If you type “converts to Islam stories” into Google you will come up with 484,000 results. The internet is filled with people telling the story of how and why they embraced Islam. Some tell stories that lighten your heart, others bring you to tears as you read them describe the pain and suffering that pushed them towards Allah. They all however have one thing in common. Every person who reaches out and embraces Islam has been on a journey; a journey of discovery.
In the following series of articles we will look through the ages and pivotal points of Islamic history to see why people embark on personal journeys that lead them to Islam. We will try to find the answer as to why people choose to embrace a religion that in many cases puts them at odds with their family friends and communities.
These days Islam is maligned and Muslims slandered in newspapers and television reports almost every day yet people still hit that search button on their computer and ask how do I convert to Islam?
While every journey is different the scenery along the way to the final destination is often similar. Many people who decide to embrace Islam have known for a long time that God is an essential part of their lives. They often try to experience different religions in the hope that they will feel connected. It is not unusual to hear recent converts explain that they were Christian and had explored Buddhism or other eastern religions before finding peace in the words of Quran. This is not something new.
Salman al Farisi
One of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, a man named Salman al Farsi (the Persian) spent much of his lifetime contemplating his place in the world. He was born into a Zoroastrian and lived an indulgent life rising in the ranks of his faith. One day he came upon a Christian church and was attracted to the lifestyle of the monks he heard praying there. Although his father tried to prevent him, Salman travelled with the monks to Syria, at that time a very Christian country.
Salman still found that there was something missing in his life and eventually his experiences lead him to a monk who advised him to travel to Arabia in search of a Prophet. When Salman finally found himself face to face with Prophet Muhammad, he used words such as shivering and weeping to describe his experience. He completed his journey of discovery by embracing Islam at the hands of Prophet Muhammad himself.
The shivering and crying that Salman describes is also something that converts through the ages have experienced. There is a type of guidance that comes directly from Allah. A person might hear the Quran being recited or the call to prayer floating across the city and know immediately that Islam is what has been missing in their lives. This sometimes happens suddenly and with very little warning. It can be emotional and over whelming.
At other times the guidance comes in the form of education and explanation. A person searches, sets out on a journey to discover the truth, and reaches a conclusion that is Islam. Salman al Farsi, like many others who came after him experienced both.
This amazing journey of discovery often begins or ends with a crisis. It could be a crisis of faith or a personal crisis that causes a person to look deep into his soul and ask the same sort of questions that people have been asking since the beginning of time. When pain and sorrow threatens to engulf us, people begin to consider the meaning of their lives. That is when Islam often enters their life. Islam holds the answer to all those “big” questions. Where did I come from? Why am I here? What does it all mean?
Khalid ibn Al-Waleed
A person from early Islamic history who found himself pondering the question of conversion to Islam was the military general and strategist Khalid ibn AI-Waleed. Khalid’s hate for Islam was passionate and knew know bounds, some historians consider him to be almost wholly responsible for the defeat of the Muslim army at Uhud. Although he was one of the leading men of Mecca and basked in his success defeating the Muslims in battle Khalid‘s mind was in turmoil.
Questions concerning the meaning of life, and his life in particular, crept into his train of thought. For those of us who have wondered whether converting to Islam was our best course of action his dilemma must seem clear. But Allah has a way of forcing us to confront reality and Khalid ibn AI-Waleed together with two of his companions, left their army and city and traveled to Prophet Muhammad in the city of Madinah. He embraced Islam.
Throughout Islamic history many people have followed journeys of discovery similar to Khalid’s.
Arnoud Van Doorn was a leading figure in Geert Wilders’ Dutch anti-Islamic Party for Freedom. He was responsible, among other things, for producing the film Fitna, which argued that Islam and Muslims were violent terrorists bent on world domination. He contemptuously criticized Islam but doubt crept in as it must have crept into the thoughts of Khalid ibn Al Waleed.
After reading from the Quran and visiting a mosque, Arnoud described himself as feeling confused. He said, “I had a warm feeling, and I was really a bit confused,” That confusion lead Arnoud taking a journey of discovery into the real doctrines of Islam and resulted in his conversion in 2013.
Many people who have fought bitterly against Islam with swords, guns, fists or words have found themselves following a winding path to the truth of Islam. At some stage they begin to question the relevancy or morality of their actions and begin to ask questions. Those who already have a religious background begin to ask God for help or guidance resulting in an easy path to Islam. Arnoud Van Doorn is only one of many people who have raged against Islam only to find that a little bit of research reveals a highly moral and tolerant way of life.
For more than 1400 years, people have been questioning the stories they hear about Islam and the actions they take against Islam and Muslims. From the men and women around the Prophet to those who left the world tilt on that fateful day in September 2001. Quran asks us to think and ponder and that is exactly what people are doing as they take those first steps into unknown journeys of discovery.
Read Part 2.