Orthodox New Yorker Jew Accepts Islam
His name is Melech Yacov. When he was born he was given the Hebrew name Melech Yacov. Today he still lives in the area in New York where he was born. They went to a congregation every Saturday, but they did not keep all the strict observances required in Chasidic Judaism.
Yacov belonged to Chasidism. Chasidism is known in the mainstream as “Ultra Orthodox” Judaism. They are called so because of their strict observances of Halacha (Jewish Law) and their following of Jewish hissticism (cabala). They are the strange people that you see walking down the street wearing black suits and hats and letting their beards and sideburns grow long.
From the earliest days, his mother would read to him the stories of the great Rabbis like Eliezar, the Baal Shem Tov, and the legends from the Haggada (part of the Talmud other than the Halacha) and Torah.
All of these stories had the same ethical message which helped him to identify with the Jewish community, and later Israel. The stories showed how Jews were oppressed throughout history, but God always stood by His people until the end. The stories that Jews were brought up on showed them that miracles always saved the Jews whenever they were in their greatest time of need.
If a person wants to take an objective view on why most Jews have the irrational Zionist stance regarding Israel, then they must understand the way by which they were indoctrinated with these stories as children. That is why the Zionists pretend that they are doing nothing wrong at all. All of the goyim (gentiles or non Jews) are seen as enemies waiting to attack, and thus they cannot be trusted. The Jewish people have a very strong bond with one another and see each other as the “chosen people” of God. For many years he believed this himself.
Something strange happened this time: his father was convinced by a friend to accept Jesus into his heart. God willingly his mother did not divorce his father for his conversion to Christianity, but she has kept a silent hatred of it ever since.
His father’s conversion helped him question his own beliefs. He began asking questions like: What exactly is a Jew anyway? Is Judaism a culture, a nation, or a religion? If it is a nation, then how could Jews be citizens of two nations? If Judaism is a religion, then why are the prayers recited in Hebrew? If Judaism was just a culture, then would not a person cease to be a Jew if he stopped speaking Hebrew and practicing Jewish customs?
If a Jew was one who observes the commandments of the Torah, then why is Abraham called the first Jew when he lived before the Torah came down to Moses? Incidentally, the Torah doesn’t even say he was a Jew; the word Jew comes from the name of one of Jacob’s 12 sons, Judah. Jews were not called Jews until the Kingdom of Judah was established after the time of Solomon.
Tradition holds that a Jew is someone whose mother was Jewish. So you can still be a Jew if you practice Christianity or atheism. More and more he began to move away from Judaism. There were so many laws and mitzvahs (good deeds) to observe. What is the point of all these different rituals, he began to question. To him they were all man-made.
He was fascinated with Native American culture and their bravery in the face of the white settlers who stole their land. The Native Americans had over 250 treaties broken with them, and they were given the worst strips of land that no one wanted. The story of the Native Americans is similar to that of the Palestinians.
The first Palestinians were living in Palestine for thousands of years and suddenly Jews replaced them, and the natives are forced into refugee camps in which they still live. He asked his parents how the Palestinians are different from Native Americans, and the only answer he got was “because they want to kill all Jews and drive them into the sea.”
His understanding of the Palestinian people put him above any of the Jews, their leaders, and Rabbis whom he once viewed as wise men. How could any good Jew deny that Palestinians were killed and forced from their land to make way for Jewish settlements? What justifies this act of ethnic cleansing – the fact that many Jews died in the Holocaust! Or is it because the bible says it’s “our” land? Any book that justifies such a thing would be immoral and hence not of God.
While reading philosophy with his friends, they also took up many different political causes in their youth. We experimented in everything from Republicanism to Communism. He took up reading all the works of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Trotsky.
He found in Marxism what he felt was missing in his life. He believed that he had found all the answers to everything and hence felt intellectually superior to everyone. After meeting all the different cult groups that surrounded the political left in America they all became disgusted at the way they acted and denied reality. No revolution would be made in a country by this type of people. Fighting for social change cannot win by using methods of the past.
As a child, he remember hearing his mother talk about Islam, and how Muhammad (peace be upon him) worshipped the same God as them, and also how Jews are related to Arabs through Abraham. So in a way he kind of accepted Islam as just another religion that worships God. He had a faint memory of his cousin (a Chasid) who said to him that if a Jew gives up his life as a Jew and lives like a Muslim, he wouldn’t be committing any sin! Looking back he was astonished to have heard such a thing.
When September 11th happened, there was a surge in anti-Islamic propaganda in the news. From the very beginning, he knew that it was all lies because he already had developed the perspective that everything in the media protects the interests of those who control it. When he saw that the most militant people in attacking Islam were fundamentalist Christians, Islam started looking more attractive to him. He thank God for what he learned in his activist days, because without the knowledge of society and the media, he would have believed all the garbage that he heard about Islam on the television.
One day he remember hearing someone talk about scientific facts in the Bible so he wondered if the Qur’an had scientific facts in it. He did an Internet search and he discovered a lot of amazing stuff. He subsequently spent a great deal of time consuming articles on various aspects of Islam. He was surprised of how logically consistent the Qur’an was.
As he read the Qur’an, he would compare its moral message to that of what he learned from the Bible and understood how much better it was. Also the Qur’an was not nearly as boring as reading the Bible. It’s fun to read. After about 5 months of intense study he said his shahadah and officially became Muslim.
Unlike his old religion, everything in Islam made sense. All the practices like prayer and Ramadan he understood already. Although he imagined Islam to be like Judaism in which one follows a series of different rules dogmatically, he was wrong. His understanding of the world also matched what Islam taught him – that all religions are basically the same but have been corrupted by man over time. God didn’t make a name called Judaism and Christianity and tell people to worship Him. God taught the people only Islam; that is submission to Him alone. It is as clear and simple as that.