Conversion Story For Aleem Salami

Published on 21 Apr 2020
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Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. My name is Aleem Salami. I was born in Arizona and I originally moved here when I was about three years old. I was born a Sunni Muslim, and I've been raised my whole life as a Sunni Muslim. But when I turned about 17-18 years old, I started wanting to learn more about my religion. I started questioning things, and after about a few months of deciding which path is the right path for me, which one is more convincing, I eventually chose the school of Ahlul Bayt.

Until about a few years ago, I've only met with Sunni Muslims. Not because I chose not to meet with Shia Muslims, it was just majority of the people in this area, or the area that I lived in, were Sunni Muslims.

Growing up, most of the things I learned was basically just law, like what's halal or haram, etc, things like that. And then eventually that path wasn't really the right one for me. I wanted something more spiritual, something that could get closer to my heart.  I just started listening to more lectures and then, after a while, I came to the school of Ahlul Bayt.

When I was growing up, I was told a lot of misconceived things about Shia Muslims, mainly that they don't believe that the Prophet (s) was the last prophet. They believe that Ali was supposed to be the Prophet instead of him. And unfortunately, I have to say that I kind of fell into those traps that were laid for me. I started believing those things. I kind of started acting out on those things in the sense that I would spread that rhetoric to my friends and to other people around me. I just spread that type of rhetoric to people around me. But, alhamdulillah, now I started to learn more about what I was thinking and what I had been taught, and I found out that it wasn't the right thing.

Being from Nigeria, mainly, I'd have to say that there were Maliki Muslims. But when my parents moved here, I feel like they became more Shafi'i and almost having small hints towards the Salafi movement. Growing up, they just told me bad things about the Shia and, even until today, they have very negative connotations towards people of the school of Ahlul Bayt.

Basically, I was just tired of learning the exact same thing over and over again; what's halal, what's haram, what you can and can't do, having those things said to you over and over again. It's almost like, 'Okay, I've learned this let me move on to something else'. 

My story about coming to the school of Ahlul Bayt , it was basically on accident almost. Because I was watching just random videos on Islam on YouTube, and then, in the related videos, I just saw a video by Sayed Ammar Nakshawani, and I just clicked on it by chance. And the video was on, if I remember correctly, the merits of Imam Ali. And the things that he said, at first, it was kind of like, no, that's wrong, that's wrong! Where are these people getting this information from? 

There's a website called sunnah.com. It has, I believe, the majority of the hadith that's in the Sihah al-Sitta which the Sunnis claim are the most reliable books of hadith. So I just went to the search bar and I typed Ali. And, lo and behold, a lot of merits came under his name. I started watching more and more videos and honestly, I'd have to say that I felt a little betrayed that we weren't learning all of the merits of Imam Ali (a).

Some might say that he was just one person and it wasn't important. But the merits that the Imam had, it's uncountable. You can't just move it and push it to the side and say, it's not very important because the merits said that he had for example, one thing that I learned when I was converting, was when the Prophet said, Ali is to me like Aaron was to Moses, except that there's no prophet after me. To some, they might say that, oh, there was just that the Prophet was saying that it was just his brother. But the position that Harun (a) had with Musa (a) in the Quran, it's completely different than just saying that Ali was just the brother to the Prophet.The position that Harun had to Musa, it was a prophet to prophet level. But as the Prophet (s) said, there's no prophet after me. So there has to be a position under a prophet, but that's higher than any other human being that the Imam had.

I wouldn't say it's more of what the Prophet (s) said, but it's more of what the Imam (a) did for Islam. Like, for example all of the battles were basically won by Imam Ali, like the Battle of Badr, Khaybar, especially. It was just things like that. That just made me fall in love with the Imam. Basically, I would have to say the whole thing took about two to three months. Just watching more and more videos from different scholars from both the Sunni and the Shia, having to learn what each of them say about the other, I found that in the school of Ahlul Bayt are more accepting, I'd say, of the Sunni school. They say that they just have a different belief and we have ours. But on the Sunni side, they say that this is our belief and whoever disagrees, then they're on the wrong path.

As I said, over the course of about two or three months, watching more and more videos, I just had a lot of time to think to myself that, is what I'm getting into the right thing. Because if it's not, then that could lead to a lot of bad things that'll happen in the afterlife. But then if I decided that it is the right path, then the bounties outweigh the costs.

For about a month or so after I converted to myself, I didn't really tell anyone, I just kept it to myself just learning more and more things. But then after about a month or so, I started to open up more to my friends. Not in the sense that I'd openly come on and tell them that, hey, I'm Shia. But I'd say that this is the history that contradicts what we've been taught so far. What do you think about this? And unfortunately I'd have to say that many of them weren't very accepting of it. They'd just blow it off and say that it's not important and things like that.

After about another three or four months, I decided to open up to my family. The same way I'd asked them subtle things like, this is what happened in history, what do you think of this? And, unlike my friends, some of my family members that were very harsh towards the criticism, and they took it as an offense to them, so I stopped asking questions to them. For now, they don't exactly know that I follow the school of Ahlul Bayt. 

The toughest part I'd have to say is praying with them. Because I've read from different scholars, they say that if you're in the period of taqiyyah, then you can pray like the Sunni's. For me personally, I don't feel comfortable praying like that. So I decided to pray with my hands down. The thing is, in my culture, sometimes people wrap themselves with cloths and stuff, so that's basically what I do, I just wrapped myself in a cloth and I pray with my hands down. And in regards to a turbah, I just hold it in my hand, and when it's time to go for sujud I quickly place it down, I do my sujud, and then I pick it back up in my hand. 

On a personal level, I'd have to say that I feel a lot happier, more content with what I'm learning, and just the things that happened over the course of my life. For example, when I have had hardships in my life, I just look back into the difficulties that the Imam Ali faced in his life, and I say that if the Imam can go through it, and he can triumph over it, then so can I.

I'd have to say that probably about 90% was about Imam Ali, learning about his merits what he did for the religion what happened after the religion especially, or after the death of the Prophet (s). I'd say about five to 10%. I learned about the event of Karbala or the massacre of Karbala, and I learned about what Imam Husayn did for the religion he basically revived the religion and, taught people that what was being propagated wasn't exactly what the Prophet (s) propagated. I'd have to say that it was one the hadith were brought into context with the Quran. Especially, if I remember the ayah correctly, Surah 5 Verse 55 where the Imam gave away his ring, during his ruku'. That for me was clear cut evidence that Imam Ali was supposed to be the successor after the Prophet (s).

For example, most Sunnis, they don't know about these things, or they've been told other things or they say that there's a difference of opinion. Since we don't know for sure, we're just going to leave it as a blank ayah that doesn't have a tafsir.  

I'd say probably about 90 to 95% of the Sunni's, they don't know what we believe. But the ones that do, I believe it's just that they've learned so much about Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, they've learned so much about them, about their merits, so I feel that they have such an attachment to them that they don't want to let that go. So instead of letting go of them, they decide to attack the school of Ahlul Bayt. 

For the future, I'd have to say that one thing I do want to get at least some sort of formal education in religious studies specifically Shia studies. I don't think I would probably go to one of the seminaries in Iraq or in Iran, but I think I'd go to a local one near me just to learn more about the religion. Eventually, a time that I think would be good to tell my family would be when I'm self sufficient and I have my own place to stay. For now, the reason that I don't tell them is that I fear that I might get kicked out of the house, and if I do, I don't have a place to go or something like that. So I'd probably give it about another two to three years before I tell them. 

The first time I came here, I believe it was a week after I converted to the school of Ahlul Bayt. It was for Jumu'a prayer. I remember it specifically. I came inside, I sat next to, I forgot who he was. I sat down, I listened to the lecture. It's just been such a blessing in my life that people here, they're so nice, they're so humble, they're so welcoming. I remember on my first day here, as I was walking out, someone came up to me and they said they hadn't seen me before. It was an older gentleman, very nice. When I told him that I just converted, he was so happy that he kissed my forehead. I know this may not seem like such a big deal, but for me personally, I've dealt with a lot of racism in my life, and to have someone kiss my forehead, it's such a welcoming thing for someone to do to me. So it was after that, that I thought, this place is so nice, and they're so welcoming, so I started coming back more and more. And the Imam of the center, Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, he's a very nice man, very humble, with so much knowledge. I specifically like to come during his lectures. I like it when he gives speeches, because the way he talks, and the way he delivers his knowledge, it's something that I haven't seen any other shaykh do.

The first time I was introduced to the event of Karbala was when I was doing my research, I stumbled upon a video by Yasir Qadhi. He was talking about the event of Karbala and basically he was saying that it was the Shia's of Kufa who let down Imam Husayn, they were the ones that betrayed him. And after that, I watched a video by another Shia scholar, I forgot who it was. But he explained it in such a depth that, it wasn't that the Shia's of Kufa that let down Imam Husayn, because technically the term Shia is just 'a party of'. It can either mean 'a party of' in a political sense or in a religious sense. And the majority of the people of Kufa most of them were "Sunni" during that time. So most of them, they were either bribed off or they were either scared away into not going with Imam Husayn.

The true Shia in Kufa, the majority of them were killed or imprisoned for trying to go with Imam Husayn. So when I first learned about it, I wasn't saddened per se, it was more of anger that the ummah could let this happen to the Prophet's grandson. Someone that they claim to love, they could let this happen to them. And so many people, so many companions of the Prophet himself, were still alive at the time of the event of Karbala, and they didn't say anything, they didn't stand up against Yazid, the ruler of the time, but they just decided that they were just going to remain quiet and live in their homes.

When I first learned about the way that they wail and they beat themselves, at first I thought that this was too much like the man's already dead, there's nothing that you can really do about it. But then I started learning more and more about Imam Husayn and the more I learned about him, I understood why they do what they do. They have such a love for Imam Husayn that every time Muharram comes up or Ashura, they feel that it was just the same day or the day before that the Imam died. And this is such an accolade for a person to have that you can cry for something that happened such a long time ago. It shows almost like a purity in the heart.

Imam Ali to me is just a pillar of strength. When I say that I mean that his qualities, as there are so many, the times that he'd sit up in the face of adversity, it gives me a sense of I can do this also when I have troubles in my life. It was during and after the Battle of Khaybar when Imam Ali was feeling sick, he had an infection in his eye. And when he was brought to the Prophet Muhammad (s),  the Prophet basically cured him. And after that, Imam Ali had such a strength that he was able to lift the door of Khaybar. But then, after that, he went home to his wife Fatima (a), and he tried to break a piece of bread and he couldn't do it. And Sayyida Fatima said, you were able to lift the door of Khaybar, but you can't break a single piece of bread. His reply impacted me so much. He said, me lifting the door of Khaybar was for Allah but me breaking this piece of bread is for Ali. So basically, I try to take that in my life saying that I have to do everything for the sake of Allah, in order for me to truly be successful in my life.

A message I have to Sunni brothers and sisters, is truly try to learn what you've been taught, and analyze it and see if it's the truth. And everything you've learned about the school of Ahlul Bayt, throw it away, and actually learn from Shia scholars and see what they actually have to say.

This video was first published on 21 May 2018 by ABTV Reborn as Reborn - I have to hide my faith from my family. We are grateful for their cooperation.

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