Thomas Haidar is an Eritrean occupational therapist born and raised in Norway. He was from an Orthodox Christian family, but wasn't very religious. In 2005, aged 16, he began to want to get closer to God. He had many Muslim friends at the time, and they had a good influence on him.
In summer 2005 while on vacation to his homeland of Eritrea, Thomas discovered there were Muslim communities there. It was a shock to him, because his parents had told him it was a Christian country. His grandparents were religious practicing Christians, and when he saw them praying, he realized they almost prayed the same way as his Muslim friends did. This made him interested in Islam.
In that same summer, he went to see the movie "Passion of the Christ" with his Muslim friends. Before the film started, one of them was cursing and making fun of Christ. Another friend objected, saying that Christ was also a prophet (Isa A.S.) and revered in Islam, which surprised Thomas. That friend also told him that Mary (Maryam, Prophet Isa's mother) even had a whole chapter in the Quran dedicated to her. It made him realise there were more similarities than differences between Christianity and Islam, which made him even more interested about Islam.
He started actively researching and learning about Islam. His friends invited him to mosques, where he was welcomed with open arms despite the fact that he was still not a Muslim. He started visiting every Sunday to listen to the sermons. When his friends planned a trip to Sweden to visit a mosque there, he was eager to join them and learn more about Islam.
Thomas wasn't Muslim yet at that point, but he was already pretty sure that it was the right path for him. While in Sweden, he met another Eritrean Muslim who encouraged him to take the final step and fully convert. He said he wasn't ready to do so and face the judgement of his family, especially his mother, as she had a very negative viewpoint of Islam.
Some of his friends were supportive and encouraged him to take his time, but others said it was better to convert now before he went home and was further influenced away from Islam by his family. After a lot of deliberation, Thomas made the decision to convert and commit to Islam. Despite his concerns, he says the moment he took the Shahadah was the best feeling in his life.
When he got home however, news spread of his conversion, and he was afraid that it would reach his mother. She found out eventually, after finding his prayer mat in his room. She called a family meeting, where she cried and asked if he had left Christianity. Thomas didn't want to admit to her that he was a Muslim, because it would be too hard for her to accept. He told her he was just interested in Islam and exploring it, but he wasn't a Muslim. He went on to hide his faith for a year.
Thomas said the hardest times for him were during Ramadhan, and when his mother cooked non-halal food for him. It was a constant struggle for him to hide his faith from her while practicing. As time went on she noticed more and more proof of his conversion. She found new prayer mats after she had thrown away the old ones. She called another family meeting, where he broke down and finally admitted the truth, that Islam made more sense to him than Christianity.
His mother wept. In the end, she told him he had two choices; to become Christian again, or to leave her house. With his friends' support, he found the strength to leave and remained a Muslim. He hung around his friends' homes for a while, as he looked for apartments. He was 18 at the time, and didn't have a job, which made the struggle harder.
When Thomas prayed Fajr every day, he asked for help from Allah to get a roof over his head, and ease his struggles. Eventually he got an offer for house, a job, and even managed to continue his studies. Now he still has contact with family, is married to another convert, and is happy that he found the path of Islam. He says his friends' support was a major factor in his success.
His mother still doesn't support his faith. But for Thomas, all that matters now is that he found his true path.
Source : Ahlulbayt TV