What would you call a religion whose beliefs, practices and followers are being bashed and bad-mouthed in practically every sphere of activity, in almost every corner of the globe, yet it attracts ever-increasing numbers of people?
A Paradox? A Miracle ? Or simply, The Truth: Islaam.
The fact that Islaam is the fastest growing religion in the world today, is proof that our Creator has taken it upon Himself to perfect the Truth that He sent all His prophets and messengers with -- from Aadam [AS] to Muhammad [SAW].
Studies conducted in the West show that the sheer number of new Muslims is changing the demographic profile of countries all over the world, and not all of them are born into Muslim families. With some 6 million adherents in the United States, Islam is said to be the nation's fastest-growing religion. One expert estimates that 25,000 people a year become Muslims in this country; some clerics say they have seen conversion rates quadruple since Sept 11.
Ironically for a religion that is routinely bashed for "subjugating" and "oppressing" its female followers, the number of female reverts to Islaam outnumber the males 4:1!
The fact that more and more people are finding their way to Islaam, notwithstanding the relentless propaganda, deliberate misinformation and outright prejudice against it, never ceases to amaze me.
How do these people navigate in the darkness to find the light of Islaam in spite of all the obstacles in the way?
The answer is that our Creator has granted each one of us a guiding light -- a pure, undefiled innate nature called the fitrah. Unlike Christians who believe in the doctrine of Original Sin and assert that each baby is born tainted with the sin of Adam's disobedience to God, Muslims believe that every child is born into a state of purity where it recognizes its Creator and is naturally subservient to His laws.
In his book The Fundamentals of Islaamic Monotheism, Abu Ameenah Bilaal Philips writes: Just as a child's body submits to the physical laws which Allaah has put in nature, its soul also submits naturally to the fact that Allaah is its Lord and Creator. But its parents try to make it follow their own way and the child is not strong enough in the early stages of its life to resist or oppose its parents. The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and
upbringing and Allaah does not hold it to account for this religion.
When the child matures in youth and clear proofs of the falsehood of its religion are brought to it, the adult must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason. At this point the devils try their best to encourage him to stay as he is or to go further astray. Evils are made pleasing to him and he must now live in the midst of a struggle between his innate pure nature and his desires in order to find the right road.
If he chooses to follow his innate nature, his fitrah, Allaah will help him overcome his desires even though it may take most of his life to escape, for many people enter Islaam in their old age.
The Qur'aan also points to this phenomenon, where every soul that has been created is asked Who their Lord is, and they testify that it is none other than Allaah before they are born into the world.
When your Lord drew forth from the loins of the children of Aadam their descendants and made them testify concerning themselves. Saying: Am I not your Lord? They said: "Yes, we testify to it." (This) in case you say on the Day of Judgement, "We were unaware of this." Or in case you say: It was our ancestors who made partners (with Allaah) and we are only their descendants"[ Surah Al-A'raaf 7:172-173]
Explaining this verse, the Prophet [SAW] said: When Allaah created Aadam [AS] , He took a covenant from him - then He extracted from him all of his descendants who would be born until the end of the world, generation after generation and spread them out in front of Him in order to take a covenant from them.
He spoke to them face to face saying: Am I not your Lord? And they all replied: Yes, we testify to it.
Allaah then explained why He had all of mankind bear witness that He was their Creator and the only true God worthy of worship. He said: That was in case you (mankind) should say on the Day of Resurrection, "Surely we were unaware of all this. We had no idea that You were our God." [Silsilah al ahadeeth as Saheehah, Narrated by ibn Abbaas, collected by Imaam Ahmad]
This is the reason why people who adopt Islaam are said to revert instead of convert, because they are going back to their original nature -- the one they were naturally created with -- which is automatically aligned with the Universe, its Creator and His Laws; as opposed to simply exchanging one set of beliefs for another.
Reverts to Islaam testify that this inner inclination to search for the Truth, to know and follow it is a major factor in their adopting the faith. It is interesting to see some of the reasons cited by reverts for adopting Islaam:
"The Christian sect of Athanasians insistently inculcates the tenet that Christianity is based on a belief in three gods (Trinity), that a slightest doubt as to this belief will lead one to immediate perdition; and that a person who wishes to attain salvation in this world and the next should definitely hold a belief in the three gods: God, the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost.
When I became a Muslim, I received a letter, which said: "By becoming a Muslim you have damned yourself to perdition. No one can save you. For you deny the divinity of God." The poor man [who wrote that letter] thought that I no longer believed in God, not knowing that when Jesus had begun to preach, he stated the unity of God and he never claimed to be His son.
An answer for every question:
"I would always search for causes and purposes for everything. I would anticipate logical explanations for them. On the other hand, the explanations provided by priests and other Christian men of religion did not satisfy me. Most of the time, instead of giving satisfactory answers to my questions, they would dismiss the matter with evasive prevarications such as, "We cannot understand these things. They are divine secrets" and "They are beyond the grasp of the human mind."
Upon this I decided to study, on the one hand, Oriental religions, and on the other hand, books written by famous philosophers. The books written by these philosophers always dealt with such subjects as protoplasms, atoms, molecules, and particles, and did not even touch on reflections such as "What becomes of the human soul?" "Where
does the soul go after death?" "How should we discipline our souls in this world?"
The Islamic religion, on the other hand, treated the human subject not only within the corporeal areas, but also along the spiritual extensions. Therefore, I chose Islam not because I had lost my way, or only because Christianity had incurred my displeasure, or as a result of sudden decision, but, on the contrary, after very minutely studying it and becoming thoroughly convinced about its greatness, singularity, solemnity and perfection
Direct relationship with one's Creator: Now I realize I can get in direct contact with God, unlike Christianity or any other religion. As one Hindu lady told me, "You don't understand the Hindus. We believe in one God; we use these objects (idols) to merely concentrate. " What she was saying was that in order to reach God, one has to create associates, that are idols for the purpose. But Islam removes all these barriers.
Islam is a religion that belongs not only to the Arabs but to the entire humanity. This universal quality presents a sharp contrast with the Judaic religion, whose holy book always refers to the God of Israel.
One more thing that I love in Islam is that this religion recognizes all the prophets, makes no distinction between them and treats the believers of other religions with compassion.
Absolute equality before God, extended brotherhood: There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam.
I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.
You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. We were truly all the same (brothers) - because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.
Purity of prayer:
If I were asked what impressed me most in the religion of Islam, I would probably say the prayers, because prayers in Christianity are used wholly in begging God (through Jesus Christ) to grant worldly favours, whereas in Islam they ar used to give praise and thanks to Almighty God for all His blessings since He knows what is necessary for our welfare and grants us what we need without our asking it.
Women's rights and status:
No doubt, influenced by the usual condemnation of Islam from Christian pulpits on the subject, I picked on polygamy. At last I thought I had something; obviously Western monogamy was an improvement on this old system. I talked of it to my Muslim friend. He illustrated with the aid of newspaper articles how much true monogamy there was in England, and convinced me that a limited polygamy was the answer to the secret unions that are becoming so distressingly common in the West. My own common sense could see that, particularly after a war, when women of a certain age group far outnumber men, a percentage of them are destined to remain spinsters. Did God give them life for that? I recollect that on the radio programme known as `Dear Sir' an unmarried English girl had called for lawful polygamy, saying she would prefer a shared married life rather than the loneliness to which she seemed to be destined. In Islam no one is forced into a polygamous marriage, but in a perfect religion, the opportunity must be there to meet those cases where it is necessary.
Belief in the Qur'aan as Divine Revelation: I read as much of the Qur'aan as I could. I was immersed in it. As I read the verses in English, I repeated to myself over and over again, this is what I have always thought and believed. What kind of book was this? Before long I was reading the book and crying, and reading and crying... it was as if something had overtaken me... I forgot what I was looking for in particular, however when I came upon the verses in Surah Baqarah 122-141 regarding Prophet Ibrahim (AS) I had found my answer.
I had been searching for Isma'il (as), son of Prophet Ibrahim and his wife Hajarah, who had been missing from the Hebrew brothers story. In those verses I found the truth of religion... They say: Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (to salvation). Say thou: Nay! (I would rather) the religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah. Say ye: We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes,
and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) the Prophets from their Lord; We make no difference between one another of them: and we submit to Allah." (2:135-136) As I continued to read and cry, I became intent upon finding someone who could connect me with others who believed in this book!
The personal example of the Prophet Muhammad [SAW]: I accepted Islam because I admired the Prophet Muhammad.[SAW] . I had quite a number of Muslim friends in Zanzibar, who gave me Islamic books, which I read in secrecy from my family. I became a Muslim despite the remonstrances of my family and the oppressions of the
priests of Parsee religion, which had been my religion until that time. I held fast to my religion and resisted against all sorts of threats. Now I love Allaah and His last Prophet Muhammad [SAW] more than my life
Islaam withstands scrutiny and encourages reasoning: Instead of asking a follower to believe in its precepts just "because" or someone asks them to, Islaam encourages people to think for themselves, reflect on the signs of God in Creation and within their own selves. Little wonder then that a sizable number of reverts are thinking people: scientists, astronomers, philosophers, doctors.
As created beings who can neither grant life nor ward off death, we owe it to ourselves and The One Who Created Us to discover the Truth, to follow it and to facilitate others to do the same.