My first attempt to write down my autobiography was in 2008. Before that, I had always considered the idea of writing down my life story as a useless endeavor – the final result unsuitable to read by anyone with any intellect. I would waste hours and hours for something that would not benefit me in this life, or in the hereafter. An incident with the FBI was the first thing that changed my thinking.
I was interviewed in Jeddah by two FBI Agents some time in 2005. One of them; Special Agent John T. Smith, had come all the way from Albuquerque, N.M. for the chance to interview me. I knew this because the FBI called me on the phone weeks in advance and asked me if I agreed to be interviewed. They did this, I imagine before letting Special Agent Smith travel halfway around the world, only to have me refuse to be interviewed. The other Special Agent conducting the interview was a younger agent stationed at the FBI office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At the time, most American Muslim converts were either under surveillance or being directly checked out by the FBI. Anyone who had gone to, or had anything to do with the Jihad in Afghanistan was being interviewed, or worse. After September 11, 2001 I believe that all American Muslim converts became suspects in one way or another. We all had to be checked out. Not to mention that September 11 was the best budgeting tool that the US Government ever used. Virtually unlimited funds were assigned for tracking down “terrorists”. The FBI and CIA were the number one benefactors of this financial boon. All that money in the budget and almost no terrorists to track down in the USA… Every FBI office in all 50 states benefited financially, but where were the terrorists? I embraced Islam in Albuquerque, NM, USA. I can only imagine the frustration of the FBI office in Albuquerque, turning over every stone and only finding “mediocre” Muslims. Muslims who were only interested in paying their bills and surviving month to month. No big terrorist plots… All those useless phone taps. Recordings from the Islamic Center of New Mexico (1100 Yale Blvd. SE. Albuquerque…) that must have been quite boring… They probably couldn’t even entrap anyone, with offers of bombs and weapons (this later became the number one method of the FBI’s prosecution of Muslims “terrorists” in the USA. If they wouldn’t kill someone on their own, the FBI would offer them the tools they needed, free of charge via an informant or undercover agent, and give them a little push…). But in New Mexico, there was rumors of one convert from Albuquerque who had left the country in early 1992, headed for AFGHANISTAN!!!! Worth tracking him down, even if he hadn’t lived there for 14 years…
I especially had to be checked out by the Albuquerque office. After all, even my own mother had made reports to the FBI in New Mexico about me when I dared to leave America with my children in 1992. She was sure she had raised a terrorist. (come to think of it, I really was a terrorist, BEFORE becoming a Muslim!) She later reported my son Ja’far to the FBI when he started praying in the same Mosque where I used to pray in Albuquerque. I honestly believe that Special Agent Smith was using his trip to Saudi Arabia as a “feather in his cap”. That is why he made sure I would agree to meet him before he came. If he had had any real evidence of wrong doing, he could have easily had me sent back to the USA to meet him on his own turf. But that wouldn’t look as good on the resume’ as a trip out to Arabia. (the home of real “terrorists”). Put yourself in his position, all that budget money and no terrorists in Albuquerque whatsoever… So he interviewed all my family members, did a complete background check on me and parlayed all this into an overseas trip to SAUDI ARABIA – home of 12 out of 14 of the September 11th bombers (so they claim anyway…)!
When they called me from the FBI office in Riyadh, I was amazed that Special Agent Smith wanted to make the long trip, just to speak to me. I mean, I hadn’t lived in or visited Albuquerque for 14 years, what could he possibly want to know about me? Obviously, nothing that had anything to do with Albuquerque… I readily agreed to the interview. I have nothing to hide from anyone, then or now.
As it turned out, Special Agent Smith and I hit it off pretty well during the interview and in fact had quite a bit in common. We were both “old school” types that couldn’t help agreeing about so many things in life. After the interview, I understood that my “case” was closed. John had his trip to Arabia and he knew I was no terrorist.
In the “War on Terror” that the USA waged (and is still waging) against the “Muslim Extremists”, there are really only two fronts (two battle lines). Before some poor Muslim gets sucked into extremism, there are the Muslim preachers who propagate against extremism. I call this line of battle “education”. If you can teach a young Muslim about his religion before he gets too emotional to use his brain properly, then you stop the problem before it takes place. The second line of battle is “law enforcement”. Really, once a Muslim (or anyone else for that matter) steps over that line, and actually leaves to join some radical group, builds a bomb or prepares himself for killing someone, he should be stopped forcefully. If he has broken laws, he should be punished according to the law.
I am one of the Muslims preaching against extremism. First and foremost to my own sons and daughters, and then to Muslims in general. John Smith worked in the second group. So if you are smart enough to know what is really going on in the world, then you would know that we were basically on two sides of the same team, like offense and defense. The FBI agents who interviewed me seemed to understand this concept just fine. Muslim preachers (Imams, Dayees, speakers, etc) are much more effective in my opinion, because they stop the problem before it really starts.
Anyway, during the interview the younger FBI Agent made a comment that struck me as odd. I have forgotten his name now, but I still remember his face and his military demeanor. After the interview was maybe 90% over, he said: “Man, you should write a book about your life.” I was amazed hearing this idea from him of all people. People who work in law enforcement have very interesting jobs and hear all kinds of crazy stories. How could my life story be so interesting, especially to him? I asked him if he was serious and he replied “absolutely!” This comment got me thinking about actually writing something about my life. Maybe I could make some money, suckering Americans into spending their hard earned money on my pathetic story… I was not very confident about this, to say the least…
Western Muslim converts often hear this idea from other good hearted Muslims in the Muslim World. They think that if a convert writes his story (especially an American convert), it will convince other non-Muslims to embrace Islam. I have always expressed amusement at such suggestions. Knowing myself, knowing my very strong beliefs about Muslim dignity and knowing my personal prejudices, I always thought that such a story would have a negative effect on anyone who read it. I thought that the non-Muslims would never be attracted to Islam from my story. In fact, I thought it may have the opposite effect! Even many of my closest friends (of course Muslims) suggested that I write a book. They thought that my story was unique. How could a man go all the way from an atheist Biker, to a Fundamentalist Muslim? I still had serious doubts about the benefit of such a story…
I also felt that the Muslims will ridicule and blame me if I write about the really crazy parts of my life, thus exposing myself. There is an authentic statement made by the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allaahu ‘alayhi wa salaam) concerning this: “All of my nation will be forgiven, except those who expose themselves”. One of the meanings of this Hadeeth (saying of the Prophet) is that we should not tell other people about our sins. This is the opposite of the Catholics, who confess their sins to a priest. In Islam, we confess our sins only to God, Almighty. We also ask God Alone for forgiveness for our sins, as He alone has the power to forgive sins. There are other authentic sayings of the Prophet concerning converts to the religion of Islam, to the effect that all of the sins we committed before becoming a Muslim are immediately forgiven when we sincerely declare our faith in Al Islam. Some of our scholars have suggested that telling someone about a sin you committed before becoming a Muslim is not the same as telling them about any sin you may have committed after becoming Muslim. Whether it is permissible to tell about sinful things you did before Islam may depend upon whether or not you believe that it will benefit someone by making their faith stronger. Wa Allahu Alim! If I have exposed myself while writing this book, I ask Allah’s Forgiveness. If you are a Muslim, and after reading this book you think I have overstepped this boundary, then please make du’a for me and ask Allah to cover and forgive my sins in this life and in the hereafter.
Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Prophet of Allah (salla Allaahu ‘alayhi wa salaam) said: “There was a man from among a nation before you who killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the most learned person on the earth. He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the negative and the man killed him also completing one hundred. He then asked about the most learned man in the earth. He was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked, `Who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such land; there (you will find) people devoted to prayer and worship of Allah, join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place.’ So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, ‘This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,’ and the angels of punishment argued, ‘He never did a virtuous deed in his life.’ Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, `Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.’ They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul”. Hadeeth: Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim
In another version: “He was found to be nearer to the locality of the pious by a cubit and was thus included among them”. Another version says: “Allah commanded (the land which he wanted to leave) to move away and commanded the other land (his destination) to draw nearer and then He said: ‘Now measure the distance between them.’ It was found that he was nearer to his goal by a hand’s span and was thus forgiven”. It is also narrated that he drew closer by a slight movement on his chest.
This hadeeth tells a story about a man who wanted to change his life. Repentance and “Hijra” (leaving the land of the disbelievers and moving to live in the land of the Believers) have played a major part in my life also, as we will see… I only hope I can be forgiven as well…
The young FBI Special Agent’s idea was stuck in mind. It got me thinking that maybe my story would be interesting to other people. Then I realized that my children and grandchildren could learn their real heritage from such a book. But I was still not really convinced, and I only wrote the first page in 2008, starting the story in Pakistan, 1992. I intended to write the story moving it back and forth through my history to make it more interesting – and I still may write it that way. But I quickly lost interest.