The Journey

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USA - "It was a journey of self awareness but more importantly a journey of becoming aware of the One, Unique God of the Universe"

Foreword

In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

After 9/11, the media in most Western countries began spreading false propaganda against the true religion. They wanted to scare people away from Islam - but what happened ? Their propaganda became a reason for the conversion of many to Islam! Read what Allah says in Quran: "And none can know the hosts of your Lord but He." (74:31)

This is the story of someone I met through an internet chat program. I felt that she is a great person when she told me about her conversion to Islam. She then wrote her story in detail, sent it to me and asked me to submit it to thetruereligion.org. We are asking Allah to let this story be useful in helping guide people to the true religion - Islam.

The Journey

It was a very normal day at the office. Patients coming and going at a steady pace, staff sticking their head in the door to say a quick hello and the telephone singing it’s same urgent song. It was September 11, 2001. I was busy at my desk finishing some paperwork when I came across some work that I had some questions about. I speed-dialed the county office to clear up the matter when the voice on the other end quietly and nervously said, “Have you all heard the news?” My reply was quick and sarcastic; “No one here has time to listen to the news!” And the voice on the other end cracked as she said, “I think you should turn on a radio or TV; a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center and it’s bad.” With those words my small world changed forever.

I ran into the outer office and repeated the news and we quickly grabbed the TV from the closet and turned it on. What we saw was as unbelievable to our eyes as the initial news had been to our ears. Not one plane, but two by now, had flown directly into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Hundreds of miles away from us in our sleepy little southern corner of the world, distance suddenly seemed to vanish into inches as we saw and heard and felt the devastation in front of our eyes. Nothing in our wildest imagination or our most cynical thinking could prepare us for this kind of cruel intent. Even through the speakers of the TV we could begin to hear the horror, and terror, that in a matter of minutes had gripped our nation and threatened our sense of safety and security in ways that would never recover or return to the naive days of pre September 11, 2001.

Suddenly I was aware of the questions that encircled the news commentators, and also the small group of us standing transfixed in front of a snowy TV screen witnessing the scene of death and destruction. Why? Who? How? Don’t we still live in America? Aren’t we still the greatest and strongest nation in the world? Don’t we still have the strongest and most vigilant military in the world? What is going on? Who is responsible? Then I started hearing things like, “It has to be the Arabs.” “It must be Al-Qaeda.” “It’s those Islamic extremists and terrorists!” I tried to pull up some information from my memory bank, some small bit of knowledge to help me process this; but I could think of nothing. My mind was empty of answers, but so full of questions. I knew so little about the Arab nations.

Who was Al-Qaeda? Isn’t Islam a religion? Why would a religious group instigate such devastation and death? As those around me were so sure of their assessments and assignment of guilt, I was beset with questions.

As the days and weeks unfolded the extent of the destruction and death of this horrific attack, my questions grew to monumental proportions. As I heard the TV commentators and newsmen entertain different thoughts and ideas I kept hearing Islam named as a culprit; as a force of great evil.

And the questions continued. Could a nation of faith like Islam be so cold and devious and evil? Were they all right? Was this an attack from the Islamic community and culture? I did not have enough knowledge to know. I could not decide if these accusations were valid or if they were the result of uninformed media or perhaps just malicious propaganda. I simply did not know.

I searched my knowledge bank to try to recall what I might have been taught or heard about Islam. The thoughts were, at best, sketchy, and came slowly.

I somehow thought I remembered that Muslims did not believe in Jesus. They did not believe in the Bible. They pinned their faith not in God but in Mohammad, I could not remember who Mohammad was supposed to be except that he was a man. They dressed oddly. Oh, and yes, somewhere I got the idea or heard they were an extremist group of people who thought that fighting and killing brought them favor with God.

Was this information true? Was it exaggerated? I did not know. What I did know, however, was that I had to find out the truth ...I had to know more in order to make my decision. Those around me obviously felt they knew enough to make their decisions about guilt. I did not. The one thing I knew was that I would have to learn enough to reconcile this event.

Two weeks later I bought the first of many books. It was a small paperback book called Teach Yourself Islam. It was interesting and informative but all it really did was open the door. My thirst grew at a fairly rapid pace and I quenched it with reading. I eventually did something I never thought I would do....I entered a chat room online. It was not my habit nor my style. But one night I became very bored and found myself just cruising through chat rooms. It quickly became evident that I was not chat savvy as I had no real luck chatting. Eventually, however, and it was really quite accidental, I found myself in an Arab American chat room. I read the conversations of others with an odd sense of curiosity. When someone sent me an instant message, I hesitantly answered with a sense of fear and anticipation. What grew from that chat was a wonderful relationship that took me even farther than I imagined into the dynamics of the Islamic faith. I learned of some wonderful references and books to read. I devoured each one, hungry for the next. I watched videos and I read, and read, and read.

After about 6 months of studying I began to feel very touched, but in a special way that still is very hard for me to describe. I began to feel a connection with God that never before had I experienced. So many things that had all my life had seemed so mysterious now seemed to make sense.

The puzzle seemed to be coming together in a very realistic and very understandable fashion. But more importantly it was what was happening in my heart that made all the difference in my life, then and now. There was and is an indescribable peace that descended upon me and filled me with such completeness that there is no real way to explain it beyond miraculous.

My study took on a new relevance. My hunger grew. I learned that the things I thought I knew about Islam were so totally wrong that it was at though I really knew nothing at all. I learned that being a Muslim has nothing at all to do with being an Arab but simply means “one who submits.” I learned that the concept of Islam is a very simple one. It is simply an act of submission to God; a recognition and declaration that there is One God, Supreme and Unique and that God gave his revelation to the Arab prophet Mohammad and this is the genuine and final and complete revelation from God and it supersedes all that came before it. I learned that the essential creed of Islam is two parts; There is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is the Prophet of God; “La ilaha ilallah wa Muhammadur Rasul Allah.”

I learned that Muslims do, in fact, believe in Jesus! I learned that the Quran names twenty six prophets including some known from the Bible including Noah, Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist and others, including Jesus. I learned about Jesus in a new way; that Jesus was indeed a prophet who taught and brought healing. Muslims even consider Jesus to be one of the greatest of all prophets. Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus and that this was a miracle of God in creating a child without a father.

Where was the teaching of violence and terrorism? Well of course I did learn of “jihad.” But not in the sense that I had heard. What I learned is that jihad refers to the striving each of us has with our material existence in the world which is in opposition to the will of God. For example, I learned that to love oneself to the point of being selfish and of putting one’s own needs and desires before right living is one of the basic wrongs recognized in Islam. I learned that jihad is the general fight of people toward the tendency to become miserly, greedy, cruel, callous, etc... “The life of the world is but a pastime and a game. Lo! Real life is the Home of the Hereafter, if you but knew it.” (Surah 29:64)

As my knowledge increased, so did my desire to adopt this faith as my lifestyle and as my way of living. I wasn’t sure what I had to do to become a part of this faith but I was fairly certain there must be some ritual or ceremony, considering the richness and time honored tradition of Islam. I was wrong. Becoming a Muslim is as simple as bearing witness to the faith.

It is as simple as accepting and stating a creed that says “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is His genuine messenger.” It is not just reciting this creed, but it is believing what it says with all one’s heart, following it to the point of giving God one’s life to his service and in trusting God with all one’s heart.

The giving of oneself to God, totally and completely brings some changes. It means dietary changes as well as changes in how one represents oneself in dress and demeanor. It means adopting a modesty that takes all the focus from arrogance and selfishness and places the focus on representing the one true God.

This “bearing witness” or Shahadah is the first pillar of Islam. The second pillar is salah or prayer. It requires daily prayer, five times a day. It is compulsory for a Muslim to submit to salah, as they face God on a one-to-one basis. The purpose of Muslim prayer is to purify the heart and to bring about personal and spiritual growth as we are brought closer to Allah. The third pillar is the zakah. It is the giving of material help to those less fortunate. It is not charity but more of a regular, sacrificial giving which depends on motives which are not related to sympathy or charity. Islam teaches that everything belongs to Allah so in giving we are really only giving back to Allah that which is His. The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting during the month of Ramadan. Muslim fasting is a deliberate effort toward cultivating peace of the mind and spirit and the giving up of all manner of evil, greed, anger, etc...which can pull one from the true will of God. The fifth pillar of Islam is the pilgrimage to Makkah, or Hajj. “It is the duty of all believers towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if able to make their way there.” (Surah 3:91)

The journey to becoming a Muslim involves the acceptance of these basic five pillars of faith. For me it was an accidental journey. A journey that began with a national disaster; a time of national grief and pain; a time of accusations and blame; a time of forgiveness and healing. But most of all it was a journey of great learning and opportunity for change.

It was an emotional journey that ended in a spiritual journey with a great destination. It was a journey of self awareness but more importantly a journey of becoming aware of the One, Unique God of the Universe.

The journey has been one of tremendous growth. But the most significant thing about this journey is that it is on-going. It is a continuous journey of faith and believing. It is a journey of sacrifice and greater gain.

It is a journey of giving and receiving. It is a journey of faith and understanding. It is a journey of daily learning and strife to become more today than I was yesterday, and more tomorrow than I am today. It is a treasure hunt for all the good things Allah has for me in this life to prepare me for the life hereafter. It is a journey of faith and a journey of great, great love.

I thank God for the questions that brought me to this place; to this great faith; to this personal journey of deliverance from the misguidance of the world. I am daily in awe of the greatness of such a God to love me enough to provide this great journey for me. It is a journey of faith and most of all a journey of love.

source: the true religion

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