ABDULLAH BATTERSBY (G.B.)
Approximately twenty-five years ago, during my stay in Burma [Myanmar
since 1989], 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 Ali 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 Buddhists would
assemble in their temples called pagoda and repeat the following
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
On the other hand, the acts of worship practiced 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 s.a.s. 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'an al-karim, the Holy
Book of Allahu ta'ala, 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 Allahu ta'ala,
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 a.s.. 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 Ali
Effendi the boatman, to recite the Fatiha Sura and send the blessings
to his already blessed soul, for by now he might have attained
the eternal compassion of Allahu ta'ala.