MashAllah may Allah accept his Shahadah and his good deeds.

HOW ISLAM MADE SENSE OF TRAGEDY

08:00 - 29 April 2008

What could inspire somebody to change from one religion to another? At the age of 28, Bristol student MOHAMMED HAKEEM left behind his devout Catholic beliefs to become a Muslim. Here he explains why he was moved to seek out a new faith

For most Christians, just the thought of converting to Islam is almost taboo. I was baptised a Roman Catholic and I attended Catholic schools in Bath .But the death of my mother in 2003, at the age of 42, revealed cracks in my belief which ultimately led me to embrace Islam. After a few years of consideration, I converted to Islam in September 2007.

I lost Christian faith while I was still at school. It didn't make sense to me that we could find ourselves having religious education and secular-driven science classes back to back. I'm logically minded and some of the so-called miracles Jesus performed just didn't make sense to me.

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When my mum passed away, my faith was shaken. I always believed everything happened for a reason and couldn't understand why someone so good and so young as my mum was taken.

When I was feeling lost and confused by my religious education, I found that Islam made sense to me.

It gave me a concrete feeling in the existence of God and an afterlife, which helped me deal with the loss of my mother.

MY brother Lewis, now called Yusuf, had converted to Islam 19 months before me - a move that had a major influence on my decision. My family was fine about it when I converted, because we'd all seen the success of my brother's transformation.

However, my brother says that, when he first converted, our grandmother thought he was moving away from God.

But he sent her a copy of the Koran and she read through it. And he says that she talked to him and helped him find which direction to pray.

Because he was so worried his conversion would create a divide, my brother waited almost a year to make sure he wasn't just being influenced or caught up in something new and interesting.

I watched my brother, who had attended the Catholic St Brendan's Sixth Form College in Brislington, grow in conviction and happiness and, after some deep thinking, took the leap from one faith to another.

I announced my intentions at the St Mark's Road Mosque, familiar to so many from its dome which can be seen from the M32.

I was nervous but, as soon as I went in, I was openly welcomed by the imam and some young people. They asked about my reasons for wanting to convert.

It's difficult to describe the feeling when you go through with it and say the Shadadah, the vow of belief in God and Mohammed as the prophet of God. It's a wonderful sensation. It's a feeling of spiritual clarity rather than feeling lost and forsaken.

I was surprised to find how similar the Catholic and Muslim faiths were, not least the fact that Jesus is a part of Islam, which considers him an important prophet. Both faiths worship one God, too.

THESE days, if I'm not praying in St Mark's Road, I worship at home or in a prayer room at the University of the West of England, where I am a first-year business studies student and a member of the university business club and Islamic association.

I have tried to become a model Muslim, praying daily, learning Arabic, giving generously to charity and renouncing pork and alcohol.

Although I do not wear traditional dress all the time, I sometimes wears a formal kafnee suit and flat-topped crocheted topi hat for prayers.

I prefer that my former name is not known - I have chosen my new first name out of respect for the prophet, and Hakeem because it means wise.

It's not compulsory to change names, but being around the Muslim community, when someone asks your name and you give an English name, it doesn't feel appropriate. I almost felt awkward and embarrassed because it wasn't an Islamic name.

Becoming a Muslim certainly has had an influence on my identity in that respect. As a Muslim, the portrayal of Islam since the September 11 terrorist attack in New York and Washington had angered me.

I despise the negative portrayal of the Muslim community in parts of the media. Watching the martyrdom videos of the suspects of 7/7, they explained why they were doing it.

I condemn their actions. Taking life is against the faith. However, their reasons - about British foreign policy and the killing of innocent Muslims every day - has to be understood rather than people being too quick to judge the entire Muslim race based on the actions of only a few individuals.

I've heard tales of people receiving aggravation because of their religion, but personally I haven't been targeted.

I've met quite a few converts from different backgrounds, and all were very peaceful and happy individuals.

I was surprised to hear about all that has been going on in Westbury-on-Trym because these things tend to happen elsewhere.

Source: westerndailypress.co.uk