Oct 8 2023
Interview with Robert Reike (Salman)
Italian convert: For me praying was a kind of doing a Jihad
My name is Robert Reike. I’m an Italian convert to Islam. I was born 61 years ago in Australia, then when I was 9, we emigrated from Australia back to Italy from where my parents were.
When I was 5 years old in Australia, I was hit by a car while I was running across the street. Fortunately nothing bad happened to me, I had no wound, but I remember that, that night I had a dream. I saw myself on the street, or better I saw my corpse on the street. I was above it, I was looking the scene, like a pair of eyes looking from above. All the people were around me, around the corpse, I would say, they were crying. I was trying to tell them, I’m not dead, I’m alive, that is only my body, but nobody could hear me. So when I woke up, I remember vividly this sensation of being something different from my body, but then this went, lost, I would say, in my memories. I forgot it for a long time.
Then when I was in Italy, so I was 10 years or more, I used to speak with my father about religious questions. I asked from him because it seems that when he was a child, he, too, was becoming interested in choosing a religious path.
He wanted to be a priest, the Catholic priest, then terms of life drew him to other speeds, other ways.
I also asked from priests at school in Italy, Catholic priest, and the only thing that I got from that was moral…, moral rules, but it wasn’t enough. I was questioning more than that. I wanted to know what is truth, not, only how to behave. Because I felt that I had to understand my place in the world, and not simply executing something that other people are telling me I should do, this is good, this is bad. Before knowing what is good, what is bad, I wanted to know what is true, what is false, so I, a kind of distanced myself from Catholic Religion even if I had respect for it, but I felt it wasn’t enough for me.
I started to study other religions and mostly Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Taoism, and I felt more attracted by a kind of psychological mindset of oriental religions. I got acquainted with the book of Rene Geneon known as “the founders of traditionalist’s schools”, and from then on, I tried to study all these great religions from that point of view as directs of other unique language of the spirit. Then after years and years of studying, I had the problem of which religion should I practice, because having intellectual understanding of the religion is, of course for me, the first thing.
Then when I was studying at the university, I went to London for 3 month course at School of Oriental and African Studies, and when I got back to Italy, I had the chance to study the books of Henry Corbin who, a friend of mine suggests me to read. When I was in England for 3 months, of course, I accepted, I recognized Islam as one of the true religions. I knew very little about two schools or currents, now they call them Shi’a and Sunna.
When I got back to Italy, I bought the books of Henry Corbin about Shiism and Iranian Islam and I got acquainted with this vision of the world and I remember for a long period I felt that the Imam and me were kind of inseparable. I mean that, not that he was physically with me like a person but he was more like a light that touches on everything and has an inner contact with people, contact to the heart. So, after a few years of studies about Shiism, in 1992 with my friend in the month of Ramadhan, after the sunset, we said Shahada and we became Shia, both of us. From then on, I continued to study until I have the chance to come to Iran. At the beginning, only for a few months I should have studied Farsi, but then I was invited by the head of International Center for Islamic Studied to come to Qom and study Islamic Sciences and I accepted it. Then I stayed here, I married here. I’m still here.
What I remember most is the way I used to pray. The spirit with whom I was praying was like the spirit of Jihad. I was feeling that praying in my room, in that place, was like praying in a desert, in a place that, could say, an unholy place, in a place where religion isn’t well accepted. So for me praying was a kind of doing a Jihad, doing a battle with Satan and kind of doing an act of testimony in a world that doesn’t want to accept lights of the Quran.