SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –In a dialogue with SHAFAQNA, Hassan Mayers a student in Business Management and a future student in the Seminary of the holy city of Najaf from Montreal-Canada, talked about his journey of conversion to Islam.
My name is Rohl Anthony David Mayers Jr., although I am known as Hassan in the muslim community. I am 21 years old and was born and raised in the city of Montreal in Canada. My parents, however, came from the Caribbean Island called Trinidad. I am currently a college student, planning to get a degree in Business Management.
I grew up in a secular Christian family. So we did not used to attend church services on Sundays. I do not recall learning anything about religion from my parents. Rather, whatever I knew about religion came from my grandparents especially my father's mom who would tell us Bible stories about different personalities.
My first real awareness of religion in general and Islam in particular came about when I was around 11 years old. My maternal grandfather was the one who opened my mind and got me interested in religion with emphasis on Islam. Later on, I was taught Islam by Muslim friends in my elementary school and I would also read books about different religions to broaden my mind.
The one who had the greatest impact on me and who taught me a lot about Islam was a childhood friend of mine from Baghdad, Iraq called Mostafa Mahmoud. Since he was of a Shia background, he taught me Islam from the Shia perspective. However, I also had a very good of mine from Lebanon who followed the Sunni school of thought who I also learned Islam from.
I had read about many religions and in the end I was attracted to two religions: Islam and Judaism. I found those two religions very similar in their manners and ways of life. But ultimately, my heart was more inclined towards Islam. I felt that Islam was the Truth from God All-Mighty.
As a child I did not have strong evidences for why Islam was the right religion like I do now. As a child, I observed how Muslims prayed their five daily prayers and that was a sign for me. I was fascinated by how they bowed and prostrated themselves before the Most High. I thought that this was how God was to be worshipped, with real devotion and humility. I just loved seeing Muslims pray and that was a convincing evidence for me.
Another thing which I also admired was the recitation of the Qur'an and its style in Arabic. I found it nice how the Muslims recited their holy book in a beautiful melodious way. And I found it interesting how many a times the Qur'an seems as if it is poetic with many of its sentences rhyming with one another. Yet, they are not simply rhymes but verses full of meaning. Only Allah could have made such a combination.
Also, I was attracted by the different Islamic teachings and principles like praying throughout the day, giving charity, fasting, hajj and so on. I loved absolutely everything about Islam, even its prohibitions like abstaining from pork, alcohol, looking at haram, etc.
And regarding the Shia and Sunni issue, I felt it as being more natural to be a Shia since to me; it was either following the family of the holy prophet (s) or his companions. And I thought it is more logical to follow the family of the prophet (s) for surely they, who were closer to him (s) than anyone else, should have been his (s) successors and those that the Ummah should have referred to after the prophet's (s) demise.
I was ready to convert at that young age, but I feared my parents so I kept my love for Islam sort of secretive. I say sort of, because I used to love talking to others including my family members and relatives about Islam whenever I had the chance.
I moved on to high school and I very was fortunate enough to be in contact with a Lebanese Shia brother, but not for long since he had left the school for a reason or another. Afterwards, I got into wrong things but I always had Islam in the back of my head. Whenever there was an opportunity, I was there to speak about Islam. And even though a lot of what I did in high school was considered wrong in Islam, for some reason when the month of Muharram would come around, I would where black clothing for ten days as I was taught by my dear friend Mostafa earlier on in elementary school. I guess out of respect for Imam Hussein ('a).
So I went through high school and became popular for my really long hair and for my musical skills. You could say I was the best musician and most passionate about music in school. I used to drown in music from morning till night. And I used to listen to almost everything, from Rock to rap, classical to metal, jazz to latin, and so on. I was so good that at my high school graduation, I received honours for my musical skills.
Afterwards, I moved on to college and in my French class I met a brother who mentioned in his oral presentation that he was Iraqi. So I thought that he must be Muslim. I went to him to ask him a question and he brought me to the MSA club (Muslim Student Association). Over there, I met other good Muslims and became friendly with them. I would join them a lot and speak with them. I believe that they were impressed with my knowledge of Islam and wanted to know when I would convert. I had a prayer mat and ‘turbah’ (dirt) already, and I knew how to pray by that time but still I did not convert. Why? Because of fear from my parents.
Anyway, at some point a Sheikh (Cleric), from France, by the name of Mushin came to Montreal for a visit. I went to see him one night at a Mosque where other youth had also gathered. First, we prayed in congregation together (even though I was not a Muslim, I still joined them). Then, we went and sat down together and the Sheikh spoke with us. At some point, he found out that I was not a Muslim and he gave me a reality check. He asked me what would happen if I knew that Islam was the truth but died without actually converting to Islam. So the truth hit me. I was still concerned about my parents but I decided that night, even though it was uneasy, to take my Shahadah. I got congratulated by the guys who were present and the next morning I did my first real Salat (prayer).
Photo by Reda Issa (313Photography)