Abdur-Raheem McCarthy


Transcript of the interview

My name is Abdur-Raheem Mccarthy, my name before I became Muslim was Steven. My father’s name was Steven as well. So, I’m Steven the son of Steven alhamdulillah, or Steven the second, as we say in English.

I was born and raised in America, I am from Irish/English origin. My father’s side is Irish and my mother’s side; they are English. I was born in America, and in 1994, at the age of eighteen, I accepted Islam elhamdulillah.

When is the first time facing with Islam?

The first time I heard about Islam was when I read the book about the autobiography of Malcolm X. And the later I saw the movie with Denzel Washington, produced by Spike Lee, the movie Malcolm X. When I saw that movie and read the book of Malcolm X, that was the first time I had heard about Islam. I probably heard about it before but it was more detailed. In the book, how he converted Islam, and I saw in the movie as well, so it got me a bit more an insight towards Islam.

Is there a breaking point in your life that leads you to investigate Islam?

Yes, basically what happened is that, at the age of eighteen, I was getting into a lot of trouble before Islam, before I became Muslim, subhanallah… a lot of trouble… Even many of my family members saw me as someone who had really gone astray. I was getting all kinds of trouble. You know there is something when you are doing bad things like this and you are going astray from the way of Allah.

There is something inside of the “fitrah” the natural instinct. The natural inclination everyone has inside, that you know what… This is not good. So I set doubt myself and I said: What is going on? What is missing in your life? And I found several things that I needed to do, goals that I wanted to accomplish from those goals, I was 18 I remember… I wrote down like five or six goals that I wanted to accomplish. The last one was to be more religious. Obviously coming up in a Christian background, my idea of religion was you know, going to church on Sundays, reading The Bible. I used to wear my gold cross before. This is basically I thought I would be more religious in my origin Christianity. So this is one of my objective to try to accomplish other objectives/goals, I wanted to be more religious.

What happened later on is that actually that is the one that came to the forefront became the first, the religion, before the other goals that were able to be accomplished. Subhanallah, as Allah told us in the Quran. You plan, Allah plans and he is the best of planners.

What are your reasons to adopt Islam?

Basically, what happened is that one of my friends before Islam, his father had accepted Islam. One day had an appointment with my friend and he used to always forget, so he forgot about the appointment, and when I was sitting and waiting for him his father was reading The Quran. The old cassette tapes, if you remember those… The cassette tapes that the reciter was reciting The Quran in Arabic, and then the translation would come in English. Even he was following with his copy of the Quran. So I was listening to him and I had in my mind about Islam, because of the book I have read about Malcolm X and the movie I had watched as well. So I wanted to know more about Islam. And something interesting which is very important for Muslims to understand and even non-Muslims as well is that throughout the history the enemies of Islam have always portrayed Islam in a negative light. Do you see a lot of time in Hollywood now they portray Arabs and Muslims as being terrorist? And the media nowadays is portraying them as being terrorist but in the early 90s they weren’t portraying them as being terrorist. They were actually focusing on a group in a deviant group in America, which is called the Nation of Islam they were not really Muslims if you look at their belief system. But they call themselves as Muslims, so they had the name Islam they had the name Muslim.

From their belief, Islam is the religion of the black men, and the white people are devils. This is what they believe, and the media was putting this into the minds of people. I used to always hear this on the media. And there was a very famous hate preacher that they had, named Khalid Muhammed and he would always in a very racial statements against white people he would say, I would always see them in the media then. So, the first question I had was, “Can I be Muslim as being a white? Can I be Muslim or not?” That was the first question I had.

An interesting enough story about Malcolm X, one thing that impacted on me is when he went for Hajj, and  he had this belief that Islam was just for black people. And then he met with bunch of Turkish Muslims, Bosnian, Muslims, Albanian Muslims, who are wanting their completion. He said:  No, we are believing this people are devils but here they are my brothers and Muslims, themselves. So, that was one of the reasons had impacted him and guide him to learn what true Islam was. So, I asked again this question: Can I be a Muslim being a white man? And he said to me: Alhamdulillah, he said Islam is for everyone. He said if you are black, white, brown… And even he said jokingly and being sarcastic to show you how much Islam is for everyone; he said even if you are pink or purple on your color, you know. He said you can be a Muslim does not matter what color you are.

So, I started to ask more question about Islam, and then I had a car accident. And I didn’t have my car to go out and hang out with my friends. And I was living at the area with my grandmother was a little bit further where I am originally from. So, I was very bored and there was nothing to do in the house. But I remember that I have this book about Islam or these books. When I look at the table there was 3 or 4 books. One of them was called as the “Religion of Truth”. And as I said, one of my objectives that put on my list of my goals was to become more religious. So, the religion of truth, I want to know about Islam, let us see what it says about Islam… So, opened up this book and I read it, it was a Thursday night. I read it cover to cover, it was 70 – 80 pages. I read the entire book, really intrigued me, really grab me.

So, I read it all in one sitting. I sat there during the night, reading the book. And there was four main things that really stuck out to me in this book: The first thing was the issue of Islamic monotheism of Tawheed -There is no God but Allah-. Because we grew up as Christians as Catholic Christians, and obviously we used to believe before in the issue of the trinity. We believe in God three in one. Always said, it is a very difficult thing to understand, even when we asked to a priest. And that is just a regular question, but even priests themselves can’t explain it in a good light. A lot of time they are just coming and they say “you just have to believe”. Yes, sometimes there are certain things in your faith you just have to believe that is true. Even in Islam, we believe in unseen, believe in Allah, believe in unseen. But in Islam it is a very clear message who Allah is, who God is… There is no deity, who has the right to be worshipped except almighty God. It is a very clear message. So, when the core of your belief is not clear, this is a problem.

And that is one of the main things that stuck out to me in the book; you don’t need to go to anyone else, you do not have to go to an intermediary, the middleman. You go straight to your creator, the almighty God. If you make tovbe or repent for your sins, we had to go to the priest. And there are something what they called confession. So, you sit like in a booth. There is a little screen you can barely see him on the other side. It is really weird. And you would confess your sins to the priest and he would forgive you. But in Islam you don’t need to be in there, you go straight to your creator, you go straight to your God himself and ask your forgiveness and he will forgive you. So, this is the main thing that really impacted on me, it was the major difference between what I believe before and what Islam believes, it should be monotheism, the oneness of God.

After that there was something that many people might not think about from the edep or manners, how the Muslims relieve themselves. What I read about how the Muslims relieve themselves, there were 2 main things: One of them he said that first of all; he secludes himself. Meaning, he does not relieve himself in front of other people and if you know like in the western culture, you will find even unfortunately in a lot of Muslim countries today, you will find the toilets were standing next to each other and the men’s toilet they come and stand side by side. Each one them perhaps is talking: “Oh weather is a bit hot today”, other one is saying “Did you see the game last night?” I was taught this is a private time for focus, not time to be standing next to someone else not a social event. I never felt comfortable at there, it was always very strange to me.

So, I found the Muslims seclude themselves, I said woaw that is interesting.Another thing was one time I was in a different state. I was standing and I decided to sit down at urinate. When I sit down that was much easier than standing. So I said: Why do not we just sit down ? It is much easier. But obviously in our customs in America, men not supposed to sit down women only sit down. But in the book it said the Muslims sit down because they do not want to get impurities on their clothing. So, they pray there in a pure state. So, I said woaw.. .That make sense to me as well… Because it is something I used to do every now and then behind closed doors I would sit down. Because it felt more comfortable and it felt more natural so that was the second thing.

And the third thing was the system. A very clear system of halal being clear and haram being clear. You have the five poles of Islam, you pray five times a day, you gave 2.5 percent of your zakat, you make Hajj once a year, you fast 30 days or 29 days at the month of Ramadan; very clear system. And I really felt in my life, there was lack of discipline, I needed that discipline. So, when I saw that the Muslims had this, that is Islam offering, this had a huge impact on me.

The fourth thing that really stood out to me and had a big impact on me was the issue of each one gets rewarded according to his actions not according to his belief because the author of the book he said it is not enough to say “La ilahe illallah”, you have to actually believe it, say it and act upon it, has to show upon your actions. If doesn’t show upon your actions, it doesn’t mean just because you believe, and you say it and you are going to Paradise. You also have to act upon it. If we don’t act upon it even if you are a Muslim, you can still go to hellfire. So, I said that is justice that is fair that you can rewarded according to what you do. Because once again as Christians, we believe that as long as you believed in Jesus Christ is your lord and savior that you are going to heaven, that is your ticket to heaven, once again it does not really seem fair. There is person who is a good person, he goes to heaven and the one who is an evil person, but he believes, also he goes to heaven. Why doesn’t he go to hell or offer some time? Because that was He said in the book, you might go to hell or might spend some time to get punished for your sins. Then maybe you will go to the heaven.

So that make sense, and these were four things that really stood out to me and impacted me. I decided immediately after reading the book. I said, this is what I have been looking for, this is what I want, this is what I wanted to do, this is what I want to follow. So immediately, early on the morning of Friday, next morning, I called my friend’s father. I told him that I want to accept Islam and and I have read the book. I thanked him once again for the book and I said I want to become a Muslim… So, alhamdulillah, I found the ultimate happiness, I found the tranquillity, the peace of heart and the peace of mind everyone is searching for. Alhamdulillah I found them in Islam, It had an immediate impact on my life and brought you know spiritually, mentally and emotionally I felt so good and so amazing inside.

One of the things that really had a huge impact on me was The Quran, Subhanallah. I tried to read the Bible and I read a few pages and I really get bored trying to read it. But when it comes to The Quran, I have read the entire Quran cover to cover. When I first became Muslim and the challenges that I faced like every challenge I would face, I have found a verse in the Quran which talked about my situation and I felt that it was talking to me. That’s why some of the scholars mention that if you really want to benefit from Quran, look at each verse as Allah is speaking to you directly -which he is-. He sent down Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but for all of mankind to the end of time. Therefore, Allah is speaking to each one of us individually. So, I really felt that was revealed for me it is talking about me this verse.

So, each time I would face a challenge I will find a verse in the Quran, and Alhamdulillah had a huge impact on me. So, this is a huge change even my family found the change after as well. I was in the house more; I was more helpful on the house helping to my grandmother and grandfather. And he said something one time, both of my grandfathers, they were in the US Military, and both of them fought in World War 2 in Germany. One of them was a machine gunner on an airplane and the other one was an infantry on ground. He said my grandson… He said; he became one of those Muslims… and he said, I don’t know what it is; they have this mosque, they have this book they called The Quran, he said I don’t know what it is but what he says I like it. He said because the boy has changed. The boy is good now. He said because the boy has changed. The boy is good now.

What do you recommend to non-Muslims who are trying to search and learn Islam?

I think it is very important for any non-Muslim who wants to learn Islam, to read, to research, to watch videos, to sit with Muslims. Many non-Muslims nowadays who learn about Islam, they have taken what they know about Islam from the media; which all of it is false, it is propaganda, negative propaganda against Islam and it is amazing how many non-Muslims we sit within life when they hear from us directly or they sit with us they are amazed. They said; we never knew this, or we thought this, that is why we always been advised them to come in with an open heart and open mind not with already having a past judgement about Islam and the Muslims. Come here to us directly. They are gonna see Islam in a different light that they did not know before inshallah.