Monday 26 October 2020 \

 

Long Search for True Religion

man's search for meaning/ todayisthebestdayofmylife.com

 

Source: By Ibrahim Long/"Haj and Umra"magazine/February/2010 

I have not always been a Muslim. There have been times in my life that I have been the very oppo­site of what that means; yet, in some way, I feel like my whole life has led me to it

I had been raised to hold a Christian faith in a home of mixed denomina­tions. Before my mother, a devout Roman-Catholic, would accept my fa­ther's proposal for marriage, she made him promise before a priest that they would raise their children Catholic. Though my father comes from a very devoted Mormon family, he accepted. The result for us - their children -was still a mix between the two. My uncle once joked that this is why I became a Muslim. My uncle did notknow the long search I ventured upon before I was finally guided to Islam. My mother had always been very vo­cal about her faith.

My father was more reserved in speaking about his faith, though deeply committed to fol­lowing its moral obligations. I did not realize how much of an ef­fect their practice had upon me until I graduated from high school.

It was during those last few years at Folsom High School that God chose to put my family through its greatest trial. My mother, who had previously battled severe tumors while I was in school, had been diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer. The doc­tors could not promise her much help or time. With firmness, she attended her chemotherapy sessions.

She was determined to see her chil­dren grow up. I was 17 years old and did not know how to help. When a hospital bed was finally brought in, I knew then that I would not have that much time to spend with her.

One evening when I felt that I would have an opportunity to speak with her alone, I went downstairs and stood by her bedside.

She had lost an incredible amount of weight and had an oxygen tank to help her breathe, but when she saw me she smiled so big, it was as if none of that mattered.

I told her then that I loved her, and her smile grew even wider. SensingI had elected that time to say so, she leaned forward as much as she could and said that I had nothing to worry about, that everything was going to be OK.

I felt in her a warm trust in what­ever God had planned for her, and her words left an impression upon my heart.

Only a few weeks later, my sister knocked on my bedroom door to let me know that our mother had passed away.

While giving the eulogy, the priest asked each one of us to think of one characteristic my mother had which we treasured, and to place that char­acter trait into ourselves."That," he said, "would be her leg­acy"

I knew right then that I treasured most her inner strength, which al­lowed her to be so optimistic and lov­ing even through her greatest trial. I knew as well that this strength came from her firm faith in God.

I became determined to find that same strength, but it would only come with a search for a faith I could find certainty in. I can't remember a time in my life that I did not believe in God, though there were times that I wrongfully criticized Him.

I soon picked up a new copy of the Bible and started reading it. With an open heart I tried to find in the Bible a clear direction in life. I believed in the prophets of God, but believing Jesus (peace be upon him) as God was still the most difficult concept for me to accept.

I then began my search for faith in other religions. Into the works of Hin­duism and Buddhism I dove. They of­fered beautiful sayings and stories describing the struggles of moral people, but I could not find within their works anything to provide me with any certainty.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend who invited me to live with him in Santa Barbara, California. Both he and I treasured the idea of being away from old friends who only seemed to criticize our efforts to find God and our true selves.

Living away from friends and family also gave me a great opportunity for personal growth and to meet people with similar interests, but I did not come across anything new which offered me something I could truly believe in.

I moved back home to Sacramento and, with my 23rd birthday a few months away, I began to feel lost and utterly depressed. The most important promise I have ever made did not seem likely to be fulfilled. Disappointed, I then stopped reading any spiritual works, and took to learn­ing about current events.

I was very interested in knowing more about conflicts in the Middle East, es­pecially the Holy Land. I went to my lo­cal bookstore and bought a book about the conflict in Israel and Palestine that kept referring to a religion that taught people violence and hatred. The author made clear that this religion was the problem in the Middle East and, not knowing any more about this religion than what he told me, I took the author at his word.

In conversations, I would reference the work, and speak out against this re­ligion of intolerance, this "Islam." I did this until a sincere friend asked me if I realized I was being prejudiced. He was right, I actually only knew about Islam through the text I had read.

I decided I would ask my store man­ager, Danyelle, who was a convert to Islam. She very gladly gave me a copy of the Qur'an, and her husband, Jabari, suggested that I visit them at their house for further discussion.

For a month-and-a-half, I visited them every Friday night and spoke with them about religion. They were very generous, serving me dinner ev­ery time I came, and answered my questions without pushing me to be­lieve.

I had read part of the Qur'an before, but now, having someone to answer my questions, my heart opened, and I really tried to understand its mean­ing. The Qur'an stood out from any oth­er scripture that I had ever read, it was far from being intolerant, rather it was uniquely balanced. Its simultaneous emphasis upon both societal laws and mercy made sense, and its passages revealed a deep knowledge of human charac­ter. Concepts I found true in other scripture were also present in the Qur'an, and if they differed, I found the Qur'an to actually make more sense.

After six weeks of discussions and reading, I was convinced that the Qur'an was divinely inspired. On Friday, February 25,I made the announcement that I was going to convert and that Sunday I said with full conviction that, "I bear witness that there is none worthy of wor­ship except God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." In Arabic this is called the Shahadah.

Ibrahim Long embraced Islam in 2005 and later obtained his BA in Humanities and Religious Studies in 2007. He has since taught courses on Islam to the Muslim and interfaith community

 

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