Monday, June 11, 2018

Journey of a Catholic from an Atheist to Orthodox Church and finally Islam

Faith is the basic foundation of any human being. One may believe in anything or anyone, but the faith solidifies only when one comes to understand the truth and the wisdom behind a faith. Since Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) the large number prophets were chosen by Allah to help people find the truth. But it always so happened that soon after these prophets were gone, their followers became disillusioned and their faith became corrupted. 

This happens when pollution finds its way into one's faith or there are questions that still remained unanswered. That is when the unsatisfactorily leads a person to find answers in other faiths - and mostly such people finally chose Islam as their ultimate faith, for Islam answers all queries and question that saturate one' s mind.

I have already shared personal accounts of a few, and today I am sharing the account of young man Rosario who was a born Catholic, but went astray and became an atheist when his religion of birth could not answer his queries. I came across this account at the Muslim Stories and am sharing  a few excerpts while you may read the complete account from the source reference given at the end of the post.

Dissatisfied with Catholicism, he says he became an atheist. But it still made him more miserable as here too there were no answers. He then took up philosophy which made him more critical and open to the world. He started questioning his faith found him moving from denomination to denomination in search of the “true” Christianity, until he finally ended up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Although not fully content, he thought he had found “true” Christianity at last. However, perhaps still the most difficult doctrine was the fact that Jesus was God. He says he understood the Trinity, but the concept still felt as though it was “forced” on to what the scriptures were actually saying.

And then a friend introduced him to a Muslim and things started to clear up for him. He discussed various issues with the Imam of the masjid for over next 4 - 5 months. He found people around highly intellectual and engaged in philosophy more deeply than the average person. And then decided to read Qur'an, the last of the four holy books. The more he read the translation of the Qur'an, the more he understood that "how personal the Qur’an was — as though it was talking to me directly; it was drastically different than how the Bible was written."

Although he admits that nothing really “moved me” at the time. However, when one day while reading Surah Al-Isra (17th chapter), that’s when he finally felt something. It was ayahs 23-24 which captivated him:
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small."
This really moved him and made him cry for he remembered how his mother went through to take care of him "and how our culture we practiced and lived in made it the standard to be distant from one’s parents and to be disrespectful. It was the first time I realized that respecting one’s parents was essential. It had never dawned on me before. Even though I struggle to do so to this day, it was the Qur’an that made me realize it as a part of my moral duty."

And this reading made him realist that it was Islam that must be his ultimate faith to live his life in truth. He also came to know while reading history of Islam that Spain (Al Andulas) was once under Muslim rule for almost eight hundred years - a country which he originally belonged to.

By that time he had also read the differences between the two mainstream branches of Islam, i.e. Sunni and Shia, he chose to be a Sunni Muslim and 'reverted' to Islam and changed his name to Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi (Al Andalusi fro his roots with Spain). He faced lot of resistance from his friends and family, specially his mother who had endured prejudice as a Spanish/Puerto Rican immigrant, which is why she had given me an English name and only wanted me to learn to speak English. 

HE then completed his studies and went to Malaysia to learn more about Islam. He is now doing a PhD in Islamic Studies and critiquing ISIS (my thesis is “The Delusional State of ISIS”), showcasing how their understanding of Islam is actually quite liberal and modern.

About Asadullah:
Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi is a research fellow for Yaqeen Institute and the founder of the Andalusian Project, an independent research platform for counter-Islamophobia studies. He holds degrees in both Western and Islamic Philosophy and is currently pursuing his Ph.D in Islamic Studies. He specializes in topics related to the philosophy of science, atheism,  terrorism, Islamic  political thought and ethics, and other issues surrounding the global Muslim community.  

Source: Main Account | About Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi 

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

My Great Grandfather's Journey through other Faiths to know the Truth

I have started sharing experiences of experiences of people of other faiths who 'reverted' to Islam. Though the experiences are varied as people from different walks of life had different environments from they hailed, generally the reasons of their 'reversion' to Islam have been almost similar.

However, today I am taking a time out and want to share experiences of different faiths as experienced by my late great grandfather at the turn of 20th century. It was the time when the British had a control over the Indian sub continent and a massive campaign had been unleashed by the missionaries who had abound the length and breadth of the Indian continent to invite people to Christianity. And many people, specially from the lower untouchable castes of Hindus chose to be Christians.

My great grandfather was a well read person of his time and fairly religious. People of his town would often come to him for resolving petty matters relating to Islam and get enlightened from his knowledge about Islam. But he was a restless man and was always wanting to know more about other faiths and religions of Indian subcontinent. So one day, my father told me, he left his job and family and disappeared. He was gone for good about a year and a half till he returned, and he was a changed man. 

Herein under is what he told his family and friends about his disappearance and experiences.

He said he had many questions boiling in his mind when people of other faiths and religions came to him for answers, for which he had no knowledge. So he took a time off to know about other faiths and his own faith. He wandered from religious places of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jews beside atheists and people with no religion, sat and lived with them for two three months each and lived the way they did. Living close to people of other faiths, he began to ask questions vis a vis Islam to find out the truth. 

It was a hard task as some of the times he found his faith falling prey to disillusions for every faith and its preachers have their own charm to spellbound someone who seemed lost and weary. But he continued despite all the fascinating invitations and kept weighing the pros and cons of each faith to finally come to a conclusion that it was nothing but Islam which was the way to the enlightened path, the path shown by Allah through His own commandments contained in the last of the holy scripture The Holy Qur'an revealed on to prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He said he better knew the difference between Allah and God of Christians, the finality of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the role Prophet Eesa (Jesus, peace be upon him) was to play in the final days before the Day of Judgment.

And when he thought he had ditched Islam against all faiths but was rebounded back to Islam, he chose to come back and started giving lessons and guidance to people who now came to him more than before and helped them to walk with confidence on the path of Islam.

The purpose of sharing this post is that before taking one's ultimate decision to embrace Islam, one must go through each faith or at least one's own faith very objectively and then try to find the truth by comparing one's faith with Islam. It  is only then one can see the light at the end of the tunnel - the light of truth and salvation.

And perhaps I too am trying to know about other faiths and surely I always come back to Islam, the word of Allah and His wisdom contained in the Holy Qur'an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which is a true specimen of living by Allah's will and commandments.

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Embracing Islam: Do we Convert to or Revert to Islam

To some this post may seem surprising or even interesting. But sometimes without adequate knowledge we tend to confuse words or do not try to understand the conceptual difference. And while taking of such words, two stand out promptly for those embracing Islam: Conversion or Reversion.

Conversion is a simple understandable word in English and is often used when a person changes his religion or faith to another faith. He is said to have converted to, say Islam from his earlier faith Christianity or any other religion or faith. This word is most commonly used and everyone understands it easily and totally.

But why some people use the word "reversion" when embracing Islam. To understand the difference between conversion and reversion thus one needs to understand the concept first.

In Islam, we all believe that every child born to any faith is a born Muslim, for his birth is from Allah who sent countless prophets and messengers and revealed holy scriptures so that people should walk on the path chosen for them by Allah.

We as Muslim believe that we have a fitrah (innate nature) to the values of Islam, because we are all born as Muslims. This concept of fitrah has also been explianed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who has been quoted as sauing:
No [child] is born but upon Fitra (natural inclination to Islam). It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist. A person said: Allah's Messenger, what is your opinion if they were to die before that (before reaching the age of adolescence when they can distinguish between right and wrong)? He said: It is Allah alone Who knows what they would be doing.
Better still here is what the Holy Qur'an says about reversion:
Those to whom We sent the Book before this, they do believe in this revelation. And when it is recited to them, they say: 'We believe therein, for it is the Truth from our Lord. Indeed we have been Muslims from before this.' Twice will they be given their reward, for they have persevered, and they avert evil with good, and they spend in charity out of what We have given them. (Quran 28:51-54)
This solidifies the concept of Reversion rather than conversion as all those who embrace Islam are in fact reverting to their original faith of being born as Muslims. And based on the Qur'anic injection and Prophet Muhammad's sating, newly converted Muslims are said to have reverted to Islam rather than converted to Islam.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Interaction with a German who had Embraced Islam

It is always very educative to interact with someone who has left his earlier faith and embraced Islam on his free will. In fact such Muslims prove to be better Muslims than those who are born Muslims as they understand Islam before embracing it.

Many years ago I came across a German who had embraced Islam after being a born Christian. It so happened that I was posted on a foreign assignment in Saudis Arabia and our working place was in the field with desert on three side and Arabian Gulf on the fourth side. Our equipment was moistly placed in the open with no shelter and shade. It was month of Ramadan and the sun had shown no inclination to spare us of its intense sun rays and we were almost roasted and dehydrated as we were fasting.

One day it so happened that one of our vital equipment which was supposed to be operational round the clock developed a major fault and went out of action. We sent a SOS call to the maintenance company to send their technician ASAP. While sitting under my shelter, I saw a jeep coming towards us with a trail of dust rising behind it. No sooner did the jeep came to a halt near our equipment, two technicians disembarked, one Saudi and other a seemingly foreign national. 

The foreign national straightaway jumped over the equipment and straightaway went into action while the Saudi sat beside the equipment under its shade. I kept watching as the foreigner who was rather bulky and sweating profusely was continuously busy in his inspection and repair work. Seeing his plight, I asked my staff to take some cold drinks to the duo but he came back saying that both said that they were fasting. Well this really puzzled him about the foreigner and I decided to talk to him on this.

It was almost the time for the mid day prayers and I left for the masjid. When I finished offering my prayer and was going out, I found the foreigner also offering his prayers in a corner in the last row. I waited outside till the foreigner also came out. I introduced myself as the man in charge of the facility and asked him if he could come to my office. He said he sure would but after doing his job.

It took a while for him to fix the equipment and then stills sweating as if he had come from under a shower he came to my office. And then he introduced me as Muhammad hailing from Germany. I obviously asked him if he was a born Muslim, to which he smiled and said that every Muslim who met him always asked him the same question. Well he said that all along his teen age life, he was a Christian born to a devout Christian family. Then his company sent him to a course in Turkey where he had a Muslim female colleague with who he befriended. And this meeting changed his course of life.

As they both were working together, he felt after sometime that she was the person he should marry and one day proposed to her. To his surprise, his friend declined the offer saying that though she liked him, she could not marry as her religion did not allow marrying a Christian or a person from other faith than Islam. This was both a set back to him and surprise too. So he decided to read about Islam and see how he could find a loophole to marry his Muslim friend. Although, he could not find such a concession, it provided him the God sent opportunity to study the new faith in detail, interact with Muslims around and discuss many issues which Islam and his faith were tangent at.

By and by the truth contained in the Qur'an started to dawn on him and many a questions that sometime crept into his mind with regard to his birth faith started to getting answered. He said he had a more clearer vision of God's oneness as compared to a vague term of God in three and matters like original sin that always confused him. He was surprised to find so much on Christ, addressed as Prophet Eesa (peace be upon him) and his part in the overall plan of the God Almighty, his lifting alive and saving him from the crucification and the day when he would be sent back to earth to pave way for spreading the final word of God before the Day of Judgment.

Something that impressed him the most was that there was no priesthood in Islam. Any Muslim could lead a prayer and didn't need to go to a priest to pray for him or ask Allah to forgive his sins on his behalf since the daily prayers are in fact a link between him and Allah to ask forgiveness of sins and showing of the path of the blessed and not of those that went astray and suffered from the wrath of Allah.

Thus long sessions of understanding Islam with friends and religious scholars made him take his ultimate decision to change his faith from Christianity to Islam. Did you ever felt remorse or falling back to Christianity, I asked. He smile and said, "I became Muslim after lot of research and took the decision until I was very much convinced that I was doing the right thing and obviously there was then no turning back.

What about your family and friends - how did they react to your decision? Well, he said, such decisions are hard to accept, specially when it entails change of faith. "Obviously there was lot of resistance and even long spells of break-up like silence, but by and by they settled down as they thought that whatever decision has been taken has not been in haste and that I knew exactly what I have decided for myself after lot of deliberation and research."

And my last question was what about his Muslim friend who declined to marry him? He smiled and said that he was happily married with her and had their first child a year before.

This was my interaction with a newly converted Muslim and I found him more knowledgeable than I as I was a born Muslim, never challenging myself, but he read, interacted and understood what Islam was and what challenges he would face after his change of faith and how as a Muslim his whole life-scape would change forever. Stay blessed my friend wherever you are - Allah's blessing on you and your family.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why should a Muslim invite a Non Muslim to Islam

We as Muslims believe that Islam is the final religion and the Holy Quran is the last heavenly scripture sent to the guidance of mankind, not only for the Muslims. We believe that all messengers and prophets before the last of the prophets Muhammad (peace be upon him) were the chosen few by the Allah and that Psalms, Torah and Bible are the holy scriptures revealed onto prophets Dawood (David), Musa (Moses) and Eesa (Jesus), may peace be upon them all.

We also have faith in the fact that Allah revealed His final religion Islam after the two main religions and faiths for Jews and Christians have been revealed. Islam in fact is the continuation of the Allah's commandments that continued till the Holy Quran was completed in last almost 23 years life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Through the Holy Qur'an, Allah has stressed on the same issues and theme that is contained in the earlier scriptures or what Prophets Ibraheem (Abraham), Musa and Jesus conveyed to their people.

Now why should Muslims call on the non Muslims to come to Islam? The answer is complex and simple too. Complex in the sense that Christians consider Prophet Eesa (Jesus) to be the last of the prophets and believe in his divinity and quote Jusus himself saying that He is the only way to God (John 14:6). They also believe that the Christ and God the Father are one (John 10:30). This should hold true for as loing as the final word from Allah had not been revaled on to the mankind in the form of Holy Qur'an.

Allah in Holy Qur'an makes it amply clear that Prophet Eesa was one of the many prophets of Allah sent for keeping the course of its followers straight till the last of prophets is chosen with the last and final call to Him. We as Muslims also believe that Jesus was born to a virgin Maryam (Mary) in peculiar circumstances, who will return to Earth before the Day of Judgment to restore justice by ending the false claims of a false prophet, called Dajjal in Arabic.

The birth of Prophet Eesa as mentioned in the Holy Qur'an is explained in one of my earlier posts on Maryam (Mary, the mother of Jesus). Here I would only suffice to mention particular verses from Qur'an which Prophet Eesa uttered while still in the lap of his mother when people expressed their surprise and suspicion on his birth:
[Eesa] said, "Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. (Al Quran Surah Noah, 19:30)
And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive. And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. (Al Quran Surah Noah, 19:31-32)
These and many other revelations in Qur'an point towards the early prophets, specially detailed account of Prophets Lut (Lot), Nuh (Noah), Ibraheem (Abraham), Sulaiman (Solomon), Zackariah and his son Yahya (John the baptist), Musa (Moses) and many others by name to solidify the belief of the Muslims in earlier prophets.

Having said that, Islam then calls upon the non Muslims to come to Islam for their salvation on the day of Judgment and save them from the fire of the hell, for the final word of Allah has been revealed on to them through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

However, before calling the non Muslims to Islam, a Muslim should have detailed knowledge of own religion and at leaset the differences with other religions as answered in the Holy Qur'an. Some of these differences are:
In Qur'an Allah makes every Muslim responsible to show the right and the enlightened path that Islam shows to the mankind: 
"Thus We have appointed you a model community that you may be witnesses (Witnessing', here, means to convey the message of Islam, i.e. to call people towards Allah) against mankind, and that the Messenger may be a witness against you". [Quran 2:143]
"Invite to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Revelation and the Qur’an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided." [Quran 16:125]
Having said that, an inviting Muslim should be a role model himself by following the tenants of Islam in a manner that his personality and piety compels others to be attracted towards his belief and faith. This may be stressed here that no religion is wrong, but every following religion has something new or describes already known facts differently to remove any misunderstanding that may have occurred by changed meaning over a period of time. It is Holy Qur'an alone that despite passage of more than 1400 years ago since its revelation has remained unchanged for its protection has been personally undertaken none by Allah Himself.
This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion. (Al Qur'an Surah 5, verse 3)
And in Qur'an, Allah makes a clear mention about Islam and its finality with reference to earlier faiths and religions:
"He has ordained for you the same religion (Islam) which He enjoined on Noah, and that which We have revealed to you, and which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus: namely that you should remain steadfast in religion and be not divided therein.” [Quran 42:13]
"That which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) of the Book (i.e., the Quran) is the Truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it.” [Quran 35:31]
So the divine message is clear and those who do not listen to it, are sure losers:
"And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the losers.” [Al Quran 3:85]
And it is the finality of Qur'an that everyday more and more non Muslims are converting to Islam and seeking blessing of the Allah Almighty. Although, a segment of miscreants, on the behest of a few world powers, have tainted the image of Islam by indulging in terrorist activities and committing heinous crimes mainly to keep people away from Islam, the message of peace as conveyed by Islam remains unchanged. So we need to understand the forces at parallel to defame Islam while convincing non Muslims to come to Islam for it is the final religion by Allah and has come to stay, Allah Willing (In Sha Allah).

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Monday, June 4, 2018

A Night Better Than a Thousand Months

The month of Ramadan is the blessed gift of Allah to the Muslims for those who fast and pray and give charity during this month are one of the most blessed. Any worship or prayers in this month have far greater reward than the same effort during the remaining eleven months of the year.

However still more, there is a night in the odd days of the last ten days of month of Ramadan, which the Allah Almighty says it is "The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months." (Al Qur'an 30: 97-3). Thus anyone who finds himself in the month of Ramadan and is lucky to find this night of utmost blessings, honour and destiny will find oneself among the most blessed of the subjects.

This blessed night in the 30th chapter of Quran is called "Laylat Al Qadr" - that is the night of Honour (Qadr) or the night of Destiny, Power, Decree,  or Measure. Thus it is the night when angels descend to the earth and convey the prayers of worshipers which are are answered by the Allah and all their sins are quashed and them included in the blessed of the blessed.

This blessed night or the night of decree is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an (30: 97 1-5) as under:

Indeed, We sent the Qur'an down during the Night of Decree.
And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree?
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter.
Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had stressed the importance of this night in many of his advices to his companions and said: "Anyone who finds this night in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan is sure to have been blessed and forgiven of his sins provided he prays as hard as he could to ask forgiveness of his sins."

As per various sources, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would not only himself remain awake the entire odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan but would also urge his family to do so lest they miss the chances of being forgiven of their sins.

So each Muslim must endeavour to pray as much as one can and ask for forgiveness of one's sins during the odd nights of last ten days of the Ramadan. May be he is lucky to be praying when The Night of Decree or the Laylat Al Qadr falls. It may be mentioned that the exact day of the night is not mentioned in the Holy Qur'an. Thus the worshipers should not let go of this life time opportunity by praying constantly in the odd days. Who knows one may not live to find this night the next year or not !!

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Who is Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him)

If there has ever been a man who has been able to change the destiny of millions, it is none other than Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last prophet of Allah (God for some). Michael H. Hart, who wrote the book ‘100 most influential people in the world‘ in 1978, lists Prophet Muhammad at the top of his list because according to him Prophet Muhammad had done the most to influence the world.

Prophet Muhammad is often labelled as the "founder" of Islam, as if he wrote the Holy Quran himself and propagated a new religion. Whereas, the Qu’ran is a book from Allah, just like the earlier three holy scriptures, that is the Psalms, Torah and the Bible. Prophet Muhammad being totally illiterate could not have written a book like Quran and directed the men of Arabia to listen to the call of Allah and follow the religion of Islam exactly has Allah has commanded in the Holy Qu’ran. Even his own life became a living beacon for others to follow for Prophet Muhammad did not do any thing tangent to the commandments of Allah as contained in the Holy Qu’ran.

Although Prophet Muhammad was born in 571 AD, it was not until he was 40 when the first revelation of Quran came to him through Angel Jibraeel (Gabriel) while the former was busy in prayers in solitude of cave of Hirah, some three miles from the then city of Makkah. and then for next 23 years he continued to receive the Heavenly revelations till the commandments finally ceased and the Holy Qu’ran was completed.

Since the first revelation of Qu’ran till this day, billions of people have converted to Islam and the conversion is picking up momentum all over the world. The commandments of Allah in the Quran  and the living life of Prophet Muhammad has since become the way of life of the Muslims all over the world.

Although the men of letter and wisdom understand the truth in the prophet hood of Prophet Muhammad, many in the West or the Non Muslims are hesitant to call Prophet Muhammad as prophet or messenger of Allah, just like the earlier prophets like Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses, Ishaq, and Jesus (peace be upon them all), and better call him of founder of Islam rather than a Godly prophet. 

Even Michael H. Hart in book ‘100 most influential people in the world‘, hesitates to call Prophet Muhammad a prophet of Allah and very cautiously makes his mention in his book:
Prophet Muhammad, Founder of Islam. Important religious, political and military leader who helped to unite Arabia under Islam. Whilst in seclusion in a mountain cave, Muhammad reported receiving a series of revelations from God; these revelations form the verses of the Qu’ran, regarded by Muslims as the “Word of God” and around which the Islamic religion is based.
From his first experiences in the cave, Muhammad reported receiving messages from God throughout his life. These messages form the Qu’ran – which to Muslims is the word of God. Muslims believe Muhammad to be the final prophet in a tradition stretching back to Moses, Abraham and Jesus.
This is just the introduction to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In coming posts we will give details on Him right from his birth, the dawn of prophet hood and the life under prophet hood.

Photo: Pixabay | Source Michael H. Hart
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