Abdurrahman – Story of an Italian who found Islam in the Maldives
This is the amazing story of the late revert brother Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله), who had never prostrated to Allah for 49 years and found the light of Islam through a sister in the Maldives. (He refused to be called by his former name after embracing Islam).
This story is written by the sister who gave him dawah, and is as narrated by him before he passed away.
Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) was a dear friend of my brother – more like his best friend. He comes from a Catholic background whose parents are Roman Catholics. He was the youngest son in his family. His father and grandfather are Christian priests who are devout in their faith. However, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) always used to think critically. He always used to question “why did God send a son to save mankind? Why did God have human desires to beget a son? Why did God create his own son through a mortal human being? Why couldn’t He create a son, the way He had created Adam AS and Hawwa AS? Is the Lord that incapable? Why does the Lord have human desires and human-like thinking?” Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) used to ask these questions to the priests of his town. However, they were never able to provide answers to his questions. Rather, they would always tell him not to question God’s works. This was indeed too difficult for Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) to accept! As a result, with plenty of doubts and baffling questions at the back of his head, he slowly drifted away from his former faith. Ultimately, he forgot about the Creator and became an atheist, believing that there is no such thing as a Creator! He started believing that the answers to how the universe and human beings came in to existence can be found through science. The universe created itself and human beings evolved from monkeys. We are a product of genetic mutation. All the other living creatures came into being in the same way! The nations are dispersed due to a ‘big bang’ which occurred billions of years ago. As a result, at the age of 16, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) gave up his belief in God and spent 33 years of his life as an atheist.
As the days passed, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) met my brother and they became friends. He came to the Maldives with my brother on a visit to explore the county. He said about his first visit to the Maldives:
I thought I would get to see religious extremism in Maldives, and I have always read and heard that Muslims are fundamental extremists. To my knowledge, Maldives is a hundred percent Muslim country and I was dead scared at the thought of that. However, my presuppositions changed when I witnessed a totally different scene. I saw pristine beaches, women in revealing clothes, and bars. There was everything, except faith. When I enquired my friend about it, I realised I was in a resort. My friend told me that inhabited islands will be different. So I visited one of the islands, and sadly, did not observe much difference! There were girls, but they were not properly covered, there was a mosque, but the worshippers were minimal – it was not what I had expected!
One day my brother brought Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) to my house to meet with the family members. However, he said that although he received lots of love, he could not observe absolute piety in this family too.
Writing about his second visit to Maldives, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) mentioned that what really shocked him that time was seeing his friend’s sister (myself). That is because I was completely covered with niqab. He wrote:
She isn’t the first modern woman I’ve seen. I couldn’t see anything of her except her eyes. And she refused to shake my hands! I have heard that in Islam women are oppressed and subjugated. Their husbands cover them completely with black dress and prevent them from going out and seeking education. Because of what I was exposed to in the media, I had a really bad impression of Islam in my mind. So I wasn’t happy about it and argued with my friend about it. I was really angry that she was ‘forced’ to cover herself.
“She should have the freedom to show her beauty if she wants! That’s her body! She has her freedom! No one has the right to wrap her up with clothes like that”, said Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) to his friend. “What right do you have, to cover her up like that and keep her locked inside the house?”
My brother, looking at Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله), replied; “I didn’t force her to dress like that. That is her choice! Even I wasn’t happy about that! In fact, I am also trying to convince her to change her dressing style. But she wouldn’t change her mind!”
This incident was something that changed, to some extent, some of the misconceptions he had about Islam. He realised what he had learned from different media were in fact lies and misrepresentations of Islam. However, he still did not believe in a Creator.
After that incident, I talked to him a lot about Islam and tried very hard to bring him into the fold of Islam, but he did not pay much attention.
After two years, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) came to Maldives again on an invitation from my brother. During this visit, I invited him to visit the Islamic Centre where I work. Although he was not really interested in visiting the mosque, he accepted my request to respect me. He already knew how much I was trying to show him the truth about Islam, but he wouldn’t care to notice.
What he wrote on the visitors’ book at the Islamic Centre:
I swear by the One God who has no partners, I felt a strange sensation when I first put my foot inside the mosque. I wanted to turn back and go out, but something kept me steadfast inside.
He listened attentively to what I told him about the mosque – the date of its inauguration and the people who had helped in the construction of the mosque. I told him that the Arabic calligraphy displayed at different parts of the mosque were verses of the Holy Qur’an and that the Qur’an is our Divine Book. I also told him that this book was revealed to our prophet Muhammad SAW 1400 years ago and that not even a single verse or letter of the book has ever been changed.
Taken aback, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) said, “What? That’s impossible!”
“This is the truth!”, I replied.
In sheer amazement, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) remarked, “It can’t be true. Even the Bible has been changed several times. In fact, there are many versions of the Bible. For a book to remain intact for 1400 years is impossible!”
I replied, “This book is a revelation from God, and He protects this book from corruption. Not even a dot or diacritic of the book has ever been changed”.
“Just to prove my point, I will read a chapter or a verse from the Qur’an. You ask any Muslim from any country to read those verses. No matter how many Muslims you ask to read, it will not be different!”, I added.
I explained to him, the scientific miracles mentioned in the Qur’an; details about how the universe came into existence (The Big Bang Theory), the fact that two seas never mix, the fingerprint, and how the Qur’an explains the light of the moon and the light of the sun. He kept listening to me, all ears! However, afterwards when he started arguing with me, I gave him an English translation of the Holy Qur’an to read. He then remarked, “In that case, Muhammad must have been a very clever man, to write such a book!”
“Muhammad SAW was unlettered. He was an orphan. He used to be a shepherd before he got married”, I responded back.
According to Abdurrahmaan’s (رحمه الله) testimony, he was uncertain about what to believe when he went out of the mosque that day. He did believe in science – and science had been revealed to an unlettered human being who lived in a desert of Mecca 1400 years ago. How could this have happened?
He left the mosque with books and leaflets about Islam and kept reading them whenever he had some spare time. “The Unchangeable Miracles in Qur’an” was the book he was given to read, along with an English translation of the Qur’an as per his request. He used to ask a lot of questions as he kept reading. He said that he would read about the miracles and then crosscheck the verses from the Qur’an – and every time, the miracle and the verse of the Qur’an would match beyond a shadow of a doubt. He left Maldives with the books we gave him to read, and by then he definitely believed in a Creator. However, since he wanted do more research to convince himself, we gave him two more books on Islam.
After going back to his country, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) spent time reading the books we gave and gaining more information about Islam. He had told that he used to go clubbing and booze with his friends during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). However, since his return to his country from Maldives, he did not drink alcohol because he wanted to read those books we gave. He knew he would not understand what he read if he was not sober. He spent his free time reading and learning about Islam. He also visited a mosque, met with the Imam and worshippers and asked more questions about Islam. Although the mosque was an hour’s drive from his area, it did not stop him from finding out what he wanted to know. He started visiting the mosque regularly and gained more knowledge about Islam by reading more books. He started getting answers to the questions he had since childhood. All the doubts and uncertainty he had in his heart started fading away and he began experiencing the divine light of Islam. In an email, he wrote to us about how he embraced Islam:
Why don’t Muslims drink alcohol? – I always wonder! I did get the answer to this question! I was getting all the answers to the questions I had about this religion and my misconceptions were getting cleared off. I saw proof for a Creator from the Qur’an. I saw evidence from the Qur’an that Allah is the one Lord without partners. To further convince myself, I wanted to know what the Qur’an says about Jesus (‘Isa AS). When I asked the Imam of the mosque this question, he read to me some verses from the Qur’an. From those verses, I learned that Jesus (‘Isa AS) was a prophet of Allah, not His son. And the Imam read to me about Jesus’s (‘Isa AS) miraculous birth from the Qur’an. He read to me about the Oneness of Allah and that He does not need anything or anyone’s help. It was as if I had found the reality I wanted to seek! I left Christianity because I could not fathom the idea that a God would be so incapable that He would need a human being. On the contrary, in the Qur’an, Allah is described as One, not needing anyone’s help and free from all human wants and desires. I was certain that I had found my faith! I had found my Lord! I had found Allah. Tears flowed down my cheeks when the Imam read those verses. And on the way back to home, I cried inside the car too. I didn’t want to waste another second – I had already wasted thirty years of my life! Without wasting any more time, I decided to embrace Islam.
That day, he took a bath and went to the mosque. The Imam taught him how to perform wudu (ablutions) and he declared the Islamic creed:
“I bear witness, that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad SAW is the messenger of Allah. I also bear witness that Jesus (‘Isa AS) is a messenger and not the son of Allah.”
Immediately after embracing Islam, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) sent me an email saying that he had accepted Islam.
Expressing his feelings at the moment of declaration of faith, he mentioned in the email:
The moment I became a Muslim, I felt goose bumps all over my body and a wave of chill ran down my spine. I felt I had let loose a heavy burden that I had been carrying. It was as if all my sins had drained off from my body and my heart was feeling light, my soul was at rest and I was in a state of true contentment, peace and tranquility. Words fail me, when I try to describe those feelings; happiness, satisfaction, peace and being at ease. Involuntarily, I knelt down for prostration. A continuous stream of tears flowed down my cheeks. I cried a lot in prostration. I cried loudly. I felt my soul was receiving the love and compassion of Allah. I felt my sins rolling off my shoulders. The sensations I felt made me weep a lot. When I stood up from prostration, everyone around me was looking at me – their eyes and beards drenched in tears. All of them hugged me and congratulated me on becoming a Muslim and told me they were my brothers.
Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) accepted Islam on 26th November 2014. His email was something that brought tears of delight. All the people who work at the mosque were wishing that he would become Muslim. The following day, I gave this good news to them. Tears of joy rolled down their eyes and they performed prostration of thankfulness. We felt as if we got the news of a family member who had come back after being away for ages – it was even more ecstatic. This news proved to be a great source of encouragement for our work. We gave that good news to everyone and decided to celebrate. A lot of us started sending emails to Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) and each and every one congratulated him. He was so elated to get emails from us that he regarded us as close relatives. The love and kinship he received from all of us proved to be a source of satisfaction for him.
From one of the sisters who emailed him, he learned that the first thing he had to do after embracing Islam was establishing prayer. What he wanted most after that was to offer salah. Although he craved to obey and worship Allah, he did not know how to pray; neither did he know what to recite nor the physical actions. He tried to learn to pray by watching YouTube videos, but did not understand a word of the Arabic language. Confusion overwhelmed him. His thirst to offer salah made him email back to our sisters. In one such mail he stated:
Dear sister, I need to ask you for a huge favour! I know it’s obligatory for every Muslim to pray five times a day, but I don’t know how to pray. I don’t know what to recite in prayer. How can I go to the mosque every day? It’s really far away from my place. Maghrib prayer time is even very late as the winter season is approaching. I can pray at home, but don’t know how. My sister, please help me!
The same night he sent a very sorrowful and emotional mail in which he stated:
I want to worship, but just don’t know how! I thought today: “Worship is just communicating with the Creator. I don’t need to go to a faraway mosque to do that. There is a church nearby. I can talk to my Lord there as much as I want.” But then again, I thought to myself; “Satan is trying to deceive me because I have become Muslim. He is trying to take me to a place of worship of the Christians – I won’t go!”
He said that he spent that night crying. He sat on the carpet in the centre of his house and cried a lot. And he called upon Allah:
Forgive me! I don’t know how to pray. O Allah, make it easy for me to obey you and establish prayer just like you have guided me to Islam. I don’t want to die as a person who didn’t pray. I fear the thought of it. O Allah, I love You so much and I can feel Your love. So I am eager to worship you with devotion. What can I do if I died without praying to you, even a single prayer?
That night, he fell asleep in that state, and saw an incredible dream. In an email sent to his closest sister in Maldives, he narrated his dream:
Beloved sister, don’t worry about my prayer. I prayed with RasulAllah SAW last night! I have never seen anyone more beautiful than SAW. In the whole Italy, there isn’t anyone as beautiful as him SAW. I felt as if my own self melted when he SAW smiled. My heart filled with love for him. Allah had created him SAW in the best and most beautiful way – a stunning beard, lovely black eyes, a charming smile, fine white teeth, and a face of white complexion. It was as if there was light emanating from his SAW face.
He SAW said “Assalamualaykum Abdurrahmaan”.
“Who is Abdurrahmaan?” I said.
He SAW told me that it was me and said “Isn’t it the name your sisters gave you? It is the most beloved name to Allah.”
I asked him SAW if Allah would love me and that I haven’t prayed even a single prayer. And prayer is the one of the most important obligations after embracing Islam.
He SAW said, “Don’t worry! Allah knows everything! Allah knows about your hardships as a new Muslim. Your sincerity and love for Allah, are heavier in the sight of Allah now. Worry not, for your after-life will be much better for you than this life.”
Then he SAW added, “Come! Pray with me, your first prayer as a Muslim!”
I followed in obedience and prayed with him SAW.
After the prayer, he SAW said, “O Abdurrahmaan! Whenever you pray, pray as you have seen me pray!”
I agreed. I also prayed Fajr prayer with him SAW after which he SAWcalled me by name and gave me advice and told me to hold onto it.
He SAW said, “Beware of Satan! He does not simply delude you with his waswasa (misgivings or whisperings) into your ears! He comes in various forms and ways – sometimes in the form of a human being, sometimes as wishful desires, and sometimes as abundant wealth. Try hard to not get caught up in Satan’s trap! And always make du’a (supplication) to seek refuge in Allah from Satan. Repent to Allah immediately if you fell into sin even if it was unknowingly. Allah is the Most-Forgiving and Most-Merciful. So beware of Satan. Always pray on time. Pray in congregation. That is the best shield against Satan!”
After that, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) brought major changes to his life. He destroyed the mini bar at his house where he would store alcohol. He had workers get rid of the alcohol bottles and removed all images off the walls. He said that he removed the images because he knew that the angels of mercy would not descend to a place where there are images. He also bought religious books, including an Italian translation of the Holy Qur’an from the neighbouring village. He read the translation every single day.
Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) faced a lot of hardships when he changed his lifestyle according to Islamic principles and norms. His family cut off ties with him and his friends became strangers. One night he had invited his family for dinner and announced that he had accepted Islam. His family’s reaction was not what he had expected. They broke all family ties and left his house saying “we don’t even want to eat food made by a Muslim.” With no friends and family, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) became lonely. At this hard time, it was his closest sisters in Maldives who consoled and supported him. He would always say, “I don’t have anyone with me, but I am always happy and content. I’m not sad. My heart is always filled with a strange sensation of happiness.”
Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) told us in a mail, about a dream he saw the night after he had the arguments with his colleagues. He wrote:
I saw a very beautiful dream last night! Lots of angels in white, took me to a stunning place. They came while I was in prayer, greeted me with the Islamic greeting and purified me with a fragrant water. They groomed me with an aromatic garment and took me with them. On the way, many angels in white, smiled at me and greeted me by name. I don’t know where they took me, I had woken up before that! But the peculiar thing is I can still remember the scent of the garment the angels had groomed me with.
After that, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) tried to visit Maldives as soon as possible. He wanted to learn more about Islam and to recite Qur’an. He desired to memorise the entire Qur’an, after his closest sister had told him about the virtue of memorising it: that a person who memorises the Qur’an will be able to intercede for ten people on the Day of Judgment. He tried to fly to Maldives before December 2014, and began work to officially change his name and passport. He also wrote the dua (supplication) of wudu (ablution) on a piece of paper and pasted on the wall to read after performing ablution for prayer.
Abdurrahman faced several incidences where he displayed a high level of iman such as being in a company of a couple where they lady was inappropriately dressed; colleagues who ridiculed him and his faith and other unpleasant incidences.
In every situation, he toiled not to fall in to sin, but strived to attain paradise.
In his last email on 5 December 2014, Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) narrated the story of what had happened when he went to his sister’s house for a dinner invitation. He did not eat anything that night because his sister had prepared poke and chicken. He was served wine, which he openly refused. What’s more, his sister had brought a Christian priest to advise and convince Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) to leave Islam. Abdurrahmaan (رحمه الله) accepted her sister’s invitation and visited her house thinking that she wanted to set things right and strengthen family ties. However, she had a different intention – reverting him back to Christianity!
Abdurrahmaan’s (رحمه الله) last mail was received on 5th December 2014. He mentioned in this mail that he might email us again after Friday prayer. However, we neither received any mail from him after that, nor did he respond to any of our mails. How could we receive a reply? He had died that day while in sujood (prostration) of Friday prayer. He had bid farewell to this world! He met his death in sujood, just like he had seen in his dream.