MY AVOWAL OF ISLAM
My next step was to go back to the Islamic Propagation Office and ask them how to formally embrace Islam. When I stepped in the office for the second time, there was a look of surprised bafflement. I don’t suppose they had many white Europeans invading their office, so they were trying to make out why I had come.
An Indian man, Shaykh Farooq, spoke first.
“What do you want?”
His English was good, I could tell. However, I was just as surprised they didn’t understand why I had come to their office as they were that I had. When I told him the reason, he told me that I had to receive full disclosure of what the religion of Islam was and the conditions of avowal.
It sounded a bit ominous. I had expected to be welcomed, and sworn in straight away, but they insisted I needed some coaching.
There were two other people interested in being Muslims in the office before me, both from the Philippines. David was a born again Christian who had become convinced of Islam during his Arabic language classes which the centre ran. Coincidentally, he was the electrician who serviced the apart-hotel that I was staying at. John, however, had been persuaded to become a Muslim because his wife was Muslim. He had been dragged to the office by David, who was his friend.
Arrangements were made for all three of us to make the double declaration together in the presence of two Muslim witnesses. After that, we would be officially Muslim. They arranged for a religious propagator to explain that very weekend coming up, after the noon prayer on Thursday.
Since David and I lived in the same apart-hotel, John came by us, and we went to the centre together. They showed us into the main rest area, which now had low floor cushions set around the walls with armrests to lean on for the occasion.Shaykh Ehab, or abu Abdurrahman, as I now knew him, a man who I had given me the Quran in the first place, and Shaykh Farooq, who I had met when I came to the office to ask how to become a Muslim, were both there, waiting for us. ThenShaykh Ibrahim, the manager of Ha’il Propagation Centre, brought in two men I did not know. Apparently, they were volunteers. Shaykh Sa’ud worked for the Saudi Electric Company, and Shaykh AbdulAziz for the Saudi Telecom Company. It was Shaykh Sa’ud who did the disclosure.
He explained carefully that Islam was a monotheist religion, and taking the step of formally embracing Islam was a big step. Once I had done so, there was no turning back, and if I did turn back, I would be subject to the death penalty for apostasy.
I said I knew the seriousness of the step.
Then he told me the six points concerning the creed. “First, you must know and believe in your heart and in your prayer that Allah is your God, and there is no God but Him.”
“This is the basic reason I am here,” I thought.
He held up his hand. “This means that you should not look to any object or image as a focus for your worship of Allah, for they are idols. Also your worship should be direct to Him, not through any human being or spirit: prophet, priest, angel or elemental. Do you understand what I mean?”
We each agreed that we did.
Then he went on. “You must believe also in His angels, who are the messengers and errand doers of Allah. They carry His word to the Prophets and do whatever He commands them on the earth and in the heaven.”
I nodded along with David and john. It was the angels that destroyed Sodom and Gomorra on God’s command, and the angels who communicated with Mary about Jesus.
“And you must believe in Allah’s message, which you can find in the Quran, and in that which was sent to different Prophets in the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel, before it. We believe all of these Books were revealed to the Prophets by Allah.”
‘Very fair,’ I thought.
“Do you believe that these are all revealed by Allah through His angels to His Prophets?”
We affirmed it.
“Muslims have to believe in all the Prophets, naturally, and they are the ones who have given us the Message of Allah from the time of Adam. Muhammad is the last of the Prophets because the Quran is the final message to mankind, and it tells us he is the end of the Prophets. And you must believe that Jesus, Peace be upon him, is not Allah or the son of Allah. He is a man, like us, created by the Word ‘Be’ in the womb of Mary by Allah, and a Messenger of Allah, just like Muhammad, may Allah praise him. What do you say.”
“Jesus was a Prophet, like Muhammad,” said David. I nodded. ‘Of course,’ I was thinking.
“You must also believe that we will be resurrected and judged on the Final Day, and that in the Hereafter there is one of two destinies awaiting us: the Garden or the Fire. This is the basis of our free will. We choose where we go by our deeds in this mundane world.”
This is an integral part of Christian belief, too, so there was no trouble to assimilate it. We agreed we understood.
“Finally, you must believe in predestination, which means ‘fate’. That is, all that befalls you in the mundane world is by Allah’s Will. If you like it, then say ‘Praise be to Allah’. And if you dislike it, it is a test or punishment from Him. Again you should say ‘Praise be to Allah’, and repent and correct what you are doing wrong. Above all, you should have patience, and hope for what is better, just round the corner.”
This last was a bit beyond my understanding, and is quite difficult to grasp. Even the companions asked the Prophet, “Why should we bother to work, if we cannot avoid our fate? Should we stop doing works and trust in Allah?”
His response was that we should not give up working. He said that the man or woman destined for hell, even if his works were good up to a certain point in his life, would start doing the deeds that would land him in the fire as he approached his death. And the man or woman destined for Paradise, even if he had no good deeds to his name until a certain point in his life, would start doing the deeds that would land him in Paradise as he approached his death. What that meant to the individual is that he should do the good deeds now, for no one knows when he will die. We do not know what we are destined for, so we exercise our own will in what we do. And if we want to be among the ones favoured, we should endeavour to be doing good deeds in the present, in case death comes upon us unforeseen.
Even though I was not clear on the last point, I was on the first five points of the creed, and both David and John also did not demur. Each one of us I told him “I am ready.”
He took each of our avowals separately. When it came to my turn, he said, “repeat after me.”
“Ash-shaddu an laa ilaha illa Allah, wa ash-shaddu ana Muhammadan nabiyyan wa rasulu Llah.”
The emotion in my breast was turbulent. I was leaving behind a whole other life and ushering in a new one. The first part, as I said “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah” in a foreign language I did not understand, was easy, as it was something that I had felt even before my decision to become Muslim: actually, even before I had read the Quran. But the second part, “I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” was more difficult, because of my brainwashed mind that told me Jesus was the guiding light. Choking a little on the foreign words, I managed to utter them too. “I am a Muslim!” I thought, triumphantly. But he carried on relentlessly; he made me repeat in Arabic, “and I bear witness that Jesus, son of Mary, is just a slave of Allah, and His Messenger: His Word, and a Spirit from Him.” I was surprised at the translation; now I felt much better. The Prophet I had been brought up to respect was included in the avowal.
Read On: Faith Reborn