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


Maverick SM said...

What Idris Tawfik saw in Egyptian and the beauty of Islam...

If Idris had migrated to Malaysia before conversion and read about what the Jawi and JAIP Enforcers are doing, I believed he wouldn't had converted to Islam.

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't be a surprise or a wonder if a man of such deep religious persuasion emerges from one religious depth to plunge into yet another. If the content and ideas of another religion appeals to his fancy, or makes him feel happier, then good for him. However, and very interestingly, the reverse is not allowed to occur (witness the Revathi Massosai case:

Rockybru said...

Such a contrast from your earlier posting on "the other" Siti (which I also posted on my blog). Islam is that - beautiful. But when people are licensed to shame others for not being "good" Muslims, they really spoil it. No, I don't mean they make Islam less beautiful, but they block the view of other people who want to witness that beauty.
I am still listening to Yusof Islam's latest album. His was a story of a pop singer who stopped singing when he embraced Islam. He believed then it was wrong to sing. It took him 30 years to realize that he probably could have done more for himself and his religion if he had not stopped.
Not too late for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kak Aina!

Your sitemete is back and you have hit 159k. Whoa. Many people wait years for 100k! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I understand the happiness expressed over this Catholic priest'sconversion. Interestingly i know no "defender of his previous faith" is going to go after him and that for me is a greater joy because it completes my faith, in the area of freedom to choose.


Bergen said...

Islam will spread despite what the Muslims or the non-Muslims do. The Muslims may suicide-bomb their own brothers or the infidels. The non-Muslim may potray Islam as archaic. The truth is Allah takes care of Islam in ways human will never understand. Have you ever stopped for a minute to ponder, why Islam continues to enjoy greater and greater presence in countries like the U.S, U.K, France, Germany, Italy and others? All this is taking place against the background that isn't helping Islam in terms of 'advertising' such as suicide bombs, terrorist, honor killing, vice raids or what have you initiated by genuine Jihadis or politically motivated individuals. Insya'Allah, we may soon have a Muslim as the president of the United States, something the American fear most but yet this very fear is being placed right in the centre of power in the on-going presidential race. I believe a Muslim U.S president may not happen next year but you can bet your whole neck that this is going to happen soon. And if Allah wills it to happen, no one can stop, delay or hasten it from happening.

In the meantime, we don't have to be unduly concerned about 'image' 'perception' or 'interpretation' the non-Muslims may have about Islam. All this means nothing because when Allah wants it to happen, it's KUN FAYAKUN - (Tajwid is not correct since this is spelt in Romanised letters.)

And this raid on Siti The Sleeveless Girl you, Rocky, Marina talked about has no bearing on people like Idris Tawfiq from becoming Muslims. A Muslim convert once said: It's lucky that I found Islam first before I knew the Muslims. And the behavior of the Muslims doesn't stop him from becoming a Muslim himself. It's not what we do as Muslims that make the non-Muslims want to convert. It's what Allah puts in their heart, the Taufik, the Hidayah. But this doesn't mean we should go on suicide bomb each other until none left standing.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to extend on Ahirudin Attan's comment above.

It is not just Islam but all other religions -- Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism -- can be considered as beautiful. If one religion is a rose, then the other is a lily, a tulip or an orchid. In other words, all religions have their own form of beauty, but fundamentally their raison d'etre and functions are the same.

Furthermore, 'beautiful' is a rather general description. And when applied to describe religion, we might want to think about which particular aspect or set of aspects we have in mind. Do we refer to, for example, the flow or logic of its ideas, the universal loving feeling it inspires, the broad tolerance it allows, or the freedom of thought and practice that it affords? Some detail would be informative to readers and imbue a sense of appreciation.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

To Bergen, who commented earlier:

Your fervour is understandable, but being dogmatist in a necessarily plural world usually reflects poorly on one's understanding of the nature and meaning of life.

Our Creator purposefully made this world diverse, ecologically (in terms of physical nature), anthropologically (in terms of human culture and being), and conceptually (which includes the diversity of religions).

Different regions and climatic and biophysical conditions, different flora and fauna and landscapes, all of which contributes to local and global well-being. Different customs, circumstances and ways of appreciating life in different parts of the world, hence different religions too. All religions point to our common Creator in different ways. And that is the essential point. The deep spiritual feeling when a Muslim prays or when a Christian prays or when a Hindu prays is the same and establishes a link to a common source -- our Creator.

This is the beauty which our Creator -- Allah, God, Brahman (whichever way we choose to refer to Him) -- intended. It is this that enhances harmony. Don't you think its beautiful when, say, you and your friend of a different religious persuasion and ethnicity, can appreciate the musical technicalities of your favourite ghazal and his/her favourite baroque?

We all should be happy if your religion helps inspire in you feelings of love towards our Creator and towards our fellow humans, our brothers and sisters, and the natural world He had created. That can only be a good thing.

However, it is when mankind begins to politicise religion -- asserting that one is more beautiful or greater or truer than the other -- that the trouble begins. Not only is such bigotry sheer in its silliness, but worse still is that it is dangerous. It runs counter to all that we collectively desire -- the need to foster peace, reconciliation, tolerance, equality and unity amongst mankind. This dogmatism and narrowness we and our Creator do not want.

Hence, let there be Christians. Let there be Muslims. Let there be Buddhists. Let us all appreciate the beauty and diversity of thoughts and approaches to life that our Creator has made possible. With that in mind, let us celebrate life and live it acceptingly for the 70-odd years on average we are granted on this Earth.

Bergen said...

Kak Nuraina, tumpang lalu.

Mr Slade, I don't pray to what you pray. And you don't pray to the God I pray. And I have never been the one who prays to the god you pray. And you have never been the one who prays to what I pray. For you is your religion, and to me, mine.

This is the attitude of the Muslims towards other religions. This isn't something I cooked up myself. It's from Sural Al-Kafirun, which I believe is obvious enough that Kafirun refers to non-Muslims. This is where you and are different. Other than that, we are the same, mate. You enjoy Ghazal, I enjoy church choir. You are a Malaysia, so am I. We should live as one but when it comes to the concept of God, you and I are world's apart.

Mat Salo said...

Kak Ena.. this is something quite un-related.

Being a music buff who rates the former Cat Stevens as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, I once had an encounter with "God".

Some years back I was standing in-line at a kiosk at the KLIA departure lounge waiting to order a teh tarik. In front of me was a short, bespectacled Causcasian gentlemen, who looked much like a retired schoolteacher. He was also patiently waiting in line to order the hallowed beverage.

I was pleasently surprised that this "retired schoolteacher" also has a penchant for the sickly-sweet tea and I ventured to make small talk. He laughed, and replied, "yes, I like teh tarik too". So we had a good laugh, good ol' Mat Salo and the retired British schoolteacher.

Or so, I thought.

Some months earlier, Carly Simon offered to reveal the protagonist in her classic 70s hit song "You're So Vain" to the highest bidder - and to the bidder alone, for the money would be donated to her favorite charity. At that time she was "involved" with three lovers, namely, Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, and Cat Stevens, of course.

So who did Carly accuse of being "vain"?

The nexy day, after I got on the rig, I quickly fired-up my internet connection. Just to check my email of course. Then I hit the news portals.

Somewhere in there was an article that Cat had gone on-stage for a "Deklamasi Sajak" with M.Nasir the day before, a side-show for the on-going O-I-C conference.

How could I have met "God" and not even know?

somboon cheanswaths said...

mick jagger, warren beatty and cat stevens, mat salo? what the hell happened to james taylor?

MarinaM said...

If we believe in only one God, then everybody who believes in one God must pray to the same one.

Alliedmartster said...

Kak, I agree with Idris, and most muslims whose outlook are not to compel.
However, in our country, it seems, there is only one islam. And it is those of JAIS, JAIP, and so forth.

It is sad that people are forced to think about their own believe.
Ask Revathi...having state that she is Hindu, and forced to eat beef?
How low can one go?

Alliedmartster said...


Thank you for telling us again, of your intolerance to religion.

It seems that you may have lived a life in a shell.

Thanks. We REALLY NEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU so that we can embrace and engage.

Srikanth Siva said...

I have noticed this about Muslims and Christians....when someone converts to their religion, they are so proud of it..(even if they are not the best followers). The main intention of host family in the US is to try to convert foreign students.

As a non believer of religion and god...i find it fascinating that 'God' created us so that we can worship 'him' back and proclaim 'him' to be the greatest.

I know my comments can be considered harsh, but are readers mature to handle it?

Well anyway, i dont care what religion a person is or who and what they pray long as there is nasi in your periuk and there is nasi in my periuk and that no 3 year old kid gets raped and brutally murdered.

World peace for all.

Srikanth Siva said...

Should the Pope in Vatican order Tawfik to be sent to a correctional facility and ordered to eat pork?