Abbas Di Palma

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Abbas Di palma, a former carpet merchant, recounts the story of his conversion to Islam and talks about the unique characteristics of Islam that led him to enter an Iranian seminary to study Islam.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma: “My name is Abbas Di Palma. I grew up in a Christian family, in a catholic environment. I went to the church. I got baptized according to the catholic faith. When I reached the age of 12, 13, of course, I began to grow up. I felt uneasy and startedto feel emptiness inside myself. So a sort of growth began in my way of thinking. This is Foto Siena. This is Siena Bridge. It is so small, you know. I started to look and know myself, first, and then other ideologies and religions because I wanted to know and satisfy myself. I felt something inside myself and I didn’t know what I wanted exactly, you know. Maybe science or something else! But, you know, things at that time didn’t make me happy.”

“So what happened was I was lucky enough that my mother was working at the National CentralLibrary of Florence, which is one of the biggest libraries in the world. So I started to research and study about ideologies,Greek philosophy,and Roman philosophy. I started to read about religions, different religions, and different paths.”

“So slowly I started to go far away from the Catholic Church. Sometimes, I went to the church and ask myself some questions. But I couldn’t find answers to be satisfied about. Then I started to talk with some friends, as well. We talked, we discussed. Most of the times, we went to the woods, made a fire, and talked about many things. We talked about interesting subjects, like different philosophers’ ideas, human nature, and so on.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma: “This was a good happening because I grew up in western culture which is unfortunately devoid of human values. And, you know, most of the people of your age just go to discos, here, to pubs, actually trying to have a good time. On the contrary, it was not the same for me and my friends. This lifestyle did not satisfy us. We preferred to go to the woods and talk, not only aboutspirituality and philosophy, but also about social problems in our society. So starting from this point, starting from this research, we, actually, studied and discussed Islam. For example, I found out what Islam is. The first book I took from the library my mother worked in was just the Quran.”

“I got amazed, actually, with the Quran because it is very straightforward, while other philosophical and religious schools seemed complicated. For example, the Quran clearly says that “do this or that in your life. Behave this way.” So you start to build yourself. You can build yourself, and little by little, this clarity and simplicity gets deeper and deeper. You want to go deeper inside the Quran. The Quran have different layers of meanings. This quality is for people who want to know it more. Islam starts from the beginning, that is, it begins from being good. It is like a journey, which starts from the beginning, then you go further and further. There’s something good.I studied many different religions. I read about many different philosophies. But in order to understand their meaning, I had to turn around and around. But Islam starts from basic things, like “be good to your neighbors! Be good to your parents! Be good to your brothers!” very simple things! Things you can do in your everyday life, without needing hours of meditation. It is not like any other religions.”

SOUNDBITE [Italian], Mother of Abbas Di Palma: “When he was a child, he made me bring him books from the library. He asked me to bring this or that book. I could bring him many different books, even some rare books which could not be found in other libraries or book stores. He read books very carefully and looked at the photos. Yes! My job has had an effect on him. All these books are from Iran, Qom. There are many on the other side. I had to put my books away in the garage so that there could be space for his books. He says he wants to take some of his books to somewhere else.”

“The Quran emphasizes on a lot of what …, you know. It emphasizeson a lot of these. These that life in this world is temporary, that it is a brief period that we pass so quickly. You know, there is test in this life. We are in a temporary moment, and I feel it. Of course, I believe that this world is a tool to achieve a sort of perfection.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma: “I started to pray, not only Vajebat. Islam emphasizes on what is called Mostahabat, which you are recommended to do in order to get close to God. So I started to take books to read and learn how to say night prayers. It was very beautiful in the beginning. And I am very lucky, because there is a lot of nature here, in the outside. Most of the time, after my ablutions, I took my Sajadeh and say my night prayers in the mountains, alone or sometimes with some friends, for example.”

SOUNDBITE [Italian], Mother of Abbas Di Palma: I should say that there were lots of ups and downs in our relationship. We spend a difficult period during his adolescence. There was no dialogue or a common language between us. We were always getting angry with each other until he changed. The period from 14 to 16 is really difficult ages. In fact, in this period, he did not know what he wanted. When parents see their children uncertain and disturbed, they get worried. Actually it was very difficult for me and his father to get close or talk to him.”

“I think that we should never get disappointed. We should try to take care of our children, even from a distance. We must try to understand them; otherwise, our teenage children may get deviated. I think it is the same for all.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma: “I think it is incorrect to say that I become Muslim and I do not need anything, so I just sit down. No! This is not what Islam tells human beings. It says you should work, work for yourself, work for your neighbors, work for your brothers, work for humanity, and work for your society. I think you should understand this point and do not completely act against it or become selfish and ignorant. You should not say that I do not need anything because I become Muslim. No! I become Muslim and I should be more active in social issues, even political issues, and likewise in spiritual issues.”

“So one of the things that I decided to do when I became Muslim was to just learn more about my religion, learn more about Islam, and so I started to study. I took classes, I went to seminary, and I went to university because I wanted to know more. I had known the basics of my religion. But it is part of human nature that he wants to know more. I didn’t have a Muslim background. As I told you, I am from a catholic family. So I felt I need to know more. I need to have more knowledge about my religion. Therefore, I started my studies. I have done some researches. I got my degree of Islamic Studies from university. Also, I’ve got degree in Basic and Traditional Sciences from seminary. They were very good, like part of a journey; interesting enough. This journey was not without sacrifice. It was with lots of sacrifice. For example, I had a job. I was in carpet business. I used to sell carpet. I imported carpet wholesale from India and sold it in Italy. But the certain point, you know, was this inner feeling of emptiness, which I had to go far and far, and know more. It happened and I decided to start studying in other countries, first in London, then in Syria, and finally in Iran. I left my job.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma “Another interesting and amazing thing actually that I discovered with Islam was the attitude to social problems. As I mentioned before, other religions emphasize on your relation with God and developing your inside. It is good.And Islam emphasizes on themand supports them as well. It is something in Islam, and you find out what … an important thing, and that is social issues.”

“We have this some sort of wrong conception that, for example, if you are Muslim, you should hate Jews. It is wrong, you know. Islam does not really say this. If you read the Quran, you see that it says all people, including the Jews and Christians, will have their own rewards. If they behave in certain way like Muslims, if they respect other people, if they don’t act with malice, why not? What does Islam talk about? It is interesting to know thatin the Quran it is written … what … during a war between Muslims and heathens Muslims must safeguard heathens if they surrender. This is Muslims’ mentality, you know. People want to come to you? Maybe he wants to listen to what is of God.Maybe he has some questions. Islam is an interaction, it is a discourse. We are created in different social forms. Why? The Quran says you should know each other. You should speak. It is a recommendation for humanity. Knowledge also grows this way. Therefore, this is the main point. You see the situation in Lebanon. Of course, we are not in the Middle East. It is not true to think that Muslims should unite and prepare for a war against the Jews just because they are Jews. This is not something from Islam. Unfortunately, such thoughts are propagated in the West and many places.”

“I think that, any way, western powers, you know, try to justify their oppression. They try to justify Imperialism. How? Many years ago, people in the west were full of hope. Western politicians gave them many promises. So, people went to the polls. It doesn’t work these days. So they have to change their techniques and tactics.They don’t promise what is not practical because people have lost their hope. So what do they do now? They say we will protect you from terrorism.”

“If you just say everyday in the television that Muslims are terrorists, you read in the newspaper that Muslims are terrorists, and you just emphasize what happened on September 11th and what happened in London and Madrid, and you say that Muslims have done these, it is not correct at all. Televisions, newspaper, and other media are doing this in the West. If they don’t tell it directly, they tell it indirectly. So if a person is bombarded with this propaganda by the mainstream, at the end, what does he do? Little by little, he starts to hate Muslims. And it is quite natural. When he hears that Muslims use violence, one year, two years, and at the end, what happens? Sominds, they bring to the extreme this hatred. And this happens now in Norway. They have destroyed everything. Islam is the last thing they want to destroy. Of course, they talk about human rights. They talk about democracy. And they talk about many other things that they do not do. While they speak about democracy, they bombard other countries. They do not want to bring democracy to other countries. If you want to speak about democracy, you should first be a good example.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:53

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma: “Muslim communities should act. Muslim countries should think and act independently, without any dependence. We have our own prophets. We have own Imams. We have a lot of scientists. Where do most of the scientists come from? They are from the Muslim World, in mathematics, Algebra, and Calculus. They brought light to here, where darkness was widespread. When western people were in ignorance and darkness and were dying of many diseases, there was illuminist in the Muslim World. Not that type of illuminist originated from, for example, the French Revolution, you know. So we have what? We have our own history. We have our own treasure, intellectually, scientifically, and materially. Medicine is a practical field. Physics is a practical field. We have our own history. We have our Islamic thoughts, and we succeed.”

“The Islamic Resistance is playing a major role in the whole area, not just in Lebanon. And it is very important. It has a pivotal role in the Middle East that the Islamic Resistance has. It is a very strong role. Any way, it is an Islamic manifestation. Although there are a lot of propaganda against Islam and Islamic movements, if we just look at the movement as it is not in the way that it is presented in the media, we see an example, a role-model of Islam. You see that they are not targeting civilians. They are not targeting… you know. It is just … what … they are trying to what? It is a movement which wants to defend, to defend people, to defend land.”

“When Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah speaks, it is easy to note, for example, that he speaks to you. Many people, you know, for example, many politicians, many people… when he speaks, his speech is alive. There is a kind of sincerity in his speech. It is something you do not find in any other politicians’ speeches. It is very important that such a connection in humanity is not lost. But when western politicians speak, you know, the people do not trust them. People do not believe what politicians speak about as reality because they think that they are politicians and can speak about something which is related to what they are doing. In Lebanon with Hassan Nasrallah, it is very different. People follow him. Whatever Hassan Nasralla says, it is something that the people, you know, just take straight away.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Abbas Di Palma: “Because, of course, he is a role-model, his justice, justness, glory, and purity, intellectually and morally. This is very important, and this is why people connect with him and can trust him. He speaks to people in an easy way. It is very interesting, I think, to see this connection between people and Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah. What do all these mean? These mean that if we act with purity and sincerity in life, we have salvation, not only in this world, but also in the afterlife. With purity, it is easy to connect to people. You can transfer concepts, not only with words, but, you know, it is some sort… it is new type of epistemology, we can call it, you know, it’s a new type of communication. And people see the sincerity, they understand it.”

“We all are human beings. We want to see a new light in the world. We want to see a new world which is ruled with justice; a world full of justice, and without oppression and colonialism. I believe in this. I hope that each of us, with our limited capacities, try and take a step for a better world.”

“A good action, with this mind, sometimes, you know… we just try, you know, to just be witnesses in home, on the street, and in the workplace. We should try to beGod’s witnesses in our living place, with good words, good acts, and even a smile so that we achieve our final goal of promoting justice, principles, and morals.”

   

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