Crossing the Line

THE CATALYST

During the next week, I went through the Quran. I started at the beginning, and read steadily through the second chapter. Somehow, I had expected the book to be an account of the Muslim prophet’s life, something like the Gospels or the books of Moses in the Bible. But that is not what I was reading.

Right from the start, it captivated me by apparently speaking directly to me. There was no, ‘God said “such and such”,’ or ‘The prophet said “such and such”,’ as if it were reported by others concerning what a prophet had said about God or what a prophet had reported of God’s very words. Indeed, I rather felt like I was receiving revelation direct from God Himself. He was talking to me direct, and His words impinged directly upon my heart.

Soon I found myself crying, as I recognized myself, and members of my family, in the descriptions of the people of the book and their (mistaken) beliefs and obdurate stances. Even some of the attitudes and beliefs of the disbelievers, hypocrites and polytheists echoed some of my attitudes and the attitudes of people I knew in the West. My heart ached with concern over the possible fate of my relatives, and quaked with fear over my, by now undoubted, destiny if I remained on the way I had been treading.

After reading the first big chapters, Al-BaqarahAli-‘ImranAn-NisaAl-Ma’idah and Al-An’am, I skipped through the book, looking for shorter chapters. But even the shorter chapters of around 60 verses echoed the big five. However, when I arrived at the final part, the 30th Ju’z, the chapters were suddenly no more than two or three pages, some only a page and a half. And the topics were now more restricted.

Then the chapters fitted one page, or less than a page, until there were more than one chapter on each page. At that point, one of those tiny chapters suddenly illuminated.

Say He is Allah, the One,

Allah the Self-Sufficient.

He begets not, nor was He begotten.

And there is none comparable unto Him.’

This was the heart of the Quran; what I understood as its True message. It sounded so right to me. It was just the way I felt about God in my own, made up, religion despite what the churches of my religion taught about the divinity of Jesus and the concept of Trinity.

The Last Straw

Could it be that Muslims really believe in a single Creator, Unique, the Foundation and Mover of the Universe? Is it really true that this God repudiates any possibility of procreation, either from Hisself or being procreated from another?  Does this religion truly confirm what I think is true anyway? And, if it does, doesn’t that mean I have a duty I have neglected all this time?

These thoughts and questions stumbled through my mind. I had to check against the only Muslims I had more than a passing acquaintance with; two colleagues at the University College.

I stopped them on the stairs leading up to the main gate of the main building. They had been aware I was reading the Quran, and they readily stopped, happy to be able to answer a question I might have. I apologised for taking their time and got right down to this amazing discovery I had made.

“I’ve been reading your Book,” I said, “and I’ve come across a verse which seems to sum it all up.”

“Which verse is that?” It was Isma’il Rostron, the white convert who asked.

“Here. Right at the end. It says,

‘Say He is Allah, the One,

Allah the Self-Sufficient.

He begets not, nor was He begotten.

And there is none comparable unto Him.’

It’s what the whole book is driving at!”

“Yes, that’s right,” said Isma’il.

“Funny you should say that,” said Jamal. He was British from Pakistani origins, and a born Muslim.

“There is a story about one of the Prophet’s companions, handed down to us through the traditions of the Prophet, may Allah praise him.”

“What story?” I encouraged.

“There was a man, a commander of Jihad, who used to lead his companions in prayer with a recitation. Upon finishing the portion of the Quran after reciting The Opening, he would complete it with the recitation of ‘Say, He is Allah the One’. So, when they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet, may Allah praise him, and he said, ‘Ask him why he does it!’ he told me. “So the people went and asked him, and the commander said, ‘Because it is the description of Allah, and I love to recite it.’ So, when the people came and reported that to him, the Prophet, may Allah praise him, said, ‘Inform him that Allah the Most High, loves him’.”

“Really?” I asked, feeling a little dazed by this confirmation.

“Yes,” said Jamal. “And there is another which tells you exactly how much of the message this chapter of the Quran is.”

I was on tenterhooks.

“A man heard another man reciting ‘Say, He is Allah the One’ over and over again through the early morning hours of the night. So, when morning came, the man went to the Prophet, may Allah praise him, and mentioned it to him, and it was as though he was belittling it. The Prophet, may Allah praise him, said, ‘By He in Whose Hand is my very soul, verily the chapter and its message is equivalent to a third of the Quran’.”

“So, you see, you are right. It is what most of the Quran is driving at,” he continued.

I was convinced. The Muslims really believed in this principle, no ifs or buts, and no shading into trinity or mediators allowed. This was The God I could really relate to.

“What about the other thirds?” I asked.

“One third consists of the stories of the Prophets and the lessons we learn by their example.”

“What do you mean?”

“What the prophets did and said, how they proclaimed the message to their people and how they interacted with their families and communities.”

“I see; and the last part?”

“That’s the ordainments of Allah concerning how we live individually and as a community,” he said. “Things like the legal statutes concerning marriage, divorce, parenting and child rearing; purification, prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage; the lawful and the prohibited in alimentation and social interaction; law and punishment.”

I decided I had to go away and think about the implications.

Three Conditions

I ended up thinking about the heartache I felt for my family, so I decided to wait until three things were clear before I would embrace Islam.

1. My wife accepted the religion as I had done.

2. She agreed to leave her job and come and live with me in Saudi Arabia.

3. A (personal) problem she and I had between us was overcome.

In other words, I vowed I would wait until all conditions were optimum and would not become officially Muslim until they were.

I began talking to my wife about what I had found out. Although I was trying not to sound overboard, my amazement at what I had found and my endorsement of it must have been overwhelming. I wrote e-mail after e-mail, and chatted lengthily on msn. I read constantly and widely anything about Islam I found on the net, especially arguments Muslims made through Biblical support for the religion. My enthusiasm for the discovery that Islam was just an extension of our religion purified, you might say, from its errors, must have impinged sharply on her to the extent that she became dismayed, and she was finally driven to comment, “it sounds like you have converted.”

This made me pause because I realised that I had already made the step in my heart, if not by my mouth, and my response reflected that.

“Actually, I have.”

From that moment on, my wife kept on criticising me for not consulting her before I made such a big decision. My constant defence was that I hadn’t officially converted yet, though I had in my heart. This argument derailed my efforts to convert her, and led to very tense and painful cohabitation during the next few holidays I took that Christmas and the following three summers. But that is another story.

Read On: Turning the Heart

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