"I said to myself, ‘How pure Islam is!'" says Jakab György, a Hungarian convert, as he tells the story of his conversion to Islam. Born on Feb. 15 1974 in Budapest, Hungary, György notes that he has not lived a religious at all until the day he began to feel interestes towards the spiritual aspect of Islam.
Having studied at a master's program in Peace and Conflict Studies at the European University Center for Peace Studies in Stadtschlaining (Austria) and Castellon de la Plana (Spain), György held a BA in French language and literature, geography and European Studies form the Berzsenyi Dániel Teachers' Training College in Szombathely (Hungary). Prior to this he studied at the prestigious Kölcsey Franco-Hungarian Grammar School in Budapest. György is currently working as a grammar school teacher and also as a part time imam for the Hanif Islamic Cultural Foundation. He also teaches Turkish for beginners at a language school.
Little touches with Islam
"Before choosing Islam I was not raised as a religious person," says György. "My family -historically speaking- comes from three distinct denominations, but hardly anyone practiced any of them. My maternal grandmother was a pious Roman Catholic, though and rumors are going around that she made us baptized in secret." However, even this was not sufficient enough for György to embrace the requirements of his religion. "In fact, no religion impressed me before I embraced Islam," he notes. "I remember having bath at the age of ten and contemplating what if Muslims were right when they say that God is ever-watching and actually watches me at that very moment."
In this sense, György was in fact never totally far away from the Islamic culture, which was maybe a fortunate situation for him. "As a Hungarian I was already surrounded by Islamic heritage of our past," he explains. "In our heroic novels and historic cities we have plenty of reference and ruins proving it. Still I can recall that when in 1989 I traveled with my father to Skopje, at that time it was still to be found in former Yugoslavia, and we admired those lofty minarets around us. We wanted to get into one of the mosques to see how Muslims worship, but they closed except one of them where we found an old man who could not speak any foreign languages. Still he wanted to give us an answer to the question he probably did not understand. He brought us to the tap in the garden and performed ablution. And I said to myself, ‘How pure this religion is!'"
After this experience, György went to Istanbul where he had a closer encounter with the Islamic and the Turkish culture. "Next year we went to Istanbul," he says. "That was the time when the old regime collapsed in Hungary and everyone was interested in politics and social issues. Our tourist guides were smart enough to introduce us the Islamic concept of justice besides the Topkapı Palace and the Hagia Sophia."
Happiness after twelve years
After this, years passed by contemplating for György. "I meditated twelve more years," he says. "Finally I experienced the West Africa living on rhythm of the daily prayers. And when I got home, I read the Quran again, I fasted for a whole Ramadan without being a Muslim, and then I converted to Islam on the eve of Eid."
With the conversion, naturally many things changed in György's life. "Islam with its daily prayer and other obligations brought order into my life," says György. "I started to live as the people whom I saw in Africa. I spent no more time to kill sitting in a bar, but remembering Allah and his Prophet." Of course, this decision of György aroused some reactions in his environment, particularly within his family. "My father, a complete Atheist, is still wondering how his son got influenced by the thing he saw, the things that were merely exotic for him," he explains. "My wife started to take her native Protestantism more and more seriously and later on she made inquiries about all major religions except Islam. But -Elhamdulillah- one and a half years later she converted to Islam too."
On the other hand, György emphasizes that despite the Islamic heritage in the region, many people are unaware of Islam and Prophet Muhammad. "Most people in Hungary simply did not hear about him," says György and warns. "We have to educate them about him. Because when we do so, people listen to it carefully; especially young people who realize that the message which has passed to them is about their own future in the hereafter and what if Muslims are right, they would pay more attention."
It is noteworthy that the number of Muslims are very low in Hungary. "We are around 20.000," says György. "That is 0,2 % of the overall population. In our small community, we used to get together - sometimes in the mosque, sometimes in a Muslim restaurant - to listen a speech about the noble life of the Prophet. We also used to pray tasbih prayer for his soul."
In this respect, for György, Prophet Muhammad should be understood as an example in all the aspects of our lives. "I do not like it when Muslims decompose the Prophet, choose one of his noble characteristics and then stick to it," he says. "Muslims should rather follow his integrity. The Prophet should be understood as a role model for our entire life. On the other hand, he has also heard about the functionality of some symbols used in some Islamic countries. "Indeed I heard about the rose symbolizing our beloved Prophet", notes György. "In our predominantly non-Muslim culture, we do not have such a symbol. Hungarian Muslims should however work out a similar symbol."
As an educator himself, projects and initiatives such as Lastprophet.info have a great important in relation to the education and the transmission of the true knowledge to other people and younger generations. "This website is a great initiative," says György. "I think we should produce something similar in our tongue, too. As I said, people in my country are not aware of the greatness of our Prophet and this would be a magnificent introduction."