How Simon and His French Wife Found Islam:::

Brother Simon

I was born in London in the 1950s.

One of my first memories is being very aware of the problem we were having with the nuclear war, the prospect of nuclear war. And there were many demonstrations in London at the time against nuclear weapons.

And for me at the age of 5 or 6 I remember wondering what it is going to be like to die when the Russians dropped an atomic bomb on London. And I think that made a big impression on me because if you think you are going to die at any moment then certain things become much more important than others.

Throughout my childhood I felt that everybody around me was basically unaware of something very important and they didn’t seem to be aware of this thing. So from as soon as I started to think for myself, I started to look for whatever it was that, in England at least, nobody seems to know and yet was very important. I finished school at the age of 16, and for me what was important at that time was to travel and to research different cultures and different religions so that I can find what it was that was missing.

So I left school and ended up going to America to study where I met representatives from different religions and began to put certain things into practice in order to be able to find what it was. I now know of course what it is that people are asleep and unless you wake up you will not know what’s going on and you will not be able to produce a society that is capable of managing its own well-being. And that was something that also struck me very much as a child that there were a lot of injustices in the world as well. And of course it was the beginning of the environmental scares as well which had just got worse in the last fifty years. So now it’s quite clear that we are destroying the planet and there are huge injustices in the world and that something is needed to bring things back to what you could imagine is a normal state of affairs for human beings to be in.

Sister Leila

I was born in Paris in the second arrondissement, an area where people from various cultures live together. I was born in a family of catholic traditions that was not much practicing except for the religious festivities of Catholics. Because I was quite an active child, my parents decided I should follow religious classes. They thought that it may calm me. Then I discovered a new concept, a concept I did not know or understand before, the concept of a Creator. Although I did have many questions about Christianity, I was attached to the faith without really understanding the religion itself.

On the other hand, I used to have many Jew friends that often invited me to the Shabbat. I also had many Muslim friends that invited me during Ramadan or for Eid. This interaction was always in my life and it had an influence on my way of thinking and on my lifestyle. When I married and I had children I was bringing them up as Catholics without a real conviction. In fact I was in search of something, something I could not find in Christianity.

I continued meeting more people, more Muslims, and I started feeling a clear attraction towards Islam although at that time I did not see a purpose in converting. For me, God was universal at that time. The idea that Jesus and Muhammad were prophets was not a problem at all. In fact, at that point I did not even realize that I was not a Catholic anymore.

Regarding my education, it is only quite late in my life that I decided to continue my studies after having my children. I was over 40 and at that time I realized that education especially with children attracted me. I felt that transmitting one’s knowledge was important. And I believed everyone should try to pass on the good knowledge they have. I was also interested in Islamic classes. I started attending Islamic classes that were actually taking place in my university. And one day I ended up putting Suras on my wall. Although I could not understand them, I found them very nice and I was moved by those Suras.

Brother Simon

I moved back to London in 1974. I joined an organization which was a new age kind of a religious organization but very serious. And as part of our studies we had certain practices that were taken from Islam as well as from Buddhism and other religions. So I was familiar with Islam to a certain extent.

I went to America to study full-time and I met many Muslims in America and at that time I became convinced that Islam was a deen (religion) of truth but at that time for me it was a spiritual matter and it wasn’t really necessary I learned to do the prayer and so on. I learned the Arabic for that and I was given a zikr to do along with all of us in fact like group which was the zikr of Ihdina al-Sirat al-Mustaqim and we did this zikr constantly knowing what it meant as well.

Again, when I came back to England after that Allah’s guidance began to lead me in a certain direction and started to have children and I decided that London wasn’t a good place to bring up children so we moved to the country completely by Allah to a city where there was a large community of English Muslims, probably the only at that time. This was the early 1980s, the only large community of European indigenous Muslims. And in meeting people like me, white people, English, American with children, families and wives living together as a community with the sincere intention to establish the deen of Islam in their social life as well as their personal life, that I realized that in order to understand Islam deeply you have to practice it, you have to practice everything.

You can’t pick and choose certain aspects you like and leave others so it was in that sense of wishing to understand Islam more deeply that I accepted Islam fully. I already knew the prayer and I knew enough Arabic, so from the moment that I said the shahadah I was praying five times a day. It was just before Ramadan so I was fasting and praying.


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