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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Quest for purpose: a personal profile of a Muslim seeker

It is Friday afternoon at the Islamic Center of Greensboro and the parking lot is bustling as designated men moderate traffic. Footwear is discarded at the entrance. The Khutbah sermon is moments from beginning.

Located on 16th Street, the Islamic Center is a cultural medley of devout Muslims hailing from the far reaches of the globe, with an estimated 30 nationalities represented. Many of its members immigrated from northern Africa, as well as Malaysia and Bangladesh. One man was not familiar with the teachings of Islam in his native Venezuela.

Matt “Essa” White finds himself going through the preparative motions on this overcast Friday. White is a slender man with fair complexion and an alluring presence. White’s precise knowledge of Muslim culture, complemented by an ability to relate to others, combine in his role as the Islamic Center’s official coordinator for new Muslims and the curious.

White’s childhood began in a Greensboro household that was essentially secular. He recalled that his mother was a part-time Christian on those Sundays when she chose to attend church. White’s perception of God developed from outside influences.

“My first real experience with the creator was going to a Christian camp in the mountains where it was drilled into my skull that there is hell, and hell is waiting for everyone that doesn’t believe,” said White. White believed that God accepted his prayers from that point forward.

An adoration for music eventually led White into the recording industry as a teenager. He soon found himself immersed in a lifestyle of parties and pleasure.

“You get involved in the music world, you’re going to be surrounded by every single solitary sinful thing you can think of,” said White. “All I did was play music. When that wasn’t meaningful to me anymore, I had nothing really to hold onto.”

The life of excess, magnified by the untimely death of a close friend, posed an existential dilemma for White.

“I kind of had this awareness that came over me that ’the lifestyle I’m living is going to kill me too if I don’t get out of this’,” said White.

White consulted multiple philosophies and religious texts in pursuit of some resolve. He admired the Qur’an for its clarity and as a literary standard in the Arabic language. As he absorbed the teachings of the Qur’an, White was inspired by the life of prophet Muhammad, a man of humility who lived what he preached.

“That’s what really did it for me — the character of prophet Muhammad,” said White. “No matter how much he had been through, no matter how much power he gained from his message, he stayed a regular humble person. We’re talking (about) a man who at the height of his career as a prophet and messenger of God … still slept on a mat in the dirt in a house with nothing in it.”

It took White months of debating with himself to decide whether he could handle the responsibility of becoming a Muslim.

“Becoming a Muslim is the real deal,” said White. “There’s not religion and then your life … Religion is your life; everything in your life is Islam.”

The Qur’an provided a method and prophet Muhammad provided a model of self-discipline in White’s journey. His personal enlightenment occurred about four years ago. White continues to dedicate his time spreading the word of Islam and dispelling ignorance about the faith.

An open invitation is offered to any student who would like to attend a prayer at the Islamic Center of Greensboro. Guilford College’s various religious organizations also offer options for students exploring questions of faith, spirituality or religion.

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    Usman AhmadFeb 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Your article is very touchy, one has to get together their own thoughts and make up your mind.
    I am glad the message of Islam came to you. The Lord (god) works in mysterious ways.
    I am happy you have become a muslim and may Allah always bless you