By Harry Joseph
For many years of my young life, but most profoundly in recent times, I have been in avid pursuit of God and His universal truth. I live in a New England suburban town, and I enjoy many things, including music, reading, and camping; however, religion and God have always been important in my life, and I have always had a relationship with Him.
I was previously a Christian and was very happy and content with my faith; however, I came to realize that much of what I believed was ‘un-Christian’ by doctrinal standards. Also, I was becoming rather interested and intrigued by other religions in an attempt to promote universality, yet many Christians are against learning, and especially practicing other religions. Mind you, I have received my share of ‘watch out with that stuff and don’t be deceived’ and ‘the Bible is God’s only truth’.
However, I realized that a loving, kind, and merciful God such as Allah would not limit Himself to one group of people. Soon enough, I was immersed in the teachings of Gautama Buddha and of Hindu yogis, and yes, I even got myself a copy of the Qur’an.
I’m not entirely sure why I first decided to buy an English Interpretation of the Qur’an, but I believe it had something to do with me wanting to learn about a faith which was almost entirely foreign to me. As I eagerly thumbed through the pages I felt something inside me saying, very quietly at first: ‘This is indeed the Word of God’. Now, being a Christian I was taught that the Bible is God’s only preserved, perfect, and unchanged Word.
Islam has the passion and love of Christianity and the law and ritual of Judaism.
At first, Islam was just an interest of mine, some intellectual theology that I could dabble in from time to time. I was at first very reluctant to call the Qur’an the Word of God, and I didn’t really know much about Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the time.
Meanwhile, I also spent time reading the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the wisdom literature in the Old Testament. While reading what Jesus taught, I thought to myself, ‘This Messenger taught truth, and God has given me so much through him.
Yet, why are so many Christians hypocritical, often harsh against others beliefs, and why has Church doctrine invented beliefs calling it God’s Word?’ When thoughts like this and thoughts pertaining to the falseness of the Trinity (which was invented at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD) came into my mind, it was at this time when Islam began coming into my life.
My history teacher, a Christian, once told me that every misconception about Islam is untrue (i.e. Muhammad was a terrorist, he is the Muslim Jesus, peace be upon both Prophets, etc, etc) and was very pleased with my reading of the Qur’an and open-mindedness. I soon came to accept the truth of Islam; ironically, to Christians at least, there was a prominent figure that inspired me to convert to Islam: Jesus Christ.
I recognized the similarity and importance of what he taught in many passages of the Qur’an. I saw how the Qur’an states that Jesus and his teachings contain guidance, salvation, and Light. Also, I believe Muslims and Sufis refer to him sometimes as the ‘Word of God’, ‘Spirit of God’, etc, and that Muslims believe (or at least the Qur’an says) he is near stationed to God. Almost immediately I was researching Islam on the internet and I thought, ‘Surely this is a true faith!’
I was also influenced by Yusuf Islam, or Cat Stevens, one of my favourite musicians of all time; he made a statement in converting to Islam, and showed me that one does not need to be Arab to be a Muslim. Since I too am an avid musician in pursuit of a musical career, Yusuf showed me that living a righteous life before God should never be put aside due to music. So, I eventually took Shahadah (I believe in the one true God, Allah, and that Muhammad is a Messenger of God) and became an ‘official’ Muslim. I was fourteen upon my conversion, and… well I’m still fourteen, but Islam has already affected me quite profoundly.
I still believe in Jesus… I wouldn’t be a Muslim if I didn’t!
Now, just because I now began referring to myself as a Muslim instead of a Christian didn’t mean that I had to give up beliefs. I never believed in a Trinitarian God or that Jesus was God Himself; after all, Jesus taught to abide by his word and to obey the Father, and that the Father is greater than he.
The only main difference was that I now recognized the validity of Muhammad’s prophethood and the truth of the Qur’an.
However, Islam was different to me in some respects than Christianity, but in ways that were pleasant and helpful. For example, I have always had a good relationship with God because of Jesus and his teachings, and I have always seen Christianity as a religion focused on God’s love. At school I have many Jewish friends, and I have partaken in the Sabbath with some of them, attended holidays, etc, and I noticed that they are very law abiding, yet in talking to my friends, it seemed to me as though they didn’t have that same connection/relationship with God that I and many other Christians I knew had.
So my feeling was this: Christianity is great because it is focused around the love of God, but there is a lot of blind faith and mysteries involved, and that Judaism is great because many Jews live in accordance to the laws of the Torah, yet in my personal observances, it seemed as though many lacked some of that relationship.
Islam is both a religion which requires certain beliefs and is focused around the love of God/a relationship with Him, and it also has a strong aspect of law abiding, and ritual; in short, it has the passion and love of Christianity and the law and ritual of Judaism. These two are of course a fine combination if one wishes to know God and be obedient of His commandments.
As I partially mentioned before, my conversion to Islam was not an entirely huge step for me, because I was already a very spiritual person in touch with God; however, upon my conversion I found myself reading the Qur’an a lot, learning about the Prophet Muhammad and researching all aspects of Islam.
Soon enough, I learned how to do the ritual prayer and even if I don’t pray at all during the day (I’m trying to improve on that), I usually pray at night, often for long periods of time (20 minutes to an hour) because after the ritual prayer I stay prostrate before God thanking Him for what he has blessed me with, praising Him, etc. Prayer is indeed the door to the Eternal, and when I finish praying I feel ‘intoxicated’ with God’s presence and I am often at a heart-warming peace.
My family has no qualms about me converting to Islam; I still believe in Jesus (I wouldn’t be a Muslim if I didn’t!), I haven’t gone to extremes like changing my name to an Arabic one, and I will still celebrate Christmas and Easter with my family in addition to Ramadan and other Muslim holidays.
I know that neither Christian holiday is prescribed by God, yet I feel I need celebrate them now not because of my religious upbringing, but mainly for love of my family, and I see no harm in doing so as long as I know in my heart what it is that I am really celebrating. I have been brought up to shun the pagan ideas and commercialism that pertains to these holidays.
I know not how my friends will react to my conversion, but it’s not like I shall be walking around campus professing that I am a Muslim, but if anyone asks me or religious status comes up in conversation, I will be proud to say I am a Muslim, just as I was proud to say I was a Christian. I hope to God that anyone who hears about my religious conversion will see me the same way as they did before.
The main impact that Islam has had on my life is that now, more than ever, I find myself in great obedience to God. I’m almost never angry, I don’t swear, I obey the Qur’an to the best of my abilities, and any minor sin I may commit (i.e. lust) I ask immediate forgiveness from God. I am also very jovial and peaceful, and I have excelled in wisdom. God even inspired me to write an essay in which I propose a non-Trinitarian way of viewing the nature of God which can be fully accepted by both Muslims and Christians.
What really matters is one’s relationship with God and obeying His commands that leads to eternal life and salvation.
I feel as though in recent times I know God more than ever. I have also become greatly influenced by Sufism; the writings of Sufi saints are filled with wisdom, simplicity, and they profess their love of God so greatly. In reading the Sufi wisdom/religious literature, I realized something very important: I was always taught to believe in God and Jesus so that I may have eternal life, yet one day I realized that I do not believe in God and His Messengers and His commandments so that I can live forever, but because of my undying love and supreme reverence for the Almighty.
God exists here and now, on earth, and you must look inside yourselves and around you at His creation to find Him. Why wait for eternity to come when you can experience God’s presence anywhere at any time? Islam has indeed made me spiritually stronger than ever, and I thank God for inviting me to be a part of it. I wish the entire world could know how great Islam really is and stop judging it by the actions of a few men (terrorists and fundamentalists) who bring shame to Islam and the name of God.
As advice to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, don’t take seriously what is written negatively about Islam on the internet, especially on Christian websites: I have read horrible things including: Islam is a cult, it leads people away from God, Muslims don’t believe in Jesus, Allah is not God or Yahweh, and even a site which poked fun at Islam, instructing Christians how to kindly point out contradictions in the Qur’an or Muslim belief to get Muslims to convert to Christianity, etc.
The real truth is, it doesn’t matter what religious title you hold (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu); it is one’s relationship with God and obeying His commands that leads to eternal life and salvation. To any Christian who may be skeptical about this simple statement on the ticket to eternal life, ask Jesus: ‘Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me (God) has eternal life’. (Jon 5:24) And to support it with a Qur’anic passage: “O believers, believe in God and His Messenger(s), and the Book He has sent down on His Messenger (Muhammad), and the Book (Gospel) which he sent down before”. (An-Nisaa’ 4:135)
In the prior, as in the latter, there is no complex theology: just God and His Messengers.
I hope and pray that there shall be a day when every person shall bow before God Almighty, and love Him with the greatest of love. May the truth guide all men to salvation, and may the Eternal engulf them in His ever embracing light.
Source: onislam.net[H1] .