“You are doing what I always wanted to do.” Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)
Submitted by mateen on Wed, 01/20/2016 - 10:23
By Saniyasnain Khan
In the late eighties when I first visited London, I tried to meet Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens). I contacted his secretary to get an appointment. She said I could meet Mr. Yusuf at Regent’s Park Mosque on Sundays after the Asr prayer. So I visited the Regent’s Park Mosque and found Yusuf Islam surrounded by a group of people. After waiting for some time I managed to meet him and gave him a copy of my father’s book, Muhammad: The Prophet of Revolution. He glanced at it and said he will read it. That was a short meeting.
Few years later I travelled to London along with my friend from the U.S., Muhammad Rafiq Lodhia to do research on the Encyclopedia of the Quran project. There we met designer Abdul Latif Whiteman, photographer Peter Sanders (Abdul Adheem), and editor and writer Timothy Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad). With Muhammad Rafiq Lodhia’s support, I was able to get a lot of work done from these gentlemen, and visited England very frequently. These trips helped me to understand the Islamic publishing business and eventually in establishing Goodword Books.
(L-R) Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Rafiq Lodhia and Muhammad Rafi
On one of my visits to London Abdul Latif Whiteman invited me to the office of Mountain of Light, the company owned by Yusuf Islam. Here I met with Yusuf Islam briefly and prayed Zuhr prayers in his office. The prayers were led by Yusuf Islam.
Many years afterwards, in 2005 when I started writing and publishing children’s books under Goodword, a school in Dubai known as the School for Research Science, noticed my books and invited me to the school. There I met Prof. Tayeb Abu Sin who was vice principal of the school.
After I returned from the trip, Prof. Tayeb Abu Sin called me and said that Yusuf Islam now lives in Dubai and he has seen my books and wishes to meet me. So I travelled to Dubai again and contacted Yusuf Islam. He invited me to a café in a mall in Dubai. When I reached the mall, he was waiting for me at its entrance as I had got a little late. Very graciously he took me to a nice café inside the mall and said, “My wife is not in Dubai, therefore I have invited you here.”
We had a very good discussion about producing children’s books on various topics relating to Islam. I realized that he was a very humble, receptive and down to earth person. Meeting with him in Dubai had a great impact on me. It turned out to be very inspiring and I was able to write and produce more books for children based on the discussion I had with Yusuf Islam in Dubai.
After a long gap of over a decade, I happened to meet Yusuf Islam again at Toronto during RIS Convention in December 2015. I met him at the top of the CN Tower, where all the speakers of RIS were invited to a luncheon by Fowzan Khan. When I presented him one of my latest books, My First Prophet Muhammad Storybook, he smiled and said, “You are doing what I always wanted to do.”
He presented me with a copy of his book, Why I Still Carry A Guitar. He signed it for my father and wrote on it, to Shaikh Wahiduddin with respect and request for your du'a.
Yusuf Islam’s Journey to Islam
In this book, he has written a beautiful narrative about his spiritual journey to Islam.
Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) was born in 1948 into a Christian family. His father was from Cyprus who migrated to England in the mid 1920s. In his youth, Yusuf Islam decided to pursue material success and live the ‘good life’. He became a successful singer and songwriter. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and was hospitalized. It was here that he began seeking answers to the meaning of life and man’s fate after death. After his recovery, he continued his search for the truth. He began meditating and read books on many religions and philosophies.
In 1975, his elder brother, David, traveled to Jerusalem. There, he saw the golden domed mosque that stood at the centre of the Holy City. At that time, Islam was relatively unknown in the West. He visited the mosque and was very impressed to see the way Muslims worshipped. In the mosque he saw no statues or pictures, just pure, serene prayer.
After his return to England, David bought a translation of the Quran from a shop in London and gifted it to his brother on his birthday. Yusuf Islam writes, ‘The very first revelation to the Prophet was the perfect embodiment of my own first encounter with the message of Islam’:
Read! In the name of your Lord who created,
Created man from a clot of blood.
Read! And your Lord is the Most Bountiful One,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he did not know. (96:1-5)
Yusuf Islam was surprised to find that the Quran was not about strange Arabic idols or deities as he had thought. On the contrary, the Quran taught belief in one Supreme Being – the Originator of all creation. The Quran referred to all mankind as one family, all being the children of Adam. His preconceptions about Islam were all proven incorrect. He also found that the statements of the Quran regarding nature and the universe were completely in concurrence with the discoveries of modern science.
When the truth became known to him, he immediately decided to enter the fold of Islam, without caring about what other people thought. He said, ‘God was my Creator and my Maker, He had saved me and guided me to this, my destiny. There was nothing and no one else I needed to worry about.’ In December 1977, he paid a visit to the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park where he made his declaration of faith.
Following his conversion, Yusuf abandoned his music career. He said his focus turned towards ‘the pleasure of God and the hereafter – at a time when most people around me were looking for material rewards here and now.’ Since then he has involved himself in numerous Islamic and humanitarian projects. He gradually resumed his music career in the 1990s.