In Nigeria, particularly among the Yoruba tribe where religious tolerance is most noticed, it is a regular occurrence to see muslims convert to Christianity. Hardly do we see a Christian turn to Islam. However, a man, former Pastor Adekunle Afolabi, founder and leader of Apata Adura Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Ekute, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, broke that jinx recently. He converted fully to Islam after practising Christianity for over 25 years and even risen to become the General Overseer of his church, which have branches across Ekiti State.
Now known and addressed as Alfa Abubakar Afolabi, the 45-year-old man attributed his conversion to a divine encounter he had with a strange man in white in his dreams who showed him certain flaws in Christianity and convinced him that indeed Islam is the only religion that leads to heaven.
In this interview with WOLE BALOGUN at his Ekute, Ado Ekiti residence, Alfa Abubakar spoke extensively on his experience. Excerpts:
How did your journey to Islam begin?
I am former Pastor Adekunle Afolabi, General Overseer and founder of Apata Adura Cherubim and Seraphim in Ekute, Ado-Ekiti, I have been a believer in Christianity for 25 years. I have been tutored at the Deeper Life Bible Church school in Ayobo, Lagos and my parents were attending the Assemblies of God Church. I later left the church to set up a C &S church where I became a Shepherd because God always reveals things to me either by vision or by dreams and to be candid, God reveals things to me and when God wants to make a confirmation of them, they always come to pass.
The spiritual gift has enhanced my career as a cleric in Christianity such that my church grew so fast that by the time we were celebrating fifth anniversary, the church has had branches across the state and over 150 members attended my headquarters in Ekute alone. I have also become the state chairman of the association of our church unification in Ado.
I was preparing for the anniversary when I started having dreams that eventually led to my conversion. At first in the dreams, I noticed my members were sitting on the floor in the church and some of them were covering their heads. I also saw that people were washing their hands and feet before entering the church just like it is done in Islam.
In my canal thinking, I thought God wanted us to be washing our hands and feet before entering the church and I instructed my members to be doing so, some did, while others didn’t.
I remembered when I was living in Ikere, around 1986, I used to attend a church then called the Church of Iya Olomi (Woman of holy water) in Ikere. There was an earthen pot in the church where we washed our legs before attending the church so I was thinking that may be that is what God wanted me to do. I went to buy an earthen pot in Ijebu and put it at the back of the church but something strange happened the day I did that, a heavy rain fell and erosion poured sand into the earthen pot that was filled with water and all the perfume and spiritual arrangement I put inside the water was spoilt. Then, I went to clean the pot and put another clean water again. To my surprise, when I was coming home I met little children at the earthen pot fetching water from it like a well. So, to avoid trouble in the neighbourhood, I dug out the earthen pot and made up my mind that it seems God is against what am doing.
In another of my dream, I saw women in Hijab in the church, so on one Sunday I informed my congregation that at the forthcoming anniversary, all women should come with hijab. Only 10 people adhered to the instruction during that period but I was yet to be converted.
After that, certain strange things began to happen in my dreams, I would notice that someone comes to me, wakes me up and then take me on a journey to somewhere, there the man will ask a question: he said do I know if the way I was taking in life is the right one?,I told him, yes since I do pray to God and he answers me. But he asked me again that what makes me believe I was right and I told him that since I can pray to God and he answers me. He asked me again that do I believe that God could write Quran in Arabic to people for them to know his teachings, I said to him I don’t know but knew that some people use Arabic as language. He then called my attention to my left hand, there he told me to open my palm which I did and he asked if I knew that the first line in my left hand stands for eight and the second stands for one which go for 81. He added that on my right hand, the first line stands for one in Arabic and the other stands for eight and that if these are added together, they are equal to 99 which stands for the ninety nine names of Allah. He said this means that Allah wrote his name on the palms of all human beings in Arabic.
I was baffled because I never had any knowledge in the Quran, so I decided to go and research on it. It got to a point that my wife and I started attending the mosque together and one day, an alhaji around my neighbourhood saw me coming out of the mosque, he was so surprised and challenged me and I told him everything that occurred to me which led me to the mosque. He told me that I must not keep this to myself so he advised me to keep walking in God’s way in Islam and stop preaching in the church but call on Imam or alfa to come and preach.
Eventually, I ended up inviting an Imam, a muslim cleric to preach in my church during our fifth anniversary last year. The church members were surprised as the Imam preached.
After the anniversary, the same man came to me in my dreams and tasked me on payment of tithe in my church, saying I should stop collecting it. So, the next Sunday I stopped collecting tithes from the congregation.
Of course, the church members were not all happy, some went to another church because they can’t continue with this type of doctrine and that was how the number of the congregation continued to reduce day after day.
I nearly got fed up, but I made up my mind that I won’t go back on my decision and religion and when it got to January ending, I made up my mind fully to convert to Islam.
As a prophet in C and S, you would be doing some spiritual work for people, now that you are now in Islam, do you still do the works?
Rendering spiritual help is given to all men by God for their own use, so the wisdom of it is given to me by God, he didn’t take it away from me because that is different from religion. It is a way of livelihood so, if any one falls sick, wants to give birth, is having stillbirth, stagnation at work, that is all what we use that for. He showed me places in the Bible where many prayed to God in Islamic way. By this praying, I mean to kneel down and bow down your head and face down.
How have your wife, relatives, friends and in-laws reacted to your newfound faith?
They have always known me to be truthful with whatever I’m doing and they respect me for that and also respect my decision, so there hasn’t been any cause for alarm.
The only person who at a time opposed it was my wife because she was a Christian when I married her. She said she would quit the marriage and I said it is okay and that I don’t want to die a Christian but would rather die a Muslim. But after a while, she discovered that we haven’t been worshipping any idol, that we have always been worshipping God. She came back and accepted me this way. Also, my children are supporting me and have joined me.
What about those who were your colleagues when you were in Christianity as a church leader?
They all left me the day I invited an Imam to come and preach in my church. That day of our anniversary. I have also been relieved of my position as president of our association. The only thing the pastors do once in a while is to call to ask me if indeed I still want to continue in the new faith and I usually confirm it. As for friends, some have stayed while others have left.
Have you now become a leader in Islamic faith?
No, I am still learning to be deeper in Islam. I had over 150 members in the church before but they have all left now. My church before has now been converted to a mosque and it is being attended by many muslims now that I cannot even count them. An Imam is currently running the mosque while I am also there as an Alfa, learning more about the religion.
How many wives have you now?
The Bible does not oppose marrying more than one wife. It says if you want to marry another wife, you must ensure that you treat her the same way you are treating the ones or one you have already married. The Bible only says that for those who want to become Bishops, they should marry only one.
Now you have only one wife, is it likely that you will marry another wife?
No. I have married some women before. Now, I cannot marry another woman.That is not in my plans. My first born is about 22 years old.
You know that there is this common opinion that religion does not really matter, whether you are a Christian, Muslim or traditionalist, your relationship with God matters most in getting to heaven, what is your view on this saying?
All I can say is that anyone who wants to go to heaven should just accept Islam peacefully. Islam to me now, is the only way to God. No other way.
You have spoken against collecting tithes, and said you have stopped collecting tithes from your members, are you concerned that you may not get money to run the mosque since that is a major way to get money?
All I can say about that is that God’s words advise that when we have, we should be grateful and also when we do not. Before I stopped collecting tithes, I have members who usually give me about N20 000 or N10 000 but I still have to stop collecting it in obedience to God. Now, I don’t collect tithe from anyone but Islam permits people to do saka, which is just a voluntary attitude to contribute to someone’s or an alfa’ or just extend mercy or what we call Sadaka.