Profile: From Foreclosure to Truth
Interest compounds so quickly that homeowners sometimes find it impossible to keep up with payments and sadly end up losing their homes.
Here is a touching story of how an American Hindu family’s home foreclosure brought one teenager to Islam.
My experience of home foreclosure as a Hindu teenager is probably what set me on a trajectory to change my entire life, and ultimately lead me to spiritual discovery and truth. I came from a middle class immigrant family that tried its best to promote education and enrichment in their children's lives. I was sent to a private school and given the best education money could afford, even though money was not always the most available thing.
Growing up, of course, I did not know much about Islam. The prohibition of interest and things like conventional mortgages and usurious loans were completely out of my range of knowledge before Islam. We weren't wealthy, but we weren't poor either; my ethnic community in America was an aspirational one, one that has become increasingly wealthy and successful. There was always social pressure pushing every family in my ethnic community to constantly buy a bigger and bigger home every few years, to reflect the newfound success that they had attained at every stage after their immigration to America.
That wasn't a problem if your wealth was expanding.
For us, it was a problem, because my father's business had hit a snag. During the recession in the 90s after closing the business down, he turned to mortgages as a private mortgage broker. When the banks took the mortgage broker field in house, he was left stranded and without much income, because he was outside that system. He tried his hand at project finance and bank debenture trading. Money was often promised in large sums, but still seemed to elude us. We didn't realize there was a financial problem until it was too late.
Aside from that however, I had a happy childhood. My house growing up was a wonderful place. And our street was the best street in the whole world. We lived alongside many other families with boys of my age of the same, and related, ethnic groups. And we formed friendships and acquaintances that are still there, decades later. We spent our summers and afternoons playing sports outside. And in the winters, playing video games and enjoying Dungeons & Dragons in each other's basements for hours. It kept us out of trouble! Everyone knew each other.
Then one day, when I was perhaps in 10th grade, I was told by my dad that there were some financially difficult times coming. And I noticed that arguments in the house over money had picked up. I could see something was clearly wrong. But didn't realize the impact it would take on the house.
What I didn't know was that mortgage payments were not being made. I didn't even know what mortgage payments were; I just knew we lived in our house. And eventually we got the notice that we'd have to leave this house that we had lived in for perhaps the better part of a decade. With short notice. My father, perhaps, wanted to shield us from the news until the last possible minute in case there was a bailout from some business venture.
Then we were told to pack up; the whole family got busy packing the house in a hurried way. I remember taking everything down from the mantel. And the shelves. Pretty soon movers were in, and some close family friends were helping too. It was all very embarrassing because in my ethnic community, one did not do poorly financially, and you certainly wouldn't admit financial issues to anyone else. But given that we had to move out and did not know where to go, some close people were allowed to know in order to help us.
We quickly packed everything up. And I remember we had to leave behind some of my most precious toys from childhood, because there simply wasn't enough space to take everything in time. I remember writing a farewell note on the inside of a closet and burying a time capsule that I have not dug up until this day. And I also took the number of the house for memories' sake.
I remember the day the man from the bank came and saw us kids crying outside while he did what he had to do. He apologized to my father. The rest of the family drove with friends to a new place we had managed to rent at the last minute by some miraculous act of grace from God, though we lacked the credit background to be approved, had the landlord been more scrupulous. I think this was the earnest prayer of my mother accepted.
I remember that day, not wanting to show my emotions in front of our family, and the friends who had gathered to help us. And I refused to be comforted by them or the family. Instead I walked to school to get the emotions off. Later that day we moved into a new rental home, which became our home for the next few years.
In short, after that experience, I realized that the state of wealth and worldliness is illusory. It can be taken away at any moment. I remember throughout this period of time, when I realized my family was having financial troubles, I had started to get into praying in any way and to anything, as a way of expecting a type of aversion from this financial catastrophe. I used religion as a crutch to try to get what I want. What it did, however, was awaken in me a realization that religion and spirituality could be used to ask for what you want, but it may not be the best for one; however, through it one could also realize that the world is temporary, and that the riches in it can be taken away from one.
Investing in something more valuable and lasting then, spirituality, was a better bet.
I decided to eschew success in my teenage rebellion. I dropped my ambitions for any sort of worldly achievment, and though I eventually went to university after being a top student in high school, I began to do very poorly. I wanted to get into partying and things to distract myself.
Eventually, through a friend, I came upon Islam.
The aspect of it that focused on simplicity and the oneness of God, and the otherworldly abode appealed to me. I think that thirst for spirituality was opened by this event. I eventually became a Muslim, and learned that interest and modern finance is built on principles and practices that the divine sacred law has forbidden. I realized how many sad stories there must be because of losing at the financial gamble, the game of interest.
Looking back now, even though that was a painful episode, I realized that God can bring about something so much better, and create even more happiness, after a period of temporary loss. It opened my eyes to this new meaning of life, and the true nature of this world, so I could live in it in a happier way, and know what to expect, and know what to really pin my hopes on. It changed my life course into pursuing spirituality, and this is my calling until this day.
In the end, however, I would say that we are not taught in society about this sad effect of interest, and what it does to families, and even countries and the environment, that has lasting repercussions. And I am only lucky and blessed that I came out of it better than I went into it. I attribute this only to the Divine mercy and grace. And in the end, I am glad that I had this experience, because I am so much better off now knowing the truth, and being able to advise others towards seeking it.
I was asked to write this testimonial for that reason, and I hope it will go some way in convincing people to do things the better way and see that these teachings that have been prescribed to us over 1400 years ago were for our benefit, and continue to benefit us today. We ignore these divine rulings at our own peril. I pray and hope that we will be able to find a system of Islamic finance that will be able to take care of the needs that people have for housing and other goals in their lives without resorting to conventional interest based banking and avoid its many harms and repercussions. I encourage everyone to support Ethica in its endeavors to promote this.