Born in Okayama, Japan in 1989, Dr. Naoki Qayyim Yamamoto studied Christianity at Doshisha University. Yamamoto, who reverted to Islam 12 years ago, came to Istanbul to research Ottoman mysticism. He currently holds the position of director of the Sakura Center for Japanese Studies at Ibn Haldun University and is also a faculty member at Marmara University Institute of Turkic Studies. He gives lectures on Islamic history and philosophy in Asian civilization as well as Sufism in the Ottoman Empire.

Could you tell us about your journey of becoming a Muslim? 

My encounter with Islam is an encounter with a master (Sensei). I converted to Islam 13 years ago in Egypt when I was an undergraduate student at a university in Kyoto, Japan. For a homework assignment, I read various works and books on different religious traditions that I found at the university library. I remember one day I came across a book titled "A Brief Introduction to God”. It was a small book that explained the concept of Tawhid in Islam without using any terminology regarding Allah or the Prophet Muhammad (saw). I was so impressed with the book that I investigated the author and discovered the author was, Khawla Kaori, the wife of Professor Hasan, a professor of theology at my university, and contacted him about meeting her. Professor Hasan replied immediately and asked me to meet him at a cafe near the university. As I was waiting in the cafe when Professor Hasan arrived and with sadness broke down crying as soon as he walked through the doors. He said Ustadha Khawla passed away a year ago from an illness. He expressed his persistent sorrow, but said that a young man who had read her book and was interested in Islam came to him and reminded him of the following hadith.

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: sadaqah jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased).”