(part 1 of 2)
On the 2nd of May, 1987 I was born in England in the United Kingdom. My parents named me Jonathan Beale. My father’s name was John Mason but I had to have my mother’s name as it allowed them to claim more benefits.
My parents were both heroin addicts, I had witnessed my dad beating my mother up many times and he would bring other women around our house sometimes. I was regularly climbing over needles and seeing strange people come into our council flat.
Growing up wasn’t easy for me, but soon the social services were intervening and I was placed in a foster home temporarily.
Somehow, I had at times heard of the concept of God, my mother’s family was large and I had come across the concept of death many times. My country is “civilized”, but my grandfather came from a more difficult time during the Second World War.
He was incredibly shell-shocked as his friends had all been killed, and he himself had been shot on two occasions. He had been a paratrooper, and had landed in Nazi-occupied territory many times.
After the war, he and my grandmother had 7 children. They were religious in their own way, but they had nothing after the war and my grandfather had beaten his children regularly, or at least, that’s what my mother tells me.
Either way, something triggered a huge epidemic of mental illness in my family. My mother was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, and as a child I regularly needed to persuade her that people weren’t plotting against us, although she did some crazy things that got her into the newspapers many times. I got bullied in school for this.
My grandfather sadly passed away when I was 4 years old. This was the first time I heard of “God”. My grandfather was actually always a really nice man from what I remember, so I have difficulty knowing whether what I hear is true.
So I took comfort knowing he was in heaven, and from this point on, I always felt God was with me. When my mom and dad had some bad times and I went temporarily in foster homes, I began to pray. I had never been shown how, but in my own way, I always knew God really was there and He could hear me.
My cousin committed suicide by an overdose of paracetamol when I was young, and this was the first time I cried at a funeral. My uncle also died, although it’s unclear how, I know that man had severe mental illness and his life was hard, so I hoped that he had gone to a better place.
But through all this, the belief of God was firmly routed into my soul. At the age of seven, I was sent to my grandmother, because the social services had deemed the environment too unstable for me after my dad flipped out and smashed up our flat.
My mom then gave birth to my sister Sally. At this time, I was still regularly visiting home and I was overjoyed to see my sister. A lot of siblings have rivalry but I really liked my sister, I felt that we were in it together, only she didn’t know it yet because she had only just been born. Unfortunately the social services deemed the environment too risky and they sent her to a foster home as well.
Then my grandmother was asked to adopt me permanently and I was staying at her house. When my sister turned one, the social services decided that it was best if my family weren’t allowed to see her, so she was placed under a closed adoption to a family far away and I haven’t seen her since.
I was very sad and I often think about her and wonder if she will try and get in contact with me. I think we would have been close, although I would have been an overprotective big brother. She is now 15 so Insha’Allah, I might yet still have time when she is 18, and I plan to make up for lost time.
At eleven I was sent to a boarding school. I was slightly bullied because of my poor background, but all in all, I would say it was a good experience. I was clearly a troubled youth and started becoming obsessed with drugs and alcohol and I was suspended 4 times.
I was lucky I wasn’t expelled because I achieved 5 Cs and 3 Bs in my exams. No one knew how, because I never turned up for lessons, but these grades would be important later.
Although troubled, my belief in God was still there. I chose to become Roman Catholic at the age of 12, and my school arranged lessons. I rarely paid attention to the lessons, but I loved the concept of God. I loved going to church.
After I left school, my troubles escalated. When I started smoking cannabis, I never thought I would try anything harder, but then I tried cocaine, and ecstasy and speed, and it very soon became my whole life.
I would say I was addicted, but it was so good that I wanted to live that life. I was often drinking, and becoming violent against the police force. My friends and I would smash cars up and sell drugs and do whatever we wanted. The criminal justice system in England is so liberal, that there was no such thing as punishment!
Finally, after threatening to stab somebody, I was sent to prison. This changed my life. It was a holiday camp, but at heart, I didn’t want to be a criminal. I just needed to be taken out of the environment I was in.
Three good meals a day, a TV in my room, gym training every day, college, church every Sunday, it was one of the best times in my life and I was finally away from my family who caused me so much stress.
I had always been envious of normal families. Seeing them shopping together, or going for tea at someone’s house, I would always be happy at the sight of it, and deep down I longed for this.
Alcohol was my main problem. I wasn’t an alcoholic, but every time I drank, I would get in trouble. I would wake up with a hangover and sometimes be in a police cell, and sometimes I could be covered in cuts and bruises from fighting.
But being in prison, I was also kept away from this (and smoking) and I was in great shape. I wanted to keep this up on the outside.
Unfortunately, when I got out, I had another court hearing about causing grievous bodily harm. I could have been looking at 4 years for something I didn’t do.
My “friend” had blood and skin cells all over his trainers and eventually pleaded guilty. When I was in court I was asked if he did it. As he had already admitted to it, I thought there was no harm in saying “yes”, as my solicitor advised me that saying “no” would not save my friend as he had already admitted to it, and why spend 4 years in jail? I phoned my friend and explained to him and he said “ok”.
I was going out with a beautiful girl called Mellissa who stuck by me through all this. After the court case, my “friend’s” family decided I was responsible for him getting sent to prison, and the word spread and I was constantly getting into fights and getting attacked.
My girlfriend told me I should make a fresh start elsewhere and I actually took to the idea. I started planning the move. Our relationship was strained though, and she didn’t want to be with me anymore, so I left with very few ties to my hometown.
I had some friends who I immediately decided I should distance myself from. They were still up to the same old things, and I wanted to make a new start.
(part 2 of 2)
I had to keep in touch with my family, but my hometown was a bit of a war zone. So I decided if they wanted to see me, they could come to visit me instead. I went to college and started my A levels. I was behind everyone else because they had all just come from school, but my GCSEs allowed me to go anyway. I took 3 years to complete a two year course, but also had to work and provide for myself and learn to live like a normal person and cook and clean, etc. I also learned that I had a love for chess and Bobby Fischer was my hero. The other students were still at home with their parents, so I had additional things to worry about, but life was pretty good. I started going back to church but not regularly. My pastor, Friar Kevin, was a great man and I respect him very much, but when I prayed, I could only feel that I pray to God, not Jesus. I didn’t feel that Jesus could hear me, or that he was here on earth, although I had a huge respect for him.
I hated Islam, as I saw Muslims as “the enemy”, as do most English people that I know. I had met Muslims, and they were nice, but I thought that terrorism was evil and our forces were heroes trying to save the world.
I had forgiven my parents for the problems they had brought me and my Dad had also turned his life around. He lived on the streets in London for 7 years before being housed and started looking after himself properly and gave up drugs. He took me on holiday to Morocco, where I quickly found that Muslims were incredibly kind people. My whole life was turned on its head. I fell in love with Islam instantly!
Most people think I had some hate preachers “making” me become Muslim, but the truth is that I was the one asking all the questions. They were just nice people who looked after me. I got home and became more and more interested. I had loved the idea of God in Christianity, but never had a drive to learn or listen regarding the religion.
I agreed that abortions were wrong, as Friar Kevin had put a compelling argument forward, but I could never listen to all the Bible stories. Sometimes when I sat down and started reading the Bible, I would read for hours, but I couldn’t get into the whole culture very well. But Islam seemed perfect. The banning of alcohol in Islam made sense and my early youth years is an evidence of it, the bane of my youth was said to be “haram” (unlawful).
Family values, something my early life lacked, were incredibly emphasized. I felt Islam had all the answers. It truly must have been the word of God. How else could the Quran revealed 1400 years ago answer all the problems in my life?
I read all about the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, and I felt a huge respect for him. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. The Christian teachings had failed to really captivate me, but with Islam, I would hang off of every word.
I started learning about all of Allah’s prophets, peace be upon them, and started even looking back over my Bible to learn more about the amazing stories of prophets that I had neglected so much as a Christian. I couldn’t believe I had never read all this sooner.
I looked in my area for Muslims and found some. They were very nice people and it was the only Muslim world I could get connected with, so I started to meet up with them. I also traveled to other countries and I accepted Islam in Cyprus and took the name Dawood for myself. After I got home I was still hungry for more information about Islam and bought a copy of the translations of the meanings of the Quran in English, it also had a transliteration of the Arabic text. I began to pray twice a day. I didn’t know the words so I did the actions and after praying I would read a bit of the Quran.
I began to memorize a bit of the Fatihah, the opening chapter of the Quran each day. It took me a week to learn the English and Arabic as I felt you should know what you’re praying about. I then learnt the chapter of Ihklas.
The blessed month of Ramadan came and each night we would pray taraweeh (night prayers) and break fast together, the food was amazing! They were mostly white reverts with a few Indians, some Malaysians, and various other Muslims.
I was so happy with my religion that anytime I saw someone Asian-looking in the shop where I work I would say “As-salam Alaykum” in the hope that they would be Muslims.
Of course if they weren’t Muslims, it could end badly, but it never did, and I met a lady from Bangladesh who stopped and gave salaams. The next day she came in with her family and brought me some food for breaking fast and offered me to come and learn to read Arabic and learn how to pray properly.
I am now nearing the end of college. I am still working at being a better Muslim. My area doesn’t have many Muslims but the lady from Bangladesh has really brought me leaps and bounds, and I can now pray on my own and I am close to being able to read the Quran in Arabic and have had a change of career plans.
I now hope to go to a Muslim community and study Islamic Studies and Arabic and be part of a community and have a Muslim family, by the will of God. I wanted before to study IT (information technology) but now, Islam rules my life. I wake up every day to serve Allah and to free myself more and more from any unlawful practices, and make a sincere effort to follow the example of Prophet Muhammad and in general to learn my religion.
I feel very happy. My friends and family were all very surprised at first, but they have all grown to accept it, and I refuse to let anyone put me down for my religious beliefs, because it is my right as a human being to believe in Allah and celebrate this belief with my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.
There are many of obstacles ahead. I need to find a nice Muslim woman for marriage, and work out how to provide for her and a family if I am dropping my I.T. studies for Islam, but it is a good way for me to show Allah that I have trust in Him.
There is much to be learned, and my teacher tells me I am still a ‘baby’ in Islam, but, by the will of God, I will give Islam ‘my everything’. I also hope to help other Muslims in Britain and somehow give back to the Muslim nation for all the nice things it has done for me.
There is no way I will ever be able to repay the debt I owe to Islam because I truly discovered something wonderful and it has done so many things for me. The most recent thing was that I cleared £9,000 worth of debts, and I am now saving, because Muslims must not pay interest, so I cleared my credit cards and loans. Another amazing message that is very clear in the Quran is that the troubles of society can be easily resolved by returning back to the path of God..
Islam just keeps giving me, and everything good can only come from Allah. I am thankful that Allah put me through some tests as a youth, as it brought me closer to Him and I am truly sorry for all my sins, may Allah forgive me for my weaknesses and make me a better person, by the will of God.
May Allah bless all our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world, from Bosnia to Palestine, Somalia to Afghanistan, may Allah offer them comfort and bless them for their commitment to Allah no matter what they are tested with. Thanks for reading and you will all be in my prayers.