My Name Used to be Muhammad is the true story of Tito Momen. He was born Muhammad Momen to devout orthodox Muslim parents in a small village in Nigeria. Even from his infancy, his father had his sights set on the clergy. Beginning at age five, Muhammad attended the mosque every morning before sunrise with his father. By six he was well on his way to memorizing the Qur’an. Normal childhood activities were denied to him so as not to be a distraction from his becoming a cleric. He persevered, and by the time he was a teenager he was on his way to study Islamic Studies at a university in Syria. During his studies he became increasingly confused with the abusive situations he found himself in with his professors. Eventually he transferred to Cairo where he discovered not only that others of his faith practice with varying degrees of orthodoxy, but that the western culture he had been taught to loathe was not as evil as he had always been taught. Muhammad’s studies and experiences eventually lead him to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His acceptance of the Savior was a tremendous blow to his family, and in a world where he can be beaten or even killed for reading the bible, he is betrayed by the love of his life and ended up being imprisoned for his new faith. During the years he spent incarcerated he found strength in the Savior’s love for him and learned that he is never alone.
I began reading this book the night before I woke up with the flu. I have never been so glad to be sick in my life! Fortunately it was a Saturday so I sat in my chair and just read for hours while my sweet husband and children took care of things. I could not put this book down! I think that it can be hard for us to imagine what it is like for children who grow up in situations similar to Tito. We view the world through a cultural filter which makes it difficult to wrap our head around the type of oppression and abuse that can happen in other cultures. Here in the US there are women who complain because they have to pay for their own birth control while there are entire cultures of women on the other side of the world who are never allowed to leave their house and it is expected that men beat their wives when they “fall short” of unrealistic expectations.
Tito’s life is so inspirational. He swung from one extreme to another before accepting Jesus Christ as his savior. It would have been so easy for him to renounce his christianity and avoid so much of the pain and anguish he endured. I’m sure he thought often about the fact that he was in the exact same situation that Joseph Smith was in. I’m sure he found comfort in the revelation the Lord gave to Joseph:
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore,fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.
I found this book to be less a story about a Muslim converting to Mormonism but a Muslim converting to Christianity. You needn’t be a member of my church to enjoy and learn from his experiences. There are just so many things to learn from Tito’s life. My Name Used to be Muhammad is a wonderful story of faith, repentance, and the healing power of the Atonement. Tito was raised to be able to lead a Jihad, and while it didn’t turn out exactly like his father had planned, Muhammad DID have a holy struggle. It began with a simple questioning of his upbringing, and it ended with a change of name, a change of religion, and a change of heart.