I was minutes away from ending my life, then I found Islam: UAE expat
American expat finds a new lease of life and observes his first Ramadan.
A personal struggle with alcohol led American expatriate Aaron David Snyder, 53, to convert to Islam.
Synder, who is known as Haroun since conversion, confesses to contemplating taking his own life last year. He was moments away from ending his life, when a celestial "sign" from the Almighty prevented him from dying by suicide and rethink about the purpose of life.
A year later, Haroun embraced Islam in the UAE and is observing his first Ramadan as a fasting and pious Muslim.
He recalled his epiphanic moment. "I was standing on my 19th floor balcony, and contemplating taking a plunge to end my life, when I cried out to God loudly: ‘I submit to You.’ I’m powerless about my alcohol addiction. Then, I looked up at the sky and asked God again, if he, indeed, was listening to me. I experienced an epiphanic moment in no time. Within seconds the sky lit up and I saw three flashes of light akin to lightning. I checked the weather, and no storm was brewing. I believed that God told me that I’d be able to overcome my struggle with alcohol. I was at peace with myself. I never touched alcohol since then and my life underwent a radical transformation.”
Haroun started praying for the right path in life and let things take their own natural course.
“I also don’t know how I was guided to Islam. But I knew that I came to terms with an inner peace when I heard the azaan (call of prayer). Soon, I found a mobile application (app) that recited the Quran along with English subtitles. Listening to the Quran gave me inner peace and a sense of spiritual gratification. The Quran embodied my personal struggle and instantly, it became my source of comfort that helped me overcome my battle with addiction.”
In February, Haroun called up Zayed House for Islamic Culture with a few queries about Islam. “After my questions were answered, the woman on the other end of the phone line asked if I was ready for Shahada (declaring that one has become a Muslim). In my heart, I knew it was high time. I cried with joy as I recited the words with her over the phone. I've since taken Shahada two more times and each time the similar overwhelming feeling of gratitude overpowered me. Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. Life has been wonderful ever since. I feel truly blessed living here in the UAE. This was my first introduction to Muslims, and I found them to be the kindest people I’ve ever met in life.”
Haroun was visiting his family in the US when the holy month of Ramadan was announced.
“I was to fly to the UAE on the first day of Ramadan. I thought if I should skip my first fast because I had to travel for a good 22 hours. But I decided to make this sacrifice for the love of Allah. I fasted on the first day of the holy month when I was travelling. There was no compulsion to fast on that day. But I did it because I was excited about fasting on the first day of Ramadan. Fasting while travelling for 22 hours was a challenge. But Allah gave me the strength to succeed, and it has been all good since then,” he said.
Haroun, who lives in Abu Dhabi, has been in the UAE for a little over two years.
He is spending most of his time learning about Islam during the holy month of Ramadan, which started on April 13, and how to pray (salah). “I’m absolutely loving this feeling of fasting as a Muslim. It’s an honour and privilege for me to do this act of worship for the love of Allah. Although my family – wife and two children, who live in the US – are yet to convert to Islam, but I tell them about the religion. I hope and pray they, too, are guided by a similar spiritual call soon. I also want to give my message to all Muslims that they need to support and help us new converts to learn about Allah and Islam. This first week of Ramadan has been one of the best weeks of my life. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know for a fact that a wonderful life awaits me,” he added.
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