Islam has always attracted people of all backgrounds since the day Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) started inviting people to it. Its simplicity and clarity has made it easy for people to relate to its message. As immigrants from Muslim world started arriving in the USA in big numbers since the turn of the century, they brought with them the message of Islam and shared with their fellow citizens. Many Americans were quick in recognizing the profoundness of Islam and the message of Holy Quran. Since then, Americans have been converting to Islam in big numbers.
I have been involved in the da’wah of Islam for almost three decades. Like any other Muslim, I always feel happy seeing people enter in to Islam. Tears of joy rolls down my cheek watching and hearing the new convert say the magnificent words of the Shahada. It is a common sight to see brothers rushing to hug the new convert brother and sisters with the convert sister. If I get the chance, I always ask them, what brought you in to Islam? It is amazing to hear their stories. Each one has a unique story to share.
I moved to the US at the end of 1999. The US I came to was a different world, which disappeared on 9-11-2001. After the incident, Islam and Muslims became the “talk of the town”. I do not think there has been a day, since then, when Islam is not in the minds of people. Similar incidents in Europe added more fuel to the flame. Consequently Islam and Muslims were awarded the lowest possible ratings any faith group can get. This has emboldened many hate groups to come out of the closets and gain legitimacy for their hate speech. Their saying “Look didn’t we tell you these people are bad and should be sent back to where they came from!” is the norm today.
However, something amazing has also happened during these times. People are coming to Islam in big numbers daily. The new converts truly add to the already universal diversity of the Muslims. You can see White Americans, Black Americans and Hispanics all converting to Islam on a regular basis. This makes me wonder, how in the world are these new converts attracted to Islam amidst all the negative rhetoric and allegations? Islam is evil, Muslims are terrorists, Islam oppresses women and on and on..
I have been thinking about this confusing phenomenon of people choosing a defamed faith. There are only three reasons I could think that could make people convert to Islam under this environment. The first two are money and muscle. If those are not the reasons, then it should be merit. I have not heard of any Muslim countries or organizations pumping money in to US for distribution to attract new converts. Muslim countries do not possess any considerable muscle power to make people subdue and submit to Islam. The only logical conclusion left is merit. One has to agree that in this century of information (and a lot of misinformation and noise) Islam has to have the merit to stand out in some ways to get noticed.
People are of three kinds. First, those who see Islam and Muslims as the source of all evil. They are fed by biased sources and lots of prejudice. They do not want to hear anything about Islam. The second kind of people are those who do not consider Islam and Muslims as evil. They are logical in their approach. They are not prepared to paint 1.5 billion Muslims with the same brush. These people have no grudge or enmity towards Islam. A third group of people are those who want to find the facts for themselves. They cannot be fooled by what they hear or see in the media. They are on a fact finding mission. Islam and Muslims have many surprises in store for them.
Islam presents three main avenues for anyone who wants to learn about it. Islam’s holiest text i.e. The Holy Quran, Life example of Messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Muslims who practice the faith and follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. All these three avenues are accessible for any common person to read, to study and to raise questions on them. Only those who find these three avenues to be supreme and clean from any of the allegations will consider converting to Islam.
What is in the Holy Quran?
People who grab any of the English Translations of the Holy Quran are in for a big surprise. The only condition I suggest is that they should come to the Quran with no bias and should be willing to look at it as a whole. Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years. Many of the verses of the Quran are revealed in reply to a question that was asked by one of his companions or by an outsider. Likewise, incidents during these 23 years have been the contexts behind many of the revelations. So be careful not to take things out of concept when first approaching the Quran.
Concept of God is clear
Quran explains in clear term who is God Almighty. It is very easy to grasp the concept of oneness of God. Unlike in the case of the Christian Bible, which has a mixed message of One God and a not so clear Triune God, Quran says in no ambiguous terms that there is only One God. Here is a chapter from the Holy Quran.
Say, “He is God, the One. God, the Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is nothing comparable to Him” Al Ikhlas Chapter 112
I have spoken to many Christian converts to Islam. Most of them could not accept the fact that Jesus is God. They saw a human being in him, doing every single thing human beings do. Jesus surely did miracles. But many prophets before Jesus also showed miracles. Hence miracles themselves cannot be held as a proof for divinity. They see Jesus praying to God, seeking help from God and prostrating to God. They see Jesus as a totally different individual compared to God and found it very hard to come to terms that God and Jesus are one. Quran on the other hand unequivocally denies that God has three components fused into one. This clear message makes people feel at home as it applies to the very human logic of 1+1+1 is 3 and not 1.
Who Wrote the Quran?
There are two sacred texts of Islam. First one is the Holy Quran, which is verbatim word of God. No words or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are included in it. The second text is the Hadith which are the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad as recorded and reported by his companions or his family members. These are in two different volumes and there is no confusion as to what is what.
In the Holy Quran, God Almighty says in clear terms that He revealed it and He will protect it. Here is the meaning of the verse.
“Surely We revealed the Message, and We will surely preserve it.” Hijr 15:9
Many of the previous Holy Scriptures of other faiths have passages that are interpolated alongside Gods words. It is hard for a common person to know who is talking. In the case of the new testament, the first four books Mathew, Mark, Luke and John have under their names “According to Mathew”, “According to Mark” etc.. This is a clear indication that Mathew did not write it, Mark did not write it and neither did Luke or John. Fourteen of the 27 books in the New Testament were written by Paul who did not even meet with Jesus in his life time.
In the case of Quran, there is no second guessing on the author. Author himself signs it and closes any door for speculation.
What is the Purpose of Our Life?
Most people have not spent any amount of time to ponder the purpose of their creation. In this day and age of life filled with enough distractions and all the amenities of luxury it provides, it makes it very hard for people to find a place and time of solace where they can even start to think on questions like who am I ? Who is God? What is purpose of my life? It is difficult if not impossible to find the purpose of life in clear terms except in the Holy Quran. Here is what the Quran has to say:
“I did not create the jinn and the humans except to worship Me.” The Spreaders: 51:56
Many people lead a reckless life and go to the boundaries of fun and enjoyments. When they hit the points where fun and enjoyments are no longer bringing joy, at that point they start thinking; Is this all? A lot of remorse and regret kicks in for the wrong and bad that was already accumulated. Quran gives them a purpose of life which is clear and unambiguous.
Quran Calls to Observe the Creations of God around Us
God Almighty has created the universe in perfection and made the earth a place for us to live in peace. All that is necessary for humans was already placed in the earth before the human kind was created and sent to the Earth. Throughout The Holy Quran God reminds us of his magnificent craftsmanship around us and see his “finger prints”. When one reads the Quran, the reader is constantly paused with questions calling attention to those things around him/her which we all take them for granted.
“He who created seven heavens in layers. You see no discrepancy in the creation of the Compassionate. Look again. Can you see any cracks? Then look again, and again, and your sight will return to you dazzled and exhausted. We have adorned the lower heaven with lanterns, and made them missiles against the devils; and We have prepared for them the punishment of the Blaze. For those who reject their Lord, there is the torment of Hell. What an evil destination!” Sovereignty 67:3-6
“Do they not look at the camels—how they are created? And at the sky—how it is raised? And at the mountains—how they are installed? And at the earth—how it is spread out? So remind. You are only a reminder.” The Overwhelming 88: 17-21
Quran Talks about individual Accountability and the Life Hereafter
No other divine book gives, in detail, depictions of the events that will unfold after our death. This is a domain outside of the books of worldly sciences. Only God Almighty who has the knowledge of the past, present and future can tell us that and He tells us that in the Quran.
There are two times when human kind experiences “The Hour”. When an individual dies, that is his hour. When the world ends that is the hour for all those who live at that time. After the final hour is established, we will be resurrected for a day of judgement. Both Quran and Hadith have extensive explanations about the events of that day. This is a very important and serious matter as there is no second chance for any one. The message of the Quran is divided in to three broad kinds. 1) Oneness of God 2) The Message and 3) The Hereafter. You can see the importance of the life hereafter as one third of the Quran deals with Hereafter. Almost all the passages of the Quran have warnings for those who are heedless and promise of gracious rewards for those who are obedient to God.
“So remind, if reminding helps. The reverent will remember. But the wretched will avoid it. He who will enter the Gigantic Fire. Where he will neither die, nor live. Successful is he who purifies himself. And mentions the name of his Lord, and prays. But you prefer the present life. Though the Hereafter is better, and more lasting. This is in the former scriptures. The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” The Most High: 87: 9-19
From cover to cover Quran constantly reminds people of the next life so that we keep that in our minds all the while we do our daily routines and sows the seeds here so we can reap in the hereafter. For those who care for the success in the hereafter, Quran tells them that each individual is accountable for his / her deeds and that no one will be able to remove our sins. Here is what Quran says:
“No burdened soul can carry the burden of another….” The Originator: 35:18
The message of the Quran is clear in that Prophet Jesus or any other Prophets cannot bring benefit or harm to people when they stand in front of God for judgement. We have to work hard for our own salvation.
Quran Explains Who is Satan and His Plots against the Mankind.
I remember listening to Professor Jeffry Lang on his path to Islam. The subject of Satan and his rebelling against God and man, his supreme creation was very confusing for him. When he started reading Quran, the passages in the second chapter of the Quran, Baqara dealing with the conversation of Allah with the angels and the Satan removed all his confusions.
Many people ask this question: why does evil exist? It is hard for anyone to understand all the tragedies man experiences due to evil acts of others. Quran explains who is behind the evil and warns mankind to be in a state of vigilance all the time.
“O you who believe! Enter into submission, wholeheartedly, and do not follow the footsteps of Satan; he is to you an outright enemy.” The Cow 2:208
A lot of people distance from religion and divine books after they find out that rather than answering and simplifying the issues, it confuses and makes things complicated. When such people grab a Quran, their questions are answered and matters are presented in an easy to understand fashion. Thus Quran makes their path to spirituality easy.
Quran Consoles Sinners and Opens Doors for their Repentance
Humans are not angels. We are prone to sin and we sure do sin. But sins are of different kinds. There are minor ones and major ones. In Islam disobeying parents is a major sin. So is fornication, adultery, murder etc.. Islam calls for people to stay away from sins. But in the event an individual has committed a sin, he does not have to go to an Imam and reveal all the sins. God Almighty asks that we repent and sincerely ask for his forgiveness. This gracious gift from God has brought many people to Islam. I know of an individual who committed adultery in her teenage years. She was not a Muslim. When regret enveloped her, she considered suicide. Fortunately She came in contact with the Holy Quran and the promise from Allah that all the sins will be forgiven gave her hope and a new life. Now she is a happy and practicing Muslim.
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves: do not despair of God’s mercy, for God forgives all sins. He is indeed the Forgiver, the Clement. Throngs 39:53
Quran Calls for Excellence in Conduct
Prophet Muhammad was the last and final prophet for the mankind and Quran is the final word of God. There is no other book to come after Quran. Hence Quran must be appealing to both Men and Women of all colors and nationality till end time. Only a book that is revealed by the one who created mankind can address the issues and concerns of all human beings. The text in the Quran covers matters like social etiquettes, family values, business matters and much more that every single human being deals with on a daily basis. If a Chinese national reads these values, he will have no issues with it. Likewise if a Canadian national reads it, he will appreciate it as well. Quran talk about values that are universal.
See how Quran speaks against ridiculing, backbiting and scandal mongering:
“O you who believe! No people shall ridicule other people, for they may be better than they. Nor shall any women ridicule other women, for they may be better than they. Nor shall you slander one another, nor shall you insult one another with names. Evil is the return to wickedness after having attained faith. Whoever does not repent—these are the wrongdoers. O you who believe! Avoid most suspicion—some suspicion is sinful. And do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would detest it. So remain mindful of God. God is Most Relenting, Most Merciful.” The Chambers 49:11-12
In numerous verses, God Almighty speaks of his love for people who do good and also exhorts people to repeal evil with good.
“….. God loves the doers of good” Al Imran 3:134
“Good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with good, and the person who was your enemy becomes like an intimate friend. But none will attain it except those who persevere, and none will attain it except the very fortunate” Detailed 41:34-35
Quran Removes Stains from Previous Prophets
Quran mentions 25 Prophets by name. Many of those Prophets can be found in the Bible as well. But there is one difference. Quran strongly rejects any moral wrong doings on the part of Prophets. For any logical person who seeks to worship God and walk on a spiritual high path, it is incomprehensible to accept that Prophet David would commit a crime. The purpose of sending prophets is to lead mankind with example. Someone who commits crime cannot lead mankind. This has caused many of the bible readers to pause and think; how in the world is this possible? Well Quran corrects all that. The stories of all these prophets in the Quran are inspiring and accurate at presenting them as they are; excellent guides for people.
“Be patient in the face of what they say, and mention Our servant David, the resourceful. He was obedient. We committed the mountains to glorify with him, in the evening and at daybreak. And the birds, gathered together. All obedient to him. And We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and decisive speech” Saad 38:17-20
Quran removes any speck of misgivings on the honor of those great Prophets including David, Lot, Abraham and others. The natural instinct of any one who follows the Quran on hearing the names of any of those Prophets is to say may God’s peace and blessing be upon them.
Quran Encourages Activism
Anyone who reads the Quran will certainly learn that Quran calls people to stand up for what is right and what is good. Quran does not support violence. At the same time Quran calls people to stand up against oppression. Bottom line the message of the Quran is propagate and promote that which is good, and stand up and stop that which is evil and bad. Here are a few ayats
O you who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God takes care of both. So do not follow your desires, lest you swerve. If you deviate, or turn away—then God is Aware of what you do. Women: 135
Quran has information on the Past, Present and Future
The purpose and essence of the message in the Quran is Guidance for mankind to steer through all the hurdles in this life and be successful in the hereafter. Towards guidance, God Almighty narrates the stories of the people of the past and of the Prophets that were sent to them. It is the practice of Allah to send warners and guides to the people. Some of those people hearken to the message and many reject. The ones who submitted and followed are given success and the other is subjected to punishment.
The stories of Prophet Yusuf, Lot, Abraham, Moses and Jesus are all presented with the morals behind them. Quran also captures the stories of the Pharaoh and other ancient tyrants with historical accuracy. These stories are told to us so that we can learn from them and avoid the mistakes they did. Even though these stories happened in the past, they reiterate in the present day. We may experience situations like those experienced by those Prophets or their followers.
Here is what God told the Pharaoh who begged for rescue while drowning.
And We delivered the Children of Israel across the sea. Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, defiantly and aggressively. Until, when he was about to drown, he said, “I believe that there is no god except the One the Children of Israel believe in, and I am of those who submit.” Now? When you have rebelled before, and been of the mischief-makers? Today We will preserve your body, so that you become a sign for those after you. But most people are heedless of Our signs. Jonah 10:90-92
Quran makes many predictions of the future. Some of them were relative to the time when the revelations were coming down. Those predictions have since been materialized. Victory of the Romans over the Persians was one of them. There are many other predictions that will come in time. Here is one:
“O people, be conscious of your Lord. The quaking of the Hour is a tremendous thing. On the Day when you will see it: every nursing mother will discard her infant, and every pregnant woman will abort her load, and you will see the people drunk, even though they are not drunk—but the punishment of God is severe.” Pilgrimage 22:1-2
Quran deals with Science that was discovered just yesterday
Quran has the message of God and the signs for both layman and for the learned one. This book of God has to attract all of mankind. Scientists who look through the lenses of science also have message for them to ponder upon and see the wisdom and magnificence of God. Almost 1000 of the 6000 plus verses deal with science alone. Here are a few glimpses to those verses.
“Do the disbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were one mass, and We tore them apart? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not believe?” The Prophets 21:30
The above verse is very much in line with the modern discovery of the Big Bang Theory.
Quran also details on many other topics of the modern science like Embryology, water cycle, plant kingdom, animal kingdom, Astronomy and much more. A scientist who will approach the Quran with no bias will find the finger prints of God in all the verse of science.
Message of the Quran is Consistent with No Contradictions
Even after providing all the needed tools to validate the message and recognize it is from God, some people are still going to be apprehensive. God Almighty calls them to scan the text of the Quran for contradictions. Here is how Allah said it in the Quran.
Do they not ponder the Quran? Had it been from any other than God, they would have found in it much discrepancy. Women: 4:82
Quran Challenges Mankind to Produce another Book like it.
After providing all the needed tools to accept the Quran as the message of God, for those who are still doubtful are challenged to produce a book like the Quran. God makes this challenge four times in the Quran. Final challenge was to produce a chapter like any chapter of the Quran. Here is how Allah said it.
And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like these, and call your witnesses apart from God, if you are truthful. But if you do not—and you will not—then beware the Fire whose fuel is people and stones, prepared for the disbelievers. The Cow: 2-23-24
Quran provides many doors for people to come in. People come in to Islam in big numbers because they read the Quran and are fascinated with what Allah speaks. They are clear that this is not a Man’s words. Rather it is God Almighty’s words.
God willing, in the next issue, I will write on the other two avenues that bring People in to Islam.