REVEALS Why He Left Christianity
Channel: Tom Facchine
File Size: 19.90MB
I was involved in Bible study and the church choir and all sorts of extra activities that were going on.
I got my first Bible when I was 12. And then when I became a teenager,
things changed. I started to question my faith. Okay, wow, these people aren't who they say they are. There's a lot of people out there who are putting on a face that they're very religious, and then they come and they're doing not very religious things.
You know, this stuff is not for me, I identified myself as an atheist. This is all just fairy tales. People tell each other to kind of make themselves feel better. They're going to die. Their existence is going to end.
It's an American brother, Tom, thank you for accepting our invitation. We are very happy to have you with us. I want to start with who is Tom Facchini Polycom salaam Rasul Allah Rafaela. Thank you so much for having me. I'm from New Jersey in the United States of America was born into an Italian American family. I'm 33 years old, raised as a Christian. I accepted Islam in 2010 2015. I went abroad to study Islam in Medina, and I returned in 2020. And I'm now an imam in upstate New York in the city of Utica. How was your life in regards to faith? What were you believing in? So I was raised a Christian in between two traditions of Christianity. My mother was a Protestant, a
Presbyterian specifically. And my father was from a Catholic family, although he didn't practice. So because my father never really took us to mass or to church. My mother kind of took responsibility for that. And she was very keen. She took us to church every single Sunday. And I was very passionate about it, too. I insisted that we would sit in the front row, I was involved in Bible study, and the church choir and all the sort of extra activities that were going on. I remember I got my first Bible when I was 12. And I tried several times to read it from front to back, even though I was never successful. I tried. So I really cared about my faith as a young person. And then
when I became a teenager, things changed for a couple different reasons. I started to question my faith. So what were the reasons that made you question your faith? There were some political issues and also some theological issues as well, that didn't sit right with me. I think my experience is typical of a lot of people, at least in the United States, is that what we get stand up and say what we believe when we repeat the apostles creed, or the Nicene Creed is one thing, and then how we actually live our faith and interact with our our religious practices and an entirely different thing, right? So I can't ever remember once in my life praying to Jesus, though, I know that there's
people out there that do, I didn't really have any sense of Jesus being God, even though if you had asked me, I probably would have said, Yes, that's the right answer, because that's what we were taught. But it wasn't like I was praying to Jesus or thought of him as God, I was always praying to God, even if I considered it at that point as God the Father, right, what the in the Christian formula would say, the Trinity against something that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, but I didn't really think about it. It wasn't until I started having the other issues with Christianity, like the political issues and kind of the social issues that I started also reviewing those things,
and starting to think, Wait a second, this doesn't make any sense at all. And that I think, was part of what really undermined my belief in Christianity, specifically, seeing that how I suspected that this was probably something that was authored by human beings, right, this type of sort of convoluted system of balance between three and one and divine and human. It didn't seem very intuitive to me. So what was the final thing that made you leave Christianity? So the Presbyterian Church, they have a youth conference every three years, it's called Triennium. And how it works is that every Presbyterian Church, they choose one young person from their congregation, and they send
them to a place I think it was Purdue University. So I was chosen from my church to go to this sort of event. And it's a week of like worship, and you stay in like the college dormitory. So it's this kind of really interesting experience. But when I went there, I think I had the expectation that this was going to be mostly based on faith, and mostly based in sort of connecting to God and worship and this sort of thing. And I was very disappointed. Actually, there were a lot of bad things that the other young people were doing, they were sneaking in alcohol, they were hooking up, you know, girls, and boys and stuff like that, and doing all these sorts of things. And I was very
innocent at that time. And I was very shocked. And I think that really started to get me to question some things. Another thing that happened at the same conference was that this was a time when movement towards homosexual marriage or homosexual unions were starting to happen the United States, and there was a presentation that was given that was very much a pro LGBTQ message. And that was very controversial, even among the people who are attending this gathering at the time. So the two main things that I walked away from this entire experience with was that okay, wow, these people aren't who they say they are. There's a lot of people out there who are putting on a face that
they're very religious and then they come and they're doing not very religious things behind everybody's backs. I think the last piece of the puzzle for me was that I never felt like what I was doing for my
Faith was enough. I felt like it wasn't sufficient just to show up once a week and sing some songs and then go home and you forget about church and you forget about God the rest of the week, it didn't feel like it was thick enough, like it was weighty enough. And so all these sorts of things, I just kind of came to the 16 year old conclusion, right that, you know, this stuff is not for me. And I came to actually have a very, very low opinion of religion, I identified myself as an atheist, I thought, this is all just fairy tales, people tell each other, or they tell themselves to kind of make themselves feel better, they're going to die, their existence is going to end. So how did your
journey to Islam start? When did you first hear about it? I first heard about Islam itself, probably from 911. But it didn't register with me all of what that meant, again, I thought about Muslims as kind of like a political category or a population, I didn't really come to think about what Muslims believe in in a substantial way, until I got to college actually actually had a Muslim professor and I started to learn it was kind of a happy confluence between two interests that I had. So one of those was these politics, and then sort of what was the political motivation, or what was the engine of a lot of political movements in the Middle East and in the Muslim world. So I was a political
science major, and specifically international relations. And so I had one professor, actually, she was a visiting professor, she was Moroccan, she taught several courses that were very, very interesting about sort of the intersection of Islam and politics. One class that she taught was just about Malcolm X, all of his interviews and speeches and writings and things like that. And another class that she taught was about military interventions in Muslim countries through this, you know, we kind of we're studying some of the Resistance movements historically that have happened, I kind of for the first time saw that, okay, what was motivating these people, because if you're from the
West, if you're maybe an American, you think that everybody just believes in freedom and liberty and these sorts of democracy, right? These sorts of political ideals that we imagine are universal. And then it's kind of a big shock, when you see that some people are saying, well, we want to live in an Islamic society, or we don't like you know, this intervention. And Allah said this in the Quran, or there's a hadith, the Prophet Muhammad sites, and I've said this, and they're using that as like, wait a second, you guys can't come and invade us or, you know, bomb us or kill us or we're bound or we're duty bound to resist. And so that really messed with me. And that kind of shocked me, to be
honest. So what happened that attracted you more to Islam, I took a class at college that was by a professor I was very close to was called political modernity in Turkey. And that was kind of an interesting class. It got me close to kind of some Turkish culture. Actually, I ended up going down to Paterson, I would pass through Paterson, New Jersey on the way to visit my parents, and Paterson, New Jersey has a very large Turkish population. And so it was kind of because we were in this class, and we would go down there and buy Turkish tea, and we bought the jazz vai and Turkish coffee and these sorts of things, and kind of bring it back. And it was kind of a fun thing. But that was kind
of our first experience. After the class was over. You know, we had the opportunity through this professor, there was an Erasmus program to study abroad in Turkey. And so actually, my future wife and I decided to both do it together. And that was 2009. Okay, so this is just the year before I took my Shahada. So we came and we studied that build the university and for a semester, and we lived in Iskandar and we just had the best time. I mean, it was just amazing. Some of the kind of young students at Boogie, they were concerned for us, because we lived in Euskara. You know, they said, You guys aren't Muslims, you're gonna get hurt, they're gonna do something to you. And we
found the opposite, which was true, you know, people were so nice and so helpful and going out of their way. They were people in Michigan. At that time, if we needed to pay a bill, or we needed to find a converter for our plugins or things like that, they would stop everything that they're doing, and they would be with you and go with you through the alleyways and find what you need. And it was really touching. It was really an amazing experience at that point. And, you know, I used to be a musician before, before I was a Muslim. And so I played a bunch of instruments and things like that. I just remember listening to the event. And especially in Israel, you have all these massages, all
these mosques that are just around, and I would cry, to be honest, I would hear the other end. And I would just cry. It was just such a beautiful thing. I just opened the window and just listen. And I felt this tension because I wanted at one time to go in, but I was too shy, and I wasn't ready to become a Muslim or anything like that. And so when the term of study was over, and we went back to the United States, I was very close. I think I was very, very on the way to becoming a muslim. And I started experimenting with Muslim worship, I started experimenting with the prayer, the Salah, and with fasting, and I loved it. What convinced you that Islam is 100% the truth? For me, the big thing
was looking into the authenticity of the text. That was something that was important to me from the beginning. And so I was very concerned about okay, is this actually what the Creator said? Is this actually what the Prophet Muhammad SAW? I said, I was given I knew the changes that happened in the Bible, I knew that different things were added and subtracted reinterpreted over the hundreds of years. Was it the same in a snap? What about the Hadith? How certain can we be that hadith are actually things that the prophets I seldom said himself, but I got to a point quickly, when I looked into those things, I was like, wow, yes, they take authenticity really, really seriously. I think
you can even just tell the difference in attitude.
If you try to talk about authenticity with a Christian, it's like they look at you like you're speaking French, like, What are you talking about? Like, it's not even on their radar about what authenticity would look like, how would we know? How would we be able to tell this book is actually preserved in this book isn't? They'll just say, Well, you can't have such high standards. You know, if you have standards like that, you'll never accept anything and will say no actually will accept the Koran. Because because of the Koran, we actually know the names of the narrator's that pass down the real way out to the Quran. Or we can go to the manuscript evidence, there's over 50 manuscripts
that can be carbon dated back to the time of the Prophet SAW, etc, that represent over 97% of the Quran that we have today. So there's actually a ton of evidence. How did you take your shahada and how did you feel? So when I graduated, I was praying five times a day, I was fasting. I didn't take my Shahada. I didn't understand that there was a shahada to take. I didn't know what the shahada was, I understood myself as a Muslim. So the Moroccan professor that first introduced me to a snap, she called me up out of the blue one day and she said, Tommy, you're a Muslim, right? I said, Well, I pray five times a day, and I'm doing this thing I said, yeah, she's like, have you taken your
Shahada? I said, What's that? She said, she was giving at a conference in Philadelphia, she said, Come over to one of the machines here and take your Shahada. I said, Okay, so we all got in the car, me and my wife. And at that point, we had given birth, we had our first son, and we went over to the mesquite in Philadelphia, and I went down to a basement and I, you know, said the shahada for the first time, the feeling was kind of mixed, because this was not a place that I had any connection to before I kind of flew in blind and knowing what I know, now, as an Imam, I can criticize the way that they did it. Because they took me down to a basement alone with with one person I didn't know
who he was, what his name was, was he the Imam, I didn't I don't think he was. And he kind of just said a few general things about Islam. And then I took the Shahada. And that was it. I never heard from that person, again, didn't exchange numbers, nothing. So I had absolutely no, I just found my own person got the shahada point in the bag. And that's it. The other thing that was problematic was, you know, I think the attitude that a lot of people have towards new Muslims in their family. So as I mentioned, I mean, my wife was not yet a Muslim. And upstairs while I was down in the basement, taking my Shahada, there was someone talking to my wife, and basically another woman who
was also a convert what was kind of scaring my wife a little bit. So she asked my wife if she was ready to convert, and my wife said, No, I'm not, I'm still thinking about it. You know, I'm interested, but I'm not really ready yet. And then, without knowing anything about a situation, this woman says to my wife, well, you know that every touch between you two is haram now, and I'm in the basement. For guy, I come upstairs, and my wife is angry, like what happened, right, and this is something that set us back a lot when it came to trying to encourage her to grow in the fee that imagine that somebody tells you that, you know, welcome to the religion, sorry, you guys are done.
You know, it's a very, very difficult thing. So it wasn't a very happy, necessarily shahada experience, to be to be honest, I settled into a Muslim community back in New Jersey, where my parents lived. And that's where I kind of made my first connection with the Muslim community. And I started attending regularly. How did your family and the people around you react to your conversion to Islam? Yeah, it was a mixed bag, how my family reacted was a mix of reactions. My father, because he wasn't really a practicing religious person, he couldn't really say anything. So he didn't really react either way, my mother because she had taken responsibility for our religious upbringing. She
felt I think that she had failed at first, which is hard to see your mother feel like you failed her. But as time went on, and especially as you know, my children were born and grew up and they're praying, and they're reciting Quran and they're doing this thing. And she understands that it's not a phase. And it's not a dangerous sort of cult or anything like that. I have a position of leadership, I give speeches, I give talks, I travel and try to reach people and connect with people that she understands that this is something that's actually very important. Now my wife was supporting me, she did not accept Islam right away. But she got me a prayer rug, and she got me CDs.
We were using CDs back then, or the Koran and things like that. And so there's a degree of acceptance that I can't complain about. So how did your wife become slim? In the end, there was an imam that was also a convert and who had graduated from the Islamic University of Medina. And so I took some classes with him and I started to get close with him. And he suggested that I apply as well to the Islamic University of Medina. And so I started getting the application ready. And he wrote me a recommendation letter. And I applied. Yeah, it was a year or two later, I was accepted. And one of the problems and one of the major sort of obstacles I faced and one of the leaps of faith
that I had to take was that, you know, Medina is only a place where Muslims can live then at that point, my wife was not a Muslim. So I basically went ahead with it, hoping in Allah, that she would become Muslim before I had to go if I got accepted, and not really knowing what I was going to do if that didn't happen, and Subhanallah I'm really glad that I did because just maybe some months before I got the acceptance letter from ADINA, she she also took her shahada became a Muslim, so it all worked out. She definitely was coming along in her own ways, but she had
had more hesitation than I did. And she had more sort of unresolved issues than I did. She also was afraid of doing it for me, she wanted to make sure that she was doing it for herself, which I respect a lot. And we it was funny because we moved around quite a bit. I won't get into the details, but we were in a new community. And we lived very close to a mesh sheet. And we went a couple of times to talk, you know, I said, if you have any questions, we can go talk to the Imam. And we did a couple times, but it never really did anything. And then one of these times we were in there talking to the Imam, she was asking some questions. And then he just asked her, like, why
don't you take your cell head?
And she did. She said she she did? And after that she's like, I'm not sure why.
But it was something that, you know, she continued to grow into. And at first, she was like, What did I just do? Almost. But as the days and weeks and months passed, you know, it was something that she grew into very nicely. And then it became, you know, kind of the obvious thing to do, what were the challenges that you faced after becoming Muslim? So there were several points at which I had to give things up, or I decided to give things up. And they were wonderful, amazing decisions. You know, one of the first things that I did when I became a Muslim was I stopped playing music. I was very capable musician before Islam, maybe there was some disagreement, or there was this in that
opinion. But I just said, I know myself, and I know what it feels like to be on stage and what it feels like to play for people and these sorts of things. And I know right away that it's not good for the soul. There were you know, certain things like when it came to jobs. Okay, so I had worked in restaurants for some years. Yeah, it just wasn't suitable anymore. I mean, there was alcohol and pork in the restaurant, there were women that would flirt with you, they would give you their number sometimes, and things like that. And so I didn't have another job lined up. But I decided one day, you know, I just can't keep doing this. And I just decided to put in my two weeks, as we say, and
leave a law replaced it. That's the thing. And so I got another job in no time. What impressed you the most about Islam? What impressed me most about Islam is definitely that it was comprehensive and specific. The Quran is a miracle, it's different, because it speaks about so many different spheres of human activity and human life and different areas of ontology and what exists and what doesn't. I think a few things shone through very clearly in just those translated texts that I was just being exposed to, for the first time and something that self understood as the words of God himself, you know, he's talking to you, and in a very direct and straightforward manner. The other thing was, how
specific the guidance was, and not just specific, but also comprehensive. When I was an atheist, I had gone through Marxism, and communism, and anarchism and sort of these leftist political ideologies. And I think my concern was always about justice. But I had found in in those ideologies, the opposite problem of what I have found in Christianity, when I encountered a slam, it was like for the first time it clicked was like the meeting of these two worlds, like you see that you have guidance for your personal and interpersonal life, your individual life, and also your collective life, every single sphere of activity that you have to participate in as a human being, right, your
economy and your warfare and your politics and everything. It was all kind of right. There. Were practices like praying five times a day or fasting difficult for you at first, and how did you learn them? That was the time of the early internet. And so I learned from whatever was on Google. That's not the way I would recommend. But it was something it was better than nothing. I didn't find any difficulty in it. I actually loved it. It filled a void for me that I had been searching for a long time, even when I was a young boy, that I felt that Christianity should have been more serious. It made immediate sense to me that we should have to pray five times a day, even if I wasn't used to
it. And it was difficult in the sense that I still had to get used to it. I agreed with like, it makes sense. I mean, if you want to be a soccer player, or you want to be a football player or a basketball player, how many hours do you have to spend in the gym? What's more important than that? Is your success in the afterlife? Shouldn't we have to spend maybe an hour total a day between although in prayer and everything, it's nothing really and fasting was the same? You know, I went through a lot of hardship, fasting because I used to work on farms, manual labor in the sun long days, 10 hour days. But when I look back on it, those were the best fasts. They were they were the
best Ramadan's in my life. Sometimes the fast thing when you're in an office job and sitting at a computer is harder, even. I don't know why. It's just because Baraka that's because we believe in the unseen, the first quality of a believer, Allah says, and so it's a bucket as a human on a little light, right? Every second is not like every other second, every calorie is not like every other calorie, a lot can put barakah in something and so if you're doing something and it has hardship in it, even if it's difficult, Allah can put Baraka in it, and he can make ease inside of it in the middle of Sri Yusra, it's built into there so sometimes it's built into the difficulty is the ease.
How is your relationship with the Quran? How do you feel when you recite or hear it? One of the biggest blessings of my life is being touched by the Quran Allah mess entirely. I try to tell my messy I can't I can't leave totally because I just cried too much because just the Quran is so beautiful, and not just the sound and the musicality of it, but also the language of it. And you know, we don't know
We don't know in this life and for sincere or not, but there's certain things that Allah says in the Quran that give us hope. And one of those things is being touched by the Quran. Right? If you hear the Quran and it touches your heart and affects you, you know, you're still alive. What projects are you doing right now? I've got a few. I'm a full time Imam, the Utica Masjid near York. I also teach tafsir to middle schoolers on an online high school and so legacy so I teach tafsir to middle schoolers, I teach Islamic history too. I co teach a class in Islamic history to high schoolers in the same institution. I also am a part time chaplain at a liberal arts college in New York called
Hamilton College. So I also recently started a research fellowship with Yaqeen Institute founded by former Saudi men to talk about sort of modern ideologies, both religious ideologies and other sorts of ideologies. If you had a chance to speak to all the non Muslims in the world, what would you like to say to them? I would say that the definition of religion is what God wants from us nothing else, and that anybody who believes in God has to take responsibility for being as certain as possible that what they are doing is what God wants from them. If they take that and run with it, they'll be fine. And at the end of the day, it all comes back to the virtue of sincerity. If you're a sincere
person and you try to look Allah will take care of the how Allah will take care of the rest.