‘There is only one religion of absolute truth’

Updated 03 March 2016
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‘There is only one religion of absolute truth’

Dr. Laurence Brown, a medical doctor, describes the event that eventually led him to explore religion and become convinced about Islam, not by mere intelligence, but a pure heart. This is the first of his two-part narrative:

HAVING repeatedly been asked about how I became Muslim, and why, I have decided to tell the story one last time, but this time on paper.
However, I feel conversion stories are worthless unless related with the lessons learned, and it is with those lessons that I intend to begin.
No doubt, there is a certain fascination with conversion stories, and for good reason. Frequently they involve dramatic life-altering events, sufficient to shock the convert out of the materialistic world and into the spiritual.
Those who experience such life dramas are brought face to face with the bigger issues of life for the first time, forcing them to ask the ‘Purpose of Life’ questions, such as ‘Who made us?’ and ‘Why are we here?’ But there are other common elements to ‘conversion’ stories, and one of them is that the convert is humbled to his or her knees at such moments, and looking back, most relate having prayed with sincerity for the first time in their lives.
I have been intrigued by these commonalties, and have noted some significant lessons. The first, I would say, is that most converts who passed through these moments of trial and panic prayed directly to God, without intermediary, and without distraction. For example, even those who spent their lives believing in the Trinity, when faced with catastrophe, instinctively and reflexively prayed directly to God, and never to the other proposed elements of the Trinity.
Let me relate a story as example. A popular television evangelist once had a lady relate her ‘Born Again’ Christian conversion story, which revolved around a terrible boat-wreck, from which she was the sole survivor. This lady related how during her days and nights of survival against the harsh elements of the open ocean, God guided her, God protected her, etc. You get the idea. For maybe five to 10 minutes she told her tale, which was indeed dramatic and captivating, but throughout the story she related how God did this, God did that, and seeking His favor, she prayed to God and to God alone. However, when she was saved by a passing ship, she described how the minute she landed on the ship’s deck she threw her arms open to the heavens and yelled, “Thank you,” God.
Well, there is a lesson there, and it relates to sincerity. When in the panic and stress of circumstance, people instinctively pray to God directly, but when conceiving themselves safe and secure they frequently fall back into previously held beliefs, many (if not most) of which are misdirected. Now, we all know that many Christians equate Jesus with God, and for those who would like to argue the point, I just suggest they read my book on the subject, entitled The First and Final Commandment (Amana Publications). For all others, I would just continue by saying that the real question is ‘Who truly is saved?’ There are countless convert stories, all telling how the God of this or that religion saved the person in question, and all of these converts conceive themselves to be upon the truth by nature of the miracle of their salvation. But as there is only One God, and therefore only one religion of absolute truth, the fact of the matter is that only one group can be right and all others are living in delusion, with their personal miracles having confirmed them upon disbelief rather than upon truth. As God teaches in the Holy Qur’an: “…God leaves astray whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back (to Him).” (Qur’an, 13:27)
And: “So those who believe in God and hold fast to Him — He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.” (Qur’an, 4:175)
As for those astray in disbelief, they will be left to stray, as they themselves chose.
But the strength of belief, even when misdirected, is not to be underestimated. So who is going to become Muslim based upon my conversion story? Only one person — me.
Muslims may find some encouragement in my story but others may be left empty, just as Muslims sigh and shake their heads in despair when hearing others relate the ‘miracles,’ or other distractions from the One True God. For if a person prays to something or someone other than our Creator, who, if not God, might be the one answering those prayers? Could it just possibly be a certain one who has a vested interest in confirming those who are astray upon their particular flavor of disbelief? One whose dedicated purpose is to lead mankind astray?
However a person chooses to answer those questions, these are issues addressed at length in The First and Final Commandment , and those interested can investigate. But for now, I will tell my story.

To be concluded next week


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.