This time last year, it was my privilege to share my journey to Islam with AMUST readers (I accepted Islam during Ramadan, 2020). Twelve months on, I feel blessed that a very good friend and brother of mine Musa Jules (birth name Julien) has agreed for me to share his at times raw, but always honest and very inspirational story with you.

Musa’s early years were overshadowed by his father’s military service, marked by the scars of war that manifested in abuse and anguish.

“We moved around a lot and lived in several different towns when I was growing up – that’s how it was for ‘Army families’ in those days,” Musa told AMUST.

“My father left the Army in 1985 after 21 years of service. He was in 1RAR, which was the first Australian battalion that went to Vietnam, the first of his two tours there.”

“When my older siblings left home, I bore the brunt of my father’s traumatism and after he left the Army, he became really bad.”

The weight of his father’s trauma bore heavily on young Musa’s shoulders, pushing him to the brink of despair.

“We were living on a farm in country Victoria and it got to the point where I was contemplating suicide, and I was only 14,” he admitted.

But as you will discover as you read on, God had other plans for Musa, despite the darkness that threatened to engulf him.

“My family was Catholic and up until my early teens, I was kind of religious….after that, my mum still tried to make us go to church,” he revealed.

Musa Jules (birth name Julien) accepted Islam 10 years ago.

“But even at the age of 16-17, by which time we had moved back to Sydney and mum got us into a housing commission place in Wentworthville, I still had no detailed knowledge of Islam.”

“I never really had any Muslim friends until I started doing security work and I picked up shifts in the city including busy ‘night life’ areas like Kings Cross and Oxford St, encountering many Muslims in the CBD, however, it was the events of 9/11 and the Bali bombings which pricked my interest (in Islam).”

But it was during his years overseas, travelling around Europe and the Middle East, that Musa’s interest in Islam truly escalated.

“I was actually in Casablanca in 2003 when there was a terrorist attack which killed 45 people,” he recalled.

Carnage in Casablanca at the time of the 2003 bombings.

“But I was blessed to visit a truly beautiful mosque on the ocean, also in  Morocco, although I didn’t pray there as I wasn’t a Muslim at that stage.”

“I spent a lot of time in Spain as well,  and one night in Madrid while I was in my hotel room getting dressed to go out with some fellow Australians, a guy was stabbed downstairs and died right in front of my eyes.”

But Musa only has pleasant memories of the time he spent in Egypt.

“There’s that close connection to Musa (Moses) in Egypt,” he mused, acknowledging the profound impact of his travels on his spiritual awakening.

Back home, another event that had a huge impact on Musa was the death of his father.

“My dad passed away in 2006 and this affected me more than I thought it would.”

“I actually woke up with terrible stomach pains at exactly the same time he died, and my dad had been suffering from stomach cancer.”

Musa (left) pictured with inspirational community figure,  Muhummad (‘Mo’) Alyatim, owner of Brotherhood Boxn gym in Greenacre and affectionally known as ‘Coach Keefe’.

This was a very trying period of Musa’s life, also losing his job as a personal trainer and being arrested after doing a favour for a (supposed) friend.

“I was doing some pretty bad things and mixing with people connected to the underworld,” he confessed.

“By this time I had a young daughter and I decided it was time to think about life more seriously.”

“Something had to give,” he admitted, reflecting on the pivotal moment that spurred him to re-evaluate his life choices.

It was in the embrace of newfound friends and the warmth of community that Musa found solace and support on his journey towards Islam.

“A Muslim friend invited me to ‘come and meet some of the boys’, so I ventured to Dougie’s Grill in Auburn one night where a group of around 20 Muslim brothers had gathered.”

“They explained the Pillars of Islam to me and invited me to ask some questions, but I was a bit overwhelmed.”

“Everything seemed so surreal, almost like a dream, then while the brothers were explaining the fourth Pillar (Fasting), I felt a tap on the shoulder but there was nobody anywhere near me.”

“I told this to the group at the end of the discussion, and they replied almost as one: ‘SubhanAllah’!”

“Then this Samoan brother who had reverted three weeks earlier asked, “Was it your right shoulder, because that is exactly what happened to me!”

“That night, I took my Shahada and I can’t ever remember feeling happier.”

“That was when my journey really started….Allah truly is the best of planners!”

“I can remember the exact date – 29 September, 2013 –  the year that my NRL hero, the great Sonny Bill Williams, joined my team the Sydney Roosters – and Sonny Bill had not long accepted Islam himself.”

Musa with dual footballer international Sonny Bill Williams (right). Sonny Bill’s words and actions as a new Muslim were influential in Musa deciding to take the Shahada himself.

“I had seen Sonny Bill at various nightspots in the past but by this time he was a devout Muslim and I loved watching him speak on TV, so I have to say that he was also a positive influence in my decision to follow Islam.”

“My life since I became a Muslim hasn’t been without its challenges, going from having no rules to following a strict set of rules.”

“My partying days and ‘hanging out with the wrong crowd’ are well and truly over but there are still temptations from time to time.”

“One of the hardest things to come to terms with is that when you first take the Shahada, everyone wants to help you and be in your life.”

“But then the ‘honeymoon period’ ends and you realise that  not everyone is genuine.”

“Another challenge is that people you’ve known for much of your life are no longer around as they can’t understand why you’ve done it (accepted Islam), so it can sometimes get lonely.”

“Eid can also be lonely, as I usually spend it on my own.”

“But overall, my life is infinitely better than it used to be.”

Acknowledging the blessings of his new faith, Musa says: “I’m 49 now, I’ve got two great kids, a great job and I’ve remarried….and it’s my dream to perform Umraa/Hajj should Allah grant me those opportunities.”

Musa with close friend Karl Allouche, a popular figure in our community, who passed away in December, 2023.

“I’ve also met some terrific brothers since I became a Muslim, but sadly have lost some as well, including Karl Allouche, who died late last year. Allah yerhamo.”

“But even during the challenging times I have never thought about leaving Islam.”

“Yes, there have been occasions when I’ve thought ‘this is too hard’ but there’s just no way I would leave.”

“One reason is the fear of knowing about the greatness and beauty of Islam and then turning away from it because I know that  without Islam, there is nothing.”

“So turning my back on Islam is not an option…..ever.”