ACCEPTING ISLAM (PART 1 OF 2): A RELIGION FOR ALL PEOPLE, IN ALL PLACES
By Aisha Stacey
Many people throughout the world today are searching for the truth; they search for meaning in their lives, and wonder what life is all about. Men and women ask the question, why am I here? In the midst of suffering and pain, humankind calls out silently or loudly asking for relief, or understanding. In the midst of pleasure often, a person seeks to understand the source of such elation. Sometimes people contemplate accepting Islam as their true religion but find many obstacles seem to be in the way.
In life’s most joyous moments or darkest hours, a person’s most instinctive reaction is to reach out for a connection to some sort of Supreme Being, to God. Even those who would consider themselves atheists or non-believers have at some stage in their lives experienced that innate sense of being part of a grand plan.
The religion of Islam is based on one core belief, that there is One God. He alone is the Sustainer and Creator of the Universe. He is without partners, children, or associates. He is the Most Merciful, the Most Wise, and the Most Just. He is the all Hearer, all Seer, and the All Knowing. He is the First, He is the Last.
It is comforting to think that our trials, tribulations, and triumphs in this life are not random acts of a cruel unorganised universe. Belief in God, belief in One God, the Creator, and Sustainer of all that exists is a fundamental right. Knowing with certainty that our existence is part of a well-ordered world and that life is unfolding as it should is a concept that brings serenity and peace.
Islam is a religion that looks at life and says this world is but a transient place and our reason for being is to worship God. Sounds simple doesn’t it. God is One, acknowledge this and worship Him and peace and serenity are obtainable. This is within the grasp of any human being and can be had simply by believing sincerely that there is no god but God.
Sadly in this brave new century, we continue to push the boundaries and rediscover the world in all its glory but have forgotten the Creator, and forgotten that life really was meant to be easy. Finding our connection to God and establishing a relationship with Him is paramount if we are to live peacefully and throw off the shackles binding us to pain, psychological turmoil and sadness.
Islam, what Muslims believe to be God’s final religion, was revealed for all people, in all places and at all times. It was not revealed for men or for a particular race or ethnicity. It is a complete way of life based on the teachings found in the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad. Once again, sounds simple doesn’t it. Guidance revealed by the Creator to His creation. It is a foolproof plan to achieve everlasting happiness in both this life and the next.
The Quran and the authentic traditions explain the concept of God and give details of what is permissible and what is forbidden. They explain the basics of good manners and morals, and give rulings about worship. They tell stories about the Prophets and our righteous predecessors, and describe Paradise and Hell. This guidance was revealed for all of humankind, and God Himself says that He does not want to place humankind in difficulty.
“God does not want to place you in difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favour to you that you may be thankful.” (Quran 5:6)
When we reach out to God, He listens and responds and the truth that is Islam, pure monotheism, is revealed. This all sounds simple, and should be uncomplicated, but sadly, we, humankind, have a way of making things difficult. We are contrary and stubborn yet God continuously leaves the path clear for us. Just a little slide to the right or to the left will find us on the path to righteousness and eternal paradise.
Accepting Islam as the one true religion should be simple. There is no god but God. What could be clearer than that statement? Nothing is less complicated, but sometimes considering the prospect of redefining out belief system can be scary and fraught with obstacles. When a person is considering Islam as their religion of choice they are often overcome by reasons for not accepting what their hearts are telling them is the truth.
Currently, the truth of Islam has become blurred by what appears to be a set of rules and regulations that seem almost impossible to fulfil. Muslims do not drink alcohol, Muslims do not eat pork, Muslim women must wear scarves, Muslims must pray five times every day. Men and women find themselves saying things like, “I could not possibly stop drinking”, or “I would find it too difficult to pray every single day let alone five times”.
The reality however is that once a person has accepted that there is no god but God and developed a relationship with Him the rules and regulations drift into insignificance. It is a slow process of wanting to please God. For some accepting the guidelines for a happy life is a matter of days even hours, for others it can be weeks, months, or even years. Every person’s journey into Islam is different. Every person is unique and every person’s connection to God comes about via a unique set of circumstances. One journey is not more correct than another.
Many people believe that their sins are too big and too frequent for God to ever forgive them. They hesitate to accept what they know is the truth because they fear they will not be able to control themselves and give up committing sins or crimes. Islam however is the religion of forgiveness and God loves to forgive. Although the sins of humankind may reach the clouds in the sky, God will forgive and go on forgiving until the final hour is almost upon us.
If a person truly believes that there is no god but God, he or she should accept Islam without delay. Even if they believe they will continue to sin, or if there are some aspects of Islam they do not fully understand. Belief in one God is the most fundamental belief in Islam and once a person establishes a connection with God changes will occur in their lives; changes they would not have believed possible.
In the following article we will learn that there is only one unforgiveable sin and that God is the Most Merciful, oft Forgiving.
ACCEPTING ISLAM (PART 2 OF 2): THE RELIGION OF FORGIVENESS
We finished part 1 of Accepting Islam by suggesting that if a person truly believes there is no god but God, he or she should accept Islam immediately. We also put forward that Islam is the religion of forgiveness. No matter how many sins a person may have committed he or she never becomes unforgivable. God is the oft Forgiving, Most Merciful and Quran stresses these attributes more than 70 times.
“And to God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. He forgives whom He wills, and punishes whom He wills. And God is oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 3:129)
There is however, one sin that God will not forgive and that is the sin of ascribing partners or associates to God. A Muslim believes that God is One, without partners, offspring, or associates. He is the only One worthy of worship.
“Say (O Muhammad), He is Allah, (the) One. Allah-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks). He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.” (Quran 112)
“Verily, God forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He wills.” (Quran 4:48)
It may seem strange to say that God is the Most Merciful, and stress that Islam is the religion of forgiveness while also saying that there is one unforgivable sin. This is not a strange or unreliable concept when you understand that this grave sin is only unforgivable if a person dies without repenting to God. At any time, up until a sinful person draws his last breath he or she may turn sincerely to God and ask for forgiveness, knowing that God truly is the Most Merciful Oft Forgiving. Sincere repentance assures God’s forgiveness.
“Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief), their past will be forgiven.” (Quran 8:38)
Prophet Muhammad said, “God will accept His slave’s repentance so long as the death rattle has not yet reached his throat.” Prophet Muhammad also said, “Islam destroys that which came before it (sins)”.
As discussed in the previous article, often when a person is contemplating accepting Islam they are confused by or even ashamed of the many sins they may have committed over their lifetime. Some people wonder how they can ever be good, moral people when in the shadows lurk their sins and crimes.
Accepting Islam and pronouncing the words known as the Shahada or testimony of faith, (I testify “La ilah illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.”), wipes a person’s slate clean. He or she becomes like a newborn baby, completely free from sin. It is a new beginning, where one’s past sins can no longer hold a person captive. There is no need to be haunted by past sins. Every new Muslim becomes unburdened and free to live a life based on the fundamental belief that God is One.
When a person is no longer held back by the fear that their pasts sins or lifestyle prevents them from leading a good life, the path to accepting Islam often becomes easier. Knowing that God can forgive anyone, of anything, is certainly a comforting prospect. Never the less, understanding the importance of not worshipping anything or anybody other than God is paramount because it is the basis of Islam.
God did not create humankind except that they should worship Him alone(Quran 52:56) and knowing how to keep that worship pure and unadulterated is imperative. However, the details will often be learned after a person has recognised the sublime truth of the way of life that is Islam.
“And follow the best of that which is sent down to you from your Lord (i.e. this Quran, do what it orders you to do and keep away from what it forbids), before the torment comes on you suddenly while you perceive not!” Lest a person should say: “Alas, my grief that I was undutiful to God (i.e. I have not done what God has ordered me to do), and I was indeed among those who mocked.” (Quran 39:55-56)
Once a person has accepted the truth of Islam, thus accepting that there is no god but God alone, there is time for him to learn about his religion. There is time for him to understand the inspirational beauty and ease of Islam, and to learn about all the prophets and messengers of Islam including the last prophet, Muhammad. If God should decree that there is not time, and that a person’s life would end soon after accepting Islam it could be seen as a sign of the mercy of God. Surely a person as pure as a newborn baby would be destined for eternal paradise; by the mercy of God, and His infinite wisdom.
When a person is contemplating accepting Islam, many of the barriers that he or she perceives are nothing more than illusions and tricks from Satan. It is clear that once a person has been chosen by God, Satan will do his upmost to lead that person astray and bombard them with small whispers and doubts. The religion of Islam is a gift, and just like any other gift it must be accepted, and opened before the true worth of its contents can be revealed. Islam is a way of life that makes eternal bliss in the hereafter an achievable dream. There is no god but God, the One the Only, the First and the Last. Knowing Him is the key to success and accepting Islam is the first step on a journey to the hereafter.