Debates on the definitions of culture versus barbarism, or on the question of who is civilized and who is modern are best discussed in the light of Islamic doctrine. Quite significantly, this point must be kept in mind, particularly as a matter of concern to individuals of the educated classes of Islamic societies upon whom lies the burden of responsibility and leadership of the Umma.
What is culture? I am not going to quote the differing definitions of culture here. However defined, culture includes a collection of intellectual, non-material artistic, historical, literary, religious and emotional expressions (in the form of signs, traditions, customs, relics, mores) of a nation which have accumulated in the course of its history and acquired unique form. They signify the pains, desires, temperaments, social characteristics, life patterns, social relations and economics structure of a nation.
Below are the links of some islamic websites involving lectures about various topics.
Have you ever thought about the fact that you did not exist before you were conceived and then born into the world and that you have come into existence from mere nothingness?
Have you ever thought about how the flowers you see in your living room everyday come out of pitch black, muddy soil with fragrant smells and are as colorful as they are?
Have you ever thought about how mosquitoes, which irritatingly fly around you, move their wings so fast that we are unable to see them?
Have you ever thought about how the peels of fruits such as bananas, watermelons, melons and oranges serve as wrappings of high quality, and how the fruits are packed in these wrappings so that they maintain their taste and fragrance?
Have you ever thought about the possibility that while you are asleep a sudden earthquake could raze your home, your office, and your city to the ground and that in a few seconds you could lose everything of the world you possess?
Have you ever thought of how your life passes away very quickly, and that you will grow old and become weak, and slowly lose your beauty, health and strength?
Have you ever thought about how one day you will find the angels of death appointed by God before you and that you will then leave this world?
Well, have you ever thought about why people are so attached to a world from which they will soon depart when what they basically need is to strive for the hereafter?
Man is a being whom God furnishes with the faculty of thought. Yet, most people do not use this very important faculty as they should. In fact, some people almost never think.
In truth, each person possesses a capacity for thought of which even he himself is unaware. Once man begins to use this capacity, facts he has not been able to realise until that very moment begin to be uncovered for him. The deeper he goes in reflection, the more his capacity to think improves, and this is possible for everyone. One just has to realise that one needs to reflect and then to strive hard.
Someone who does not think will remain totally distant from truths and lead his life in self-deception and error. As a result, he will not grasp the purpose of the creation of the world, and the reason for his existence on the earth. Yet, God has created everything with a purpose. This fact is stated in the Qur’an as follows:
We did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them as a game. We did not create them except with truth but most of them do not know it. (Surat ad-Dukhan: 38-39)
Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us? (Surat al-Muminun: 115)
Therefore, each person needs to ponder the purpose of creation, first as it concerns him himself, and then as it pertains to everything he sees in the universe and every event he experiences throughout his life. Someone who does not think, will understand the facts only after he dies, when he gives account before God, but then it will be too late. God says in the Qur’an that on the day of account, everybody will think and see the truth:
That day Hell is produced, that day man will remember; but how will the remembrance help him? He will say, “Oh! If only I had prepared in advance for this life of mine!” (Surat al-Fajr: 23-24)
The truth can be told to a person in many different ways; it can be shown by the use of details, pieces of evidence and by every means. Yet, if this person does not think over this truth on his own, sincerely and honestly with the purpose of comprehending the truth, all these efforts are useless. For this reason, when the messengers of God communicated the message to their people, they told them the truth clearly and then summoned them to think.
While God has given us a chance in the life of this world to reflect and derive conclusions from our reflections, to see the truth will bring us great gain in our life in the hereafter. For this reason, God has summoned all people, through His prophets and books, to reflect on their creation and on the creation of the universe:
Have they not reflected within themselves? God did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them except with truth and for a fixed term. Yet many people reject the meeting with their Lord. (Surat ar-Rum: 8)
A man who reflects grasps the secrets of God’s creation, the truth of the life of this world, the existence of hell and paradise, and the inner truth of matters. He gets a deeper understanding of the importance of being a person with whom God is pleased, and so he lives religion as is its due, recognizes God’s attributes in everything he sees, and begins to think not according to what the majority of people demand but as God commands. As a result, he takes pleasure from beauty much more than others do, and does not suffer distress from baseless misapprehensions and worldly greed.
These are only a few of the beautiful things a person who thinks will gain in the world. The gain in the hereafter of someone who always finds the truth by thinking, is the love, approval, mercy and the paradise of our Lord, which are above everything else.
1. As far as the Creator (whose proper name is Allah) is concerned, you will be able to identify Him and get to know Him, His role and your relationship to His names, you will be able to communicate with Him any time, 24 hours a day, throughout the whole year. As a result of this category, you will be able to know your origin, your roots and the wisdom as to why you are on this planet. You will be able to have good answers to the questions why, how, when, where, what and other philosophical questions.
2. As a result of the first benefit, your loyalty, allegiance, and obedience will be to the Creator himself. You will transcend yourself from all types of allegiance for this world. This means that if there is a conflict of interest between your boss, your job, your government, your system or any worldly relationship with the Creator, you will undoubtedly put your trust in Allah, the Creator of the universe. You will follow Him before you follow anyone else.
3. As a result of the second benefit, you will be able to acquire peace, harmony, tranquility and happiness within yourself, with your family, with people of the world, with the environment and with the universe. One has to remember that the source of peace is Allah, and one of his beautiful names is that He is The Peace.
4. As an endorsement to the third benefit, you will get rid of the extra electrostatic charges from your brain and the central nervous system by performing the daily Salah. Through Salah, you are to prostrate by putting your forehead to the floor; and as such are grounding yourself, and you are discharging these extra charges into the ground. As a result of this act, you will get rid of many of the neurological diseases from your body.
5. As a result of the fourth benefit, you will acquire a pleasant personality. You will be friendly and amicable. You would not need to drink alcohol, to use drugs or to get involved in vulgarity or immorality.
6. Through the experience of fasting in Islam, you will be able to have self-control, self-restraint, self-discipline, self-education, self-evaluation, and self-obedience to Allah the Creator. You undoubtedly will be able to improve health, personality, character, and behavior.
7. As a result of the sixth benefit, you will be able to control your lusts, selfishness, desires, greed, ego, and conceitedness.
8. Another side reaction of the sixth and seventh benefits is that you will be generous and hospitable; you will try to purify yourself and your mistakes by sharing your happiness and your wealth with those who are less fortunate than you. Your rewards will manifold, compounded daily until the Day of Judgment.
9. By performing pilgrimage to Makkah, you will transcend yourself from being nationalistic, sectarian, or denominational into being universal. You will be part and an essential constituent of the rainbow of Islam. You will be also part of the brotherhood of Islam with those who already submitted themselves to the Creator. At the same time, you will get rid of any inferiority or superiority complexes. You will also find yourself in synchrony and harmony with all the prophets and messengers of Allah since the creation of Adam and Eve until the last final messenger to mankind, prophet Muhammad (pbuh). While in Makkah, you will be able to visit the places of revelation of the Quran as well as the places visited by prophet Abraham and members of his family such as Hagar and Ishmael. You will visit the place where the first astronauts, Adam and Eve landed on earth.
10. In becoming a Muslim, you will do your best to stop all types of exploitations in all their forms: economic, biological, mental, spiritual, psychological, political, etc.. You will also work to liberate people and give them freedom of worship, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression. You will be a leader and help lead people to peace, tranquility and happiness.
11. In accepting Islam, you will help to reduce all types of social ills in the society: juvenile delinquency, child abuse, domestic abuse, incest, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, premarital relationships, extramarital relationships, and other vices.
12. As a result of the eleventh benefit, you will reduce and eliminate venereal diseases, AIDS, and other diseases of similar nature in the society.
13. Finally, when you die, you will die at peace. You will have a happy life in the grave and later, eternal happiness. Angels at the time of death will comfort you. They will also show you your place in paradise. On the Day of Judgment, you will be able to see and meet all the prophets and messengers of God to mankind including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. You will be able to see and meet any and all of your friends and relatives. You will live an eternal life of bliss in paradise.
The benefits mentioned above and many more cannot be purchased with money anywhere in the world. No one is to sell them to you or to advertise them on TV. You have to take the initiative yourself and try to acquire them by accepting Islam first and then by practicing its teachings. You should be honest with yourself, sincere, and truthful to the Creator. You should try wholeheartedly to practice what you believe, regardless of whether someone else is good or not While seeking happiness is a must, it should not be measured with other people’s standards or with material gains. Happiness is from its potential to its kinetic forms. People around you should feel your happiness as well as benefit from you.
Are you ready to accept this challenge today? Remember, tomorrow may not come, and it will be too late?
By: Ahmad H. Sakr, Ph.D
Angel, Ex-Christian, USA
Every Muslim has a story about their journey to Islam. Each one is interesting and curious to me. God truly guides who he wants and only who he wants. I feel so blessed to have been one of the chosen. Here is my story.
I always believed in one God. My entire life during hardship, I asked God for help even as a child. I remember crying on my knees in the kitchen, screaming and crying all around me. I was praying for God to make it stop. Religion on the other hand never did make sense. The older I got, the less it really made sense to me. People thinking they were the negotiator between you and God.
I felt the same about Jesus, [may the blessing and mercy of God be upon him]. How does it work that this man would save us all from our sins? Why do we have the right to sin just because of him? I refused the bible in all of its versions, believing something translated and rewritten so many times could not to be the real words of God. Around the age of fifteen I had given up on the idea of finding God.
Growing up, my family was the average American family. Everyone I knew had similar problems growing up. My dad was a hardworking blue collar alcoholic. As time progressed his condition worsened, and so did his perversion. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, and fear made an imprint on my childhood that would reflect the rest of my life. He passed away when I was in the sixth grade. My parents had divorced by then. I was the youngest of eight children. My mother would go to work to support us, and I was home alone a lot.
Here I was, one of those kids who pull from society, who scare people when they walk into a room. I began wearing black clothing and the dark makeup. I listened to the gothic music and fantasized about death. Death seemed to be less of fear and more of solution to this growing problem. I felt alone all time, even around friends. I tried to fill the gap with cigarettes, then alcohol, sex, drugs and then anything that would take me from my own thoughts. I tried to kill myself at least fifteen times. No matter what I tried this pain inside of me never seemed to subside.
I was in college when I became pregnant with my son, I feared for my son’s health and could not dream of giving him away. I worked endlessly to provide for my son. Squeezing all the pain and anger into my heart, I changed my life some. By this time, I trusted no one. Three years later, I started to date again. I got engaged. I truly wanted to have the something more. As with all of my past experiences, my world came crashing down. I was 25 and pregnant with my daughter and ended the relationship with my fiancé after he repeatedly cheated and physically hurt me. I had no idea what was next.
During this time I was working for a Pakistani guy who was Muslim. I never watched the news or even cared really what was going on. Being Muslim to me was no different than any other religion. As time moved on I became friends with several Muslim men. I began to notice something dramatically different. They had these unquestionable morals. A devotion to God in a way that required them to pray five times a day. Let alone the fact that they did not drink or do drugs. For my generation this was old school morals, maybe your grandparents might have followed.
When my daughter was born, you can’t imagine my surprise when one of these guys came in and brought gifts. I was shocked stupid he held her and spoke to her. I had never seen men behave this way over a baby. The kindness only increased with time over the next four months. I can’t express the love that was shown to us. Slowly my interest in their religion grew. I was curious as to what kind of religion could instill these kinds of values into people.
I was sharing a home with seven people when one night I decided to borrow my roommate’s computer. I was too afraid to offend my friends by asking them questions, so I turned to the internet. The first site I opened was http://www.islam-brief-guide.org. I was dumb founded. It was if a black cloth had been lifted from my body, and I swear to you that I had never felt so close to God. Within twenty-four hours, I took my Shahadah.
To this day the majority of my time is spent on research. For the first time in my life something had stopped the anger, and the pain. I truly felt the love and fear of God. God had replaced the pain inside of me with his light, and faith in him. Since my conversion, God has truly blessed me. God gave me the strength to quite smoking, drinking and have not used drugs in almost two years. I am married to a wonderful Muslim man. He has taken my children and made them ours. I have something that I always wanted – a family, [all praise is due to God].
As a child, I always had access to a short-wave radio. I used to listen to the BBC World Service about the Middle East. I also loved the music from that part of the world, and I probably was listening to the Quran being recited, but did not know it at the time.
As I grew older, I continued to listen to the BBC World Service. Back then, they had a program called Words of Faith in which they had a five- to eight-minute talk given by a different religious speaker each day of the week representing all the major religions in the United Kingdom. Out of all the speakers, the Muslims were the ones I loved listening to most.
Every time the Muslim representative spoke, I wanted to find out more about Islam. My impression of the religion was that the person who practices Islam is a happy person, not like the mean people portrayed by the American media. I just refused to believe people that loved Allah so much could be like the people portrayed by the media. Because I come from a Jewish background, the thing that united me with Islam was the belief that Allah had no partners.
Work in the United Kingdom
An important time in my life came when I met a real Muslim, but did not know it yet. I was doing contracting computer programming work in New York State when I had a strong urge to visit the United Kingdom.
I visited London and loved it. During my visit, I went to several employment agencies without luck. One of the agencies gave me several trade magazines. When I arrived back in the States, I started to send more CV’s to companies and other agencies listed in the magazines. I returned to the United Kingdom because one of the companies wanted to interview me. Then I started to visit more companies and agencies until I landed a position even though I was on a visitor’s visa.
The company that hired me applied for a work permit for me and the Department of Employment told me that I had to leave the country in order for the paperwork to be processed. Again, I went back to the States. Another agency obtained a temporary work permit and employed me for a company called LogoTech, which, at that time, was located in Egham, Surrey.
Meeting a Real Muslim for the First Time
Some time after I started working at LogoTech, I found out that my supervisor, Anis Karim, was Muslim. I asked him if he knew how I could get a copy of the Quran. To my surprise, he obtained a copy of the Quran for me within a few days. He also asked me to pledge that I would have a bath before I read from the Quran and that I would never show it to anyone who might make blasphemous remarks about it.
The next day, I took my morning bath and made breakfast. Then, while eating breakfast, I started to read. Later I found out that “read” is what Allah had the Angel Gabriel instruct our beloved Prophet to do, even though he could not read or write!
Well, words can’t describe how I felt when I read just that small portion of the world’s most holy book. It took only 10 pages, when, at that point, I told myself that this religion was for me. This occurred around 1990. The more I read, the more I wanted to know, and I loved what I was reading.
At the time, I did not know anything about how to pray or any of the details of Islam. If Anis had invited me to go the masjid in London, I would have gone with him. The only thing I knew about praying to Allah was the prostration position. At the time, I knew that Muslims prayed several times a day, and so I started to do so at night before I went to bed and in the morning when I woke up.
Back to the States Again
When the work permit ran out, I had to return to the States and was unemployed for several years. I visited my father in Huntsville, Alabama, and created a database application for him. I saw that Huntsville was a high-tech cosmopolitan city and decided to try to land a programming position there. My father told me that if I did not get a position, I would have to go back to New Jersey to my mother, who had moved from New York to New Jersey. About a fortnight before I was going to go back to New Jersey, I landed a programming position at a company in Huntsville.
My First Trip to a Masjid
My sister and I were planning a trip to Indonesia because we had a pen pal on the Internet. My sister asked me if I could help her find Islamic jewelry as a gift. At that time I had no idea that there were Muslims in Huntsville.
Then Allah put things into place for me. I remembered that there was a shop called Crescent Imports, which I thought was run by Muslims. It was not. It was run by the group called Nation of Islam. Now here is the strange part that only Allah could have arranged. We spoke to the owner of the shop and told him that we wanted to find Islamic jewelry. He directed us to the Huntsville Islamic Center.
I do thank Allah for having them direct me to the masjid. We went to the building, but there was only one car parked there. I spoke to a man in the car, and he told us that we should speak to the imam about where to find the jewelry. I was still afraid to go into the building because for me, it was such a sacred place.
At the moment, I remembered one day when I saw a lady at work wearing a hijab. I told her about accepting Islam personally and she said, “Why don’t you visit the masjid in Huntsville?” I eventually went back to the masjid after I summed up enough courage to go into that sacred place.
I spoke to the imam, and he invited me to perform salah with the Muslim brothers. This was a turning point in my life. I loved it and started to visit the masjid once a week at night. Then I started to visit it several times a week at night. The urge to come more times was stronger and I now perform most of my prayers at the masjid, except `Asr and Maghrib prayers when I am at work.
I Officially Accepted Islam
In November of 1996, I publicly made Shahadah. At work, I pray Zhuhr and Asr by myself or with other Muslim brothers in a small mosque in my work place. I proudly carry my prayer rug in the hallways at my work in an attempt to get people to ask me what they are. When they do ask me about it, I tell them that I am Muslim and the mats are what I use to pray on. Also, my work area, including my computer, is decorated with Islamic artwork. My background on my computer is usually the Ka`bah or our masjid.
Now that I am a Muslim, there is no turning back to disbelief!
The story of how I reverted to al Islam is a story of plans. I made plans; the group I was with made plans, and Allah made plans. And Allah is the Best of Planners. When I was a teenager, I came to the attention of a group of people with a very sinister agenda. They were and probably still are a loose association of individuals who work in government positions but have a special agenda — to destroy Islam. It is not a governmental group that I am aware of, they simply use their positions in the US government to advance their cause.
One member of this group approached me because he saw that I was articulate, motivated and very much the women’s rights advocate. He told me that if I studied International Relations with an emphasis in the Middle East, he would guarantee me a job at the American Embassy in Egypt. He wanted me to eventually go there to use my position in the country to talk to Muslim women and encourage the fledgling women’s rights movement. I thought this was a great idea. I had seen the Muslim women on TV; I knew they were a poor oppressed group, and I wanted to lead them to the light of 20th century freedom.
With this intention, I went to college and began my education. I studied Quran, hadith and Islamic history. I also studied the ways I could use this information. I learned how to twist the words to say what I wanted them to say. It was a valuable tool. Once I started learning, however, I began to be intrigued by this message. It made sense. That was very scary. Therefore, in order to counteract this effect, I began to take classes in Christianity. I chose to take classes with this one professor on campus because he had a good reputation and he had a Ph.D. in Theology from Harvard University. I felt I was in good hands. I was, but not for the reasons I thought. It turns out that this professor was a Unitarian Christian. He did not believe in the trinity or the divinity of Jesus. In actuality, he believed that Jesus was a prophet.
He proceeded to prove this by taking the bible from its sources in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and show where they were changed. As he did this, he showed the historical events which shaped and followed these changes. By the time I finished this class, my deen [religion] had been destroyed, but I was still not ready to accept Islam. As time went on, I continued to study, for myself and for my future career. This took about three years. In this time, I would question Muslims about their beliefs. One of the Individuals I questioned was a Muslim brother with the MSA [Muslim Students’ Association]. Alhamdulllah, he saw my interest in the deen, and made it a personal effort to educate me about Islam. May Allah increase his reward. He would give me dawaa [i.e. tell me about Islam] at every opportunity which presented itself.
One day, this man contacts me, and he tells me about a group of Muslims who were visiting in town. He wanted me to meet them. I agreed. I went to meet with them after Ishaa [night] prayer. I was led to a room with at least 20 men in it. They all made space for me to sit, and I was placed face to face with an elderly Pakistani gentleman. Mashallah, this brother was a very knowledgeable man in matters of Christianity. He and I discussed and argued the varying parts of the bible and the Quran until the fajr [dawn prayer]. At this point, after having listened to this wise man tell me what I already knew, based on the class I had taken in Christianity, he did what no other individual had ever done. He invited me to become a Muslim. In the three years I had been searching and researching, no one had ever invited me. I had been taught, argued with and even insulted, but never invited. May Allah guide us all. So when he invited me, it clicked. I realized this was the time. I knew it was the truth, and I had to make a decision. Alhamdulillah [Alla praise be to Allah], Allah opened my heart, and I said, “Yes. I want to be a Muslim.” With that, the man led me in the shahadah [the testimony of faith] – in English and in Arabic. I swear by Allah that when I took the shahadah, I felt the strangest sensation. I felt as if a huge, physical weight had just been lifted off my chest; I gasped for breath as if I were breathing for the first time in my life. Alhamdulillah, Allah had given me a new life — a clean slate — a chance for Jennah [Paradise], and I pray that I live the rest of my days and die as a Muslim. Ameen.