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A Decision Between Two Paths

ImageDr. Tibor Altenberger (32) was born in Zell am See, Austria; after receiving a doctoral degree in genetics he now works as a secondary school teacher (biology and chemistry). Dr. Altenberger currently resides in Vienna with his wife and eight-month-old daughter. He embraced Islam in April 2001.

Dr. Tibor Altenberger (32) was born in Zell am See, Austria; after receiving a doctoral degree in genetics he now works as a secondary school teacher (biology and chemistry). Dr. Altenberger currently resides in Vienna with his wife and eight-month-old daughter. He embraced Islam in April 2001.

How did you come to embrace Islam? Is there any "one" incident you can pinpoint?

I came to embrace Islam through a friend, with whom I was studying. I had known him for a year, but right from the beginning of our acquaintance, I felt a deep wisdom spreading out from him. At first, I did not understand where this wisdom was coming from, but after weeks or months I began to realize that Islam and the grace of Allah were the source. Furthermore, months, or maybe even years before this, meeting with this brother in Islam, an important event for me, I remember that there had been a time when I had the feeling that I had to make a decision whether I wanted to encourage my inner self or not. Now I see this process as a choosing between two paths, one that would lead to the destruction of the soul and the other the encouragement of the soul under the guidance of Islam.  

What was the process of conversion like? What changes in your life when you convert?

The process of conversion was fascinating and wonderful, especially at the beginning, as there was so much I had to learn. I remember that I met so many brothers and sisters who were genuinely pleased about my embrace of Islam. This kind of authentic affection deeply impressed me and was something I had not known before, at least not in this dimension.

After my conversion, my life changed slowly as I came to understand, in fact I am still trying to understand, the main points and the core of Islam. More and more aspects of life became meaningful, my attitude changed more and more towards seeing problems not as something to avoid but as a challenge that provides human beings with the opportunity to become humbler and closer to the will of Allah.  

How can you compare the concept of prophethood in Christianity and in Islam?

Basically, I do not think that the idea of prophethood in Christianity is very different from that in Islam. I never had the feeling, that Jesus, peace be upon him, should be one part of the Trinity. In my religious education he was just seen as a very important person whose teaching was essential to rescue our souls. However, it was and still is very attractive for me that in Islam the opinion of the personalities of the Prophets is so high. The concept that the human being has great potential for morals and humanity is also very motivating and underlines the grace of Allah.     

What is it about Prophet Muhammad that is closest to your heart? What is the most appealing thing about him?

Most appealing about Prophet Muhammad for me is his humility, despite all that was granted to him by Allah. Moreover, the depiction of his personality from reading his biography and hadiths is fascinating for me.  

How is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) perceived and received where you come from?

The personality of Prophet Muhammad is unknown in Austria. People may have heard something in the media concerning him, but very few people are genuinely informed. In my opinion, the inhabitants of Austria are quite neutral in their attitude about him - as far as this is possible taking into account the frequently biased propaganda. People want to get the message about his genuine personality. 

How is the Mawlid of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) celebrated where you live?

Depending on the jamaat, the Mawlid of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is celebrated in different ways in Austria. I think there are also jamaats that do not celebrate this day at all. Those that celebrate the Mawlid have events marked with recitation of the Qur'an, Islamic music groups, etc.   

In Turkish culture, the rose is a frequently used as symbol for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Have you ever heard this?

I have heard that the "rose" is somehow connected to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, but I did not realize that it is a symbol for him.

 

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