9/11 – The Day I Became a Muslim

By Robert Salaam

 

9/11 is a day of reflection for me for several reasons.

On 9/11 I found out that:

1. I really was a Marine

2. I was willing to die for my country

3. Islam is in fact not only a religion of peace, but the truth

Most people have no problem with 1 and 2 when I ordinarily re-tell this story, but number 3 is always met with hostility. Without going into the story again as I have a thousand times, I just want to cover the main points.

1: When I joined the Marine Corps in 1998 it was a different world per se. Most of my peers joined the military as an alternative to staying home or not going to college. Many like me joined the Marine Corps simply to be part of the best miliatary organization on the planet (sorry Army). However, that was it in a nutshell. There were no dreams of war and combat no matter how much warrior training I had. It was good stuff to know, it felt good to know I could if I wanted to, but I was content behind my desk and flying with President Clinton to the Harley David factory in Pennsylvania or to South Beach, Miami. That was the extent of my career until 9/11.

That day, I found out that I truly was a Marine, that day the warrior in me came alive and I wanted nothing more than to fight the scum that dared attack the USA the greatest nation on Earth!. That day I found out that even a bunch of spoiled, Presidential, airwingers, were still Marines and we were ready to go and do what Marines do.

That day that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor took over and the true warrior that I didn’t even know existed came alive. That day more than any other day, I was a Marine!

2: Given the gravity of the day, I knew something had to be done. I didn’t know what, but I knew it had to be something. I began to think of all the medal of honor winners who gave their lives in the service of others. I never truly understood that, but on 9/11 something came over me. I knew that if fanatical killers were willing to do this, than I had to be equally willing to do whatever it took to defeat them.

I didn’t know what to think, but I knew one thing, if I had to die, I wanted it to be in the service of my country. I never felt that way before, on 9/10 I wore a uniform, but it was just a “job” to a degree, but on 9/11 I swore by that uniform and what Marines have lived and died for and was ready to join their ranks if need be.

I remember around 10 am before the base phones shut down calling my mother and she answered crying, the most I could muster was “Mom I love you, tell everyone I love them, but now I have to do what I get paid to do” right there out of no where in one line I told my mother that our conversation may have been the last, and in that moment of clarity there was peace. I knew what had to be done and I truly didn’t care about the costs, as long as America won.

3. This has always been the most difficult thing to explain and it still is. On 9/11 we were on “standby” for more than 14hrs. We didn’t see any “action” and we just hurried up and waited, and waited, and waited, and then it was 9/12. As things started to develop and get sorted out after that horrible day, I began to reflect. Mostly about 1 and 2 but then I began to ask myself questions: Who were these people that did this? Why would they do this? Are their beliefs that crazy that they are willing to kill themselves and many others for it? I asked myself these questions over and over.

My only solution was research. I wanted to know my enemy so that I may be better prepared to kill them. As a devout Christian, lay leader, bible study leader, etc. I wanted to see this murderous book for myself so that I may be able to inform my friends, group, and congregation. I never met a Muslim in my life all I knew was the church, so I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth…the Quran.

As things were eased on the base in the following days, I decided to go to the bookstore and I bought it a Koran. My first one. It was in complete English, no Arabic in sight. So with a scornful look and disdain in my heart I began to read… The very first thing I read was:

The Opening

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:

Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe.

The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

King of the Day of Judgment.

You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help

Guide us to the straight way;

The way of those whom you have blessed, not of those who have deserved anger, nor of those who stray.

In the name of God, the Most Gracious and Merciful! What in the world! I thought I’m supposed to be reading about killing Christians in the name of some other god or something. Where’s all the violence and advocation of such against America? This opening, sounded much like my prayers, so I began to read on…

As I read on I learned many things like God is One, fighting is only ordained in self-defense against oppression, respect for others religions and places of worship, Muslims believed in the Prophets of the Bible and in Jesus albeit a little differently, but heh there were Christians that believed the same things about Jesus too! In other words I found none of what I expected, I found no smoking gun, what little so-called violence I did find was nothing more than historical happenings, that didn’t shape the larger context of the books call for patience, prayer, and balance. It didn’t read purely as a historical book although there was history in it, it didn’t read purely as a book of dogma, although there was dogma in it, to me the most remarkable thing to me was that the author seemed to be speaking directly to me and not through 3rd and 4th parties. For every question I asked there was an answer, for every answer given, the text itself asked me a question.

The book forced me to think, challenged me, and reasoned with me. This was a book of reason, this was a book of discussion, this book made me stronger in my desire for God. Any book that could do that in of itself, without the aid of a person reading it to me had to have divine Origins!

Of course, this began to baffle me. Emotions began to be confounded at times, I didn’t know what to think, but I knew one think, I believed in this text and I wanted to be part of those who did. Obviously those murders couldn’t have read the same book! We must be reading two different things.

I began to care less and less about the murderers and what they got out of the text and more and more about what I got out of the text. Somehow they got murder and intollerance, I got love for God, man, and peace. No more did I have to believe that those who didn’t believe as I did were bound to hell, now I could believe in the unity of faith, I could believe that all of mankind was destined to God and God loved everyone not just an elect group!

Naturally, all of this shook me at my foundation, my core, so the best I could do was share these thoughts with my mentor and pastor, my grandfather. I expected him to chastise me and tell me Satan was confusing me, but instead, he said he believes Islam to be on the same path as Judaism and Christianity, he believed that they all have a central Origin and a central destination. He believed that while the family of Abraham (pbuh) didn’t always agree on many points, they are still family nonetheless.

At that point, slack jawed, I realized that my new ways weren’t a hindrance or some kind of satanic confusion, but another path and journey God had put me on, He knows what he is up to.

This all happened within weeks of 9/11. Imagine the surprise to all those I knew when I told them I was converting to Islam. Imagine the surprise when I had my dog tags and records changed from “Christian” to “Muslim”. Many didn’t take it well, and many don’t today. But faith is like that. We don’t often have as much control as we would like to believe. If we truly believe then we will be able to carry our cross no matter what.

And talk about a cross to carry! I have been called it all: Naive, Traitor, fake, etc. I have been told that I never was a Christian or good Christian to begin with and that’s how I left so “easily” as if they know! I have been asked how I could change to the enemies religion while my country was under attack, my service has been questioned, my loyalty, etc. etc.

The problem is many can’t or won’t seperate the religion from the people, unless of course the religion is Christianity or Judaism!

Never mind that I served another 3 years honorably in the Marine Corps as a Muslim. Never mind that I have worked for this nations highest office as a Muslim, nevermind that since the Marine Corps I have worked and served in agencies many other Americans only dream about, can only see on the outside, and in many instances don’t even know where they exist! All this as a Muslim.

But I digress…All these years, not much has changed. Many still hate Islam and Muslims, many Muslims still defend their faith and themselves, and many Muslims still commit the actions that help fuel the flames of this hate.

I just pray on this day of reflection, that we as Americans, that we as humanity begin to reflect more on our similarities then our differences. I pray that we overcome our prejudices and ignorance and learn to work together. I pray that we come together to destroy radicalism and extremism in all it’s forms. I pray that we realize that it is our differences that not only make God Great, but give us a reason and drive to want to get to know one another.

“O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” [Quran 49:13]

 

32 Comments

  1. RDC says:

    As Salam Alaykum

    Dear brother in faith and humanity, thank you for sharing this extraordinary piece of testimony. God Most High knowing, you must’ve proven a lot of bravery already.

    Reading this article made me cry, seeing those bits of truth coming through, being God’s grace working on you.

    > WhyIslam looks like a great site, masha Allah, but I wish they mentioned who the author is.
    I found him only through a search engine (startpage).

    May this story strengthens our faith and may your testimony keeps being carried on for other people to open up their hearts, by the Mercy of God Most Sovereign, may God Almighty be satisfied with us

  2. Taylan says:

    Praise be to Allah whom guides who he wills.

  3. Yusef Madinah says:

    I can relate to this story brother. I am a Muslim convert in the US Army currently in Afghanistan. I’ve received a lot of negativity especially after attending Jumma Prayer at the small Afghan National Army Mosque. People are starting to understand. Where Afghan’s praise and bless me for my choice….American are curious but shy to ask why. I think all our prayers for unity and understanding are emerging.

  4. Fahmida says:

    Thank you for sharing your stories. May Allah (SWT)keep guiding us thru out.

  5. Nathalie says:

    To the author,

    Salam aleikum,

    ARMY IS BETTER!!!

  6. daie says:

    Alhamdulilah =)Happy for u brother

  7. dida says:

    SUBHANALLAH, THIS IS AMAZING STORY, MAY ALLAH BLESS U N UNITE ALL THE UMMAH, AMEN

  8. hamedullah says:

    Assalamualikum brother! Alhamdulillah, We are really proud of you. Allah Subahanhu wa taala bless you and intire muslims. I hope that all non muslims realize wright from wrong, and we muslim pray for. Ishallah.

  9. Joda Collins says:

    You state that there are Christians that believe about Jesus in the same way that the Quran If you find a person that believes that Jesus was just a prophet and not the unique Son of God and believes that Jesus is not the only Savior, and that Jesus did not die on the Cross for the sins of the world and that salvation from hell is only through his shed blood on the Cross, then you are not talking to a Christian.

    • giati says:

      It doesn’t make sense to me that if according to Christians, God is just and so kind, then how come only the blood of Jesus (peace be upon him) is enough for the sins of entire world (all Christians). If for example, a Christian kills another Christian or anyone, is the blood of Jesus (peace be upon him) still enough for the killer to go to paradise; how about the person who was killed, does he get any justice for his life; or if a Christian rapes a woman, does the blood of Jesus (peace be upon him) still saves the person who raped an innocent woman? Does it seem just and fair to you that no matter what you do, the blood of Jesus (peace be upon him) will save you. Please let me know.

  10. Joda Collins says:

    In your “Personal Story” you state that your parents gave you Christianity. No parent has the power to give you Christ. Unless you had a personal saving relationship with Christ, then you never became a Christian. This makes you vulnerable to false religions, like Islam. Christianity is not just a decision or cultural way of life; it is a one to one relationship with a risen savior that parents cannot “give you”.

  11. Haleh Banani says:

    Masha'Allah this is such an amazing story! Thank you for sharing!

  12. Mariam Tarek Tawfik says:

    Jazak Allah Khairan for sharing this.

  13. Wow. What a beautiful recount of your new life to Islam. Beautiful and touching. MashaAllaah. Hope it strengthens your imaan and gives more meaning to your life and the purpose of your existence on this planet.

  14. Amazing story! MashAllah this man has been guided to the straightest of paths.

  15. We need to have respect for each other religion.

  16. Shaukat Ali says:

    Subhanallah May Allah Guide Us All The Path Of Truth.Ameen

  17. Alhamduliliah may Allah guide us all onto the right path and make us die with the shahada ameen

  18. Erin Rose Hafferman says:

    Islam used to be a peaceful religion, until the extremists took it and twisted it to meet their own sick needs and wants. I'm sorry, but Islam is the reason the towers are gone, Islam is the reason thousands of Americans died that day, and Islam is the reason thousand of kids grew up without their parents…how could you, not only as an American, but as a marine, join a religion that believes everything we do is wrong, evil ect., and that its ok to attack because its in the name of Allah…

  19. may Allah make us die as Muslim ameen

  20. Azmir Ahmad says:

    @Erin Rose Hafferman … May the peace and mercy of God be with you. Dont be so naive. You still believe that Islam responsible for 9/11? Muslim the reason of innocents people died? Im sorry to tell you this.But you are wrong. theres muslim died on that day too. As a muslim we cant simply takes innocent lives, houses, trees. Please read the quran. Dont let yourself be fool by the media.

  21. Actually, Israel did the towers. I assume US has attacked a peace country called Iraq and Afghanistan. Israeli Soldiers wore robes like Egyptians and highjacked the plane to destroy the WTC to make America weaker of trading the world. Israeli citizen in Israel parades and dances, wearing their children as twin towers with plane crash as it happened and then a holiday was on. Islam has nothing to do with the war on US, except for the fast growing of islam….Assalamualaikum…

  22. Katherine Moriarty says:

    From a vet to a vet thank you for your courage and service! God Bless!

  23. thank you Robert Salaam for posting your story…welcome to Islam for all to be…Islam for all of use Humans …I pray everybody in the whole world become Muslim …Allah deserve to be warship he is our Lord, yours and there's….Ameen

  24. Dear Brother Robert, I couldn't hold my tears from falling reading your story. I was born Muslim, but it make me feel less of a Muslim than you since you found Islam on your own. Your story reminds me of the amazing stories of Khalid Bin Alwaleed, and many other who where among the most haters of Islam to the most loving by becoming Muslim. I want to make you aware of how important to know about your story to Muslims, as most of feel terribly down, and oppressed by everybody. To know that out of all this darkness there is light shining through, out of all this ignorance there is knowledge and curiosity in people's hearts ad minds to search for the truth, out of all the prejudice and misconception voices of mindful thinking still make an impact and are heard. I wish you all the very best in staying strong and defiant against all attempts to derive you from the right path. May the love, protection, peace and blessing of Allah guide you through out your life.

  25. Assalaamu Alaikum Brother, I had a similar story and I am glad that you decided to do your own research. Allah wa ta a'la says do not follow blindly. Wassalaam.

  26. @Erin, Do you know why Muslims fighter retreat when attacked by bombs and missiles? It is because they don't want innocent people to die. DO you know we have been give command by ALLAH to fight on his path so that there will be no oppression nor discrimination. Muslims can attack anywhere in the world if not ALLAH stop them from Killing innocent people 2:178-179 and 2:190-193. If you get chance read Qur'an don't Judge book by it's cover and never worried to read Quraan that will make you Muslim, the choice remain in you Either with US or With Kufar

  27. Raj Mallick says:

    @Erin,
    suppose you don't know how to drive a 4 wheeler and you are given a BMW.
    Then you are tried to drive the BMW and you accidentally crashed the car.
    now tell me whose fault will be here, your's or the BMW's????
    of course your's….
    similarly if the muslims are the cause for 9/11 than its them's fault, its not the problem of ISLAM…
    there is a difference between ISLAM & MUSLIM….
    Plz watch below youtube video…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7prOPLEUr3c

  28. Michelle Terrell says:

    @Erin. The very same arguments you are trying to make against Islam can be made about Christianity and Judaism. Don't allow yourself to be fooled by the media. Do What Robert did and read the Qur'an and learn about Islam YOURSELF. Islam is NOTHING like what the media tries to sell to you, but, you have to think about WHY they want you to hate Islam so much. Many Muslims died i n the towers and and the Pentagon on 9/11 too. Extremists in ALL religions twists things to suit their needs (i.e.. Westboro Baptist Church), weak-minded and disgruntled people follow the path of evil – no matter what they are. Don't blame an entire religion for the bad acts of a few people…if you do, you'll have to condemn Chistianity and Judaism as well. I personally have found a real connection to God through Islam that I HAVE NEVER felt or experienced with Christianity, and I am SO glad that I have converted to Islam.

  29. Sayyad Arsalan Saleem says:

    9/11 was a conspiracy against ISLAM but due to this conspiracy many american brothers and sister are accept the ISLAM :) we dont care who come to kill us we believe on ALLAH and indeed ALLAH is not unjust this life just a exam veryone will die one day and world will also terminate its all temporary i just say to thanks to media and politicians who dod conspiracy against islam bcz ALLAH saying in Quran in sure al-imran that ALLAH is big planer :) thank you

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