Friday, August 26, 2011

First Family Visit As a Muslim

Texas Muslim, Juan Galvan, shares his experience of explaining to his Mexican-American family about his conversion to Islam.
As I fly home to Austin, Texas, I remember the days before my conversion to Islam. I am reminded of Armando, a Latino Muslim. He helped introduce me to Islam. While pointing to the East and then the West, Armando said, "Look what God has given us. He created everything. God is All-Powerful." He had just finished praying magrib. The beauty of the sunset is still present in my mind.
"Truly, in remembering God do hearts find rest," God states in the Qur'an 13:28.
Looking outside this window, I cannot help grinning as I look to my left and then to my right. I found the true purpose of life. The purpose is not to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Instead, we must accept God as God. We Muslims acknowledge the true nature of our Creator. By doing so, we accept our own purpose as servants of our Creator.
I am on my way home after visiting my family for the first time after my conversion to Islam. People who knew nothing about Islam surrounded me. My fourteen-year-old sister Cathy asked, "Isn't Muhammad your God?" "Uh, no," I replied. My parents, my brother, and my five sisters all live in Pampa, Texas. My dad and I joked about each other's religion.
"Why are you praying to that carpet?" he asked.
"Why do you have statues of dead people on your wall?" I asked, pointing to the large Jesus cross in the living room.
On my first day home, I went to Cathy's room to pray after seeing a cross and religious images on my parent's wall. No crosses or Jesus pictures in her room. However, there was a huge Backstreet Boy's poster. I figured it was a lesser of two evils. My parent's have statutes or pictures of Jesus and Mary on almost every wall in their house. I have a great relationship with my family. Mexican-American households are well known for their love of family and religion.
During my visit to Pampa, I spent much of my time discussing Islam. People who ask you why you chose "that religion" are asking for Dawah. I gladly provided answers. My dad said, "My mom was Catholic, and I'll be a Catholic when I die."
Mexican-Americans seem to think that their ancestors have always been Roman Catholic. Our ancestors from Spain were Muslim. Our ancestors from Mexico were pagan. Clinging on to a religion simply because of tradition is insane. I refuse to be a blind follower. I am Muslim because I believe Islam is true.
While visiting my family, I spoke frequently about Islam. If you love something, you discuss it any chance you get. I hope I did not annoy my family. I gave my brother a copy of the Qur'an and a small introductory book about Islam. I bookmarked and on my family's computers. I copied several Islamic related files to their computers hoping they would accidentally run across them. I asked questions that only the true religion of God can answer.
God is three? Jesus is God? Original sin? We find the answers to such questions by studying the fundamentals of Islam: the Oneness of God, prophethood, and the Day of Judgment.
I spent much time trying to clear up misconceptions about Islam. Why aren't Americans better informed about Islam? Americans have many questions about Islam. Many times, it is good to bring those questions out in the open. I wanted my sister to understand that Islam is not oppressive to women. I wanted to explain why Muslim women cover. Eventually, I would ask her,
"Do you know why women wear scarves?" She simply replied, "Nuh uh." I feared her reply would be, "What? You think I dress like a slut or something?"
I explained that Muslims believe that women should not be treated as sexual objects. I also explained that Islam is like risk management. Men and women are both instructed to lower their gaze.
On my way to Pampa, the airport security was very tight. A security guard checked my bags. He saw my Qur'an, my Islamic literature, my Islamic audiotapes, and my prayer rug. I hope I did not scare the security guard. I considered praying at the Austin airport before stepping onboard the plane but I did not want to give any passengers a heart attack. After telling my brother about this, he suggested that I return home with a flight instructor's manual. Soon after the September 11 attacks, my dad asked my mom,
"What'd he get himself into?"
My mom cried after hugging me goodbye. I tried to hold back my tears. I hope that she cried because she would miss me and not because she feared I would join the Taliban. As I look outside my window, I see glimpses of the Texas Panhandle. I see canyons then farms and deserted roads then canyons again. I am reminded of Father Dale. During a Sunday sermon, he admitted,
"While I was a priest in Hawaii, I would see a beautiful beach and palm trees on my way to work. Now, I see miles and miles of cotton on my way to work!"
Father Dale has since left the priesthood and has gotten married. Maybe he will embrace Islam next. You never know.
Looking outside my window, I must thank God for the canyons, the cotton, and the other gifts He has given us.
Source: Islam for Today

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How a roulette analogy become a Muslim

Gathering the Initial Pieces of “the Purpose of Life Puzzle”
I once thought my upbringing offered an excellent way of life, especially since I felt satisfied both mentally and physically. As a young man, I lived the life of an average American who had a rather hedonistic lifestyle; I was found of music, a festive atmosphere dames, sports, travel, ethnic foods and foreign languages. I reached a point, however, where I felt ‘spiritually bankrupt’ and I asked myself, “now what?” and I thought, “there has to be more to life than this.” This realization was the impetus that led me to search for the truth through diverse avenues.
I assumed the reason I felt spiritually unfulfilled had to do with my lifestyle in America, which was often tied to instant gratification and impulsive behavior. As a result, I speculated that the answer might lie in finding a better locale. Thus, I began looking for that perfect place. After traveling to numerous destinations, I discovered that it wasn’t so much a perfect location I was looking for, but a particular culture with the most suitable approach to life. When I found what I considered to be the most appealing culture, I recognized that it still had flaws. Thereafter, I surmised that we should learn about the different ways people live and then select the best from these practices. This was perhaps the road to the truth.
Unable to really implement the life of a global citizen, I chose to read materials on metaphysics because the esoteric things in life always intrigued me. I quickly learned everything functions according to universal laws which can be used for one’s own benefit. After reading many books on this subject, I concluded that more important than these laws is the One Who created them, i.e., God I also discovered metaphysics can be a precarious path to follow, in which case, I refrained from any further reading in this area.
On the suggestion of a good friend, we went on a three-month camping trip all over America and Western Canada with the intention of discovering the purpose of life. We witnessed the marvels of nature and realized this world could not have been created by mistake, and that it was clearly a wonderland of signs pointing to its Creator. Hence, this trip reinforced my belief in God.
After returning home, I felt distressed at the busy life of the city, so I turned to meditation for relief. I was able to find inner peace through meditation techniques. Nevertheless, this tranquil feeling was only temporary; once I stood up, I couldn’t take that feeling with me. Likewise, being consistent with meditation became too much of a formidable task, so I slowly started losing interest.
Before long, I thought the truth might lie in self-improvement. Therefore I became a voracious reader of motivational materials and attended related seminars. In addition, I was striving to live up to the US Army’s slogan on TV commercials, ‘Be all you can be’, through endeavors in fire-walking, skydiving and martial arts. Due to my reading and challenging exploits, I gained a keen sense of self-confidence, but in fact, I still hadn’t discovered the truth.
Soon afterwards, I read numerous books on various philosophies. I found many interesting concepts and practices; yet, there wasn’t any particular philosophy that I could totally agree with. Thus, I chose to consolidate what I thought was the best wisdom from among these doctrines. It became sort of a ‘religion à la carte’ which mainly emphasized good moral behavior. I eventually concluded that good morality is good, but it is not good enough to solve ‘the purpose of life puzzle’ a more spiritual approach to life.
Shortly thereafter, I obtained a job in a Muslim country where I had enough of free time to read and reflect on life. While continuing my search for the truth, I found a recommendation in a book concerning the need for sincere repentance to God. I proceeded to do so and felt remorse for all the people I had wronged in my life, to the degree that tears started rolling down my face.
A few days later, I had a conversation with some Muslim friends. I mentioned to them that I was used to having a lot more freedom in America than that was present in their country. One person said, “ Well, it depends on what you mean by ‘freedom’. In your part of the world, no matter how well parents teach morality to their children inside the home, as soon as they go outside, they generally encounter the society in contradiction to that morality. On the other hand, in most Muslim communities, the morals taught to the children at home are very similar to what they find away from home. So who really has the freedom here?” From this analogy, I inferred that the Islamic guidelines and restrictions partially sanctioning human behavior are not meant to curtail human freedom; rather, they serve to define and dignify human freedom.
A further opportunity to learn about Islam arose when I was invited to sit with a group of Muslims over dinner. After mentioning to the group that I had been living in Las Vegas, Nevada before coming to the Middle East, a Muslim from America said, “ You must make sure you die as a good Muslim.” I immediately asked him to explain what he meant. He said “ If you die as a non-Muslim, it is like playing the game of roulette in which you put all of your chips (all of your life, including your deeds and your particular belief in God) on only one number, just hoping that perhaps by the Mercy of God, you will enter Paradise on Judgment Day. In contrast, if you die as a good Muslim, it is like spreading your chips all over the roulette board, so that every number is covered in this way, no matter what number the ball falls on, you’re safe. In other words, living and dying as a good Muslim is the best insurance you will not go to the Hell, and at the same time, it is the best investment that you’ll go to Paradise.” As a former resident of Las Vegas, I could directly relate to this poignant example with the game of roulette.
At this point, I understood I would not find the truth until I established a relationship with concentrate on those religions in which God had sent revelation to His prophets and messengers. Hence, I chose to continue my search for the truth through Christianity and Islam.
Christianity in Focus
Even though I up as a Christian, I had been confused and uninterested in Christianity. I felt like I inherited a mysterious religion beyond understanding. I believe it was for this reason that I was a Christian by name but not in practice. Furthermore, I realized my doubt about Christian beliefs caused me to be in a state of non-religiousness. Nonetheless, while I was searching for the truth, I had a chance to re-examine those beliefs I inherited from my parents yet never bothered to scrutinize.
Through booklets, cassettes and videotapes on Christianity produced by Muslims and non-Muslims, I surprisingly found out about hundreds of verses in Bible which reveal a lack of harmony in Christian beliefs. According to these materials, God was One prior to Jesus (peace be upon him; pbuh). Likewise, Jesus (pbuh) propagated the belief in One God. However, after Jesus (pbuh) Christianity emphasized the Trinity instead of the Oneness of God. Also, before Jesus (pbuh), God was without sons and equals. Similarly, Jesus (pbuh) said he was God’s messenger, whereas after his time, Christianity stressed that Jesus (pbuh) is God’s son or God Himself.
Regarding monotheism, the first of the Ten Commandments upholds Jesus’ (pbuh) assertion for the belief in One God, “…Here, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Mark 12:29)[1] Likewise, there is plethora of verses in the Bible that refute the divinity of Jesus (pbuh). For example, Jesus (pbuh) admitted he could not do miracles independently, but only by the Will and permission of God.[2] Interestingly, it says in the Bible that Jesus (pbuh) prayed.[3] I asked myself, “How can Jesus (pbuh) be God and pray to God at the same time?” A praying God is a contradiction. Additionally, Jesus (pbuh) states that his teachings are not his own, but those of One who sent him.[4] Logically, if what he says is not his own, he is just a prophet receiving revelation from God like those before (and after) him. Moreover, Jesus (pbuh) admits that he does what he taught by God.[5] Again, I asked myself, “How can Jesus (pbuh) be taught and be God at the same time?” In my discussions with Muslims, they concurred with what Jesus (pbuh) commanded with respect to the belief in only One God, as in the following Qur’anic verse: Say, “ He is God, [Who is] One.” (112:1)[6]
I was also surprised to find out about the verses in the Bible which refer to Jesus (pbuh) as a prophet of God.[7] Likewise, I learned about the Islamic view of Jesus (pbuh) which is that he is a prophet and messenger of God. In the Qur’an God says, “The Messiah, son of Mary, is not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.” (5:75)
Another common belief in Christianity is that Jesus (pbuh) is the son of God.
According to the Bible, it was customary to call any prophet of God, or righteous man, a son of God. Jesus (pbuh) called himself the son of man, not God or God's literal son.[8] Evidently, Paul was most responsible for elevating the status of Jesus (pbuh) to the son of God, distorting the teachings of Jesus (pbuh).[9]
What's more, Jesus (pbuh) did not appear to be the 'begotten' son of God (as it used to say in John 3:16) since this word has been cancelled from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), as well as many other new versions of the Bible. Furthermore, God emphatically says in the Qur'an that He does not have a son.[10] However, God also declared that He created Adam (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh): "Indeed, the example of Jesus to God is like that of Adam. He created him from dust; then He said to him "Be", and he was." (3:59)
Subsequent to these modification emperors and clergy made further fabrications, contrary to what Jesus (pbuh) said or did. Of these is the concept of Trinity in which Jesus (pbuh) is one of the three manifestations of the Trinitarian God [the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost].[11] In the Bible, this verse given as the best proof for the Doctrine Trinity, even though this doctrine was never forth by Jesus (pbuh), his disciples, or a Christian scholars. In fact, it was enacted after much disagreement and conflict among Christians in the year 325 AD at the Council Nicea. Interestingly, this verse has been expunged from the Bibles of the modern age.
In addition, the Qur'an warns the Jews Christians to refrain from disbelieving in revelation of God and against believing in Trinity.[12]
A related area of controversy I read about was 'original sin' and salvation through 'the crucifixion' of Jesus (pbuh). Presumably, before Jesus (pbuh), there was no Doctrine of Original Sin. However, after Jesus (pbuh), the Doctrine of Original Sin appeared. Moreover, before Jesus (pbuh), salvation was obtained by obedience to God whereas after Jesus (pbuh), salvation was achieved through his crucifixion so they said.
In Christianity, the Doctrine of Original Sin is the justification for having salvation through the crucifixion of Jesus (pbuh). Nevertheless, I found out that this doctrine is strongly negated in the Old Testament.[13] It seems this concept may have been designed as a way for its believers to eschew their accountability of sins before God on Judgement Day.[14] It was brought to my attention that, according to Jesus (pbuh), man is saved through obedience and submission to God.[15] Correspondingly, in the Qur'an, every soul is compensated for what it earns.[16] However, it seems that changed this doctrine, making salvation through the crucifixion of Jesus (pbuh).[17]
The theory of salvation through crucifixion holds that Jesus (pbuh) offered himself will to be crucified to ransom and save humanity If so, why did Jesus (pbuh) request help God before the soldiers came to arrest him?: “…Father, save me from this hour.” (12:27) Likewise, why does the Bible say Jesus (pbuh) cried out in a loud beseeching God for help on the cross: “…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matt. 27:46) In addition, how could Jesus (pbuh) have been crucified for the of all humans when he was sent only to the Children of Israel?[18] This is clearly contradiction. I found the foregoing verses be very convincing that Jesus (pbuh)was crucified on the cross to redeem the sins mankind. The Qur'an says they did not crucify him, but it was someone else who was made to look like him.[19] If this is correct, then it may explain the appearance of Jesus (pbuh) to his disciples after the crucifixion. If he had really died on the cross, then he would have come to his disciples in a spiritual body. As shown in Luke 24:36-43, Jesus (pbuh) met them with his physical body after the event of his alleged crucifixion. Accordingly, I learned it was Paul who taught the resurrection of Jesus (pbuh).[20] Paul also admitted the resurrection was his own gospel.[21]
I came across many sources indicating that Paul and others were frustrated by the Jewish rejection of the message of Jesus (pbuh), so they extended their call to the Gentiles. They reached into southern Europe, where polytheism and idolatry were spreading. Gradually, the message of Jesus (pbuh) was modified to suit the tastes and traditions of the Romans and Greeks of those days.[22] The Bible warns against adding or removing information from its teachings, which is precisely happened.[23] God addresses this point in Qur'an as well, "So woe to those who write the "scripture" with their own hands, then say, "This is from God," in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn. " (2:79)
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Scriptures
Another interesting point I learned about concerns Biblical prophecies on the advent of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I discovered that clear prophecies exist in the Bible, (even the original text had been distorted), foretelling the coming of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) after Jesus (pbuh).[24] Muslim scholars have affirmed that the description by Jesus (pbuh) of the one to come after him (in the verses cited in below) cannot apply to any other person but Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Furthermore, there is a verse in the Holy Qur'an confirming what Jesus (pbuh) said regarding this point, "... O Children of Israel, I am the Messenger of God to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad ... " (61:6) The name Ahmad is another name for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and derived from the same root word.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qur'an
I observed that the Qur'an directs us to believe in God and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as in the following verse: Say, [O Muhammad], "O mankind, Indeed, I am the Messenger of God to you all, [from Him] to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity except Him; He gives life and causes death. So believe in God and His Messenger, the illiterate prophet, who believes in God and His words, and follow him that you may be guided. " (7-158)
I came to know that the Qur'an also refers to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the last prophet: "Muhammad is not the father of [any] of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of God and seal [i.e., last] of the prophets..." (33:40) Even though God states in the Qur'an that Muhammad (pbuh) is the last prophet, I discovered that Muslims still believe in and accept all the previous prophets, along with the revelations they received in their original form.[25]
The Qur'an: The Last Revelation
I comprehended that it was found amen due to innovations attributed to Divine revelation that the need arose for another prophet after Jesus (pbuh) with another revelation after the Gospel. This is why God sent Muhammad (pbuh) with the last Message, (i.e., the Qur'an), to bring all of mankind back to the belief in and worship of One God, without partners or intermediaries. According to Muslims, the Holy Qur'an is the permanent ultimate source of guidance for mankind offers a rational and historical elucidation of the magnificent role of Jesus. The name Jesus (pbuh) is cited twenty-five times in the Qur'an, which contains a chapter called Maryam (Mary), named after the mother of Jesus (pbuh).
Regarding the Divine authenticity of this revelation, I found the following Qur'anic verses very compelling: "And it was not [possible] for this Qur'an to be produced by other than God, but [it is] a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of the [former] Scripture, about which there is no doubt, from the Lord of the worlds." (10:37) and "And indeed, it is the truth of certainty." (69:51) Similarly, I was concerned about the adulteration of the Qur'an since this was a major problem with the previous revelations. I read that the Qur'an will never change or be abrogated: "Indeed, it is We who sent down the message [i.e., the Qur'an], and indeed, We will be its guardian. " (15:9)[26]
I was also informed about some of the scientific phenomena mentioned in the Qur'an, which give credence to the belief that the Qur'an is the literal word of God. There are verses describing human embryonic development,[27] mountains,[28] the origin of the universe,[29] the cerebrum,[30] seas,[31] deep seas, and internal waves[32] and clouds.[33] It is beyond explanation that anyone, more than fourteen hundred years ago, could have known the facts, which were found or confirmed on recently by advanced mechanisms a sophisticated scientific procedures.
Islam: The Essence and Culmination of Revealed Religions
Muslims believe that the essential purpose for which mankind was created is the worship of God. As He said in the Qur'an, "And I did not create the jinn [i.e., a type of creation, created by God from fire] and mankind except to worship Me" (51:56) Related to this, a well known Islamic scholar from the West says, "The most complete system of worship available humans today is the system found in the religion of Islam, The very name 'Islam' means 'submission to the Will of God'. Although it commonly referred to as 'the third of the three monotheistic faiths, it is not a new religion at all. It is the religion brought by all the prophets of God for humankind. Islam was the religion of Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.''[34]
In addition he states, "Since there is only One God, and humankind is one species, the religion that God has ordained for humans is [essentially] one... Human spiritual and social needs are uniform and human nature has not changed since the first man and woman were created”.[35]
Uncovering the fact that the message of God has always been the same, I realized it is the duty of all human beings to seek the truth and not just blindly accept the religion that their society or parents follow, According to the Qur'an, "You worship besides Him not except [mere] names you have named, you and your fathers, for which God has sent down no authority..." (12:40) Regarding fitrah [i.e., the inherent nature of man to worship God prior to the corruption of his nature by external influences], Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Every child is born on Al-Fitrah, and his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism. As an animal delivers a perfect baby animal, do you find it mutilated?"[36] Furthermore, God says,, 'So direct your face [i.e., self] toward the religion, inclining toward truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of God upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of God. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know. " (30:30)[37] Moreover, I learned there no other religion acceptable to God besides Islam, as He clearly states in the Qur'an: "And whoever desires other than Islam as a religion, never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers. " (3:85). I deduced that man might neglect the guidance of God and establish his own standards of living. Ultimately, however, he will discover it is only a mirage that alluded him.
A Traveler
As I continued to read the Qur'an and learn about the sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) [the Sunnah], I noticed Islam views man as a traveler in this life and the 'Home' is in the next life for eternity. We are here for a short period and we cannot take anything with us from this life except our belief in God and our deeds. Thus, man should be like a traveler who passes through the land and does not become attached to it. As travelers on this journey, we must understand that the meaning of being alive is to be tested. Hence, there is suffering, joy, pain and elation. These tests of good and evil are intended to evoke our higher spiritual qualities. Yet, we are incapable of benefiting from these tests unless we do our best, have complete trust in God and patiently accept what He has destined for us.
The Road to Paradise
It was very meaningful to learn about Paradise since this must certainly be the ultimate goal of every individual. Regarding this eternal home, God says, "And no soul knows what has been hidden for it of comfort for eyes [i.e., satisfaction] as a reward for what it used to do. " (32:17) 1 also became aware of a pleasure that is beyond all imagination, which is to be in the Presence of the Creator Himself. I wondered who are the souls worthy of such a reward? This reward of Paradise is too great not to have a price. I was told the price is true faith, which is proven by obedience to God and following the Sunnah(way) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
I grasped that mankind must worship God to attain righteousness and the spiritual status necessary to enter Paradise.[38] This means human beings have to comprehend that worship is as indispensable as eating and breathing and not a favor they are doing for God. Likewise, I found out that we need to read the Qur’an to find out what kind of people God wants us to be and then try to become as such. This is the road to Paradise.
Overcoming an Obstacle
At this point, I felt about 80% sure I wanted to become a Muslim, but something was holding me back. I was concerned about the reaction of my family and friends if they knew that I had become a Muslim. Shortly thereafter, I expressed this concern to a Muslim who told me that on Judgement Day, no one will be able to help you, not your father, mother or any of your friends.[39] Therefore, if you believe Islam is the true religion, you should embrace it and live your life to please the One who created you. Thus, it became very lucid to me that we are all in the same boat; every soul shall taste death and then we'll be liable for our particular belief in God and for our deeds.[40]
A Meaningful Videotape
By this stage in my search for the truth, I was on the verge of embracing Islam. I watched an Islamic lecture on videotape about the purpose of life. The main theme of this lecture was that the purpose of life may be summed up in one word, i.e., Islam (peaceful submission to the Will of God).
An additional point was that, unlike other religions or beliefs, the term 'Islam' is not associated with any particular person or place. God has named the religion in the following Qur'anic verse: "Indeed, the Religion in the sight of God is Islam..." (3:19) Anyone who embraces Islam is called a Muslim regardless of that person's race, sex or nationality. This is one of the reasons why Islam is a universal religion.
Prior to my search for the truth, I had never seriously considered Islam as an option because of the constant negative portrayal of Muslims in the media. Similarly, it was disclosed in this videotape that although Islam, is characterized by high moral standards, not all Muslims uphold these standards. I learned the same can be said about adherents of other religions. I finally understood that we cannot judge a religion by the actions of its followers alone, as I had done, because all humans are fallible. On that account, we should not judge Islam by the actions of its proponents, but by its revelation (the Holy Qur'an) and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The last point I picked up from this lecture concerned the importance of gratitude. God mentions in the Qur'an that we should be grateful for the fact that He created us: "And God has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and hearts [i.e., intellect that perhaps you would be grateful. " (16:78) God has also cited gratitude along with belief, and has made it clear that He gains nothing from punishing His people when they give thanks to Him and believe in Him. He says in the Qur'an, "What would God do with [i.e., gain from] your punishment if you are grateful and believe? ..." (4:147)
The truth Unveils Itself
As soon as the videotape had finished, I experienced the truth being unveiled to my spirit. I felt a huge burden of sins flying off my back. Moreover, it felt like my soul was rising above the earth, refusing the makeshift delights of this world in favor of the eternal joys of the Hereafter. This experience, coupled with the long process of reasoning, solved the 'purpose of life puzzle'. It revealed Islam as the truth, thereby replenishing my 'spiritual landscape' with belief, purpose, direction and action. I therefore entered the gate of Islam by saying the declaration of faith required to become a Muslim: Ashhadu an La ilaha illa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasoolu llah. (I bear witness that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is His Messenger). I was informed that this formal testimony confirms one's belief in all the prophets and messengers of God, along with all of His Divine revelations in their original form, thereby updating and completing one's religion to the last of the prophets [Muhammad (pbuh)] and to the final revelation of God [the Qur'an]. The following point became overwhelmingly clear to me: Had Jesus (pbuh) been the last prophet of God an had the Gospel been the final book revelation, I would have attested to that. As a result, I have naturally chosen to follow the final revelation from the Creator as exemplified by the seal of the prophets.
Impressions of a New Muslim
During my search to find the truth, the lesson, which, transcended all lessons, was that all objects of worship other than God are mere delusions. To anyone who sees this clearly, the only possible course is to bring one's own will and actions into complete unison with that of God. Acquiescing to the Will of God has enabled me to feel peace with the Creator, with others and finally, with myself. Consequently, I feel very grateful, that by the Mercy of God, I have been rescued from the depths of ignorance and have stepped into the light of truth. Islam, the true religion of all times, places and peoples, is a complete code of life Which guides man to fulfill the purpose of his existence on earth, and prepares him for the Day when he will return to his Creator Following this path in a devout manner enables one to gain the pleasure of God and be closer to Him amid the endless delights of Paradise while escaping from the punishment of Hellfire Another bonus is that our present life will be much happier when we make such a choice.
A Deceptive Enjoyment
Embracing Islam has given me more of an insight into the illusive nature of this life. For instance, one basic object of Islam is the liberation of man. This is why a Muslim calls himself 'Abdullah', the slave or servant of Allah (i.e., God) because enslavement to God signifies liberation from all other forms of servitude, and although modern man may think that he is liberated, he is in fact a slave to his desires. He is generally deceived by this worldly life. He is 'addicted' to hoarding wealth, sex, violence, intoxicants, etc. But above all, he is often seduced by the capitalist system that tends to work through the invention of false needs, which he feels must be satisfied instantly, As God says in the Qur'an, "Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him? Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except as livestock. Rather, they are [even] more astray in [their] way. )” (25: 43-44)
Correspondingly, we should not let our zeal to enjoy the pleasures of this fleeting life jeopardize our opportunity to enjoy the ecstasy of Paradise. As God says in the Qur'an, "Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire - of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of, worldly life, but God has with Him the best return [ie. Paradise]. Say, "Shall /inform you of something better than that? For those who fear God will be gardens in the presence of their Lord beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and purified spouses and approval from God..." (3:14-15) Therefore, the real competition in this life is not the accumulation of wealth or the desire for fame; it is facing with one another to perform good deeds to please God, while having our lawful portion of enjoyment in this life.[41]
The Right Path to God
There are many religious alternatives available to man and it is up to him to choose the one he wishes to follow. He is like a merchant with many goods in front of him, and it is his choice which one to trade in. He will obviously select the one he thinks will be the most lucrative. However, the merchant is unsure and has no guarantee of prosperity; his product may have a market and he may make handsome returns, but he could just as easily lose all of his money. In contrast, the believer in the Oneness of God who submits to His Will (a Muslim), is completely sure that if he follows the path of guidance [the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)], there will undoubtedly be success and reward waiting for him at the end of this path. Fortunately, this success also starts at the beginning of the path. Narrated by Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri(may God be pleased with him)- God's Messenger(pbuh) said, "If a person embraces Islam sincerely, then God. shall forgive all his past sins, and after that starts the settlement of accounts: the reward of his good deeds will be ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed, and an evil deed will be recorded as it is unless God forgives it .[42]
Based on my search for the truth, I concluded that the precise way we believe in God and the deeds we perform determine our future condition for eternity. Our Creator is giving us all an equal chance, regardless of our circumstances, to earn His pleasure in preparation for Judgement Day, as in the following Qur'anic verses: "And obey God and His messenger that you may obtain mercy. And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden [i.e., Paradise] as wide as the Heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. " (3:132-133)[43]
If we sincerely seek the truth of this life, which is Islam (peaceful submission to the Will of God), God will guide us there, God Willing. He directs us to examine the life and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), as he represents the best role model for mankind to follow Furthermore, God directs us to investigate and ponder what He says in the Qur'an. One will see that the Qur'an is indeed like a persistent and strong knocking on a door, or loud shouts seeking to awaken those who are fast asleep because they are just completely absorbed by this life on earth. The knocks and shouts appear one after the other: Wake up! Look around you! Think! Reflect! God is there! There is planning, trial, accountability, reckoning, reward, severe punishment and lasting bliss!
Clearly and unequivocally, the best way to live and die in this world is as a righteous Muslim! When one comes to the conclusion that Islam is the truth, he should not delay in becoming a Muslim because he may die first, and then it will be too late.[44]
A few months after embracing Islam, I found two verses in the Qur'an that mirror what the American Muslim told me regarding how we should live and die: "And Abraham instructed his sons and [so did] Jacob, [saying], “O my sons! Indeed God has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims." (2:132) and “O you who have believed, fear God as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him]." (3:102)
(Yahya) Donald W. Flood
Madinah, Saudi Arabia
June 1999
All Biblical references were cited from:
Life Application Bible, New International Version, Tyndale House Publishers, In Wheaton ILL., USA, 1991.
All Qur'anic references were cited from:
The Qur'an-Arabic Text with correspond English Meanings, English revised and edited by Saheeh International, Abul-Qasim Publish House, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1997.
[1] Also see Num. 23:19; Deut. 6:4,13; Matt. 4:10, 22:36-38,23:9-10; Mark 10:18; Luke 4:8.
[2] See Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; John 3:2, 5:30; Acts 2:22.
[3] See Matt. 26:39; Mark 1:35, 14:32; Luke 5:16, 6:12.
[4] See John 7:16, 12:49, 14:24, 31.
[5] See John 8:28.
[6] Also see 4:48; 5:116; 39:67.
[7] See Matt. 13:57, 21:11, 45-46; Mark 6:4; Luke 4: 43, 13:33, 24:19; Hebrews 3:1.
[8] See Matt. 13:37; Luke 12:10; 1 Tim. 2:5.
[9] See Acts 9:20.
[10] See 19:88-92.
[11] See 1 John 5:7.
[12] See 3:19; 4:171; 5:73.
[13] See Ezekial 18:20; Jeremiah 31:30.
[14] See Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:22-26, 4:25, 10:9.
[15] See Matt. 5:19-20, 6:4, 7:21, 19:17.
[16] See 3:25; 41:46; 74:38.
[17] See Romans 3:28; 1 John 2:1-2.
[18] See Matt. 10:5-6, 15:24.
[19] See 4:157-158.
[20] See Romans 5:10-11; Acts 17:17,18.
[21] See 2 Timothy 2:8.
[22] See 1 Cor. 9:19:-23.
[23] See Rev. 22:18-19.
[24] See Deut. 18:18-19; Isaiah 29:12; John 14:12-17, 16:5-16; Acts 3:22.
[25] See 2:136.
[26] Also see 4:82.
[27] See 23:12-14.
[28] See 16:15; 78:6-7.
[29] See 21:30; 41:11.
[30] See 96:15-16.
[31] See 25:53; 55:19-20.
[32] See 24:40.
[33] See 24:43.
[34] The Purpose of Creation, Dr. A. A. B. philips, p. 49, Dar Al Fatah, Sharjah, UAE, 1995. See Qur’an 3:67; 3:84.
[35] Ibid . p. 50.
[36] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 2, Hadith No. 467.
[37] Also see 2:170; 10:19; 31:21; 43:23; 49:6; 53:23.
[38] See Qur’an 2:111-112; 10:63-64.
[39] See Qur’an 31:33; 82:18-19.
[40] See Qur’an 29:57; 3:185.
[41] See Qur’an 28:77.
[42] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Hadith No. 40A.
[43] Also see 20:82.
[44] See Qur’an 23:99-100; 63:10-11.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Roman Catholic Discovers Islam

Alhamdulillah, I found and read this beautiful story and I read those who think that he, Frank Estrada, made the wrong desicion. May Allah guide more and more people to the truth...

My name is Frank Estrada. I was raised a Roman Catholic. I was so devout, I even hoped to one day serve in the priesthood. I accepted the churches teachings even when I didn't agree with them. I even took every chance I got to convert people in the hopes of bringing them to Allah.

While serving in the US Marines, I did two tours in the Middle East. In a short time, I developed a hatred for Arabs and Islam. After I left active duty, I took a job with a company as a network administrator in Iraq. I worked with a man named Ahmed. In the beginning I didn't trust him simply because of his background. I'm lucky that he was patient with me.

Slowly, due to my ignorance, he taught me about the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Quran. He didn't teach me with words. He showed me that Muslims are not evil by his actions. More than that, he taught me the truth of Allah's message.

After I came home, I began to study Islam in earnest. I took a world religions course at Mesa Community College. Though I found the course prejudicial to Islam, it seemed to push me closer to it. I met a young woman named Amal in the class. We would spend hours talking and debating Islam against Catholicism. I found her arguments both logical and reasonable.

I started taking Arabic courses, so I could learn to read and understand the Quran properly. I still have a long way to go. I spoke to everyone I knew that was Muslim but, more than that, I watched them to see if their actions matched their words. I never saw any hypocrisy. I even went to the masjid in Tempe, Arizona to talk to other Muslims and the imam.

What finally brought me to my conversion though, was the Shahadah. I read it and tried to see how it fit with my beliefs. I compared it to the first commandment and found them doubles of each other. It was at that point that I had an epiphany.

Catholicism, whatever else it was, was polytheistic. The realization was shattering to me. I knew at that point that I could not obey the laws of Allah and continue to praise Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) as his son.

I talked it over with my wife. She was concerned, to say the least. We spent hours discussing what it would do to our family. She went with me to the masjid where we spoke with a man named Muhammed. Not only was he able to sway her fears, she decided to convert as well.

Becoming Muslim was no doubt the right decision. My friends and family, save my parents, were very supportive. My father would not speak to me for the next three months. My wife's family, to this day is still unsupportive. I have no doubt that Allah will soften their hearts in the future.

I thank Allah for all the people he has brought into my life to show me the truth. I thank him for giving me a mind to understand the truth. More than that, I thank Allah for my loving and understanding wife who has come to the truth with me. I shall end this paper as I began the day. There is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jewish Boy, Finding Islam in Cyberspace

Prior to my conversion to Islam, I lived my life as a Jew. Although my family was not traditional, I learned Judaism from traditional Jews. I went to an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, and an Orthodox Jewish school. I lived, and continue to live, in a Jewish community in the United States where there is little diversity. And considering how much Judaism was involved in my life, I did not have any non-Jewish friends. But about a year ago, I began to chat online quite often and my e-mail list slowly began to fill with more and more Muslims.

I developed a strong interest for studying other religions as well as my own. I paid special attention to Islam, for I knew it was a religion not much different than Judaism. We share many similar prophets (peace be upon them all), morals, values, and most importantly, we worship the same God — Allah. Although I knew much about Islam and knew it was a peaceful religion, I cannot say I did not have stereotypes. I was lucky because I knew many Muslims online, one of which was my girlfriend who I consider to be my guide to Islam. She led me to the doors of Islam, and Allah took me through the rest. Regardless, when I heard of a terrorist attack, similar to many others, I figured the cause of it was Islamic extremists.

Many times I was not wrong. But then you must ask yourself, what makes these people go to the extreme? Does their religion really teach to kill innocent people? The reality is that it does not. Prophet Muhammad was a great warrior. Yet he managed to never kill an innocent human being. I realized that Islam is a religion that teaches respect, peace, and tolerance. Never does it say to kill an innocent disbeliever. A true Muslim is taught never to force conversion, but instead, to share his knowledge with the world, which I hope to do in this article. In the Qur'an a valuable lesson to be learned is "to kill a man, is to destroy the world."

[Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men.] (Al-Ma'idah 5:32)

After realizing Islam was not a religion of war, I decided to look deeper into the faith. By doing so I discovered flaws in my own religion. According to the Old Testament, the great Prophet Aaron committed the worse sin possible. Due to pressure put upon him by the people while waiting for Moses to return with the Torah from Mount Sinai, he built an idol.

How could a great prophet possibly commit one of the three sins that are so great that one should prefer death before committing them? In the Qur'an, Moses comes down and sees the Jews worshiping the Golden Calf. At first he thinks it is the creation of Aaron and is angry at him; later he finds it was other Hebrews who had created this idol. A lot can be learned from this story.

Would a nation of people led by God really be forgiven for such a sin? My view on this story matches the Islamic view that the Old Testament has changed over the years. In the past, there have been many Cohaneem (religious leaders at the Holy Temple) who were corrupt. Couldn't it easily be possible for them to have changed Judaism to make it easier to observe and less time-consuming in order to make more money with their profession?

Another astonishing factor that led me to Islam is the scientifictruth written in the Qur'an. The Qur'an mentions the human embryonic development long before it was discovered by science.

[And certainly We created man of an extract of clay, Then We made him a small seed in a firm resting-place, Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators.] (Al-Mu'minun 23:12-14)

The Qur'an also mentions how mountains are formed and talks about the layers of the atmosphere! These are just a few of so many scientific discoveries mentioned in the Qur'an 1400 years before discovered by science. Here is one of the key factors that led me to explore my heart to find the truth of life. In Arabic, the word Islam comes from salama which means "to submit"; "purity" and "peace" come from the same root. The person submits to the One, the Merciful, and the Most Beneficent Allah; whereas other religions are named after people: Judaism comes from the tribe of Judea, Christianity from Jesus Christ, etc. Islam is a word derived from a verb; anyone who submits to Allah and believes in all the prophets is a true Muslim. Many of the great prophets mentioned in the Old Testament lived prior to Judaism and Judea; they submitted to God, and therefore they were all Muslims. And we shall live as the prophets lived, for they were great human beings.

Considering my situation of being very young and living in an all-Jewish area, it would be difficult to have my beliefs accepted. My parents and relatives are very respectful, but I am unsure how they would react if it is their own son who reverts to Islam. So for now, I am unable to live out an Islamic life to the fullest, but thanks to Allah, I am able to pray five times a day, I am able to study Islam online, and at least I am openly able to believe in one God and express those feelings. In some ways it can be very difficult. I become more emotional than most people would when I debate something involving Muslims, for example the Middle East. When I talk about Israel, my whole family supports Israel and doesn't know the truth of what goes on to Palestinians, but I think they should have proper treatment for the Palestinians. And when they talk about this situation, I become easily offended, especially if they bring up the idea that it is "the Jewish Holy Land" and "Promised Land."

Because I have not yet told my parents of my reversion to Islam, I am unable to attend prayers at a mosque. As I stated before, my area has little diversity and all the mosques are far away. I have never had the opportunity to do Shahadah in front of witnesses although I have said Shahadah for the best witness of all — Allah. When I am 16 in about one year, I will be able to drive to the mosque, in sha' Allah (Allah willing). The most important thing is to improve the person I am. I try to avoid my friends who do drugs, watch porn, drink alcohol, and steal. It is not always easy to avoid close friends, but I try my best for the sake of Allah. And I hope over time my personality will meet what Allah wishes to see from us all.

When studying Qur'an, my advice to you is to read it for yourself. Looking at biased websites, you are not able to see the full content of a verse. "Go forth to war" will be a phrase you can find on prejudiced sites in order to make you think Islam is a religion of war. But if you read on, you will see the Qur'an specifically says only with those who first wage war with Islam. Through this whole experience I have discovered that I did not find Islam, I re-embraced Islam; nor did I convert, I reverted; and on my ride from darkness to light, it has only made me a stronger, more spiritual, and a better human being. May Allah guide us all to the truth that I was led to.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How We Came To Embrace Islam

American, Khadija Evans, who experimented with umpteen Christian denominations, atheism and even Wicca tells how her post-September 11 investigations of Islam led first herself then her husband to their final spiritual home.
My name is Khadija Evans and this is the story of how my husband and I came to embrace Islam.
I can remember standing in the kitchen of the house I lived in when I was just 7 or 8 years old and looking towards the door that went outside. I prayed to a god whom I wasn't sure existed and I begged Him to show himself to me if He was really there. Nothing happened.
I can remember being 9 or 10 years old and writing a letter to God and hiding it in the heat register in my bedroom, thinking that God, if He existed, would come and retrieve it and answer my prayers. But the next day, the letter was still there.
I had always had a hard time accepting the existence of God, and of understanding the beliefs taught in Christian churches. Even though my parents weren't very religious, and rarely went to church, they thought it was best that my two brothers and I go. We were allowed to choose our religion when we very young. I think I was about 6 or 7, and my brothers were 1 and 2 years older then I. I chose a Methodist church for no other reason then it was a few blocks away from our house, and my brother's chose a Lutheran church because it was also close, and I hadn't chosen it.
I went to the church until I was 13 years old. I was baptized and confirmed there when I was 11. I went along with the baptism and confirmation because all children who were 11 received confirmation, and if they hadn't already been baptized, that was done at the same time. Even then I knew that doubts I had about God and Christian teachings were things best kept to myself.
When I was 13 my family moved to another town with no churches within walking distance, and my parents weren't eager to get up early and drive us kids to church, and so our religious training stopped until I was 15 and my mom suddenly found religion. She began attending an Assembly of God church, occasionally dragging my dad along. I went willingly. I had already begun a search for God that wouldn't end until I was 42 years old.
I remember being "born again". Caught up in the fervor of the hell and damnation that the minister preached at the Assembly of God church. I became "high on religion" thinking I had finally found "Him." Little did I know, but the high would be short lived, as I again began to have doubts and unanswered questions.
When I was 17 I met the daughter of an assistant Baptist minister and began going to their church. My dad from the time I was at least 6 years old had sexually abused me and I told the assistant minister about it. He arranged with my parents to let me live with him and his family in a type of "private foster care." My dad paid him $100 a week. My parents also attended the church for a brief time, until the minister announced from the pulpit that my dad was a child molester. Before that day though, my mom, dad and I were each baptized at the church.
One day after spending the day with my parents I returned to my foster home only to find the house empty. Cleaned out. Not a stick of furniture. We found out that the minister had been caught embezzling from the church and he and his family had left town in a hurry. I returned to my parent’s home and the abuse.
As a result of what that minister had done, what little belief I had in God was totally lost and I became an atheist. For the next 25 years I would fluctuate between believing, Agnosticism, and Atheism.
When I was 26 I went to 3 months of Rights of Initiation for Catholic Adults and then was baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. I had been allowed to by-pass the full year of classes because I hadn't called the church to inquire about converting until 3 months before the Easter Vigil Mass when confirmation for adults was held.
I had entered the Catholic religion with the same philosophy that I had once heard Alcoholics Anonymous has, "Bring your body, your mind will follow." I didn't really believe in God, or in the core teachings of the Catholic Church, but I wanted so badly to believe in a power higher then myself, that I went faithfully to Mass 7 days a week, hoping that somehow I would start to believe. But after several months, I began to realize that it wasn't going to happen, and my Mass attendance became a once a week thing, then once a month, until when I was 30 and met the man who today is my husband and who wasn't Catholic, and I stopped attending Mass altogether.
I had never told anyone before my husband that I didn't believe in God. I don't think he took me seriously at first. I don't think he had ever known an Atheist. And he couldn't understand why I would have been going to church if I didn't believe in God.
My husband is 29 years older then I. We've had a wonderful marriage for these last 10 years. When we first met, I still desperately wanted to believe, and kept making him promise me, "When you get to Heaven" he would ask God to give me the strength to believe, and if at all possible, he would give me a sign, one that I couldn't chalk up to my imagination, so I would know there really was a god. He always promised me he would.
We were living in rural Alabama when I was 32 years old. I developed ulcerations on both corneas and when they healed, I was legally blind. Because of damage from infection that had been done to the tissue that donated corneas would have to adhere to, I couldn't find an eye surgeon who believed that transplanted corneas wouldn't be rejected.
I was still searching for God. I was searching for hope of something better then what this world had to offer. Some kind of evidence of the chance for existence after death. Some way to achieve it.
As a teenager I had watched Pat Robertson on the 700 Club, and as a young adult I listened faithfully to televangelist Rev. Jimmy Swaggert. In my 30's I watched programs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. All the while hoping that one of the ministers would say something that would click in my mind, and I would finally know, "Yes, there really is a god!" None of them ever said anything that caused that connection to happen, though many said things that confused me even more.
During the first 10 years after I became legally blind, I tried attending different churches, Baptist again, Assembly of God again, non-Denominational, Church of God, Mormon, and even studied up on Wicca. But I always lost interest after just a few months. Things the religions taught just didn't add up. There were just too many things left to faith. Things that had no proof other then one's faith. I couldn't believe something when the only proof was some words in a book that in large part didn't make sense.
I remember one night when I was about 35 years old, lying in bed and praying to God, whom I still wasn't sure existed, and asking Him that if He did exist to lead me to someone who could help me to believe. But I found no one.
At age 36 I acquired a Braille Bible and started reading it, once again hoping to find proof of God's existence. But with the Bible being so hard to understand, with so much of it not really being explainable, I lost interest after reading just a few of its books. At about that time, although still wanting to find God, I gave up my search. I had become completely disillusioned with religion.
On September 11, 2001 I was sitting at my computer. It was before 9 a.m. and as usual the television, which was sitting to my right, was turned on for background noise. I heard the sound that is made to notify viewers of an important news announcement. I stopped and turned towards the TV. A reporter began talking and one of the towers of the World Trade Center showed in the background. He said an accident had happened. A small plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I'm legally blind, but I could see well enough to know that it wasn't a small plane that had hit the tower. The hole was massive. And I didn't think it was possible to accidentally hit something so big.
As I watched, another plane flew into the other tower. I couldn't see the plane itself, it was too small for me to see even during the instant replays with my face practically pressed up against the screen, but I saw the fireball that exploded away from the building.
I jumped up and ran into the bedroom and told my husband to hurry and get up because terrorists were flying planes into the World Trade Center buildings! He immediately got out of bed and came in to the living room and sat in his recliner and began to watch. It was about 9 a.m.
As time went by it was announced that a plane had been flown into the Pentagon and another hijacked plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. I wondered when it would end? And what in the world was going on???
At one point the reporter said it looked like "debris" was falling from the buildings. My husband said it was people jumping. Something he has never been able to forget. I was grateful that my vision was too bad for me to be able to make out what even looked like "debris."
The reporter said a part of the first tower had fallen away from the building. He spoke in a kind of hesitant voice. Now I wonder if he was unsure of what he was seeing. Because we later found out that a part of the building hadn't fallen away. The building had completely collapsed.
A female reporter was crying and a male reporter hugged her. I was crying too. And my husband hugged me.
For weeks afterward I would start crying for no apparent reason. I'd be riding on the bus and have to turn my head towards the window and pretend I was looking out so that other riders wouldn't see the tears escaping my eyes.
When we were in a restaurant, I'd have to use my napkin to dab the tears welling up in my eyes before the other diners noticed and wondered if I was some kind of a nut.
I was Christian then and I cared. And I was devastated. I couldn't understand how a religion could promote such violence, as the media was saying Islam did. It made no sense to me. So I decided to find out for myself. One way or another I wanted to know the truth.
Because of my partial blindness I was limited to information from the Internet. Finding books about Islam in Braille or ink print that was large enough for me to read was impossible. I was able to use a computer because I had magnification software installed so I could enlarge the font on the screen to a size that I could read.
I did searches and I began to read about Islam. I went to web sites that taught the basics of Islam, and I joined Muslim women's e-groups where I was able to ask and get answers that I confirmed through further research.
I've always been a sceptic. It's always been hard for me to believe something that I didn't understand. I was never one to believe something simply because someone said it was so. I had to know it in my mind as well as in my heart.
While studying Islam I learned that the God Muslims worship is the same God as that of Christians and Jews. The God of Abraham and Moses. I found that Islam doesn't promote or condone hatred of non-Muslims, nor does it condone the killing of innocent people.
By studying Islam I found the answers that the media wasn't telling us and I came to know that Islam is the True Religion. Alhumdulilah! I read a lot of convincing evidence, but the things that proved to me that there is a god, and that Islam is the True Religion and that that the Qu'ran is the Word of God, were those in the Qu'ran itself. The things that are of a scientific nature. Things that have been discovered by scientists only in the last 100 years. The only one who could have known those things 1400 years ago was God.
For example, one day I was at a web site that was about some of the scientific proofs in the Qur'an. One of the verses in the Qur'an tells about the death of our own solar system.
Al-Rahman 37-38 "When the sky is torn apart, so it was (like) a red rose like ointment. Then which of the favors of your lord will you deny?"
There was a link that went to the NASA web site.
When I clicked the link I had no idea what was going to be on the next page, but what I saw took my breath away. Tears came to my eyes. I knew - if I had had any doubts left - I knew at the moment, that Islam is the True Religion of God. Mash'allah!
The page the link took me to showed what looked like a red rose. It was the "Cat's Eye Nebula." Which was an exploding star 3000 light years away. It had been photographed with the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists say that it is the same fate that awaits our own solar system. Muslims refer to it as the "Rose Nebula." It had been described in the Qur'an 1400 years ago. People back then had no way of knowing about it. Only God could have known.
On September 12, 2002, the day of my birthday, scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope found a second Rose Nebula. A gift from God to all mankind. This time the scientists called it by its rightful name, "The Rose Nebula."
After accepting in my mind as well as in my heart that Islam is the True Religion, I knew that I was already a Muslim and the only thing left to do was to profess my faith.
I looked in an Internet directory for mosques in my community. I called the one in the next town and told the person who answered the phone that I wanted to convert to Islam, and asked him when I could make my Shahada (Profession of Faith). He told me to be there at 4 p.m. on Saturday when the Imam would also be there. I told him that I ride the bus everywhere and it wouldn't be running late enough for me to be able to get back home and so could I come earlier? He said not to worry; someone would give me a ride home. I arrived as scheduled, and as God had scheduled, I began my new life. Mash'allah!
I have since come to realize that on that day, the greatest event of my life occurred. I had always thought that the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me was the day that I married my husband. But I now know it wasn't. The most important day of my life was the day I made my Shahada and accepted Islam as the way of life God intended me to live. It was the day I acknowledged that Islam is the way to salvation, to Heaven, and I made a choice to practice it.
I can't say my converting to Islam thrilled my husband. He believed what the media was saying about Muslims and the religion. He didn't like it that I went to the masjid [mosque] several evenings a week and left him home alone to be bored. One night after he was finished complaining about me going to the masjid yet again I sat down a few feet away from him and I calmly told him, "I will never ask you to practice a religion you don't believe in. I love you too much to try and force that on you. But I do want you to learn about Islam so that you will at least understand what it is that I believe." I then stood up and went into the bedroom and finished dressing to go to the masjid. I kissed him goodbye and I left.
When I returned home I found his whole attitude had changed. He was bright and cheerful. That night, before going to bed, he began to learn about the beautiful religion of Islam.
My husband began going to the masjid with me. While I studied with the women, he would talk with a man and ask him questions. At home he read things on the Internet, and books that he had borrowed from the masjid. We would discuss different things he was learning, and when a reporter on television would relate the latest lie or myth about Islam I would point it out to him and explain the truth.
When the day came and he told me about how some aspect of Islam was to be practiced, in a "know it all" tone of voice, as if it were a fact, something that I myself didn't know about, I asked him to tell me "How do you know that???" and he replied, "Because it's in the Qu'ran!!" I was stunned! He believed! Alhumdulilah! He knew that Islam was True! Mash'allah! If it was in the Qur'an, as far as he was concerned it was true! Thirty-six days after I publicly professed my faith in God and His messenger, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), my husband professed his. Mash'allah! We had an Islamic marriage ceremony the same evening. I cried when my husband made his Shahada. I knew we would be in Eternity together!
A month before, a man at the mosque had asked me what I thought the chances of my husband converting were. I didn't want this man getting his hopes up, or expecting more of me then I could deliver and so I bluntly told him, "Zero." I said, "I can't imagine someone so dramatically changing their beliefs after having believed something else for 70 years." But 14 days before his 71st birthday he embraced Islam as his religion and his way of life. Alhumdulilah!
In the Muslim community we have found another family. We have found friendship, love and acceptance that were taught in the Christian religions we practiced at different points in our lives, but that we felt never actually existed among most of the members of the churches we went to.
Most of the Muslims in our area are immigrants, but we have found no intolerance of Americans whether they are Muslim or not. We were both welcomed into the family of Islam the very first time each of us went to the masjid. We've always felt welcome and accepted.
Since embracing Islam We have found direction and purpose for our lives. We have found the meaning for our existence. We have come to realize that we really are here only for a short time and that what comes afterwards is far better then the fleeting pleasures that this world has to offer us.
I have found a sense of security concerning life after death that I had never known before. We have both come to see the problems that we once saw as being major as actually being opportunities to grow. We thank God for what we have, as well for what we don't. God knows best.
Today we are Muslim. We still care about 9/11. I still cry when I think a little too much about the events of that day. My husband still remembers the people jumping from the buildings. We wish all we could say about that day was where we had been when we "heard" that the WTC had been attacked. But we did see it happen, and it was the most devastating thing to ever happen in our lives. But from tragedy came victory. From death has come the knowledge that we will have life after our death. And it will be spent together.
Khadija Evans -

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Was Taught to Hate Islam; Tina Styliandou's story

"All the "caricatures" and slander against Muhammad which is published now by the media, was part of our lessons and our exams!"

I was born in Athens, Greece , to Greek Orthodox parents. My father's family lived in Turkey, Istanbul for most of their lives, and my father was born and raised there. They were wealthy, well–educated, and as most Christian Orthodox who lived in an Islamic country, they held on to their religion.

A time came when the Turkish government decided to kick the majority of Greek citizens out of Turkey and confiscate their wealth, houses, and businesses. So my father's family had to return back to Greece empty-handed. This is what the Turkish Muslims did to them, and this validated, according to them, their hatred towards Islam.

My mother's family was living on a Greek island just on the border between Greece and Turkey. During a Turkish attack, the Turks occupied the island, burnt their houses, and in order to survive, they escaped to the Greek mainland. Even more reason to hate the Turkish Muslims then!

Greece was for more than 400 years occupied by Turks, and we were taught to believe that for every crime committed towards the Greeks, Islam was responsible. The Turks were Muslims and their crimes were reflecting their religious beliefs. This was actually a very wise plan of the Greek Orthodox Church (religion and politics in Greece are the same thing) to build hatred in the hearts of the Greeks against Islam, in order to protect their religion and prevent people from converting to Islam.

So for hundreds of years we were taught in our history and religious books to hate and make fun of the Islamic religion.

In our books, Islam was actually not a religion and Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not a prophet! He was just a very intelligent leader and politician who gathered rules and laws from the Jews and the Christians, added some of his own ideas and conquered the world.

At school, we were taught to make fun of him and of his wives or his Companions. All the "caricatures" and slander against him which are published today by the media were actually part of our lessons and our exams!

Alhamdulillah (thank God), Allah protected my heart, and hatred against Islam didn't enter it.

Other Greeks have also succeeded to rid themselves of the burden of the Orthodox religious inheritance placed on their shoulders and they have opened, by the will of Allah, their eyes, ears, and hearts to see that Islam is a true religion sent by Allah, and Muhammad is a true prophet, and the seal of all prophets.

Muslims believe that Allah sent messengers to mankind as a guidance to them, starting from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). But Allah's final message was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

It was a great help to me that both of my parents were not very religious themselves. They rarely practiced their religion and used to take me to church only during weddings or funerals.

What drove my father away from his religion was the corruption he was seeing daily among the priests. How could these people preach for God and goodness, and at the same time steal from the church's funds, buy villas, and own Mercedes cars, and spread homosexuality amongst them? Are these the righteous representatives of the religion who will guide us, correct us, and lead us closer to God? He was fed up with them and this led him to become an atheist.

The churches lost most of their followers, at least in my country, because of their actions. In Islam a sheikh or scholar of the religion helps and guides others with full passion and only with the desire to please Allah and earn their way to Paradise.

In Christianity to become a priest is a profitable occupation. This corruption "within" drives many young people away from the religion they were born with and leads them to search for something else.

As a teenager I loved to read a lot and I wasn't really satisfied or convinced with Christianity. I had belief in God, fear and love for Him, but everything else confused me.

I started searching around but I never searched towards Islam (maybe due to the background I had against it).

So alhamdulillah He had mercy on my soul and guided me from darkness to light, from Hell to Paradise God willing.

He brought into my life my husband, a born Muslim, planted the seed of love into our hearts and lead us to marriage without us really paying attention to the religious differences.

My husband was willing to answer any question I had concerning his religion, without humiliating my beliefs (no matter how wrong they were) and without ever putting any pressure on me or even asking me to change my religion.

After 3 years of being married, having the chance to know more about Islam and to read the noble Quran, as well as other religious books, I was convinced that there is no such a thing as a trinity, nor was Jesus God.

Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God, Who has no son, nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone! No one shares His divinity, nor His attributes.

In the Quran Allah described Himself. He said:
[Say: He is God, the One. God, the eternally Besought of all! He begets not nor is He begotten. and there is none like unto Him."] (Al-Ikhlas 112:1-4)

No one has the right to be invoked, supplicated, prayed to or shown any act of worship but Allah alone.

The religion of Islam is the acceptance of and obedience to the teachings of Allah which were revealed to His final Prophet Muhammad.

I became a Muslim, keeping it secret from my family and friends for many years. We lived with my husband in Greece trying to practice Islam, but it was extremely difficult, almost impossible.

In my home town there are no mosques, no access to Islamic studies, no people praying, or fasting, or women wearing hijab.

There are only some Muslim immigrants who came to Greece for a better financial future and who let the Western lifestyle attract them and eventually corrupt them. As a result, they do not follow their religion and they are completely lost.

It was incredibly difficult to perform our Islamic duties, especially for me, as I wasn't born as a Muslim, and didn't have an Islamic education.

My husband and I had to pray and fast with the use of calendars, no Adhan (the Muslim call for Prayer) in our ears, and no Islamic Ummah (community of Muslims) to support us. We felt that with each passing day we were stepping backwards. Our faith was decreasing and the wave was taking us.

So when my daughter was born, we decided, in order to save our own souls and our daughter's, if God wills, we have to migrate to an Islamic country. We didn't want to raise her in a western open environment where she would struggle to maintain her identity and might end up lost.

Thank Allah, He has guided us and gave us the chance to migrate to an Islamic country, where we can hear the sweet words of the Adhan, and we can increase our knowledge and love for Him, and our beloved Prophet Muhammad.

Source: readingislam (my journey to Islam)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Steven Barboza, found spiritual peace and fulfillment

This African American former Catholic found spiritual peace and fulfillment in orthodox Islam having investigated and rejected the racist ideology of the Nation of Islam.
My abandonment of Roman Catholicism was spawned by a premature death, my mother’s at age 49, on the day before my 22nd birthday. I prayed like crazy for God to spare her, and when He did not, I established a new line of communication. I called God Allah and prayed with my palms cupped (to catch blessings) and my eyes wide open (to keep Allah’s creation in sight). Given the irony and absurdity of events in racially torn Boston, where I lived, Islam was a godsend. A few months after my mother’s death, whites assaulted a black man in front of Boston City Hall, using as one weapon a flagpole with an American flag attached. With that attack and my mother’s death, a lifetime of frustrations reached the breaking point.
My odyssey 26 years ago was not unlike that of hundreds of thousands of blacks in the United States. The journey became my jihad--literally “struggle”--waged not for political power or economic enfranchisement but for control over my own soul.
Christianity did not offer a complete way of life the way Islam did. Attending mass once a week and calling it religion failed to satisfy my spiritual needs. Islam offered a code of conduct on how to run my daily life and how to communicate with God. Prostrating in prayer five times a day as a Muslim offered me more solace than I had ever found kneeling before a crucifix.
In 1974, as now, in the Roxburys and Harlems across America, only liquor stores outnumbered churches in vying for blacks’ attention, and in my opinion, both stupefied millions of black Americans.
Islam, as I was familiar with it, seemed the perfect way to fight back. As a religion, it offered clear-cut guidelines for living; as a social movement, it stood for a pride born of culture and discipline.
Before my mom died, I had dipped into Malcolm X’s autobiography. After she passed, I plunged into it. Malcolm had undergone a metamorphosis: from hoodlum to cleaned-up spokesman for the Nation of Islam and finally a convert to orthodox Islam, and through his own transformation he had shown that change, even from the most miserable beginnings, was possible.
Of course, Malcolm’s life and mine were very different. He had discovered Islam in prison. I discovered it in college. He was the spokesman for a black theocratic visionary. I held down a mid-level white-collar job in a Fortune 500 company. Still, I felt a kinship with Malcolm and the Black Muslims. The color of our skin made us all cargo in a sinking ship, and Islam beckoned like a life preserver.
Two and a half decades ago in Boston and New York, however, there were few orthodox mosques. In black neighborhoods, one institution, the Nation of Islam, dominated in the teaching of Islam, or, rather, a homegrown version of it. Many blacks who converted took to the Nation’s teachings--its admonitions to self-love and racial solidarity, its belief in productivity and entrepreneurship. And with equal ardor, they also took to the Nation’s other teachings--its racial chauvinism and belief that white people were genetically inferior, intrinsically evil “blue-eyed devils” who had been created to practice “tricknology” against blacks.
Using the twin motivators of myth and pride, Elijah Muhammad built the Nation into one of the largest black economic and religious organizations American had seen. It claimed a heavyweight boxing champion the whole world adored, Muhammad Ali. Its women looked like angels in their veils, crisp white jackets, and ankle-length skirts; its men cut no-nonsense yet gallant figures in their smart dark suits and trademark bow ties. But sitting in the Nation’s Roxbury temple was like being on a jury listening to a closing argument. The defendants (in absentia): white folks. The prosecutor: a dapper minister who practically spat, saying whites were so utterly devilish that their religion was grotesquely symbolized by a “symbol of death and destruction”--the crucifix. The charge: perpetrating dastardly deeds on blacks “in the name of Christianity.” The verdict: guilty.
I barely lasted my one visit. To me, demonizing the “enemy” as the Nation did hardly seemed the best way to learn to “love thyself.” Anyway, I abhorred the idea of colorizing God, or limiting godly attributes to one race. And though Elijah deserved credit for redeeming legions of blacks from dope and crime when all else, including Christianity, had failed them, I didn’t believe that earned him the title of Allah’s “messenger.”
So I moved to New York and became an orthodox Muslim in the manner all converts do: I declared before Muslim witnesses my belief in Allah and my faith that the Prophet Muhammad of Arabia was His very last messenger. I entered a Sunni mosque and prostrated myself on rugs beside people of all ethnicities.
Here was what I deemed a truer Islam--the orthodoxy to which Malcolm had switched, the one most of Elijah’s followers opted for when the Nation of Islam waned after his death, the Islam to which most of America’s 135,000 annual converts, 80% to 90% of them black, belong.
On a plane to Senegal I sat next to a black American wearing a traditional Arab robe. The man was headed to meet an imam, his spiritual leader, a black African Muslim. I later met other black Americans who had spent years in Africa studying Islam. Through research, I found that up to 35 percent of enslaved blacks brought to the New World were Muslim. In converting, many black Americans may have been simply returning to the religion of their forefathers.
Over the years, I have come to understand what should have been obvious long ago--that Jesus had not forsaken my mother. She died because God had willed it, regardless of what form my prayers took. I hadn’t rejected Christianity so much as embraced Islam.
Source: Islam For Today

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Anja, My personal decision for God and Islam

The conversion story of Anja from Germany
"I was quite amused by the thought, that actually there are still people around, who follow a law from the Middle Ages." But over a period of two and a half years, this university student grew to take Islam very seriously.
"… This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…" (Quran 5:3)
I was born 1967 in a small town in Sauerland County, Germany. My younger brother and I grew up in the country, where my parents and grandparents live in a two-family house. My grandfather used to be principal of a primary school. My father would have liked to become forester. Instead he only became a teacher in secondary school. He still does love nature very much. But throughout the years he seems to have lost His love for Jesus Christ. Which is quite disappointing for my grandmother, who has always been a firm believer. She is member of a small church. All her life she participated actively at church work and tried hard to set a true Christian example for her children. My grandfather on the other hand can hardly be called a believer. A fact that my grandmother was to find out only after the wedding. Steady church attendance turned out to be no proof of faith. Up to today after church service my grandparents engage in heated discussions about Christian belief in general and the contents of the last sermon in particular. This situation did affect their three sons. Today only one of them is a church member.
My mother on the other side comes from a family, where piety was taken for as granted as the daily bread and the daily sleep. Belief was never subject of discussion. Actually nothing ever was subject of discussion. Especially my mother, the youngest child and only daughter, was never asked for her opinion. It was also taken for granted that she became shop assistant in her father's shop, a bakery. What else could be the use of a daughter? Up to today she regrets that she wasn't allowed to learn another profession. And again it was taken for granted, that my mother married my father. As son of a teacher he was a good match in the church Youth group. The shared faith would guarantee a happy marriage. Build on rock!
But it was exactly that rock that began to shake first during the years to come. While my grandmother was elected as first woman into the church's council of elders, my parents one at a time left the church. And there came a day, when they didn't have anything in common anymore. So after 20 years of marriage and uncountable tries to get along, both agreed on throwing in the towel. 1986 their marriage was dissolved.
At that time my brother and I weren't too attached to religion and such adding to my Grandma's disappointment. We did join Christian Youth groups and take Bible classes, but neither of us became church member. Actually we haven't even been baptized. The church my family belonged to doesn't baptize children, but rather grown up people, who consciously make a decision for Christ. When we reached necessary age, we both decided against being baptized.
Not that I wouldn't have been interested in religion. Religion always had something fascinating for me, giving sense to things. Christianity offers an acceptable approach, the belief in one God, who contacted mankind by sending prophets. In this way God taught the people who they are and how they should interact with each other and their environment. But I was soon to notice that Christian values could so easily be adjusted. What does Christian theology teach? Every human being is full of sin; original sin is burdening us from birth. God sent his son into the world to suffer and die on the cross and save us from this burden of guilt. God's son, who is true man and true God. To whom did he pray so ardently? His life became the turning point of history, which divides people in "before" and "after" Christ. Belief in him is the only way to be saved. Didn't he say himself: "I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father but through me." (John 14, 6)
With Jesus' death the Hereafter lost its terror. God is Love, how can there be hell? The devil, who used to be a mean of oppression to keep church members in order, has been pensioned. The values of contemporary Christianity are pretty much limited to "Love your Neighbor". As long as I don't hurt anybody, everything goes. Jesus says: "You shouldn't think, I have come to dissolve the law or the prophets. I didn't come to dissolve, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) The difference doesn't seem to be too big in modern Christianity. Commandments are out. Church goes with time. Though not fast enough for some of its members.
The Bible does hardly have any weight anymore. Probably some truth can be found in the book. But what? Who decides on what is truth and what isn't? Who decides, what is valid and what isn't? The church? The theologists? Or everybody for himself? Doesn't everybody according to best knowledge and conscience fabricate his own belief? Let's be truthful and no longer call the result Christianity. Let's rather call it "Brianity", "Susanity" or what so ever the person's name should be.
Believing Christians will of course protest by now. They will say, the common basis is there. Well, where is it? The true revelation, the words God told Jesus from Nazareth, where are they? In the Bible there wasn't even one chapter dedicated to them.
Central sentences of Faith, that divide the church, have been derived from historical reports and letters, decided on during theological conferences or just called out as State doctrine. And how many times did I hear: "You can't understand this. You just have to believe it!" I believe that God gave us our brains so that we might use them. And I believe, that a message of God, when it is questioned, has to offer more answers than that.
That's what I told my religious instructor, when my high school class spend a weekend in a monastery shortly before graduation. "Days of reflection" that's what they called it. The teacher surprised me with his answer. He said: "God won't let you go. You'll see." At the end he turned out to be right. Though he probably imagined it a little differently.
My interest in God and religion again caught up with me, when I came across Islam. After taking my high school diploma I moved to a city, to take up studies of economy at university. At that time I still thought, to study economy would be a reasonable decision in regard of future job opportunities. I wasn't too interested in the subject, but I thought, the time of studies would be passing soon. Actually already the first days were depressing. Crowded stuffy audition rooms, boring lectures by bored professors - "Please open my book on page 17. Here we read …" for as bored students "Did you see, what the tall blonde in the third row is wearing today?" - "Do you have a light?"
Student life on the other hand was fascinating from the very beginning. I had up to now lived in a small town. Even during my year as an exchange student in the U.S.A. I had stayed in a small country town. With an obligatory church visit on Sundays! Now at university there seemed to be a new world opening up for me. I got to know so many different people and I loved to discuss God and the world. Among my new acquaintances were a few foreign students, who were born Muslims. So the subject Islam came up.
Generally I was quite amused by the thought, that actually there are still people around, who seriously follow a law from the Middle Ages. But in reality everything looked quite different from what I knew. The life of foreign students in Germany doesn't have anything in common with the tales of Thousand and One Night. In the beginning I had still asked my Muslim neighbors in the student homes kiddingly, why tomatoes don't have to be ritually cut? Or why a Muslim, who remembers God before he eats and thanks God after the meal, doesn't do the same thing when drinking his beer in the pub?
But the more I learned about Islam, the less funny those jokes became for me. Actually the Islamic religion wasn't that strange to me, as I had always thought. I rediscovered a lot of those components that I had always liked in Christianity. For one, of course, was the belief in God. Islam is strictly monotheistic. There is only one God. God is in Arabic "Allah". The expression really doesn't mean anything else but "the God" and is also used in the Arabic language version of the Bible.
A Muslim believes - like a Christian - that God has sent prophets, to lead mankind on the right path. Names turned up that sounded so familiar: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jonah, and also Zachary, John and Jesus.
I learned, that Muhammad, the son on Abdullah, who lived in the 7th century A.D. on the Arabic Peninsula, was believed to have been the last prophet. He had proclaimed the Qur'an. This book is the foundation for all Islamic teachings, the whole Islamic law, the whole Islamic life.
I had a look at that book, the Qur'an. "This is the book: in it is guidance sure, without doubt..." (2:2) That is noted there about the Qur'an itself.
Without doubt, also acknowledged by Western scientists, is at least the authenticity of Qur'an. It contains actually the words, that Muhammad because of his own illiteracy dictated his companions. In regard to language use it is called a miracle. The religious contents were proclaimed in an artistic poetic form. Up to today the Qur'an sets measures for the classical Arabic.
The contents of Qur'an are at least as remarkable as the form. It's in no way a simple "Arabic History book", as a well-known Orientalist likes to describe it in the media. To the contrary, it reveals an astonishing knowledge on nature, on society and generally everything that concerns human life.
Already in the first revelation it states: "Read, and thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He, who …taught man that which he knew not." (96:3-5)
Did you know for example, that whereas the Qur'an in the story of Joseph talks about a King, in the story of Moses it talks about a Pharaoh? The reason for this was only known, when the French Historian Jean Francois Champollion with the help of the stone of Rosette succeeded in dechivrating the old Egyptian Hieroglyphic letters and such made old Egyptian writings accessible for modern science.
It turned out that about the end of the Middle Empire the Hyksos tribes, originating in Asia, occupied the Northern part of today's Egypt. A king ruled that area. So this would be the time of Joseph. Under the rule of the Hyksos he raised to become the advisor of the King. And under the reign of the Hyksos the people of Israel migrated to Egypt, where they were friendly welcomed.
In the 16th Century B.C. , during the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose, the Egyptians managed to retake the country. The people of Israel as people who had been closely cooperating with the hated occupational powers weren't loved as well. That explains why the people of Israel at the times of Moses were oppressed and enslaved. Qur'an distinguishes between the terms "King" of the Hyksos and "Pharaoh" of the Egyptians.
Farther we read on the Pharaoh of the Moses Story: "This day shall we save thee in thy body, that thou mayest be a sign to those who come after thee! But verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs!" (10:92) Hinting on the later mummification of that Pharaoh.
Or do have a look at the statements of Qur'an in relation to creation. "Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (21:30) That exactly corresponds with the newest findings of science.
And did you know, that according to Qur'an we do not live "on" earth, but rather "in" earth? A hint on the atmosphere, which obviously is part of the earth. Without it we couldn't exist. Just think about the high speed with which we are traveling through space due to the rotation of the earth. Try to imagine the wind resulting from the movement speed, which we would have to cope with if it wouldn't be for the atmosphere.
Qur'an describes phenomenon of nature as different as building up of clouds, embryo development, chemistry of digestion or the expansion of the universe. Up to now there haven't been any scientific findings contradicting Qur'an statements. To the contrary, some Qur'an statements can only be fully understood and appreciated with the help of contemporary science. Again and again Qur'an asks the reader to see, to hear and to understand.
With the help of the Qur'an Arab Bedouins and traders managed to build a society, in which not only science but also fine arts were blooming. And that at a time, where Europe still was stuck in the darkest Middle Ages.
On belief itself we read in Qur'an: "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects Tagut and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things." (2:256)
Actually Islamic theology is as clear as the testimony: "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His prophet."
Originate sin? Islam doesn't know anything comparable: "…Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…" (6:164) After Adam and Eve fall for sin, God taught them repentance. Repenting man or woman meet the merciful God. There is no need for any substitute sacrifice.
God's son? "Say: He is God, the One; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him." (112) Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, not more and not less.
A turning point in history? Absolutely no. To the contrary, history proves an unbroken continuity. From the very beginning there was only this one religion, the submittance to the one God, in Arabic: "Islam". This religion was proclaimed by all prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The Prophet Muhammad has been the last of them, but still he was a human being like you and me. The speech held by his friend Abu Bakr Siddiq on the occasion of his death has been preserved till today: "So, who among you worshipped Muhammad, God's peace and blessing be upon him, should know, that Muhammad, God's peace and blessing be upon him, is dead. But who worshipped God, truly, God is alive and will never die." And then he reminded the people of the following verse of Qur'an: "Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain. Will ye turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm he will do to God; but God will swiftly reward those who are grateful" (3:144)
The church? There isn't any. No organization, no hierarchy, no sacraments. Every Muslim can preach. Or contract a marriage. Or pray the death prayer for a deceased.
Interpretation of Scriptures? As far as central sentences of belief are concerned, Muslims are united. God is God and the prophets were human. Qur'an is the word of God, as well as the books revealed to other prophets. Angel are a reality and the resurrection is a reality. Islamic scholars are - in contrast to their Christian colleagues - more concerned with the practical appliance of religious principles. They announce religious opinions on the basis of Qur'an and Sunnah, which is the example of the Prophet Muhammad. Such an expert opinion is called "fatwa". As no scholar has in any form any God given authority, a fatwa always does reflect the personal opinion of the scholar concerned and has no binding character. You can take it or leave it.
About 1 billion people all over the world testify this belief. And up to today Islam hasn't lost its attraction. The Arabic word "Islam" has the same letter root as the word "Salaam", peace. So the meaning of the word Islam implies also to find peace, peace with God, the world and oneself.
I learned and understood. But still I wouldn't accept the truth. Islam is not exactly a comfortable religion. I guess I was just too lazy to become Muslim. It looked much to hard for me. Islam is reality, something that enters into every fiber of life, interlaces and changes it. Christianity on the other hand tends to be a little bit ignorant of reality these days. Well-measured piety, which is worn for the church service like the Sunday dress and then stored in the closet for the rest of the week.
Nevertheless I began to try out Islam in practise. I joined my Muslim neighbors in the fasting of the month of Ramadan. That means I didn't eat or drink between dawn and sunset. And every evening we met to break the fast together. Sometimes we even cooked together. Especially an Egyptian student with the name Mohamed turned out to be an excellent cook. The same Mohamed took me aside some time in the middle of the month. He had raised the courage - in religious questions there is no shame - and explained to me, that women don't fast during that special time of month… Finally I realized, that he was talking about the menses. Well, for this Ramadan the enlightenment had come a little late. I didn't mind. In those Ramadan nights I also got the opportunity to watch the prayers. And I tried those as well. I practiced in my room, prayed as I had seen it, bowed and prostrated. As I didn't know the words that are said, I improvised with "Our heavenly father…” I also began to reduce my consumption of alcohol and pork. And once I even went for a walk in the city wearing a scarf over my hair, just to try out, how it feels to be a covered woman. Finally I even learned, why the Palestinians in the student homes store a bottle of water in the bathrooms. For Muslims it is normal to wash after using the toilet. In Germany there are usually no hand showers or the like installed in the bathrooms as there are in Muslim countries. So a bottle of water had to do. How ridiculous must it sound for those students, when a famous German company advertises with the slogan: "Like freshly washed!" for their wet towels…
Still most Muslims around me were wondering about my interest in Islam. Actually many of them weren't too concerned with the Islamic regulations themselves. Again and again I heard: "Of course I am Muslim. If I would be living in my country, I would live according to Qur'an. But here in Europe everything is different. I am still young. I will have time enough to be pious sometime in the future."
On the other hand there were also few people that were trying hard to live their faith consequently. One of my neighbors in the student homes belongs to this category. The same Mohamed, that was such an excellent cook and had taken me aside in Ramadan. Mohamed had taken a Bachelors degree in Biophysics in Egypt and had come to Germany to do his doctorate. When I got to know him he had been in Germany for 6 months only and was still attending German language classes at university.
His religion, Islam, meant everything to him. He had already acquired a broad knowledge on Islamic matters. Among the Arabs in the student homes he was known as an exception. They called him their "Sheikh".
A nickname, that didn't seem to be fitting for a 24 year old, sportive young man with curly black hair. Mohamed himself didn't like the name. Once he told me, the responsibility of it was too big for him.
Actually everybody, who needed advice or help, came to the "Sheikh". May it be, that a student needs a room; someone needs to go to hospital or just wanted to sell his used books. Everyone came to Mohamed.
In the beginning our acquaintance developed kind of slowly, as Mohamed tried hard to stand up to his image as practicing Muslim. He stayed away from any possible temptation. And for a Muslim, women definitely belong in that category. But soon his religious responsibility took over. Is it possible to send someone away who is interested in Islam?
To me he was indeed an interesting person to talk to. Rarely I had met someone as open minded as him. We spent our time discussing religion, Islam and the world. Of course only at "neutral" places, that is Mohamed's room with the door widely open. So that nobody would get any wrong ideas about what kind of relationship we were having. We learned a lot from each other in that time. We began to see the world with each other's eyes. Mohamed became one of my most reliable friends.
In the meanwhile I had completely lost my interest in my economics studies. Due to my poor efforts the last exams hadn't turned out all too well and so I decided to make my favorite hobby my carrier. I began to study Oriental Studies. I figured a good grade in this subject would be more useful than a bad one in economics. As I didn't really leave my father any choice, he finally also agreed in the change of major. And all of a sudden the studies were going a lot smoother. Some credits from my economic studies could be transferred for my new minor sociology. And the new classes were so interesting to me. They offered a whole lot of new subjects for discussions with Mohamed. He turned out to be quite interested in Oriental Studies: "I might have a look at what they teach you here in Germany. It will help me with my language as well."
For me undoubtedly his interest was very useful. He helped me with my Arabic homework and explained historical contexts to me. Actually it turned out, that politics and history always had been his hobby. I myself am not too much interest in these matters. Up to today Mohamed sometimes wonders about the many things I don't know.
During this time I finally began to back the Muslims. At university I was more and more annoyed by the ironical way in which Muslims were treated by non-Muslim Stuff. Still I couldn't even imagine becoming Muslim myself. What is good for Arab man isn't necessarily good for German women. I am from a completely different world than Arabs, Turks or Iranians. How can a German woman live as Muslimah? I did hear of such women, but had never met anyone personally. At least that is what I thought. Till shortly before spring break I found out by chance, that one of the students in my Arabic class was a German Muslimah.
It was still winter and cold outside. Every time this woman left the classroom, she pulled her long woolen scarf up over her head. One day I asked her, if that had any other reasons but the cold. It had.
Heide was a teacher, married to a Muslim from the Lebanon. When she became Muslim, she took the Islamic name Khadija. She participated at the Arabic class to collect credits for a graduate course in teaching foreigners.
From her I learned, that in our city there was an organization for German speaking Muslim women. I accepted her invitation to accompany her to one of the group meetings. And from there on everything began to change at high pace.
We agreed on a day to go and Heide offered to give me a ride. So we met in the city. This time Heide was wearing a "real" headscarf, that she had wrapped quite elegant around her head. On the forehead it was decorated with pearl embroidery. I had taken a scarf as well. In my purse. I was getting a little nervous. How would I be welcomed as a Non Muslim? What kind of women was I about to meet?
Heide reassured me. Guests were always welcome and there really wasn't any need for me to wear a scarf.
Heide herself was still a quite new Muslim. Nevertheless she did already know her way around the Islamic community in our City. She used to do everything with full heart and power. She was already being considered as a teacher for an Islamic school. On our way to the meeting she told me, what I had to expect:
"The group consists of about 30 women of German and Turkish origin. They meet once a week in the facilities of a Turkish Islamic organization. The group leader, Maryam, is a German Muslimah of about 50 years of age. She has lived some years with her husband in Turkey, where they both participated in a lot of Islamic activities. Maryam, who by now is widowed, does engage in Islamic activities in Germany as well. She holds speeches on Islamic subjects and has founded this women's group. During the meeting Maryam will held a lesson on Islam, and then those women, who feel like it, stay a little longer to chat. We bring tea and cake along. "
This week the cake was Heide's turn. It took its time in the oven and Heide had been a little late. So she was speeding up. "Maryam isn't all too happy with people coming late." Unfortunately we didn't find any free parking space close to the building. So Heide just drove into the yard. We were lucky. One of the parking cars was just about to leave and a friendly man with Turkish appearance gave us signals to help her get the car into that free space.
The crowd was fascinating for me. "All are going to the meeting?" Heide laughed: "That would be nice." Of course not everyone was going to the meeting. Heide explained to me, that every weekend the place was that crowded, as the Turkish organization held its own activities.
The German language meeting was held in a separate part of the building. When we entered the hall, we were already greeted tumultuous: "Hi, Khadija!" "How are you today?" "Oh, did you bring one of your delicious cakes?" "The others are in the kitchen!" "Maryam is about to start the lesson!" Women with covered hair and long dresses passed us. And again and again I heard the Islamic greeting: "As-Salaamu Alaykum!" - "Peace be upon you!"
I was included in the friendly welcome and kissed on both cheeks. Guests were welcome! The women thought it was great that someone dared to enter the "lion's den" to see for herself, what the Muslims are like. This meeting appeared to be not only for German speaking Muslim women, but also a contact group for women interested in Islam. So I seemed to be at the right place.
We really were late. The lesson started right away. Heide-Khadija placed the cake in the kitchen, and then we entered the lecture room. The long room was covered with gray fitted carpet. There wasn't any furniture but a little bookshelf at the wall. The women were sitting in a circle on the floor. They had left their shoes outside, as it is customary in mosques and Muslim homes.
Maryam, the group leader, had placed several books in front of her. She was a corpulent lady with bright blue eyes that glanced friendly from under the simple white scarf. This day she talked about the continuity of history as documented in Qur'an. About the different prophets, that all brought the same message over and over. The lesson didn't contain too much news for me. Islam recognizes most prophets of the Old and New Testament. Some of the details of the stories differ, but the basis thought is always the same. God sends prophets to remind the people of his message.
More interesting to me than the lesson were the listeners, that more or less concentrated followed the lecture. "Isn't it surprising, that the message of God again and again was forgotten?" For some of the women the information seemed to be new. What surprised me? "In Qur'an there is a chapter, that puts the stories of the prophets into an overall context. Who knows, what chapter I am talking about?" There were women of every age, many of German origin, some Turkish girls, obviously still at school that whispered in each other’s ears and kept leaving and reentering the room. Which distracted Maryam: "If you don't want to listen, just stay outside!" All women were covered. They were wearing scarves in all colors and shades, simply tied or elaborately wrapped, or decorated with lace. Some had pulled the scarf down on the forehead. Others were showing their hair. "Always when the people had problems, they turned to God, and later they figured, they wouldn't need Him anymore." Some women had brought small children. One discovered the light switch as a fun game and didn't want to play with anything else. "Please, could someone take the child away from that light switch?" Finally the mother took the loudly protesting child into the kitchen, where he discovered the cake, which kept him busy at least a quarter hour. But when there came some phone calls for several of the women and a Turkish girl wanted to know how many cups tea and coffee she should prepare and how long it would take till we'd finish, Maryam had had enough. "We'll go on from here next week, and now we'll have tea." So finally I got a chance to talk to the women. They right away took me in. "After all, we are all sisters." "Do you drink coffee or tea?" "Have some cake!" "So, how did you like it?" Soon we were in the middle of a lively conversation. Of course everybody wanted to know, who I was, and what brought me here to a Muslim meeting. Maryam talked about how long it had taken her faith to grow. "But I never have regretted my decision for Islam." Heide-Khadija on the other hand hadn't known so much about Islam when she became Muslim. But: "Till today I have been only positively surprised." What had attracted her was the "healthy Islamic way of life". Abstinence of all kinds of drugs. Prayer and fasting as exercise for body, mind and soul. Hygienic commands. All this made sense to her as a teacher for biology and sport.
Maryam confirmed, that the regular prayers had done her back a lot of good. And then she talked about her time in Turkey and tried to explain to me Turkish history. A subject I still don't know much about. At that time I was hopelessly lost. On this day I got to know quite a few women. And all told me their personal stories about how they came to Islam.
Hamida after her divorce had become friends with a Turkish couple and on that way got to know and love Islam. Her 15-year-old daughter Nina had kept her Christian religion, though not really practicing. She had accompanied her mother to the meeting.
Fatima-Elizabeth, in her mid twenties, studying to become a teacher, had some years ago worked on a vacation job. She had worked in a factory side by side with a German Muslima. Fatima-Elizabeth's family was Catholic, both parents religious instructors. They were quite shocked when they learned that her daughter embraced Islam. The shock had faded away during the last years and with goodwill on both sides the living together worked out fine.
Fatima-Elizabeth's friend Sabine, a nurse, who came to Islam through her husband, wasn't that lucky. Her father rebuked her from the house because of her headscarf. There were mothers, housekeepers, students, a secretary, and a dental laboratory assistant. The women were single, married, divorced. Husbands if existent, came from Turkey, the Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco and other countries. Some women had taken an Islamic name, others hadn't. Actually the women had only one thing in common. And that was their religion, Islam. But that seemed to fulfill them, yes, to be the guiding line in their lives. "Islam is the frame, in which we live."
That day I learned two things. For one I discovered, that the frame Islam sets isn't so narrow as I had expected. There is no standardized Muslim. A Muslim is just a person, who took a decision for God. These women had embraced Islam. But they had stayed themselves. The uniformity and boredom, the head cover had reflected on me, now dissolved itself in Schwabisch and Koelsch dialect. On close glance it turned out to be a big variety of thoughts, ideas and personal histories.
And secondly I realized for the first time, that you never finish learning, not even in regard to the own religion. Up to now I had always thought, to become Muslim, one should know everything about Islam that there is to know. And I was far from that. Now I had met all these women that were so faithful, though they didn't know "everything" there is to know. Knowledge isn't all. Important is belief. Important is faith in the truthfulness and Godly origin of the message that was proclaimed by the prophet Muhammad on the Arabic peninsula. Important is after all the decision itself. The decision for or against God. The decision for or against Islam.
"It was We Who created man, and We know what suggestions his soul makes to him: for we are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein." (50:16)
Some weeks later I took my personal decision for God and Islam. After 2-½ year of learning I embraced Islam. What finally led me to this step was the thought: "If I die right now and stand before God, how can I explain to Him, why I haven't become Muslim?" When I couldn't come up with a reasonable answer any more, I decided on the only logic consequence of my grown faith and testified: "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet."
As Islam doesn't know any form of church like organization there was no need to register anywhere. With testifying my belief I began my life as Muslimah.
Source: Islam For Today