I was born in the Midwestern part of the United States in 1963 and raised in a primarily white, middle-class neighborhood. At that time, my parents were Roman Catholic. Although both were American, my father was of German, Irish and English descent while my mother was Italian. While I was still a child, they changed their religion (and thus, mine) to Protestantism. I grew up going to church just about every week. During my childhood and youth, I had no memorable experience of any contact with Islam, in general, or with any Muslim, in particular. My religious socialization (how I was brought up) was strictly Christian.
While growing up, many times I would lie in bed and think about life after death. If what I had learned about there being a heaven (for "good" people) and a hell (for "bad" people) was true, then it was very important that I do all I could to make sure that I went to heaven. I would think how one hundred, one thousand, even one million years from now I would not be on this earth but in either one of those two places. I would think how foolish it would be for me to live for only personal enjoyment on this earth for perhaps 70 years and then have to spend hundreds, thousands, even millions of years in hell because I did not live this short life for God.
When I was 16 years old, I got on my knees and asked God to forgive my sins and to come in and have control of my life. I decided that from that moment on I would not live my life to satisfy my own personal desires but I would submit myself entirely to God. I gave God my future and agreed to do whatever His will for me required. In high school, I immediately changed into a person who openly tried to get other students- and even teachers- to similarly put God first in their lives. I felt God wanted me to become a minister (leader in a church) and so after graduation I began studying at a Christian Bible school.
One morning in late 1981, while I was a freshman at this Bible college, I was in church when I felt a supernatural urge in my heart that would forever change my life. Almost unbelievably, I felt a call from God to Islam. For a moment I hesitated. I had never had any real contact with either the religion of Islam or a Muslim- so why was God leading me in that direction? Furthermore, I did not even know what Islam was or what a Muslim believed in! Why would God give me such a burden while I was in a Christian church? Even though I did not have the answers to these questions, I remembered how when I was 16 I had agreed to submit my life to God's will- whatever that may be. Since I had given Him my future, I had no right to object when things did not go the way I thought they would. I had no real choice. I went to the front of the church, got down on my knees, and accepted God's call to Islam.
At first, like other people at the college, I thought that my new purpose in life was to try to convince Muslims to change their religion and become Christians. It was called being a missionary. However, that presumption gradually changed as I learned about the religion of Islam. Although I did study the literature of other people's thoughts about Islam, the primary way I learned about the religion was by reading English translations of the Quran. Not just one version but two, three, four and more! Even though I was unable to read it in Arabic, this special book positively began to shape the way I felt about Islam. Over a period of time, without even having a Muslim friend or teacher, I began to consider myself a Muslim- someone who submitted his life to Allah's will- and a part of Islam, the religion of submission to Allah's will. In many ways, I entered the Bible college as a Christian and left as a Muslim. Needless to say, this attraction to Islam, coupled with my unwillingness to criticize the religion the way it was popular to do in the West, was viewed anywhere between unusual to heretical among the Christian masses.
Although I did get the chance to meet Muslims eventually, my first real contact with an Islamic community did not take place until I finished my undergraduate classwork early and spent a few months in my hometown prior to graduation. I started attending a mosque with a strong link to Sufism. I went to meetings there to learn some Arabic and how to perform the salat prayers. I also took part in special activities related to the mystical worship common to the Sufis. It was a wonderful experience, however, at the same time it was enlightening in a strange manner. It was obvious that the way I became a Muslim, and some of the beliefs I subsequently developed, were different from the practices and doctrines of "traditional" Muslims. Even without the Sufi emphasis, it was clear that how I submitted to the will of Allah was not the same as how others did. In spite of these differences, I was accepted as a Muslim in their community during the time I went to that mosque.
After graduating valedictorian of my class, I went on to earn a master's degree in sociology of religion at a local state university. My thesis was titled: "The Influence of Social Class and Religious Variables on the Formation of Worldview." Since my initial plans were to earn my doctoral degree in sociology from an English-instructed university somewhere in an Arabic-speaking country, I began studying conversational Arabic. However, I had difficulty finding a suitable match. During that time, I had a Turkish classmate who told me about an educational program in his country and I subsequently took a few Turkish courses, too. In the fall of 1988, I moved to Turkey and eventually earned my Ph.D degree with an emphasis in Islam. I helped support myself through university by teaching English and in 1993 I married a Turkish Muslim. We had an Islamic marriage ceremony and I officially took the Muslim name "Mustafa." I also became the International Marketing Manager for a medical manufacturing company and that job allowed me to experience the cultures of several other Muslim countries (i.e., Lebanon, Egypt, U.A.E., Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh).
Living for more than a decade in Turkey and experiencing hundreds of thousands of interactions with Muslims confirmed what I had first learned at the American mosque I had attended: although God had led me to embrace Islam and become a Muslim, I had certain beliefs that were not completely aligned with "traditional" Islam. My past Christian experiences shaped my worldview (what type of "eyeglasses" I saw the world through) differently from those who had been born and raised Muslims and had known no other religion. I saw things spiritually from a distinct perspective. As a result, I had an urge to somehow share these insights with my Muslim brothers and sisters so that they could see Islam in this special light and enhance their own spiritual experience.
In August of 1999, my wife and I moved to the States prior to our son beginning his formal American education (we also had/have a younger daughter). The following summer I felt Allah showing me the path whereby my unique viewpoint of Islam should be shared with Muslims throughout the world: it would begin by establishing a website on the Internet (a more novel endeavor at the turn of the century). Over the next year or so, the first rendition of ISAISLAM developed through both study and contemplation. After 20 years of preparation, It was officially time for my special call to Islam to be openly shared with the Muslim community. At the same time, there were some messages on the goodness and benefits of the Islamic religion that I wanted to convey to negatively-biased and closed-minded Christians throughout the world.
ISAISLAM.com went live in the Spring of 2002 and was active for quite some time with a modest degree of interest from both Muslims and Christians alike. I recall receiving an open invitation from a Muslim European TV broadcast station to appear on a show to personally share my unique perspective (which was like a bridge between these two major religions...remember, this was soon after 9/11). Eventually, not even being sure how it happened, my website went offline and my domain name was taken by another entity (I later got it back). I also experienced some hardships in my life, financial and personal, including my wife divorcing me. Now, in the Spring of 2020, the second version of my website is being launched, this time with the primary domain being ISAISLAM.org.
Once again, I submit this endeavor to Allah and ask that His will for all of us be accomplished in the way that He desires so that He may be glorified and worshiped both on earth and in heaven for eternity. Bismillahir rahmanir rahim.
My biography has been briefly presented in a logical manner but it is the Spirit that brings mundane things to life. At the risk of being viewed, among other things, as boastful or imaginative, I humbly relate a few special spiritual moments in my life that had been previously kept rather secretive.
When I was in high school, I was told by a friend that he felt God wanted to give me a prayer language- the ability to pray in a language which one has not learned and does not know the actual meaning of what is being said. Although I was very skeptical of his claim, my "submission to God" rule of living did result in my immediate ability to worship God in a language I had not learned.
While on my knees in prayer one day after my call to Islam, I received a vision from Allah of a fair, slender woman who was to be my wife. We were standing on top of a mound of sand in the desert. A few moments later she came back with our child. I thought this may have just been my imagination, so I shook myself away from the vision and prayed to Allah for it to continue only if it was really from Him. It resumed immediately. This time we went down the sand dune into a small building with wooden furniture that was filled with Muslims. We began to speak with them about our religious beliefs and then they enthusiastically accepted what we had to say to them. Note: my ex-Muslim wife was fair and slender and I have been to the Sahara desert in Tunisia and stood on a sand dune. However, I am still waiting for the last part of that vision to be fulfilled. Inshallah, it will one day take place- at least symbolically.
In early 1985, I felt a very specific insight from Allah that He wanted to use me to communicate some type of important truth to Muslims throughout the world. The almost absurd- unbelievable- part of this message was that it would influence people numbering in the millions. More amazing than this belief was the fact that several years later it was actually confirmed! While living in Turkey, I had an English student who told her religious mother about her teacher's unique beliefs in Islam. The mother then went to a Muslim fortune teller who had a vision of a short, dark-haired foreigner. She asked her daughter if I fit that description and she said I did. Then the mother told her the mystic had given her this message: "Do not interfere with the beliefs and actions of this foreigner, he has been called by Allah to do a great work for Islam." Although I did eventually meet the mother, I never had the chance to talk to the spiritualist who had that prediction about me. In a special way, that external sign gave me strength and encouragement through the years to carry on with my love and passion for Islam and to be determined to do Allah's will for my life.
Dr. Mustafa William