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My name is Khalil Martin. I was born and raised in England and I have been a Muslim for 23 years by the Grace and Mercy of Allah and this is my 23rd Ramadan, Alhumdullilah, as I accepted Islam on the 3rd of Ramadan 1399.
I had been travelling and wandering vaguely in search of something for over 10 years. I used to tell people that I was searching for the Truth but it always sounded pretentious. The fact was, I was searching for my Self and a place where I felt at home, for nothing satisfied me. My travels took me to Jerusalem by chance, not by design. But as soon as I arrived I realised that I had come to somewhere very special, unlike anywhere else I had been to. It seemed to have a presence and a light that was truly inspiring. Up to that point I would have described myself as a non-practicing believer. In Jerusalem I started to pray in earnest going from place to place looking for the source of this presence. Eventually, in the afternoon, I went to the Mount of Olives. It was a name I was familiar with from reading the Gospels and it attracted me. On top of the Mount of Olives there is a sanctuary, run by some monks, where, it is said, Sayidna Isa used to go to pray and meditate and to teach his disciples. During the day-time it is busy with tourists, but one of the monks saw that I was sincere and offered to let me stay after sunset when they close.
In this cave I stayed and I prayed, and at that point I realised that all my life I had been attempting to guide myself, mainly at the service of my ego, but never had I turned to God, who created me, to ask Him the purpose and meaning of my life. So I asked for forgiveness and in a sense threw myself between His Arms and asked for His Help and Guidance. After about an hour I left feeling at peace and knowing that my life had changed forever. Immediately, I was accosted by a lady who insisted that I should meet her Sheikh. I was in a very surrendered state, I was unable to argue. She instructed a local boy to take me to the house of the Sheikh (actually I had no idea what she told the boy because it was all in Arabic) so I entrusted myself into the care of this young boy of maybe 7 or 8. We went down a steep hill on the other side of the Mount of Olives into the darkness, not knowing where I was going or why I was going there. After a while we turned off the main road down an alley and some steps and he delivered me in front of this large building, pointed to it, and disappeared. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. But the daughter of the house came out to wash the steps, saw me standing there, and told me to enter.
She showed me to an empty sitting room. Within moments the Sheikh entered. He said, in English “Yes Beloved what can I do for you?” I felt nervous and embarrassed, but asked him about the Truth. He told me that if I wanted to find the Truth that I would need a Guide who knew the way to the Truth. When I asked him how to find the Guide he said “Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened”. This touched me because although he was a Muslim, he was speaking the language of Jesus, and words that I could respond and relate to, because I had myself used those words on occasion. At that time I was also very concerned that the world was heading towards Armageddon and had read some books that dealt with the signs concerning this in the Bible and other texts. So I asked what the Qu’ran had to say. As soon as I asked the question my heart knew the answer---If you make your peace with God then you have nothing to fear.
To be honest though, generally, I felt quite awkward, a scruffy, ignorant, hippy taking the time of this Sheikh. So as soon as it was polite I took my leave to go.
As I was leaving it came so strongly to my heart that I had begged God for guidance, I had knocked at the door, and when He opened a door for me I wanted to run away. At that moment I knew that this was the answer to my prayers. Wanting to be sure that I was not allowing myself to be swept along by events I returned to Jerusalem. three days later I returned to the house of the Sheikh to ask to be his student, and so I embraced Islam a few days after my 28th birthday. Praise be to Allah, Who guides to His Light whom He Wills, and without whose Help and Mercy we would be in utter darkness.
7 years later he married me to my wife, Fatima, who originates from Austria and studied Arabic linguistics at Vienna University. Allah has blessed us with three children. I was a drop-out and never qualified in anything, but Allah has been generous and gracious to me. I inherited a menswear shop from my father that I now run.
The Sheikh is Muhammed al-Jamal ar-Rifai, formerly Deputy Mufti for Al Aqsa and the West Bank and Sheikh of the Shadhdhuliyyah Tariq. He is now head of the Higher Sufi Council of Jerusalem and his office is on the raised daias within the Haram, 50 metres from the Dome of the Rock. He is a Sheikh of the Shariah (Law) and of the Haqiqa (Truth), the inside and the outside. In 22 years I have never met anyone who I have found to be greater in knowledge.