Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: My Name Used to Be Muhammad

I recently read My Name Used to Be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian, written by Tito Momen with Jeff Benedict. I found it to be a very fascinating story.

Tito Momen was not just any Muslim, he was raised in a very traditional Muslim family compound in Nigeria. From the age of 5, he was raised to become a Muslim cleric by his exceedingly strict father. On his fifth birthday, he began with his first visit to the mosque for 5:00 am prayers (just one of several daily prayers), a ritual that would continue daily for the rest of his growing years.

What I found most fascinating about this book were Tito's firsthand insights into the Muslim religion--indeed, the very life strict Muslims live. Everything is dictated by the Qur'an and/or the Imam, the compound's religious authority. Women are second-class citizens. Tito, then Muhammad, is not allowed to explore his love of art in any fashion--no painting, no drawing, no photography. At times he defies his father's wishes and sneaks art supplies into his home, only to be caught and severely punished.

As Muhammad grows, he knows his father wants him to become a cleric. In preparation, beginning once again at the young age of 5, he is told to copy the Qur'an word for word--the entire thing. While young, Tito tells of copying the Qur'an into piles of notebooks his father brings home for that purpose. As a result, Tito has extensive knowledge of the Qur'an and uses that knowledge to get into a college for Islamic Studies in Egypt.

While in Egypt, Tito is exposed to a few Christians, Westerners, and other Muslims who are not as strict in their Muslim practice as he has been raised to be. Tito makes lots of friends, begins to enjoy Western music (something strictly forbidden by his father) and takes up such things as photography and art that he truly enjoys. He also tries alcohol and cigarettes, something never seen at home in the family compound.

As a few years go by, Tito reconnects with a friend from his first year of studies, and this friend has mysteriously changed. He no longer drinks alcohol, coffee or tea, and attends a church called the Mormon church. Tito is fascinated by his friend's new beliefs, and begins to study the Bible, and then later, the Book of Mormon. I enjoyed his story of how he came to believe completely in both and to accept Christ as his Savior.

My Name Used to Be Muhammad is a fascinating story of love, betrayal, redemption and conversion. I highly recommend this book.

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