I was Father Anthony Perera O.M.I. (Order of Mary Immaculate). I am now Noor Cassim. I was born in a devout Catholic family and received training in a seminary in Central Sri Lanka during 1962-71 and emerged Father Philip Rodrigo O.M.I. I served as the parish priest in my native village.
The parishioners raised many questions to some of which my elders could give only one answer. 'It is a mystery.' One particular problem that worried me considerably, was 'How could God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be such a distinct God yet all three be also one God?' It was an impossible formula akin to one plus one plus one is equal to one. All my attempts to find an answer from our literature and from the older priests did not take me anywhere. In fact the Bible does not support it.
Yet another point of my inquiry was the concept of original sin. If it is true it would mean that all the Prophets including Abraham, Moses and David before Jesus (A.S.) had died in sin. This is preposterous.
I remained in this mentally troubled state for one year when one night in my dream I saw a holy man in Muslim garb with a hurricane lamp in hand, whose light shone differently from that of a normal lamp. He asked me: "If I reduce this light, what would there be?" I replied: "Less light." He asked. "If I raise it?" I replied: "There will be more light." He said: "The choice is yours", and disappeared.
My worry increased. I know that I had received a message of a Muslim nature, but I did not know what it meant. By training and environment, to say the least, I had no desire to have anything to do with Islam. To be frank, I disliked it. But the dream was quite clear, though the message was not. What was the message? I remained in this struggle for about one year.
Finally I summoned up all my courage. Deciding that there would be nothing lost by merely discerning the meaning of the dream, I went to a Muslim holy man. He told me that the holy man of my dreams was probably Khidhr (A.S.) who helps seekers after truth, if God wills, to guide them, and he said, "The Almighty is described in the Qur'an as the 'Light of the heavens and the earth', and the message of the dream was to choose between the bright light of The Almighty and other Gods.
My plight was miserable. On one side was the salvation promised to the Christian believer in a Living Jesus as the Savior which I had been trained to accept as the sole truth and everything else as false. On the other hand I was being told to choose Islam of which I knew nothing. I did not wish ever to question my mentor.
I remained in this mental frame of mind for six months when I decided to seek the advice of my mother. She was a very devout Catholic. Her reply was: "Son, do what you think is best." This was least expected and I realized then that there was a Being who was guiding my destiny and that it was the Almighty.
Now I went back to my mentor and questioned him about Islam. He told me about Islam. He told me that Jesus was only a Prophet even as Abraham, Moses and Muhammad (S.A.W.) were, and belief in Jesus as God is, according to Islam, an unforgivable sin. My troubles commenced again. Which is the safe religion? But now it did not take long to make a decision. I embraced Islam.
Now I had to learn Islam and I was advised that the best school for a man of my age is the Thabligh Jma'at. I attended their programs regularly and went abroad too. I picked up the Arabic letters. I had learned that the Almighty answers the prayers of his worshippers especially at Tahajjud, the past midnight prayer. I prayed and implored and wept. My yearning was acute and the Almighty answered my prayer.
I have experienced miracle after miracle leading me to be, I hope, a true Muslim. Originally I had taken the name of Noo Cassim. When I found that light has played a significant part in my life and Noor means light, I have changed my name to Noor Cassim.
I have seen the nobility of Islam in theory and practice. The God of Islam is uncomplicated. He is One and Only, and there is none comparable to Him. Everything on the earth is contingent on Him and He alone is Independent. Prayer is direct conversation with Him five times a day and there is no need for a priest to intercede. There is no distinction of any form between men in the Mosque, and outside. No one is superior to another except the pious. No one bears another's sin except the parent who had not brought up his children in religion. Faith alone is not sufficient to gain salvation but it should be testified by good deeds. Evil will be rewarded with evil unless the Almighty pardons by genuine plea for His forgiveness. Charity is so obligatory that the giver would seek the taker. Fasting for a month, though rigorous without food and liquid for about 14 hours in a day, is observed even by children. The assembly of Hajj in Makkah in millions all garbed in two pieces of unsewn white cloth, reminds us of the assembly on the Judgment Day when virtue will he rewarded and vice punished.
I have found the Qur'an most inspiring. It is no wonder that Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) embraced Islam by only reading the Qur'an. Scientists and scholars are attracted by the Qur'an. Among non-Muslims there has been a carefully nurtured hatred for the Qur'an and this great treasure of wisdom and moral guidance has been neglected by non-Muslims. My message to the Christian and other people is to read the Qur'an with sincerity and an open mind so as to discover the Truth.
It may be that you too will receive the signs by which 'the Almighty opens your hearts' to Islam or at least to its noble principles. You shall not certainly lose. The choice is yours.
The Islamic Bulletin
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