Image 1 of 17: Mike Tyson: Another convert bites the dust! Famous for boxing, biting and owning a questionable face tattoo - this heavy-weight is less notorious for his religious beliefs than his ring-side antics. But Tyson converted to Islam while incarcerated on charges of rape in 1992 and hasn’t looked back, since: "Allah doesn't need me, I need Allah”.
Image 1 of 17: Humble hajj-expectations: Funnyman Dave Chappelle converted to Islam in 1998, and even tried to go on Hajj - but only made it as far as Turkey because the KSA wouldn’t give him a visa! Chappelle admitted: “I don't normally talk about my religion publicly because I don't want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing”.
Image 1 of 17: British model Jemima Khan converted to Islam months before marrying world-class Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan. Despite a Jewish heritage, and subsequent split from her Muslim muse, she remains true to her religion: “What began as intellectual curiosity slowly ripened into a dawning realization of the universal and eternal truth that is Islam”.
Image 1 of 17: Jermaine Jackson, known for belting out ‘We are family!’ as one of the cherubic members of the Jackson 5, is less famous for his conversion to Islam after a trip to Bahrain in 1989. Married to an Afghan native, he said: “Having embraced Islam, I felt born again. I found the answers..which I had failed to find in Christianity”.
Image 1 of 17: Shaquille O’Neal, U.S. basketball giant has also scored one for the Islamic faithful. His first and middle name, Shaquille Rashaun, even means “little warrior” in Arabic! Shaq went public with his conversion in 2010 when he told YouTube of his plans to go on Hajj, something that he hasn’t yet done. Slam dunk Hajj for Shaq in 2014 inshallah?
Image 1 of 17: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who is perhaps one of the best basketball centers in history is also firmly centered in the faith of Islam. Upon conversion, this devout Muslim learned Arabic and spent time in Lebanon and Saudi to better understand the roots of his religion.
Image 1 of 17: Gangsta Rap Made Him Do It: His real name is O'Shea Jackson but you may know him as Ice Cube of "you betta check yo self before you wreck yo self." He also is the author of the following poetic statement: “I mean, what I call myself is a natural Muslim, 'cause it's just me and God.” This unlikely recruit converted in the early 90’s. Word.
Image 1 of 17: Busta Rhymes, is another gangsta Islamophile who converted with the best of them, but his flippant song “Arab Money” got a lot of negative critique from British and American Muslims around the world. One UK DJ was actually fired after playing the dubious --think the jibberish out of Team America -- 'Quran-sampling' track on the radio.
Image 1 of 17: Janet Jackson- It is rumored that Ms Jackson has retired from the entertainment industry after marrying her third husband, Wissam al Mana, and is spending her days in Qatar as a newly-converted Muslim wife. It seems this family really bears out the catchy title 'We are family', given brother Jermaine's conversion many Muslim moons ago (slide 4).
Image 1 of 17: Jennifer Grout won Arab hearts and minds, stunning us with her renditions of classical Arabic songs on ‘Arabs Got Talent’ despite being American and not speaking a word of Arabic. Jen converted to Islam after immersing herself in Arab culture while residing in Morocco with her fiance.
Image 1 of 17: Muslim music: One of Brooklyn’s finest hip-hop exports, Mikal Safiyullah, aka Divine Styler, known for his collaboration with rapper Ice-T, is another musical makeover to Islam. His album Directrix makes no secret of his conversion, featuring numbers as “Before Mecca,” “Hajji” and a medley of Arabic pieces rife with his Muslim identity.
Image 1 of 17: Basketball star Craig Hodges is for his sporting, for his political activism, and you guessed it: his membership to the Nation of Islam. In line with his Muslim values, Hodges is often remembered for his advocacy for minority communities’ rights in the U.S. as much as he is for his 3-pointers on the court.
Image 1 of 17: The late U.S. actor Lewis Michael Arquette, a member of The Waltons and of comedy troupe Second City, and hailing from an all-around acting family, converted to Islam in his twilight years, leaving his Catholic days behind. Who says interfaith relationships can’t work: Arquette’s wife was a Jewish daughter of a Polish Holocaust survivor.
Image 1 of 17: The public knows her for roles in everything from the original ‘Exorcist’ to cult classic ‘Requiem for a Dream’, but U.S. actress Ellen Burstyn’s conversion to Islam may come as a surprise even to film buffs! Raised Catholic, Burstyn began her exploration of Sufi Islam in her 30s, describing herself as "a spirit opening to the truth.”
Image 1 of 17: California rap artist Calvin Broadus, more popularly known as Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion if you’re up to speed, was reported to be a member of the Nation of Islam in 2009. For Snoop, however, changing name -or religion- is like changing clothes: in 2012, the rapper, raised Christian, reportedly converted again, this time to the Rastafari movement.
Image 1 of 17: Cat Stevens--born Steven Demetre Georgiou-- is the poster boy for celebrity conversion. Pop star Cat really popularized conversion to the Islamic Nation to the whole "wide world"!
Image 1 of 17: Mohammed Ali-- Cat Steven’s sporting counterpart - is arguably the original celeb giant in Muslim convert stakes. This boxing legend did for Islam what Tiger Woods did for golf -- giving it a friendly face.
You probably know that Snoop Dogg (Lion if you’re street enough) can rap, and Ellen Burstyn can act, but did you know that they converted to Islam during their mid-years? While musician Cat Stevens and boxer Mohammad Ali could be considered the “poster boys” for famous Muslim converts, many fans may be unfamiliar with other household names--such as rap artist Busta Rhymes and funnyman David Chapelle's--Muslim alter-egos.
From Christians to Jews and all stripes in between, many A-list celebrities have made interesting decisions to convert to Islam during early and later years in life. Some have publicly embraced and reflected their new religious identity through their song lyrics and name changes, while others - closet converts if you like- have decided to keep their faith on the down-low, a more private affair.
We shine a heavenly light on 17 stars that have converted to Islam during their careers as musicians, athletes, actors, and entertainers. See how many Muslims you can second-guess before you take a browse over this gallery of reverts! Connecting you with the inner-Muslim of celebrity personalities, here is Al Bawaba's conversion carousel.