Approximately twenty-five years ago, during my stay in Burma[1], I took boat trips along the river on a Chinese boat daily for recreation. The oarsman who rowed my boat was a Muslim named Shaikh Alî from East Pakistan. He would spare no effort in carrying out all the religious practices commanded by Islam. His fastidiously diligent punctuality in his religious practices made me
admire that man, while in the meantime I began to develop some curiosity about Islam. I decided to find out what was in Islam that kept such a simpleton continuously under the effect of a firm belief and staunch feelings of obedience. Most of the people around us were Burmese Buddhists. They, too, were extremely devoted to their religion. I think the Burmese people are the most pious
people of the world. However, the Buddhist system of worships had some conspicuous shortcomings.

The Buddists would assemble in their temples called pagoda and repeat the following prayer: “Buddha-karana-Ghachkami-Dama-karana-Ghachkamisanga-karana-Ghachkami.”  Its meaning was, as some people told me, “O Buddha, be our guide! Be our canon! Exalt our souls!” That prayer was simple enough, yet it consisted of a few unsatisfactory words which had no effect on the human soul. And there was no mention of the great Creator.

On the other hand, the acts of worship practised by my Muslim boatman were only exquisite! This time, I began to discuss Islam with my boatman. During the hours I spent with him, I asked him numerous questions. The extremely elegant and logical answers that that unsophisticated man gave me urged me into reading books written about Islam. When I read those books, I learned with amazement  and admiration all the accomplishments that Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa sallam’ realized in a short time in Arabia. I found myself some Muslim friends. I entered into Islamic deliberations and chats with them. It was in those days when the First World War broke out. I was commanded to immediately join the war on the Arabian front. I did so. There were no Buddhists here. There were Muslims all around me. The Arabs  were the earliest Muslims. The Qur’ân al-kerîm, the Holy Book of Allâhu ta’âlâ, had been revealed in the Arabic language. My contacts with the Arabs increased my interest in Islam. When the war was over, I began to study Arabic. In the meanwhile I continued to read books about Islam. The greatest attraction I found in Islam was Muslims’ belief in one Allah. On the other hand, as a Christian, I had to believe in three gods, which was quite illogical to me. As I deliberated over it, I gradually realized that Islam was a much more genuine religion. I began to accept the fact that a religion that contained belief in one creator should be a true religion.

Eventually, after doing ten years’ service in Palestine, i.e. between 1932 and 1942, I decided to become a Muslim. So I officially became a Muslim in 1942. I have been a thorough Muslim ever since.

I officially professed Islam in Jerusalem, which the Arabs called ‘Sacred City’. At that time I was a staff major in the British army. When I professed Islam, I had to undergo some unpleasant situations. My government would not approve of my becoming a Muslim. I had to leave the army. Upon this, I went to Egypt first, and then to Pakistan, and began to live among my Muslim
brothers there. I wrote some articles about Islam. There are more than five hundred million Muslims living on the earth today, and they are one another’s brothers. To become a Muslim means to  have belief in Allâhu ta’âlâ, the very being who is worthy of being worshipped, and to attach oneself to Him. And attaching oneself to Him, in its turn, requires adapting oneself to the norms
described by His great Prophet, Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’. Now, whenever I remember that modest boatman, who showed me Islam’s lightsome way and the true forms of worship and guided me to my Allah, though in the beginning I had thought he was a mere simpleton, I feel deep respect for him. I am trying to lead a life of a true Muslim, like him. And I see that doing so protects a
person from harmful things.

Now, among Muslims, I am, alhamdu-li-l-llah’ (thanks and praise be to Allah), another Muslim. And after performing each prayer, I never forget to invoke a blessing on my Murshid, Shaikh Alî Efendi the boatman, to recite the Fâtiha Sûra and send the blessings to his already blessed soul, for by now he might have attained the eternal compassion of Allâhu ta’âlâ.

[1] Myanmar since 1989


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