the Message Continues ... i7
ISLAM BLOSSOMS IN THE WEST
By Yusuf Islam
The article has been edited for posting on this site.
".... I remember one of the oceanic events which personally happened to me.
It was a major turning point although I didn't realize it at the time. I was
somewhere in Malibu, which is in the Los Angeles area, the famous strip of beach where millionaires live. I was at the house of my record chief, Jerry Moss, and decided to take a dip in the ocean that particular day. Unknown to me, of course, this was a very dangerous time to go for a swim. I didn't realize when I looked out that there was nobody else around in the sea that day, nevertheless, that was 'my style'. I went in for a dip.
After swimming for a while, I'd had enough and tried to return back to the beach. That was when I realized this was the wrong time to go swimming! I felt the current moving me out and away from the shore. My body was absolutely powerless. I saw my manager standing there thinking everything was all right, but I could not communicate to him. Finally, in a split second, I realized I had no other help and I shouted out, "O God, if you save me, I'll work for you!" and at that moment, a wave came from behind me and pushed me forward. Suddenly, with all the energy that I needed, I was swimming back to land and within a few minutes, I was there: safe and alive. That was a moment of truth.
Like most agnostics in the West, I knew that God existed but I had lost
touch with Him through years of selfish endeavors and materialism. In a
way, I renewed my relationship with Him at that moment in the ocean.
The real break came when I was given a copy of the Qur'an. It took me about a year to read. The first thing I consciously did was to try and maintain an open mind: I had so many in-built negative images about Islam. My father was Greek-Cypriot, and therefore, anything connected to Muslims and the 'Arabs and Turks' was considered taboo; they were our immortal enemies. That's probably why I never even bothered to even look at Islam as a religion before. So, I said to myself, "Look! It's only a book, it's not going to hurt me".
Perhaps it was a sense of challenge. Even today, with all the bad news about Muslims and terrorism, it's that desire to a probe about an entity, which is still so powerfully dangerous that makes Islam such an intriguing subject.
The more I read the Qur'an, the more it struck me, deep down. This was not that foreign religion which I had expected. First and foremost it was talking about belief in One God for all people, talking about humanity as one family. The verses talked about Prophets as brothers preaching the same message of unity to mankind, trying to put man back on the track of righteousness. I saw the names of Jesus, of Moses, of Abraham, of Jacob, of Noah and of course, importantly, the name of this last messenger, the last Prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon them): All mentioned with the same honour and respect as Prophets of the one and only God. It said:
'We do not make any distinction between any one of the prophets and to Him (God) we submit (in Islam)'.
I'd never heard anything like that before. Now what did the word Islam mean?
Oh, it comes from the word salaam, which means 'peace'. Hey! Didn't I once write a song called Peace Train? It was fast becoming clear that I was now being confronted with something much greater than I had originally anticipated: possibly - the Truth! I started to feel challenged. So I began to look for mistakes, 'Come on there's something wrong with this.' I thought to myself, 'It's too good, too perfect!' But the more I looked, the more my eyesight came back to myself: I found that it was right, and it was I who was wrong.
Today, it is the arrogance of man that has brought us to this position of
self destruction; his heart has become a lost and forgotten item of human spiritual life, it's simply that thing which can be transplanted and plugged into a pacemaker, a physical thing; not something beyond that.
The Last Prophet of God Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: There is a piece of flesh in the body when it is whole the whole, and if it is diseased, the whole body is diseased, indeed it is the Heart.
Again, it is not the surface meaning of the fleshly internal blood-pumping machine that is meant here, it is the center of human consciousness, the barometer of man's true nature and condition. Therefore the Prophet of Islam was indicating the essence of Islam's teachings: the reformation and development of the human heart and soul towards the highest realms of everlasting pleasure and success. The Qur'an mentions this when it talks about the mysteries of the soul in the chapter entitled, The Sun. And the Soul and He Who balanced it; inspiring it with rebelliousness and God consciousness. Verily! He is successful who purifies it, and he is a failure who buries it.
All facets of Islam help refine the gross nature of man and turn it into the gold of goodness and piety. And the first place it affects is the heart. This is what Western Culture has largely lost touch with; and this is what is now being restored through westerners embracing Islam.
The diseases of the heart are what the scientists of faith have always
understood. What are these diseases?
The first is disbelief, in Arabic this also carries the meaning of ingratitude: Kufr. Essentially Kufr develops from turning away from the
remembrance of God and refusing to believe in the Day of Accountability. It is the refusal to believe in things unseen, which if denied, make life seem nothing more than a mix of earth, wind, fire and water.
Today, as with yesterday, many people see life only in terms of physical or material entities. But the inner heart of the Believer perceives things which are unseen and which affect his view of this universe and creates the balance needed to pass the tribulations and vicissitudes - the highs and lows - of life.
The first most important pillar of faith is the acceptance of a primal
reality, the existence of God - Allah. For the believer, God is the source
of everything - the Originator of life. Nothing we see could be there
without God bringing it into existence.
So we must first accept the existence of Allah though we cannot see Him. Because without Him, there would be nothing to see. The universe itself could not in any way function or sustain itself without the support and sustenance of its Creator. Everything would cease to be if Allah so wished.
One only has to look at the fragility of life on earth, where a minute
cancer bug, unseen to the naked eye, can slowly consume and destroy the mightiest person; when we look at the infinite number of coincidences needed to produce the simplest of organisms like the wing of a fly, let alone considering the astounding miracle of the human eye itself, which is able to observe the wonders of the universe and the mind, which is able to perceive and contemplate, we realize how miraculous creation is and how grateful we should be for the gift of even one breath of life.
As we witness the earth shattering chaos a plane flown into a skyscraper can cause and then read that the earth has just survived a brush with two gigantic meteorites which flew dangerously close to the planet only recently ago, we begin to realize how lucky we are to survive and how much we need to bow to that Power that sustains us.
The most natural thing for human beings is to love and worship something. As a child grows, his love and attachment is based on his need first mother, then father, then sisters and brothers. But as he or she develops independence and strength, he may look for a higher cause if he is not aware of it already. If he is guided, he will realize that there is a Master to this whole universe Who, alone, deserves to be worshipped alone and Who has no partners. That is the religion of Islam.
To be a Muslim and enter into the house of faith, one has to declare "La ilaha illa'llah" "There is no god except Allah", and that means the
rejection of any other extraordinary power or primal cause other than Allah, the One.
Now, when it comes to talking about the Lord and Creator, naturally, people start to question. "Where is He? What are His characteristics? What is His nature?" We find this explained in the Qur'an in the Ayat al-Kursi from Surat al-Baqarah (2:255):
Allah. There is no God but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there who can intercede in His presence except as He permits?
He knows what appears to His creatures as before or after or behind them. Nor shall they encompass aught of His knowledge except as He wills. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them, for He is the Most High, the Supreme in glory.
From this seed of faith blossoms the sense of certainty. Strange it is that people who don't believe in the unseen are full of doubts and insecurity, yet those who believe in God and the unseen, are blessed with certainty and have increased confidence: the verse continues:
'And whoever disbelieves in falsehood and believes in God then verily he has grasped a firm and everlasting handhold that will never break. And God is the all-Seing, the Knower of all.
God is the Friend and Protector of those who have faith. He leads them out of darkness into light…'
Knowing God and His attributes and characteristics provides light to one's life. The Qur'an elsewhere states, 'Allah is the Light of the heavens and the Earth. Without light, the heart is blind and full of doubts. Therefore, doubt is a dangerous disease of the heart.
Pride is another disease; pride ultimately leads to frustration. A person
who cannot bow before his Creator is a spiritual invalid and an ingrate.
This was the first sin of Iblis, who became the Satan. He refused to obey God's command to bow before Adam, because Iblis - being made of fire - considered himself better than Clay!
The next major sin was committed by Adam him self who became greedy when Satan disguised himself as an advisor and promised him more treasures of life if he disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the forbidden Tree.
The illusion of today is that luxury, in the famous words of Disraeli, has
been mistaken for civilization. Technology has caused man to become greedy and arrogant. The paradox is that people who have everything are never satisfied. The Prophet taught us to ask God for our needs and not to complain of what others have got and to always look to the one lower and less fortunate than us. The Prophet also said 'Beware of envy, for it eats up good deeds like fire consumes wood'.
Following the descent of Man and Woman to earth, the next great sin was when one of the sons of Adam became envious of his brother and killed him out of anger. This was the first murder on earth.
The Qur'an expressly declares while mentioning the story of the two sons of Adam: "If anyone kills a person, except (through due legal process) for murder or spreading discord on the earth, it will be as if he has killed the whole of humanity."
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), said, 'A believer remains within the scope of his religion as long as he doesn't kill another person illegally' (outside the due process of Law). He also said there will be a time when you should be like the good son of Adam. In other words, it's better to be the one killed rather than the killer. Such knowledge and words of guidance are desperately needed at this time where killing is spiraling out of control.
Remember! When Islam was being introduced to the paganistic Makkan society, Muslims were ordered by the Prophet to be patient and not to react physically. The first stage of the call was simply to define the borders of faith and good deeds and to be steadfast. It turned an idol-centered society of debauchery and sin into the best example of faith and brotherhood the world has ever seen.
Certainly, if honestly analyzed, Islamic civilization has to be recognized
as the most complete form of theocracy history has ever known.
People are embracing Islam because it has never ceased to provide solutions and bring goodness back into their lives; Islam has never failed, people have only failed to apply Islam, that's the greatest problem. Even amongst Muslims there is an increased turning towards materialism, showing increased signs of impatience, as if our problems will be solved by having everything that the West have. Sadly, we have forgotten the words of Allah Almighty:
Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility
should engage in the remembrance of Allah and the truth which has been revealed to them so that they should not become like those to whom revelation was given before? But long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard, for many among them are rebellious transgressors. Surat al-Hadid (57:16-17):
Here I end with the words of an American Muslim convert, Ann Collins, as she tells her story how she came to Islam:
I saw Muslims praying on the TV news, and knew that they had a special way of praying. I found a book (by a non-Muslim) that described it, and I tried to do it myself. . (I knew nothing of Taharah, and did not pray correctly.) I prayed that way, secretly and alone, for several years.
Finally, about eight years after first buying my Qur'an, I read:
"This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor for
you, and chosen Islam as your religion." [The Chapter of the Table, verse 3]
I wept for joy, because I knew that, way back in time, before the creation of the Earth, Allah had written this Qur'an for me. Allah had known that Anne Collins, in Cheektowaga, NY, USA, would read this verse of the Qur'an in May 1986, and be saved.