Ashraf Arno Schneider, my name stands testament to my journey. Allow me to share a brief history of my intricate conversion story with you.
I was born and raised in a Christian family and named “Arno”. My mother was a beautiful singer and my father was the Pastor of our Church.
From an early age I was nurtured to faith through tellings of the various religious stories including those of Abraham and his sons, Noah upon his ship and Moses with his remarkable courage to guide his people to safety.
My birth name, meaning “The Eagle Leads” or “Strong as an Eagle” was chosen specifically to drive me to emulate the lives of these great men.
As time progressed and I reached my teens, I found within myself a burning desire to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a religious leader. Thus, I dedicated myself to this cause and soon acquired a platform upon which I could share my passion for God, and what I believed at the time to be His untainted revelation.
In my early 20’s I found myself in positions of leadership at my church. But, as my independence grew both in life and in faith; I started asking myself and my church elders questions which were often left unanswered. It was around this same time that my mother started reading the Quran after coming into contact with Islam due to a business relationship.
However, due to my religious standing I questioned her desire for additional knowledge and contested her quest.
My mother’s wavering Christian faith inevitably impacted my own surety, and I began to re-evaluate my plans for my life.
I decided then to work for Royal Caribbean Cruises for a year in order to take some time to figure out what I wanted for my life long-term. I said goodbye to my then-girlfriend, who is now, Alhamdul’illah, my wife, I packed my bags, and I left the known behind.
Before going through security to board my flight my mother held me close to her chest and whispered a prayer in my ear. It was a prayer to her new God, Allah, and one which I will never forget. She asked this Allah to “send a big angel” with me to protect me and to give me guidance. It was only once I arrived on the other side of the world, far from my friends and family, that I discovered that my mother had slipped a Quran into my bag. On the first page of the Quran she had left me a note encouraging me to read it, even if only so that I could debate against Muslim scholars if the opportunity ever presented itself.
It was my love for my mother and desire to understand her conviction that drove me to crack open those pages and begin reading. I started by committing myself to reading one page per night, and so one page turned into two and then three and eventually I found myself being consumed by this Book and I read the Quran cover to cover. With this introduction to Islam, my spiritual battle truly began, and ripped my life, my heart and soul apart. Nothing was as I had been raised to believe. Separated from my loved ones by continents I felt empty, and yet I knew that this was exactly where I needed to be…
Though I felt betrayed by the religious leaders of my childhood, I knew there was something guiding me now, and my excitement at having found Allah surpassed my feelings of betrayal. Even though I felt like I did not know this God yet, I knew He was right next to me, and that He would reveal Himself to me if I persisted in seeking to know Him.
Having completed the Quran and found new stories of the old prophets with whom I was already familiar, I went back to the Bible on which I had been raised and started a thorough comparative analysis of the two Books.
What I found is that there are far more similarities between these Books than what there are differences. The core revelation of the Quran, that there is only one, true God, is echoed in the Bible by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4 where he declares: “Hear oh Israel, the LORD our God is ONE”. Even Jesus Christ confirms this proclamation by those who came before and after him in Mark 12:29.
When Jesus himself said that “you have never heard the voice of God, nor have you ever seen His shape” [John 5:37], I was forced to confront the fact that God couldn’t possibly be a Trinity. He is One.
This is where my journey began, and why I first made my declaration of faith:
There is only one, true God, and Mohammad (pbuh) is the final messenger of this God.