2008-05-23 17:19:54 UTC
By Sherif Mohammed
Among the most widely believed myths about Islam in the West today is the myth of forcible
conversion to Islam. Many Westerners do believe that Islam is so widespread in the world today
simply because of a "holy campaign of terror" carried out by the early Muslims to convert
non-Muslims to Islam. Non-Muslims were offered the freedom to choose either Islam or death.
In a discussion with a Baptist Minister he said to me that "Muslims tend to kill
non-Muslims and anyone who disagrees with them". In a syndicated column appearing in over 30
papers (on July 23rd, 1994) entitled, "Muslim persecution of Christians increasing" the author
blames many Muslims countries for persecuting Christians then he quotes the Qur'an, "There is
no compulsion in Religion" and ends the quote by rudely writing "Really?".
How to confront such misconceptions? First, there is no need for us to be apologetic. We
Muslims should search for the truth and present it as it is. This is how we have been
instructed by Allah (SWT) "Say: the truth from your Lord and let him who will believe and let
him who will reject."(18:29) Islam is the religion of the Truth. The Qur'an is the book of the
Truth. "We sent down the Qur'an in Truth and in Truth has it descended." (17:105) "Put your
trust in Allah for you are on the path of the manifest Truth."(27:79)
Therefore, we should ask ourselves first, before we are asked by anyone else, what is the
truth? Did Muslims really force others to convert to Islam? Is there any evidence for
consistent forcible conversion throughout the Islamic history? As a matter of fact, there is no
such evidence anywhere in the history of Islam. Many distinguised Western historians have
attested this fact-- foremost among whom is Sir Thomas W. Arnold in his book, "The Preaching of
Islam". Also there is Marshall G. Hodgson in his book, "The Venture of Islam", Albert Hourani
in his book, "A History of the Arab People", Ira Lapidus in his book, "History of Islamic
Societies", L.S. Starorianos in his book, "A Global Hisotry, the Human Heritage" and many
others. In fact, there is substantial evidence to the contrary. We have already seen in a
previous *khutbah* that Muslims were often seen as liberators of the oppressed people everywhere.
The question that remains to be answered is why then so many people have chosen Islam
throughout the more than 1400 years of its history. Islam has penetrated the Middle East, North
Africa, Spain, West Africa, East Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Central
Asia, Afghanistan, India, Western China, and the Malay archipelago. Islam in all these regions
replaced so many other well-established religions: Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism,
Hinduism, Paganism and animism. What are the reasons behind the triumph of Islam over all these
religions in so many different places at so many different times?
First and foremost, Islam is an amazing blend of simplicity and rationality: a very simple
religion yet very rational at the same time. Professor Hodgson has explained the reasons for
the popularity of Islam as follows: "Muslims made a personal appeal to people's religious
consciousness. On the level of straight argument, they often put forward the populistic
intelligibility of Islam. Muslims commonly ridiculed, in the name of intellectual good sense,
the more mythically convoluted teachings of older traditions. This could seem attractively
straightforward to people dissatisfied with taking things on faith from a learned priest whose
mysteries they could not comprehend. A single Creator, to be worshipped by each person for
himself, on the basis of revelation that had been given to a famous prophet whom millions
already acknolwedged. This was at once intelligible and plausible."
The unambiguous and uncompromising belief in the Unity, the Greatness, the Wisdom of God,
the Creator of the universe, is unparalleled among other religions. The French professor
Edouard Montet said, "The dogma of the unity of God...has always been proclaimed in the Qur'an
with a grandeur, a majesty, an invariable purity and with a note of pure conviction which is
hard to find surpassed outside the pale of Islam. A creed so precise, so stripped of all
theological complexities and so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to
possess and does indeed possess a marvellous power of winning its way into the consciences of men."
Besides its simple and rational creed, Islam offers an impressive set of rituals which
has gained the admiration and, subsequently, the conversion of many non-Muslims. The second
pillar of Islam, **salah**, the prayer, has been described as follows by Sir Arnold, "The
religion of the Muslim is continuously present with him and, in the daily prayer, manifests
itself in a solemn and impressive ritual which cannot leave either the worshipper or the
spectator unaffected." Then Sir Arnold narrated the story of an Egyptian Jew who converted to
Islam at the end of the 13th century mainly because of the sight of the **Juma'a** prayer.
Actually, it is not only in the 13th century that people converted to Islam because of the
prayers; it just happened a few years ago in Ottawa that a non-Muslim Canadian woman converted
to Islam because of **Juma'a** prayers. She used to go to the Ottawa Mosque on Friday and pray
among the sisters for several months. She loved the prayer and eventually she embraced Islam.
In addition to the prayers, the other pillars of Islam, **Zakah**, **Hajj**,**Siyam**,
have always been factors in attracting many hearts to Islam. Up until the present day, one
still meets converts who were impressed by the social justice of Islam brilliantly expressed in
the payment of **Zakah**. The genius of **Hajj** and **Siyam** has always been a determining
factor in the conversion of many people. It is this union of rationalism and ritualism that
explains the power that Islam has exercised over the hearts and minds of so many people. Islam
simply gives the truth, neat and clear in a visible and tangible form. The neatness and clarity
of Islam was presented to human beings in the form of a miraculous book, the Qur'an. The
marvellous power and beauty of the words of the Qur'an have always been a decisive factor in
conversion to Islam. The famous Jewish American convert to Islam, Maryam Jameelah, cited the
Qur'an as the major factor of her conversion. After a deep study of both the Old Testament and
the Qur'an, the contrast between the two scriptures became increasingly evident to her until
she firmly believed that the Qur'an was indeed God's message to the human race.
A conference of Christian missionaries in 1887 was discussing why Islam has almost swept
away Crhistianity from the Middle East. What did Islam offer these people to forsake
Christianity for good? One of the missionaries was insightful enough to say the following:
"Islam brought out the fundamental dogmas of the Unity and Greatness of God, that He is mindful
and Righteous. It proclaimed the responsibility of man, a future life, a Day of Judgement and
stern retribution to fall upon the wicked, and enforced the duties of prayer, alms-giving and
fasting. It replaced monkishness by manliness, it gave hope to the slave, brotherhood to
mankind and recognition to the fundamental facts of human nature."
The formidable rationalism, ritualism and clarity of Islam did not only lead the
Christians of the Middle East to forsake Christianity and embrace Islam in the past. It
continues to do so with Christinas in the West to the presnt day. An Australian-born Christain
who converted to Islam four months ago and who was studying here with us at Queen's wrote in
her story of conversion to Islam, "Christianity continued to be difficult for me. So much
didn't make sense, the trinity, the idea that Jesus was God incarnate, the worship of Mary, the
Saints, or jesus, rather than God. The priests told me to leave reason behind". The she went on
to say, "Could Muhammad really be a messenger? Could the Qur'an be God's word? I kept reading
the Qur'an, it told me that Eve wasn't alone to blame for the fall, that Jesus was a messenger,
that people would question the authenticity of Muhammad's claim to revelation but that if they
tried to write something as wise, consistent and rational they would fail. This seemed true.
Islam asked me to use my intelligence to contemplate God, it encouraged me to seek knowledge."
Then at the end of her sincere search for the truth she prayed to God saying, "Dear God, I
believe in You, I believe in the compelling and majestic words of the Qur'an and I believe in
the prophethood of your messenger Muhammad (SAW)."
Another Muslim sister, from California, who was a practising Christian and an active
member in her nearby Presbyterian church, wrote in her conversion story that despite her active
affiliation with the church, she always had serious questions about the fundamentlas of
Chrsitianity which did not make sense to her. She debated her questions with her friends but
never came up with good answers. The church couldn't give them good answers either, they only
told them to "have faith". All her questions were answered when she took a course about Islam.
Listen to her own words. "This class brought back all of the concerns that I had about
Christianity. As I learned about Islam, all my questions were answered. All of us are not
punished for Adam's original sin. Adam asked God for forgiveness and our merciful, loving God
forgave him. God doesn't require a blood sacrifice in payment for sin. We must sincerely ask
for forgiveness and amend our ways. Jesus wasn't God, he was a prophet like all of the other
prophets. This answered all of my questions about the trinity and the nature of Jesus. I found
a teaching that put everything in its proper perspective and appealed to my heart and my
intellect. It seemed natural. It wasn't confusing. I had been searching and I had found a place
to rest my faith."
My dear brothers and sisters, Islam is so strong and so self-assured that it does not
need to use force to attract others to it. The moral and intellectual superiority of Islam over
all other religions has manifested itself so clearly throughout the history of Islam. Despite
all of the ills of Muslims everywhere, Islam continues to be the fastest growing religion on
earth. Professor Huston Smith of the MIT in his book, "The Religions of Man" says, "In some
areas where Islam and Christianity are competing for converts, Islam is gaining at a rate of 10
Ambassador Herman Ellis, in a testimony in front of the committee on Foreign Affirs of the
House of Represntatives of the United States Congress on June 24th, 1985, said, "The Muslim
community of the globe today is in the neighbourhood of one billion. That is an impressive
figure. But what to me is equally impressive is that Islam today is the fastest growing
monotheistic religion. This is something we have to take into account. Something is right about
Islam. It is attracting a good many people."
Yes, something is right about Islam and that's why it has attracted so many people
throughout its 1400 years of history.
** Posted from http://www.teranews.com **