What makes so many people choose Islam? And what makes them stick to it despite every obstacle – opposing relatives, social stigma, loss of wealth, even risk of life? What makes them live it every day and never get fed up of it?
Although I was born in a Muslim family, I didn’t take my faith seriously until later. I knew how to pray, but actually doing it five times daily seemed a bit too much.
Now when I look back, I can see what was missing – the light of knowledge hadn’t entered my world yet. When it did, it was like daybreak after a long, dark night. I could see things in ways I’d never done before. It was then that I really embraced Islam completely, rationally and emotionally.
Here are some of the things that I have found the most appealing about Islam.
1- Islam is as Old as Humanity
Islam isn’t a new religion brought by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It has always been the true religion from Allah, and it explains everything from the creation of humanity to its ultimate destination.
Every prophet was sent to teach Islam, even Moses and Jesus, though their followers later separated into different sects and corrupted the religion.
The Quran describes how the earlier prophets used to preach to their people, and the essence of their message is one and the same.
The Quran says about Ibrahim (peace be upon him):
Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah]. And he was not of the polytheists. (3:67)
2- Islam isn’t Selective
You don’t need to belong to any particular race or possess any special qualities to embrace Islam. And once you become Muslim, the only criterion that will determine your worth compared to any other Muslim is your level of taqwa (being mindful of Allah in everything you do).
This means that a new convert, a born Muslim, and an Islamic scholar are all worth the same to Allah if their level of taqwa is the same. So are a village farmer, a millionaire and a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself.
3- Islam Welcomes You No Matter How Much You’ve Messed up
Many of the most celebrated companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to be his open enemies, torturing and killing his followers. Then they accepted Islam, and the Muslim community embraced them as if their crimes had never happened.
No matter how great a mess we’ve made of our lives, Allah’s love and forgiveness are always greater. Once we repent and decide to change, all the mess is wiped away from our records, leaving it as clean as it was the day we were born.
4- Islam Resonates with Nature
Allah has designed this beautiful world with perfection. Everything obeys Him and runs precisely according to His plans. It’s only humans and jinns who have the ability or audacity to disobey Him. And when they do, they create chaos in this perfect world.
But we can choose not to create chaos, to be in harmony with the rest of the world.
We feel serene and happy when we are out in nature watching the trees, the clouds, the birds and the mountains. That’s because there is something inside us, our fitrah or innate nature, which, having the same Creator, resonates with the rest of the world.
Islam is the religion prescribed by that very Creator, and so it too resonates with our innate nature. (See Muslim and Quran, 30:30) We instinctively recognize it when we see it, like an old friend we’d forgotten about.
5- Islam Makes Sense
Unlike other religions, Islam encourages you to think and ask deep questions. The Quran boldly challenges people to think about difficult concepts that other religions smother behind the façade of the obligation to believe.
Islam never says, “Just believe.” Instead, it tells you why you should, why it makes sense to believe. It doesn’t dismiss your questions; it respects them and gives answers. And since it is the true religion from God who is the most knowing and the wisest, it is perfectly logical and appeals to the human intellect.
6- Islam Gives Meaning to Your Trials
Why do bad things happen in life? Why do I have to suffer pain? Why did I have to lose my job or fail my exam? How can my own kids abuse me when they are grown up? Why did my loved ones have to die?
These sorts of questions can become persistent and uncontrollable voices in our minds, affecting our psychological health. Some people try to drown these voices by constantly distracting their minds with work, entertainment or chemical depressants. Others decide that the only way to get rid of them is to take their own lives.
Islam shields you from these psychological vultures by giving meaning to your trials. You get rewarded for every pain, even a thorn-prick or a mosquito bite.
Your definitions of success and failure completely change. Failing in something can be equivalent to success if it draws you closer to Allah. You know that your plans failed because Allah has planned something else for you, and that His plans are better.
You believe that Allah is the wisest and cares about you more than your parents, and so bad things must happen for your benefit even if you can’t understand it at the moment.
You know that Allah is the Most Just and won’t let people get away with abusing you. When you live your life for His sake, you no longer do things for people and don’t mind when they return your smile with a slap.
Death is no longer the end of existence, but only an intersection of stages in the journey of life.
7- Islam is for Your Benefit
Why does Allah want you to pray?
When I was a kid, I was told that I must pray five times a day, and if I don’t then Allah will punish me.
But that’s not how the Quran approaches the topic. This is what it says:
- Prayer restrains you from outrageous and unacceptable behavior. (Quran, 29:45)
- Remembering God gives peace to the heart. (13:28)
- If you remember God, He will remember you. (2:152)
- Prayer is the first characteristic which separates the successful from the losers. (23:1-2, 58:19)
- When the people of hellfire will be asked why they ended up there, their first reply will be, “We were not of those who prayed.” (74:42-43)
In short, if you read the Quran, you get a balanced picture of what prayer means, how it benefits you and what you stand to lose by leaving it.
And that’s only one law of Islam. Every single obligation or prohibition in Islam is for your benefit.
When you give charity, it purifies your soul and your wealth. When you stay away from Allah’s prohibitions like alcohol and smoking, it protects your bodies and minds from chemical damage. When you get married and guard your chastity, you protect your psychological health and social harmony.
The purpose of Islamic law is to make your life easy in this world and the hereafter. The more you learn about Islam, the better you come to realize this. And the harder you hold on to it.