Thursday, October 05, 2006

Why Islam?

To be perfectly honest, I never really got into the discussion as to why I chose Islam. Certainly I know why and I have specific reason why I left Christianity per se, but I have never disclosed them with anyone in detail or at length. I have always felt that it was a personal choice for me, and I never wanted to "rock the boat" so I have always given vague and generic answers to somewhat keep the peace. Lately, I have been hearing this round of questioning again, and I have decided to lay it all out once and for all. The main reason I have avoided such things is due to the fact that my reasoning is a bit controversial. Most Christians would take offense to my statements and out of respect for my Christian relatives and friends, I just tend to avoid these things. So, I'm going to try and be as clear and respectful as possible, but as always, in religion its probably not going to come out right and be volatile anyway.

Where do I begin?

I grew up as a Christian, no surprise there, most black people in America do. I never went to church that much as a child outside of the Christmas, Easter, Palm Sunday, routine, so I never really understood what Christianity was at that point in my life, other than knowing that I was one, had been baptised, and was taught its the only and correct religion to be.

My fascination with religion didn't really begin until I moved to North Carolina to live with my Grandparents when I was a young teen in high school. My Grandfather is a Pastor of a Church and life at home reflected that, however not in the bad, restrictive way you often hear about in these circumstances. My Grandfather is a fascinating man and in many ways I emulate him. He's a scholar of religion to a degree and always promoted free thinking even at the same time of preserving religious identity. I wanted to be like him, devout and dedicated about his religion, but not in an overzealous, fanatical way. So I began to study the Bible and Christianity with great zeal. I took some Old and New Testament classes in school, went to the library and did research and study, and would debate, question, and sometimes argue with my Grandfather daily. My thirst for knowledge increased with every passing day. Most who knew me in that time would tell you that I was really into my Bible and faith, yes I had my fanatical moments and telling people they would go to hell if they didn't believe that Jesus died for their sins...Hey I was young... Anyway, as I got older and advanced grades, I began to study world religions. This was the first time I ever studied outside the realm of Christianity.

I didn't go into the study because I doubted my beliefs, I went into it for understanding as to why people didn't believe as I did. As I read and researched, I learned about the Polytheistic systems, the Oriental, even the Neo-Pagan ones. I started getting real deep into History, Early Christianity, and Doctrinal study as it relates to origin and application. This is when I can say for the first time I began to look more at what I believed and why. I met a few seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witness, and Mormons. I began to wonder why is that we all profess Christianity but believe it differently. Why Saturday and not Sunday? Why no Trinity but Oneness? What's this "new revelation"? Now admittedly, even at this point I still had no clue about Islam. My primary focus was Christianity and in truth, I never even considered "serious" study into anything else, because I felt they were all wrong and going to hell anyway.

Either way, as my studies progressed, I naturally developed new ideas and ideologies like "How could God be merciful, yet only reveal Himself to a select few?" or "Why would someone go to hell just because they don't believe as I do?..What if they lived righteously?" I would debate and discuss these things with my Grandfather often and I would joke about how everyone is going to hell except some tribe in the Amazon who didn't know anything about this religion stuff!

I'm not going to lie, I really started to criticize my doctrinal beliefs because I felt it was a very arrogant position. I couldn't get with the idea that out of the Billions of people on the planet now, then, and in the future, only one religion had gotten it right, and even then, they couldn't even agree and was split into many denominations. I felt within myself that to believe I'm right and your wrong just because I believe a certain way, is not only arrogant, but ignorant.

So I began to befriend people of different beliefs, backgrounds, etc. because I really wanted to understand people. Everything from Atheism to the Occult and everything in between, I begin to associate with those with those ideas. Gay, Straight, white, black, male, female, it didn't matter. I preserved my religious identity, but at the same time was able to associate and befriend others. I learned a great deal and there was a time or two I strayed into other "ideas" but in the end, I still felt Christianity was the truth and eventually went back to it. I was re-baptised and was a born-again Christian....until 9/11 of course. You can read that post for how Islam came into my life if you want.

In a nutshell, just know that between high school and 9/11, I was very involved as a Christian, I went to Church sometimes 4 times a week, led Bible study groups, was a laymen in the military, and many(even today) felt that I should have been a Minister. I learned a great deal about religion, history, etc.

Now back to the topic...

After 9/11 I began for the first time to study Islam. Not because I was interested in it. Actually it was the reverse. I thought it was a Satanic Cult, that drove mad men to create the atrocities on 9/11 and they were the enemy. This was purely research and a means to understand the enemy. I wanted to see what I could find and use to help convert and "save" these Moslem's. Just like most Christians I associated with I had all kinds of misconceptions about Islam. I felt they worshipped Muhammad(saw), didn't believe in Jesus(saw), beat their women, etc. However, I soon found out that all I believed about Islam, was not a result of ACTUAL EXPERIENCE AND STUDY, but more so HEAR SAY. I believed that which I picked up over the years and especially after 9/11, because the Pastors and Ministers of course were more knowledgeable than me, so why should I question them?

Well as I read the Quran, I learned some very contrary things to my prejudices. Even today, most Christians still don't know these things, and that's why I get the same recycled questions every other week about Islam.

Rather than go through the entire gambit, here's the key issues about Islam that once resolved, led to my "conversion"

As a Christian I was taught and believed, the Jesus was the literal son of God, part of the godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He was the truth, the light, and the only way to God. He died for our sins and was raised from the dead after three days, and if we confess and believe with our hearts and minds that Jesus is lord we would be saved.

Now even as a Christian I took issue or had questions about some of these statements, however, I chalked it up as a "mystery" and believed nevertheless. I felt that my own understanding would get me nowhere and if I prayed the Holy ghost would make these things clear.

If Jesus was the literal son of God, how can he actually be God? Am I the same as my Father? Granted, we are of the same substance, we have many similarities, and we are in agreement(sometimes) however, even if we are exactly the same in aim and purpose, making us one, we are still two different individuals.

What I learned from Islam:

Jesus wasn't the literal son of God, but the figurative one. Son of God in Hebrew and in religion in general denotes the special relationship between God and man. David wrote in Psalms that "Ye are all gods, Children of the Most High God" in Genesis it is written that man was created in the "image and likeness of God" so, if Jesus was the literal son of God, then so is any man. Jesus said he was one with the Father and the disciples were one with him. If he meant that literally, then Jesus and the Disciples were all God, because they are all "one" with each other. Therefore, he obviously had to mean that he was one in purpose and service and the son of God in the Hebrew sense that means in Hebrew "servant of God".

If as a Christian, I believe in One God, why do I keep splitting Him into thirds? I mean even Jesus said that God was One, and the three and one thing was never actually taught by him, but came later in books authored by Paul and whoever wrote Luke and John.

What I learned from Islam:

One equals One. Trinity is an doctrinal invention. The word in itself "Tri" means three. How can you say One and Three at the same time, obviously they are not the same. Abraham said One, Moses said One, David said One, even Jesus said One, 300 years after Jesus and even today, now all of a sudden its Three. Certainly if God meant Three He would have said so, clear and decisively throughout the Bible. Why would He be so clear about One, but we have to look and search to come up with the idea of three? God is but One God, and nothing created is equal to The Creator.

If Jesus was the only way to God, what about the Jews? What about those who didn't know any better or never heard of Jesus? Granted, I was always told that the ignorant would not be punished and that's why we have to evangelize to every corner of the Earth, however deep down that just sounded like an excuse to explain the unexplainable. I mean, if Jesus is the only way, then ignorant or not, there is no other way. If there is, then Jesus cant be the only way, because the word "only" suggests just that, one way.

What I learned from Islam:

God is a Merciful and Just God. He reveals Himself to mankind in various ways to guide them to Him. While these systems may not be the same, they are all from Him and therefore, any and all that believe in the One God and the Last Day, will have their reward in paradise. No matter if they are Jews, Christians, Sabians, etc.

If Jesus died for our sins, then what's the point of being good today? I mean in theory according to that belief, I can do whatever I want in life, but as long as I believe in Jesus and pray for forgiveness, I'm guaranteed a spot in heaven. Where's the motivation to be good?

What I learned from Islam:

No man, not even Jesus, can bear the burden of sin for another. We are all responsible to God for our actions and they will be judged accordingly in the last day. While many a Prophet and Messenger have come to guide us, even if we ask for their intercession its Only the Will of God that will accept or deny that intercession, because God Alone, is the Author and Finisher of All things and knows the time and hour.

If Jesus died and was raised three days later, why do we celebrate on Good Friday the death, but a day and a half later on Sunday celebrate the resurrection? Shouldn't Easter be on Monday or Tuesday?

What I learned from Islam:

There are many conflicting accounts about the life and eventual end of Jesus, many still debated today. The only thing we can be certain of is that Jesus was sent by God and was rejected. He prayed to God to save him and God did. How God saved him and what actually happened is open debate, therefore its mere conjecture, because no one knows for a fact. They just believe one way or the other. So why base your faith and practice on conjecture?

If God was a "mystery" and I would never truly understand this trinity thing, then how could I truly expect to know the will of God? I mean it says that God is not the author of confusion, yet anyone whoever tries to explain how the trinity still equals One God, almost always end up saying well, its a mystery, or its a miracle of God and don't lean unto your own understanding. Maybe its just me.

What I learned from Islam:

God is plain, simple, and to the point. God is One, and we must live our lives according to His will/law. Jesus summed it up. God is One and Love thy neighbor as thyself, because this sums up the laws of the Prophets. Prophets get their law from God, so there you have it.

So what exactly does the Quran say about Jesus and Christianity in general?

Jesus was a sign of God:

23:50 And as We exalted Moses, so, too, We made the son of Mary and his mother a symbol of Our grace, and provided for both an abode in a lofty place of lasting restfulness and unsullied springs.

Jesus relation with the "Holy Ghost"(In Islam, the spirit of God, is Holy but isn't a separate entity but more so His inspiration communicated:

2:87 For, indeed, We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ and caused apostle after apostle to follow him; and We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration. Yet is it not so that every time an apostle came unto you with something that was not to your liking, you gloried in your arrogance, and to some of them you gave the lie, while others you would slay?

The annunciation of Jesus:

3:45 Lo! The angels said: "O Mary! Behold, God sends thee the glad tiding, through a word from Him, of a son who shall become known as the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, of great honour in this world and in the life to come, and shall be of those who are drawn near unto God.

3:46 And he shall speak unto men in his cradle, and as a grown man, and shall be of the righteous."

3:47 Said she: "O my Sustainer! How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?" The angel answered: "Thus it is: God creates what He wills when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be' - and it is.

3:48 And he will impart unto thy son revelation, and wisdom, and the Torah, and the Gospel,

3:49 and will make him an apostle unto the children of Israel .” "I HAVE COME unto you with a message from your Sustainer. I shall create for you out of clay, as it were, the shape of your destiny, and then breathe into it, so that it might become your destiny by God's leave; and I shall heal the blind and the leper, and bring the dead back to life by God's leave; and I shall let you know what you may eat and what you should store up in your houses. Behold, in all this there is indeed a message for you, if you are truly believers.

3:50 "And I have come to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to make lawful unto you some of the things which aforetime were forbidden to you. And I have come unto you with a message from your Sustainer; remain, then, conscious of God, and pay heed unto me.

Revelation given to Jesus:

2:253 Some of these apostles have We endowed more highly than others: among them were such as.were spoken to by God Himself, and some He has raised yet higher.' And We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration. And if God had so willed, they who succeeded those apostles would not have contended with one another after all evidence of the truth had come to them; but as it was, they did take to divergent views, and some of them attained to faith, while some of them came to deny the truth. Yet if God had so willed, they would not have contended with one another: but God does whatever He wills.

Jesus is not God:

5:17 Indeed, the truth deny they who say, "Behold, God is the Christ, son of Mary." Say: "And who could have prevailed with God in any way had it been His will to destroy the Christ, son of Mary, and his mother, and everyone who is on earth-all of them? For, God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them; He creates what He wills: and God has the power to will anything!"

Jesus is like Adam:

3:59 Verily, in the sight of God, the nature of Jesus is as the nature of Adam, whom He created out of dust and then said unto him, "Be" - and he is

Jesus was no more than a Man:

4:171 O FOLLOWERS of the Gospel! Do not overstep the bounds of truth in your religious beliefs, and do not say of God anything but the truth. The Christ Jesus, son of Mary, was but God's Apostle - the fulfilment of His promise which He had conveyed unto Mary - and a soul created by Him. Believe, then, in God and His apostles, and do not say, "God is a trinity". Desist from this assertion for your own good. God is but One God; utterly remote is He, in His glory, from having a son: unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and none is as worthy of trust as God.

5:75 The Christ, son of Mary, was but an apostle: all other apostles had passed away before him; and his mother was one who never deviated from the truth; and they both ate food like other mortals. Behold how clear We make these messages unto them: and then behold how perverted are their minds!

43:59 As for Jesus, he was nothing but a human being - a servant of Ours whom We had graced with prophethood, and whom We made an example for the children of Israel.

Jesus raised up to God:

3:55 Lo! God said: "O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me, and cleanse thee of the presence of those who are bent on denying the truth; and I shall place those who follow thee far above those who are bent on denying the truth, unto the Day of Resurrection. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and I shall judge between you with regard to all on which you were wont to differ.

4:158 nay, God exalted him unto Himself - and God is indeed almighty, wise.

Religion of Jesus:

42:13 In matters of faith, He has ordained for you that which He had enjoined upon Noah - and into which We gave thee O Muhammad insight through revelation as well as that which We had enjoined upon Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus: Steadfastly uphold the true faith, and do not break up your unity therein. And even though that unity of faith to which thou callest them appears oppressive to those who are want to ascribe to other beings or forces a share in His divinity, God draws unto Himself everyone who is willing, and guides unto Himself everyone who turns unto Him.

Jesus was not killed:

4:157 and their boast, "Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, who claimed to be an apostle of God!" However, they did not slay him, and neither did they crucify him, but it only seemed to them as if it had been so; and, verily, those who hold conflict­ing views thereon are indeed confused, having no real knowledge thereof, and following mere con­jecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay him:

The Quran speaks allot about Jesus, contrary to popular belief, and to post it all, would be exhaustive at best. In summary:

Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin, was the Messiah, Prophet, and Messenger of God, performed miracles, gave revelation, was raised up to heaven(like Elijah) and will return in the last days. We believe that he could do nothing of his own will, but only by the will of God. He was not unique because of his birth only a sign. Adam had no parents and wasnt born, that doesnt make him God either. Jesus ate, slept, and prayed like a man. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck,.... Jesus believed OUR Father was One and greater than himself and others, he stated that many times in the Bible.

What does the Quran say about Christians going to heaven?:

2:62 VERILY, those who have attained to faith in this divine writ, as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.

5:85 And for this their belief God will reward them with gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide: for such is the requital of the doers of good;

Basically, in Islam, your belief in God and your deeds are what garuntees your heaven. Not your title of Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc. nor your doctrine, dogma, or denomination. Everyone has equal chance of going to heaven even if they don't call themselves Muslim.

What is righteousness in Islam?:

2:177 True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west - but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance - however much he himself may cherish - it - upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and truly pious are they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God.

3:17 those who are patient in adversity, and true to their word, and truly devout, and who spend in God's way, and pray for forgiveness from their innermost hearts.

3:114 They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and vie with one another in doing good works: and these are among the righteous.

4:162 But as for those from among them who are deeply rooted in knowledge, and the believers who believe in that which has been bestowed upon thee(Muhammad) from on high as well as that which was bestowed from on high before thee(Jews and Christians), and those who are especially constant in prayer, and spend in charity, and all who believe in God and the Last Day - these it is unto whom We shall grant a mighty reward.

I could go on and on on these subject...

To answer some direct questions asked to me:

Islam doesnt promote violence, however God does allow self defense.

2:190 fight in God's cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression-for, verily, God does not love aggressors.

2:191 And slay them wherever you may come upon them, and drive them away from wherever they drove you away - for oppression is even worse than killing. And fight not against them near the Inviolable House of Worship unless they fight against you there first; but if they fight against you, slay them: such shall be the recompense of those who deny the truth.

2:192 But if they desist-behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

2:193 Hence, fight against them until there is no more oppression and all worship is devoted to God alone;but if they desist, then all hostility shall cease, save against those who wilfully do wrong.

Don't kill children(ie suicide bombers)

6:140 Lost, indeed, are they who, in their weak-minded ignorance, slay their children and declare as forbidden that which God has provided for them as sustenance, falsely ascribing such prohibitions to God: they have gone astray and have not found the right path.

6:151 Say: "Come, let me convey unto you what God has really forbidden to you: "Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and do not offend against but, rather, do good unto your parents; and do not kill your children for fear of poverty - for it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them; and do not commit any shameful deeds, be they open or secret; and do not take any human being's life-the life which God has declared to be sacred -otherwise than in the pursuit of justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason;

What about Women?:

4:19 O YOU who have attained to faith! It is not lawful for you to try to become heirs to your wives by holding onto them against their will; and neither shall you keep them under constraint with a view to taking away anything of what you may have given them, unless it be that they have become guilty, in an obvious man­ner, of immoral conduct. And consort with your wives in a goodly manner; for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which God might yet make a source of abundant good.

33:35 VERILY, for all men and women who have sur­rendered themselves unto God, and all believing men and believing women, and all truly devout men and truly devout women, and all men and women who are true to their word, and all men and women who are patient in adversity, and all men and women who humble themselves before God, and all men and women who give in charity, and all self-denying men and self-denying women, and all men and women who are mindful of their chastity, and all men and women who remember God unceasingly: for all of them has God readied forgiveness of sins and a mighty reward.

In conclusion,

I became a Muslim because it cleared up many questions I had, it is universal, and encourages all the things I believe philisophically. I can write for days on the subject and if it be the will of God, I can express Islam in a manner that would clear up the falsehoods that many have, that I too had.

If you truly want to know the answers to the questions and charges against Islam, feel free to ask me directly.

For more information about many of the things I covered, go to:

Understanding Islam and the Muslims

Peace and Paradise


Anonymous said...

"If as a Christian, I believe in One God, why do I keep splitting Him into thirds? I mean even Jesus said that God was One, and the three and one thing was never actually taught by him, but came later in books authored by Paul and whoever wrote Luke and John..."

read this...

And God said, LET US make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them.
-- Genesis 1: 26-27 (KJV)

Robert Abdur Salaam said...

If you noticed, anonymous, in the Quranic verses I posted oftentimes the terms "US", "WE", and "OUR" are also used.

This doesnt prove that God is more than One. Its a translation issue. The original Hebrew that is used, when translated into English comes out plural, however, in the Hebrew language its understood to mean One. In English its called "royal plural" Those in positions of Majesty, speak in 3rd person.

Hebrew is a Semetic language, just like Arabic, so that is why in both the English translations of the Quran and Bible, God speaks in 3rd person in some places and singular in others, because in the original languages, different words are used for God. Like in Hebrew you have Elohim, Eli, El, etc. In Arabic you have Allah, Rabb, and many others.

But don't take my word for it, look up "royal plural".