Saturday, September 29, 2007


When (Jesus) the son of Mary is held up as an example, behold, your people raise a clamour thereat (in ridicule)!...He was no more than a servant: we granted Our favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel...And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgement): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow you Me: this is a Straight Way...When Jesus came with clear signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which you dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me. For Allah, He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship you Him: this is a Straight Way".


Friends, you should see this really cool website of a brother. You will so enjoy his singing. Jeewan have discovered that we share a few things in common: [1] we are both converts to Islam - Alhamdulillah!, [2] we are both passionate about education, [3] we are both e-communicators, and hence we have connected over the ethers.
May Almighty Allah bless you and keep you and reward you for the personal witness you are bearing to His greatness and the Message of His Prophet (peace be upon him!).


Here is my personal story as I posted it in one of the Yahoo discussion forums that I belong to...
My journey to Islam has been a rather strange one. It seems to me that, broadly, there are 2 categories of experiences that lead people to Islam (maybe to any other religion): [1] external experiences, [2] internal experiences. I would not for a moment suggest that the distinction is water-tight and as simple as I make it sound, but for sake of simplicity this works for me. In the first category, for example, there are people who may have studied the Qur'an, or who may have been touched by the love of a Muslim, or who may have read Islamic literature, and so on. As a result, these people have investigated Islam and have chosen to choose the religion of Allah as their natural religion. Two of my colleagues here in the UAE converted to Islam this way and chose to make their shahadah as a result. My experience is a different thing from this. Yes, I have also read the Qur'an sporadically, and I have been blessed to have excellent Muslim friends in my life - but none of this persuaded me to investigate Islam. I was intellectually untouched by Islam, despite the fact that I was exposed to excellent examples of what I can only call "authentic Islam" (as opposed to the caricatured expression of the faith). I can honestly say that I never even remotely considered to become Muslim as a result of these influences in my life.

My journey within started about 2 years ago, shortly after a near-fatal car accident early one Sunday morning. I won't go into the detail of this life-changing experience, but suffice it to say that there is a decided before and after my life, in terms of this accident. Shortly afterward, I started having the most vivid, clear and living dreams that I could possibly imagine. In these dreams, in a variety of contexts, I would be in a mosque making sajdah (prostration) in salat (prayer). Frequently, I would wake up from these dreams with tears of joy, familiarity and peace streaming down my cheeks. I had no idea what was happening to me. I could not process these dreams and the undeniable sense of satisfcation and contentment that they left me with. My lifestyle was thoroughly Christian, and I was a happy one at that. I was a member of a local rather fundamentalist Baptist Church (long, long, long story!), and I enjoyed every moment I spent in the congregation. I loved the people, I had a personal experience of the mercy and love of God, and I was happy, truly happy. And yet, these dreams continued week after week. It seemed the intensity of the dreams grew stronger as time passed. Words fail me to express my experience of these dreams. I still have vivid memories of waking up during the night, or sometimes only in the mornings, and weeping as if I had lost something or someone dear to me. I was sometimes crying for joy, and sometimes with inexpressible sadness, mourning for something (Islam) I knew, and yet did not know. I recall, at times, saying to myself: I just wish I could accept Islam, but everything in me rejects it! So, this process continued for many weeks and months, until shortly before I left for the UAE, just over a month ago.

A Muslim colleague and friend at the college where I taught one day remarked in passing that I should check out a certain website that advertises jobs in the UAE. I had mentioned to her before that that I needed an adventure and a new challenge in my life which, somehow, seemed to have become staid and boring. From the day she mentioned this, to my arrival in the UAE was just under 2 weeks! This is the pace at which my uprooting in South Africa and my settling down in the UAE happened. Still, after my arrival, I still very much considered myself to be a happy, contented Christian. I planned to join the local Evangelical congregation here in Al Ain, but somehow never got to go there.

When classes started at our school, I suddenly became intensely aware, once more, of the dreams I described above. I felt so close to the energy and purpose that was invested in them and day by day I took a step closer to embracing Islam. A number of my students would not believe that I was not a Muslim. They refused to. (It is not uncommon amongst Muslims to "discern" the religion of another person!) Many of these boys were convinced that I was a Muslim. Well, I just shrugged it off, and told myself that God would work things out in His way, and in His time. I bought a few Islamic books and got stuck into reading them for many hours a day. I just couldn't stop. Every word seemed to sink into my thirsty soul. At about this time, we had a beautiful rain storm right here in the desert. It was awesome to see something so unexpected! I felt like the dry desert sand on which the peace, mercy and blessing of Allah was starting to rain - absorbing every drop of this pure life-giving essence, and feeling my inner person becoming alive again. (You may want to read of my "Rose of Jericho" dream on my blog -

None of this experience is quantifiable in the positivist sense of the word. What point is there to giving my experience a 1-10 rating, or to dissect it in the laboratories of rational and objective analysis? My experience itself defied even my best attempts to understand, and yet I was carried along by its potent force, ever closer to that blessed moment when I uttered the shahadah in faith and with much gratitude, just over a week ago.

Interestingly, the hadith has many references to the power of dreams. Here are some:

Hadith - Bukhari 9:168, Narrated Abu Salama

I used to see a dream which would make me sick till I heard Abu Qatada saying, "I too, used to see a dream which would make me sick till I heard the Prophet saying, "A good dream is from Allah, so if anyone of you saw a dream which he liked, he should not tell it to anybody except to the one whom he loves, and if he saw a dream which he disliked, then he should seek refuge with Allah from its evil and from the evil of Satan, and spit three times (on his left) and should not tell it to anybody, for it will not harm him."

Hadith - Sahih Bukhari 9:144, Narrated Abu Huraira
Allah's Apostle said, "When the Day of Resurrection approaches, the dreams of a believer will hardly fail to come true, and a dream of a believer is one of forty-six parts of prophetism, and whatever belongs to prothetism can never be false." Muhammad bin Sirin said, "But I say this." He said, "It used to be said, 'There are three types of dreams: The reflection of one's thoughts and experiences one has during wakefulness, what is suggested by Satan to frighten the dreamer, or glad tidings from Allah. So, if someone has a dream which he dislikes, he should not tell it to others, but get up and offer a prayer." He added, "He (Abu Huraira) hated to see a Ghul (i.e., iron collar around his neck in a dream) and people liked to see fetters (on their feet in a dream). The fetters on the feet symbolizes one's constant and firm adherence to religion." And Abu 'Abdullah said, "Ghuls (iron collars) are used only for necks."

I am not surprised, then, that my own dreams were fulfilled this way, since the Prophet (peace be upon him!) pointed out that every believer's dreams is one forty-sixth part of prophetism.

So, my own experience has been rather like yoking the oxen behind the wagon, in some sense. It has been a most mystical journey, most of which I still do not understand, cognitively. But when I make salat, either privately or in a masjid, there is absolutely no doubt in my heart (as opposed to my "mind") that this is who I truly am. In a profound sense, to me, I have become who I once was - a Muslim. May Allah guide me through the next few years as I learn to appreciate and understand this experience. Here are the words of the Holy Qur'an in conclusion:

O you that believe! Fear Allah, and believe in His Messenger, and He will bestow on you a double portion of His mercy: He will provide for you a Light by which you shall walk (straight in your path), and He will forgive you (your past): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful [Al-Hadid - 57:28].

Friday, September 28, 2007


Dear friends
I have had so many kind responses to my blog and I am touched by your kindness and the generosity that you show to me. However, I would like to respond to you by email, but this is not always possible since I cannot access your email addresses. Please email me at so that we can continue our sharing in our faith. Baarakallahu!


So (give) glory to Allah, when you reach eventide and when you rise in the morning. Indeed, to Him be praise, in the heavens and on earth; and in the late afternoon and when the day begins to decline. It is He who brings out the living from the dead, and brings out the dead from the living, and Who gives life to the earth after it is dead: and thus shall you be brought out (from the dead).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


These eyes are very, very tired. I have been up late last night and many nights before, reading and learning about my faith. What an awesome experience for me to bow in prostration to the One who made heaven and earth! I've also been email-chatting with friends and family in South Africa. It is good to hear all the stories that make my neck hair stand on end, and that remind me of all the reasons why I left "home" to find a new "home" in the desert.

My colleague and brother Muslim, Abdullah (at whose house I had Iftar last week), is stricken with tragedy. His nephew tragically died in a car crash over the weekend. They were sharing in Iftar at the weekend. With tears in his eyes he told me yesterday that we all have to be ready to meet our Maker. Maybe some of us have 40 years left to live, others maybe have a day. Who knows? This point was driven home clearly today when 2 of my Grade 11 students were absent from class because they had a death in the family - one boy's grandfather died, the other boy's father died.

Earlier today I was called over to the office of the Head of the Arabic Department in our school, and I sat down to a chat with Adil about my recent conversion to Islam. I am overwhelmed by the goodwill and kindness of Muslims and how they accept me into their lives and community without the slightest trace of animosity or reservation. When I made my Shahadah at the Zayed House for Islamic Culture last week, a brother there explained to me that Islam is universal and that the call to true faith and repentance by Allah is for all people, everywhere. I am beginning to see the practical side of this and I am saddened to know that in "the West" we still propagate such unfortunate bias and prejudice against Muslims. When I stand on these soils in this desert, as a Muslim, I begin to understand the perspective that Muslims have. The Islamic Ummah (community, people of faith) are close-knit and we share in fraternal love and respect for each other. I have never felt so much at home in a foreign country among people whose language I adore (because it is beautiful in itself and because the Holy Qur'an was given to us in this language) but whose language I don't yet understand!

Ah, I am so happy for one of my Grade 9 classes who managed to up their class average in an exam by about 30%! Prep F - you guys are stars. Well done!!

Man, am I looking forward to this weekend - I just want to sleep, sleep, sleep...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

AN NOUR - the light

Here is one of the many reasons why I fell in love with the Holy Qur'an:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil is well nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: light upon Light. Allah does guide whom He will to His Light: Allah does set forth parables for men: and Allah knows all things.
The simple beauty of this Holy Book has touched my heart. Who can reproduce such excellence?

Saturday, September 22, 2007


O Allah, You are Lord of the Day of Judgement, You are exalted and perfect, my Lord. To You I bring my heart, my mind, my soul and my body in worship of You - in gratitude, in praise, in honour and in thanksgiving. To You I turn myself in this Holy Month. You alone do I worship and You alone do I implore for help - guide me on the straight path.
Peace and blessings be on you, O Prophet, Apostle of Truth.
Grant me peace, O Allah - peace to myself, to my family, to my students and their families, and peace to my home country and my adopted country.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Ashadu an-la ilaha illallahu, washadu anna Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluh.
AFRIKAANS - Ek bely dat daar slegs een God is, Allah, wat waardig is om my aanbidding te aanvaar, en ek bely dat Mohammed (sallalahu aleihi wasallam) sy kneg en apostel is.

Today I made my Shahadah at the Zayed Centre for Islamic Culture in Al Ain. Alhamdulillah! I have come home to the religion of Allah.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I have no way to express to You how perfect You are, my Lord. You take my breath away.
- Hoe volmaak is U, my Heer, die Opperheer!
I have no words to use to express to You how much I love You, my Lord.
- Hoe volmaak is U, my Heer, die Allerhoogste!
You have chartered my path before me - You are my Way.
- Onse Heer, en aan U kom toe alle lof!
I bow to You in adoration and worship - You have no companion.
- U alleen aanbid ons, en U alleen vra ons om hulp!
My life and my heart I submit to You in worship - guide me.
- Lei ons op die reguit pad!


Here is the generous spread that was prepared by our host. Those rice dishes were out of this world...


Here am I again with two of my colleagues and friends. Amnah (in blue) hails from the USA and is a convert to Islam. Hibba is from Saudi Arabia. This photo was taken right after iftar at Abdullah's place. We were just hanging around and cathing up on the events of the day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Here are 4 colleagues sharing iftar at Abdullah's place. I am the guy in the red t-shirt. What a feast and how excellent the company. The atmosphere is truly festive and the sense of ummah is almost tangible. Afterward, a few of us went to masjid close to Al Jimi Mall for taraweeh. The masjid was packed with worshippers. I couldn't help but experience the awe of the worship. At first, I stood right at the back of the masjid. My intention was to just "check it out" and not be an intrusion. But, soon I had a few men point at the row and asking me to join in making salat. I watched for the first 2 rakahs and then I joined in, moving ever closer to my friends in front of me in between rakahs. Finally, at the last tasleem I was right behind them. Now and then a few brothers from behind me would gently push me forward when I was not standing right in line with the others. Everything is neat and orderly.
I could not find the words to tell them all about my experience afterward. I was overwhelmed with emotion - overloaded with inner dynamics.
Amnah lent me her Arabic-English Qur'an because I can't find one here.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Today, on the way home from school, a Muslim colleague explained to me why Ramadaan gives him such great joy. He said: Throughout the year I do things for myself in praise of Allah, but in Ramadaan, I do everything for God in benefit of myself. His point was that Ramadaan is a special time for him during which every profane action of his becomes a special and focused act of worship, more so than during any other time of the year. His face was shining with joy, even though his body was tired after a hard day of teaching. This must be the simplicity of Ramadaan...

Sunday, September 16, 2007


There is something uncannily familiar to me about Islam. Words fail to express what I am trying to say. If it were possible for me to take you deep inside the very core of who I am, to my "inner Kaaba", you would see me in prostration with the ummah who follow the way of the Prophet (pbuh). I know only what I experience, and that is an indescribable awe at the message of the Qur'an. For some reason or other, I know that the pages of this blog in future will reflect some of the mystery that is unfolding inside and outside of me...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Ja, hier sit ek nou uiteindelik in die woestyn, 'n klipgooi van Saudi-Arabie af, en reg op die grens met Oman. Mensig - wie sou nou ooit kon raai dat 'n boerseun so gelukkig sou kon wees hier in die Verenigde Arabiese Emirate? Dankie Derrech en Etienne op RSG - ek sit so lekker en kuier-kuier hier so al met julle saam!! Bekyk nou mooitjies daardie bokbekbaard waarmee ek so spog. My Graad 10D studente het my die bynaam "Satsuka" gegee wat Arabies is vir "bokbekbaard". So lekker werk ek met hulle saam dat hulle selfs bietjie Afrikaans besig in die skool. My hart slaan skoon bollemakiesie as ek so in die marmervloergange afstap na my klas en ek hoor: Hoe gaan dit? Goed dankie! Julle ouens maak dit 'n plesier om onderwyser te kan wees.


A year ago, I had a dream that would prove to be a sign post on my way to the United Arab Emirates. I was looking at a protest march of Palestinians, protesting over the murder of their brothers by Israeli soldiers. We have all seen the suffering and tears of the Palestinian people. We know the pain. As I watched in awe with much agony, I heared a voice repeat a few times: The Rose of Jericho, the Rose of Jericho. I had no idea what this meant, but for some reason or other the words clung to my soul like a choice blessing of the Almighty. I googled "Rose of Jericho" and discovered that it is a breath-taking plant. Evidently, this plant ostensibly appears to be dead, until water is poured over it. In a flash, it appears to be resurrected from the dead and before your eyes new life sprouts in its dry twigs. So awesome is this that many people refer to this plant as the "Resurrection Plant" and they may leave it at the graveside as an expression of their faith in the Day of Resurrection.

After reflecting on this awesome plant for a while, I knew that its message to me was this: In the desert you will live again! I have no doubt that my being here in the UAE, in the desert of Al Ain, is a fulfilment of the promise of this plant in my dreams. Here in the desert I am living again! The name "Al Ain" refers to "The Eye" that gives water in a dry land. It is here that fresh water is being poured over me. It is here that the dryness of my own life revives!

There is no way to describe the uncanny familiarity that I have with this land, its people, its culture and its religion. It's like all of this is part of the unfolding mystery of my personal purpose.

Thank you UAE, thank you my students at the Military High School in Al Ain for allowing me to be a part of your dream and for embracing me. Alhamdulillah!


Here goes to my new adventure.
I am creating this blog as an expression of my experience here in the United Arab Emirates. Partly, this is purely a record for me, and partly this is for my students who can practise reading English here. What an exciting way to share ideas in cyber space! Well, here goes to the adventure...