So I’m really into this Dr. Jeffrey Lang book lately. I think I am just mostly excited to be reading about Islam again, especially from a convert’s perspective. Something happened recently at work that felt unsettling, and this book addressed that very issue.
This co-worker and I were talking about religion. After discussing various topics, she stated that all religions at a base level depended on faith. That because there is no scientific proof of any particular religion, it all comes down to an individual having faith, just believing it to be true.
But that just didn’t sit right with me.
When it comes to Islam, I feel so sure of its authenticity, so convinced of the Qur’an being the final message to humanity, that it’s hard to accept her concept of faith directed at my particular belief system.
The book pointed out that Muslims don’t particularly identify with this specific concept of faith, because Islam makes no division between the secular and the sacred. In other words, “…when a Muslim is asked to relate his or her experience of belief, he or she is being asked to do something unfamiliar, to dissect and think about faith in a way that is outside of the Islamic perspective.” Further still, the author points out that the Qur’an places a strong emphasis on “the extreme importance of reason and contemplative thought in the attainment of faith.” The author goes on to point out all the ways in which the Qur’an presses us to use reason and rational thought when it comes to our beliefs.
Reading those passages helped me to identify the reasons why her comment left me feeling unsettled.
You see, my father raised all four of us girls to think for ourselves. He pushed us to challenge the status quo and to question and to look for answers, to stick by those answers even if they didn’t quite fit within the social norms. In this type of environment, I had an understanding of people’s differences and accepted those differences with an open mind.
I have and will always have respect for other people’s beliefs. But I’ve also changed in that I now believe that my way is the right way. If I didn’t believe that then I wouldn’t follow Islam.
I remember my sister pointing this out to me years ago. She said she is amazed (and baffled) by my conviction of Islam. She imagined that it must feel very reassuring to believe in something so strongly that you believe it to be true above anything and everything else, because she never found that to be the case in her religious experience.
See, it is hard for them (my sisters and family) to understand what makes me so committed to Islam. Because in the past, my attitude was that religion was all just a matter of choice and none had more importance than another. Even though I believed in Catholicism, I didn’t believe it was for everyone. But when I came upon Islam, it was different.
I always tell people: “Islam chose me. I didn’t choose it.” When I first read the Qur’an, I immediately knew there was something to it. I believe I knew in my heart right then and there that I was a Muslim. But I just wouldn’t acknowledge it. I questioned the Qur’an from every angle I could come up with. I tried to find fault in it. I tried to deny it. I struggled within myself for a long time. But in the end, I knew I had to accept it. I knew I believed that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the final messenger.
I felt that that book had been put down on paper some 1400 years ago and hadn’t been changed for that entire time, and it spoke to me like it knew me. Like it had looked into my soul and saw all of the frustrations and anger and curiosity and concern and it provided me with definitive answers to the questions I had been asking for years.
In fact, it was so spot on that it scared me. I was actually spooked the first time I read it. Because it was so direct. One passage in particular that really got to me was:
2:170 “When they are asked to follow that which Allah has revealed, they say, “no! We would rather follow the path that we found our forefathers pursuing.”
I was forced to ask myself why I followed Catholicism. Was it because it made sense to me? Was it because I believed in it with my whole heart? Or was it because it had been passed down to me?
I learned from the Qur’an that Jesus was a prophet and was never meant to be worshipped. It completely threw me off my rocker when I read the following passage :
O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only a messenger of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector. (Surah 4:171 – Shakir)
Or this one:
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (Surah 112:1-4)
I felt like I had finally been told the truth, something I believed all along – that we are to worship God and God alone.
Well, I certainly hadn’t started this post with the intention of explaining my entire belief system and all the experiences I had as a result – I only wanted to emphasize that for me, defining my spiritual transformation solely on the basis of faith would be inaccurate.
I emphasized to this co-worker that I am a Muslim because I believe (and am positive) that Islam is the one and only religion that God has delivered to us over the entire course of human existence. I believe that most other religions are deviations of the messengers’ original messages, and that Islam and the Qur’an is meant for every soul on earth to follow.
I also think that everyone with sound reasoning and logical thinking skills should read the Qur’an and insha’allah they will discover this truth for themselves. As much as I tried to deny it, I could not turn away from it.
“Verily, Allah sends astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills.” [Faatir, 35:8]