I approached Islam with open mind

Updated 29 May 2014

I approached Islam with open mind

Afrah Alshaibani was a conservative Christian, who since teenage began asking questions regarding the conflicting doctrines in her religion. Later after having married to a “non-practicing” Muslim, she got many answers to her queries from him that made her embrace Islam.

EVER since I can remember, my family attended a non-denominational conservative Christian church (Church of Christ). I grew up in the church, was taught Bible and sang in the choir. As a young teenager I began asking questions: Why was I a member of the Church of Christ and not say Lutheran, Catholic or Methodist? If various churches are teaching conflicting doctrines, how do we know which one is right? Are they all right? Do “all paths lead to god,” as I had heard some say? Others say that as long as you are a good person it doesn’t matter what you believe, is that true?
After some soul searching I decided that I did believe that there was an ultimate truth and in an attempt to find that truth I began a comparison study of various churches. I decided that I believed in the Bible and would join the church that best followed the Bible. After a lengthy study, I decided to stay with the Church of Christ, satisfied that its doctrines were biblically sound (unaware at this stage that there could be various interpretations of the Bible).
I spent a year at Michigan Christian College, a small college affiliated with the Churches of Christ, but was not challenged academically and so transferred to Western Michigan University. Having applied late for student housing, I was placed in the international dorm. Although my roommate was American, I felt surrounded by strange people from strange places. It was in fact my first real experience with cultural diversity and it scared me (having been raised in a white, middle class, Christian community). I wanted to change dorms but there wasn’t anything available. I did really like my roommate and decided to stick out the semester.
My roommate became very involved in the dorm activities and got to know most everyone in the dorm. I however performed with the marching band and spent most of my time with band people. Marching season soon ended and finding myself with time on my hands, I joined my roommate on her adventures around the dorm. It turned out to be a wonderful, fascinating experience! There were a large number of Arab men living in the dorm. They were charming, handsome, and a lot of fun to be around. My roommate started dating one of them and we ended up spending most of our time with the Arabs. I guess I knew they were Muslims (although very few of them were practicing). We never really discussed religion, we were just having fun.
The year passed and I had started seeing one of the Arabs. Again, we were just enjoying each other’s company and never discussed our religious differences. Neither of us was practicing at this time so it never really became an issue for us. I did, deep down, feel guilty for not attending church, but I pushed it in the back of my mind. I was having too much fun.
Another year passed and I was home for summer vacation when my roommate called me with some very distressing news: She’d become a Muslim! I was horrified. She didn’t tell me why she converted, just that she had spent a lot of time talking with her boyfriend’s brother and it all made sense to her. After we hung up, I immediately wrote her a long letter explaining that she was ruining her life and to just give Christianity one more chance. That same summer my boyfriend transferred to Azusa Pacific University (APU) in California. We decided to get married and move to California together. Again, since neither one were practicing, religion was not discussed.
Secretly I started reading books on Islam. However I read books that were written by non-Muslims. One of the books I read was written by Anis Sorosh (Evangelical Christian).
At APU, my husband was required to take a few religion courses. One day he came home from class and said: “The more I learn about Christianity, the stronger my belief in Islam becomes.” At about this same time he started showing signs of wanting to practice his religion again. Our problems began. We started talking about religion and arguing about our different beliefs. He told me I should learn about Islam and I told him I already knew everything I needed to know. I got out Sorosh’s book and told him I could never believe in Islam. My husband is not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination, yet he had an answer for everything I showed him in Sorosh’s book. I was impressed by his knowledge. He told me that if I really wanted to learn about Islam it must be through Islamic sources. He bought a few books for me from an Islamic bookstore and I started taking classes at a local mosque. What a difference the Islam I learned about from Muslim sources from the Islam I learned about from non-Muslims!
It was so difficult though when I actually decided to convert. My pride stood in the way for a while. How could I admit to my husband and my friend that they were right all along? I felt humiliated, embarrassed. Soon though, I could deny the truth no longer, swallowed my pride, and Alhamdulilah, embraced Islam, the best decision I ever made.
A few things I want to say to the non-Muslim reader:
1. When I originally began my search for the truth all those years ago, I made a few wrong assumptions. First, I assumed that the truth is with Christianity only. It never occurred to me at that time to look outside Christianity. Second, I assumed that the Bible was the true word of God. These were bad assumptions because they prohibited me from looking at things objectively. When I began my earnest study of Islam, I had to start at the very beginning, with no preconceived ideas. I was not a Christian looking at Islam; I looked at both Islam and Christianity (and many other religions) from the point of view of an outsider. My advice to you is to be a critical thinker and a critical reader.
2. Another mistake that many people make when talking about Islam is that they pick out a certain teaching and judge the whole of Islam on that one point. For example, many people say that Islam is prejudiced toward women because Islamic laws of inheritance award the male twice as much as the female. What they fail to learn, however, is that males have financial responsibilities in Islam that females do not have. It is like putting a puzzle together: Until you have all the pieces in the right places, you cannot make a statement about the picture, you cannot look at one little piece of the puzzle and judge the whole picture.
3. Many people said that the only reason I converted was because of my husband. It is true that I studied Islam because he asked me to, but I accepted Islam because it is the truth. My faith in Islam has never been stronger than it is now. May Allah lead all of us closer to the truth!

Courtesy: islam-universe.com


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

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.