The Islamic Garden
Bilal Chin - South London
Rapper Finds Islam
This article is based on an interview with Bilal Chin, who lives in
Bilal Chin was brought up in
He became a Muslim when he was nineteen years old. He admits that he did not really know what Islam was about. If we saw any women with a scarf and anyone who fasted, he thought he or she was an Asian or an Arab and that this was just part of their culture. He didn’t know it was a religion and no one tried to teach him about the religion. Later after he embraced Islam, he remembered girls in school who used to wear a scarf and realized they were Muslims.
Before Islam, music was a very important part of his life and he had even started a music group. He went into business with a friend. His friend’s older brother was well-respected in their community and he had a lot of money. In south
His friend’s brother did not preach to Bilal and his friends but simply talked about their purpose in life and where they will go when they die. Bilal admits that at that time many people around them were dying and he always believed there is a God and that when people die they will be judged. Bilal found that what his friend’s brother said made sense and he wanted to be someone who knew what his purpose in life was and he wanted to be sure that God would be pleased with him and what he had done in his life. At that time, Bilal realized that he and his friends were all free-styling their answers; living how they wanted to live; and doing what they thought was right. At the same time, his friend’s brother was asking Bilal and his friends how they knew God would be pleased with them. Bilal thought that was a very good question.
One day Bilal went to the local Islamic book shop with his friend’s brother in south
Bilal believes that people should not take risks by elevating someone to God’s level; that we should give all status to God. That is definitely what he felt comfortable doing. He does not think we should elevate Mary’s and Jesus’s (peace be upon them) status to a point of worshipping or hailing. Bilal says, “We can learn a lot from them but worship is only for God.”
He went through all these changes at the age of nineteen. He entered the Muslim community and mainly met foreigners at first. The day after he converted was a Friday and he went to a masjid for the first time. He had never seen Muslims pray. A brother picked him up and they ended up being late. Everything was in Arabic and the brother told him to watch him and follow. The imam was leading the prayer and everyone said ‘ameen’. Bilal wondered if he was ever going to know how to do this. He thought he would have to learn the language if he was ever to understand all this, then he realized he had to move when the imam said ‘allahu akbar’. Most of the people he was meeting at that time were Asians.
In the beginning, he thought it was all so beautiful. Everyone was happy he was a Muslim; they gave him their phone number and invited him to different places. He felt loved, however, after some time his impressions started to change. He found that the love was just to a limit. Then he realized how divided the Muslim community was. He started by having a lot of Muslims around him. At the same time, his old friends on the streets became curious and many turned to Islam through him. The word kept spreading until Bilal plus 3 friends, then 10 friends, then 50 friends from his life style – young black youth – were all going to the masjid together. It was like the days when he and his friends went out to a rave – but now they were going to the masjid to pray. The Asians, whose mosque they used to frequent, did not expect to see them all coming to their mosque.
Moving together down the street and going to the masjid made these young people feel happy. They were coming together to do something positive. Twenty-five or more youth were going to pray! That is amazing. Many of these young people had been involved in criminal activities but were now walking down the street going to pray. Bilal and his friends had many things in common, and they all faced poverty and hardship. They had indulged in criminal activities trying to make things better but most of these people converted to Islam and found a purpose to live for. To outsiders it looked like all the ‘bad boys’ who used to be thugs had become Muslims and were labeled as a serious gang. This was so regardless of what they were doing; even if they were going to pray.
Bilal and his friends just wanted to be like the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the Companions. They had become their role models.
In the beginning it was a problem to learn about Islam because for new Muslims there is a lot of confusion. The people in one masjid might tell Bilal and his friends not to go to another masjid and vice versa. However, Bilal also found other mosques that were warm and welcoming. He says, “They’d let the young Muslims sleep there, and it would be open all night. The people there would say it is open for everyone and that it’s the house of Allah. There was always someone there to teach you Arabic and it felt like a community.”
Bilal mentions sadly that for him and other young Muslims like him, it is very difficult to get out of the cycle of poverty, to have constructive things to do in their spare and to find someone suitable to marry.