In the Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful
CHOOSING ISLAM: ONE MAN'S TALE
I became a Muslim when it seemed I had already accepted Islam in my bones,
as if beyond choice, and I only had to make a leap to embrace it formally.
Outwardly I was content; inwardly I was coasting. My three-year-old
theatre company was disbanded after a hilariously chaotic production for a
Tim Leary Benefit at the Family Dog in San Francisco, circa '68 --
naturally the orange juice everyone had passed around was spiked, so that
chorus members were doing the final scene in the first ten minutes -- and
for six months I had been methodically typing out poetry manuscripts in my
attic in Berkeley preparatory to a big publishing peak.
I considered myself a Zen Buddhist. But I was other things as well. My
normal routine was to get up, sit zazen, smoke a joint, do half an hour of
yoga, then read the "Mathnawi" of Rumi, the long mystical poem of that
great Persian Sufi of the thirteenth century.
Then I met the man who was to be my guide to our teacher in Morocco, Shaykh
Muhammad ibn al-Habib, may Allah be pleased with him. At first the meeting
was simply remarkable, and my guide simply a remarkable man. But soon our
encounter was to become extraordinary, leading to a revolution in my life
from which I have never recovered and never hope to.
The man looked like an eccentric Englishman. He too had only recently come
out of the English version of the Hippie Wave. He was older, refined in
his manners, spectacularly witty and intellectual, but of that kind
prevalent then who had hobnobbed with the Beatles and knew the Tantric Art
collection of Brian Jones firsthand. He had been on all the classic drug
quests -- peyote in the Yucatan, mescaline with Laura Huxley -- but with
the kif quest in Morocco he had stumbled on Islam and then the Sufis, and
the game was up. A profound change had taken place in his life that went
far beyond the psychedelic experience.
For the three days following our meeting, two other Americans and I
listened in awe as this magnificent storyteller unfolded the picture of
Islam, of the perfection of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, of the
Sufis of Morocco, and of the 100-year-old plus Shaykh, sitting under a
great fig tree in a garden with his disciples singing praises of Allah. It
was everything I'd always dreamed of. It was poetry come alive. It was
the visionary experience made part of daily life, with the Prophet a
perfectly balanced master of wisdom and simplicity, an historically
accessible Buddha, with a mixture of the earthiness of Moses, the
otherworldliness of Jesus, and a light all his own.
The prophetic knowledge our guide talked about was a kind of spiritual
existentialism. It was a matter of how you enter a room, which foot you
entered with, that you sipped water but gulped milk, that you said,
"Bismillah" (In the Name of Allah) before eating or drinking, and
"Al-hamdulillah" (Praise be to Allah) afterwards, and so on. But rather
than seeing this as a burden of hundreds of "how-to's," it was more like
what the LSD experience taught us, that there is a "right" way to do things
that has, if you will, a cosmic resonance. It is a constant awareness of
courtesy to the Creator and His creation that itself ensures and almost
It is hard to put forward any kind of explanation of Islam, to try to
suggest the beauty of its totality, through the medium of words. The light
of Islam, since it is transformational and alchemical in nature, almost
always comes via a human messenger who is a transmitter of the picture by
his very being.
Face to face with our guide, what struck us most was his impeccable, noble
behavior. He seemed to be living what he was saying. Finally the moment
came, as a surprise, when he confronted me with my life. "Well," he said
one morning after three full days of rapturous agreement that what he
was bringing to us was the best thing we'd ever heard, "What do you think?
Do you want to become a Muslim?"
I hedged. "It's the most beautiful thing I've heard about so far. After
all my Zen Buddhism, all my yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu gurus, this is
certainly it! But I think I would like to travel a little, see the world,
go to Afghanistan (then unoccupied), maybe meet my Shaykh in a mountain
village far off somewhere."
"That's not good enough. You have to decide now. Yes or no. If it's yes,
then we start on a great adventure. If it's no, then no blame, I've done
my duty. I'll just say goodbye and go on my way. But you have to decide
now. I'll go downstairs and read a magazine and wait. Take your time."
When he had left the room I saw there was no choice. My whole being had
already acquiesced. All my years up to that moment simply rolled away. I
was face-to-face with worship of Allah, wholly and purely, with the Path
before me well-trodden, heavily signposted, with a guide to a Master plunk
in front of me. Or I could reject all of this for a totally self-invented
and uncertain future.
It was the day of my birthday, just to make it that much more dramatic. I
-- Abd al-Hayy Moore
Mr. Abd al-Hayy Moore has two books of poetry published by City Lights
under the name Daniel Moore. He's traveled extensively, living in England,
Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria and Spain. Mr. Moore is a talented writer and
poet, and has turned his talents in writing for Islam. He is a contributor
to "The Minaret" and other publications. His more recent publications are
"The Chronicles of Akhira," "Halley's Comet" and Holograms. His writings
and publications may be obtained from Zilzal Press, 126 North Milpas
Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, U.S.A.
Published with the permission of:
1) Whole Earth Review
27 Gate Five Road
Sausilito, CA 94965
2) Abd al-Hayy Moore
The III&E is grateful for his kind permission.
Reprinted from Whole Earth Review No. 49, Winter 1985
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