In November of 2006, I first met Mark J. Hopheins Jr., a Muslim. At the time I did not have a cell mate. So I was seeking one who was quiet and easy to get along with.

Another Muslim friend suggested I give Mark a chance at being my cell mate. So I did, when he moved in, he explained he had certain things he had to do. One was saying 5 prayers a day at various times; I asked if I need to leave, he told me no.

He explained I could stay as long as I was respectful of his praying, no talking or other things he explained. I told him I would like to listen and watch if this was permissible. He said he did not think this would be a problem.

During the first days I felt different feeling in the cell, it started after he started to pray. There was a quiet, peaceful feeling.

I started to ask questions, I had a Qur’an that I had started to read. I liked what I read as it was easy to understand. He did his best to understand my questions. I liked what he said, and the feeling of being around him.

I asked Mark to fix out if I could attend the Muslim services to learn more. He said he would talk to and ask them. They told Him I would be more than welcome.

So I attended the Qur’an study and prayer time on Wednesday nights, and went to Jumu’ah (Friday) congregational prayer on Friday.

I enjoyed the brotherly friendship I was shown by the other Muslim brothers. The feeling was even stronger than what I felt when I was with Mark in our cell. I now believe that the spirit of Allah was there, at the meetings and at our cell. I asked Mark to bless our cell.

I lost Mark as any coach / teacher on 12-20-2006; it was a very emotional porting for me!

On 12-27-06 I took the shahadah and became a Muslim. It was to me the greatest thing I have done to change my life.

I owe this change to Allah, and His servant slave Mark J. Horheins Jr. / his Muslim name is Anys Mahir Mahdi.

After Mark (Anys) left, I also owe thanks to Mike Coonce /Abdullah, and Scott J. Merrill / Yusuf. For them both took me under their winy and are still teaching me things, on how to pray to do wudhu, and other various thing.

But the most important thing I owe to Mark (Anys) is he was patient, he risked with a non-believer, and one thing I struggled with which was being able to memorize things.

With Mark’s patience, his brotherly love, he showed me I could memorize the Al-Fatihah of the Qur’an. But I know that it was because Mark was blessed by Allah to be able to teach me. And because I was sincerely wanting to learn.

Now I have to memorize it in Arabic, I wish Mark was still here, but Insha-Allah he is free from here and I pray to Allah he will be blessed for what he did for me.

Written by Robert J. Bywater

Muslim name; Qalbi Abdal-Baqi