There’s a place in Quran where Allah says “He writes upon him his self-mercy!” and to me, that really is one of the most beautiful things. this idea that his core, his “Nafs”, he has like made it incumbent upon himself, to be merciful, that this mercy is his defining attribute and I think that is such a beautiful way of putting it on.
An Exclusive Interview with, an American revert, Mr. David Phillip O’Sullivan (Latif) by Rahyafte Radio Team.
Mr. Latif was born in America in 1982 to a Catholic family. He has a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, and he currently studies in Qom in the hawza. He accepted Islam when he was about 20, as a Sunni. 5 years later he accepted the teachings of Ahlul Bayt. His initial conversion to Islam was a result of reading Quran for the purposes of disproving Islam but after 7 reads cover to cover he could find no fault.
۱٫How did you become familiar with Islam? And what drove you to convert to Islam?
Some initial introduction to Islam was a friend of mine, brought me a copy of Quran. At that time is valued my opinion is for commentating on religious texts. So he brought me this Quran and he said, you know,” could you read it, and see if you find any problems with it? Maybe you might see something that I don’t!”
So, initially, it was somebody else seeking Islam that brought me a Quran and I need my initial intention going into Quran was to find problems with it. so I had started reading it with a highlighter and pen and I was making it up as I went and I would think I would find something like some sort of a problem with it, and as I continued reading them it would become more clearance, ok now that’s not a problem, and I went to the entire Quran, cover to cover and I realized I had nothing but I didn’t find any problems.
I thought “maybe I’d missed something.” so I read it again and again and over the course of several months, I had completed Quran seven times, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it, and that point, based on all the other religious texts that I had read, I had come to the conclusion that if God had made a book this must be his book, because this is the first time I’ve ever seen a book that was completely devoid of contradictions and your problems within itself, it was a truly a book that answers the questions and was consisting in it, and it seemed to me to be something beyond something normal men would do consisting to it that only we look at other texts that have been written by men or modified by men ,you can see the contradictions and they jump out of this was something they didn’t have those problems, that were with your mind national.
۲٫What attracted you towards the Shia school of thought?
So after I had accepted Islam, near was initially like this new shiny thing, like everything, about it was beautiful but I was always learning something new and I hadn’t had time to process everything. So the first few years this one I really started like learning more about the history of it, who the Prophet was? What his message was? About him as an individual, and the things that happened during his lifetime.
It was during that time, that’s when I really started developing questions. it wasn’t just the basic questions like who was the Prophet ,what has he done?, but I was like ok, now I want to know more about these events, more about this particular things, why certain things are the way they are, and what is the proof for it. in that time I was having a really hard time getting answers from the initial people that I had met when I did become Muslim, a lot of the answers were usually just something along the lines of this is something you should just accept, you don’t need proof for this or the proofs that they would give were out of the time, it in my opinion, kind of weak.
around that time I had met a particular brother and I didn’t know whether he was Sunni or Shia and he didn’t really say anything but he knew what I was and he started giving me some books to read, he gave me my first Tafsir of Quran, he give me a copy of Nahj-al-Balaghah and I started like reading his books and I was like “wow!” I mean my mind was blown by it, I had never read anything of that caliber before other than Quran, and prior to that and comparing the books I had originally read to these books that he was giving me, would have been something like reading Dr.Seuss books vs College textbooks.there was such a huge degree of difference in the information I was being presented.
This Brother had initially told me that he was studying from, and learn the most of what he knows from Islam, from a brother in Reno, Nevada named Ali Tezarvi (Rahmatollah-Allayh). There was Sheikh Abde-Makni up in the community of there, and he said you should go seek him out and talk to him and when I admit this brother you know he had the most eloquent answer for every question and I initially attributed to, this man himself is like a sign of Allah, he’s something special.
he told me that all this knowledge all of this is Teachings of the Ahlol-beit, this is the teaching of the school of Shia and I was like but they told me that Shias are Moshrekin and Kafarin, this is not the Teachings of some higher. This answered every question that I had and addresses of the doubt I had acquired that were making me question whether that “is Islam even correct?”
after so many years of practicing, I honestly absorb to particular individually Tezarvi and that he made it his life’s purpose to propagate the Teachings of the school of Ahlol-Bayt and always had his door open to anybody who wanted to come in and discuss it, had questions and I can’t begin to express how much I learnt from that experience, and how blessed I am that I found Ahlol-Bayt in this way.
۳٫How do you define or articulate the influence of the Quran on yourself, your personal life and your social life?
It is really a good question. um oftentimes I find my relation or how I would sit in front of Quran over myself my personal life, my social life, one of the names of Quran is “Zeker” [means] the remainder and I often find myself in situations and I’m not really sure what to do what the best course of action is or I’ve started down a course of action or pertaining to something in my life and then after that happens suddenly I remember something from Quran or I’ll be reading Quran and I’ll see how that applies directly to my life .
“it really is a book of guidance, for those who seek it!” and it really does have answers to everything no matter how big or small you can often relate something from Quran to your life, if you look for it anybody who wants to find the best path of action can find it in Quran.
۴٫There is a connection between your internal and existential need and converting to Islam. Do you consider it as a reason that nowadays we observe lots of people around the world turn to Islam and especially Shism?
I believe it it’s in everybody.it is like nature, the fitrah. The core, since that there is something more, there’s a reason why they’re here. it’s the internal part of it and then how exactly do I fit into creation, this world that I live in; why do I even have existence?; what should I do with it? But I find it depends on how people come to something that wasn’t at the except that is the reason for it, there’s a lot of different pads you can take to get to Allah.nand is just as many to get to Shia Islam for each person that I know, it’s different, for although the reverts to Islam, I talked to each one has a different reason for accepting this.
in the Teachings of Ahlol-Beyt I think at least for me, the most special thing about it is no this pure sense of logic like I in other religions that I’d seen or studied or been a part of, there is always a lot of Blind Faith and just accepting something without any good argument for it but for me it was conceived of monologue. Allah has answers for everything, he’s all knowing and you know he doesn’t want you to just blindly follow something, you should understand that you’ll be asked about that not just follow up because your parents did.
get some of my friends have accepted Ahlal-beyt and Islam, out of this concept of love that they see between Ahlal-beit, members of Ahlal-beit, this concept of love and like how the prophet treated others, different people come for different reasons and Islam has a door for everybody to come through if they can find it, if they’re introduced t properly.
۵٫What is the most beautiful Ayah of the Quran in your opinion, and why?
There’s a place in Quran where Allah says “He writes upon him his self-mercy!” and to me, that really is one of the most beautiful things. this idea that his core, his “Nafs”, he has like made it incumbent upon himself, to be merciful, that this mercy is his defining attribute and I think that is such a beautiful way of putting it on. that it’s something he made income it upon himself that he made it obligatory on himself to do this, that I don’t know, I just went in a lot of religious text not a place as you often get this idea that God is something somebody full of wrath, some entity that is just waiting to smite all of creation at any moment. I am against that idea; this is true, this is what you truly is, He (Allah) is Mercy and everything else stems from that one thing and I think it will be beautiful.
۶٫Depending on how many years/months you have been Muslim, can you tell us about your very first experience of prayer. How did you feel before and after your first prayer?
I actually remember my first time making Salaat very well, it was a lot of anxiety leading up to it like: I’m standing before Allah, this is something serious, I have to get this right , I have to get this perfect .but then I remember when I was actually doing it I was like this sense of calm and Peace, a kind of washed-over , and almost the sense of relief when I am finished making the prayer, it seems like it did something it’s a really gone away there’s always that sense of, this is something that must be done, this is something very important going into it, but then actually in the process itself is always that calming down and then that sense of Peace with the accomplishment of your completing the prayer, that’s something I’ve always enjoyed about Salah.
۷٫Please tell us about your very first experience of Ramadan and first fasting. What do they mean to you?
I actually embrace Islam and took my Shahada in the month of Ramadan. My very first Ramadan I was, I guess you might say something like “fortunate!”, that I didn’t have to do the entire month and the time of year was in where I lived in the world the days or a little bit shorter but I found it was much easier than I thought it would be, and it was always the beginning of the day was the hardest but as I got closer and closer to the Maghreb, it actually became easier and easier, to the point where, by the time that Maghreb and Isha had come in, I found I wasn’t hungry at all .
the experience itself, I get a lot out of it every time I fast, even from the first fast, the most predominant idea that I understand from this is :how amazing all this body that Allah made is, even we think we have to eat 3 times a day , this food is in something so detrimental to survival but it’s actually amazing how well-made structure that we’ll have it is and how long we can go without using, and how much we can accomplish on an empty stomach, and the other part of it, that was just about to me, when you take that off the table that you just know you can’t eat until this time, you spend this time thinking about it.
it’s amazing how much more time you have and how open your mind becomes to other thoughts, and other things you can be doing because you’re not obsessed with “what am I going to have for lunch?, what am I going to have as a snack before dinner? , what am I going to have for dinner? “But once you take it off the table that this isn’t going to happen whole to later in the day then suddenly your mind just has a lot more free time to think about other more important things.
۸٫What did you feel the first time you heard about the Ahlul Bayt (SAWS)? How do you see the character of Imam Zaman (ATFS)? What do you think of him? Moreover please tell us how you felt the first time you heard about him.
Honestly, it was very powerful when I first learnt about them because it was like this was the thing was missing , I had had Islam for 5 years and I had so many questions and there was so many like blanks that needed to be filled in and all the answers I was getting just ones sufficient, one recovering it and then when I had discovered the holy family of the Prophet, it is like fill all the blanks almost immediately and in a very short of time all these questions that have been bothering me and the lack of answers were driving me towards a decision to basically walk away from Islam . Suddenly this holy infallible family steps in, and that was the piece that was missing, it was like the missing link if you will.
It was the key that kind of unlocked everything and made everything understandable as to the final Imam, the 12th Imam, I see him as the completion of something. Allah had started this project even before we as a species existed, and this is something set in motion long before we could imagine.
It’s the fourth element of everything in this life, this point of existence. I think meeting him would be something to the equivalent of meeting any of the Ahlol-beit, all the way up to the prophet, to be in the presence of Masum (Infallible) to be able to seek his guidance and his wisdom and matters and to see your proper or Justice looks like his proper, administration and management of humanity looks like it’s something that I hope I live to see the day and I can’t wait for that day to come.
Remember the first time hearing about him, I was just like “why can’t this happen now? Why do we have to wait for this Imam? I’m ready for it now.”
” I looked around the world and I saw all the problems we have and I just look I have this longing for just to be resolved for us to move forwarding in find a better place and it is like a species and then you in the steps of Imam Zaman, this is the peace that you’re missing, this is what I compasses that and I I understand that when he comes back, prospective are developed .having a Masum (Infallible) to take the leadership, we’ve had that before, in our first Imam and it wasn’t perfect; you still have trials, you still have complications Human Nature steps in for everything beneath the Imam and in every position you know between us and him but having that Masum (Infallible) there to like condemned it, want to it appears, and fight against it and to give proper instruction ,is something that I think any human being and any like realistic human beings doesn’t enjoy chaos and doesn’t know to promote corruption, anybody would would long for that have a desire to see that happen, and would just really truly love the day just this Imam on returns to us.
۹٫If you could say some words about the beauty of Islam, the peace, the calmness you have found in this religion would you like to say?
For me the beauty of Islam comes in this idea of “Allah really wants to give you an answer to everything and give you a pass to achieve it”, and that idea you when I was between religions before I discovered Islam that I have only one life there is no reset button, there is no do-over, there is not go back. I want to make sure what I do is the most important thing I can do, and the best thing I can do, Allah blaze that passes for you then there’s that peace to me that comes and knowing that I’m doing the best thing I can be doing, and then at the end of it you know what I’m doing is something that is pleasing to my lord, pleasing to Allah, and even that if my path isn’t the straightest path and unify make mistakes on this path that in his mercy that he would he would fill in the gaps for me that was something that was beautiful to me about Islam, in so many countless hadith and how if at least your goal is to get to him, he would make it so that you got to him, if that’s what you wanted. That to me just gives a sense of Peace is a false sense of Peace that we know we should take advantage of that idea and be like “ok! Then I don’t even have to try. I just want to get to know you can make it happen”, but that if you want to get to him you if you really do want to get to him you will try and if you tried and he will make it happen. There was something so near about that, but it’s almost like taking a load off like I still have to try of it, it is like I’m going to make this objective.
۱۰٫What do you believe is the best way to promote the message of Islam to the rest of the world?
Without a doubt, the absolute best way to promote Islam around the world is for us as Muslims to practice Islam. Calling and inviting people with words is useless if your actions don’t match with things you’re saying.
I’ve often phone people or more interested and want to know about my religion when I have a good Akhlagh and my mannerism is the best of mannerisms and I practice Islam appropriately and treat people the way they should be treated then there’s an actual longing other people have liked the work I want that. going around and giving out books and speeches all of this is useless if your actions don’t match it; because some people look at this how is this any different from what we have it’s just some form of hypocrisy actions really as the saying goes actions speak louder than words.
۱۱٫What advice do you have for the Muslim youth in Iran and the rest of the world?
It doesn’t matter where you are, where you live, where you were born, what family you were born to, the best thing, the highest thing, any of us can strive to, is ” be the slave of Allah, Abdullah”.
I remember hearing that the day that Allah called the prophet “His slave” was according to the prophet himself, the happiest days of his life, he was so excited, when Allah called him that. and if we look at, we are really trying to emulate and be like the Prophet, then we should really take this into consideration oftentimes a lot of us take her own desires as our Lord, and we’re trying and follow these things instead of trying to follow Allah.
just live each day as though you were striving to please Allah, and don’t think what would I do that would make me happier, I’ ll I do, that would make my lord happier, what can I do to please Allah, and you might find a completely different direction in life, and the things that you were looking at before, you might find where are irrelevant now, then you will find a much deeper sense of purpose and a higher sense of contentment, and satisfaction with your life, if that’s the life, that’s the path you choose and let you make your life for pleasing Allah, as opposed to searching out and seeking the things that you want for yourself. That would be the advice of you to every Muslim on the planet.
۱۲٫Is there anything else you would like to add on❓
I would honestly just like to take this moment and be grateful to Allah for giving us guidance and insight and purpose and existence, really. I mean everything we have we owe to Allah, we should always remember that and always be grateful.
One thing I found interesting in my studies is this word “gratitude” in Arabic “Shokr”, the opposite of Arabic,”ingratitude” is “Kofr” like “disbelief” so that in this language Allah chose to reveal his religions.
not being grateful is tantamount and equivalent to not believing so I always like to take every opportunity to be grateful to Allah, and into the means by which he gives us what we have, and anytime we find ourselves like in anything that we won’t recognize that, we should be grateful to Allah, to the means which He sent it to us, for instance; I’m going to be grateful for the fact that He gave us this Divine holy perfect religion and I’m going to be thankful for that.
DUA: Allah please accept this from us. You are All-Hearing and All-Knowing. You are The Most Forgiving.You are The Most Relenting and repeatedly Merciful. Allah grant us The Taufiq to read all the 5 prayers with sincerity.
(Taken from: To Be Earnest In Prayers By Amina Elahi)
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