Andrew Dys

Rock Hill man was a Christian, but died a Muslim. His religion, family unite

John McMullen
John McMullen Contributed photo

John McMullen was raised a Christian, in the Baptist faith, but he lived much of his adult life as a Muslim. He was called “Yah Yah” in the Muslim faith, and he became one of the founders of Rock Hill’s mosque.

When McMullen died Friday at 65 after an illness, the question of which religious services to use was easy to answer - both.

The observances that follow his death might be a first for Rock Hill -- a combination of services honoring his entire life, his faith, and all the people who loved him, Muslim leaders said.

“John was loved by his family, he was loved by his family in Islam, and together we all respect and honor his life,” said Issam Musa, imam at the Rock Hill mosque, who led Friday’s services for McMullen.

A funeral is Wednesday at Mount Hebron Baptist Church, with burial in the church cemetery.

“Right next to his mother,” said Priscilla Boger, McMullen’s wife of 43 years.

Boger said her husband was a devoted Muslim.

She said he cared deeply about the religious family he helped shape in Rock Hill, with the Islamic Center of South Carolina, and the building of the city’s first mosque, that opened in 2013.

People also knew McMullen from years working at Drum Tire and in other jobs, and from his singing and playing the piano.

“John was loved by so many people of all faiths, colors,” Boger said.

Just hours after McMullen died, he was given a traditional Muslim prayer service Friday at the mosque. More than 120 people attended.

His body was cleaned in the Muslim tradition over the weekend, after release to Parker Funeral Home.

The funeral Wednesday will have deacons and a pastor speak. Also speaking will be James “Jumah” Moore, a lifelong friend of McMullen, who grew up in the same neighborhood off Porter Road.

Moore is another founder of the Islamic center and mosque. It was mentioned at the Friday Muslim service that for Muslims, a death during the holy month of Ramadan guarantees heaven awaits, Moore said.

“People of both faiths loved John,” Moore said. “I knew him all my life. People of all walks of life loved him.”

At the funeral and graveside, there will be pallbearers. Those carrying the casket to and from the Christian church, and to burial in the Christian church plot, will be Muslims.

“We are proud to honor him,” said Abdul Khanani, another mosque leader. “We all have the same God. We all love each other. We are all one human family.”