Ahmed (his Muslim name) is originally from East Timor, a small country in Southeast Asia that gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. He embraced Islam after a strange incident during a serious illness.
We Were Catholic
I was born and grew up in East Timor, a small island East of Indonesia. This island was a Portuguese colony. Therefore, most people followed the former colonizers in the Catholic religion. My family is Catholic as well.
The economic situation in my home country has always been rather unstable. And I left home early to earn a livelihood. I lived in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, and also stayed in other parts of Indonesia. One day I received a good offer to work in a town in South Sumatra.
My Muslim Friend Prayed for Me
I went to South Sumatra and started working there. I shared a room with a Muslim fellow worker. We got along well. He was a kind person and we became friends.
Indonesians usually do not have a problem with people with a different religion than their own. Sometimes, my room-mate would perform his prayer in the room. And after the prayer he would make dua mentioning my name.
He regularly read the Quranic chapter of Ya-Sin. After reading it, he would also mention my name. He did this every time and eventually I wanted to know why he always mentioned my name after his prayer.
“You are my friend and fellow human. I want the best for you. That is why I pray for you.”
I was touched by his explanation. And it opened my heart to try and learn about Islam.
I Started Reading Chapter Ya-Sin
When my room-mate was not home, I would take his little Ya-Sin booklet and read the transliteration in Latin script. I liked it and I continued reading it regularly. After reading I would make supplication as I learned in Sunday school when I still lived at home in East Timor.
A Serious Illness
Then, one day I become seriously ill. I had a high fever and felt very weak. I could barely walk from my room to sit on the small terrace in front of it.
My friend had left to pray in the mosque. I sat in a reclining chair in front of our room. It was the time for the after-sunset-prayer. The call for prayer had started. I was awake and pondered my difficult health situation.
A Strange Incident
All of a sudden, I heard an old man’s voice near my right ear: “Get up and hurry to where the call for prayer comes from. There you will find peace and tranquility.”
I looked to my right side but nobody was there. Then I heard an old woman’s voice near my left ear saying: “Listen to what the grandfather said. Get up and go.”
I looked to my left but nobody was there. I started feeling nervous and became a bit frightened. Then the old man’s voice appeared again: “Go, my son. You are healed.”
After these words I got up. And I am telling the truth, I felt my illness was gone. And I ran to the mosque and joined the prayer. I never left a prayer since then. Alhamdulilah. This is now twenty years ago.
Meeting the Family
When I went home for the first time after being away for ten years, my family was overjoyed. They organized a big gathering and slaughtered a pig as a sign of thanksgiving as is the custom in East Timor.
That is when I had to tell my family that I became Muslim. And therefore could not join them in eating the pig. I told them that I don’t care what they say or if they want to kill me because I had found the truth.
They were furious. And I had to run away. I hid in the mosque until after the evening prayer. Then I returned home, I went to my room and locked the door. In the morning, I told them again that I don’t care. That I will not change my religion.
My mother calmed everybody down, especially my older and younger brothers who felt they needed to defend our family’s honor.
She asked if I was happy. I told her yes. Then we hugged. And everybody else followed her peacemaking. Alhamdulillah.
After embracing Islam, I left work for six months and studied full time in a traditional Islamic boarding school, where I learned all the important basics and how to read Quran. I also got married. And my wife has been one of my teachers in Islam.