(MENAFN - Arab News) Greg noakes when studied islam through his classes and assigned readings found 'thousand reasons small and large" to embrace the faith. the following is the excerpts from 'why we embraced islam books 9 & 10. edited by dr. arafat el-ashi (1419h/1998) toronto canada."
i grew up in forth worth texas in a protestant christian family. as a child our church was an important source of moral values providing a scale to measure right from wrong and good from evil but it was not a vital part of either my social or intellectual activity. church simply was not engaging for me and what was taught and discussed on sunday mornings often appeared to have little relevance to the rest of the week that is to everyday life.
when it was time to go to college i selected the university of virginia. i have always had a love of history and looking over the course listings i found an introductory class on the history of the middle east. i thought this course would be beneficial for me since i had very limited knowledge of the region i decided to pair it with a foreign language course in arabic. i had studied french throughout and arabic was about as big a change as i had been craving for.
as the years wore on i started getting interested more in my middle eastern courses than in architecture. a year later i switched over to the history department where i concentrated on the arab world in my coursework and research.
as new editor of the washington report on middle east affairs since my graduation from texas nearly five years ago i continue to follow events and trends in the middle east. a few courses in college and the professors who taught them literally changed the trajectory of my life.
i was exposed to the teachings of islam through my classes and assigned readings. the coursework assumed great importance. the more i read about islam the more it appealed to me since i didn't know the faintest thing about islam. i dug deeper reading books by both muslim and non-muslim writers. what really caught my attention were writings by a handful of authors especially european muslim charles le gai eaton's masterful 'islam and the destiny of man' fazlur rahman's overview of the faith titled simply 'islam' and non-muslim marshall hodgson's three-volume history 'the venture of islam.'
what i found was a religion whose moral teachings closely resembled the values i had been taught by my parents: belief in god respect for others truthfulness courtesy charity and honor. what was new was the clarity and vibrance of islam and the fact that all of these values were integrated into a complete and seamless system. islamic teachings were sublime subtle and easy to understand.
i told myself to wait one year to make sure of my decision and to learn more about islamic beliefs and practice where my level of knowledge was lacking. giving shahadah would be the single most important action of my life and i wanted to be sure of my ability to live up to that commitment. after some three years of study research and contemplation i embraced islam in the summer of 1989.
the question which always crops up in conversations with muslims or non-muslims is 'why did you convert?" to reduce the beauty of islam to a series of talking points is clearly absurd; there are a thounsand reasons small and large why i became a muslim. and yet three things stand out for me.
first the islamic belief in the day of judgement struck a chord deep inside my soul. every man and woman will be held responsible for his or her actions and only his or her actions by a just but merciful judge: allah. i believe that justice tempered by mercy is the most important value in this world; how could it be any different in the hereafter? we have been provided with the means to discern right from wrong and the ability to enjoin one while forbidding the other. our actions and intentions have meaning (in the truest sense of the word) according to islam.
secondly while i find a great deal of similarity between christian and islamic morals islam resolved a number of theological questions and issues of belief which i found christianity could not satisfactorily address. among these are the unity of allah as opposed to the 'mystery' of the christian trinity (which has yet to be explained to my satisfaction by christian doctrine) the ability of each muslim to stand before allah without the intercession of a priest or clergyman and the whole issue of the language of the scripture.
the qur'an has been preserved in its original form and the original arabic since the time of the prophet muhammed (peace be upon him) while isa (jesus) spoke aramaic the gospel was first written in greek then translated into latin and subsequently into english french spanish german etc.
anyone who speaks two languages and has ever translated from one into the other knows that something is lost in the process; subtle meanings of phrases and the connotations of words are inevitably sacrificed. how then can one refer to a passage in an english-language bible and assert categorically that these were truly the words and teachings of isa (jesus) musa (moses) or ibrahim (abraham) (peace be upon them all)? muslims have direct access to the word of allah almighty and are able to follow the message of their creator in its primordial form.
since i became a muslim my depth of knowledge and understanding of the faith has increased as has my recognition that i have still only skimmed the surface of the vast body of islamic teaching thought and scholarship. i also have grown to appreciate the diversity of muslim community around the world and the variety of views and opinions that muslims hold. this has been in a sense the opposite of my original task as a non-muslim which was trying to reduce islam to its essentials and in order to understand it. now i am reversing the process trying to see how islam unfolds in all its variety a faith which is applicable in all times and for all people is by necessity broad and diverse. from my perspective as a 'muslim by choice" as those who embrace islam are sometimes called i find that these are exciting times for islam and that it is an exciting time to be a muslim.