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Date Posted: 04:05:04 07/07/07 Sat
Author: No name
Subject: “Why Do Priests & Preachers Enter Islam?” PART I (A)
“Why Do Priests & Preachers Enter Islam?” PART I (A)
Chaplain Yusuf Estes
My ethnic background is English-Native American, Irish and German. I was what they called a "WASP" (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant). My family moved to Texas in 1949 while I was still in grade school, so my accent changed from "Yankee" to "Texan" real quick. We learned how to say "Ya'll" instead of "youse guys" and "Howz ever thaang?" instead of "Waz up?" We also learned how to eat "Corn bread 'n bains" instead of "Johnny cakes and beans."
I was born in Ohio, raised and educated in Texas and was a successful marketing entrepreneur and preacher of Christianity. I grew up in a religious home. My parents and their relatives were all 'good Christians.' Basically that means that you never drink alcohol, except on very special occasions and never gamble expect Bingo at the church. Religion was a real part of my life. I believed very much in God and the Bible as His Word. While other children were playing 'school' and 'cops and robbers' I would sometimes play the 'Preacher.' I can still remember my first sermon, standing on the ground in Doug Hideman's backyard: "We must learn the Way of God! And then stay on that Way." (That's all I said. I couldn't think of anything else)
My whole family on both my mother's and father's sides were very active members of the same denomination of Protestant Christianity. We all loved to go to church on Sunday mornings for Sunday school and sermon (well maybe we didn't all love the long sermons). Then of course, special activities and holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Halloween and parties were always a part of our lives in my early years. Our church was originally called only "Christian Church." It wasn't until I turned 10 or 12 years old that the church 'split' into two different groups that we started calling ourselves "Disciples of Christ."
My father was an ordained minister and also very active in church work, as a Sunday school minister and fund raiser for Christian schools. He was the 'expert' in the Bible and its translations. It was through my father that I came to know about the various versions, translations and editions of the Bible as well as the introduction of pagan worship to Christianity about the time of the Emperor Constantine (325 C.E.). He, like many preachers would answer the question: "Did God actually write the Bible?" by saying: "The Bible is the Inspired Word of Man FROM GOD." Basically, it means that humans (inspired humans, but humans just the same) wrote the Bible. That quickly explains the errors, mistakes, deletions and additions which have crept in and fell out over the years. He would add: "But it is still the Word of God, as inspired to man."
God was always on my mind. I was 'baptized' into the 'Spirit' at age 12 and surprised even the minister (an ex-Jew who accepted Jesus) by my seriousness and intent on being a 'full real follower of Christ." I would think about Him and what He wanted us to do and why He created us in the first place, very often. Many times I would be caught 'day dreaming' about God when I was supposed to be paying attention to other things, like watching the pots boil over on the stove or not listen to the teachers at school. Sometimes I would rest my head on my arms on the top of my desk and try to imagine: "What will happen when we die?" and "What will Heaven be like?" or "Can we ever see God's angels or the devil?"
My mind was frequently preoccupied with these types of thoughts as a child. But then as with most youth, I became distracted from my pursuit and began to be influenced by my peers. Other children would make fun of me if I talked about these questions and thoughts, so it seemed like a good idea to keep it to myself. No problem. I like to be alone with my thoughts of God anyway.
After growing up and owning many business, I realized that I did not want to be a 'preacher.' I was too afraid that I might be a hypocrite or call people to something that I myself didn't truly understand. After all, I had 'accepted the Lord' and considered myself a true Christian, but at the same time I could not resolve the idea of God being One and at the same time He is 'Three.' And if He is the 'Father', how could He also be the 'Son?' And then what about the 'Holy Ghost?' (later they changed that to 'Spirit'). But my big question was always the same: "How does three equal one?"
Over the years I had tried to 'find' God in many different ways. I checked out Buddhism, Hinduism, metaphysics, Taoism, different forms of Christianity and Judaism. The one most attractive to me was a combination of Gnosticism (Christian mysticism) and Cabalism (Jewish mysticism) and metaphysics. This actually is a form of pantheism (God being throughout His creation) and is similar to some of the 'Sufi' mystics of today. But this concept in its entirety repulsed me because I did not want to imagine myself as being a 'part of God.'
God is Pure! God is Perfect! God is All Knowing and All Aware of all things! So, how can I come along and say things like I was hearing from the other preachers: "In a way, we are all gods." Read the Bible:
"You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince." (quoted from the Old Testament; Psalms [82:6]) & "I said, you are gods." (New Testament John 10:34)
The rationalization which comes about in the books attributed to the Apostle Saul (changed his name to Paul), are full of statements which basically cancel the Torah or Law of the Old Testament. He makes it a matter of how you 'understand' something that makes it 'permissible' or 'forbidden.' As an example in the English Revised Standard Version which I have carried with me since 1953, it says in Paul's letter to the Romans:
"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean."
And again, in the same letter:
"So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
By these types of statements, Paul pretty much destroys the entire Old Testament Commandments. Yet at the same time, in the same English version of the Bible in the first book of the New Testament, we are told that Jesus preached a message which was exactly the opposite of St. Paul:
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth shall pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
So according the St. Paul's own testimony in his letter to the new Roman Christians, he is relaxing not just the least of these commandments, but basically all of these commandments. And he justifies everything with his rationalization that if you don't think it's bad, then it's not!
I just felt that something was wrong in this message and decided to try to uphold the Commandments according to the Old Testament as much as I could. That would mean: No Pork; circumcision; no sex outside of marriage; no adultery; worship on Saturday (not Sunday) and most important of all: No worship of anything which is in the creation. This is in direct line with the verse which says:
"You shall have no other gods before (besides) me. You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments."
It seemed reasonable to me, that there should only be One God. He should be All in Charge and without any partners. Reason also would demand that only He should be given any worship because He Alone deserves it. And as God, He should be the One to set the rules and give the orders. Then it would be clear who really loved Him and who was following His Commandments.
I had tried not to deal with these issues for many years. But now I was getting close to fifty years old and needed to do something for the Lord. After all, had done everything for me. So, it was time for me to get serious about my religion and make some head way for the Lord. I decided to join in with some of my friends who were evangelists and preachers who preached in various parts of the country and even in Mexico. We traveled together and praised the Lord together and shared in 'the spirit' and went where the 'spirit lead us.' One of them use to carry a huge cross on his shoulders and drag it down the highway and give out little 'mini-Bibles' to those who cared to stop and visit. It was enjoyable to go to those who had given up hope or had no money or jobs and give them food, money, assistance and at the same time call them to the message of Christianity. I took my Bible everywhere and was very fast to whip it out and begin to 'preach the message.'
I was 'born again.' I needed to 'be in the light of Christ.' I needed to share the 'message.' There was only one problem:
"What is the message?"
Oh sure, I know what some of the 'born again's are saying as they read this:
"The message of salvation of Jesus Christ!" - "He died for your sins!" - "He paid the price of redemption." - "He is the Risen Son of God!" - "Jesus is LORD!"
Right. - I got that.
I preached that message myself and thought I understood it as well as anyone else did. The problem is that one time I heard another preacher say: "Don't leave your brain in the parking lot with your car."
Then it hit me to start thinking about the very serious problems and real facts about my religion. Then came:
THE QUESTIONS NOBODY WANTS TO ANSWER -
What about the Bible? Who actually wrote it?
What was the original language of the Bible? (Hebrew? Aramaic? Koine Greek?)
NOTE: - The Bible was never in English during the time of any prophet (not even Muhammad) - because English did not exist until after 1066 AD!
Does the Bible exist in the original form anywhere on earth? (No)
Why does the Catholic Bible has seven (7) more books than the Protestant Bible?
Why do these two Bibles have different versions of the same books?
Why are there so many mistakes and errors are from the very first verse right up to the very last verse?
Why do 'Born Again Christians' teach concepts that are not from the Bible?
There is no word "Trinity" in the Bible in any version of any language
The oldest forms of Christianity do not support the 'born again' beliefs
Jesus of the English Bible complains about the 'crucifixion'
("Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani? - My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?") [Mk 15:34]
How can Jesus be the "Only Begotten Son" of John 3:16? When in Psalms 2:7 David is God's "Begotten Son?"
Would a 'Just' God, a 'Fair' God, a 'Loving' God -- punish Jesus for the sins of the people that he called to follow him?
What happens to people who died before Jesus came?
What happens to those who never hear this message?
What about innocent children who die although their parents are not Christian?
Didn't God create Adam from dirt? -- So, why does he need Mary to make Jesus?
And what about God?
How can God create Himself?
How can God be a man?
How can a man be a God?
How can God have a son?
The Bible says "Seth (is) the son of Adam" and that"Adam is the son of God." [Lk 3:36]
Can't God just forgive us and not have to kill Jesus?
And what about Jesus?
Jesus did not even carry the cross -- Simon Cyre'ne, a passerby did! [Mk 15:21]
Jesus of the Bible was NOT on the cross for longer than six (6) hours -- NOT three days -- (from the 3rd to the 9th hour) [Mk 15:25 & 15:33]
Jesus of the Bible did not spend three days and nights in the tomb -- Friday night - until Sunday before dawn -- is not 3 days and nights!
Jesus DID NOT claim to be God - or even equal to God!
My friend with the huge cross became tired of trying to answer all of my questions and in desperation one day, he told me to read the story of Abraham in Genesis in the Old Testament. Especially the part of sacrificing his son for the sake of God. He seemed to feel that this was going to explain the whole concept of sacrifice and obedience to God.
I read it.
But instead of convincing me that this was the meaning of punishing the good so the bad do not have to suffer, I saw a totally different message here.
Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son on the alter for the sake of Almighty God, if that was what God wanted from him. But God did not really want to take the life of an innocent boy for sins that Abraham committed. That was not even the story here. And as far as replacing his son with the ram for sacrifice, this also does not match the story of Jesus on the cross.
Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son to test the loyalty of Abraham. He did not withhold his son from God, so God's angels ordered him to offer a ram in place of his son. God was pleased with his total submission and as a result, God Blessed him and his offspring.
Now think about the New Testament story of 'salvation.'
Jesus asked God NOT to put him through this ordeal.
"Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done." [Luke 22:42]
Notice in the next verse, an angel from heaven also appears to Jesus to "strengthen him."
Abraham's angel comes to offer a ram as a sacrifice instead of the son.
The next verse [22:44] Jesus is in AGONY as he prays "more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground."
Then I looked to the account of the story in the Book of Mark [14:32-39].
Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane and his soul is "very sorrowful, even to death." And "... going a little farther, he fell on the ground prayer that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him." Meaning that somehow when the time came for the event to take place he could escape it. This is NOT the submissive attitude of Abraham.
Next I noticed in verse 36, Jesus says: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." And then he goes to his disciples and wakes them up and then returns to pray "... saying the same words."
This whole concept was so totally different than the one from Genesis talking about Abraham and his son.
I asked questions and delved into 'those kind of stories' the more I would like to facilitate the truth. Many strange things began to happen. Very strange.
Things began to happen in my life. Things that would change many concepts and beliefs that I had been burdened with for many years. Solutions and answers started coming in very strange and wonder ways.
First, my father started doing business with a man from Egypt. After introducing me to him, my father noticed right away that I was trying to convert the man to Christianity and asked me not to do so in a rude manner. I heard the man say he was ready to come to my religion if my religion was better than his religion. But there was a condition, he said he wanted proof. I told him religion is not about proof. It is about faith. He then said something that really made me think. He told me in his religion there was both faith and proof. Strange, I thought. How could there be any proof about God or religion?
Next, I was to meet a Catholic priest who would enlighten us all on the true history of the church and what was really going on in the cathedrals and the Vatican. His name was Father Peter Jacobs. His experiences throughout Central and South America, Mexico and the United States would prove to be very enlightening. But most of all was his deep understanding of the Bible and the scrolls. He brought to the table many interesting and amazing facts about Christianity and the organized religion of Catholicism.
Both the priest and the Muslim from Egypt came to live with us in our home in the country near Dallas, Texas. Then things really started getting strange.
I would love to share the details of this story of how so many preachers and priests are coming to Islam.
Many people ask me how a preacher or priest in Christianity can ever go to Islam, especially considering all the negative things that we hear about Islam and Muslims everyday. Some people are simply curious, while others take a profound exception to my "conversion" to Islam. Some have asked how I could have turned my back on Jesus, or if I truly understood the Holy Ghost and some even questioned whether or not I considered myself as "born again" or had ever really been saved at all. These are good questions to which I will offer answers to at the end of this writing. I would like to thank everyone for their interest and offer my humble story, God Willing.
One very nice Christian gentleman asked me in email why and how I left Christianity for Islam. This is more or less a copy of the letter I sent to him.
My name is Yusuf Estes now, but in years past my friends used to call me Skip. I have preached Christianity and worked in the entertainment and music industry since I was a boy in the 1950's. My father and I have established music stores, TV and radio programs and outdoor entertainment for fun (and profit). I was a music minister and even used a pony ride and entertained the children as "Skippy the Clown."
Once, I have served as Delegate to the United Nations Peace Conference for Religious Leaders. Now I am a retired former Muslim Chaplain for United States Bureau of Prisons, Washington, DC. and I join alongside many American Muslims, working with Muslim student and youth organizations as well as schools for Muslim children. As such, I travel around the entire world lecturing and sharing the message of the Christ of the Quran in Islam. We hold dialogs and discussion groups with all faiths and enjoy the opportunity to work alongside rabbis, ministers, preachers and priests everywhere. Some of our work is in the institutional area, military, universities and prisons. Primarily our goal is to educate and communicate the correct message of Islam and who the Muslims really are. Although Islam has grown now to nearly tie Christianity as the largest of religions on earth, we see many of those who claim Islam as Muslims, that do not correctly understand nor properly represent the message of "Peace, Surrender and Obedience to God" [Arabic = 'Islam']
Dear me, I am afraid that I got a bit ahead of myself. I was trying to give a bit of background of our work perhaps to see if it would in anyway benefit those who may being going through what I experienced while trying to resolve some of the issues of Christianity.
How It Happened
This may seem quite strange, while we perhaps may share a few different perspectives and concepts of God, Jesus, prophethood, sin and salvation. But you see, at one time I was in the same boat as many folks are today. Really, I was. Let me explain.
Born A Strong Christian
I was born into a very strong Christian family in the Midwest. Our family and their ancestors not only built the churches and schools across this land, but actually were the same ones who came here in the first place. While I was still in elementary we relocated in Houston, Texas in 1949 (I'm old). We attended church regularly and I was baptized at the age of 12 in Pasadena, Texas. As a teenager, I wanted to visit other churches to learn more of their teachings and beliefs. The Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Charismatic movements, Nazarene, Church of Christ, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Full Gospel, Agape, Catholic, Presbyterian and many more. I developed quite a thirst for the "Gospel" or as we say; "Good News." My research into religion did not stop with Christianity. Not at all. Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Metaphysics, native American beliefs were all a part of my studies. Just about the only one that I did not look into seriously was "Islam". Why? Good question.
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