to
discriminate between what is useful knowledge and what is a burden
upon us. Weighing us
down and occupying our attentions with illusory images and ideas.
wanting of purification has brought me to the blessed company of
great teachers, scholars and men of inner awakening and knowledge.
These men and women are scattered throughout the world, rare
as they are but their serving anyone who is sincere of wanting to
last few years in the company of these people have brought me to
places like Pakistan. To
the illuminating company of such person as Sufi Barakat Ali and Said
Shaykh Ikram Hussain. Men who wear themselves out in the service of others.
Also to the most unlikely place, America to San Antonio Texas
where I attended the Sufi Gathering of 1982 and heard the
illuminating instructions of
experience of self-knowledge or discovering an inner reality,
tasting fragments of the boundless mercy of the Knower Himself, gave
the undersigned the needed clue and motivation to go on.
I discovered that all things in this creation are like sign
posts guiding one down the road of real fulfillment.
Guiding one to the garden of hereafter.
way this transaction which in Arabic is called the Din,
means simply to live in accordance with the laws recognizable in
nature and viewed through reflection as the attributes and living
names of the highest personality-Allah may His name be forever exalted.
This way Islam which means submission, submission and peace,
when adhered to, brings to the seeker balance.
He realizes his or her place in the entire scheme of the
universe and takes his place as befitting Allah highest creation.
This one message has been coming to humanity from the
beginning of time. Completed in the final revelation and walking example, the
Quran and the Messenger of God, Muhammad (S.A.W.A.W.S. May
Allah be pleased with him).
Allah guide you in your sincerity to His most beautiful path and
root your steps upon the road to His garden.