A business student of Kingdom of Lesotho
Timothy comes from the Kingdom of Lesotho. This small country lies just north of South Africa. He described his story as follows:
I was born in 1972 in a village about twelve kilometers away from the capital called Maseru. I received my elementary and secondary education in a Catholic school near my village. While in school I was supposed to attend a Catholic church every Sunday but I often dodged. I, however, occasionally went to a Protestant church with my grand mother.
For higher secondary education I got admission in a boarding school about eighty kilometers away from my home town. This school was run by Lesotho Evangelical church. This church was originated in France and was known as Parish Evangelical Missionary Society or P.E.M.S. There was a young priest who used to give us Christian education very diligently. He said to his students, “If the church did not spend money on my education I would become a Muslim because it was the only religion in the way of Christianity.” Until then I did not know anything about Islam. The Principal of this school was a good man since he encouraged us to take part in debates on topics like celibacy is better than matrimony. I used to take part in these debates very enthusiastically.
I received a scholarship from my government to attend a technical college for two years. This college was situated near Johannesburg in South Africa. I received a diploma in Marketing Management from this college. Many interesting things happened during my college education.
P.E.M.S churches had special building style. I found one P.E.M.S church near my accommodation. I joined this church and started teaching youth group what I had learnt in my previous church. I was not good at singing. Hence I proposed that some debates should be held in the church. They sought permission from the local priest. He agreed and was very excited to promote this activity.
Eight teams were formed. Each team had four members, two boys and two girls. The priest chose the topics. The debates were held every Sunday in the presence of the congregation. The winners were given prizes like Bible translation in Lesotho language.
A neighboring P.E.M.S church also formed four debating teams. They used to have competitions with the winners of our church. I took part in these debates. The topic of first debate was ‘Trinity.’ My team was to prove that Trinity was a wrong concept.
By chance I met a young man at a friend’s home. His name was Ndavu. He gave me exact quotations from Bible to support our point of view. It was amazing that Ndavu knew these verses by heart. I had read King James Version of Bible from Genesis to Revelations. After reading these quotations I realized that I did not understand Bible. I gave some verses to my team mates. They were quite happy. My team won the debate.
The topic of the second debate was ‘Jesus-is he son of God?’ My team opposed the above proposition. I again met Ndavu and he gave me exact quotations the next day. We won this debate too.
The topic of the third debate was ‘Authenticity of Bible’. My team was to prove that it was not authentic since there were many contradictions in it. Ndavu helped me again and we won the third debate as well. The congregation took the debates casually or considered them as just an intellectual exercise.
I became aware of many contradictions in King James Version of Bible. There were also many contradictions between English Bible and the translation of Bible in Lesotho language. This shook my faith.
I asked Ndavu, “What church you go to?” He said, “I do not go to any church since the Priest do not teach truth and they do not quote some verses.” He asked me, “What is your belief in godship?” I told him, “I believe in godship as mentioned in the first commandment of Moses. For example in Mark 12:28-30 says ‘The first commandment reads: Hear O Israel, the Lord of thy God is One Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.’”
When he understood my point of view about godship he talked to some of his friends about me.
A Strange Visitor
One Saturday in March 1996 a young man came to my relative’s home. He was wearing white clothes and white cap. I saw an African for the first time dressed like some Indians. The young man said, “I have come to see you, my Muslim brother.” I said, “I am not a Muslim because I know nothing about Islam except that Islam is the religion of Indians.” He insisted, “I am informed that you are a Muslim.” I offered him a chair to sit so that we could relax and chat. It was easy to talk to him since he spoke my local language. I sent my niece to buy him soft drink. He refused to use the glass which we were using. He preferred to drink from the bottle directly. I asked him, “Why did you refuse to use our glass?” He said, “I suspected that the glass might have been used for drinking alcohol.” He was right. I sent my niece to buy new glasses since I also hated alcohol, which I quitted in 1988.
He asked me, “How do I believe in God?” I said, “I believe in God as a Creator, as the only one to be worshiped, as one who does not have wife and does not need food or drinks for His survival. He does not have parents. All this is given in Bible.”
He asked me about Trinity. I told him, “Among the things which my father taught me were God is one and He is not to be compared to any one. I believe my father more than anybody else. I think Father, Son and Holy Ghost in Trinity are contradicting each other.” This young man said, “This is Islam.” I was shocked since my concept of Islam was that it was the religion of Indians only.
The young man added, “If we check in the Bible, the teaching of Christ are Islamic. The contradictions in the teaching of the church and the teaching of Christ are due to Paul who gave many rules and laws in his epistles (or letters).” I believed the young man. He asked me, “Do you want to be a Muslim or learn about Islam?” I said, “Yes, indeed.” He said, “I have a friend who is his teacher and he knows better about Islam.” I said, “I would like to meet him.” We both proceeded to visit his friend since it was just thirty minutes walk from my house.
I saw this man teaching to a group of students in English. I listened to his lecture with great interest. They stopped after about one hour and then prayed. I sat there and watched them. After prayer the students went to their homes. I, the teacher and my visitor were left alone. We introduced ourselves. Teacher’s name was Abdur Rahman. My visitor’s name was Haroon. Sheikh Abdur Rhaman explained to me the meaning of Shahada. When I learnt the meaning of Shahada in English I started believing in it from my heart. Sheikh said to me, “You can go home and think about it. You may attend the lectures as and when you like.” I told him, “I now understand Shahada and hence I want to become a Muslim.” He told me, “Do not take a hasty decision.” I said to him, “What you and Haroon have told me about Islam is the same what my father told me about true Christianity. Hence I want to take the Islamic pledge.” At this time I recited Shahada and thanks God, became a Muslim. Sheikh taught me how to do wadhu or ablution. He advised me to go home, take a bath and return here at 4 P.M. to make Islamic pledge in front of the congregation. I chose my Islamic name Abdullah Sesinyi.
Sheikh taught me daily from Asr to Maghreb for two weeks. After this he left for overseas for his advanced education. I only learnt Surah Fatiha in English, which I continued reciting in my prayers for about one year. It was very hard to find a teacher in this area.
One day I was window shopping and I came across an Indian young man who ran a ready-made garments shop there. I asked him, “Are you a Muslim?” He proudly said, “Yes.” I told him, “I am a Muslim too.” I wanted some information from him about Islam. He said, “I have very poor knowledge of Islam.” I asked him, “Is there any mosque in this area?” He said, “There was one but you can offer Dhuhar salat with me in my shop.” He also invited me to ride with him for Jumah salat every week. I followed this routine for a year.
My First Eid
So far I did not know anything about fasting and Eid. One day Haroon called me and informed me about Eid Salat next morning. I attended the Eid Salat and Eid festival. I met many African Muslims and Muslims from my tribe. I also met Ndavu there and first time learnt that he had embraced Islam too. His Muslim name was Bilal. I asked Bilal, “How did you learn those quotations from Bible to help me in my debates.” He said, “Those quotations are written in the two books of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat.” He presented me these two books and an English translation of Holy Quran by Abdullah Yousuf Ali. This was my first Islamic social event. I found every body extremely happy and they were very nice to me. After Dhuhar Salat, we went back to our residences. I finished college in July 1997 and went back to Lesotho.
Elementary Islamic Education
I knew that my neighbor in my village used to write Arabic. I asked him, “Are you a Muslim?” He said, “Yes”. He added, “Unfortunately I am not practicing Islam.” He informed me about Thabong Mosque in the capital. One morning we both walked twenty kilometers to visit this mosque for Islamic education. The mosque had weekend Islamic school. I and my neighbor, Basheer, attended this school since the mosque arranged for our transportation. With the guidance and recommendation of my teacher, Mr.Mahmood, I was accepted in a full time residential school called Assalam Educational Institute in Braemar, which is about 150 kilometers from Durban. I attended this institute for eight months and then returned home. The Deputy Principal gave me a copy of the Noble Quran, an English translation by Dr. Mohsin Ali.
Propagation of Islam
I started selling clothes for my living and preached Islam in cooperation with my neighbor, Basheer. By the Grace of Allah in one year twelve families embraced Islam through our humble efforts.
I and Basheer requested our radio station to allocate some time to us for the introduction of Islam. The government radio permitted representatives of Muslim, Christian and Bahai faiths to make a brief presentation on radio. It was followed by telephonic calls from the listeners and all the three religions could defend their points of view.
Lesotho T.V invited me and Basheer to give a presentation to people about Eid-ul-Fitr. It was well accepted by all the Muslims and many Christians became anxious to know more about Islam. Meanwhile, Abdul Karim, a Tunisian brother, bought time in one private radio station, called Joy F.M. Voice of America, in our capital. He invited me and another brother, Rafiq, to offer weekly program in it about Islam. We ran this program for about one year.
A Saudi delegation visited our capital. With the guidance and help of brothers Mahmood and Abdul Karim, I applied for the admission to Islamic University Madina Munawwara in 1999. Nothing was heard for a year and a half. I started working for a road construction company away from my home. My supervisor made life miserable for me due to my Islamic thinking. Abdul Karim advised me to fast and recite more Quran so that Allah may remove my difficulties. I started fasting Mondays and Thursdays and recited more and more Quran.
I also started a class for about one hundred prisoners every Sunday afternoon with the permission of the officials. The prisoners managed to expel their priest from the Assembly of God since he did not permit them to ask any questions. I taught there for three months and then I had to move away from that area.
I was excited to find an acceptance letter from Islamic University of Madina Munawwara in July 2001. Thanks God, I joined this university in September 2001. Here I am supposed to learn Arabic for two years before proceeding to my formal Islamic education in this university.
I am very happy in Madina Munawwara . A few of my relatives have embraced Islam through my preaching. May Allah accept these humble efforts of mine and strengthen my faith and practice.
As I review the events of my life I conclude that the facilities for the Islamic education in African countries are very minimal. The quality of education is also very poor. Hence the rate of progress in preaching is awfully slow. It disheartens many new Muslims. It is very hard to find qualified and sincere teachers of Islam.
Therefore I appeal to parents to make at least one of their bright children a teacher. Only teachers can change the fate of a nation. I also appeal to the affluent Muslims to establish more Islamic Institutions wherever they can, and run them professionally. This is, indeed, the best investment and the reward is tremendous. May Allah (swt) guide us to His straight path. Ameen