I was a minister in the Nation of Islam
“N—–“, do you see this black jack? I am going to teach you a lesson.” I was told to take off all my clothes, but I refused. After arguing and being threatened, I decided to comply, except for my underwear. I was then thrown into a ten by ten foot metal box called “the Hole.” It was cold and there was no light except for what was shining through a tiny peep hole. Three times a day bread, soup, and water were shoved through the slot in the door. I was fifteen years old.
I had been raised as a Christian in a predominately White church. My mother attended church, but my father did not. Though he was an alcoholic, he was a good provider. At times, under the influence of alcohol, he would be abusive, especially towards my mother. My mother showed good Christian conduct. As a child, I never saw her drink alcohol or heard her use profanity. The conflict in my home left me very confused.
I learned all the Bible stories in Sunday school. I was taught that Jesus died for my sins. I can even remember asking God to come into my heart, yet I never knew him as my personal Savior. As a child, I liked going to church, because it was a place to have fun. It gave me opportunities other kids in my community did not have. However, as I grew older, I went to church just for something to do.
The people in the church were very loving and kind. Coming from a family of seven brothers and three sisters meant that we had great needs. The church was very helpful to our family. Each summer I looked forward to going to camp, which was sponsored by the Salvation Army. However, around the age of ten, I experienced both name calling and sexual abuse from a counselor.
I remember incidents of racism and name calling both in my school and community. Unconsciously anger began to swell inside me, and gradually I began to rebel, but I did not know why. I lived on the west side of railroad tracks that separated the two sides of town. Ninety-five percent of the people who lived on the east side were White. Ninety-five percent of the people on the west side were Black.
When I was fifteen, I was jumped by four White boys at school one day. While they were kicking me and stomping me on the ground, my White teacher stood watching. Since the teacher made no attempt to stop them, I decided to pull out the razor that I carried in my pocket for protection. As I did, the four boys ran. My teacher then told another teacher to call the police. I was charged with assault and battery for carrying a concealed weapon, taken to the juvenile section of the county jail, and locked up in a cell for three weeks. After the first week, I led a protest for being locked in a cell for such a long time. The mattresses of those involved in the protest were taken away. For seven days I slept on a box spring on the concrete floor. Then, because I had led the protest, I was taken to the wardens office, threatened and thrown in the Hole. After six days I was taken back to my cell to sleep on the box spring.
Shortly after being released from the juvenile center in 1966, I moved to Queens, New York to live with two of my aunts. It was during this time that I came in contact with the Muslims of the Nation of Islam. The only thing I knew about the Nation of Islam was what I had read in the autobiography of Malcolm X. He had lived in the East Elmhurst section of Queens, not far from where I then lived. I noticed how clean the Muslims in the community looked and how well they took care of business. Not very far up the street on Northern Boulevard was the headquarters of the Black Panther Party. I can remember a shoot-out they had with the police. They were very active in the community. There was a section of Northern Boulevard that was so dangerous it was nicknamed “Vietnam.” Because of the conflict I was having inside of myself, I started getting involved with drugs.
On occasion I would attend church, searching for hope, but I did not hear anything that was relevant to me. I needed to hear about a God that would help me here and now, not after I died.
Because of drug use I ended up in the detention house called the Tombs, and eventually in Rakius Island. There I got involved with an Islamic group called the Five Percenters. Eventually I joined the Nation of Islam.
The Nation of Islam offered me the moral teachings, discipline and direction that I needed. I had been very confused. We had been called Niggers. We had been called Negros, Colored people, Black people, Afro-Americans, African-Americans, but I had not known who I was. The Nation of Islam gave me some type of identity.
After my release from Rakius Island, I moved back to New Jersey, got very involved in the Nation of Islam, and started teaching the message of Elijah Muhammad. I became quite visible and active in the community teaching in schools, community centers, and jails. We had a big impact on juvenile homes and inner cities.
Just to see what ministers were preaching about, I started attending different churches in the area. I heard a lot of hollering, whooping, and shouting, but no teaching. There was a lot of talk about a God in the sky, and about how people like me needed to hear about a savior that could help them.
Around the early part of 1972, I started going to Chicago to visit Elijah Muhammad. I also started attending some classes in Harlem, New York at Temple Number Seven. I met and began talking with Minister Louis Farrakan, who was the national representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I received and learned all the lessons in the Nation of Islam.
By 1974 I had started reading the Quran and other Islamic books. These books did not coincide with some of the teachings of Mr. Muhammad. Around this time Elijah Muhammad’s son, Wallace D. Muhammad, started teaching the ministers in the Nation of Islam, probably to prepare the members for the death of his father. At the time of his death on February 26, 1975, I was in Chicago. That day Wallace D. Muhammad was declared the leader of the Nation of Islam. He reinterpreted some of the teachings of his father and even admitted some mistakes that his father had made. He claimed that his father was wrong for teaching that White people were devils. In this way, Wallace D. Muhammad began to bring the followers of Elijah Muhammad into the mainstream of Islam. I can remember when Elijah Muhammad was asked by a foreign Muslim, “Mr. Muhammad, what is this strange teaching that you are teaching the people.” Elijah Muhammad replied, “I am not here to teach Islam. I am here to save a baby from the fire.” Wallace Muhammad taught that his father wanted to wake up the sleeping black giant by sending a shock wave throughout the Black community.
I read the entire Quran and any book about Islam that I could find. Since no Muslim can pray properly in English, I learned to say my prayers in Arabic. I began to travel and study intensively under imams in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. I read as many Hadith’s about the traditions of Prophet Muhammad as I could. Because of my study, I eventually obtained the position of an imam. I delivered sermons in the mosque, led congregational prayers, and taught Islam on college campuses, in schools, and in communities. I began preaching very strongly against Christianity.
Around 1985, I began discussing Islam with my family. Islam teaches that Allah is one, not three. How could he be one and three at the same time? I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but I could not comprehend the concept of three in one.
My twin sister was attending a school called Christ for the Nations in Texas. We often wrote to each other. She wrote her views on Jesus Christ as the Son of God. I wrote about Jesus Christ as a prophet from my Islamic perspective.
Once I wrote telling my sister that Jesus could not have died on the cross, otherwise it would have been like committing suicide, since one man cannot die for everybody’s sins. She phoned and told me, “Regardless of what you say or believe, Jesus died for your sins and he loves you. Someday you are going to accept Christ and become a Christian.” I responded, “Not in a million years!” We continued to write and call each other. I also had conversations with my other two sisters and mother about Islam versus Christianity.
One day, my sister and I were talking on the phone when she said, “I have been praying for you and I challenge you to pray and ask God to prove to you that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for your sins.” I accepted the challenge, because I love challenges and because I was confident in Islam. I decided that if God would prove to me that Christ died for my sins, then I would become a Christian. If not, I would teach and promote Islam like never before. I prayed that prayer often. I did not realize until later that hundreds of people were praying for my conversion.
One evening I was standing in front of a 7-11 store. Suddenly, a man asked me for directions to a church. When I asked him whom he knew in that church, he named my oldest sister. Realizing who I was, he said, “Oh, you are that Muslim we’ve been praying for.” I insisted, “You don’t have to pray for me. Islam is my religion. Allah is my god.” As I looked at that minister, a strange feeling came over me.
As I kept challenging God with my prayers, strange things began to happen. One Sunday, after my teaching in the mosque on the story of Christmas and the Christian belief about the birth of Christ, a Muslim sister asked me to explain the Islamic view of the birth of Christ. I recited Surah 3:45-47 from the Quran. I had recited and explained these verses many times and had heard imams and Islamic scholars explain them. Yet as I spoke, for some unknown reason, deep within my heart doubt arose for the first time. I was not sure of my answer. I began to intensify my study of the Bible, comparing references to Jesus in the Bible with the ones in the Quran. I had no problems with the teaching of the virgin birth. The Quran says in Surah 3:47, “She said, O my Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man hath touched me.” (Translation by A. Yusuf Ali.) What Islam rejects is calling Jesus Christ the Son of God.
My recitation of the Quran in Arabic was not articulate or fluent. However, it was understandable and acceptable enough to lead prayer in a mosque. One time as I recited Al Fatiha like I had done many times, strangely I could not remember each and every word. The recitation of the Quran is supposed to be word for word, without even one word left out. I could hear a Muslim brother behind me trying to correct me, but I could not remember. After prayer he came to me. An Egyptian, he was fluent in Arabic and the recitation of the Quran. I have never forgotten his words. He said, “Brother, because of your error of omitting a word, Allah will not accept our prayers. The imam is the one who stands in front. Everyone else follows him as he leads prayer. The responsibility of the prayer is on him. If he is incorrect, everyone’s prayers are rejected.” His words rang in my ears, and the weight of the responsibility was too great for me to bear. I told him that I would never lead prayer in the mosque again.
After that day, I knew there was something happening to me, but I did not know what. As much as I loved Islam, doubts began to enter my mind. My life as a Muslim began to unravel quickly.
Then one day I received a letter from my sister inviting me to attend her graduation ceremony from Christ for the Nations. I knew in my heart that this visit to Texas would be important. I telephoned my sister and told her, “I believe this trip will be a turning point in my life. I have been praying that prayer you asked me to pray. When I come back I will either be a Christian, or I will rededicate my life to Islam.”
My sister met me at the airport and took me to her graduation. Singing and praise filled the air as we entered the auditorium. I could sense that it was special. After the service, my sister introduced me to a former Muslim from Africa. He began to explain why he had become a Christian. He explained that he had been raised a Muslim in a tribe that mixed old tribal practices with Islam. He shared an awesome testimony of how he came to know Jesus Christ.
The next day, my sister introduced me to an Egyptian student who was a former Muslim. I will never forget him. I was really impressed because he came from a long line of Muslims. He knew Islam and the Quran and was fluent in Arabic. He shared Philippians 2:5 with me. He began to tell me how God loved us so much that He came Himself in the very person of Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, leaving his high throne and giving up his authority to take on human form and became a servant. He told me God was a personal God. He said his mother had told him, “If you denounce Christianity, I will give you one million dollars. For you to confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is shirk [idolatry] in Islam.” She said, “Son, if you do not denounce Christianity, then from this day forward you are no longer my son. You are dead.” He told his mother that he could never, never deny Jesus Christ as the Son of God, because Jesus was his Savior. He told me how he cried and was deeply hurt because his whole family turned their backs on him. His words touched my heart deeply.
The next day, my sister took me to her church. There they were singing, praising and worshipping God, and I decided that day that I would accept Jesus Christ. After the pastor gave his talk, I told him I wanted to accept Jesus. I did not understand the concept of the Trinity, but I had to take a step of faith. Everything else I had tried had disappointed me. The minister explained that understanding would come, but I must first experience Jesus Christ by faith.
I did not understand what I had done, but I knew I was a changed man inside. It was like a ton of weight lifted off of me. I no longer had to try to live by law or try to be good enough to get to heaven.
Today, I know that I have a personal relationship with Jesus. I know that it is by God’s grace that I am saved.
As a Muslim I was formerly known as Khalif Majid Hassan. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior in Dallas, Texas in December, 1986.