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My Path to Islam
Channel: Boonaa Mohammed
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My name is brother Buddha, Mohammed, people know me, I guess as a spoken word poet, you know, slash performance poet storyteller. Actually, you know, have an oromo descent. My ancestry is the oromo people in Ethiopia. We're actually the largest ethnic group in all of East Africa. A lot of people don't know that about us. But I'm not Somali, just in case you're wondering if you think that as well. And hamdulillah my parents, you know, left Ethiopia as political refugees, they were escaping a civil war that was taking place in the late 70s. And they migrated to Egypt and from Egypt, they went to Canada. And so I was actually born in Canada. So how many non Canadian, African Muslim
hamdulillah but Islam is really the focus of my life? Can you tell us a little bit about you, so before you basically started practicing Islam, you're coming from your background, etc. Yeah, the area that I grew up in, in Toronto wasn't, you know, I wasn't a bad bad area. But it wasn't an area by which, you know, a lot of people had direction in their lives, I grew up in an area that was actually very diverse, one of the most diverse areas in Toronto, where I had, you know, a lot of friends, which were, you know, Italians Portuguese, I went to a Jewish elementary school populated area, a lot of my friends, I grew up down the road from Ashley little Jamaica, the highest
population of Jamaicans outside of Jamaica. So that was, you know, my influence was this, you know, very multicultural, diverse background. But unfortunately, I didn't grow up with a lot of Muslims. Even though I was from a Muslim family, there wasn't a strong Muslim influence. And, for me, it was very easy to identify with, you know, other groups, because, you know, when you come into these places, you know, even though I'm originally from Ethiopia, to them, I was just black. That's all I meant. So being black men that, you know, I had to be like, the blacks that I knew, which were the Jamaicans and the West Indians, and, you know, people of that background, who, you know,
unfortunately, were not Muslim. And so they really shaped my understanding of life. And so I grew up in a very confused like, a lot of these youth we see nowadays very confused as to my identity, you know, was I African was I black was I Muslim was i, this was I that was a Canadian was I you know, and so, I think like many youth, I really found my identity, you know, shifted from like, day to day, you know, this day, I was with these people. And then when I played soccer, I was with my Italian friends. And then when I went to parties, I was with my white friends, and they all went, you know, down the road, I see all my Jamaican friends and, and I was humbled that my family did,
you know, I did go to madrasa I went, you know, on the weekends and learn the Quran, but just the weekends wasn't enough, you know, I'm saying the weekend thing it was, wasn't really working for him, because I would be just even more confused as to who I was. So that eventually ended up, you know, leading me astray and leading me to a direction where, you know, I completely just forgot about my Islam, I completely forgot about everyone I was with and the things that, you know, I really kind of took as a religion was like hip hop. You know, hip hop became like, a religion for me. And this is a very sad and scary thing to say that it is a dean of a lot of people, you know,
and people say, and if you're familiar with the hip hop lifestyle, you know, that hip hop, it, you know, it's more than a music, it's more than just music, it's a culture, you know, it shapes the way you dress, it shapes the people you hang out with, it shapes your language, it shapes your culture. So in many ways, it becomes like a dean, it becomes like a religion. And so this was the earliest sense of religion that I had was the street culture, hip hop, you know, I'm saying breakdancing, graffiti, emceeing, all that kind of stuff that was really, you know, my introduction to life. And that's, you know, how I live my life for quite a while. So
hamdulillah my parents were always big on education. So one thing that, you know, I never took for granted was the fact that even though I was in the streets, and I was mingling with, you know, people that I shouldn't have been with, I still stayed in school Hamdulillah, I finished my high school. At the top of my grade. I actually was the valedictorian of my graduating class, I was the one who gave the commencement speech on behalf of the graduating class. And people knew me as a joker, people knew me as somebody who, you know, was fun, and I was loud. And I like to, you know, like to be on the stage. At that point, I was doing a lot of theater, and I just kind of just barely
got into writing. And I started, you know, performing my raps and the things that I was, you know, accustomed to at that time.
I have a theory.
I think that if we just taught kids how to be themselves, then we would have no need for therapists or prison cells, because you see in school, I was the token black guy, and to fit in, I would do whatever it takes. But Black History Month was the only time that I could get a date.
We have a tendency to fear what we do not know because sometimes the scariest thing that you can ever hear in life is no no you
You are not popular and No, you are not cool and no, you will not become anything, even if you finish school. You know, it was wasn't until you know, there was paddle. I remember in high school, particularly the end of my high school years, there was one brother, and one Somali brother, Mashallah, who was on deed and this was a very strange for us because, you know, a lot of us even though my last name was Mohammed, you know, people didn't really think of me as a Muslim. And remember, this was like, right after 911 so I was living You know, this was like 2001 2002 was when I was like, in my high school days. So I remember at that time, you know, people would start saying
things like, you know, all these Muslims are like this and like that, and me not knowing anything really about my own religion, I kind of just remained quiet, you know, because I didn't want to be you know, I don't want to be made fun of I don't want people to start you know, making fun of me and assaulting me so I just became one of those, you know, from hemorrhage to most you know, I just really became a mo I became quiet and I really felt you know, that sadness in my heart like even now to this day when I look back because I remember that was our brother this one Saliba, Mashallah, who, you know, will try and gather the the few Muslims that were in our school, he tried to set up
with like a Juma prayer. And, you know, many of us didn't really take it serious. And unfortunately, you know, I really kind of, I found it hard to, I felt like, at some point, I was too busy trying to impress my non Muslim friends to, you know, embrace this Muslim brother, who was trying to give me dollar was trying to, you know, kind of call me back to what was true. And it became, you know, even harder for me as I graduated from high school, and I went to university, because in university, obviously, you're met with so many different cultures and lifestyles, and people are really, at that age feel like they're free. You know, this is the age when you a lot of people leave their parents
house, they go live on campus, a lot of people start, you know, going to parties and start doing things that they wouldn't have normally have done. And in that age, you know, like, scan a lot, like a lot of kids, you know, I felt even more lost when you start mixing in with the party scene. And you start, you know, I mean, brothers know what happens when you you know, see girls on the road and sisters start getting picked up by guys and, and it was, you know, a big fitna for Miss Pamela. And I really found myself caught up in a lot of bad relationships. And I made a lot of bad friends who, unfortunately, you know, were part of my Deen that I had, you know, developed at that time, the
religion that I was falling, which was like this hip hop, lifestyle, street culture kind of urban thing, which unfortunately, you know, didn't really do much for me in the in the long run, because a lot of those brothers and sisters, you know, they didn't really have my back in the end. And there's a lot of things that I went through, that really helped me, you know, show me the light, these people weren't my real friends. And, you know, that was kind of that was their stadium laughter You started to feel to yourself that, you know, what, I'm a Muslim, this this lifestyle that I'm living is not correct. Did you ever start to feel that that?
Yeah, you know, what, as I was growing up, and again, I was talking about, you know, what was happening in the, you know, Canada, US post 911, where a lot of people started attacking Islam. And these attacks were so bleak. I remember being in high school, and you know, there was a law class I was taking, and there was a debate and people were talking about, you know, whether women should be, you know, whether women should be taking off hijabs, and passport pictures, and I remember, you know, getting really heated with people. And at that time, I really, I knew in my heart, that Islam was the truth, I knew in my heart that this there was only one God, and that, you know, this was the
correct path. And I wanted to, you know, speak up about Islam. So I secretly, you know, I started learning and researching on my own, and even though I wasn't confident enough to come out and start, you know, battling people or telling people off, like, I just needed to learn enough that I could be basically, in a private conversation explained to somebody that look, this is actually not what Islam says, you know, Islam is like this, Islam is like that. And I remember I'll tell you one story is kind of that really, I remember was a big change point of my life. Because even though at that point in my life, I started identifying more as a Muslim, but post 911 if your last name was
Mohammed Colosseum Muslim, it didn't even matter if you're practicing, you weren't practicing, right. But I remember one time I had a law, I was with some guys, there was some some guys that I used to hang out with. And,
you know, that time, you know, I'm ashamed to say, but like I used to, you know, I used to indulge in certain activities, you know, whether it be partying and you know, the type of lifestyle that comes with party, the type of things people do extracurriculars that people do. And I remember I was, you know, doing this particular thing. And, you know, a guy asked me, he's, like, you know, how many are you a Muslim? And I was like, yeah, I'm a Muslim. And he's like, but Muslims don't do this. It says that Muslims don't act like this. And I said to myself, well, you know, I didn't, I was just embarrassed. I was really embarrassed for a non Muslim to tell me that, you know, I shouldn't be
partying and I shouldn't be out and I shouldn't be doing this. It really was a blow to my ego. Because, you know, I felt like even this person knew that Islam did not condone my behavior. So you know, if this was correct, and what type of person was I? And a lot of times when the truth comes our way you know, as Muslims sometimes we take offense to it when somebody might give you advice or somebody might say to you, you know, Brother, you know fear a lot brother, sister, you know, you shouldn't be doing this. Sometimes our own knifes our own egos, we'll take the best of us and we will not take that advice sincerely and instead
Just take it as a personal attack. And I felt like the Muslims that I knew that were around me were just like that, you know, there were Muslims that would attack you. And I remember, I hated going to the machine. Because the machine that I went to that sometimes I used to braid my hair, and then I used to have long hair, and you don't probably don't believe in now. But that time, I used to have long, long, long hair. And I used to braid my hair. And I used to come to the machine, like for a gym, or you know, for eating stuff like that. And the way the uncles used to stare at me the way everybody used to look at me, like, you know, look at this Brother, why does he look like that he
looks like a Kaffir. And I say, yo, buddy, you guys, I don't want to come in this building, I don't want to be around people who are gonna treat me and look at me a certain way. And they're not gonna, you know, give me the respect as a Muslim. And so that was enough incentive for me to stay away from the massages to stay away from the house of Allah. And this is a type of Tao people are giving back then. And you still see it to this day, you know, you might see a sister walking the machine without a hijab. And you say, oh, sister, what is she doing in here? How can she come in here looking like that. And you think you're so spot on law? Is the machine not the place for the sick people to go to
is the machine not the place is you know, are these not the 100 people whose hearts are away from a lot that they should be getting closer to him. And so, you know, I really identified as a Muslim, but I hated Muslims, I loved Islam, but I really was not fond of the Muslims themselves. And hamdulillah you know, I really took the time out on my own to try and learn Islam, you know, free of cultural interpretations free of people's own, you know, understandings and misinterpret misinterpretations of the deen and I tried my best to you know, actually read the Quran. A lot of us you know, in our lifetime, I think very few people have actually read the entire Koran even in your
own language in English from front to back. Very few people have actually read the entire book. And so I took it upon myself, you know, one year that I said to myself, you know, what, in this Ramadan, it was in a month of Ramadan, it was the beginning of Ramadan. And I, I really said to myself, you know, what, once one year, I'm going to actually, you know, learn to pray, because, I mean, first of all, I didn't know how to pray as a Muslim, you'd be going to the masjid, you know, you'd be going for a salon and you say a lot, but when you go down is you just feel like you're just a robot, you don't really know what you're doing. And so I really had this connection that was lost panela You
know, this was one thing in my life that was missing and and, you know, a person who prayed and then hasn't prayed will know this feeling, you know, because the Salah becomes something which is like, you know, your heartbeat. And imagine, I just, I felt the need to get closer to last month, I didn't know how I didn't even know where to begin. I didn't know which books to read. I didn't. And and it was really sad to say, I know, I'm rambling. But you know, the brothers that I knew to be practicing the people that I knew to be like, good Muslims. To me, they were just nerds like I couldn't understand I couldn't really sit with them. I couldn't they didn't look like me. They didn't talk
like me, they didn't understand where I was coming from. They didn't see the lifestyle that I lived before to understand the scrub the struggles that I was going through, even for someone like me to pray or too fast, it was a big deal, you know, to drop everything you were doing. And that's why I felt like I felt like a revert. Because I really was coming from a very, very far distance from the dean. And the people around me were not very supportive. And it had a lot to do with my friends. Because the people I mean, my non Muslim friends, they couldn't care less. They thought it was strange that I, you know, didn't want to smoke or I didn't want to drink or anything, they thought I
was something wrong with me. And then the Muslim people that I was trying to connect with, you know, they thought I was you know, I looked strange because I had braids in my hair and they thought that, you know, my parents were a certain level of my password to saggy so they couldn't really check me either. And it just became a big fitna for me, but you know how many laughs slowly and surely I started coming closer in my own way. You know, one year in the month of Ramadan, I really tried to commit myself to you know, making this Ramadan the best one possible and for me that really involved you know, first of all learning how to fake because I didn't know how to pray correctly. And you
know, it's a shame to because you're Muslim your whole life, but you don't know the basics. There's a lot of things that I didn't know I didn't know how to pray I didn't really know how to fast I didn't really know you know, the basic fundamental pillars of Islam so that you remember one of my cousins he sent around a video just like for people that you know, he thought might need it and it was just like a guide to pray. So I said okay, handy. Let me watch this video. Remember studying it like it was an exam, you know, okay, he goes up, he says, send me a love hula, just knowing these things from my childhood but just trying to refresh my memory. So handy. Let you know, I tried my
best in that month, too fast. And you know, an actual fact fast, which was not just overstraining from food, but it was restraining from, you know, from idle talk, it was restraining from looking at things I shouldn't be looking at restraining from you know, you know, doing all the things which you shouldn't be doing. And I remember that month, you know, I had an iPod I gave it away, you know, you have a girlfriend, you dumped your girlfriend, this is the month where Mashallah, you went hard. And I'm saying try to put everything aside for the sake of last panel down and that month, you know, really did a lot for my life because I remember that's the month when I really established my Salah,
and I you know hamdulillah I don't think that from that day till now I've ever missed a salon. So that was like a big, you know, a big, big positive for me and it really helped impact my life. And after that point, you know, it became so much easier to paddle and they always say that the signs of an accepted on a bond is when you continue the things you were doing in the
month of Ramadan. And for me it was, you know, a huge changing point in my life and I almost felt like this huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. Because at that point I remember I wasn't I was living on my own, I was living with my parents, I was, you know, I was just really, really frustrated it and my heart just felt really, really sick. And I remember after that month, kind of like, during that month, just feeling this sense of relief, slowly feeling as though the pressure was releasing and slowly feeling as though I had purpose and direction in my life and getting an idea of you know, who I was and what I wanted to be, and really putting away all the people around
me, you know, not caring for what people said, my own friends started, you know, basically, you know, they started making fun of me, they started telling me that what I was doing was weird and mind you they were non Muslim, so they didn't really understand anyways, and for me, it was important that you know what, forget them forget you I have a last panel with Allah and Allah azza wa jal is the only one that in my life really mattered. And for me that was a big turning point in my life because you know, that month of Ramadan particularly was a time when I decided to change my life around and you know, to this day have the lights you know, been similarly put on the same path.
But this world is full of signs from the moon to the stars in the sky from the bees and the bugs like seed and your blood like a fiend or drug makes you need to look up and question yourself why you deal with the stuff when your spirits are crushed, then you trek through the rough but like thunder, it struck said Be and it was all the signs that were said they did finally make sense. You feel the torment. So you need to repent when your heart is cemented sod is a brick because your soul is worth more than the dollars and cents. All the money in the world couldn't buy you happiness, because verily it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts do find rest? Was it like now
practicing the deen? Are you better now? Or will you better off before? People don't realize, but Islam in itself is not meant to be, you know, just a set of boring rules that you follow. And it's just this tradition, and you wear this thing and you do this and you go like that. And no, Islam is actually a guiding principle is to help shape a person's life. And it's not like the rules we know of in our everyday society in western world that were just made by men. And today, they like them tomorrow. They don't like them. So they change them. Notice that was designed by the one who designed everything, right, the creator of all created Islam as a perfect methodology for living
your life. So well lucky, this Dean for me has been just that, you know, and I always say the statement, people don't understand me, but I'm not a religious person. I'm very rational in my thinking. And for me, Islam is the rational choice. Because you understand, you know that, okay, you know, we shouldn't drink alcohol because A, B and C we shouldn't eat pork, because ABC, you know, we shouldn't be doing this. Because then every rule of the law, we can come up with rule, we can come up with reasons why you shouldn't be doing it. But the real reason why we live the way we live is because our last panel has asked us to that's it. That's what it comes down to, you know, the little
bit of knowledge that I have now tells me that I should be accepting and understanding the things that I don't understand. Because I know that these this this set of rules, this law, this lifestyle that I have been given as a choice is not for my burden. It's not to make my life miserable. But instead it's to help me in so many ways and will likely that's exactly what it's done. You know, I have clear focus and understanding. And you just think the problems that you had yesterday, if you look at them through your Islamic eyes, right, we look at them to the the I guess, metaphorically the eyes of the deen, everything becomes clear. Whether it's you know, poverty, whether it's
suffering, whether it's pain, whether it's joy, whether it's happiness, whether it's marriage, whether it's divorce, whether it's death, whether it's life, all these things have a perfect understanding. You know, I know the reason why I'm living the way I'm living, I know the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing and what I'm not doing what I'm not doing, right, this religion, for me, is more than just, you know, a set of rules. It's a lifestyle choice that has been given to me by the one who knows what's best for me. You know, just like as a parent, you would look after your children, you would tell your child you know what you got to drink your milk and your child might
not understand the child might say, I don't know why I have to drink milk. I don't know, I have to read. I don't know why I have to go to school. We are that child sometimes because we as Muslims are just as human beings, sometimes we don't understand, you know why these things are put in place. But Islam for me has just really given me a purpose and an understanding of why I've been put on this earth and there's nothing more beautiful than you know, a clear mission statement. Everything you know, can get people's lives can get very blurry and you can sometimes forget, you know, the reason why you're being tested or the reason why you've been given this wealth of the reason why you know,
you haven't been given this spouse or whatever it may be, but as Muslims hamdulillah we say in the bad we say a hamdulillah and the good we say hamdulillah everything hamdu Lillahi Rabbil aalameen because the last panel Allah is the one who loves us more than we love ourselves more than our parents love us more than our mother loves us. A las panatela loves us any trial. I've gone through my life now as a practicing Muslim. It makes sense. You know, any good that's come to me as a practice.
Muslim makes sense, I know how to do it, I know how to deal with it. And this was not what my life was like before things would happen to you just you'd lose your mind. You know, things would happen, that would be bad, and you would not know how to take it, things would happen, that would be good. And you would just think so good of yourself. And it just extremes, you know, Islam is the middle, Islam tells you to understand that look, you know, if something good happens to you, then you should thank the last panel down and you should have, you know, you should basically take that sugar and you should act upon it. And if something bad happens to you, you should say, you know, I haven't
done that you should turn back to last time, you should have settled with what Allah had patience with the last time I was given you. So this to me was like the the polar opposite of what I knew from before. And it really, you know, I can't stress that enough. It gave me direction. And it gave me a purpose to my life, which you know, I didn't really have before striking the day.
They say that I came from slaves.
And still being a slave is something that would make me shame.
To Shay omae, you would actually be amazed to know that we are all slaves. But in what kind of way.
I mean, some people submit to cigarette smoking five times a day, and some people worship money only to see it go away. A couple people put their faith in whatever the weatherman say. And some people even prayed to the sun. But I wonder who created the sun anyways.
You know, the last time he taught us that you are on the religion of your friends, you know, you were on this lifestyle of your friends. And I think that this advice, you know, the process of them gave us is so print in our times, because many of us shoes are friends, like we choose, you know, basically cereal at the grocery store with really not much choice, just whatever looks appealing at the time. But imagine that you know, the person who wants to get married, you know, when you're looking for the right wife or husband, you know, you're gonna start inquiring about this person's background, you want to know about their family, you want to know about their religion, you want to
know about their wealth, you want to know everything about them. And this the person who you know, you're going to be spending the rest of your life with when we're looking for friends, you know, we don't really care. You know, I've known this guy since I was two. I've known this person since I was 10. Or this person has known me since then. And so that becomes a reason why you're friends with this person. But you know, to be honest, I think that we have to start choosing our friends like we choose our spouses, you know, your friend should be a top notch quality. Your friend should be a or a pluses only, you know, because if you're with somebody who's not going to make you a better
person, and that person unfortunately is not a friend that you should be taking. We need to learn to have friends who don't want to just be friends in this dunya but they want to be your next door neighbors and gentlemen, how many friends do you have like that? Friends? They're going to remind you brother, sister, Fear Allah, brother, sister, let's establish the Salah. How many friends are you going to have that are going to tell you brother and sister that what you're doing is wrong? I don't think that's a good action. You know, unfortunately, many of our friends have just become people that we know. And when I started practicing, and I don't want it to sound like a you know, an
arrogant thing, what are what I had to cut a lot of people off. And you really have to sometimes you know, you got to figure out what is your priority? Why are you on this earth? And what are you doing? And how long are you going to be here for and you can have time to mess around with people who don't have your same agenda, agenda and priority in mind. And so brothers and sisters my advice to you is to pick your friends wisely. And make sure that people you're surrounding yourself are people who are going to remind you of a last panel to Allah in good times and in bad and ultimately you know, these people who you're with are going to shape your identity and if there's somebody some
brother or sister who you think is not really doing that well then you know it's okay and shall be that support system for them. But don't allow your core group don't allow the majority of your friends to be people who you constantly have to give down to know be amongst the people who will give down to you as well inshallah and you can grow as people so brothers and sisters in Sharla I hope that this advice you know sincerely works in penetrates your hearts and you know inshallah you will be my friend in this world and you will benefit me I will be your friend in this world inshallah we will be the best and friends in the hereafter in Jenna from dos inshallah, I like to
give a big Sokoloff And a big thank you and shout out to roadside to Islam, for all the amazing work they're doing. And may Allah make this act heavy on all of our skills, good deeds in shot law. This is your brother Boehner Mohammed signing off to Second Life in Santa Monica Obamacare