Converted / reverted at the age of 15 to Islam

Rafiq Tschannen, the Associate Chief Editor of the Muslim Times, third from the left at age 18 years approximately

My ‘way to Islam’ was already published in the article ‘Glimpses into the life of a global nomad part one’ (see: ). In this time and age the article is a bit too long for the ‘modern’ reader.  Therefore I bring you here separately the part of my conversion / reversion to Islam only.  Your Editor Rafiq A. Tschannen

OK, so I got lessons about Christianity:

“In the beginning there was God. And He was the Lord. And then 2000 years ago he got a son and now the son is the Lord.”

I questioned the Sunday School teacher: “What happened to the father? Is he now retired?”

Of course the answer was just that I should not ask stupid questions.

“In the beginning there were Adam and Eve. They committed a sin and God gave us the ‘inherited sin’. The human race from then on was born ‘in sin.’ And then God sacrificed his one and only son to save us from this sin that he had given us in the first place.”

My question to the priest why God either did not give us the inherited sin in the first place or just simply forgave us was answered by the priest as follows:

“Well, you know, during my studies in the seminary I had many sleepless nights about this very same question.”

At another time during a boy scout outing we met a Catholic Boy Scout group that was headed by a Catholic priest. He said let us take the occasion of meeting between Catholics and Protestants for me to explain to you Protestants some differences between our religions. He explained:

“When you finish your education you will need to find a job. You will want to ask the Managing Director of a large company to let you get a job there. It may however not be easy for you to even get a chance to speak to the big boss. However, you may have an uncle who is already working there. You will therefore approach your uncle to ask the big boss to let you enter the company as well.”

“And that is why we pray to our Saints, which we know are already in heaven, to intervene on our behalf with God the Father to let us enter heaven as well.”

My thoughts, when I heard that: God has created the whole universe, all the stars and suns, all the animals and plants. He makes the day and the night, but he has no time for us individually now, because he may be too busy like the Managing Director of a large company, which, compared to the Universe, is of course just a small dot.

In other words: When I started thinking independently at the age of about 15 I realized that I cannot agree with the teachings of Christianity. In other words I suppose one can say that I never was a Christian.

I then started to look around what other religions were teaching. I checked the library for Hindu and Buddhist literature. I could not really get any sense out of what I read there. And then I got my hands on a German translation of the Holy Qur’an. When you get a Qur’an in your hands you will automatically first read the first Sura:

In the name of Allah , the Beneficient, the Merciful.
[All] praise is [due] to Allah , Lord of the worlds
The Beneficient, the Merciful
Lord of the Day of Judgement
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path –
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who have gone astray.

When reading this first Sura (chapter) of the Qur’an it just made plain sense to me. He is Merciful. He can forgive and does not need to sacrifice a son to forgive us. (Blood sacrifice, like the native Americans in South America?) And we pray to Him and ask Him (directly) what we think we need. There is no need for ‘in-between-Saints’.

You can say that I already felt a sense of satisfaction when reading this first Sura. As the second Sura (chapter) is a bit long, but the last chapters are short, I think most readers will first glance at the last few Suras. So I came across this one:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One,
Allah , the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

Ah, exactly! This is what I thought! “No one is equal to Him”! We cannot compare him to a ‘father’; we cannot compare Him to a ‘Managing Director’.

Consequently we can say that I converted to Islam after reading the first Sura and after reading the 112th Sura. Or that is why Muslims say ‘reverted’, as in a way I was always a Muslim and just realized it when I was able to read this Qur’an.
The German translation of the Holy Qur’an, which I had found in the Swiss Central Library, was published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission. There was a stamp in it with their address in Zurich. I had to of course return the Qur’an to the library and therefore I wrote to the address in Zurich, asking them whether they could send me a copy. As I was 15 years old I told them that I had no money and would pay them ‘one day when I had money.’ Sheikh Nasir Ahmad, the Missionary at the time, was of course pleased to send me a copy.

The reaction of my parents was interesting.

My father, being very religious in his Christian Pentecostal way, read the whole Qur’an. I asked him what he found wrong and his answer was: “There is nothing wrong in it. And this is exactly the trick of the devil, because in the Bible it says that ‘no one comes to the father but through me (Jesus).” Consequently although there is nothing wrong with the teachings of the Qur’an, as the Muslims do not believe in the ‘sacrifice of the life of Jesus on the cross’ they will all go to hell. And he wanted to go ahead and burn the Qur’an.

Later on one of his Pentecostal priests told my father that Muslims, if they live a good life, could enter the lowest stage of heaven and then my father relaxed a bit.

In a way actually my father and I had more in common then my father had with my other brothers. My father did not drink any alcohol and neither did I, while my brothers did. My sisters Ruth and Elisabeth were the only one who carried on the tradition of being active members of the Pentecostal Church. Elisabeth was more active than Ruth. The other brothers and sisters are ‘normal Swiss Protestant Christians,’ meaning that they went to Church as kids for the ‘Christening’ and eventually also took their children there. However, the next time they went to church was for their marriage and the last time for the funeral.

When my father wanted to burn the copy of the Holy Qur’an my mother showed how ladies in fact are more pragmatic and think more logically. She told my father that this was useless because our son will just buy another one and consequently it was a waste of money. (Although at the time I did not even pay for it yet).

As a summary to this chapter therefore we can conclude that I in a way did not yet study Islam in great detail nor, from an adult point of view, did I study Christianity in great detail. But I felt that in order to convert to Islam I did not need to study in all its particulars. The general idea was sufficient. The message of Islam was clear and was sensible and logical. The message of Christianity seemed to me confusing and illogical.

The simple thoughts were as follows:

In the beginning there was God, which the Muslims call Allah. He created the whole Universe and all of us. From time to time he would send His Prophets as Messengers to mankind, to keep guiding them on the right path. The Jews say that God sent Prophets to us from the beginning of time until about 3000 years ago. Then He stopped. The Christians say that God sent Prophets to us from the beginning of time until about 2000 years ago. Then He stopped. The Muslims say that God sent Prophets to us from the beginning of the time and then, 1400+ years ago, came the Prophet Mohammad to bring us the final message, the Qur’an.

The difference between the Qur’an and all other religious books is that the Qur’an is still now available. The latest discovery of an old Qur’an manuscript at Birmingham University confirms the words of Allah in the Qur’an where He says that He himself will safeguard the text of His book. The old texts found are identical with the Qur’ans in large circulation today.

The Jews say that their Prophets were only for the Jewish people and the Muslims also believe that all Prophets of the past were for particular people. Mohammad (peace be upon him) was the only Prophet sent to the whole of mankind. Why the difference? It was now ‘technically possible’ to have a final message, because now the final message could be copied and distributed world-wide (up to the Swiss Central Library and beyond).

Later on the question arose whether I should join the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community or ‘just be a Muslim’. Well, which Muslim? Even in Switzerland there were in later days Muslims who followed the Imam provided by the Turkish Embassy. There were other Turks who had another Imam, because they did not want to follow the one provided by the Embassy. Then the Arabs had an Imam provided by some Gulf State and another one provided by Saudi Arabia, etc. It therefore was not so simple to be ‘just a Muslim’. One had to decide where to go.

As the first translation of the Holy Qur’an in German that I got my hands on was from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community it was natural that I would also look at their teachings.

And how did I understand the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community?

First of all just to point it out: The teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are the teachings of Islam. Simple.
Ok, The members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have some small additional / different details in their beliefs. One was that their founder, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, may Allah be pleased with him, was the awaited Imam Mahdi and also the awaited Messiah – the return of Jesus. He combined these two ‘functions’ or ‘job descriptions’ in one person. All Muslims do believe that Jesus did not die on the cross. The majority of Muslims believe that Jesus did not die and was ‘taken up to heaven alive’ and will return in the later days. (Some Muslims, like Ahmadis, do believe that Jesus must have died, as all humans do, including the Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). The majority of Muslims believe that Jesus will return one day and the Imam Mahdi also, but that these will be two different persons.

Another difference in the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is that Jesus was crucified but did not die on the cross. He was taken down alive. The story of the Turin Shroud actually would be exactly in accordance with the teachings of the Ahmadi-Muslims, that Jesus was alive when taken down from the cross, as shown by the blood still flowing out of his body. The Ahmadi-Muslims then teach that Jesus went to Kashmir to preach to ‘the lost sheep of the tribes of Israel’.

Walking all the way from Palestine to Kashmir? Sounds far-fetched? Yes, sure, but well what is the alternative: Going alive behind the moon or to heaven is a lot further than Kashmir. Consequently the teaching of Jesus having escaped to Kashmir is still more logical. It was logical that he had to leave Palestine, as otherwise he would have been caught again by the Romans and the Jews.

The Ahmadi-Muslims teach that their founder came ‘in the spirit of Jesus’, sort of with the same ‘job-description’ and that the functions of ‘Messiah’ and ‘Mahdi’ were represented in one person, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at (Community). Again this made sense to me. How could a ‘Christian’ (Jesus) and a Muslim, the Imam Mahdi work together without clashing?

Consequently the claim of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) made sense. He stated clearly again and again that he was just a simple servant of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him), that he did not bring a new book or law but simply taught us all the purity of Islam and the purity of the message of its Prophet (as).
This was in line with Prophet-hood itself, namely that Allah sent His messengers from the beginning of time until the present time, because being Merciful He wanted to keep giving us the chance to be rightly guided.

And Allah’s care for His creation continues through the institution of Khilafat. Allah’s favor on His creation continues.
My thoughts: If God is there and kept in touch in the past he will be keeping in touch with us at present. That is all logical thinking, according to my views.

Consequently I felt that if God existed then, yes, Islam would be His living religion and Ahmadiyyat his favored community.

Further happenings in the world just re-enforce this belief. See what is happening in the world: The Khalifa of Ahmadiyyat continues to work for peace while others are trying to be Khalifa with terror and murder, which definitely has nothing to do with Islam (or any other religion for that matter).


Suggested reading and viewing

My Journey to Islam – Myriam Francois-Cerrah

1 reply

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this account. It makes complete sense.

    I too, arrived at Ahmadiyyat through similar reasoning, but from another Shia sect rather than out of Islam, Alhamdulillah for God to have shown me the right and correct path.

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