Flipping through the aromatic pages of a new book that slides through your mail box – you know that feeling – is all the more exciting when it is a story of journey and reversion. In fact, it never ceases to excite and intrigue me how different souls come wandering back to their natural state of human being, to want to seek out servitude to the Creator. I believe what Tolkien said is right: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
I can’t simply review yet another story of reversion because they are all different and unique and deserve to be talked about in their own right. George (now known as Malik) is Greek and he hated Muslims; he couldn’t even fathom being in the vicinity of a Muslim. But in this personal fictionalised memoir, the author talks a lot about being caught in a conflict of identity as many youth are when it comes to growing up in a place where “freedom” is handed out on a silver plate.
Between discussing drugs; Greece; travelling in rented cars across the United States; reflections of the Ottoman empire; a close call with Freemasonry; coming to the Islamic world, or meeting the Muslim Brotherhood, a simple review wouldn’t capture this memoir. But I do notice these amazingly common threads in these types of journeys – fictionalised or not – and I hope these reflections do some justice to George’s journey to Islam.
Hearts of Rock
I never understood ‘Hearts of Rock’ in a positive sense. I always only imagined soft and pure hearts coming to Judgement Day in favour of Allah (SWT). But after some understanding, it’s only natural that hearts get hardened along the course of time, especially when one is immersed in desperate levels of fitna (temptations). Evangelatos starts off on a high note, glorifying indecencies, such as smoking and partying, but tones down to huddling when his cousin Payonathi, who was originally the epitome of the above, becomes a Muslim.
So here is the author – who despises Muslims – listening to the truth of Islam at the end of the first chapter without budging. That’s where soft knocks first tap on the heart made out of rock. One could think, “Yep, he would jump to Islam, and that would be the end of the story,” but the author paves out his route in his confused life, chapter after chapter, with subtle allusions back to Payonathi’s conversion.
Somehow when you think of da’wah in this sense – the words that we write, the messages that we send out, the conversations that we have – may all be knocks on hearts of rock, even if it may take years for a person to realise what is happening. It took Evangelatos that long a period, during which he explored possibly every avenue for faith, including nearly getting trapped in a Freemasonry cult. You never know, a heart of rock may experience its first softening and out gushes the water like the Nur of Imaan.
The Question of Qadr
This is a tricky one. For so many people, they question the belief in predestination. It’s perfectly healthy and normal in understanding one’s journey. I mean, if it’s already written for a person to believe, Allah (SWT) would never let the same person be led astray. And this is also true for the other way around.
Much musing tends to brew over this concept, and for many Muslims, you come to the realisation that it’s simply a concept beyond our intellect. Who would have thought this Greek kid, who was so immersed in his culture (with an anti-Muslim bend) in Greece, and so American in his thinking while living in the States, would even bother to search out the truth about Islam. He was completely unperturbed in the first chapter and was happy trafficking weed a few chapters later on – yet he had that inkling of Islam brewing within.
The fact is, he was looking for the truth even if it was in inconspicuous and strange ways. His conflict of identity, between being an intellectually charged college student, aspiring writer, and drug trafficking white rap artist who owned a gun, showed the unrest in his soul, but it also led him to search for deeper answers. It’s not uncommon even in the seerah to read of those who had some form of anger or anxiety brewing within them, and then it would eventually spew out in a traumatic event.
The Understanding of Intellectual Iman
This is something that stands out more than anything amongst reverts: New Muslims come to Islam with a refreshed view of the faith because of the many tireless hours and heaps of energy they have put into researching it. They don’t simply come to Islam because they were raised Muslim and concentrated solely on the spiritual dimension of faith. Intellectual iman is something that I’ve tried to implement for myself as well as my family, and I know without a shadow of doubt that building the intellectual foundation of iman is the foundation of the Islamic renaissance that will be seen amongst the youth in the coming years.
So what can I say? Our books never close, even when they are long? Between Two Worlds was a tale of many turns, junctions and pit stops that likely filled the author with regrets but also with essential experiences to bring him to the truth of the human fitrah. So while our books are still open, they should be written with good deeds. We are always inspired and intrigued by the journey of reverts, but we can and we should learn from their mistakes too as it’s harder for our slates to get wiped clean, especially if we slowly lose the softness of our hearts.
Maria Zain was a prolific contributor to SISTERS magazine, writing extensively about issues including parenting, inter-cultural relationships, homeschooling and homebirthing, and even Muslim fashion. In December 2014 Maria Zain died, insha Allah a shaheedah, related to birthing her sixth child, who survived. SISTERS magazine will always be indebted to Maria for the immense work she did for the magazine as well as for the SISTERS family as a whole. We ask that readers consider donating to a fund for her six children in hopes to help their father continue to raise them in the loving and deen-centered style the parents worked so hard to foster.
Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/mariazain