It's funny - I'm actually a Muslim! The term used to conjure up images of backward Bedouin Arabs living far away. Well, living in North America likely had something to do with my ignorance. I got all my views from television – that box that people watch for hours a day and assume it has factual information because it's officially titled the "news." Ironically, there are tons of libraries out there, but on average we use them only for specific purposes - cramming for term papers or for other schoolwork. We should use it to grow on a constant basis!
I have to admit, now that I'm a Muslim I can see that the average North American is very ignorant of Islam. It's not totally our fault, the society that we have created sucks you in by making you a constant consumer - whether it is to get you to spend money or simply buy into some idea. We just eat too much, talk too much arrogance, and overall live like royalty while complaining that the rest of the planet hates us. Ah, if people only realized that the problems of the world are in our own backyard... but that's a different story. This is about my becoming a Muslim.
I guess it all started nine months ago. I simply could not ignore that this universe must have a God. I mean seriously, just look out your front door: the beautiful sky, the amazing stars, the gentle breeze on your face, and so many other incredible things. We all take these phenomena for granted. We fail to realize how absolutely amazing and in balance this universe is. The human body itself is a marvel! I could go on forever. The point is, I could no longer be an ignorant ape, so I decided to read some books about God.
I started to read about Christianity. The Bible has some wonderful aspects to it, but where did they get the idea of the "trinity," and who actually could accept the doctrine without experiencing doubts? It's a mystery, the Christians say. It sure is. It was time to read about Judaism. That too has some valuable and interesting aspects. One problem I saw, and it actually was a huge problem, was that they only have about 15 million followers. I mean, God is for everyone and a good religion should spread to the masses.
Thus, it was Islam's turn. I wasn't keen on the idea but I realized I had to take a look. Sure, the television already "educated" me on the issue. To my surprise I found out a lot of things that I never knew. The Qur'an had no chapter on terrorism. It was shocking! I was blown away to learn that Islam actually was for all of mankind and was in fact a peaceful religion. It's an addicting read because it makes total sense and puts you directly in touch with God. The more I read the more I became disgusted with our media because they were either lying or reflecting uneducated views. I wanted to learn more.
Sure, I read many books that I could recommend. However, the most important thing that I did was to actually speak with Muslims – to meet them at a personal level. Seriously, all I can say is wow! I have never met nicer people in my entire life. They embraced me with generosity and tolerance. No, they didn't try to force conversion on me as that is against Islam's beliefs. Instead, they laughed and talked like any other group of people. Okay, so I had to check more Muslims out.
I went to the mosque. I was a little nervous and maybe afraid. However, I had the same experience as my first encounter. Honestly, I swear, Muslims in general are very nice people. Sure, you have a couple of idiots or bad apples, but you get that anywhere. I was beginning to think that Islam might be the true path to life.
Then my North American brainwashing took over again, and I became skeptical. Was I becoming one of those religious nuts? After all, I was constantly seeing all those beer commercials and hot dogs on television, what good religion would take those things away? Or should I say, how much money would those types of companies lose if we accepted Islam? Come to think of it, lots of American business does not conform to religious beliefs.
I took a break, still being confused as I was. I tried to push it away – far away. I was going to be a consumer of worthless items once again. Science had all the answers – we are in the new millennium after all. Why subject myself to all this praying and stuff? Still, every now and again it would pop up. Islam! I tried so hard to just forget about it. I decided to have a plan. I would believe in God but not necessary in some kind of organized religion. I thought God would accept me no matter what, unless I was Hitler of course.
But the problem was, I became a better thinker after reading about Islam and started looking at my life and culture. I realized how shallow my world is. Maybe God did want us to follow some rules. After all, my Dad gave me rules and they were there for a reason. Come to think of it, the entire universe operates on rule systems. No matter how hard I tried to stop thinking about Islam, it was present in my mind. I had to submit. I realized that I had nothing to lose and only something to gain. I personally think one would have to be an utter fool to assume this world is by chance and science alone. It's almost like a bad joke; we just take so much for granted.
It was right before Ramadan this year that I declared my Shahada (declaration of faith) in front of the brothers at the local mosque. I felt good! Well, everything went well for the first week - I prayed and fasted. However, this last week was a mess. I have made mistakes and have discovered another lesson thanks to Islam: nobody is perfect and just because you take your Shahada, you can't expect life to get magically easier. Rather, you are tested and conditioned to become a better person everyday.
The point is, Islam has changed my life for the better and the fascinating thing about it is that it constantly teaches me to grow. My wife says that my behavior has improved, that I think things through a lot more, and that overall I just seem a lot happier as a person. I have my good days and bad days, but having Allah with me makes all the difference. There is a purpose to this life and it feels good to care about all of humanity and not just my country.
I can honestly tell people that the road to religion begins when you actually embrace Allah. When you study and analyze the religion before taking the Shahada you have tons of questions, doubts, and fears. It's when you actually invite God into your heart that the lessons begin and you grow. As I said, it's not easy and it'll take lots of time to become a decent practicing Muslim - but it will happen. The best advice I can give any convert is to take your time. This is something between you and Allah. Listen to the brothers at the mosque, but ultimately do what's best for you and let Allah guide you.
Look around people. Take a good look. If you think there is no God then just keep watching that television. Life is never easy, but I know Allah exists and wants the best for all of us. There are so many facets to why I think I became a Muslim. Ultimately, this is what comes to mind: I don't know if I found Islam, or it found me - Allah guides whom He wills. Of course, I'm sure not being a stubborn mule helped.
Peace be upon all of you. Amen.