Heart Soul – Episode 26

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Lauren Booth

Channel: Lauren Booth

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Welcome to hot and so on Qf radio with me Lauren booth, your place to reflect. Finding a faith during your life is something of a surprising element to look at from the outside. My own conversion to Islam was painted by former colleagues in newspapers as a failure to cope with the normal ups and downs of daily life. It's sometimes seen that men in their 40s get Ferrari's women in the midlife get religion. Well, talking to me today, about his own journey to Islam is the former jazz musician john Fontaine. JOHN is from the UK like myself, and he embraced Islam in 2008. He is author of Jesus and the Injeel, another word for the Gospels. Welcome, john.

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Welcome Salaam. Talk to us first about your life before becoming a Muslim. Because sometimes it can seem that you have to be really unhappy in order to be seeking something. Did you have this terrible, unhappy life? Was there a calamity that prefer you talk to us about who you were in your younger life? Yeah, I hear this quite a lot. And a lot of people presumed that I was that people who accept religion, later on in life, that they were somehow searching for something. And I don't think I was

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from a very young age, I used to go to church. And I always believed in something I always believed in the concept of a creator.

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You know, and growing up in church, sometimes it was a bit confusing, because I didn't understand some of the concepts of Christianity. And through my teenage years, I kind of moved away from religion, but I still had this belief in a creator. And I was of the opinion that religion is more of, you know, more of a way of the elite have managed to actually control the masses. You know, I thought, you know, I thought religion is manmade. But I actually believe in a God. And so through my teenage years, I got a job in in a club. And I ended up becoming a jazz singer.

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From the age of 14 to along the age of 2021. I was actually singing in jazz clubs and cruise ships. And can you tell us some of the talk us through some of the clubs that you were appeared in and who you worked with?

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Yeah, I mean, I actually signed in one Scots jazz club is a famous.

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It has a lot of famous jazz musicians.

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signed in the 606 Club in London as well. And these are like the two main jazz clubs, if not the two biggest well known jazz clubs in the world.

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I also signed in like I used to sing for,

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you know, in cruise ships. With I had, I had my own show at Manchester United ground with an 18 piece Big Band orchestra.

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And so I was I was doing quite well in the jazz industry. And I also signed with Jamie Collins jazz band. Ah, Jamie Cullum. Here, I actually released a song, which was produced by Ian Shaw. And this is my, my first original song. So I was I was actually working with the top guys in the jazz scene Really?

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Well, by this time, by the age of 18, as long as she saved quite a lot of money, but I decided I had not furthered my education on to university because I was actually busy in this dream in this jazz dream, and I was kind of like, Well, why do I need to go to university when you know when I'm making a lot of money and doing a lot of, you know, the on my chest. So at the age of 18, with the wealth I had, I started to do business in Africa and

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I actually applied for, to study diamonds with debeers in London.

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And actually, this is a five year waiting list to actually get on the course. Because the reason we teach four people a year and actually applies to the course and actually got it got on the course straightaway.

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And so I started to study diamonds as well, what was your What was your exact What was your exact aim at that point? De Beers? diamonds, you must have had a goal insight.

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Yeah, I mean, I was planning on and I'm trying to make as much money as I can, because I thought this would make me more happy, I guess. And, and so I wanted to learn diamonds. And actually I was I was already working in Sierra Leone, I was actually shipping cars to Sierra Leone, as I could say business. And so my intention was actually to get into the diamond industry. This was just after the war in Sierra Leone,

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things actually took a U turn. Because while I was traveling in West Africa, I came across Muslims.

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And as I mentioned, as I mentioned before, my perspective of Muslims in Islam before I was a Muslim, this is a distorted one, to say the least, where did you go? Where did you get your information from on on Muslims and the Islamic faith? Well, it was mainly through the media, through the, through the news channels, and

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the misconceptions in the media. And so I, you know, obviously after 911, and things like that, there is a lot of property against Islam. And so I actually, I actually had a bad view of Muslims. I mean, I remember watching the American troops go into Afghanistan thinking they're, you know, cheering them on, you know, thinking, you know, that, you know, let's get them all, you know, and, and, and I had to, I had all these misconceptions about Islam, until I went to Senegal and Sierra Leone. And what happened was my business where I was actually sending cars to Sierra Leone, I had, I had no money because all my money was tied up in my car.

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And so I was actually stranded in Senegal, and I had no money to stay in the hotel. So I spoke to the hotel manager, and he was Muslim. And he said, no problem, you can come and stay in my house. Now, there was a bit of a problem at the time, because I couldn't phone home, I was only 18 years old. But I couldn't phone home because my mother and father didn't know that I was in Africa.

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They were they probably would have killed me. That's a problem. Yeah. So I had to accept the invitation as a Muslim. And I stayed with him for a couple of weeks, you know, he looked after me. He and he gave me a good view of his farm, you know, he has such good manners. You know, and, and his best friend, one of his best friends was a Christian. You know, and this is the third time that I'd seen Muslims and Christians, you know, living side by side peacefully, you know, because all we talked about in the media is that Muslims and Christians, you know, don't this together, but this isn't the case. And

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and so I was very interested in learning more about the cultures in Africa and more about the religion and and I was very overwhelmed by Islam. So this is this sort of began my journey into into looking into the religion and this seems like a good point to take a break. You're listening to heart and soul on Qf radio. We'll be right back after this Sunday.

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When

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you don't know.

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You don't know.

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You gaze at the stars in the sky.

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At the mountain, so head through the tears in urine,

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looking for a reason to replace.

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Just remember, remember that you were never alone. You

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just reach into your heart and is

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you

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alone

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for some fusaro improved

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through happiness and peace, you will

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soon

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As you long for your

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prepare for your future, knowing nothing's gone.

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You see, this life is

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a straight and narrow path to find a bow, so travel well, Muslim, and paradise will be your home. And always remember that you will never know. You

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just reach into your head and is always there. You

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sorrow and grief, through happiness and peace.

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You

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just reach into your heart and is

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you

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alone

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sorrow and grief, through happiness and peace, you will

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welcome back to heart and soul on Qf radio with me Lauren booth. Joining me today is the former jazz musician and author of several books, john Fontaine, welcome back.

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So before the break, you had been stranded in Sierra Leone at 18 years old, you'd lie to your parents about where you were, and you'd stayed in a Muslim household and Islam, through the manners of the people had come to be not so obnoxious to you, shall we say? When was the moment that you actually made the testimony of faith? And how did that feel to someone outside of what is understood to be the culture of Islam? You will not an Arab, you weren't African? How did that happen? And what was the transformation? Like? Yeah, well, after my trip to Africa, I began doing more research. And after, after a couple of years, actually, I started to really realize that Islam is actually what I

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believe in. And I actually believed I was a Muslim. I started to fast. I fasted Ramadan, the whole month of Ramadan, on my own in my bedroom, without telling my parents. So you hid your Islamic face from your parents for a while?

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Yeah, I mean, we'll see I've not actually officially accepted Islam at that point, because I was, I believed in Islam. And as I said, I was fasting. I was trying to pray, you know, on my own in my bedroom, with YouTube videos, and things like that.

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But it wasn't until I actually went to Egypt, to see a friend of mine.

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On another business trip, where I had my first

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introduction to the mosque, and my friend who's an Egyptian, he took me into the mosque, either. Sorry, Allah is Hussein mosque in Cairo. And I asked him to teach me how to pray, you know, because I'd been trying to pray, but I didn't know how to do it. And he said, No. And I said, Why? And he said, Well, you're not a Muslim. But I'm argue with him in the mosque saying, well, I you know, I am a Muslim. I believe this and I fasted Ramadan. And you know, and he said, No, you have to say the Shahada. And I said, What is the Shahada? You know, because I didn't know what the Shahada was. And of course, in order for someone to come into the fold of Islam, it requires the testimony of faith,

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which is to actually declare, and to actually say that there's nothing worthy of worship except for one. And so acknowledge that Mohammed peace upon is the final messenger. And it's actually this statement that brings you to Islam. So although I was I had a Islamic belief beforehand, and of course, it would have been accepted by Allah. But officially, when I when I took the Shahada, this was a different experience, because I remember when, as soon as I studied, I just had this feeling of being clean, you know? And, of course, now, I'm a Muslim, I know that when someone does declare the Shahada, that all the previous sins actually forgiven and washed away. And, and this is the this

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year I felt very light, you know, and I felt very light and clean.

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And the only other time of me felt this feeling was a few years ago when they actually went to Hajj, you know, it's a very similar feeling, we know that they sustain

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the same reward when someone actually goes to the Hajj. So it's a very interesting thing, because many people have the belief in Islam, but it does require a bit more than belief. It requires actually acknowledging and, and of course, and the doing the, and the activities and the actions of the limbs and the actions of the tongue. Yes. So the Shahada is the first pillar of the face therapy five pillars, and one is to actually make that testimony that you accept nothing worthy of worship, then one God and Prophet Mohammed was the final messenger. I wonder, just in brief, john, before we end this episode, what changes did you want to make? And when we forced to make any changes did did

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the halau the Haram, police come and pester you to eat?

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You know, Dixie fried chicken?

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Or say the truth, I was very stubborn in the early days, we accepted Islam. And no one could could have even forced me to try it. Because I was quite stubborn. In the beginning, you know, I was I was still kind of playing around with my music and singing and in jazz clubs and things like that, you know, any takes time. You know, Islam is not something where you, you change overnight, you know, it's a journey. But john, can I can I just stop you there? Because I think it's important for people to say, look, jazz inherently isn't wrong. People do nice things, and they're in jazz music, and you listen to music, and you're good to your mother. What Why did you move away from your music? And how

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did it help you? What was that signifying? What was the importance of that? Yeah, I mean, it was the part of the important point was to actually let go of that part of my life, you know, I mean, whether someone views music is allowed or not allowed is one thing, hanging in jazz clubs with

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jazz dancers and jazz bands and things in casino, you know, it, you know, that certainly isn't allowed under any opinions of Islam. So I think as to me, it was it was hard to let go in the earliest, of course, it is my job as well, you know, it was a lot of, you know, is my income, and it was a good income. So that was another reason and it's easy for someone to say, you know, give it What, what am I How am I supposed to support myself, but humbler over time, you know, Allah replaced it with something better. And that happened to be a brain tumor, believe it or not, and it was actually

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I

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actually becoming a Muslim. You know, I found out I had a brain tumor, and I couldn't, I couldn't actually work anymore. You know, I had to take some time out for a couple of years, to three years, you know, to actually to, to rest and prepare for the operation, things like that. So this is kind of again, it was a calamity of what we see as a calamity. But it was actually there's a whole lot of wisdom behind that. You know, it allowed me to take some time out, research religion properly, and learn more and step back from the old things I was doing. I was doing final point, then john, slowing down, looking into something other than physical achievement, fame, taking ourselves being

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taken out of environments where, you know, you can like music, and it can do beautiful things to the heart. And you can meet people in different places, and they can be good for you. But as I know, having been a Barfly for almost 30 years, my previous life, there's a lot in these environments that is toxic for the heart. And we talked about celebrities in another episode, and on that lifestyle being toxic. How is your lifestyle fun today? How do you manage to be Muslim and enjoy life? Who has the power I mean, a lot of touch the, the man the face, even for happiness, the contentment in your heart, you know, is allowed me to actually find a new,

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a new, a new, a new journey, you know, and and at the moment, my journey is teaching people, Islam, you know, teaching people what I have, I have actually found in the religion. And and I truly believe, you know, this is the truth. And this is the way that people can gain true success and happiness. And so, yeah, I mean, now, I'm focusing on on just teaching people and trying to enlighten people to actually look into

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new things and

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Look into response specifically, john Fontaine, thank you very much. You've been listening to heart and soul here on Qf radio, whatever your journey is, wherever it takes you. May it bring you peace. The producer for this series is Ahab Usha Assalamu alaikum.