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A Nigerian Student of Religion
Every religion tries to convince individuals about its truth and superiority. Such activities are going on in many countries. Conversion from one religion to another is a big decision for an individual. In many societies the decision of the head of the family affects many of his generations. Many people follow a religion merely out of respect for their parents and ancestors. Social and cultural bonds are very strong and it is generally considered rude and impolite to break or weaken such bonds. These forces are so strong that even many intelligent people dare not explore and compare other religions with an open mind. Such prejudices haunt and occupy their minds. Yet, they claim that they do not hold any form of prejudice against other religions. This feeling keeps them at ease, even if they hold prejudice against their inner conscience. The Creator, however, definitely shows the true path to those who do not exercise prejudice when they seek the truth. An abundance of God’s Mercy is showered on such individuals. The story of Ibrahim is a good illustration of this point. Ibrahim described his story to me as follows.
I was born and raised in Nigeria. My grandfather was a Muslim. His name was Sulieman. He had three sons. One of his sons became a Christian at the age of twelve through the activities of Christian missionaries. He eventually married a young Muslim lady who he converted to Christianity. Both of them worked in a high school in Kano. He was in the Library Science Department, while she was a caterer at this school. They had a large family. I was the youngest in the family. My mother died about a week after my birth. We were altogether six brothers and one sister. We were Christians following the religion of my father. Our grandfather had, however, given all of us Muslim names. My Muslim name was Ibrahim, which I liked very much. Whenever my grandfather visited us, my father behaved like a non-practicing Muslim. We also had tribal names. We were commonly known by these names.
Under the direct influence of my father all the members of the family practiced Christianity, although we were living in a community dominated by Muslims. We followed our father’s thinking and dared not cross the line. Most of my brothers and my sister married into Christian families. Interestingly, one of my older brothers wished to marry a Muslim girl. He was told that a Muslim girl is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim. He, therefore, embraced Islam. He is a non-practicing Muslim and has never talked to any of his brothers or sister about Islam.
I was studying in the high school where my parents worked. A Saudi delegate used to visit our town every year for a conference. My father found a job for me there. He wanted me to support the delegate in every possible way during the conference. I did not know a word of Arabic. I did not understand what they presented in the conference. I, however, served them diligently through the instruction of a translator. They were satisfied with my services. This delegate visited Kano the next year. Once again, he asked me to be of assistance at this yearly conference. We developed a mutual sense of appreciation for each other. Sheikh Fahd, an organizer of the conference, asked me, “Are you a Muslim?” I said, “No, I am a Christian.” He explained the basics of Islam to me during his stay in Kano. Upon departure, he asked me, “Do you believe that Islam is the truth?” I said, “Yes.” Then, he inquired, “Do you want to become a Muslim?” I told him, “I shall first get permission from my father.” My father is soft in nature. He did not get angry or act negatively when I talked to him about it. He said to me, “Go ahead if you like it.” I, therefore, embraced Islam the next day through Sheikh Fahd.
The Christian community raised a big storm there. They compelled my father to revert me back to Christianity. They put many questions to my father. Did your son accept Islam because the propagators were white? Did they give him money? Do they want to take him to Saudi Arabia? My father told them flatly that none of these are the true motives. He further added, “I cannot stop my son since his grandfather was a Muslim.”
I was told that I could practice Islam sincerely only through Islamic education and training. I, therefore, started going to the nearby Islamic center to study Arabic and Islam. Luckily, we had a very wonderful neighbor. Her name was Mrs. Karim. She has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and teaches in one of the local schools. A religious scholar used to visit her home daily to teach her children Qur’an. She allowed me to join their group. The Saudi delegate was thrilled to see my progress in Islamic education when they visited us the following year.
Allah has been merciful with me since the Saudi delegate arranged for me to be admitted into the Islamic University in Madina. I have been in the Islamic University for three years and I am learning the Arabic language. Next year, I shall join the faculty of Shariah and, God Willing, hope to graduate after an additional four years of extensive education. My Islamic faith is strong and I love the Islamic way of life from my heart and soul.
My father got married again after my mother passed away. He has five children from my stepmother. They are all Christians. During the summer break from the university I visited my family in Nigeria. I tried to explain some Islamic principles to my brothers and stepbrothers since we are supposed to inform our kith and kin first. With the Mercy of Allah, one of my brothers has seriously embraced Islam. He is regularly going to the local Islamic center for further education and training. I was also very grateful to Allah for showing the straight path to my ten-year-old stepbrother. He is following in my footsteps by going regularly to Mrs. Karim’s home for basic education and Qur’anic study. May Allah reward Mrs. Karim for imparting Islamic education to youngsters of her community.
After completing my education at the Islamic University of Madina, I intend to continue my education beyond this level to serve as a fully-qualified preacher of Islam. I do not have the proper words to thank Allah for showing me the truth. I am very delighted to preach Islam effectively to my relatives. I hope that Allah will show many more people the straight path through my preaching. All praise is, indeed, to Allah.
My story is not unique. Christian Missionary forces have brought about many conversions in Nigeria and in some other African countries. They have very strong organizations, which financially support their preachers and new converts. They also have their literature printed in very attractive formats. Their manpower takes pride in delivering this literature to the doorsteps of nearly every household. The results are obvious. As a result of these missionary efforts, there is a lack of resources and manpower for Islamic education in many African countries. Qualified preachers who are proficient in local languages are needed in each community. Unfortunately, many communities cannot financially support such preachers. This results in tremendous wastage of able and qualified manpower. Islamic literature in local languages is also very scarce. These are not any new ideas from me. All these facts are commonly known. I am mentioning this as a reminder to those who are financially able to support Islamic education in African countries.
If you would like to take part in supporting Islamic education in African countries, please contact Abu Salma at the following email address: abusalma99@Yahoo.com.