I found problem with conventional Christianity

Updated 09 September 2016
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I found problem with conventional Christianity

Brandon Yusuf Toropov gives a vivid account of his personal quest to study the most authentic verses of the Bible — the Q verses — and his coming into the fold of Islam.

If you are a Christian, the idea that Jesus, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, practiced the same faith that today’s news broadcasts hold responsible for so many of the world’s problems may seem far-fetched to you. It seemed far-fetched to me when I first encountered it, before I consulted the Gospels closely. Yet you should know that many, many contemporary Christians have reached life-changing personal conclusions about the Gospel message and its relation to Islam.“There is compelling anecdotal evidence of a surge in conversions to Islam since Sept. 11, not just in Britain, but across Europe and America.
One Dutch Islamic center claims a tenfold increase, while the New Muslims Project, based in Leicester and run by a former Irish Roman Catholic housewife, reports a steady stream of new converts.” (London Times, Jan. 7, 2002.)
Speaking personally, I changed my own life because I could not ignore the implications of the authentic, stand-alone Gospel passages that today’s most accomplished (non-Muslim!) scholars believe to be of the earliest date available.
These sayings, which form a reconstructed text known as Q, can all be found in the New Testament. They are almost certainly the closest we will ever be able to come to an authentic oral tradition reflecting the actual sayings of Jesus, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
Q confirms Islam: If you are new to Q, you should know what the best New Testament scholars now know, namely that today’s scholarship identifies certain Gospel passages as not only instructive, but historically more relevant than other passages. This scholarship has led to some fascinating discussions among scholars (and a comparatively few lay readers).
I believe the Q verses tend to confirm Islam’s depiction of Jesus as a human Prophet with a Divine mandate essentially indistinguishable from that of Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
A Human Prophet: I did not develop the theory of Q. It has been around for years. “Traditionalist” Christian clergy and theologians are generally hostile to it. They claim that students of Q are somehow eager to diminish the status of Jesus (peace be upon him). Actually, we are eager to learn what he is most likely to have actually said.
Q represents a major challenge for contemporary Christianity, not least because it strongly suggests that Islam’s picture of Jesus is historically correct. The fact that Q essentially confirms Islam’s image of Jesus as a distinctly human Prophet has not, I think, been widely noticed by today’s Christians. And it must be. Because a careful review of the scriptures demonstrates that Jesus is in fact calling his people to Islam.

Jesus brought me to Islam!
I came to Islam, Alhamdulillah (all praise be to God), after three decades of restless dissatisfaction with conventional Christianity. Although I’ve read a lot of conversion stories since I embraced Islam in March of 2003, I haven’t found many that cited the Gospels as a point of entry to the Holy Qur’an. This is how it was for me.
I was drawn to the Gospels at a young age of 11 and I read them compulsively on my own, despite the fact that I did not live in a Christian household. When I say I read the scriptures compulsively, I mean that I was drawn to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John like a magnet. There are plenty of notes and highlighting in that old Bible of mine in Psalms, in Ecclesiastes, in Proverbs, but most of the notes and underlinings are in the Gospels. But I sensed, even at an early age, that there were some internal problems with the texts I loved so dearly.

Who tampered with the Gospels?

I can clearly remember reading the account in the 22nd chapter of Luke where Jesus withdrew from the disciples, prayed and returned to find them fast asleep. Who, I wondered, could have possibly observed him praying ... and then related the incident so that it eventually could be included in the Gospel of Luke? There’s another passage in the Gospels where Jesus supposedly includes the words “let him who reads understand” in one of his spoken discourses, which seemed odd to me. And there was yet another spot where the New Testament author assured first-century Christians that their generation would see the second coming of the Messiah, a passage I found difficult to square with modern Christian doctrine. These and other queries about the New Testament arose while I was still quite young, certainly before I was 15. Had someone manipulated the Gospels? If so, who? And why?
I “filed” my questions for later, and decided that the real problem was that I was not part of a vigorous Christian faith community.
At 18, I headed East for college and entered the Roman Catholic Church. In college, I met a beautiful and compassionate Catholic girl who was to become the great love and support of my life; she was not particularly religious, but she appreciated how important these matters were to me, and so she supported me in my beliefs. I asked the campus priest, a sweet and pious man, about some of the Gospel material that had given me trouble, but he became uncomfortable and changed the subject.
That sweet campus priest eventually solemnized my marriage with my girlfriend; and we settled in suburban Massachusetts. We each moved ahead professionally and became grownups. We had three beautiful children. And I kept reading and rereading the Bible.
In the mid-1990s, my wife and I both became deeply disenchanted with the Catholic Church, in part because of a truly terrible priest who gave very little attention to the spiritual needs of his community. We later learned that he had been covering up for a child abuser!
I found it necessary to immerse myself in a faith community. I joined and became active in, the local Protestant denomination, a Congregational Church. By this point, I had become deeply affected by the apparent intersection of the Christian mystic tradition and that of the Muslim scholars and the Zen Buddhists. And I had even written on such matters. But there seemed to be no one at my church who shared my zeal for these issues.

To be continued next week

— Islamreligion.com


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.