Saturday, July 07, 2007
New Brother In Islam
My friend, Noraini Shariff, sent me an email and forwarded me a You-Tube recording of Idris Tawfiq, an English Catholic priest (picture) who converted to Islam after he "was touched" by the beauty and grace of the religion during a holiday in Egypt and through close contact with Muslims back home in England.
He embraced Islam by declaring the Shahadah before Yusof Islam and several members of the congregation at the London Central Mosque last year.
He has written a book on Islam and now lives in Cairo where he writes columns for two Egyptian newspapers.
He travels to speak on Islam and to let his heart reach out to others.
Idris spoke about the first time he was touched by Islam during a week-long holiday in Egypt soon after he left the priesthood.
"The most extraordinary week", he said.
He went to Egypt feeling down after leaving the priesthood and not knowing anything about Islam, or about Egypt.
Everything he knew about Islam was from the television, radio and newspapers.
"What I knew about Islam was what everyone knew, that Islam was all about terrorists, about cruelty to women, chopping your hands, suicide bombers.."
Of course, since 9/11, the media portrayal or Islam and Muslims across the world worsened.
But in Egypt, he did not see fanatics, extremists or all that was ugly about Islam and Muslims. What met him there was the beauty, the gentle and benign face of Islam.
He met wonderful ordinary and simple Muslims who greeted him with "Assalamualaikum" and when asked how they were, they would reply with "Alhamdulillah".
Idris left Egypt with wonderful memories of Islam and Muslims.
Back home in England, Idris continued teaching at a school where there were Muslim youngsters among the student population.
He began to voraciously read books about Islam.
"The more I read, the more I liked..."
Idris said it was Allah's will that he was shown the way of Islam. He cited an instance at school when a group of Muslim students approached him during Ramadhan to ask for permission to pray in his room as it was the only one that was carpeted.
"Subhanallah...there was no other place for them to pray. So I said ok although I was not a Muslim."
Idris sat at the back and watched and listened to them pray.
At the end of Ramadhan, he was already familiar with the fasting and the prayers.
On the day he converted, Idris said it was the last Saturday of the many Saturdays when he would go to the London Central Mosque to get information on Islam.
"Not to be a Muslim... just for information", he said.
That day, Yusof Islam was there. He went up to Yusof Islam and asked him about the religion.
Yusof told him that Muslims believe in one God, to which he said he believed in that too.
Yusof said that Muslims pray five times a day, to which he said he was familiar with that.
Yusof said that Muslim fast during Ramadhan, to which he said he had fasted with his boys (students).
Yusof then looked him in the eye and said: "Who are you trying to fool?"
Just then, the Azan for the solat Maghrib was heard.
Everyone prayed. He sat at the back.
At the end of the prayers, he cried. He met Yusof again to say that he wanted to declare the Shahadah there and then.
He did so before Yusof Islam and the other brothers in the congregation.
Islam has indeed changed his life. Idris said his friends are the best judge.
"My friends say that I'm kinder, more sensitive to other people and less selfish."
Idris said when he prays he asks for Allah SWT to make him a better Muslim.
Being a good Muslim, he said, makes him feel good.
Idris said he really believes that being a good Muslim is the way to attract others to Islam.
His new faith has given him a new life that had given him such happiness.
Allah SWT, he said, is leading him in a way he never imagined.
To watch and listen to Idris Tawfiq, click here.
You can also read about Idris here.
Or go to his website at http://www.idristawfiq.com