FAUZUDDIN AHMAD OVERING
Preacher and Social Worker
It is difficult to say how my first interest in the Eastern world was aroused. It was purely linguistic at first. I started learning Arabic when still at the primary school, when I was about twelve or thirteen, some thirty years ago. But as I had no one to help me, I did not make much headway at first.
It goes without saying that by the study of Arabic I came into contact with Islam. I bought several books about; though all were written by Western authors and, therefore, not always unbiased. I became convinced of the truth of the Prophet's mission (the peace and the blessings of God be on him). But my knowledge about Islam was rather restricted, and I had no one to guide me.
The book that influenced me most was E.G. Browne's History of Persian Literature in Modern Times. This brilliant work contains parts of two poems that were decisive for my conversion: the Tarj-Band by Hatif of Isfahan, and the Haft-Band by Mohtashim Kashan.
At first Hatif's poem appealed to me most. It gives a beautiful visionary picture of a soul in turmoil, in a struggle for a higher conception of life, in which I discovered - on a lower level, of course - my own struggle for Truth. although I cannot agree with some to its couplets, it taught me at least one great Truth:
There He is One, and there is naught but He,
That there is no god save Him alone.
According to the wish of my mother, and in accordance with my own inclination, I went to a special school for religious instruction, not because I adhered to its religious principles (which admitted broadmindedness) but some knowledge of Christianity was thought necessary for a general education. I think the Principal of the School was rather surprised when at the end of the curriculum I handed in a composition in which I confessed my adherence to the Islamic faith.
My faith in those early days was, however, irrational. It was a conviction, which, though genuine, was not yet armed by reason against the first onslaught of the rational materialism of the West.
It is then that the question arises: Why should one choose Islam! And why not maintain the religion in which one happens to be born (if any)! The answer is contained in the question itself; Islam means being at peace with oneself, the world and the god that is, it consists in submission to the will of God. Though the beauty and majestic terseness of the Qur'an is lost in translation, I will quote God's own words:
"O soul that art at rest. Return to thy Lord, well-pleased with Him, well-pleasing Him. So enter among my servants. Enter my Garden-the Paradise." (Al-Qur'an LXXXIX: 27-30)
Islam, therefore, is the only pure religion not a religion marred by mythology, like Christianity and other religions.
Compare the Christian doctrine that an infant is responsible for the sins of its forebears, with God's consoling words:
"And no soul earns evil but against itself, and no bearer of a burden shall bear the burden of another". (Al-Qur'an VI:165).
"We do not impose on any soul a duty except to the extent of its ability." (Al-Qur'an VII:42).