My name is Abdullah Reda, but my given name was Stephen
I was raised in a Roman Catholic family in Northern Virginia. I can remember very clearly going to Catholic school, learning about the faith and receiving the sacraments of communion, confession and confirmation.
At the time, some 30 years ago, it all seemed very spiritual and holy, and I thought I was somehow fortunate, especially receiving my first communion. In the Catholic religion, we were taught that the communion host is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. When I took that first communion
host in my mouth and swallowed, I thought, “I have Jesus in my stomach, and I have to be very good and not commit any sins.”
As I got older, I could feel myself drifting away from Catholicism and any religious belief in general. I was still attending Mass every Sunday, but it was a burden to go and give even one hour a week.
After I left the church, I had no faith at all and started to form my own opinions and theories about God and world religions. One theory was that all religions are an extension of one religion and that if you are a good person, i.e. do not physically hurt or kill anyone, you can go to heaven. I think it’s a common belief that most people have because it gives them comfort. It gave me comfort when I was drinking, taking drugs, womanizing and giving my parents heartache.
All these liberal and radical thoughts started taking their toll on me. I was asking myself difficult questions that I could not answer. I wanted to know the reason for my existence. Why was I born? And what is my destiny?
While I was having these thoughts, I was a photo journalist for a weekly newspaper. One day I received an assignment to cover the Muslim holiday after Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.
When I got to the location, the first thing that took place was the sermon, then the prayers, followed by the festival. As I looked out at the thousands of Muslims, the first thing that struck me was the diversity of the crowd. Black, brown, white, Arabs, Americans, Pakistanis, Indonesians, people from all over the world. I never saw anything like this in any church I attended nor heard of any church like it in America.
Listening to the sermon I thought, “This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.” After the prayer, I asked someone how one becomes a Muslim. This person grabbed my hand and introduced me to someone who teaches Islam to non-Muslims. I attended two weeks of classes.
On March 17, 1995, believing without question that this is the only true religion from the one true God, I accepted Islam.
Islam is much more than a religion; it is a way of life. There is no such thing as keeping religious life separate from business or personal life, because Islam permeates all aspects of life. One of the beautiful things about Islam is that you stay in contact with God all day long. Five daily prayers keep you coming back to the One who sustains and provides.
In Islam, we are encouraged to ask questions and learn about our faith. The more I learn, the more this religion makes sense. For example, Islam teaches that all the prophets, starting with Adam, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the seal of the prophets, Muhammad, peace be upon them, were all Muslim. When you understand that the word “Muslim” means one who submits to God, you can see how the statement about the prophets is true.
And I finally found the answer to the age-old question of the meaning of life and that recurring question, the meaning of my life. The answer is simple: to worship God. Islam has changed my life 180 degrees.
I finally feel that I have reached my true destiny, and I’m trying to live life as God intended which is for humans to achieve their potential as spiritual beings.
Abdullah Reda, 40, is an electrician. He lives in Reston
(The Washington Post Company, http://muslimsonline.com/bicnews)