Why ex-Islamophobe embraced Islam

Updated 26 April 2013
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Why ex-Islamophobe embraced Islam

In the early days of Islam, Omar, who would later become a caliph, was in a frenzied rage and set out to assassinate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As he passed the house of his sister, he heard her recite passages from the glorious Qur'an.
After rebuking her, something made him pause and contemplate the meaning of the verses. He had previously dismissed this new religion and listened to the hate-filled propaganda doing the rounds in the streets and valleys of Makkah. Convinced by the truth and beauty of the message, he immediately resolved to embrace Islam. The rest is glorious history.

History repeats itself in the most remarkable of ways. The city remains Makkah, but over 1,400 years later, and in the midst of all the new development, a man arrived who had a similar experience to that of the second caliph of Islam.
Just a few years ago, Arnoud van Doorn, a prominent Dutch politician from an educated and privileged family, was the vice president of the far right Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) in the Netherlands, an unashamedly anti-immigration and anti-Islamic party led by the infamous Geert Wilders. The party had produced hate-filled rhetoric not seen in Europe since World War II. Van Doorn’s former party was responsible for producing the film Fitna, which defamed Islam, resulting in widespread protests throughout the world.
   

And then came his change. “My story of how I came to Islam is not remarkable,” he says very humbly. When he saw the outrage caused by the film, he made a concerted effort to study the Qur’an, Hadith collections and the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him). After some time, he realized that Islam was the total opposite of what he had thought it was, and it then became easy to embrace the faith.
Van Doorn acknowledges that his views on Islam were formed 10 to 15 years ago based solely on negative stereotypes and prejudices spread by the media.
“For me, Islam was a violent religion that oppressed women and was no good for society,” he says.
After embracing Islam and assisted by the Toronto-based Canadian Da’wah Association, Van Doorn visited the Kingdom this week to perform Umrah. He also visited the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.
Van Doorn met Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque and head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques. Al-Sudais said he was delighted that Allah had selected Van Doorn to become a Muslim. Van Doorn expressed his sorrow and regret for helping to distribute Fitna, although he had no part in its production, to which Al-Sudais quoted the Qur’anic verse stating that good deeds wipe out bad ones. Van Doorn intends to do good by making a film about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to present a true picture of Islam.
Van Doorn’s impression of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also been transformed. “Before I came here, people asked me why on earth I was coming here!” He has been surprised by the wonderful culture and friendly, hospitable people.
He thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for all the developments taking place in Makkah and the holy sites.
Van Doorn remains a member of the Dutch Parliament and a member of the Hague City Council. In his view, the rise and success of the far right in Europe is due to the continent's economic problems. This will only get worse, in his view, because Europe has a history of turning on its minorities when things get tough.
His advice to Muslims living in Europe is to be patient, steadfast and adhere to the standards of good conduct and fine character required by Islam. “Like it or not, we all represent Islam,” he says. “Any mistake we make could be attributed to our religion.”
Van Doorn came to the Kingdom courtesy of the Canadian Da’wah Association's celebrity relations program, which is inspired by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who sent out invitations to regional leaders inviting them to embrace Islam, according to its president, Shazaad Mohammed, who is an Ambassador for Peace with the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), which operates under the United Nations. He is also an adviser to many celebrities.
Former guests of the celebrity program include comedian David Chappelle, former rap stars Napoleon, Philadelphia Freeway, LOON and Jack Frost, and former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. The CDA plans many such high-profile trips in future.


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.