From the Mosque to McDonalds
April 2013

Near the end of a recent CelebrateMercy online broadcast, someone typed in the chatroom: “Someone here just took the shahada!” At first, as the live moderator, I didn’t notice and continued with my closing remarks on webcam. I was then distracted by rapid messages of “ALHAMDULILLAH!’ and “ALLAHU AKBAR” in the chat room. I then read the amazing news: A Canadian webcast viewer decided to become Muslim at the end of the program. Holding back my tears, I congratulated him publicly as the global audience showered him with welcoming words. What’s more amazing is his personal journey to Islam and the lessons in it for all of us.

Jay’s Journey

jayJay comes from an Evangelical Christian family. In fact, he mentioned that one of the reasons he began doubting his church was because he felt that they preached hate each Sunday, especially towards Muslims. Everything he believed about Jesus’ loving character was contradicted by his church’s preaching. Jay told me that his family would disown him if they knew he has now become Muslim.

Years ago, Jay decided to explore other religions. He visited a mosque in Winnipeg. Not knowing proper mosque etiquette, he walked right in without taking his shoes off. Immediately, four men noticed this and began to shout at him, one of them even calling him an idiot. Yes, an idiot. They drove him out of the mosque and since that day, he was quite scared of Muslims. They turned him off from asking the questions he had about Islam.

Jay frequents a McDonald’s in town; he often noticed a Muslim man who would do his work there on a laptop. What surprised him about this man, Dave, is that he wore a “Muslim hat” and “dressed like Jesus.” And he seemed happy all the time, always smiling. He was clearly different than the Muslims he had met at the Winnipeg mosque. Jay mustered up the courage to approach him and ask the questions he had about Islam.

Instead of simply answering Jay’s questions and continuing on with his work, Dave stood up and bought tea for Jay. He then sat with Jay and kindly addressed his questions. Jay learned that Dave was a half Swedish, half Native American convert to Islam (married to a Sudanese woman). Dave had recently heard about the upcoming CelebrateMercy webcast. So he invited Jay to his home to view it together with him. He knew that the webcast was a great learning opportunity and Jay accepted the invitation.

On the day of the webcast, Jay noticed that he was not the only invited person. Dave also invited two other non-Muslims and a Moroccan Muslim friend. As the webcast went on, video by video, Jay was very touched by what he was learning. Not only by the speakers he was hearing, but by the sense of community he felt with viewers who were watching and chatting from all over the world, united in their love of and longing for the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Everything he was learning on the webcast was the exact opposite of what his church had been teaching him about Islam.

Jay was particularly impacted by Dr Tariq Ramadan who opened his eyes to the true meaning of “jihad.” Until then, Jay believed that jihad only meant “holy war,” a commandment that each Muslim must fulfill. He was also very moved by Dr. Umar Abd-Allah who spoke about the Muslim migration to Abyssinia and how they lived in peace and honored their Christian neighbors. By the end of the webcast, when he heard the talk by “that Yusuf guy” (Yusuf Islam), Jay was in tears. He felt a deep love for the Prophet Muhammad. He told Dave that he was convinced of God’s Oneness without partners “just as the Ten Commandments say.” And that Muhammad is God’s Messenger. He entered into Islam and excitedly informed the entire webcast audience in the chat room.

Jay later told me that for the longest time he had not been happy. He works multiple jobs and long hours to provide income for his parents and sister’s education. He even found it difficult to smile. But after embracing Islam, he was overjoyed. He’s now eager to learn more about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and Islam.

What lessons can we learn from Jay’s story? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this note. I will share one lesson below:

Make Your Mosque an Oasis of Mercy

A non-Muslim man once entered the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque (masjid) in Medina; he entered the prayer area and began to urinate on the floor! In shock, the Prophet’s Companions were ready to physically assault this man, angry that he was disrespecting their sacred space. The Prophet, peace be upon him, commanded them to stay seated and stay calm, allowing the man to finish urinating! He then asked his Companions to clean up the mess themselves. What happened next? The Prophet ﷺ gently asked the man to sit down with him. In a few beautiful words, without any harshness or condescension, the Prophet ﷺ taught him the etiquette of the mosque. This man, struck by the light of the Prophet ﷺ and his beautiful character, became Muslim immediately.

The question for us is this: How would the attendees and leadership of your own mosque react if something similar happened? We saw what happened with Jay; he simply entered a mosque with his shoes on and was shouted at and insulted. This harsh, insulting reaction could have permanently cut him off from Islam forever. Our beloved Prophet ﷺ said: “Be gentle; for verily, gentleness is not part of something except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from something except that it disgraces it.”

We must learn to make our mosque like the Prophet’s Mosque, an oasis of mercy. Anyone who enters the mosque should feel at home there. All who entered the Prophet’s presence as seekers would leave enlightened and uplifted.

May God forever showers Jay and Dave with His Love and Mercy. May He adorn us all with Prophetic Patience and Light every single day. And may He send peace and blessings upon our Beloved Prophet Muhammad in each and every moment until the Last Day.

Tarek El-Messidi
Founding Director, CelebrateMercy

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Source: Facebook Post