I comprehended that it was found imperative due to innovations attributed to Divine revelation that the need arose for another Prophet after Eesa (alaihissalam) with another revelation after the Gospel. This is why Allah sent Muhammad (sallallaho alaihi wasallam) with the last Message, (i.e., the Qur'an), to bring all of mankind back to the belief in and worship of One Allah, without partners or intermediaries. According to Muslims, the Holy Qur'an, the permanent ultimate source of guidance for mankind, offers a rational and historical elucidation of the magnificent role of Eesa (alaihissalam). The name Eesa (alaihissalam) is cited twenty-five times in the Qur'an, which contains a chapter called Maryam (Mary), named after the mother of Eesa (alaihissalam).
Regarding the Divine authenticity of this revelation, I found the following Qur'anic verses very compelling: "And it was not [possible] for this Qur'an to be produced by other than Allah, but [it is] a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of the [former] Scripture, about which there is no doubt, from the Lord of the Worlds." (10:37) And "And indeed, it is the truth of certainty." (69:51) Similarly, I was concerned about the adulteration of the Qur'an since this was a major problem with the previous revelations. I read that the Qur'an will never change or be abrogated: "Indeed, it is We who sent down the message [i.e., the Qur'an], and indeed, We will be its guardian." (15:9)
I was also informed about some of the scientific phenomena mentioned in the Qur'an, which give credence to the belief that the Qur'an is the literal word of Allah. There are verses describing human embryonic development, mountains, the origin of the universe, the cerebrum, seas, deep seas, and internal waves and clouds. It is beyond explanation that anyone, more than fourteen hundred years ago, could have known the facts, which were found or confirmed recently by advanced mechanisms and sophisticated scientific procedures.
Islam: The Essence and Culmination of Revealed Religions
Muslims believe that the essential purpose for which mankind was created is the worship of Allah. As He said in the Qur'an, "And I did not create the jinn [i.e., a type of creation, created by Allah from fire] and mankind except to worship Me" (51:56) Related to this, a well known Islamic scholar from the West says, "The most complete system of worship available to humans today is the system found in the religion of Islam, The very name 'Islam' means 'submission to the Will of Allah'. Although it commonly referred to as 'the third of the three monotheistic faiths, it is not a new religion at all. It is the religion brought by all the Prophets of Allah for humankind. Islam was the religion of Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.''
In addition he states, "Since there is only One Allah, and humankind is one species, the religion that Allah has ordained for humans is [essentially] one... Human spiritual and social needs are uniform and human nature has not changed since the first man and woman were created”.
Uncovering the fact that the message of Allah has always been the same, I realised it is the duty of all human beings to seek the truth and not just blindly accept the religion that their society or parents follow, According to the Qur'an, "You worship besides Him not except [mere] names you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority..." (12:40) Regarding fitrah [i.e., the inherent nature of man to worship Allah prior to the corruption of his nature by external influences], Prophet Muhammad (sallallaho aliahi wasallam) said, "Every child is born on Al-Fitrah, and his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism. As an animal delivers a perfect baby animal, do you find it mutilated?" Furthermore, Allah says, 'So direct your face [i.e., self] toward the religion, inclining toward truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know. " (30:30) Moreover, I learned there is no other religion acceptable to Allah besides Islam, as He clearly states in the Qur'an: "And whoever desires other than Islam as a religion, never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers. " (3:85). I deduced that man might neglect the guidance of Allah and establish his own standards of living. Ultimately, however, he will discover it is only a mirage that alluded him.
As I continued to read the Qur'an and learn about the sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaho aliahi wasallam) [the Sunnah], I noticed Islam views man as a traveller in this life and the 'Home' is in the next life for eternity. We are here for a short period and we cannot take anything with us from this life except our belief in Allah and our deeds. Thus, man should be like a traveller who passes through the land and does not become attached to it. As travellers on this journey, we must understand that the meaning of being alive is to be tested. Hence, there is suffering, joy, pain and elation. These tests of good and evil are intended to evoke our higher spiritual qualities. Yet, we are incapable of benefiting from these tests unless we do our best, have complete trust in Allah and patiently accept what He has destined for us.
The Road to Paradise
It was very meaningful to learn about Paradise since this must certainly be the ultimate goal of every individual. Regarding this eternal home, Allah says, "And no soul knows what has been hidden for it of comfort for eyes [i.e., satisfaction] as a reward for what it used to do. " (32:17) 1 also became aware of a pleasure that is beyond all imagination, which is to be in the Presence of the Creator Himself. I wondered who are the souls worthy of such a reward? This reward of Paradise is too great to have a price. I was told the price is true faith, which is proven by obedience to Allah and following the Sunnah (way) of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaho aliahi wasallam).
I grasped that mankind must worship Allah to attain righteousness and the spiritual status necessary to enter Paradise. This means human beings have to comprehend that worship is as indispensable as eating and breathing and not a favour they are doing for Allah. Likewise, I found out that we need to read the Qur’an to find out what kind of people Allah wants us to be and then try to become as such. This is the road to Paradise.
Overcoming an Obstacle
At this point, I felt about 80% sure I wanted to become a Muslim, but something was holding me back. I was concerned about the reaction of my family and friends if they knew that I had become a Muslim. Shortly thereafter, I expressed this concern to a Muslim who told me that on Judgement Day, no one will be able to help you, not your father, mother nor any of your friends. Therefore, if you believe Islam is the true religion, you should embrace it and live your life to please the One who created you. Thus, it became very lucid to me that we are all in the same boat; every soul shall taste death and then we'll be liable for our particular belief in Allah and for our deeds.
A Meaningful Videotape
By this stage in my search for the truth, I was on the verge of embracing Islam. I watched an Islamic lecture on videotape about the purpose of life. The main theme of this lecture was that the purpose of life may be summed up in one word, i.e., Islam (peaceful submission to the Will of Allah).
An additional point was that, unlike other religions or beliefs, the term 'Islam' is not associated with any particular person or place. Allah has named the religion in the following Qur'anic verse: "Indeed, the Religion in the sight of Allah is Islam..." (3:19) Anyone who embraces Islam is called a Muslim regardless of that person's race, sex or nationality. This is one of the reasons why Islam is a universal religion.
Prior to my search for the truth, I had never seriously considered Islam as an option because of the constant negative portrayal of Muslims in the media. Similarly, it was disclosed in this videotape that although Islam is characterised by high moral standards, not all Muslims uphold these standards. I learned the same can be said about adherents of other religions. I finally understood that we cannot judge a religion by the actions of its followers alone, as I had done, because all humans are fallible. On that account, we should not judge Islam by the actions of its proponents, but by its revelation (the Holy Qur'an) and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaho aliahi wasallam).
The last point I picked up from this lecture concerned the importance of gratitude. Allah mentions in the Qur'an that we should be grateful for the fact that He created us: "And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and hearts [i.e., intellect that perhaps you would be grateful. " (16:78) Allah Almighty has also cited gratitude along with belief, and has made it clear that He gains nothing from punishing His people when they give thanks to Him and believe in Him. He says in the Qur'an, "What would Allah do with [i.e., gain from] your punishment if you are grateful and believe? ..." (4:147)
The Truth Unveils Itself
As soon as the videotape had finished, I experienced the truth being unveiled to my spirit. I felt a huge burden of sins flying off my back. Moreover, it felt like my soul was rising above the earth, refusing the makeshift delights of this world in favour of the eternal joys of the Hereafter. This experience, coupled with the long process of reasoning, solved the 'purpose of life puzzle'. It revealed Islam as the truth, thereby replenishing my 'spiritual landscape' with belief, purpose, direction and action. I therefore entered the gate of Islam by saying the declaration of faith required to become a Muslim: Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah. (I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger). I was informed that this formal testimony confirms one's belief in all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah, along with all of His Divine revelations in their original form, thereby updating and completing one's religion to the last of the Prophets [Muhammad (sallallaho aliahi wasallam)] and to the final revelation of Allah [the Qur'an]. The following point became overwhelmingly clear to me: Had Eesa (alaihissalam) been the last Prophet of Allah and had the Gospel been the final book of revelation, I would have attested to that. As a result, I have naturally chosen to follow the final revelation from the Creator as exemplified by the Seal of the Prophets (sallallaho alaihi wasallam).
Impressions of a New Muslim
During my search to find the truth, the lesson, which, transcended all lessons, was that all objects of worship other than Allah are mere delusions. To anyone who sees this clearly, the only possible course is to bring one's own will and actions into complete unison with that of Allah. Acquiescing to the Will of Allah has enabled me to feel peace with the Creator, with others and finally, with myself. Consequently, I feel very grateful, that by the Mercy of Allah, I have been rescued from the depths of ignorance and have stepped into the light of truth. Islam, the true religion of all times, places and peoples, is a complete code of life which guides man to fulfil the purpose of his existence on earth, and prepares him for the Day when he will return to his Creator. Following this path in a devout manner enables one to gain the pleasure of Allah and be closer to Him amid the endless delights of Paradise while escaping from the punishment of Hellfire. Another bonus is that our present life will be much happier when we make such a choice.
A Deceptive Enjoyment
Embracing Islam has given me more of an insight into the illusive nature of this life. For instance, one basic object of Islam is the liberation of man. This is why a Muslim calls himself 'Abdullah', the slave or servant of Allah because enslavement to Allah signifies liberation from all other forms of servitude, and although modern man may think that he is liberated, he is in fact a slave to his desires. He is generally deceived by this worldly life. He is 'addicted' to hoarding wealth, sex, violence, intoxicants, etc. But above all, he is often seduced by the capitalist system that tends to work through the invention of false needs, which he feels must be satisfied instantly, As Allah says in the Qur'an, "Have you seen the one who takes as his Allah his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him? Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except as cattle. Rather, they are [even] more astray in [their] way. )” (25: 43-44)
Correspondingly, we should not let our zeal to enjoy the pleasures of this fleeting life and jeopardise our opportunity to enjoy the ecstasy of Paradise. As Allah says in the Qur'an, "Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire - of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return [i.e. Paradise]. Say, "Shall I inform you of something better than that? For those who fear Allah will be in gardens in the presence of their Lord beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and purified spouses and approval from Allah..." (3:14-15) Therefore, the real competition in this life is not the accumulation of wealth or the desire for fame; it is facing with one another to perform good deeds to please Allah, while having our lawful portion of enjoyment in this life.
The Right Path to Allah
There are many religious alternatives available to man and it is up to him to choose the one he wishes to follow. He is like a merchant with many goods in front of him, and it is his choice which one to trade in. He will obviously select the one he thinks will be the most lucrative. However, the merchant is unsure and has no guarantee of prosperity; his product may have a market and he may make handsome returns, but he could just as easily lose all of his money. In contrast, the believer in the Oneness of Allah who submits to His Will (a Muslim), is completely sure that if he follows the path of guidance [the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaho alaihi wasallam)], there will undoubtedly be success and reward waiting for him at the end of this path. Fortunately, this success also starts at the beginning of the path. Narrated by Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri (radhiallaho unho) - Allah's Messenger (sallallaho aliahi wasallam) said, "If a person embraces Islam sincerely, then Allah shall forgive all his past sins, and after that starts the settlement of accounts: the reward of his good deeds will be ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed, and an evil deed will be recorded as it is unless Allah forgives it.
Based on my search for the truth, I concluded that the precise way we believe in Allah and the deeds we perform determine our future condition for eternity. Our Creator is giving us all an equal chance, regardless of our circumstances, to earn His pleasure in preparation for Judgement Day, as in the following Qur'anic verses: "And obey Allah and His Messenger that you may obtain mercy. And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden [i.e., Paradise] as wide as the Heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. " (3:132-133)
If we sincerely seek the truth of this life, which is Islam (peaceful submission to the Will of Allah), Allah will guide us there, Insha Allah. He directs us to examine the life and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaho aliahi wasallam), as he represents the best role model for mankind to follow. Furthermore, Allah directs us to investigate and ponder what He says in the Qur'an. One will see that the Qur'an is indeed like a persistent and strong knocking on a door, or loud shouts seeking to awaken those who are fast asleep because they are just completely absorbed by this life on earth. The knocks and shouts appear one after the other: Wake up! Look around you! Think! Reflect! Allah is there! There is planning, trial, accountability, reckoning, reward, severe punishment and lasting bliss!
Clearly and unequivocally, the best way to live and die in this world is as a righteous Muslim! When one comes to the conclusion that Islam is the truth, he should not delay in becoming a Muslim because he may die first, and then it will be too late.
A few months after embracing Islam, I found two verses in the Qur'an that mirror what the American Muslim told me regarding how we should live and die: "And Ibrahim (alaihissalam) instructed his sons and [so did] Yaqoob (alaihissalam), [saying], “O my sons! Indeed Allah has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims." (2:132) And “O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him]." (3:102)