Yusuf Bonner: My journey to Islam
I am Yusuf Bonner, a 46 year old English man who became Muslim in September 2007, Alhamdulillah.
I was born in Fulham, London and was brought up without any religious beliefs or education. However, I did have a sense of God from an early age; a vague feeling that God was there protecting me.
At the age of around 19 or 20, I began to seriously think about religion and spirituality, although these thoughts were often sidetracked by more earthly pursuits. I looked into many weird and wonderful philosophies for the next 10 years or so, what is termed “Neo-Paganism” or Wicca, as well as a vague interest in Buddhist meditation. Looking back, I can see that the pagan philosophies appealed to me because they largely condone the pursuit of carnal and selfish desires. It didn’t take too long to see through this, and so I found myself once more searching for the truth.
Around the age of 30 I studied Buddhism as part of a Philosophy/Theology degree course. For the next few years I practiced Buddhist meditation in various schools of Buddhist thought. Again, before long I became restless to move on, aware that I had yet to find the truth.
And so I found myself in a church, asking God to guide me. I quickly went from Church of England to the Catholic church, where I became involved with a Monastery. For the next 10 years or so, I worked and sometimes lived in the Monastery, sharing the life of prayer with the priests and monks. During those ten years there were a few ups and downs, but I was on route to eventually become a monk. Or so I thought. Allah had other plans for me. In the winter of 2006, I had what can only be described as a complete breakdown of faith. I continued to work in the monastery, but could no longer pray or attend mass. However, I was constantly asking God for guidance and help.(I lost my faith in the teachings of the church, but retained that feeling from childhood: that God was there protecting me).
And so Allah guided me to Islam without meeting any Muslims. I learned to pray initially from books and I read an English translation of the meaning of the Qur’an. These books were sent to me from another revert who I had spoken to online. May Allah subhanhu wa ta’ala reward them abundantly in this world and the next. About two months later, I went to my nearest Mosque and said my Shahadah, Alhamdulillah.
I continued to work at the monastery for a while, but it became increasingly difficult. I was reading my Qur’an with one eye on the door, in case one of the monks came to see me. And I had to pray in secret because it was not acceptable to them that I was Muslim. Around this time I read Surah Hadid, and came across ayat 27, which includes this saying ((“…but the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them. (We commanded) only the the seeking for the Good Pleasure of Allah; but that they did not foster as they should have done…..”)) (57:27 part of ayat). SubhanAllah! After reading this, I knew that I couldn’t continue to work there.
This was an enormous decision, as the monastery had been my home for ten years, and the monks had been my brothers for that time. I also gave up playing music in pubs and in public generally. So the change of life was quite extreme for me. In those early months there was quite a lot of temptation to go back to my old way of life, but after tasting the truth, there is no way to go back to living a lie, however convenient or appealing it might be.
Alhamdulillah, I was given the strength to leave my old life behind. There has been a lot of hard challenges along the way, but also many amazing things. By the Grace of Allah, and with the help of brothers from IERA (Islamic Education and Research Academy) I have been able to work in the field of Da’wah and in the support of new Muslims. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has blessed me in many ways. Of course, there continue to be problems and challenges: sometimes the challenges are almost overwhelming. But I retain an underlying knowledge that, Alhamdulillah, Allah has guided me to Islam. Everything else is secondary to that fact. My concern is now for those who are not yet Muslims, and for those who have recently been guided to Islam. There are many forces operating to lure us away from the truth. It is for us to “Hold tight to the Rope of Allah, all together, and be not divided among yourselves…” -Surah Ali-Imran ayah 103