In the Name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful
Becoming MuslimErin/Sumaya Fannoun
April 12, 1998.
Bismillah Arahman Araheem
My intention in writing my story is that for Allah's sake, I may help someone who is searching for the Truth, to realize that they have found it in Al Islam. I began writing this on Easter Sunday, kind of appropriate, I think. I have been Muslim now for seven years, Alhamdu Lillah (all praise is for Allah, [God]). I first learned of Islam while attending University, from a Muslim friend of mine. I had managed to get out of a very good, college-prep high school believing that the Qur'an was a Jewish book, and that Muslims were idol worshipping pagans. I was not interested in learning about a new religion. I held the ethnocentric view that if since the US was "#1", we must have the best of everything, including religion. I knew that Christianity wasn't perfect, but believed that it was the best that there was. I had long held the opinion that although the Bible contained the word of God, it also contained the word of the common man, who wrote it down. As Allah would have it, every time I had picked up the Bible in my life, I had come across some really strange and actually dirty passages. I could not understand why the Prophets of God would do such abominable things when there are plenty of average people who live their whole lives without thinking of doing such disgusting and immoral things, such as those attributed to Prophets David, Solomon, and Lot, (peace be upon them all) just to name a few. I remember hearing in Church that since these Prophets commit such sins, how could the common people be any better than them? And so, it was said, Jesus had to be sacrificed for our sins, because we just couldn't help ourselves, as the "flesh is weak".
So, I wrestled with the notion of the trinity, trying to understand how my God was not one, but three. One who created the earth, one whose blood was spilled for our sins, and then there was the question of the Holy Ghost, yet all one and the same!? When I would pray to God, I had a certain image in my mind of a wise old man in flowing robe, up in the clouds. When I would pray to Jesus, I pictured a young white man with long golden hair, beard and blue eyes. As for the Holy Spirit, well, I could only conjure up a misty creature whose purpose I wasn't sure of. It really didn't feel as though I was praying to one God. I found though that when I was really in a tight spot, I would automatically call directly on God. I knew inherently, that going straight to God, was the best bet.
When I began to research and study Islam, I didn't have a problem with praying to God directly, it seemed the natural thing to do. However, I feared forsaking Jesus, and spent a lot of time contemplating the subject. I began to study the Christian history, searching for the truth. The more I looked into it, the more I saw the parallel between the deification and sacrifice of Jesus, and the stories of Greek mythology that I had learned in junior high, where a god and a human woman would produce a child which would be a demigod, possessing some attributes of a god. I learned of how important it had been to "St. Paul", to have this religion accepted by the Greeks to whom he preached, and how some of the disciples had disagreed with his methods. It seemed very probable that this could have been a more appealing form of worship to the Greeks than the strict monotheism of the Old Testament. And only Allah knows.
I began to have certain difficulties with Christian thought while still in high school. Two things bothered me very much. The first was the direct contradiction between material in the Old and New Testaments. I had always thought of the Ten Commandments as very straight forward, simple rules that God obviously wanted us to follow. Yet, worshipping Christ, was breaking the first commandment completely and totally, by associating a partner with God. I could not understand why an omniscient God would change His mind, so to speak. Then there is the question of repentance. In the Old Testament, people are told to repent for their sins; but in the New Testament, it is no longer necessary, as Christ was sacrificed for the sins of the people. "Paul did not call upon his hearers to repent of particular sins, but rather announced God's victory over all sin in the cross of Christ. The radical nature of God's power is affirmed in Paul's insistence that in the death of Christ God has rectified the ungodly (see Romans 4:5). Human beings are not called upon to do good works in order that God may rectify them." So what incentive did we even have to be good, when being bad could be a lot of fun? Society has answered by redefining good and bad. Any childcare expert will tell you that children must learn that their actions have consequences, and they encourage parents to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions. Yet in Christianity, there are no consequences, so people have begun to act like spoiled children. Demanding the right to do as they please, demanding God's and peoples' unconditional love and acceptance of even vile behavior. It is no wonder that our prisons are over-flowing, and that parents are at a loss to control their children. That is not to say that in Islam we believe that we get to heaven based on our deeds, on the contrary, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that we will only enter paradise through God's Mercy, as evidenced in the following hadith.
The Prophet said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will not make him enter Paradise." They asked, "Even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me."
So in actuality, I did not even know who God was. If Jesus was not a separate god, but really part of God, then who was he sacrificed to? And who was he praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane? If he was separate in nature from God, then you have left the realm of monotheism, which is also in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Old Testament. It was so confusing, that I preferred not to think of it, and had begun to thoroughly resent the fact that I could not understand my own religion. That point was brought home when I began to discuss religion with my future husband at college. He asked me to explain the Trinity to him. After several failed attempts at getting him to understand it, I threw my hands up in frustration, and claimed that I couldn't explain it well because, "I am not a scholar!" To which he calmly replied, "Do you have to be a scholar to understand the basis of your religion?" Ouch!, that really hurt; but the truth hurts sometimes. By that point, I had tired of the mental acrobatics required to contemplate who I was actually worshipping. I grudgingly listened while he told me of the Oneness of God, and that He had not changed his mind, but completed his message to mankind through the Prophet Muhammad, Allah's peace and blessings be upon him. I had to admit, it made sense. God had sent prophets in succession to mankind for centuries, because they obviously kept going astray, and needed guidance. Even at that point, I told him that he could tell me about his religion, just for my general information. "But don't try to convert me", I told him, "because you'll never do it!" "No", he said, "I just want you to understand where I'm coming from and it is my duty as a Muslim to tell you." And of course, he didn't convert me; but rather, Allah guided me to His Truth. Alhamdu Lillah.
At about the same time, a friend of mine gave me a "translation" of the Qur'an in English that she found at a book store. She had no way of knowing that this book was actually written by an Iraqi Jew for the purpose of driving people away from Islam, not for helping them to understand it. It was very confusing. I circled and marked all the passages that I wanted to ask my Muslim friend about and when he returned from his trip abroad, I accosted him with my questions, book in hand. He could not tell from the translation that it was supposed to be the Qur'an, and patiently informed me of the true meaning of the verses and the conditions under which they were revealed. He found a good translation of the meaning of the Qur'an for me to read, which I did. I still remember sitting alone, reading it, looking for errors, and questioning. The more I read, the more I became convinced that this book could only have one source, God. I was reading about God's mercy and His willingness to forgive any sin, except the sin of associating partners with Him; and I began to weep. I cried from the depth of my soul. I cried for my past ignorance and in joy of finally finding the truth. I knew that I was forever changed. I was amazed at the scientific knowledge in the Qur'an, which is not taken from the Bible as some would have you believe. I was getting my degree in microbiology at that time, and was particularly impressed with the description of the embryological process, and so much more. Once I was sure that this book was truly from God, I decided that I had to accept Islam as my religion. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
I learned that the first and most important step of becoming Muslim is to believe in "La illaha il Allah, wa Muhammad arasool Allah", meaning that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. After I understood that Jesus was sent as a prophet, to show the Jews that they were going astray, and bring them back to the path of God, I had no trouble with the concept of worshipping God alone. But I did not know who Muhammad was, and didn't understand what it really meant to follow him. May Allah bless all those people who have helped me to understand and appreciate the life of the Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), throughout these last seven years. I learned that Allah sent him as an example to mankind. An example to be followed and imitated by all of us in our daily lives. He was in his behaviors, the Qur'an exemplified. May Allah guide us all to live as he taught us.