I was raised atheist. I first began to lose faith when I was 16, in chemistry class.

As we studied the periodic table, it seemed too well organized. What was stopping all of the laws governing these particles from changing or shifting?

The next problem came in art history class. All the civilizations of the world built their biggest structures dedicated to some form of worship.

I had been taught religious people are stupid. So were all people in the world, for all history stupid, until now?


Then, when I was 18 (in 2004), I wanted to join the US military. But the news seemed suspicious to me.

My dad wanted to buy me a car for $5000 as my HS graduation gift. I asked to have the money instead and traveled to Afghanistan alone on a tourist visa to see for myself.

Afghanistan felt like going back in time 500 years. Families were big and stayed together. Many people invited me to their houses and offered me gifts. I saw real faith in people's eyes. I heard the Taliban would not kill you if you knew the shahada, so learned it.

I decided not to join the military, because I saw the Afghans were better than us (Americans). I didn't practise Islam, but I respected it. The shahada stuck with me, and whenever stressed I repeated it to myself quietly and it would calm me.

A few years later, in college, I experimented with psychedelic drugs. I took a drug called DMT. It is a chemical produced in the brain which is released during dreams.

This drug caused me to have an out of body experience and destroyed my faith in scientific empricism.

I had been taught that all knowledge is derived from what we can perceive with our senses. Yet I had just clearly experienced that there is a level of perception beyond our senses.

Scientific claims about knowing the truth seemed empty to me after that.

I also tried LSD. Under its influence I felt that the materialistic life was a lie. I had eaten in expensive French restaurants, but on LSD, I ate canned corn straight from the can, and it tasted better than any of the meals in those expensive restaurants.

Then I heard stories about monks and gurus who had achieved the mental states associated with those drugs without taking drugs, by means of meditation. I considered becoming a Buddhist monk to try to pursue this feeling of enlightenment without drugs.

But I went from one extreme to the other. I recognized there was truth in all the religions, so I went from believing in none of them to believing in all of them. This is common in the West coast of America, and is sometimes called "New Age" belief.

I started going to New Age festivals, where I was exposed to Sufi poetry. I was attracted to it for some reason. Some was lofty and spiritual, but some referenced the Qur'an and hadith.

But New Age belief also emphasizes native American spirituality very much.

I read about the plant which is the source of DMT. It has been used for thousands of years by tribes in South America. Traditional doctors, sometimes called "shaman" administer it. So I traveled to South America to learn more about it.

I found the brew, called ayahuasca, (or yagé in Colombia) to be very powerful. I felt very purified by it. I wanted to learn more, but it was as if the medicine itself told me that I had to learn more about my ancestors. This fit with what I knew about shamanic religions...

...which sometimes have components of ancestor worship.

A friend recommended I apply to a graduate program in global political economy in Germany, where many of my ancestors had come from, and he and I were both accepted. So I moved to Germany.

My intention was to work for the UN or an NGO, which many graduates of such programs do. While there, I began to travel around Europe, visiting churches and castles and learning the history to try to understand my ancestors and why they had left Europe.

I saw pictures in churches depicting martyrs, who had been killed for refusing to worship idols. New Age belief had taught me to respect shamanic belief, and shamanic belief taught me to respect my ancestors, and I found that my ancestors had believed in Christianity.

At the same time, I studied the international financial and political system. I researched deeply the causes of the wars that my ancestors had fled, and world wars 1 and 2.

I discovered that many of the wars could be traced back to a class of Jewish financiers...

...that had used interest banking to take near complete control of Europe. I also learned that interest had been totally prohibited for the first 1000 or more of Christianity. I learned that the Jewish financiers had also financed Europe's conquest of the rest of the world.

At one point, I did a presentation on Islamic finance. I realized that the only societies left that were not using interest were Muslim countries. And that those societies were under attack, and once conquered, interest banking institutions would be introduced.

I also learned about zakat. I had studied many theories about combating the financial crisis, but I found that simply implementing Islamic prohibitions and zakat by FAR outclassed all of the theories being developed by economists in their ivory towers.

Several times I wanted to go to a masjid and ask someone to teach me to pray, but since I was a teenager I had struggled with alcohol. I had social anxiety, and had difficulty socializing without drinking. I would binge drink until blacking out regularly.

I couldn't imagine life without alcohol.

For my internship, I went back to Colombia and stayed on the farm of a traditional doctor to study ayahuasca more.

I worked on his farm and took ayahuasca many times. In the course of these sessions, I had many visions.

I thought I could hear the earth speaking. The doctor was from an indigenous tribe, and his family also held this belief, although it was mixed with Catholic belief.

They believed the earth was warning that a period of water shortages was coming. I heard it also.

In spite of his belief in the consciousness of the earth, the doctor believed firmly in one God who is supreme and has power over all things. When people came to him for healing, he would tell them it is not him who heals, but God.

I had a vision of a man walking in the desert, followed by his tribe. I understood that they had no water, and were walking into a desert purely with faith that God would care for them, and God made a spring of water appear for them in the desert.

I had a strong feeling that there was a divine law, a law of God. I asked God to teach me His law.

I felt a vision inside myself of a man walking around a structure 7 times and prostrating on the ground.

The doctor seemed to uncover deep in me a memory I had forgotten.

It was a memory of being anally raped. Later, I asked my mother and found out that one of her boyfriends had raped me as a child. I had blocked the memory, which is a common response in traumatized children.

I realized this was part of the reason for my social anxiety.

After all this, I was able to stop drinking and smoking. I felt, though, that I needed something to replace the drugs.

I returned to the doctor's farm for a while, but while working, I injured my foot with a machete.

I was unable to walk for about 2 months.

Some Jehovah's Witnesses came to visit me while I was sick. I spoke with them and they gave me a Bible. I couldn't walk, so I read it. I found that Abraham and David and Jesus, alaihim salam, had prayed with their face on the ground.

I found that interest was forbidden.

I found Jesus rebuked someone who called him good, saying that God alone is good.

Nonetheless, I went to church. In the past, my social life had revolved around smoking and drinking. With that gone, I sought social connection in church, even though the beliefs seemed odd.

I found myself distracted in the church by women with short skirts. I wanted to pray more, but often when I went to the church it was locked up and closed. I prayed to God to give me a community of believers to pray with.

I had sublet my apartment in Germany while in...

...Colombia, and I traveled back to Germany to finish my degree. My flight was on the 21st day of Ramadan. I made a resolve in myself to find a mosque, and as the sun rose I resolved to fast.

When I arrived at my apartment, I found that an abandoned Yamaha dealership...

next door had been purchased by a group of Afghans and turned into an Afghan cultural center. I went to it, thinking that they would know for sure where I could find a mosque.

To my surprise, they had a musallah inside. I told them I wanted to become a Muslim.

I said the shahada in front of the jamaa, made wudhu, and broke my fast with them for the last 9 days of Ramadan.

Iftar was exactly what I had always felt Christmas and Thanksgiving should have been. I could sense there was baraka in eating with a large group.

I was still very interested in sufism though, and the sheikh of this community was a Naqshbandi. They gave me some books of Hanafi fiqh to study, which I did. But I started to notice that the sheikh would quote hadith I could not find on the internet.

I met a Turkish sheikh there and started to study with him. He had a bigger sheikh in Turkey, and we studied his sheikh' s book.

The book talked about the vast reward of reciting Qur'an. One day the sheikh invited a hafiz brother to correct our recitation.

The hafiz brother corrected our recitation, but he was appalled that they were listening to music in the masjid, which surprised me. This brother asked me to meet him later.

I met him, and he took me to another masjid where there was an Azhari sheikh.

The sheikh taught me about the concept of bid'ah. I had developed an attachment to the sufi sheikh though, and didn't want to give up on him. But I read in an old sufi book that the mark of a true sheikh is that he follows the sunnah in everything.

As I observed my sheikh, I realized he was ignorant of many basic sunnah. After he made an appointment with me to teach me and didn't show up one day, I decided to stop attending his classes.

So that's the short version of the how I became Muslim.

The story doesn't end with shahada, because modern sufism is something other than the real, pure Islam. So I don't see that I became truly Muslim until I renounced bid'ah in my heart.

I hope the story is beneficial, it was beneficial for me to write it.

Jazakum Allahu khairan
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