(6) Converts to Islam (Part 3): The attracting factors
People convert to Islam for a number of reasons, including attraction to Islam’s concept and spiritual characteristics that manifest simplicity, practicability and rationality.
The converts or, more accurately, reverts (see Part 1 of the article), come from all walks of life and from all religions but largely from the Christian background perhaps because Christians are spiritually the nearest “People of the Book” (Qur’an 3:113) to Muslims and so would understand Islam better and find it appealing to their longings, feeling and desires.
Also, spiritually Christians would feel near to Muslims because many of the Biblical and Qur’anic teachings are similar, like God is one and that it is important to do righteousness, such as being good to neighbours, as sampled in the following references.
In Mark 12: 28-32 of the Bible, you read: “And one of the scribes…asked him (Jesus), What commandment is the first of all? Jesus answered, The first is…The Lord our God, the Lord is one: and you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said to him, You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and besides him there is no other; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself”…(Mark 12: 28-33)
In the Qur’an, God says: “Serve God, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers…For God loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious” (Qur’an 4:36)
Prophet Muhammad himself made the following two statements:
- “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself” (Hadith)
- “None of you is a believer if he eats his full while his neighbour hasn’t anything to eat.” (Hadith)
(Note that the quotes are one, from the Qur’an and, two, from the Hadith. The Qur’an is purely God’s Words. Prophet Muhammad’s words are not found in the Qur’an but in a collection called the Hadith (words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad). In Islam, God’s Words and the Prophet’s words are kept separately, not in the same volume – the Qur’an. For a proper understanding of this, in the Biblical verses quoted above, that of Mark 12: 30-32, you will see that the words in these just few verses come from three persons. They are: (1) Jesus Christ who said: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one…”, (2) the scribe who said: “You are right, Teacher…” and (3) the writer of this gospel, who supplies the connecting words like “And one of the scribes…asked him”, “Jesus answered” and “And the scribe said to him”.)
According to Islam, each of the numerous previous prophets, including Jesus Christ, was sent by God to teach the people they were sent to, to believe in God and do righteousness according to their needs, which is the essence of Islam. On the other hand, Prophet Muhammad was chosen by God as the final prophet to teach the full and entire way of righteous living that includes the daily prayers, the Ramadan fast and the comprehensive moral and civic laws to all mankind. Hence, at the end of the Prophet’s 23-year mission, God gave His Religion for mankind an official name – Islam. (See Part 2 of the article.)
In Islam, references to the previous prophets, including Jesus Christ, as well as the previous teachings and prophets were given. For example, the birth of Jesus Christ is described in the Qur’an at two places – in Chapter 3 and Chapter 19. Jesus Christ’s mother, Mary, is mentioned in the Qur’an as a virtuous and righteous woman, a woman chosen “above the women of all nations” (3:42). And as an honour to her, Chapter 19 is even titled “Mary”, with Mary’s ancestors described in it. In fact, Islam is the only religion and Muslims are the only people, apart from Christianity and Christians themselves, who recognise Jesus Christ as a great person sent by God, and bestow on him the recognition and respect he deserves.
Many Christians who are introduced to Islam are surprised to find Jesus Christ, Prophet Moses, Prophet Abraham and the other prophets mentioned and described in the Qur’an with great respect to them. They find the Qur’anic revelations and the moral teachings of Islam are similar to that of Christianity and with more additions and details. Indeed, some people say that “Islam is a continuation of Christianity” (Kristiane Backer in her blog: http://kristianebacker.com/category/blog, titled “Speaking about my journey to Islam and signing books at universities in Asia and the USA”).
Kristiane, a television presenter and journalist, London, is among four female UK converts to Islam featured in an article in The Independent with the heading, “Women & Islam: The rise and rise of the convert” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/women–islam-the-rise-and-rise-of-the-convert-6258015.html) In the article, Kristiane says: “I always try to explain to people that I’ve converted to Islam, not to any culture. Suppression of women, honour killings or forced marriages are all cultural aberrations, not Islamic ones. Islam is also about dignity and respect for yourself and your femininity…”
Earlier in 2014, Kristiane was in Singapore to talk about her book, “From MTV to Mecca – How Islam inspired my life”. (See her blog in her website at: http://kristianebacker.com/book )
Often women reverts speak for Islam and wear the hijab (Islamic way of dressing). In my previous article, “The hijab way of guarding modesty”, published in “The Muslim Reader” of April 2014 (Vol. 32), a quarterly magazine of the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore, I mentioned about a few Caucasian women reverts covering their heads with the tudung (headscarf), thus: “There are many highly educated Caucasian converts who cover their heads. Five among these Muslims who are involved in speaking for Muslim understanding are:
- Lauren Booth, English broadcaster and journalist, who is the sister-in-law of the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
- Yvonne Ridley, British journalist and war correspondent, who was once captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- Myriam Francois Cerrah, former British actress, who obtained her PhD at the University of Oxford.
- Susan Carland, Australian. She teaches gender politics and sociology at Monash University, Melbourne.
- Dr Ingrid Mattson, Canadian, who is professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary, USA. .
You may see them speaking in conferences, TV forums and interviews on Islamic issues from postings on the Youtube. (Just type their names on Youtube search and you will be able to get to the postings.)”
Like in the case of female reverts, not every male revert has been contacted for an interview. This is simply not normally done. Only some, out of enthusiasm, come forward to give their comments according to their level of understanding of Islam, communication ability and Islam-sharing motivation with the soft stress: take it if it is logical and beneficial. God instructs: “Invite people to the way of your Lord with wisdom” (16:125)
Like the number of female reverts, there are numerous male reverts who give talks on Islam and on why they embraced Islam. Five of these male Muslims are:
- Dr Jeffrey Lang, American, former atheist. He and his family converted to Islam after reading the Qur’an. He is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas, and author of several books on Islam, including “Struggling to surrender” and “Even angels ask: A journey to Islam in America”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGImNxW37Tc
- Dr Jerald F. Dirks, American. A former minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church, Jerald holds a Master’s degree in Divinity from Harvard University and a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Denver. He is author of several books on Islam, including “The Cross and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue between Christianity and Islam”, and “Abraham: The Friend of God”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTqrOurm8KU
- Hussein Yee, Malaysian Chinese. He was a former Buddhist who later became a Christian before coming to Islam. A graduate from the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia, he lectures regularly on Islam in the Asia-Pacific region. His lectures on Islam are frequently aired on Peace TV. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvCU-4TE-ec
- Dr Laurence Brown, American, Surgeon. An active Islamic preacher, he graduated from Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences and Brown University Medical School. He is the author of several books on Islam, including “Bearing True Witness: Now that I found Islam, what do I do with it?”, “God’ed?: The Case for Islam as the Completion of Revelation” and “The First & Final Commandment: A Search for Truth in Revelation within the Abrahamic Religion”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J5_VETwfew
- Idris Tawfiq, British, former Catholic Priest. He has a degree in English language and Literature from the University of Manchester and a degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He is a writer of articles on Islam and the author of several Islamic books, including “Gardens of Delight: a simple introduction to Islam”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne0AHcq-9jA
More and more people, especially Muslims’ closest brothers, the Christians, are coming to Islam due to easy availability of information on Islam from books, Muslims websites and Youtube posts. Idris Tawfiq, who is mentioned above, in his book, “Calling others to Islam”, says: “Islam is the natural religion of mankind which has existed since the beginning of time. It is the Middle Way. It has the answers to all the desires of the human heart. This is why we want to tell others about Islam…Just show the people listening that Islam is beautiful.”
Still, however beautiful and logical Islam is, according to Idris, there will always be people “who just do not know what we are talking about because it is so far from the kind of lives they are living. Others have been blinded by the misinformation they have been fed for many years that they are unwilling to accept that what we say might be true.”
Muslims have the responsibility of conveying to others about the Message of Islam, a religion for mankind that began in its basic form when human beings first appeared on earth and was completed in its comprehensive form at the end of the mission of Prophet Muhammad. Muslims, thus, have the task of sharing Islam with others in a wise, gentle and kind way. God advises: “Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching.” (16:125)
(Continuation of this topic, “Discovering Islam: Converts to Islam” will be featured in Part 4.)
By Shaik Kadir
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