Cat Stevens, now known as Yusef, opens up about conversion to Islam

In the interview, Yusuf (his Muslim name)/Cat Stevens, who is performing in London this March, opened up about his conversion to Islam.

Cat Stevens
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 03: Yusuf/Cat Stevens performs on stage during Music For The Marsden 2020 at The O2 Arena on March 03, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

On Sunday, the 72-year-old musician, Cat Steven, born to a Swedish mother and a Greek Cypriot father, appeared on the BBC 4 radio show Desert Islands Discs to discuss his life, inclusing his near death experience that led him to convert to Islam.

Cat Stevens opens up about converting to Islam

In the interview, Yusuf (his Muslim name)/Cat Stevens, who is performing in London this March, opened up about his conversion to Islam. The singer, who rose to fame as Cat Stevens and is now known as Yusef, spoke about the ensuing consequences of his conversion to Islam.

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While narrating his near death experience to the host he said, “I didn’t know it was not advisable to go out and go swimming at that time of day, so I did…I decided to turn around and go ashore and it was then of course that I realized, I am fighting the Pacific. There was no way I would win. There was only one thing to do, and that was to pray to the Almighty to save me. And I did.”

I called to God and he saved me: Cat Stevens

“I called to God and he saved me. A small wave came from behind. It wasn’t big. It just got me going. The tide had somehow changed and I was able to go ashore again. So I was saved. I didn’t know what was going to happen next.” He added.

Following the incident, Stevens, who had studied Buddhism as a teenager while fighting tuberculosis, received a copy of the Quran from his brother. “I would never have picked up a Quran,” he said. “But it became the gate. After a year I couldn’t hold back any longer. I had to bow.”

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A hard jolt 

Under the stage name Cat Stevens, the singer then turned to Islam. He converted to Islam in late 1977 and took the name Yusuf Islam the following year. He also largely gave up his music career, although he resumed recording in 2006.

“It was a hard jolt. I felt responsible to my fans, but I would have been a hypocrite. I had to get real. So I stopped singing and started taking action with what I now believed,” he said to the radio show host.

As Stevens pondered the reaction to his conversion, he shared, “It was very difficult because I was once an icon of the majority and now I am part of the minority that is looked down upon and certainly largely misunderstood.”

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