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Salams Jae Deen! His Convert Story, Contributions to the Deen, and Connection with the Community

Ibrahim Sal

Joshua Asare was born in Ottawa Ontario Canada on September 23, 1994. Beginning the life of a child who didn't know he would end up becoming the influential icon for millions of muslim youth around the world. In the beginning, Joshua grew up in a household with his parents who shared the same faith of Christianity. Both his mother and father were born and raised in Ghana, Africa specifically from the hometown of Kumasi. Kumasi is a city located within the Ashanti Region, amongst the largest metropolitan areas inside of Ghana. From this point Joshua began growing up within Ottawa Ontario, as any other regular child. He went to a public school from Kindergarten to Grade 3 at a school named, “Saint Mary”. In this time period at the age of 7, his parents split up, filing for a divorce. This affected Joshua emotionally in a way that was indescribable, he felt as if, “There were no components of a true family in my life”. Growing up in a moderate to lower income financial situation, Joshua was transferred to a Catholic Elementary school from Grades 3 through 6. He was known as an artist at such a young age, he would draw to find that escape. That escape from reality that he needed as a young boy dealing with childhood trauma through alcoholism and the feeling of loneliness. The drawings were recognized by his classmates and peers, which led him to pursue this branched off talent he newly discovered. Joshua, only being 10 years old, had been through what a lot of children have not experienced, hardship at a young age formulated something in his mind. Something that would then lead to the drive and determination that he is known for today. 

Being born and raised within a Catholic background, Joshua attended a Catholic High School. Growing up he was not the most dedicated Christian, when it came to actively practicing. Joshua knew he had faith in God, but did not feel that deep and true connection. He was never fully connected, due to the fact that he was following Christianity on the sole fact that everyone around him was a follower of the faith. Within the beginning part of the second year of Highschool, Joshua wanted to follow Chritianity at a deeper level to try to rekindle that connection he had between himself and the religion. He knew that to consider himself an official follower of Chrisianity, he had to get baptized, since he was not at birth. He was doing a lot of research about the religion, speaking to several Chaplains from church and expressed that 

“It turned me off that to become an official Christian, I would have to go through this whole process of getting baptized”

It confused him that one has to go through this entire process, to simply become an official follower. After meeting with several Chaplains, the process turned him away from starting it. It was until he met a student, this girl was one of the handful (5-6) of other Muslims that attended this school, since there were a total of 1000 students in his high school. Joshua was brought closer to Islam with the relationship he created with this girl, since she was Muslim and he was Christian it was bound for a conversation about religion to be brought up. The conversation of marriage was specifically remembered by Jae, he said that,

I specifically remember her telling me that if we were to get married in the future, that I would have to share the same religion as her [Islam]... I remember asking her questions about the religion to find out more for myself.”

The debates between the two began to arise, and a shocking piece of information was presented to Joshua at the time. That Jesus was not the son of God, and that Jesus was considered a prophet in Islam, as the girl informed him within one of their debates on the two religions. They began to debate more and more with each other with their limited knowledge on both religions, since at the time they were both 14 and 15 years old. Another turning point within one of the many debates they shared was when the girl asked Joshua, “If Jesus is considered God in the bible, then why does he pray, and who does he pray to?” If the previous conversations about religion did not fully phase Joshua, then this simple question did the job. She continued to tell him about the basic fundamentals of Islam; such as the 5 pillars and what we believe as Muslims. The following week he would receive a copy of the Quran, accompanied with multiple other copies of books that were very knowledgable on Islam. Joshua would begin his journey of research, going from the most popular and well-known kid in his grade, to full seclusion to read and compare the two religions. The first ever chapter he came across in the Quran was Surat-Maryam [The 19th Chapter] in the holy book. This chapter specifically amazes Joshua, as it spoke on christianities’ biggest core beliefs within a singular chapter of the Quran. The comparisons continued, 

“Is Jesus God? Is he the son of God? Or is he just a prophet?”

  These questions kept flowing within the young boy’s mind, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. At this point, he was 80% done, he was just trying to figure out which puzzle piece fit the best. He was invested into this journey, that he would lose close friends, peers from the school would make fun of him. Eventually telling his parents about this, they begun to tell him, 

If you ever convert, we won’t accept this” 

His mother and father were worried for him, they wanted him to make sure he was making the right decision. As this aspiration for a different religion, came out of nowhere in the eyes of his parents. Joshua knew he did not want to lose his friends and family, but to keep everything in line, he would study the religion silently rather than publicly. After months of silent research on Islam, and the life of the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]. These stories and principles were extremely inspiring to Joshua, and motivated him to continue what he was doing previously, and that was to continue to read about Islam. Eventually, after 4 months of close research, Joshua came to the conclusion that and expressed, 

This makes the most sense to me, I believe this is the truth.. No matter what anyone thinks, my relationship with God comes first”

Joshua at 15 years old converted to Islam and took his shahada on June 16, 2010 [11 years ago], and his conversion to Islam will be 12 years old on June of 2022. He states, “My life changed ever since, its been 12 years and Ive inspired the world, one of my main purposes of my music is to give people that experience that I received when I became Muslim.” Islam changed him, it made him a good person, which gave his parents the opportunity to accept that this religion is right for their son. 

Moving forward two years In 2012, Joshua went to Carleton University, to pursue his schooling as he was wanting to pursue school to support himself and his family. Midway through his degree, Joshua sought out an idea. He realized that he loved art, and loved mainstream music such as hiphop and rap. He decided to make his stage name “Jae Deen” which is short for “Jamaal Ul Deen” which means “The beauty of religion” in the Arabic language. This was a new chapter of life, a door that had opened, a door he never saw coming. He came up with the idea of rapping over mainstream hip hop beats and implement components of Islam. He would censor all inappropriate parts of a popular song, and transition it into a popular and modern song that incorporates Islam. 

Joshua didn’t know that in 2014, his own life would change forever, from a regular college attending student to an international star. In September of 2014, Joshua would record this idea and post it then to facebook, the reaction of the world took this video by storm. Within two weeks of posting videos to facebook his life fully transformed. He went from the average student that would head to classes on his assigned days of the week, to being recognized in public and people coming up to him asking for pictures. He realized that he needed to put his foot down and take this seriously. He stopped going to his University and went full force on social media in hopes of taking it to the next level. Back in this time of the internet, a person tracking these types of numbers was close to impossible compared to today’s, due to the implementation of social medias like Tiktok where a random video can receive millions of views. It was clear as day that his content was pure and raw talent, and people wanted more. His creations had purpose, a message that was portrayed through content that the Muslim youth would continue to consume and begin to look up to him as a public figure.

 Joshua continued this grind all the way through the end of 2014 and to the beginning of 2015. The next following year was the year of the establishment of a legacy between two men that shared the same craft. At the time, a man by the name of Karter Zaher was creating similar Islamic based content. Karter caught onto the traction between the two, and realized that their unification would lead to a powerhouse of a team that could take this to another level. Coincidentally, both of these young men at one point attended the same University which allowed them to meet in person and create a brotherhood. After spending time together and creating that mutual friendship, the two bonded together and thought to create the same stem of videos but with both of them in one frame. This again, was consumed in massive numbers of Muslims from around the world. Millions of people began to flood through their social media, allowing them to gain hundreds of thousands of followers across their facebook pages. This sparked an idea between the two, to finally unify and try to figure out a name to help brand themselves as a duo. That name would eventually be assigned as “Deen Squad ''. Opening another door of success in his journey of life.

Towards the end of 2015, Deen Squad was taking off and moved from mobile phone videos on facebook, to music video level productions on youtube. Nothing changed with their fanbase, other than their growing care and loyalty to the two. These millions of views transferred from the facebook videos to the youtube analytics. Gaining an overall of 200 million views across all platforms. But no success comes overnight, these two continuously posted content every chance they were given. It was a tough grind to the top, as there was no one to go against them as they thought. In late 2015, the backlash started to begin where the debate in Islam of music being haram was brought into circumstances. Jae Deen would receive tons of loving and caring messages from his fans, and also negative messages from followers all over the world. Deen Squad went from a simple idea for a name, to a household name where every young muslim kid was rapping each and every single one of their songs. Jae obviously needed some sort of professional management at the time, since this wave of fame could not be handled all by one individual. Leading to 2016, where he and his partner Karter Zaher both went on tour to countless countries such as South Africa, all over Asia, and the rest of the world. Three years from that point, Jae continued doing what he did best and it was creating art. From such an early age he was praised for being an artist, to later on in his life being looked up to as a Musical artist as well.

But all good things must come to an end, in 2019 the duo parted ways as they felt it was beneficial for the both. After headlining massive tours, and countries the two decided it was best that they split off due to background conflict. As a close friend of Jae, being able to interview him on this journey. I realized something about him, no matter what he is going through whether it is some sort of conflict or down time. He always manages to put a smile on his face, and continues moving even faster than he was before. He has the charisma and loyalty to his craft that can't be found in any normal human being. He’s different in the aspect of work ethic, and cannot be beat within his own mind of determination to be the best version of himself. In 2019, he became a solo artist and this time period allowed for him to find his inner self, a version that he hasn't seen since his childhood. He found himself alone, which guided him to find a new hobby to distract him from the realities he had been facing. He found the hobby of learning languages. He started with Arabic, since he was a convert and wanted to be able to fully read the Quran. After several months of development within the language, he found himself easily reading and writing fluently in Arabic. He set up a goal to write the entire Quran by hand. 

After time, he completed the entire Quran by hand and had it fully memorized the meanings of the Holy Book. 

He would continue to learn languages such as French, Malaysian, Somali, Urdu, and now Turkish in 2022 as a solo artist within a pandemic. After learning a language like Somali, it connected him with supporters from Somalia, and would allow him to travel to Somalia and meet lifelong friends that support him and his journey. This brought in a wave of new followers from this country, who were so driven to support him as someone they looked up to. This mindset continued into 2021, and he kept going and is currently on the track of learning Turkish. This was the year he started his humanitarian work and picked up the philanthropist part of his career and journey in this Dunya. He worked closely with MOTW (Muslims of the World), to then travel to Kenya, Ethiopia, and many domestic projects helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. After being Muslim for a total of 11 years, he received the opportunity to visit Mecca and perform Umrah which was an eye opening experience for him. 

After a busy year, he decided to visit his home country which is Ghana, and to see if he could meet his direct family for the first time. To come to realize that he has an immensely big family back home, and he never knew. It highlighted that all of his life, Jae thought he was alone and had little to no family. But in reality, he met everyone from his family that loved and supported him. One of his uncles converted to Islam, and had 7 children. Meaning, he had 7 cousins that are blood related and also Muslim which overjoyed him that he found what he was always looking for. After these two trips, Jae felt a level of motivation that he has not felt before. To end the year 2021, he decided to reunite with his duo and legendary partner Karter Zaher at MAS ICNA Chicago in December, to show the community that Muslims can go through hardships with one another and still find a way to reconcile and come back to one another with no issue. 

Jae Deen, also known as Joshua Asare is a man that has been through a lot in his life, overcoming every challenge faced towards him, and a man that found the religion that he felt was meant for him. He decided that he would continue to live his life rapping about mainstream concepts, and continue being the popular kid in his grade that was friends with everyone. He plans to continue inspiring Muslims all around the world, continue to create the art that he was born to make, and represent himself in the best way possible. 

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