Most stories begin when we are born. And surely there is significance in the circumstances, people and events of our birth and childhood, but there are specific major events in our lives that fundamentally change us. For me, the most significant event in my life was deciding to be a Muslim, and so my story begins with the events leading up to that decision.
First, having just started college in a town away from home, I felt a sense of independence and new beginnings. Being what I considered a devout Christian, I also had to find a new church in the area, so I decided to explore the options, even those outside of my denomination. I realized that I was free to choose the practice that suited me best. This gave me a sense of empowerment and responsibility for myself.
Second, I took a course in logic, thinking it would be an easy A. The subject matter fascinated me. For those who are unfamiliar with logic as an academic subject, it is concerned with the principles of correct reasoning or the principles governing the validity of arguments. We explored the concepts of premises, assumptions, propositions, contradictions, proofs, deduction, induction, and so forth. During this time I was exposed to a lot of examples of faulty logic and realized that it is quite common. The course made me more aware of how I and others think and helped me to recognize both truth and falsehood of common arguments. (I got an A, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought!)
Third, being a member of the International Student Association on campus, I had the opportunity to meet students from all over the world. I became close friends with several foreign students, and we would often compare our languages, cultures, and religions. This helped me realize that the way I was raised – with its traditions, customs and thought processes – was not necessarily the standard or the model. There were many other ways, and they were just as viable as my own, at least to someone.
Fourth, one of the students in the association started attending church with me and seemed particularly interested in Christianity. He asked dozens of questions and I found myself having to explain my beliefs and practices to someone who didn’t seem to have a clue about them. It’s not as easy as it seems. Because I was raised a Christian among other Christians, I never had to explain or defend my faith, since everyone just took it for granted. I found it difficult to explain the beliefs that I realized I had accepted without much question. I often heard myself saying things that appeared illogical according my new knowledge in the principles of logic. I was extremely frustrated one day after trying to explain something that my friend just couldn’t grasp, and becoming increasingly embarrassed by the logical complexity of my faith. So I asked my friend, “What do you believe?”
These four experiences were like roads that converged at a crossroads. At that crossroads, I first heard about Islam. Islam was simple: there is one God who created everything; He expects us to recognize Him and worship Him exclusively; He provided guidelines for our lives which, if followed, will lead to success. Islam was logical: there is only one god, so no one else is God; every action has a consequence, and every consequence belongs to he who did the action; we are accountable for our deeds – therefore we will be recompensed for them. Islam also supported my feelings of empowerment and responsibility: “No soul will bear the burden of another” (39:7) and “Every soul will be held in pledge for its deeds” (74:38). So I looked at Islam independent from other religions and cultures to assess its intrinsic worth and validity. I found its principles sound, its prescriptions wholesome, its prohibitions warranted, its flexibility suitable for varying situations, and its promises enticing.
I stood at the crossroads and considered the choices I had. I could deny it, reject it and try to forget it, knowing that it would demand a change in lifestyle from me. Or I could acknowledge, accept and affirm it, even though admitting its simple truth would necessitate rejecting some of my Christian beliefs, a few of which I had come to view as unjust or illogical. Would God expect me to believe something against justice and logic?
The choice was mine alone; as the Quran says, “Whoever wills – let him believe! And whoever wills – let him disbelieve!” (18:29). The statement that every soul will bear responsibility for its own deeds, meaning that no one will bear them for me, nagged at me. What if it’s true? I thought. If God is just, it is certainly true. And what do I have to lose? Islam doesn’t ask me for anything but sincere worship, honesty, kindness, fairness, and good work. Even if there was no final reward for living as a Muslim, I had absolutely nothing to lose by worshiping my Creator exclusively and being the best person I could be. If the Quran’s promises were true, I had everything to gain both in this life and the next. So what was stopping me from becoming a Muslim? Nothing, I decided. From the crossroads, I moved forward and the journey ever since has been utterly amazing.
To most people, I seem average enough – raising a family, holding a job, passing through the ordinary stages of life. But my life as a Muslim is indescribably rich. It is one of clarity, serenity, assuredness and closeness to the wellspring of goodness. God promised that “Whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer, We shall, most surely, cause him to live a good life. Moreover, We shall, most surely, recompense all of them with a reward in proportion to the best of what they did” (16:97). God’s promise for this life has held true, making me absolutely sure that I took the right decision when the roads of my life converged at the crossroads of Islam.
Where are the roads of your life leading you?