My friends and I were on a road-trip around California for the winter break. One of the stops that we went to was Long Beach in San Diego, and it was certainly beautiful and breath-taking, with the sea breeze and warm weather. :)
There were lots of yachts, as well as families having fun at the beach and enjoying the sea. My friends and I decided to try the funnel cake with ice cream which really looked delicious!
We then looked for a table nearby to sit and eat our funnel cake with ice cream :)
As we sat down and started to eat the funnel cake, an elderly man around his 40's or 50's that was sitting right next to our table suddenly asked us where we are from. We said Malaysia, and he said he's from Pakistan.
He then asked us whether we were muslims (because all five of us were wearing hijabs) and we said yes, and then he said he's a Christian convert, and he was a Muslim.
When he said that it wasn't much of a surprise to me, but then he continued by asking us 'Are you mad?'
I looked at my friends and they looked at me back. I think we were thinking of the same thing; of course we feel sad that he had converted out of Islam, but I don't think we have the right to be absolutely mad and angry at him for converting, because we don't know his full story aite?
And then we continued to eat our ice cream and funnel cake, until one of my friends asked us in Malay whether she could ask the old man why he converted. We agreed that the man seemed friendly, so maybe he wouldn't mind our question.
So my friend asked him why he converted, and he said he will tell us why, and started to have teary eyes.
He told us his story while having tears coming down his eyes, and a tissue in his hand to help wipe away the tears.
He said that he once worked for the airlines, and he was also a writer. But he said he became homeless at one time, and he went knocking on masjids and mosques to ask for help; at least for a roof to sleep under.
But alas, no masjids or mosques opened their doors for him. He said that he went to more than 20 masjids, but no one accepted him or offered him help. He then turned to a church, and they helped him out. The priests even gave him a key to the church for him to be able to live there as he wish.
That's why he converted to Christianity.
We didn't know exactly how or why he became homeless, or how he came to the States from Pakistan, but we certainly knew that that period when he became homeless was certainly a very hard time for him as he was literally dropping tears to the floor when he told us his story.
He then moved on to telling us that he did umrah at Mekah many times, but felt empty. He also started to question us on why Jesus, Moses, Muhammad and all the prophets were mainly from the Middle East. Why weren't there any prophets from Asia or from the West?
We know that there are many other prophets from all over the world, but not everyone is recorded in history and the prominent ones are mostly from the Middle East.
But at that very moment, my friends started to feel uncomfortable and decided to leave the table. My friends bid farewell and we started to leave the elderly man.
But as my friends left, I decided to stay just for a little bit to talk to him.
I told him that for what have happened to him, for when the people of the masjid and mosques turned him down and did not help him in his time of need, I said I am very sorry. The people of the masjid and mosques should have helped him when he needed help, and they shouldn't have turned him down.
That's not what Islam is about! Nor is it in any religion in my opinion.
I told him that Muslims, like myself, are not perfect, but Islam is :) I then apologized to him again for what they have done.
I then said that if he was my father, then I would have hugged him.
It completely breaks my heart to see him shed tears like that, especially when you hit rock-bottom, and you desperately need a place to just spend the night, or you will be in the streets at night :(
His eyes turned red and he shed a little more tears when he heard me say that. He then asked how old I was, and I told him that I was 21. He said his twin daughters are 24, and they still call him everyday to keep in touch :)
He then offered me to take his number. I hesitated for a while because if I were to take his number, he would definitely expect me to call him right? And I think his intention was so that just in case I need any help, I could just ask him for it and he will definitely be there. But I declined his offer kindly, and he asked repeatedly are you sure? (he was really more concerned and worried about me, as he was asking like will you be alright?)
I said I will be alright, and asked him right back will he be alright? And he said yes he'll be alright, and we bid farewell.
During his talk with me and my friends together, he did mention that even though the priests at the church preached to him, he still did not accepted 100% what they say. He even said that he might revert back to Islam, but he might not too. He also mentioned that it was very recent that he converted; in 2009.
Insya-Allah, he will revert back to Islam one day. It is indeed a very huge challenge given by Allah that he is facing right now; imagine if you suddenly became homeless, with no money, no family or friends, and you walked up to masjids and mosques to ask for help and they turned you down. Most normal human beings will do what he did; convert into the religion of the people that actually offered him help.
I think most of the masjids and mosques that turned him down that he was referring to was mostly small prayer rooms (but they do call them masjids or mosques), which are only open during prayer times (maybe like 30 minutes for prayer, then it'll be closed again. It's not open 24 hours for safety reasons). Only bigger masjids and mosques are open 24 hours. It is indeed such a difficult challenge that Allah has given this dear old man.
I managed to get the old man's name; Farid :)
I hope that Farid will be able to forgive those who turned him down at the doors of His house. Indeed, humans including muslims are not perfect. But Islam is :)
Only those with strong faith to Him, with a very strong heart, could be able to endure His great challenges.
None of us could anticipate or know what will happen to us in the future. But whenever we do, remember that Allah gives us challenges because He loves us. It might be hard for us to see it that way, but there is always a blessing in disguise.
So keep your heads held high, don't give up on Him, and know that when all else disappoints, Allah is and will always be there for you :)
You might say that He is not there when you needed Him most, but He is always there; it's actually up to you to be able to see Him there or close your eyes and not feel His presence.
It's a challenge, I know. It is not as simple as it seems. But, have faith in Him :) And you will notice His presence. Insya-Allah :)
And I hope you will too one day, Farid :)
Assalamualaikum :) <3