I was raised in Greenville, S.C. with a very strict Methodist upbringing.
How involved were you in Christianity?
I was actually going to a small Bible college in Greenville through our church and actually had an intention to enroll in Bob Jones University. My intention was to become a minister or a missionary. I also had interest in becoming a Bible scholar, and I was learning to read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek.
When did you convert to Islam, and why?
It was in December of 1998. After reading the Bible maybe six or seven times, cover to cover, analytically, I began to realize there were a lot of inconsistencies, contradictions. This confusion led me to leave Christianity altogether and I started searching other religions, Buddhism, Taoism – every kind of “ism” that’s out there – and none of them seemed to have a clear truth. One day I ran into a Muslim. He invited me to a Friday worship service and when I saw Muslims praying it was almost like a light went off in my head. I asked for a copy of the Quran. I read it cover to cover in one week, and that was enough.
How difficult was the decision to become a Muslim?
The decision was not very difficult. The difficulty came after the decision.
Did your family have difficulty accepting your conversion?
My old-fashioned grandmother – I was raised by my grandmother – it was hard for her to digest. And my mother, who is a Baptist, and my father, he’s a Christian and a freemason, it was not easy for him. But it was harder for my extended family, many of whom are involved in politics in South Carolina. It was people trying to talk me out of it and not so much an open condemnation, but you could feel the cold shoulder of the family.
How exactly does one convert to Islam?
If you believe in your heart that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, then you must make something called shahada – open testimony, an open declaration. You do that before anybody who can be witness to this. I did it at a Muslim brother’s home late in the night. There’s nothing like a ritual that you have to go through.
How much has Islam changed your life?
After I left Christianity I started heading down the wrong road, being 17 years old and being confused by the world. Islam put me back on a right perspective and even my family sees it has made me a much better and a much better-rounded person than I ever could have been.
Has your conversion changed your understanding of yourself?
I don’t feel it’s changed my understanding of myself. But I finally feel I have made a real connection with something greater than myself. I feel with Islam that a connection has finally been made with the creator, and when you feel a connection like that, there’s no way it cannot change you.
Do you see your adopted faith as the one true religion, and would you recommend it to anyone else?
I absolutely would recommend it – not as the one true religion separate from everything else, but as the only true religion the creator has ever given to humanity almost every religion has claimed some form of truth in it. But Islam is the only religion that has contained its originality and its truthfulness over its 1,400-year span. We believe it’s the same religion preached since Abraham, since Adam, because God is not someone who changes his way of life for humanity.