TRANSFORMATIONS

Compiled By: Hajj Mustafa Ali

Why I Became a Muslim – By Abdul Wahid Pederson

As a Muslim of Scandinavian origin I am often met with the question of why I became a Muslim.  Yes, I even ask myself from time to time, why Allah had picked me, out of the multitude of people, and brought me to this blessed path of Islam.

When I look back upon my life, I can naturally see, that my present situation is a logical consequence of the sum of my acts and thoughts up to this point.  Thus my converting to Islam – or rather my accepting the fact, that inwardly I have always been a Muslim – was inevitable.

I should start my story by telling that at the age of about 17 years, I resigned from the Danish Church.  It did not satisfy me, neither intellectually nor, for that matter, spiritually.

For many years following I became a free thinker.  I did not associate myself with an “established religion”.  I was a confirmed believer, that there was a power greater than all of us, which had to be found in all and everything.  I believed in the One and was uncompromising in accepting anything less than a God that was without partner, all-pervading, energy unbound with limit or name.

In the late sixties I got attracted to the flower-power movement, and focused my way of living on the principle of generating love and peace for myself and a healing for the entire world.  Also at the same time I stopped eating meat.  Not as a result of long and deep thought, but more as a sudden inspiration.  I was so to speak caught red-handed with a piece of meat on my fork on its way to my mouth, when suddenly it struck me that I should stop eating it.  I had, at the time, no idea why this came so suddenly.  Yet it came with such force and clarity, without second thought that I put it down.  The next moment, to my parents' surprise, I turned to them and told them that, that was the last time I woul eat the flesh of animals.

At the age of 21 I left Denmark to roam around the world together with a close friend of mine.  It was not with any spiritual search in mind, only a desire to move.

We traveled through Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  Our guiding principle on our journey was to live by the natural laws of Yin and Yang.  We applied it to our diet, which was strictly vegetarian, and to our movements throughout the trip.  We supported each other helping one-another in the harmonious and inspiring way that came to our hearts.

During our travel we naturally came to live amongst peoples of many different cultures and religions.  This inspired in me a desire to know where I fit into the scheme of things.  What was my religion?  And where did I belong?  I felt I now needed to define myself in a more specific way.

As I said earlier, at the age of 17 I had reached some conclusions about my religious beliefs, at least I knew what I was not, but had not spent much time and thought to what I might be.

It was soon after we arrived in India, being so deeply impressed by the spectacle that India is, I dove into Hindu culture and life and for the most part became a practicing Hindu.  This experience lasted for several years.  These years opened up my interest in God and my formal search began.  It also led me to some conclusions within myself.  But before specifying what these were, I wish to relate some experiences I had as a Hindu in India which were of great importance for my proceeding on my spiritual search.

Once a while I was staying with my guru (spiritual guide) near Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan Province of India, I got a sensational feeling within.  No matter what question about life I could put to myself, a voice inside would answer it with the very same answer over and over again.  Namely “Love, God, or Truth” These came not as three individual answers but combined as a single one.  This was all that is and will ever be.  From then on for me everything else was a projection from this fundamental principle.  I was totally saturated by the result of this condition, completely exalted and obliterated in this sensation for a period of maybe three consecutive days.

The other experience I want to relate took place again in India in the ancient city of Humpy, now mainly consisting of ruins that remind the visitor of the former days of glory and splendor.  Outside Humpy, right on top of a mountain, is a temple from which chanting can be heard constantly, flowing out down and over the old city.  Together with a group of other seekers, mostly foreigners we decided to visit that place.  On one fine afternoon we set out on our journey.  The first leg of the journey was to cross a river; the only way getting across was by the local “ferry”.  This ferry to our utter amazement turned out to be a huge cooking pot that seated four just right as not to imbalance the pot would be drawn to the other side.  In groups of four spinning and whirling we slowly crossed the river without any major incident.  Once we were all together we headed up the mountain.

The temple was placed right above a place where two gigantic rock faces met at an angle.  At the very bottom of this angle a loudspeaker had been lowered down.  As we approached it, it became clear to us that the chanting we heard constantly in the old city was not as we imagined it, rows and rows of chanting monks in their constant devotion.  It was only an illusion it was only a recording playing on and on.

After some hours of walking we found the night coming upon us and decided to stay somewhere for the duration.  It was in this night of waiting that something happened to me.  The chanting went on through the night and it became more and more intoxicating.  All of us in the group felt our hearts soar and little was said between us the entire night.  The only communications were the knowing glances and reassuring smiles toward one another.  Each one of us was engulfed in some kind of meditation.  At one point I went to a nearby river to refresh myself and while I was there by the water, it suddenly struck me, that if I wanted to get closer to God I could do it immediately.  It came to as only one way to do it-in prostration.  I lunged forward prostrating myself for the first time on the ground in front of the creator, submitted to the one and only reality, Allah!

I had come to this experience with complete certainty of the One and only God.  It further came to my heart that if this were true then all truth and everything came from this same source.

Upon my arrival in Europe I did not bring anything of my Hindu practice with me, all this I left behind.  The only thing I kept as a practice was Yoga.  I had now seen the similarities between all the world's religions and I instinctively knew that they were all the same.  They were all the message of Peace.  Only the transmission through time and environment had made them appear different.  Each message was for its particular time.  I now knew I had to seek the source of the spring to which it all manifested from.  A place I could drink from the purest of waters.  I knew it had to be, but I did not know how to look.  I just have taken the first step.

I was soon living in the countryside tending a garden.  I tried to turn my attentions towards the Lord in everything I would do.  Often I would retreat to my room sitting there quietly in a cross-legged position, praying and seeking His guidance.  In public amongst friends I would more often speak to them about God and the eternal principle of God.  They found me so constant in my interest that they soon nicknamed me “the Priest” or “the Guru”.

One day I was approached by one of my old friends whom I had not seen for years.  He had become a Muslim.  We met a few times, each time talking more and more about religion and subjects connected to it.  He was going to the Sahara desert to learn some things from the Tuareg tribes.  He asked me to join him.  I immediately agreed to come along.  The desert always fascinated me.  Before setting out I made a point to let him know that I was not in the least interested in becoming a Muslim.  I would not mind living among them, but that I would not convert to Islam.

A few days later I left my house and went to Copenhagen to participate in the last preparations for the travel.  He lived in a house along with other Muslims.  I moved in with them until we traveled.  Soon living with them, praying with them, eating with them and discussing with them I finally came to see what until this point I had been veiled from.  I had arrived at the starting point.  I could now put into practice outwardly what my heart was yearning for inwardly.  The entrance to Islam was only to confirm what I already knew for certain to be true.  There was no choice, the heart did not lie in what it now perceived in front of it.  The door was now open and I took the step inside.  After entering its gate I realized that this is not only what I had always been looking for but it was also what I, in reality, already was.  I had always been a Muslim in my heart.  I am, and will always be grateful for being able to be gifted this path and having certainty of the ever-flowing generosity of my Lord.

ALL PRAISE TO THE LORD OF ALL.  WHAT IS HIS WILL IS REALITY, AND NOTHING ELSE IS.

By Abdul Wahid Pedersen