Say, “To Allāh belongs the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight path.” 2:142
In Part 1, ‘From Īmān to Kufr: The Rise & Fall of the ‘Pious’’, I stated that there were not many examples of Muslims apostatising, be it historically or in current times. However Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allāh, there are countless examples throughout history right up until our current times of people converting to Islām. Many have left their legacies, none more so than the Saḥābah (Companions) the majority of whom (apart from those young companions born into Islām),trod the path from disbelief to belief. Accordingly, we are spoilt for choices in terms of whose stories to narrate in this article. I have chosen to relate the events of individuals who may not be the first to our mind regarding this topic, however the manner in which their conversion took place involves such beneficial lessons for us all that I believe it is important to acquaint ourselves with their stories – InshāAllāh. They are of those whom the following hadith applies to:
“Trials will continue to befall the believing man and woman, with regard to themselves, their children and their wealth, until they meet Allāh with no sin on them.”
The Magicians of Firʿawn (Pharaoh)
History records that the tyrant rulers have always oppressed Allāh’s representatives on earth and none more so than Firʿawn (Pharaoh), so much so that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has made his example, through the story of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām), one of the most narrated events in the glorious Qur’ān. Time will not permit me to relate the full-story which most are no doubt familiar with. Suffice to say that when Allāh sends a Prophet, He aides them with miracles that challenge the order of the day, in their field of expertise, to demonstrate the truthfulness of the message they are sent with. At the time of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) the expertise of those who ruled was Siḥr, magic. Many have stated that people have not seen magic of the strength that was in Egypt during the time of Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām). Firʿawn used magic in order to bewitch the eyes of the people with devils manipulating their perception and imagination to instil fear and exert control. When Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) was tasked with the mission of inviting Firʿawn to the worship of Allāh and of delivering the Children of Israel from their enslavement, Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) instilled such fear into Firʿawn that in order to disprove Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) he challenged him to a competition where he called upon his greatest magicians from across his kingdom.
The appointed event was the day of the feast. The spectacle of this event would have been held in what we can only visualise in today’s terms as being held in a great stadium, a coliseum-like arena, hundreds and thousands watching in amazement with Firʿawn and his army of supporters on one side, whilst Mūsā, his brother Hārūn (ʿalayhimā al-Salām), and of course their Lord, on the other side. But just as Allāh does with all tyrants, He turned Firʿawn’s plans on its head because when the magicians of Firʿawn witnessed that which Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) came with they immediately recognised that this was no illusionary trick or act aided by devils as was the case with them, and realised this was from none other than the irresistible Allāh, as stated in the Qur’ān:
“So the magicians fell down prostrate. They said: “We believe in the Lord of Hārūn (Aaron) and Mūsā (Moses).”.
So convinced were they in their conviction that when Firʿawn threatened them for the proclamation they made, they responded by saying:
“We will never choose you above the clear proofs that have come unto us, and above Him Who created us. So decree what you will decree, for you can only decree what touches the life of this world.”.
So amazing is the conversion and guidance of the magicians of Firʿawn that when you sit and ponder you will be dumbfounded as to how, in a single moment, they went from being allies of Firʿawn in his Kufr to making Sujūd (prostrating) to the Lord of the Worlds in a state of Īmān. It is incredible to see how Allāh implanted in their hearts such faith that within minutes of belief they responded to Firawn with such firmness and willing to make the greatest sacrifice for their newfound belief, their own life, Fīsabillilāh, for the sake of Allāh. This is the effect Īmān has on an individual, and yet, today, we find many of us are afraid to even speak out against tyrants let alone be willing to make greater sacrifices in the face of oppression.
The Battle of Yarmūk was part of the campaign to conquer Syria and open it to the lands of Islām. Khālid b. Walīd (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) was appointed by the Khalīfah, Abū Bakr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), as the Commander of the Muslim army. At the start of the battle, a Roman general by the name of George (JarJah) emerged from the Roman army and rode towards the Muslims. Halting a short distance from the Muslim army, he raised his voice and called for Khālid b. Walīd. Unwavering in his courage, Khālid rode out to meet George and advanced until the necks of the horses crossed. George was learned in the language of the Arabs and the following conversation then proceeded:
George: “O Khālid, tell me the truth and do not deceive me, for the free do not lie and the noble do not deceive. Is it true that Allāh sent a sword from heaven to your Prophet and that he gave it to you and that never have you drawn it but your enemies have been defeated?”
George: “Then why are you known as the Sayfullāh, Sword of Allāh?”
Khālid then went on to explain to George how he received this great epithet from the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) following the battle of Mutah where he assumed command of the Muslim army at the crucial moment, and turned what would have been a bloody slaughter into a strategic retreat and saved the Muslim army from total annihilation in a battle where 3,000 Muslims faced 200,000 Byzantine Romans and where three great Muslim Commanders were martyred, Zayd b. Hārithah, Jaʿfar b. Abī Tālib and ʿAbd Allāh b. Rawahah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhum).
On hearing this and pausing for a moment, the conversation then reconvened:
George: “Tell me, what do you call me to?”
Khalid: “To bear witness that there is no god but Allāh and Muḥammad is His Slave and Messenger; and to believe in what he has brought from Allāh.”
George: “What if I do not agree?”
Khalid: “Then pay the Jizya (tax), and you shall be under our protection”
George: “If I still do not agree?”
Khalid: “Then the sword!”
A few moments later…..
George: “What is the position of one who enters your faith today?”
Khalid: “In our faith there is only one position. All are equal.
George: “Then I accept your faith”
George rode back with Khālid to the army of the Muslims where he proclaimed the Shahādah (testimony of faith) and with this delight and the thunderous, rapturous cries of “Allāhuakbar” (Allāh is Great), began the famous battle of Yarmūk with George, sword in hand, now charging towards those who, only moments earlier, were his co-religionists.
SubhānaAllāh, Glory be to Allāh. This event is imbued with many wonderful lessons for the believer. For example, the straight-forward truth with which Khālid spoke; in just a few words he was able to explain the fundamentals of Islām. It also shows how Khālid was delivering the message of Islām even moments before he was about to engage in battle with an enemy, such was the concern he had for the afterlife of even his enemies. As for George, what an unbelievable fate Allāh had in store for him, with a few gallops of his horse, George’s world transformed from one of Kufr and darkness to one of Īmān and light, and from one of fighting for disbelief and paving his way to Jahannam (hell fire), to fighting heroically for the faith he had just embraced, dying as a Shahīd, martyr, and gaining admittance to Jannah (paradise) inshāAllāh.
The story of Malcolm X’s life is well-known. He was born to parents who were civil rights activists, but after his father’s death and his mother’s hospitalisation in a mental institution, he became embroiled in a life of petty crime. He then went to prison and found identity and purpose in the form of a religion which taught racism known as the Nation of Kufr (erroneously called the Nation of Islām (NOI)), a movement which has nothing to do with Islām, which emphasised black liberation and black separation from whites and demonised white people as essentially evil and the black man as superior.
Many Muslims who have been blessed to make Ḥajj often speak of how the journey is a life-changing experience. Malcolm X is an individual who saw the light of true Islām through his Ḥajj in April 1964. In a letter sent whilst on the pilgrimage he wrote:
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colours, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white… America needs to understand Islām, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem… I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered ‘white’ — but the ‘white’ attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islām. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colours together, irrespective of their colour… You may be shocked by these words coming from me. During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white.
Muʿawiyah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) reported the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) as saying,
“When Allāh wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen.“
This was indeed the case with Malcolm whom Allāh guided to become Malik El-Shabazz who understood the errors of his ways, renounced racism and understood that the grouping of men which Islām proclaims is based on faith alone, the faith in which all people of any race or colour are equal under the banner of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā). He made direct criticisms against the fraudulent Elijah Poole, leader of NOI, whom he branded a fake and called people to the unity of Islām which resulted in him being made Shahīd on February 21, 1965, while delivering a speech in New York.
Malcolm’s transformation from a small-time hustler to an internationally renowned Black Muslim is a story of triumph in the face of social, cultural and structural adversity and it gives hope that Allāh’s guidance is there for all sincere seekers of truth.
The Egyptian Woman
Many Shuyūkh have spoken about an amazing event which took place in Egypt some years ago. In a small village in Egypt, a woman who was widowed lived with her son. She suffered from a number of different medical conditions and ailments which resulted in her son boarding a taxi to take his mother to the hospital some miles away. En route to the hospital, the woman’s condition began deteriorating and, still being some distance away from the hospital, the son requested the taxi driver stop at a pharmacy so he could get some medication for his mother in the meantime to help with the pain she was experiencing. As the son headed to the pharmacy, his mother’s condition turned for the worse. The taxi driver got out of the car and entered the back of the cab where the woman lay in much pain and in the pangs of death. On recognising this, the taxi driver began, as is the advice of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to help the dying person recite their shahādah so that it be their last words, for we know the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said
“He whose last words are: `Lā ilāha illAllāh’ (There is no true god except Allāh) will enter Jannah”‘.
The man started encouraging her to say the words and she repeated after him before closing her eyes and breathing her last. As the son returned to the cab, he came back to find that his mother had passed away. The taxi driver comforted the son stating that he was sorry for his loss but that he should feel happy and content that his mother was able to recite the shahādah before she died. On hearing this, the son was shocked as they were not Muslims but Coptic Christians.
There are estimated to be between 9-15 million Coptic Christians in Egypt and the taxi driver had mistook his passengers for being Muslims as the dress, appearance and language of the Coptic Christians in Egypt was the same to that of Muslims. As a side point, I would like to add that ‘Coptic’ refers to the native Christians of Egypt meaning they have remained Christian for centuries, even through the age of the mighty Islamic empires, which dispels the Islamophobic myth that Islām forcibly converts its subjects from other faiths.
What is of course a cause of amazement in this story is how Allāh guided this woman to Islām at the moment of her last breath. This woman was no doubt an honourable, righteous and sincere person, which is why Allāh guided her. This shows us that Allāh is not unjust in the least in how he deals with his slaves and that He will not let the sincere deeds and the sincere search for guidance of a person be in vain. We know that at the time of death, Shayṭān will have gathered all his strength and determination, assembling everything he is capable of to ensure a person dies on disbelief. The strongest the Shayṭān will be against a person is at the time of death, and the weakest the person will be is at that time and yet here we have a woman being guided just as Allāh says to Iblīs:
“Certainly, you shall have no authority over My slaves, except those who follow you of the Ghawun (those who go astray, criminals, polytheists, and evildoers).”
Points to Note:
Islam is the religion of the natural state of man (fitrah), the religion of reason and thought. Allāh has distinguished the truth from falsehood. Guidance is a gift from Allāh. It does not come to just anybody and it is not attained through wishes. It might even be delayed, though its means are available. Guidance to the truth is in the hand of Allāh alone and no human being has any share in that, as Allāh said to His Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
“Verily, you (O Muḥammad) guide not whom you like, but Allāh guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“A man spends a long time doing the deeds of the people of Paradise and then he ends his deeds with the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire. And a man spends a long time doing the deeds of the people of the Hell-fire and then he ends his deeds with the deeds of the people of Paradise“
The above events narrated are an excellent fulfilment of the above hadith and how Allāh changed the eternal fortune of those individuals. Such was the certainty of the conviction of some of these individuals that within moments of accepting the faith they already understood the following verse we recite, even though they, themselves, would not have come across the verse:
“Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allāh, the Cherisher of the Worlds”.
Imagine someone saying to us that they would torture us or even kill us for our belief in Allāh, would we, at that moment have the courage to speak and argue back? Would we have the courage to say those words which were uttered by the magicians of Firāawn? To have trust in Allāh and know that no matter what happens, it is by His will? Indeed, today, many of us in the Ummah lack the Īmān of those magicians and that of George, so let us take benefit from their example in strengthening our conviction in facing such tests and tribulations for we know that, as Muslims, we are living in testing times where Muslims are being tortured and killed for no reason other than their faith.
I also would recommend anyone reading this to also listen to the story of how Ustādh ʿAbdur Rahīm Green’s father was guided to the light of Islām before his death, which again is another beautiful story for us to learn from.
Lastly, let us supplicate for steadfastness upon guidance as this is one of the special invocations of the righteous. Allāh says:
“(They say): “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.”
Notes: Tirmidhi  Al-Qur’ān, 20:70  Al-Qur’ān, 20:72  Conversation narrated in Tabari, Vol 2, p595  http://www.malcolm-x.org/docs/let_mecca.htm  Bukhārī  Abū Dawūd  Al-Qur’ān, 15:42  Al-Qur’ān, 28:56  Muslim  Al-Qur’ān, 6:162  Al-Qur’ān, 3:8  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsAVcJXvrCU