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Islam means "submission to God in peace". Islam teaches there is only One God, whose primary name is "Allah" in the Arabic language. Islam is the same essential message given to all the prophets, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally to the Last Prophet, Muhammad, (peace be upon them all). They all proclaimed the same basic Divine message: worship only God, stop worshipping human beings and other created things There's a different between Islam and Muslims!! What's the purpose of life? What Do You Know About Islam? Not what you have heard about Islam, not what you have seen in the actions of some Muslims, but what do you really know about Islam?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Journey to the light

It all started 21 years ago.

I was born, 7 pounds and healthy.

My parents glowed and were at their happiest perfect moment.

After 3 months I watched my hands and learned about movement.

After 5 months I got curious about my surroundings and moved objects with my hand.

After 12 months I could sit up and I could respond to my own name. I also copied some of my parents actions.

After 17 months I could walk independently and enjoyed listening to music and words.

Step by step I discovered this beautiful world.

My parents had no religion. Naturally I did not follow a religion myself. A godless life, seeking only earthly materialistic pleasures. My parents were very wealthy. My mom was chef in a restaurant and my dad a lawyer. I could have everything I wanted if I asked for it.

At the age of 12, I started high school. The years to come would practically go like this: Gossiping, forming groups, being a racist, occasionally disrespecting my parents and others that loved me. Dating girls, go clubbing, drinking alcohol and the list goes on. I was the most popular and handsome guy at school, but inside I must have been the most depressing. I was missing something in life, but I did not know what it was. I wore myself out and had no fear of life or death. Especially death was never on my mind. In my mind, life was forever.

I wasn’t aware that my life could end at any moment. And what would happen if I died was never on my mind. I never knew at that time how lucky I was. I had a loving family and a good life.

At the age of 15 my parents didn’t know what to do with me. There was nothing stopping me. The only one who could stop this self-destruction was me. One time my aunt, that hadn’t seen me for 5 years, was shocked to see what I’ve become. She had a chat with me to try to change my behavior. I acted as if I was listening to her just to get her away from me as soon as possible. But there was one thing I did catch and it struck me.

She said ‘I will not and cannot change you, because society has nothing to say against you and your behavior. All of the things you’re doing are being promoted. You are the only one who can change yourself and you should only do it for yourself. You deserve it’

Such simple words and logic seemed very odd to hear. After she left I cried my heart out. I was hurting myself without knowing it.

This was the moment I knew I had to change my life. The only problem was I didn’t know where to begin.

I noticed I started talking to God in my room before going to bed. That was strange, because I’ve always lived a life where God wasn’t on my mind. This must be what people call ‘fitrah’.

I asked for guidance, signs, peace of mind, a major change and a meaning in life.

There was this girl in my history class who was a Christian. She never openly talked about her religion, but she always wore a cross.

I knew other religious people at my school and they were mostly very disciplined and satisfied with their lives. I used to make fun of them with my friends. But to think of it, I was secretly jealous of them.

The name of the Christian girl was Laura. I asked her about God and about Christianity. She told me that God loves me and that I should accept Jesus (pbuh) as my savior and to acknowledge that he is the son of God.

We had many debates about Christianity. About the many sects of it, about that there are so many versions of the Bible and about the divinity of Jesus (pbuh) . My heart and mind told me God exists, but it was not okay for me that he has a son. I could also not believe that Jesus (pbuh) died for my sins. My sins are for me to bear and for no one else. And I also did not believe in the concept of original sin. Every time I looked at a baby, so beautiful, so pure, my mind just tells me that it couldn’t be true. She told me to read the Bible and she said that she had the latest version. This was already an indication that it was nothing for me. But I did try to read the Bible. The ‘according to Luke etc.’ bits did not feel good to me. It reminded me of gossips. If someone told me a gossip, I could never say it the same to another person. Eventually there were many different versions of a gossip.

The original formation of the Bible also didn’t feel good. Some Gospels weren’t even chosen to be in the Bible. I wondered why. There were also too many contradictions and the Trinity was unexplainable.

Faith wasn’t enough for me. Eventually I decided that Christianity was a very beautiful religion, but incomplete. I also wondered that if Jesus (pbuh) was here in this time and saw the Christians of today, would he approve them? Or have they gone so astray from his original and pure message, God is one?

Women also used to wear headscarves and the early Christians also said peace be upon you. Jesus did say it, how come Christians today don’t?

Helas, my journey had just begun and Christianity was not the religion that fully gave peace to me.

To me Christianity from afar seemed like a beautiful mirage and up close a maze with countless of possibilities. I was already doubting about life and this religion made me doubt even more.

Jesus (pbuh) did learn me a lot of great things. The one I always keep in mind is ‘The truth shall set you free’

My journey went on. I never researched Hinduism/Buddhism. Those religions or way of lives seemed so strange and almost unexplainable. Maybe they used to be the religion of God, but it was changed so much. I could barely see the truth in it.

There was a Jewish guy in my neighborhood. His name was Jonathan. He was very firm in his religion and I liked that about him. I saw him celebrating Pesach with his family. They were celebrating in the garden and I liked the atmosphere.

One day I went out to play some basketball and I saw him walking by. I asked him to play with me and he did. After playing some time we started talking and came to know each other more. He always wore his kippah or yarmulke. I said that I was looking for God, but I didn’t know what religion was the truth.

I did wonder why there weren’t a lot of Jews in this world. And how come this religion isn’t preached from East to West? That struck me the most. Didn’t Jews want people to become Jews and know the truth? It seemed like a private club.

He tried to teach me about his religion, but very soon I said that it wasn’t for me. The thought that there weren’t many jews in this world stayed in my mind. It was a very scary thought. This could not be the truth.

By accident ( actually faith) I met a Muslim girl. She was 23 years old and a librarian. I was 17 years old at the time. Her name was Aisha and her parents came from Somalia. I still remember the first time I saw her. She was wearing a long white headscarf and looked like an angel. She looked like the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. She didn’t even had to show all of her body to be beautiful. Her modesty and piety gave her a glow.

I went up to her to talk to her and get to know more about her. After a while I asked her what religion she was following. I did have a guess, but I didn’t know for sure. She said she was a Muslim. I had no idea what that meant. All I knew of Muslims were of the pictures and videos I’ve seen on the news. And they weren’t really positive. But I was always curious for new things so I wanted to know more. She asked if I could come back the day after, because she was very busy. I agreed and went home. I searched on the Internet about Islam and came to know more about it. And I got excited. The more I read the more I had a good feeling about this religion. Was this the truth the non-Muslim world is trying to hide from me? A distorted view of Islam and Muslims was imprinted in my mind. It felt like poison and the cure was true knowledge.

Just as Stephan Hawking has said: ‘’ The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge‘’

The next day I had a talk with her in the reading area in the library. I asked her why she was a Muslim and how it made her feel to be a Muslim. Her answers were clear and simple and satisfying. She said that it’s good to really know your religion. And not just be part of a religion just because the people around you have that religion too. She said that in Islam Muslims are ordered to seek knowledge. Even knowledge of other religions. This could be good for interfaith dialogue and also strengthen faith in your own religion. I was surprised to hear that Jesus (pbuh) has a great role in Islam. The view of Jesus (pbuh) in Islam seemed to be more in place about what Jesus (pbuh) thaught in the Bible, than what the Christians in these days teach.

She felt Islam has all the answers to the world’s problems, but that the Islamic world now is too divided that it can no longer solve the world’s problems in this state. She asked me to look at the religion and not the people. Which seemed fair to me. She also explained that the word Islam was used by God in the Quran. This makes Islam very different from the other world religions. Buddhism named after Buddha, Christianity named after Jesus Christ etc.

Aisha said that in Islam the basic is very clear. From the five pillars of Islam to the one on one relationship with God. The crystal clear message of Islam was also very appealing to me. ‘God is here, worship him’. Islam felt like a complete and pure religion. Aisha gave me a copy of the Quran, the last revelation of God. After my meeting with her I went home to read the Quran.

I don’t really know how to explain this. But after reading only the first short chapter of Al Fatiha, The Opening, I started to cry my eyes out. It was as if someone had put the heavy weight off of my shoulders. Fresh water over my body and light everywhere. I could breathe again.

I had no expectations about Islam. Only a clear and inquisitive mind. I’ve never read a book that fast! Maybe that’s a miracle itself too, lol. The Quran is like a shining gemstone in the middle of darkness and confusing.

The miracles in the Quran did help me in my journey. How can the human mind say no to these facts? Why do they keep on coming up with lame excuses? This reminds me of a Quranic verse

"Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return
(to the path). "
(2/Al-Baqarah, 18)

But above all, the teachings of Islam are good for the mind, body and soul. And could help all societies in this world. All things that are forbidden in Islam are bad for the mind, body or soul. It’s a religion that protects and takes great care of life. Both human nature and animals.

I wanted to learn about this religion from the start. From the life of Mohammed (pbuh) the seal of the prophets, to the first Muslims, to the great Islamic empires that shaped our lived today. I especially love the Andalusian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the fact that the Islamic world used to be the best place for knowledge, tolerance and understanding. I hope that will return, Insha’allah. I still cannot understand why the life of Mohammed (pbuh) isn´t taught in schools, but the life and accomplishments of Shakespeare is.

What Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) has done for and to this world is amazing. He is a Godsend and I love Allah  for bringing Islam to my life.

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