by Aaron "Haroon" Sellars
Why did I accept Islam? This is a question that I have been asked many times by others, and a question that I have asked myself many times. Firstly, it was the Will of God because it is He that changes hearts and guides someone to a way that is straight! Secondly, because I was looking for the truth, the real truth and nothing but the truth! Thirdly, because there were doctrinal elements in my previous religion of Christianity that at first hearing seemed acceptable but when reflected, analyzed, and prayed upon, proved to be not only unacceptable but also contradictory, inconsistent, and even blasphemous! But why ISLAM? Why, when I was looking for the real and whole truthdid God guide me to Islam and not to one of many religions available to man or just another branch of Christianity? The answer to this important question was to unfold as I took my first steps towards my spiritual quest.
The basic seed of God-consciousness was implanted in me from birth, byt my soul was moulded to the teachings of the Christian church. My religious upbringing was never something that was forced, nor was it just occasional or just habitual. It seemed to be a natural and essential part of the fibre of my family. One of my fondest childhood memories till this day is of my mother reading me Bible stories every Sunday. But when I reached my teens and especially when I entered college, that spiritual nuturing became tainted more and more.
The college scene is where most people of religious background either completely abandon that upbringing or like in my case, just put it on pause. It's really hard not to when you are surrounded by co-ed dorms, open promiscuity, easy access to alcohol, 24 hour parties, and curfew-free nights. There weren't any churches around campus that I was interested in so my Sundays began to feel like any other day of the week. While in college experienced many things and learned many lessons of life but one parti-cular experience had brought me right to the edge of cliff of death! The situation was so unexpected so shocking, so overwhelming, that I honestly felt that the only solution was suicide. It took someone whom I had known for just a little while, breaking down and crying when he realized what I was about to do, for me to just pause and think. I thought that something was truly wrong if this guy had a higher value for my life than I did. As I stood there, I never felt so empty in my life. There was thie big void where my soul was supposed to be and I felt like Moses (pbuh) and his followers being chased by the enemy from all sides only to be confronted by the impassable Read Sea! I realized that it was time to make the call they had made. The call of faith-the call of God!
I decided to return to the church of my youth, a Baptist church in Washington D.C. I heard that there was a new pastor preching there that was thorough and I decided to try him out. Praise God, the preacher was young, dynamic, and effective. He really made the Bible come to life in his sermons and made living for God seem real and worthwhile. Coming from the position of a person who was ready to kill himself, these messages were beginning to fill my emptiness and make me want to live and give life another chance. I remember the nervous excitement of accepting the call to new mem bership at church and the newness and freshness of being dipped into the water at my baptismal ceremony. I felt reborn! Clean1 Witht he lips I accepted Jesus (pbuh) as my "lord and saviour" but deep down in my hearth, I was just reaccepting the reality of God in my life! As I went deeper in my walk of faith the problem that had almost caused me to slay myself vanished like an illusion! Life it was only there to make me turn to my Creator! This gave me a new drive, motivation, and a sense of purpose. I became very active to the extent of encouraging a few of my friends to join the church. I would watch and listen to the pastor in awe, day dreaming of becoming one myself. I honestly felt that the best thing to do for a living would be to help people turn to God. Something that had proven to be so successful in my life. But at the same time I was always very open-minded, especially when it came to spiritual truth, I think this is what made me a vessel to receive the full truth, in Islam.
After a while I began a private hobby of studying world religions. The first book I read, "The Religion of Man", was actually one that I had borrowed from a friend. The first chapter I read was the chapter on Islam and it was a tremendous surprise! It began with a little Arabian history and a biography of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)followed by an eplanation of the basic tenants and doctrines of Islam. I could not believe the similarity and relationship that it had with Christianity. It wasn't some foreign religion made up by some foreign man who worshipped some foreign God. It was the true Abrahamaic (pbuh) religion, revealed through a man whose very lineage traced back to Abraham's (pbuh) first son Ishmael (pbuh) who worshipped the same one true God. This further fed my curiousity and interest in Islam. I had decided to keep myself open so I also read the history and doctrines of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Native American spirtuality, and other smaller religious sects, cults, and movements. Buddhism seemed to renounce the world too much yet was not clear on the after0life. In Hindudism the worship seemed too loose and unfocused with it's great deity residing in many reforms, Judaism seemed basically true but had had too much of a racial bias, and Native American to vary by the tribe. Islam was the only one whose theology and practices seemed truly universal. The information that I had gathered so far was not enough to make me want to change my religion but that was soon to change when I came into contact with the Qur'an!
I was working at a music store where a young woman used to come to the store with whom I used to have general conversations and on one occasion happened to bring up the topic of Islam. I then found that she was a Muslim and she told me that I could get more information on Islam at a little session that her fatehr helped teach with some other Muslim. I was both nervous and excited at my first visit but it was my first time being around real Muslim! I was initially impressed by the racial variety, the simple environment, and the warm humbleness of the attendants. They answered a few basic questions of mine but I was there mostly to listen. When it was prayer time, I quietly watched from a distance with a smile. Seeing all the men, women, and children bow in unison and put their faces flat against the ground in prayer seemed a little strange and funny, yet so humble, so unified, and so natural. It seemed like this was the ultimate way that we as God's creations were supposed to pray. I recalled in my mind accounts in Bible of other prophets like Abraham, Moses, and Gesus (pbuh), throwing themselves to the ground in humility and prayer to God yet this is not the way we prayed in church as "Christians", but the Muslims did! Jesus (pbuh) told us to greet each other by saying "Peace be with you", yet we Christians didn't do this. It was the Muslims who greeted each other saying "As-Salaamu Alaikum" which means "Peace be with you". In Christianity only "orthodox" nuns covered their heads and bodies, but this was a standard practice of modesty, chastity and humbleness for millions of practicing Muslim women who were interactive members of the society. It wasn't something reserved for the "orthodox". I left that little session engulfed in a maze of thoughts.
When I saw my Muslim friend at the music store again I thanked her and told her how wonderful it was and that I was sure to return. She then asked me if I had a Quran yet. I said "No". I thought that the Quran was only in a foreign language and that I couldn't read it but she said that she would give me an English translations from the original Arabic. I gladly accepted the offer and was even more excited when I recieved it! "WOW! My first real Quran". I couldn't wait to start reading it. The first thing I did was to look up Jesus(pbuh) in the index and look up every verse it listed under his name. This was the prophet that I was raised on and was dear to me so I had to know what God had revealed in this book kabout him. If it degraded, ridiculed, or rejected him in any way I was going to close the book and leave Islam alone. I agreed when I read that God was not three in one but one in an exclusive and unique sense. I agreed even when I read that Jesus (pbuh) was born of a virgin but was not God's "Son". When I was studying idioms in ancient Hebrew and other Semitic languages "Son" meant nearness and was used in the old testament in reference to other people and prophets, the term "Son of God" meant one who was near and closely attached to God, as the term "Son of man" meant one near and close to man. Incidentally, the use of the term "Son of man" outnumbers the use of the term "Son of God" in reference to Jesus (pbuh). Even thought, in the Quran Jesus (pbuh) was always referred to as the "Son of Mary". God revealed that the birth of Jesus (pbuh) was like that of Adam (pbuh)-He merely said "BE" and "He was", and Adam had neither a physical father or mother and no one worshipped him as the "Only Begotten Son of God"! I agreed when I read taht Jesus(pbuh) was not God in human form but a human prophet that was created by God, sent by God and who himself needed, depended on, feared, and prayed to God. I agreed when I read that the Jews had no victory in killing him and that God raised him to Himself. But when I read that they also did not crucify him I was in shock! The impact of the 157th verse in the 4th chapter of the Quran was to dramatically change my life from that point on!
I'm not one to just accept something right away or to just reject something right away. I investigate. In the day I would reflect on that one verse, and at night I would pray over it. I would beg God in tears to show me in a dream what actually happened in detail to Jesus (pbuh) if he was not crucifed. What was real? What was false? I wanted to know badly. I was looking hard. Examining, searching, debating. The soul was the most important thing in the world to me and mine was on a quest. I always wanted to know my Creator and serve my Creator but I wanted to make sure that I knew Him the right way and I wasn't going to let up until I found what I felt was the right path.
When I finally stopped waiting for that big dream and asked myself "Well, what does this word crucifixion mean for the Christian?". For the Christian this word meant salvation! Salvation meaning the deliverance from the penalty of sin which was spiritual death in Hell. It also meant success in this life and the next. To me this is the vital thing that religion must give man or else it is useless. To say that if Jesus (pbuh) was not crucified, there's no way that God Almighty could forgive His beloved mankind did not sound right. Jesus(pbuh) was very dear to my heart and to think that the Loving, Forgiving Do sent him on earth only to be murdered for an innumerable mass of suns that he himself never committed did not seem fair or even sensible. If God could create the whole universe by saying "Be" and "IT WAS" then why couldn't He do the Smae for the iny littler sinner who is admitting his guilt and asking Him for forgivness? Why couldn't He say to the person "Be forgiven" and he or she is forgiven? Why was the murder and blood of an innocent man a necessity for this forgivness? I said to myself, "If this book can map out a plan of salvation that has nothing to do with murder or blood then I will submit to God and His plan".
This made me deeply review my Bible and try to find what was essential necessity for salvation. The Jews and the Muslims never put anything in betweem them and their prayer to God so why did the Christians? There was nothing in between Adam and God, or Abraham and God, or Moses and God, or David and God, or Jesus and God! God had taught throught the Bible that a person was individually responsible for his sins and that no one else could pay for or be penalized for them. Jesus(pbuh) was preaching repentance and telling people that their sins were forgiven before this supposed crucifixion! So why all of a sudden was the blood of one martyr necessary for humanity to be forgiven? This issue of sacrifice, blood, and forgivness seemed to be summed up in just a few verses in the Holy Quran.
Concerning sacrifice chapter 22:37, had the answer, "It is not their meant nor their blood that reaches God, it is your piety that reached Him. He has made them(animals) subject to you, that you may glorify God for His guidance to you". Concerning sin and forgiveness God revealed in chapter 12:87, "No one despairs of God's mercy except those who have no faith". Also, in chapter 39:53 "do not despair of God's mercy for God forgives all sins. He is indeed OFTEN Forgiving and Most Merciful". I found exacting parallels in the Bible in Pslms 30:5, 32:5, 62:1-2, 1st Samuel 15:22-23, Luke 15:7-10, Ezechiel 18:20-35, Isaiah 12:2-3, and Luke 7:47-50, 10:25, 18:24, and many others if you just look them up and reflect. When I read in the Quran in chapter 10:57, "O mankind! There has come to you a direction from you Lord and a healing for the diseases in your herats-and for those who believe, A Guidance and a Mercy!" I said to myself "This is it. This IS THE WORD OF GOD!!"
My Muslim Friend from the music store had shown me a mosque that to my surprise was 10 minutes away from my home! On my second visit to the mosque, I declared my faith in 1994 and stated that "There is no God worthy to be worshipped except the ONE, Most High God or Allah. That Muhammad (pbuh) is His Last Messenger to mankind. That the Quran is the last revealed and written will and testament of Allah to and for mankind to follow until the Day of Judgment". I had finally come home and found peace! As I gradually built my faith and practice in ISLAM, I found that Islam was not the religion of killers and terrorists! It is the true religion of humankind, nature and all creatures seen and unseen. Islam is by name the religion of those who seek peace and success through obedience and submission to the will of Allah! I had found the path to success, the path to true salvation! Allah in the revelation of the Quran has refocused all forms of worship, prayer, fear and thanx to Him and Him alone! You are High, Lord of all creations, and has reminded mankind and all creations of their true place-dependent and subservient to Allah and Allah alone!