A photo of S. Abdallah Schleifer

S. Abdallah Schleifer

Cairo, Egypt


I felt very bad and I went into a state that could be clinically described as a nervous breakdown. And I understood it as a visionary journey to hell because everything I suffered from in that state—the inability to sleep, burning, fever—all are symptoms of hell. God finds you where He will. I came out of it saying, ‘I still don’t know about God but I sure know hell is real! It’s real; I’ve tasted it in this life.’

So coming out of that, I slowly made my way back to America from Tangiers, Morocco. I went home to this little flat that I had on the Lower East Side. It was my second day back, and I picked up this copy of the Qur’an that I’d been reading in English, and getting nowhere with. I said, ‘God, if you’re there, give me a sign, give me something.’ I closed my eyes and flipped the pages and put my finger in the text. And there I read: ‘Know that you cannot comprehend God, but God comprehendeth all.’ Well I took that as a direct, OK. Right, I can believe in a God who tells me that I cannot comprehend it. I got the message. That’s how I became a Muslim.

Daniel’s Reflection

I met S. Abdallah Schleifer in Egypt where he was a highly regarded professor of media studies at the American University of Cairo. I should have realized that with the first name “Abdallah” and the last name “Schleifer” that this would not be an ordinary interview!

I was treated to the profound story of a spiritual journey that started with Mark Schleifer growing up as a secular Jew in Long Island, to a young man involved with Christianity, and then with Alan Ginsburg and the Beat Generation, where he became a Marxist and political activist...to eventually his travels to Tangiers, Morocco where he was introduced to Islam. I love knowing that, indeed, “God finds us where He will.”

Abdallah’s great awakening came during a personal crisis where he was reduced to opening his Qur’an which he had been studying (courtesy of his hash dealer) and put his finger in the text and asked for a sign. The sign that he was given reassured Abdallah that the God he was seeking could not be fully understood by our human minds and that this is part of the mystery of God and of faith. Opened wide by this revelation, Abdallah embraced Islam.


Qur’an. Paraphrase from 103rd verse of chapter 6 Yusuf Ali translation:

“No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension,

yet is acquainted with all things.”


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