Why I believe what I do and the nature of this belief
I GATHERED gathered the impression from some of the things which you wrote in your letter, that you view my choice of Islam as my religion as just that: a choice from amongst a multitude of choices, as though I were looking for a coat in the winter sales. You advised me, “At this stage in your life I do not feel that changing to this form of religion is good, right and proper ‘for you, your livelihood and for the consequences of your affairs’…”
I have to put this point across clearly and, perhaps, forcefully, because it is fundamental to understanding everything else about my belief. Islam is my religion because I believe that it is the right path, the truth, or whatever you may wish to call it, and because I believe it to be the only Way. At origin, this statement is exactly the same as what you are saying when you tell me that my family pray that I may be guided. On both sides, we believe that we have a hold of the truth and, on both sides, we are deeply hurt and we despair at the other’s rejection of that truth. I cannot, therefore, reject what I believe simply because of a perception that it might get in the way. I believe it to be the truth and, thus, I act accordingly.
A friend once said to me, when I told him what I believed, “…whatever makes you happy.” Since then, I have come to realise that many people perceive that my belief is founded upon this principle; but it is not. My criteria for taking Islam as my path was one alone: “Is it the true way?” Having concluded that it is, everything follows on from this point. Where I might choose one coat over another because I prefer the colour, this is not in any way how it was when I came to believe in Islam.
My responsibilities in this life
Now, a second element which I would like to touch upon relates to my responsibilities in this life. You wrote, “At this stage in your life I do not feel that changing to this form of religion is good…” and later, “we are all praying for you [for guidance]… particularly at this stage in your life when your whole future is at stake.” My response is to ask when a good stage would be, for throughout our lives we may meet a thousand different stages. After getting a job, would the question then become getting a mortgage or a promotion? It could never end. Of all the unknown areas of our futures, however, there is one more pressing than any other, and that is death. We do not know when that will come to us. It may come in old age, but there are plenty of precedents for it to occur in our youth. I have a friend who was knocked off his bike by a van; he survived, but the doctors thought he never would. I knew somebody at Stirling whose twenty year-old friend returned home one evening feeling a little dizzy and within hours he was no longer alive. It is because I do not know when death will come to me that I feel that I must act at “this stage” in my life and, to pass your words back to you, because my “whole future is at stake” (i.e. in the life to come).
For a Muslim, the hereafter is not an added extra, tagged onto the end of life to take away the sorrow of death. Rather, it is the very aim of our life in this world. The life of this world is a passing stage, a period of preparation which determines whether we succeed or fail. In simple language the life of this world is an examination and the hereafter is the qualification. If we pass our driving test, we may drive a car and if not, we may not. This may be a difficult idea to grasp, because in the teachings of Paul is the idea that mankind must be saved from sin. A person is not, therefore, tested by his response to sin; the ability to sin or to turn from sin is not considered as a means by which we are judged.
Nevertheless, because the Muslim believes that this life has been given to us in order that we may determine our own outcome for the hereafter through the application of freewill (unlike other created things which innately submit to the laws of God), he believes that he must strive throughout this period of his creation to please God by adhering to His Law. Of course I am aware that such adherence may create difficulties for me from time to time, but I accept this because of the reasons I have so far mentioned. I am reminded of a verse in the Qur’an, the translation of which is: “And We shall certainly test you with something of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and lives and fruit, but give glad tidings to the patient, who, when they are struck by disaster, say, ‘We belong to God and to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones who have upon them blessings from their Lord and mercy. And those are the ones who are guided.”
Another verse will surely sum up what I am trying to explain: “Blessed is He in whose hand is Dominion, and He has power over all things – the One who has created death and life to test you as to which of you is best in deeds.” I hope that this helps you to understand the reason why I cannot delay my acting upon what I consider to be the truth.
There is one more thing which I would like to mention in this regard. Beyond these reasons, which derive directly from the teachings of Islam, I also have a very personal objection to the idea that I shouldn’t let my religion get in the way. I object to the treatment of God’s Law as an irritant which gets in the way of our “lives”; this is not the excuse, upon which Christian doctrine is founded, that Paul gave for its abandonment. Up until the appearance of Jesus, who adhered to the Law himself, Christians consider that the Law was not only valid, but also a fundamental aspect of belief. This being the case, I cannot understand how my adherence to the Law should be brought into question for any other reason than it being no longer necessary due to the idea of justification by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. So far, however, this reason has not been given; only the fact that it may negatively affect my career prospects.