Posted by: Abrahim | 28/01/2009

John Pugh

My Journey to Islam

by

John Pugh

My journey to Islam commenced somewhere in my Catholic roots. I was born and bred in Toowoomba Queensland. Every week I attended mass with my Mother, Grandmother and Uncle. My Uncle, a committed traditional catholic, was a huge influence on my faith life and for much of my childhood I followed a strict Catholic tradition.

In 1984 my life was shattered with the death of my Uncle, and I became more involved in the church. In my last remaining two years of school I became involved in youth groups, vocation councils and parish activities. After school I worked for four years in a local clothing store and at night went to every church youth group meeting that I could attend. You could say I was a Catholic junkie. During that time I learnt a lot about the history of the Catholic Church and also learnt that the Catholic Church was full of inconsistencies. However I had a dream that I wanted to work for the Catholic Church so in 1991 I applied to go to University to study Education. I figured that with an eduction degree and my history, I might pick up a youth worker job. Over that time I was still involved in the church helping to form youth groups and becoming involved in the St Vincent de Paul Society.

I went to Melbourne for a month to do a youth worker course (sponsored by the local parish) and studied basic theology. I left University and picked up a teaching position in a Catholic school in Stanthorpe, it wasn’t youth work but it was a start. After two years (1994, 1995) I applied for a diocesan-based position, working with intellectually disabled people. In this position I was able to attend many in-services on the Church, Jesus and God. What I began to discover was just how much the Catholic Church had lost hold of its grass roots, and had became institutionalised. I found that even two parishes in the same town disagreed with the nature of “Church” and Jesus.

While I was working in this position I met my wife, a convert to Catholicism. We were married in 1997 and in early 1998 we had our first daughter. After two and half years working with disabled people the funding ran out, and I was offered a teaching position in a local Catholic school, until the end of 1998. All dreams of working as a youth worker in the church were crushed after that and I began to suffer from depression, although I did not know it. In 1999 I worked at another local Catholic school and had another daughter, but it became evident by the end of 1999 that I could not keep on teaching. Subsequently I was offered a redundancy package, it was then that I lost all faith in the Church. I thought it was depression, yet it was something deeper. Little did I know my wife was beginning to have her reservations about the Catholic Church too. I managed still to attend my church, but it was no longer the same. I had faith in God, but what was this Church that Jesus had begun?

My studies have revealed a church that was made by men and riddled with corruption, and often threw out those who questioned it, or were a burden, and this is where I was. Truly it is said in the Qur’an: “Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return” 30:41.

My wife already had questions; she found that she had become part of a church, full of inconstancies. She too had a faith in God, but she had studied Islam while studying religion at U.N.E. In this she had found a religion that had faith in God, preached peace and equality for all and wasn’t afraid to answer a lot of the hard questions; unlike what she had found in Catholicism. In 2001 she became a Muslim, about a month before I did. She began wearing a hijab and covering.

My turning point came about one month after my wife unofficially reverted. During that month I had become very disappointed in what my church was, and during a sermon the priest said “If all Christians treated each other with respect we would not have so many divisions.” It was then the penny dropped. All Muslims treat each other with respect, men and women have equal status and there is no hierarchy. Is it not said: “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware”? Glorious Qur’an 49:13.

I discovered that I have lived with a lot of Islamic ideas: I always gave what I didn’t need to the poor; I al-

ways had faith and lived my life according to God’s will, and I always saw people as equals. All of mankind is from Adam and Eve – “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action. I learned that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone,” was the message given in the Farewell Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).

All my life my God was leading me to Islam, I just didn’t know it. My wife had already been in contact with the president of the Toowoomba Islamic Society, Dr Shahjahan Khan and on June 16th 2001 he and his wife came over to our house and witnessed our Shahadah, together. Praise be to Almighty Allah Who alone leads and gives Mercy and Light.

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