Islam attaches great importance to knowledge and education. When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the first word of its first verse was ‘Iqra’ that is, read. Allah says: “Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not” [Quran, 96: 1-5]
It is all about a young man, Justin Kahm who reverted to Islam around 3 years ago. Justin is 24 years old and was agnostic before he reverted to Islam. He is based out of USA and grew up on a farm near the town of Circle, Montana, and moved to Billings, Montana at age 15. He currently lives with his parents and enjoys video games, Japanese animation, learning about history, geography, politics, and world affairs. He was the recording secretary for the 2012 Stewart Alexander Presidential campaign with Socialist Party USA.
I had a chance to interview him and talk about his quest to seek knowledge that brought him to discover Islam.
Imaan: Salam Alekum
Justin: ‘Wa’alaikum Salam
Imaan: How did your interest in Islam start and what attracted you to Islam?
Justin: I have been interested in Asian cultures for a long time. At first I was primarily interested in east Asian cultures (especially Japanese), but eventually expanded my horizons to learn about western Asia and the middle east. This is when I started learning more about Arab culture, and more specifically, Islam.
Imaan: What was the defining moment when you decided to revert to Islam?
Justin: I got a book from the library called “A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam” which explained how to revert, by reciting the Shahada. I had come to the conclusion that Islam made more sense than any other religion due to its complete monotheism and universal principles after reading several books about Islam. The one that I probably learned the most from was “Islam: A Short History” by Karen Armstrong. “A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam” also gave some examples of scientific proof of Islam, which I found intriguing, and also about the great challenge to replicate a Surah like that of the Qur’an which has never been fulfilled.
Imaan: What was the reaction of your parents/friends?
Justin: I haven’t discussed it extensively with my parents and tend to keep my religious views private, but I have educated them somewhat about the core beliefs of Islam and why I consider it to be the universal truth. I have discussed it with several of my friends as well, and have explained to them the core differences between what Muslims believe and what Christians believe, about how we view Jesus (PBUH) as a prophet of Islam and not the literal son of God in the flesh.
Imaan: How did you face challenges at your work place or cultural gatherings or with any other people?
Justin: Around the time I reverted to Islam, I worked in a hospital cafeteria, and the issue did not come up very much, although I did change my diet to one of fish and vegetables in order to avoid haraam meats, and I explained to my co-workers why this was. I also explain this when turning down pork and alcohol whenever it is offered to me.
Imaan: What level of support did you get from the Muslim community or Muslims? Was it positive?
Justin: I have met many other Muslims through social networking sites that have been extremely supportive and a source of inspiration. I continue to learn more about Islam through them.
Imaan: What are your future plans or how do you see Muslim Ummah in the future?
Justin: I see Islam continuing to grown in the United States and we are becoming a powerful political lobby. After years of being ignored, I feel many of our voices are finally being heard. I plan on working with other American Muslims in areas of interest such as foreign policy and anti-war activities, as well as with others who are sympathetic towards Islam.