Account of Andreas Kafizas
I had always believed in God
I was born on the 26th of February 1985 in London, England. My religion before I converted to Islam, Ahmadiyyat was Greek Orthodox Christianity. My family background is that I am a Greek, Cypriot. My parents moved from Cyprus to England.
My education is that I have a masters in chemistry and a PhD in Materials Chemistry from the University College of London.
I had a pretty normal lifestyle, I was an avid player of Basketball, competing for my university team for six seasons, but these days I spent most of my spare time with my new born daughter, Zeynab. I also go and do Tabligh whenever there is a bookstall.
I work as a Post-graduate research fellow at Imperial College London in the field of Solar Fuels – with the aim of using sunlight as an energy source for converting water into hydrogen on semiconductor surfaces.
I converted to Islam, Ahmadiyyat in the year of 2008. I was Regional Tabligh Secretary for Tahir Region last year. Now I am an assistant for this post.
The question is, “What led me to Ahmadiyyat?” Well, in a nutshell, it was a love marriage that sparked my interest, however, my eventual acceptance of Islam was sincere.
When performing my undergraduate studies at UCL I started making friends with Muslims. Previously, at secondary school, I mainly spent time with fellow Greek Cypriots – who were of Greek Orthodox Christian background. I was very impressed with the way that my new friends at university behaved, especially those who were Muslim. One particular Muslim fascinated me the most. She was an Ahmadi Muslim. We were placed in the same tutorial groups and math classes. We spent a lot of time studying, working together at the library. We soon became close friends. After some time I asked her if we could date. She told me that she didn’t date. I was quite persistent, but so was she, in her rejection of me. Eventually the situation became quite serious for me, as spending more and more time with her only led to me falling in love with her. She was the first girl I ever fell in love with. I eventually told her that I was in love with her and that I wanted to be with her. She told me that she could not be with me as I was not a Muslim. I then asked her what it was to be a Muslim? She gave me her Qur’an and I started going to Bait-ul-Futuh mosque – the mosque she recommended if I had more questions.
I decided to learn Surah Al-Fatiha by heart. I recited it often when I decided to pray
– something I never often used to do
I met a Muslim there called Dr. Bilal. I spent several hours with him every Tuesday evening (sometimes until the early hours of the morning) studying Islam. After several months I accepted Islam and the Holy Prophetsaw. I then started reading literature specific to Islam Ahmadiyyat – primarily the writings of the Promised Messiahas. After reading books such as the “Philosophy and Teachings of Islam” and “Jesus in India” I soon realised that the Promised Messiahas was also a true prophet of God. After accepting the Promised Messiahas I signed the bai’at form, pledging my allegiance to his teachings and Khilafat. I pledged my allegiance at the hand of the Khalifatul Masih, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, at the centenary Jalsa Salana UK, 2008.
When growing up and being of Greek Cypriot background, I would often be subjected to an emotional tirade on how bad all Muslims and Turks were – particularly by the elder generation or their progeny who had blindly inherited this hatred. However, their hate was not borne without substance. The war with Turkey (1974) had been particularly harsh on the indigenous population of Cyprus. More than one third of the population was permanently displaced, leaving most of their possessions behind. Many of those fighting for the “liberation” of Cyprus were ill-treated upon capture – with several hundred that are still “missing” to date. Cultural heritage was also destroyed. Nevertheless, rather than blaming those responsible (i.e. the big players pulling the strings such as Greece and Turkey), most Greek Cypriots blame the Turks alone. To make matters worse, they synonymously exchange the word Turk and Muslim freely. To them it means the same thing. This struggled relationship between the Greek and Turkish worlds, dates back several centuries, to the time of their subjugation by the Ottoman Empire – and perhaps even beyond. For this reason, most Greeks are “brain-washed” into thinking that Muslims are merely heartless conquerors.
Luckily, by the Grace of God, I was more open-minded. Whenever an old “uncle” would give the usually tirade of “how one must never trust a Turk/ Muslim” I would happily ignore him. It was grossly apparent to me that his opinion was illogical, biased and most importantly, prejudiced. As a matter of fact, my best friend whilst studying at Infant and Primary School was a Turk. His name was Yusuf and he was a Muslim. Nevertheless, he did not teach me anything about Islam so I was completely clueless as to what this religion was truly about.
I had always believed in God. When I decided to read the Holy Qur’an and visit the mosque I was quite captivated by the beauty of the teachings of Islam. Dr. Bilal was excellent in showing me the prophecies from the Old Testament concerning the advent of ‘a prophet like unto Mosesas‘– the Holy Prophetsaw. He also reconciled any misunderstandings I had concerning the Qur’anic text. Several weeks into reading the Holy Qur’an I decided to learn Surah Al-Fatiha by heart. I recited it often when I decided to pray – something I never often used to do. Upon completing the Holy Qur’an – after several months of reading, reflection and dialogue – I accepted Islam.
I next started to read several books of the Promised Messiahas to be sure that this form of Islam was its true form. I was soon convinced of the truth of the Promised Messiahas, especially after reading his book “Jesus in India”. I was convinced that Jesusas did not die on the cross by the Promised Messiah’sas compelling arguments, based not only on Biblical evidence, but also Scientific, Archaeological and Historical fact. Moreover, the strongest reason for my belief in Jesus’sas survival – that made it sink deeply into my heart – was that it aptly showed the Mercy of God in sparing His beloved servantas. Sadly, the Christian perception of Biblical accounts makes one wonder if Jesusas is more kind and gentle than God Himself – something that to me is a complete insult to God’s Supremacy in all qualities.
I faced several challenges upon my conversion to Islam. Most of my friends and family believed that I converted to Islam for the sole purpose of marriage. They failed to believe my sincerity in practice, irrespective of my outward displays in participating in fasting during Ramadhan, my regularity in prayer, reading of the Qur’an or attendance at the mosque. Over time, many of my old friends from Secondary School started to treat me differently. They found that I was letting them down by not spending time with them at the pub or at the snooker hall – places they would often go until the early hours, I might add. Moreover, they never asked me about my conversion to Islam or why I did it? Although they never confronted me openly about it (except one friend that is), I had a feeling in my heart that they strongly disliked this life-changing choice I had made. Over time we grew further and further apart until we had no relationship at all. To be clear, this was not the case for the friends I had made at University nor a few select others from Secondary School – but those who I used to call my ‘best friends’ were eventually lost to me.
Sadly, the Christian perception of Biblical accounts makes one wonder if Jesusas is more kind and gentle than God Himself
The relationship with my family became quite strained. Some individuals believed that I had made great “sacrifices” to be wed to my wife that were disproportionately unfair on me. Yet they never asked me if I truly believed in Islam and if I was truly happy. I feel that there is only an assumption – more like a prejudice – that I converted to Islam merely to satiate my wife’s whim. From my conversion to Islam up until now, the relationship with my family – especially that of my parents – has worsened. I can only speak of my own behaviour in this regard, where I feel utter sorrow for any mistakes that I have made in dealing with this highly delicate matter. May God Almighty soon improve this situation. Amen. On the flip side, the relationship with my brothers has remained intact and is currently positive and healthy – one reason is probably due to their active interest in my faith.
Ahmadiyyat has completely changed my life. I should add that this was more of a transitional change than an abrupt one. Islam for me was a journey – with key stages that changed my life little by little at a time. First, it was the change in diet (although it should be noted that I voluntarily abstained from drinking alcohol more than two years before my conversion as I had come to realise its catastrophic effect on the morality of one’s choices and actions). Second was my increase in thirst for religious knowledge, which led to me reading a lot of Jama’at literature and make an active study of the Holy Qur’an and Bible (something I had never done before, which is quite shameful given I was supposedly a Christian). Third was the action of prayer (which was too few and far between before my acceptance of Islam). Forth was my avid participation in Ramadhan and fasting in general. Fifth was my learning of Islamic prayer and memorising of additional Surah’s. Sixth was my learning to read Arabic… etc. Each step spanned significant periods of time – some longer than others – but what one should realise is that the Spiritual transition to Islam Ahmadiyyat was quite gradual for me.
Long after these step-wise transitions I was asked to come and preach Islam. After seeing my fellow Ahmadi friends being challenged as to whether or not he was consistent in his five daily prayers, I decided to make sure that I practiced what I preached. Holding fast to my prayer (with my new-found participation in optional prayers and fasts), coupled with on-going religious dialogue with Christians and traditional Orthodox Sunni Muslims I had met at bookstalls and Jama’at events, led to a sharp increase in my closeness to God and several spiritual experiences. Nevertheless, it was my attention to prayer that led to the confirmation in my belief. Not through “brain-washing” myself into believing in Islam Ahmadiyyat, but by completely submitting myself to God Almighty and asking Him to confirm if what I believed was true.
Since then my relationship with Khilafat has improved a great deal. My perception of the Khalifa has changed. He has gone from being a “nice Godly man” in my mind to being “God’s man on earth”. May God Almighty continue to strengthen my ties with Khilafat, His Prophetsas and moreover – Himself, amen.