Humanity First!

Saving a life is like saving the humanity as a whole! Hence, any service even to the size of a mustard seed given to a needy may makes us better than the one who has accumulated so much wealth for nothing!

How could I not be Muslim? I ask you…..

– By Shaniqua

Let me start this adventure off by saying for many years I have been looking for some spiritual direction. I looked into many religions but none quite felt right, until now. Funny, cause I never would have given this one a second thought.

My introduction to Islam was through my boyfriend. I found out a couple of months into our relationship he was Muslim. “Muslim, what is that?”

At this point in my life my knowledge in regards to Islam was that of most Canadians, all full of misconceptions. Even more so after 9/11, just the mention of the word ‘Muslim” congers up images of terrorists and many more negative images and feelings. So with an open mind I began my journey. How could my idea of Muslim be so far off from what I was reading and the Muslims I was meeting? It was becoming more obvious to me I had been living in ignorance where Islam was concerned. I remembered at that moment there was one point in our relationship my boyfriend had called me ignorant, and I took great offense to it. Now I was seeing it in a whole different light, I was truly ignorant. So I began reading, talking, asking and searching out everything I could about Islam. The more I found out, the more I began to see the truth behind Islam and what it was to be Muslim. For to be Muslim encompasses so much, it is a faith based on beauty and mercy in every aspect of life including actions. I have always embraced actions speaking louder than words in my life….and here was this religion that embraced that philosophy being shown to me at a time I needed something concrete. WOW, how lucky am I?

So from this moment I decided to convert and on June 17, 2008 I took my Shahada. The rest of this blog will be about my experiences along the way….

So here goes my first entry into my blog…….

I am often asked why I have chosen to follow the religion of Islam. As a Canadian woman, my choice of dress – long, loose and including a headscarf – visibly identifies me as being different from most Canadians. Even complete strangers stop me on the street or in the store to ask me why I dress the way I do (when I am out in my abaya and hijab). I could answer that I am Muslim and Islam dictates modesty in dress as it dictates modesty in all spheres of life, but I know that does not answer the real question they are asking, which is: "Why are you Muslim?"

To answer all of these questions really takes some explaining. I did not become Muslim overnight. In fact, at first, learning about Islam came quite unexpectedly into my life. I had simply started dating a Muslim man not knowing of his religious beliefs. Once out in the open I then began questioning him and wanting to understand something of them.  Then I was given the ultimatum to choose to convert or walk away from him and our relationship. So totally thrown into learning about it. But from there it has taken me to a whole new level of wanting to know and learn.

I was surprised to discover many similarities between the teachings of Islam and other religions. I started to understand that I could not judge Islam merely from the actions of some "Muslims" I had seen and heard about. To learn something of the real teachings of Islam, I was going to have to throw away my prejudices and listen and read with an open-mind.  I have always believed that it is essential for us to have some understanding of other’s beliefs so that relationships between communities can improve and flourish. After all, we are all brothers and sisters together in the family of mankind. Unfortunately, today there is actually a great deal of misunderstanding between other religions and Muslim communities partly due to biased media coverage (on all sides). As well as individuals from these religions who are not living by the standards of good conduct taught in these faiths. I realized that to understand Islam I was going to have to look beyond the actions of some Muslim individuals to get to the truth. I went in search of some good books about Islam(pro and con) and on the Internet (the good ole Internet).

What ended up surprising me most, initially, was that the Muslims already had some knowledge of the teachings of Christianity because Muslims, too, love and believe in Jesus Christ, peace be upon him (p.b.u.h). I learned that the word "Islam" literally means peace through submission to God by belief in His oneness and by obedience to Him. Thus, Islam claimed to be the same religion preached by all the earlier prophets, in whom Muslims also believe. These prophets, among others, include Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, John the Baptist, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). The Qur’an says, "And We (Allah) did not send any Messenger before you but we inspired him (saying): There is no God but Allah. None has the right to be worshiped but I (Allah). So worship me" (21:25). In Islam, the ultimate purpose of this life is to recognize and worship Allah as our Creator, as One, All-Knowing and All-Powerful believing that success or failure in the life after death depends on it. Among the effects of this is that the Muslims should see everything on earth as Allah’s, including himself. This can motivate the Muslim to take responsibility for himself and the other trusts in his care, namely his children, his family, his community, and the whole earth.

Islam teaches that every child enters the world pure and free from sin and that his innate nature and his capacity to reason will guide him to the knowledge of right and wrong. As well as anyone who convert into Islam is born again with a clean slate, wiped clean of all previous sins. It also teaches of relations with non-Muslims, he Holy Qur’an instructs the Muslim "to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity" (60:8).

Islam teaches that although the Muslim will repeatedly make mistakes during his lifetime, he should never lose hope of Allah’s mercy. As Allah says: "O my servants (slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the mercy of Allah. Truly, He is the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful" (39:53). In Islam, repentance is a key to salvation. Islam teaches that as long as man recognizes his failings, hates them, seeks the forgiveness of Allah and tries to improve himself, that he can await this promise of Allah’s mercy. "And those who, when they have wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask for forgiveness for their sins and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know; For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord" (3:135-136). Islam unites mankind as one humanity. Islam teaches that all men will be held equally accountable before Allah, with no distinctions based on race or heritage, and that the best among men are only the most righteous. "Mankind were one community and Allah sent prophets with glad tidings and warnings and with them He sent down the scripture in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed" (2:213).

Islam dictates justice, equal rights, freedom of movement, the sacredness of one’s property, the right to self-defense, honesty in business dealings, avoidance of deception and usury, and encourages hard work and honest competition.  Islam preaches the highest moral conduct on its followers, including the purity of intentions, care and love of one’s parents, and modesty in dress. Islam encourages marriage as a means of sexual chastity and a means of comfort and happiness in life. A marriage is considered a contract between a man and a woman with each of the parties having rights and responsibilities. Upon marriage, a Muslim woman loses neither her family name nor control of her own property, they remain hers. In fact, I discovered that Islam is not oppressive to women, as I had previously thought. I learned that for centuries Muslim women have had rights that most Western women have only obtained in recent years.

The followers of Islam worship Allah in ways strikingly similar to the worship described in the Bible. The Muslim prays daily reciting these words from the Holy Qur’an: "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment; Thee (alone) do we worship and Thine aid we seek; show us the straight way, the way of those on whom thou has bestowed Thy Grace, those whose portion is not wrath and who go not astray" (1:1-7). The Muslim orally calls his brothers to come to prayer. Similarly, Moses was instructed by God to "make trumpets…and use them for summoning the congregation" (Numbers 10:2).

Before beginning the prayer, the Muslim performs ablutions (Wudu), washing his face, hands and feet just as "Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet" before formal worship (Exodus 40:31). Then the Muslim extols Allah’s greatness and bows down before Him, kneeling and prostrating just as "Moses and Aaron fell on their faces" (Numbers 20:6).

Muslims worship Allah by fasting and by giving charity, which can be tangible like money or food or intangible like the kind word or smile one gives to his brother. They also worship Allah through pilgrimage to the city of Mecca which is the site of the first house of worship built by the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael (peace be upon them). Islam preaches belief in angels, divine destiny, and the divine scriptures given to the earlier prophets including the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel of Jesus (p.b.u.h.). Islam defines goodness as constantly proceeding through life and worshiping Allah as if you actually see Him, knowing that although you do not see Him, He sees and knows everything about you.

So how can we judge Islam when it is so similar to Christianity and other religions, as a religion based on terrorism and oppression? How can people not understand why I would chose Islam? People should open their hearts and their minds and try to see from a different point of view, not judge or condemn a person for their beliefs.

In short, Islam can be summed up by the Muslim "shahadah" (or statement of faith by which one enters Islam): "I bear witness that there is no god (or anyone worthy of worship) except Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah."

There is such beauty and peace in Islam, how could I not be Muslim? I ask you…..

Abu Abdullah • June 1, 2009

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