Account of James Benson
I was born on the 3rd of December 1984 in Barnsley. I come from a family of a long British ancestry, all of which are mostly Christians, although not really practicing Christians. I have always loved to meet people, so I would say that my lifestyle has always been very outgoing and socializing with my friends.
My education has pretty much been normal. I have a degree in Mathematics from Leeds University and now I work as a Pricing Manager for an insurance company.
I converted to Islam, Ahmadiyyat in August 2010.
My family are Christians, and I was baptized as a baby, but religion was never a big thing in our household. Christianity to me seemed slightly out of touch with the modern day and left more questions than answers. One of the things that I really love about Ahmadiyyat is that things seem much more logical, and as a mathematician that really excites and interests me. In a world where science and religion are generally seen as mutually exclusive, I love that Ahmadiyyat is not.
In fact, one of the things I really enjoy is attending question and answer sessions involving our Jama’at President, Dr Iqbal, as he is a scientist himself and applies great logic and real-world application in his answers. I love the exploration of creationism and the story of how Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, prophesied that one day, people would travel around the world on the back of birds (i.e. planes). I am enjoying reading Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth at the minute – and have never found anything like this in Christianity.
My conversion began in 2009 when a family friend who is an Ahmadi invited me along to the Annual Peace Conference. I was impressed that such an event was being held, as I had never known anything like this to be held before. This really made an impact on me.
Around a month later I attended a question and answer session, which again really impressed me, as nothing seemed off limits and the panel was so knowledgeable. I attended a couple more of these events, and during that time, began to experience how close a community the Jama’at was, and how friendly and open everyone was. I read more and more about the Ahmadiyya community, and became engrossed in its values and ethics.
Eventually in July 2010, I met with the local Imam, and in August of that year, became inducted into the Ahmadiyya community. I had an initial meeting with the Imam, for which my friend who had initially introduced me to Ahmadiyyat also attended, where the Imam asked me to go away and consider my decision, and if I still felt the same in a few weeks, come back. I did more reading during that time, all of which really impressed and intrigued me, went back the next month, and I was converted that next time. An announcement was made at the mosque, followed by friendly congratulations and welcomes all round. That is another great thing about the community – it is exactly that – a community – where everyone is welcoming, friendly and helpful. Of course the first few times I attended the mosque I was apprehensive because I was conscious that I was different and people observed my inquisitively, but as I got to know people, I felt more comfortable each time. I think this is not too dissimilar to any other situation though, where you are the new boy in a long established group.
My perception regarding Islam before I converted was not very deep, it only consisted of what I had learnt in my Religious Education lesson back at school,
– the basics of the five pillars and the Kabah. Growing up in Barnsley, where there is a distinct lack of diversity, I didn’t really have any perceptions at all.
Some of the challenges I faced after I converted to Islam, Ahmadiyyat were that my parents weren’t very keen about it at first, but once I gave them my reasoning and enlightened them on Islam and Ahmadiyyat, they accepted my decision. With my friends it wasn’t much of an issue as they supported and accepted any of the decisions I made.
After my conversion I definitely feel more of a sense of purpose now in my life and I am truly understand the power that religion can have.
As I’m still learning Salat and Qaeda, with each new line or word or symbol learned, I feel more and more of a connection with God.