Seeking the Straight Path: Reflections of a New Muslim



by Diana (Masooma) Beatty




All Rights Reserved 2000/1420


Table of Contents









MARRIAGE........... 32

Women in Marriage....... 32

Finding a Mate......... 33

Polygamy....... 35

Temporary Marriage....... 37

The Sexes.. 45

Islamic Modest Dress.. 46

Mixing of the Sexes............. 49

Treating Women Differently in the Law...... 51

Division Within Islam... 55

Jihad... 62

Ritualism............. 64

Conclusion........... 67

A Short Reading List...... 68



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It is a long time now that I have wanted to write regarding my conversion to Islam.  My problem has been that I did not know what to write or how to write it.  One of my main concerns now is that I want to write something that is of value to someone other than me.


 I can remember a few times when I was asked to speak at a masjid and I was a little bit horrified, because I had come to learn from the people there and, in turn, they wanted to learn from me.  What could I say that they didn’t already know or that would be of use to them?  Whenever I’ve asked myself that, the answer has always been that I could speak only of my own experiences.  Well, it seems arrogant to think that other people would want to listen to me talk about myself.  But, perhaps there is some value in the tale of the experience of someone who chose to become Muslim. 


In the past, I have written a few very brief accounts of how I came to be Muslim and I got tremendous feedback.  People wrote to me who were investigating Islam and could relate to my story or wanted information.  Other people wrote to me who were born Muslim and had found inspiration in the stories of converts.  I have really enjoyed meeting so many people through those brief accounts.  It made me realize that something in my story must be of value to other people, and that by telling my story I may be able to improve someone’s situation.


Therefore, I begin this work in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and I ask His help in making this a work that is of value and that will benefit others.


Diana (Masooma) Beatty


NOTE:  Throughout the text, “swt” is written to mean subhanahu wa ta’aala, which in the way I have remembered it means “Most Glorious Most High”, and is written whenever the name of God appears.  Also, “saw” is written to mean “Peace be upon him and his family”, and appears always after the mention of the Prophet of Islam.  Lastly,  “as” or “sa” is written to mean “Peace be upon him/her/them”.  To a non-Muslim reader this may seem strange, but it is not meant to be a mystical thing.  It is something like Islamic etiquette to use them, and many Muslims believe it is obligatory.  I use both the words God and Allah in this text.  “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for the One God, and it is used by all Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews.


The translations of Qur’an used are by Pickthall and Yusuf Ali, and the version of the Bible used is NIV.



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As a child growing up in America, my education about Islam was very poor.  There were one or two times when Islam was presented briefly in a history book at school. What I remember from those readings is that Muslims had a god called Allah and a warlike prophet named Mohamed and that they prayed and dressed strangely and, finally, that Islam was an Arab religion.


I guess that the rest of my education about Islam came from the media.  Islam was exotic, backward and evil.  Muslims were uneducated, lead by tyrant rulers, and were cruel.  Some of them thought it was good to blow up babies on airplanes and to beat women and treat them like property.


I did not understand that there was any relationship between Islam and Christianity or Judaism.  As far as I knew, Christianity and Judaism were the only two religions that dealt with the One God, the God of Moses and Abraham (sa).  Islam was bunched with all the other religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. 


There was not much out there to make me want to learn about Islam.  I was sure that Christianity held the Truth, and had no inclination to look at other religions, especially not one that was so obviously evil. In those days, I could actually believe that an entire nation of people was evil at heart, and that we (meaning the West, or America) were surely the good guys.  After all, how could every one I had ever known be wrong?


An obvious question, then, is what made me finally look at Islam.  In order to answer that fairly, it is necessary to first briefly explain my religious life prior to that point.  Mostly everyone I knew believed in God and that Jesus (as) had died for our sins.  Often, it didn’t go much beyond that.  People I knew had religious belief and tried to be moral people, but they did not associate with a particular church or do anything outlandishly different in their lives that marked them as religious.  Spirituality and religion were not the stuff of conversations.  God was not talked about at home or at school.  Religion was a private thing between the individual and God.


When I was little I was sent to a few Sunday Schools to gain a basic acquaintance with religion.  My parents very rarely went to church but rather dropped my brother and I off at the Sunday School and then picked us up when it was over.  By the time I was in second or third grade our religious training was over.


That was enough for me until I got to junior high school.  Perhaps it was then that I began to realize that the world was not a fair place and question what was going on around me.  Although I remained a straight-A student and stayed out of trouble, I rebelled against the status quo and hung out with all the kids who smoked, slept-around and wore rock T-shirts.  I listened to heavy metal rock music and dressed the part.  I went through periods of depression and low self-esteem.  During this time, I began to question religion.  Where was the scientific proof of God?  If He existed, why was He hidden from us?  Why did He allow bad things to happen?  What made something right, and another thing wrong?  Did the universe and life on Earth come about as a course of purely random events without a Creator?  Why did I exist?


For awhile I nearly convinced myself that God did not exist, but rather that He was a fantasy created by humans.  However, when I got into high school I grew out of that belief and was searching for God again.  I became very serious about Christianity.  I joined the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and I read the Bible regularly.  I found a magazine called The Plain Truth advertised on a religious TV show and published by the Worldwide Church of God. 


This group took the Bible literally.  They did not celebrate Christmas because it was not in the Bible.  They did not celebrate birthdays, they did not eat pork, and they observed the same holidays that Jesus (as) was recorded as observing in the Bible. They kept the Sabbath on Saturday based on what was written in the Bible. I was strongly attracted to this group because it took God seriously, and it took the Bible seriously.  It did not regard religion as just a feel-good thing like so many groups seemed to be doing.  They seemed more logical than other groups, and they were making religion a daily part of life instead of an occasional one.  The idea of religion as a way of life appealed to me.  I knew that God had something in mind when He made us, and I believed that there ought to be a best way, or a most-correct way of doing everything.  So when I found this church, I was attracted.  Yet, I never went to their meetings because I thought my family would not approve of me getting involved with such a radical group (one that I later learned is often considered a cult) especially while I was in high school.  I put it in my mind that when I got older I would investigate the group more closely.


My freshman year of college I joined a Bible study group sponsored by Campus Crusaders for Christ.  And, I finally went to the Church of God after meeting someone at school who belonged to the church.  They were very nice people and very welcoming.  However, after one visit I knew that church was not what I was looking for.  My host was telling me how the church was in a state of chaos because of a major division among the national leaders.  It was splitting into two churches; one group cleaving off because they felt the original church had become corrupted.  This man and his family were at odds to decide which side of the fence they were on.  Which of the two factions held the Truth?


After hearing him speak, I was disappointed.  I felt this group was closer to the Truth that I was looking for, but probably neither of the two factions had it right.  After all, they all were just humans and were not gifted with perfect judgment.  I wanted whatever it was that God had originally sent and that was truly intended for us; not something concocted by men.  Not even by men with good intentions.  So, I never went back.


I had resigned myself to being one of those many religious people without a church because I was convinced that all churches were flawed.  After all, they were all man-made.  In my Bible study group, I often felt uncomfortable.  The other members seemed to have much greater joy in their faith.  When we would study a Bible verse, they had so many different interpretations.  But, they always seemed to see the verses differently than me.   I wondered what I was doing wrong and why things did not make sense to me like it did to everyone else, but I was still very devout. My friends talked about inviting Jesus (as) to live in their hearts, and that when they did, he came in and their lives were changed forever.  I had made that invitation many times, but my life never changed forever.  I had done it when I had gone to church with friends, I had done it when I watched the preachers on TV, and I had done it on my own time.  What did they mean by saying that he lived in their hearts?  Were they really changed so much by the experience, and if so, why hadn’t I been?  It wasn’t due to lack of sincerity, at least.


As I pondered these questions, my life began to change around me.  That year, I met a Muslim.  When I met him, I didn’t know he was Muslim or even that he was an Arab.  In time, we became acquainted, and I learned that he was a Muslim; I didn’t really know what that meant but it made me worried about him because I had been taught that unless he believed Jesus (as) died for his sins, he would go to hell.  At least that is what everyone in my Bible study said.


Could it be true that this guy would go to hell simply for not believing Jesus (as) died for his sins, when in every other way he was more pious and more humble before God than anyone I’d ever met?  It did not seem right.  I told him about my fears and he was very concerned for me instead of for himself.  I even talked him into going to one of the Campus Crusader meetings with me.  That amazes me more today than it did then because now I think of the name of the group – Campus Crusade – and realize how offensive it really is. However, the meetings were not so bad; we sang or listened to religious songs, had a guest speaker and met with my Bible study leader.


 I was hoping to save my friend, and at the same time I wanted the Bible study leader to meet him because I really needed help clearing my confusion. I had questions because I’d picked up a translation of the Qur’an and was surprised by what I read.  It talked about the very same God of the Bible, the One whose Truth I was seeking.  It talked about the prophets (sa) I already knew, but it did not describe them as adulterers and those who commit incest and other lewdness like the Bible did.  The only major thing that really bothered me about the Qur’an was what it said about Jesus (as).  But why?  How did I know what I knew about him -- that Jesus was in a three-part God and that he died for our sins?   I went back to the Bible and looked for those beliefs that were so important to Christianity.  I knew I had read them a hundred times so they ought to have been easy to find, but they weren’t!   I could find verses that seemed to say those things, but they weren’t very clear.  And other verses seemed to say the opposite.  Why, I pondered, if this belief that Jesus is God and that he died for our sins -- why if it is the most essential thing to believe, is it not absolutely clear?


I asked my Bible study friends, “Where does it say this?”  They would direct me to a verse and I would read it and I found that the majority of the time it did not clearly say what I had asked for, but was open to interpretation.  Mark 10:18 reads, “ ’Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.”  That verse clearly seemed to indicate that Jesus was not God. Other verses were interpreted by my friends to indicate that he was God, although he never came right out and said, “I am God.”


Some Christians would say that while Jesus was on Earth he lived as a man but was still God or a part or form thereof, yet being in the flesh made him fully human, facing all the trials and temptations of human life.  I didn’t get it.  I’d never really gotten it before, either, but I had taken for granted that it was true anyway.   I could not explain to myself, nor could anyone else explain to me, how God could be a single God and yet have three independent parts or forms.  I could not understand why the death of a sinless individual was necessary for forgiveness of sins.  Is not God all-powerful?   


Many Christians say that God is beyond our comprehension. He does not have to make sense.   I ultimately decided that I couldn’t accept that, because then religion becomes purely a matter of faith without any room for reason.  A book claiming to be the Word of God could say absolutely anything about Him, and no matter how ludicrous it was we could not reject it if God doesn’t have to make sense.  No, I realized, in order for us to be able to tell right guidance from falsehood, He must.


I approached my Bible study leader to talk about my questions.  I had learned that he had done missionary work to Muslims in Algeria.  So, I figured he would be able to help me understand the Qur’an, the Bible and the fate of my Muslim friend.  When I questioned him, he told me flat out that my friend would go to hell.  He told me that the Qur’an was similar to the Bible because it was Satan’s trickery, and something which appears close to the Bible is a better trick!  Then, when I tried to ask him a specific question about what the Qur’an said about Jesus (as), he told me he had never read the Qur’an because when he tried it made him ill.  When he said that last thing, I was astounded, in tears, and got out of that room as fast as I could. 


How could he sit there and tell me the Qur’an was Satan’s trickery when he himself had not read it?  What kind of person does missionary work to Muslims and does not bother to read the book of the Muslims?  A voice in my head screamed “He could not know!  He cannot be trusted!”  I believed that God would not deceive someone because they read the book of another religion, as long as they were seeking Truth. But he apparently believed differently than me.  My Bible study leader was only repeating what he had been told, or else he was making it up as he went along. I was so angry then, at him, and at all the church leaders who had treated Islam as an absolute evil and yet they were more ignorant of Islam than a college girl who’d picked up a Qur’an translation at the corner bookstore. 


And now I was deathly afraid.   I was afraid because I could not trust those people anymore.  It was up to me, and only me, to decide what I found to be true and what I found to be falsehood.  No one could help me. I felt a tremendous burden on my shoulders.  And I was terrified of making the wrong choice and spending eternity in hell because of it.  I pleaded with God to be a God who does not misguide one who seeks the Truth, to be a God who could forgive one who has doubts and looks around for the answers, and to be a God who would protect me from making the wrong choice. 


I didn’t know where to begin, so I began with the Bible and Qur’an, and a few books of early Christian history.  I learned much in reading the early Christian history books and wondered why I’d never heard any of it before.  The beginnings of the religion were anything but unified and clear.  Some early Christians believed Jesus (as) was God, others did not.  Their practices and beliefs varied much more greatly than those of Christians today.  The New Testament was not written until at least a generation after Jesus’ (as) apparent death, and was written by many people.  Their stories often conflicted with each other, and there were hundreds of gospels out there.  It was only at the Council of Nicaea, more than three centuries after the time of Christ that the New Testament as we know it today began to take shape.  The Council picked four out of the hundreds of gospels that coincided with the Roman Emperor’s belief and made them the official belief.  The others were burned and destroyed, and those who were found in possession of them were killed.    Since then, most of the other gospels have disappeared and the four official gospels have modestly changed from time to time.  Some versions of the gospels contain verses that others do not, and of course some Bibles have entire books that others do not.   There is no “original” Bible in order to verify there have not been changes.  There are old manuscripts, but no definitive “real” Bible. 


To some people that is not a problem, but for me it was fast becoming a problem.  The modern Christian belief seemed to me to be comprised of something of God’s message but also a lot of conjecture. And it seemed to be the conjecture parts that determined whether or not one went to hell!   Where does Jesus (as) say that he will die for our sins and that belief in that is compulsory?  It is mere conjecture that the phrase “Son of God” that is used so often in the Bible attests to Jesus’ (as) divinity.  In fact, the people who lived at the time of Jesus (as) did not take it to mean that at all.  According to leading Biblical historians, the phrase “Son of God” did not mean something divine to the writers of the Bible or those who witnessed Jesus (as).  It indicated a fully human being and was regularly used as a title for Jewish holy men. 


King David is referred to as a son of God in 2Samuel 7:14:


“I [God] will be his father and he [David] will be my son.” 


Job 1:6 and 2:7 in the NIV version of the Bible mention angels, with a footnote that the Hebrew word translated as angels actually means “sons of God”.


“One day the angels [sons of God in footnote] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan [accuser in footnote] also came with them.”

“On another day the angels [sons of God] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.”


In Hosea 11:1, God calls all of Israel His son


“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”


The use of capitals when calling Jesus (as) by that title is a choice of the translators and is not indicated in the original Greek or Hebrew.


It is also conjecture that Jesus (as) was the only Messiah, or that the title “Messiah” has something to do with a return at the end time or status as a savior.  Messiah and Christ both mean, “anointed one”.  Anointed ones were the leaders of Israel, anointed in an ancient version of an inauguration ceremony.  In 1Samuel 10:1 it says,


“Then Samuel took a flask of oil and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed your leader over his inheritance?” 


The Hebrew root for anointed here is the very same that is translated as Christ and Messiah in the New Testament.


In truth, Jesus (as) never asked or commanded people to pray to him or to worship him. He told people to pray to God and to worship God.  Yet, how many Christians today pray to and worship God by name?   It is far more common that their prayer begins, “Dear Jesus” than “Dear God”.  A sincere Christian would do well to obey Jesus (as) and change his/her prayers to be directed at  “God” rather than “Jesus”.   A sincere Truth-seeker owes it to him/herself to investigate those books that claim to be God’s Word in comparative study.  Very few Christians have encountered the Qur’an or have any idea of what it says, but if they put their trust in God and read it, they would be surprised, and perhaps even would be blessed with right-guidance.


Some things that are commonplace in Christian belief and practice today do not have their origins in Jesus’ (as) teachings, but rather in a vote by church authorities or papal decree.  This of course includes the celebrations of Christmas and Easter, as well as definition of the Trinity, and permission to pray to the Mother of Jesus, Mary.  The word “trinity” does not exist in the Bible and yet it is an essential belief of Christians.  The trinity concept was invented by church leaders to explain their beliefs; and even today the church leaders have votes and decrees over the natures and functions of the different parts of their Godhead.   The faithful Christians trust that their leaders are God-inspired and that the authors of the Bible were as well.


Most of the faithful believe that if they find the Bible to be unclear it is because they, being human, possess limited understanding.  God, they say again, does not need to make sense.  Or, if they find an apparent contradiction in the Bible, it is because it is not the details that matter, but the overall message of what is written. There are thousands of examples of apparent contradiction within the Bible.  Many of those involve records of how many people were at a place or who exactly was there.  If one account of an event says that there were 100 men there, and another says that there was 1000, the faithful Christians say that this does not change the overall meaning of the passage.  That may be true, but why do the passages not agree?  God surely knows what happened, so why couldn’t the Bible get it right if it is indeed His book?  Maybe a monk or priest when transcribing the Bible made a mistake that stuck.  Or maybe he thought he was correcting a mistake that a previous transcriber had made.  Or maybe he thought a larger number made a better story.


In my experience, many Christians believe that either these errors are not errors but only seem to be to our limited faculties, or else they are errors but are very minor and that God has protected the “important” part of His message in the Bible.  However, I contend that any contradiction or error is important because it indicates the work of men rather than the work of God.  When one mistake is found, how can we be confident that another mistake that does indeed change the meaning of the text has not occurred?  For Christians, that is simply a matter of faith.  But should it be?


As an example of what I’ve been talking about, I provide the NIV translation of the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus (as), as it is recorded in three of the gospels:


Matthew 28:1-7


After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.   Then go quickly and tell his disciples:  ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him.’  Now I have told you.”


Mark 16:1-8


When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said.  “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as I told you.’”

Luke 24:1-12


On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.   While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 

He is not here; he has risen!  Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”  Then they remembered his words.  When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.  Bending over, he saw strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.


These are three accounts of the same event, obviously.  This event is very important to the belief that Jesus (as) was crucified and raised to life after having died for the sins of all mankind.  It establishes witnesses to the absence of Jesus’ (as) body after an appointed time, and holds testimony that he had come back to life as promised.  But these accounts differ considerably in the details as to what actually happened. Take a minute to examine the three passages and try to answer the following questions: Who went to the tomb with Mary Magdalene?  How many went altogether? Were the guards there or not?  How many beings did the women encounter at the tomb, and were they men or angels?  Did Peter go to the tomb or not?  What did the being(s) say to the women?   Did the women prostrate themselves before the being(s) or not?  Where were the being(s), and did they come as the women watched or were they already there?  Was the stone rolled away as they watched, or was it already rolled away when they arrived? 


If these were from the unaltered Word of God, there should be no contradictions between these three accounts.  One might leave out a detail that another has included, but there should be no disagreement as to who was there, what they saw, or what they heard.  Eyewitness accounts can have conflicting results, as can stories told over and over and not written down until a generation or two later -- but not the Word of God.  If we cannot accurately establish what happened, then what must one believe?  It is not unlikely that something did happen that led to the existence of this story, but we simply do not have the means to determine what really happened.  One of these accounts may be true while the others are false, or all may be false, and that is the full extent of what we can say about it.


 I have given but one example of the difficulties in the Bible, but there are many, many more.  The Bible is simply unclear and self-contradictory, and further it is in contradiction with established science.   I do not wish to spend too much time on the Bible’s problems with science because they are rather commonly known and readily apparent even to a casual reader.  For example it is well known that using evidence in the Bible, the Earth is less than 6000 years old.  Staunch believers of the Bible hold this to be true even today and claim that scientific evidence dating human remains back at least ten thousand years and dating rock back at least 4.5 billion years is a deception of Satan. 


For years, I had believed I could not understand the Bible because something was wrong with me or because it had just not been made understandable by God’s will.  But after comparing it to the Qur’an, I understood that it is okay to expect logic and clarity in the Word of God. I realized that the Bible itself is flawed.


I could not satisfy myself with believing in something that relied on a flawed book.  If I wanted to find God’s Truth from the Bible, how could I do it?  How could I know which, if any, of the three accounts I related earlier are factual?  If I could not determine which of those to trust, how could I decide about the rest of what those three authors wrote?  How could I trust anything in the Bible at all when I could not determine which was man-made and which was God-made?  And, now the big question, without the Bible to rely on, where does Christianity find itself?


But that is only half the story. I had concluded that Christianity was flawed, but I had not determined whether or not Islam was flawed also.   I had to examine the Qur’an with the same scrutiny that I had applied to the Bible.


So, I asked, “Where does the Qur’an contradict itself?  Where does it contradict known science?”  After months of searching, I realized the answer to both questions is that it simply does not.  It is flawless.   Further, it contains scientific data that were completely unknown to man when it was revealed.  The fact that bees’ honey comes from their stomachs is a modern scientific discovery, yet it is in the Qur’an (16:49) that was revealed in the 7th century CE.   The manner in which a baby forms in the womb is a discovery of this century, and yet it is explained accurately in the Qur’an in several places (22:05, 23:14, 40:67, 75:38, and 96:02).   


This is what the Qur’an has to say on the matter of Jesus’ (as) crucifixion (4:157-158):


And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! Those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain: But Allah took him up unto Himself.  Allah is ever Mighty, wise.”


This saying does not deny that something happened that led to those stories we find in the Bible.  It claims, however, that Christians were not given any proof that Jesus (as) was crucified, but rather made the conjecture that it had happened.  In other words, Christians have based their religion upon something that is not fact, but is merely supposed.  The people who supposed it might have been well-intentioned individuals, but that is beside the point.  Obviously, a Christian will be bothered in reading that ayat of Qur’an. My reaction in reading it the first time was to want to throw the book down.  It did not agree with what I had been taught.  If I believed what the Qur’an was saying, I would have to believe that my mother, my father, my teachers, my preachers, my neighbors, my politicians, my friends, indeed, everyone I had ever known, had gotten it wrong.  How could it be possible that so many people who were so sure in their belief and who seemed so favored by God living in the world’s most prosperous country, were wrong?


But then I had to ask myself, would not a girl living on the other side of the world immersed in another religion have a similar question?  For one of us, at least, the answer indeed had to be that all that we had known was wrong.  Truly, this was a terrifying concept.  My whole world was crashing down around me and I was left with nothing that I could trust.  I had no choice but to build my world up again, to examine everything I had ever believed all over again and create a new framework from which to view the world.  In the end, the Qur’an convinced me.  And the Bible convinced me, too, because I did not find in it the perfection I demand from the Word of God.  Although it is flawed, some truth remains in it and some good can be gained from reading the Bible if it is read with a critical eye.  In fact, I benefited from discovering that the Bible contains likely prophecies of Muhammad's (saw) prophethood, Deuteronomy 18:18 being among the more noted possibilities:


“I will raise up for them a prophet like you [Moses] from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.”


Christians generally presume this verse refers to Jesus (as), but Muslims find it more likely that it refers to the Prophet Muhammad (saw).  First, Muhammad (saw) is more like Moses (as) than Jesus (as).  Like Moses, Muhammad (saw) married and had a divinely appointed successor in terms of leadership of the people (Aaron for Moses and ‘Ali for Muhammad (sa)).  Moses and Muhammad (saw) were both born of both mother and father and came with new religious law.  On the other hand, Jesus (sa) was apparently unmarried, had no appointed successor, was born of mother only and did not bring new law.  Secondly, the verse says that the prophet will come from “their brothers”, which in context refers to the brothers of the Israelites.  Jesus (as) is directly descended from Abraham’s second-born son, Isaac (sa), just like the Israelites, and thus is an Israelite himself and not the brother of the Israelites.  Muhammad (saw) is the only one with a valid claim to prophethood who is descended from Abraham’s first-born son, Ishmael (sa), making him a brother of the Israelites and not an Israelite himself.  Finally, Muhammad (saw) fits the final portion of this verse exactly, and certainly better than Jesus (sa), as testified to in the Qur’an:


“Nor doth he speak of (his own) desire.  It is naught save an inspiration that is inspired….”  53:3-4


Muhammad (saw) is the only prophet with a scriptural record that he speaks only that which Allah swt has commanded or inspired, matching the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:18.


The preceding is a small sample of my study before I converted to Islam. The Qur’an stands as a true testament to what it is and what it contains. Its flawlessness, and its science unknown to the age in which it was written, were proof to me that it is what it claims to be:


“This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil)….”  (2:1)


“And this Qur’an is not such as could ever be invented despite of Allah [swt]; but it is a confirmation of that which was before it and an exposition of that which is decreed for mankind – Therein is no doubt – from the Lord of the Worlds.”  (10:37)



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A philosopher may debate whether there is such thing as absolute truth, or truth with a capital T. Another may say that all paths lead to God, i.e., that all religions or philosophies are equal.  If that were the case, then it would not matter if I were Christian, or Muslim, or Atheist, or even if I were an Adolf Hitler, a Karl Marx or an Aldo Leopold.  Each religion would have its own truths, and each person’s deeds within the context of their own philosophies would be equally valid.  There then becomes no agreeable standard for determining right and wrong. 


A Muslim scholar once said that we are given the capacity within ourselves to determine right and wrong.  That is plausible, because even from when we are very little we have ideas about fairness that are very unlikely to have been taught to us by our parents.  However, I personally believe that the God-given ability can become impaired, or diseased, if we are not careful.  Once it is diseased, as I imagine it is for most of us at least to some extent, it becomes difficult to make it well again.  Thus, it is difficult for someone, as an example, raised in the West and surrounded by Western ideals, to see all the impairments in the judgment of their society concerning right and wrong.  What a person is used to seeing, hearing, and believing seems fair to them. 


“He [Satan or Iblis] said: My Lord!  Because Thou hast put me in the wrong, I will make (wrong) fair-seeming to them on the earth….” Qu’ran 15:039


If we wish to examine our belief systems, the determining factor for right and wrong can only come from the source of absolute truth.  In turn, I contend that absolute truth can only come from the One who created all things.  To an Atheist, perhaps that would mean that absolute truth is an inherent characteristic of the Universe. But then where did the matter of the Universe come from, and who endowed it with that characteristic?  Are these unanswerable questions because science does not have the means to prove from whence the universe came?


Scientists used to be called natural philosophers and they tried to logically prove the existence of God.  My favorite of their arguments is thus: Imagine that you are walking along and find a watch.  Upon examining it you find that it has intricate parts which all work together to serve a common purpose of telling time.  It has hands that must be placed just so upon a face that must be numbered just so and inside are a multitude of gears and cogs which all must be placed in just such a way and be of just such a size.  It has to be made from certain materials and not others.  Now imagine that you had never before seen a watch until that very instant.  What would be your natural conclusion, that the watch was created by someone to serve a purpose, or that it had come together on its own through a random accumulation of atoms and molecules as physics and geology permitted over time? 


When it is put that way, it may seem very silly to imagine that the watch did not have a creator with a purpose in mind.  Well, then, what of the universe?  It, too, has numerous intricate parts which all work together in such a way as to perform certain functions.  For our existence to take place, we require that the universe expanded in uneven clumps that led to distinct galaxies. The matter has to have arranged in such a way that stars could form, and then lots of stars had to live out their life spans so that we could have the heavier chemical elements. And those have to have traveled through space and massed themselves together into a roughly spherical thing called Earth that then has to have formed around a class-M star within a very narrow range of distances to allow for a proper environment for life.  This Earth had to rotate at just such a rate so that temperature did not get too cold or hot one side or the other. It had to be tilted for proper weather. Water has to have found itself on this planet in abundance and then, some not-yet-understood circumstances have to have taken place to allow for the beginning of life.  Next, this life has to have somehow found the way to sustain itself, and has to have found a food supply and shelter.  And then it figured out how to reproduce itself, and to adapt to other environments, and then some of it became man and acquired the power of reason….  Look at all the pieces (and I know I am missing quite a few) that had to come together in order for us to exist.  And we would imagine that it was all by chance?  It only makes sense that there is a Creator of the Universe and of us, just like it only makes sense that there is a creator for the watch.  The Universe is a sign of its Creator, and you also are a sign of your Creator.  This is the argument for God as put forward by some of history’s best natural philosophers.


I believe it is possible to see that God exists through these many signs of His creation.  When I was in junior high, lots of people were telling me that the Universe just happened randomly on its own, as did life, and I heard it so much that it seemed almost plausible. 

The Qur’an tells us that there are signs of God’s existence all around us:


“We have sent down to thee manifest signs, and none reject them but those who are perverse.” (2:99)


 I concluded from the evidence at hand that God indeed existed, that the Qur’an was a sign from God as per my previously mentioned investigations regarding it, and that therefore, as stated in Qur’an, the Prophet Mohamed (saw) was sent by God.  The criterion for right and wrong, I decided, was in Islam.  That left me with a choice: convert or be a hypocrite, living what I did not believe. 


So, I converted. I was relieved that I was on the path I had been looking for, but I still knew very little about Islam.  And, I knew I had just done something that would cause more pain to my parents than anything else I had ever even thought of doing. 


I dreaded telling my family. I knew there would be yelling and screaming and crying and a long time of anger, hurt, and shock. Well, I was right.  They thought I was being foolish, that I could not possibly be in a right state of mind.  I had been brainwashed.  They would have to lock me up in my house or something.  I was going to burn in hellfire. I was doing it to please that Muslim guy because I could not actually believe in it.  I would be beaten, oppressed and treated like property.  The evil Muslim clerics would come and take me away and treat me horribly.  I would change my mind soon.


I learned that when your child converts to another religion, it often feels as if you have lost her.  There is anger, denial, mourning, and, eventually, acceptance.  Some accept it by accepting that they have lost her and having nothing to do with her.  Others accept it by ignoring it as much as possible, or overlooking it, in order to have a relationship with the daughter.  My parents try to ignore it and sort of pretend it didn’t happen.  But of course you can’t always do that and so time and again there is pain and conflict.    When I decided to wear hijab (Islamic modest dress), I was called a traitor to my family and a wanna-be Arab who was abandoning her culture.  I was told I was slapping my parents in the face.  My mother cried non-stop for a week.  And when I wanted to go for Hajj, it repeated.  When I fast in the month of Ramadhan, they are unhappy and uncomfortable.  I am a fanatic because I eat only halal meat. I have to pray secretly to avoid their reaction.  My mother insists on displaying pictures of me without proper Islamic dress throughout the house where non-related guests might see them, because it is the way that she prefers to remember me.


It hurts knowing your own mother doesn’t like you the way you are and cannot accept it, and it hurts to do something knowing how much pain it causes her and how much strife it causes at home.  That probably was the hardest thing for me about converting.  It is strange to be doing what you believe to be the right thing and yet your family hates it.


“We have enjoined on man kindness to parents, but if they strive to make thee join with Me that of which thou hast no knowledge, then obey them not.  Unto Me is your return and I shall tell you what ye used to do.”  (29:8) 


My dilemma has always been how to be kind and yet disobey?  Where do you draw the line? Everyday the line is unclear, but I pray to Allah swt for guidance.


My family has been and continues to be my greatest trial.  I want to do right by them and also do my best in following God’s commands.  The two should not be at odds, but unless I remind myself that doing right by my parents does not always mean obeying them, they often seem to be.  I do not really talk to them about religion, and fear I am failing them in that regard.  But, they can’t stand to hear it because it is still a very painful issue.   I often find myself frustrated with them and the daily obstacles they put up for me in following my religion, and I must struggle to be patient and kind at all times.


To anyone thinking of converting but worried about a family’s reaction, you cannot let that stop you if you find Islam to be true.  I cannot tell you it will be easy, but I can say that the house cannot be in turmoil all the time. Families react differently, and often they react better than expected in the long run.  There are a lot of good times, and there are times when it is almost as if nothing has changed, but your relationship with your family will never be quite the same – you will not belong with them like you once did.  When I am troubled by anything in this life, including my family, I try to remember this:


“And as for those who believe in Allah, and hold fast unto Him, them he will cause to enter into His mercy and grace, and will guide them unto Him by a straight road.”  (4:176)


The purpose of life is not to be happy all the time and have it easy.  Our trials are there for a reason and if we bear them patiently then we may be one of the successful.  It is good to be Muslim, even if it is unpopular or misunderstood.  It is good to be Muslim even though others oppose you.  It is good to be Muslim because you have a clear purpose in life (“I have created Jinns [spirit-beings living on Earth and created of fire] and humankind only that they might worship me" 51:56) and you have access to the Truth and great peace.  You have detailed guidelines on how to live life and worship God so you don’t have to doubt yourself.  When you become Muslim, instead of finding a confusing, winding, many-forked road in front of you, you are confronted with a blessedly straight path.  From the day I became Muslim, I have never looked back or doubted that I made the right choice.






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This is the big question once you have undone your life and started anew as a Muslim.  There are quite a few resources and people out there to help those who want to study Islam, or are thinking of converting.  Initially, they are hard to find, but when one door is found, it tends to lead to another door and yet another.  Muslims seem to like to help people interested in their religion, even though most of the work must be done by the potential convert alone. But for those who have already converted, the situation is sometimes different. The Muslims act as if their job is completed and seem to think that because the person has converted he/she no longer needs any help. The converts may complain that they find themselves forgotten, and again on their own with their struggles to remain on the right path.


In my experience and study, the state of the new converts is truly a state of limbo.  They no longer fit into the world from whence they came, and they do not yet fit in to the New World, which they have elected to join.  Some converts have access to a mosque, but many do not.   Either way, their situations are often quite the same.


In my case, that Muslim man that had inspired me to learn about Islam had moved away, and I didn’t really know any other Muslims.  I saw some men on the university campus who were obviously Muslim, but I didn’t dare approach them.  They were a group of men with long beards who stood in the engineering building speaking Arabic.  And if ever they looked at me as I passed in the halls, it was certainly not a warm, welcoming look.  That look they gave was one of judgment.  I imagined I could read their minds, thinking that I was an evil American woman. 


I felt very bad because here I was a Muslim and I didn’t know the first thing about what I needed to do.  I only knew that I believed.  I tried hard to find out how to pray, but without success.  It was months after I converted before a man, who had been a friend of the guy that initially sparked my curiosity in Islam, approached me and taught me how to pray.  He was about the only Muslim man on campus that I had met other than my friend, and this man had known I had converted.  Later, he invited me a few times to eat at his house with his wife during the month of Ramadhan when we were all fasting.  When the month was over I didn’t see that much of them again for a long time.  Eventually, I found that a group of these Muslims would get together every week, sometimes more often than that.  And then I was invited by the wife of the man who had taught me to pray.  I went, very excited and eager for Muslim companionship.


When I came to her house, no one greeted me except the one who had invited me.  I wore hijab (Islamic modest dress) and they all knew I was Muslim, and still no one talked to me.  They all could speak some English, but it was too burdensome for them, and so they spoke only in Arabic.  At times, it seemed as if they were talking about me, but I couldn’t tell for sure.   Once, one of the ladies who was more talkative and a little better in English spoke to me.  She asked if I was married or had children, then she relayed the answer in Arabic to the rest of the group. And that was all.  Another time when I was invited, the ladies had removed their hijab and so I did likewise, and the same one spoke to me again to tell me that my hair was too dry and I should use conditioner. Again, that was about the sum of their conversations with me.  They met every week, yet I was invited maybe once in four months, and never by anyone except the wife of the man who had taught me to pray.


One time I was fortunate enough that the man and his wife invited to take me with them to the nearest large city, about an hours’ drive, to go to the mosque.  There, the women stayed in a small overhang above the mosque floor.  It had one-way glass so that supposedly we could see down to the floor and the men couldn’t see us.  But the glass was so dark that really we couldn’t see; the only people who could see were those few who were closest to the glass and could put their foreheads on it to look down.  Whatever happened at the mosque that night was in Arabic, but that didn’t matter because I couldn’t hear it anyway.  It was hard to hear from the overhang, and the ladies up there made it worse because all they did was talk and play with the children.  Later, we moved to a basement room and had dinner.  This time several ladies greeted me after I had been introduced, and one of them asked me if I would be interested in marrying her brother so he could come to the United States.  During dinner, some of the Muslim boys were reciting something but again I could not hear.  I wondered why the women bothered coming if all they were going to do was talk.   I never went back.


One day, it came back to me that many ladies felt I had converted so that I could marry one of “their” men.  It was then that I realized that not only was it hard for a lot of non-Muslims to understand my conversion, but it was also hard for some of the Muslims.  They doubted that anyone would convert to their religion because of its Truth.  They preferred to think that people converted for the men, or to associate themselves with the Muslim people and get benefits from them.  Perhaps they doubt the Truth of their religion if they cannot see how others would find the Truth in it.  If they knew how much mental turmoil was involved in conversion, or if they realized how much converts give up (their family relationships, their previous way of life, friends, esteem they had held in society, etc.), then maybe they would realize their bad thoughts about converts generally have no basis.  Out of the many converts I have met, I have never known one who found conversion easy or took it lightly, nor have I ever known one who converted for any other reason except true belief in the religion.


Many Muslims on the surface act as if they love converts.  They tell us, “We so much admire you.”  Maybe that is true, but they also avoid the converts.  Some Muslims consistently do not invite us into their circle of friends. Someone once told me that this was because the presence of the converts reminds them of their own shortcomings.


Sometimes it is also because the converts are different.  My eyes and skin are light.  I can’t speak their first language.  I am not from their country or even their hemisphere.  My parents are not Muslim.   Although Islam has no place for bigotry, sometimes Muslims find a place for it anyway.  I am sure that frequently they are unaware of what they are doing, but I also know that we are responsible for our actions whether we are aware of their results or not.   Often a convert finds it very difficult to understand the cold-heartedness of some Muslims when the religion itself is so contradictory to that lifestyle.  It is a bit of a shock and a cause of depression to discover how poorly most of the Muslims know their faith and practice it.  I think it takes converts by surprise to find that the Muslims are mostly just like everyone else, if not worse, except for those who are truly steadfast in the religion.  The Muslims know, however, better than any other group, that their religion is the right one, and so they tend to be confident in their superiority over the non-Muslims. I believe this is a serious shortcoming because it leads to arrogance.


Although among Muslims exist some of the most arrogant, judgmental, and tight-fisted people, yet among them also exist the best people of the Earth.  I have been fortunate enough to meet some of these, as are most converts, eventually.


Many converts are first inspired to study Islam upon encountering a Muslim.  This is only true because of the behavior of that Muslim.  They see peace of mind, unmatched generosity, uncommon patience, amazing steadfastness, and genuine humbleness before God.  These stellar qualities often exude even in the Muslim who is only mildly practicing his faith.  And it is these that make the non-Muslims take another look.  Perhaps more than in any other religion, Islam is judged by the behavior of its adherents.  When a Christian in a foreign country commits a murder that has nothing to do with his religion, his religion is unlikely to be mentioned.  But, if a Muslim does the same, it is very likely that he will be identified as a Muslim and the act will be associated with his faith.  I do not know why this occurs, other than the fact that Islam itself does not differentiate between politics and religion. Thus, it becomes confusing for outsiders when Muslims themselves often do differentiate between the two and are capable of committing acts without it having directly to do with Islam.


Many Muslims tend to isolate themselves from the non-Muslims due to lack of commonality and because of Qu’ranic verses which say not to choose non-believers as friends over believers.  I think this is often taken to the extreme, leading them to neglect their duties of neighborliness.


“Allah forbiddeth you not, those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them.  Lo!  Allah loveth the just dealers.”  60:8


An average Christian in my country would not think twice of giving charity to a Muslim, but many Muslims would shun to help a Christian even if he was his next-door neighbor.  They seem to think that there is no reward with God for helping a non-Muslim.  If they looked more closely at the teachings of Islam, I believe they would find that it is their duty to help any living thing regardless of its faith, unless doing so would be helping to commit an act against the Muslims. 


I firmly believe that those Muslims who are open to appropriate interaction with non-Muslims and treat them with kindness are helping to spread the faith.  But before rushing out into the non-Muslim world, the Muslim needs to be sure and strong in his faith and practice or evil may become fair-seeming to him.  On the other hand, those Muslims who shun non-Muslims and treat them poorly are helping to spread the negative stereotypes of Islam. 






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Islam is truly a social religion, and an isolated Muslim is an incomplete Muslim.  Someone who is born to a Muslim family and community may not realize the effect of isolation.  An unmarried convert lives in a place where no one else rises for prayer in the morning, no one else pays attention to the approach of the next prayer, no one else fasts, no one else is concerned with Islamic behavior, no one else avoids pork or alcohol or music.  When this persists for a long time, it takes its toll.  I am sure those who were born to a Muslim family can relate if they have tried to be the only one in their family who prays on time or wears hijab, etc.  Initially, they are able to keep their focus on the right path, but when surrounded with people who aren’t doing that, they lose strength in time, or what the others are doing again starts to become more fair-seeming. 


“Iblis said: My Lord, since Thou hast put me in the wrong, I will make (wrong) fair-seeming to them on the earth….”  15:39


It is only when faced with a Muslim who is better in faith that they are able to see where they have started to slip and find the strength and inspiration to work harder.  To me, this is an example of why the Qur’an says, “…so strive as in a race in all virtues.”  (5:51) Just as a pious Muslim is an inspiration and a help to a non-Muslim, he or she is also an inspiration and a help to other Muslims. 


My advice to a new convert or a struggling Muslim would be, other than simply to pray constantly for help and be patient, would be to seek out the inspiring Muslims until they are found, and then make them your friends, and do not let go of them.


To this day, I do not know what would have happened to my faith if Allah swt had not blessed me by leading some of these people to me.  When I was at my lowest and did not know where to turn for help, it came.  Through the Internet, I found a new wellspring of information and a new source for Muslim companionship.  The information helped me to improve my faith and increase my knowledge. It is the people who stick around who make all the difference.  A lot of us like to help other people, but in the busy-ness of our lives, we do it and then move on.  We like to send some books and then we forget or lose touch with the recipient; we answer a question and then leave.  But, the companionship of a steady friend, one who does not disappear in a day or a week or a month, is the best support.


Truly, I think this companionship is not only the best help, but it is essential.   The one who sticks around serves as an unfading link to knowledge, advice, and good example.  Further, he/she serves as an access to the Muslim community; becomes the means through which the convert or struggling Muslim establishes a network of other friends, and, finally, a place where they are welcome and where they want to belong.  For the convert, these individuals may serve as the Muslim foster-family where their natural family is unsupportive.


What did these people do that made the difference to me?  They kept writing back.  They were patient.  They went out of their way to figure out what I needed and help me get it.  If they didn’t know an answer, they admitted it and asked.  They opened up their hearts and their homes and made me feel like a member of their families.  They shared their meals, their thoughts, and the happenings in their lives.  They overlooked my shortcomings.  They encouraged me. They didn’t judge me.  They did not hesitate to spend time or money, and they did not make me feel bad when they did so.  They kept confidences.  When they couldn’t help, they still listened.  They made me feel as if I was not just taking from them but giving them something in return.  They taught me. 


These are the inspiring Muslims.  They are the blessings to the rest of mankind, although they do not know it.  Although none of them are perfect, their efforts make a world of difference. 


Too many people think they cannot help when they can.  They think they can do little so they do nothing.  Allah swt has effectively said that He is more pleased with one who has two dollars and gives one than the one who has more but gives a smaller proportion of what he has.  One dollar can make a difference for the person you seek to help, and it certainly makes a difference for you in the Hereafter. We are so neglectful of our duties to others.  There is enough food in this world that everyone should be able to eat five meals a day, and yet millions of people are starving.  We look in our own communities and say, “No one is needy here.”  That is an outrageous lie. 


There are people in every community in need of mentor-ship, education, companionship, prayers, transportation, employment, interest-free loans, encouragement, or money.  How many youth are there who are confused and in danger of being lost and in need of mentor-ship?  How many people are there who need or want more religious education?


How many elderly in your community are sitting alone?  How many could use assistance in obtaining forgiveness and worldly needs through your prayer?  How many need a ride to the store, to a friend’s house, or to the masjid?  How many could you employ while instead you employ people who are not from your community?  How many are struggling to do right and need a hand up?  How many are worried about how to send their child to college, or pay their bills or fix their car?


 I implore the Muslims and non-Muslims to extend their sight and see the countless opportunities for doing good.  And I remind that doing good does not cost a thing but rather at least doubles what you have.  That is a promise of Allah swt.  In truth, the most reliable investment of all is charity, because it has a God-guaranteed 100% profit margin:


“If ye lend unto Allah a goodly loan, He will double it for you and will forgive you, for Allah is Responsive, Clement….”  (64:17)


Your time and money are not really yours.  They are Allah’s swt, just as everything is His.  When you spend your time and money, you are spending God’s time and money.


Therefore, you should spend it in goodness rather than waste.  When you give, give something that you yourself would like to receive if you were in the other person’s shoes.  When you give what you do not want for yourself, you are doing yourself a favor by getting rid of that thing rather than helping the other person. 


When you give, never mention it again, do not allow yourself to desire something in return, and do not act as if it is difficult or a burden for you even if it is.  If you do any of those things, you make the recipient feel bad for needing and accepting your help, and you have lost any reward that you had earned.  The inspiring Muslims vie with one another in helping others because they realize that it does not cost them but rather increases what they have; they believe Allah’s Word.


Sometimes we forget Allah swt, and we allow ourselves to be confused by this world and its distractions.  We think, for example, that we should not wear a beard or hijab because we will not be able to earn as much money.  However, if we pause to reflect on Allah’s swt Word, we would realize this is nonsense because the money comes from Him.  If you obey Him, you will be rewarded; it is not the other way around.  If you are disobedient to Allah swt and find yourself with abundant wealth, this may be a curse, not a blessing.


“So let not their riches nor their children astonish thee.  Allah thereby intendeth but to punish them in the life of the world and that their souls shall pass away while they are disbelievers.”  (9:55)


Since whatever we have is not ours but God’s anyway, we should not despair if we have less than others do and should give it freely.  A fancy car will do us no good in the Hereafter; neither will a large bank account or hours in front of the television.  Whatever passes through our hands may be a test from Allah swt to see if we if we forget that it is His. 


God knows, I do not always remember that it is all His. And I know I fail in my duty to those around me. So writing this is a reminder and help to me -- one that I am lead to by reflection on the selflessness and tirelessness of those that I have called the inspiring Muslims.  I leave them nameless here for their sake, and lest I forget to name one, but they do not remain nameless in my prayers and Allah swt surely knows who they are.



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My audience in this book is both the Muslim and non-Muslim.  The non-Muslim has likely come across this book because of a desire to know more about Islam.  From what I have written thus far, they may have learned a little about the life and path of a convert.  However, they are probably seeking more than this.   Islam contains many things that are controversial in the Western world and sometimes even within the Muslim community.


These things effect how Islam and Muslims are perceived by non-Muslims and, with the pervasion of Western ideas throughout the world, cause doubts to creep into the minds of some Muslims.  Converts have to address these things early in their new life because they find them troubling and in need of explanation.  I have accepted Islam as God’s truth, so when I find something in Islam that seems oppressive, I have a problem.  I know that God is not oppressive, so either I have an incorrect understanding of that thing and it is not truly oppressive, or else it is oppressive but it is not truly part of Islam.  Now it is my job to determine which of those two possibilities is the case, with an open mind, reflection and study from numerous sources.  I stress the need for numerous sources, and I also stress finding original sources.  If you want to know about what Muslims believe, ask Muslims.


This is not the work of a religious scholar and what follows is not intended to be used as if it were.  In the spirit of the title of this book, these are merely my reflections on these issues, presented so that the reader may understand how a Muslim convert has dealt with and come to understand some of the more controversial aspects of Islam.   These are presented in no particular order and you may of course feel free to skip over any that are not of interest to you.  If you find that you do not agree with what I have written on any topic, I hope it will not deter you from enjoying and benefiting from the rest of the book.






Women in Marriage


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Being a woman, as I thought of converting to Islam, I was greatly concerned about the status of woman in Islam.  Especially after I converted, my ears were full with people telling me what a horrible mistake I had made and how I had relegated myself to a life of oppression.  I had in my mind an image of what a Muslim woman was supposed to be like and I tried to make myself fit that role.  I thought the Muslim woman was supposed to be submissive, quiet, unopinionated, and filling her time cooking and cleaning.  I tried to be that way for awhile but it just wasn’t me and I was very unhappy.


In time, I realized that no one was demanding this behavior of me except myself.  As I gained exposure to other Muslim women, it dawned on me that I had it all wrong.  I was trying to be the Western stereotype of a Muslim woman, but the stereotype was wrong.

Muslim men and women observe modest behavior in each other’s presence so that neither of them are loud and boisterous in public.  But, in private, Muslim women are comfortably themselves.  They have their opinions and they share them with their husbands and families, who in turn listen and respect what is said.  A Muslim husband takes counsel with his wife.  They work together to complete the household work.  It is true that a Muslim woman defers to her husband when they cannot agree, but only if doing so does not cause her to violate her religion.  The Qur’an is very clear that the marriage relationship is not supposed to be one of fear or abuse, but one of comfort and love:


“And among His signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves so that you may live in tranquility with them; And He has created love and mercy between you.” (30:21) 


This is a vision of the Islamic ideal, and in reality the Muslim family is much closer to this than to the stereotypical view of a wife-beating man and a woman who has no say in what happens in her life.  Sadly, abusive and overbearing husbands exist among the Muslims just as they do among the Christians, Jews and everyone else.  And, just as the abusive men of other faiths, they often believe they are religiously in the right.  I feel that in this century the abused Muslim woman is at a disadvantage in comparison to her Christian counterpart living in the West. In the past, any woman had little practical recourse from abuse.  In this century, Western women increasingly have opportunities for help and escape without being ostracized.  But the Muslim woman is likely to live in a world where it is still taboo for people to become involved in the family affairs of others in order to help the abused woman.  The abused Muslim woman who leaves becomes the subject of gossip and judgment while the man often has a much easier time in maintaining his dignity and even in remarrying. 


Despite this problem, I can say through comparison of every married Muslim and non-Muslim couple I have ever met that the Muslim marriages tend to be happier, more equal, and longer lasting.  Since many Muslim marriages are arranged without the couple knowing each other too well before marriage, they both enter the marriage with a spirit of compromise.  There does not exist the delusion of the one right man or right woman in the world.  Rather, Muslims believe they can be compatible and have a successful loving marriage with a variety of different types of people. 


All marriages take work.  In my mind, one of the great failings of the typical Western non-Muslim marriage is that it is expected to be easy.  When difficulties arise, the couple decides they must have not really found their one right mate, and so they part; and very rarely is the parting kind and equitable.



Finding a Mate


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Muslim youth in the West today are enticed by the romantic images on TV.  They wonder where the room is for romance in an arranged marriage.   Having experienced dating life as a non-Muslim, and then having married a Muslim, I feel I can offer perspective.  Dating is not romantic, it is not fun, and it does not help in later married life.   There is such great peer pressure to date that it occurs among the very young, and people only get hurt.  A relationship begins, the youth go too far and do things they regret, and a short time later they leave each other.  Then, they talk about each other, spreading gossip and damaging each other’s reputations.  Most of the time the relationship is largely physical and even basic friendship is missing between the two, although they can’t see that through the veil of their strong physical desires.  As people get older, relationships last a little longer, but the problems don’t change all that much. 


Finally, the “training” is over and a couple gets married.  They feel they have prepared themselves to know what kind of person is good for them through years of dating.  However, they find that in marriage, their spouse is not the same person as he/she was while dating.  And they find that both they and their spouses have jealousy over those previous dating relationships.  The romance and true love that these people are looking for does not come automatically like on TV.  True romance comes from the commitment of the people involved and from friendship and not from magic instant sparks.  They’ve been spending years looking for the ideal mate when in truth any couple who both approach a marriage with the right state of mind and have some basic compatible qualities can be ideal for each other.  Romance comes through friendship and compromise and accepting the other person with their faults included, and does not come from pre-marital sex, discarding partners for others, and expecting a near-perfect match.  Dating actually diminishes romance because it desensitizes the couple to the special-ness of the husband-wife relationship. The effort spent on dating should be spent on developing yourself as the ideal Islamic spouse.  You will find with patience that there are others out there doing the same as you and God willing one of them may become your life mate.


Dating, or visiting each other without escort, is not the solution.  But, it is not unreasonable for someone to want to know his/her potential spouse before agreeing to marriage.   Often the characteristics that a parent looks for in a potential spouse for their son or daughter do not match with the characteristics that are most important to the child.   The child certainly knows something about what he or she wants and that needs to be respected.  Likewise, the wisdom of the parent due to life experience is of value and should also be considered. 


Especially in the West, where Muslim communities are often small and far from one another, it is unreasonable to expect the search for a spouse who possesses those certain characteristics that you require to be an easy or quick search.  This is a life-decision being made, so it should be done with effort.  Muslim communities have a duty to their children to open their minds and invest their time and money in developing any method of finding suitable spouses that does not violate Islamic principles.  In turn, the youth have a responsibility to be patient and invest their own time and effort into the process and to avoid any method which involves violation of Islamic guidelines.  After all, if you want a happy and successful marriage, you must pursue it in a manner that is pleasing to Allah.


I can not leave the topic of marriage without addressing the two most controversial topics: polygamy and temporary marriage.  Polygamy is the act of a man having more than one wife, and temporary marriage is the act of taking a spouse for a fixed, finite term rather than “until death do you part.”




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Islam makes allowance for a man to have up to four wives at a time.  This is an appalling concept for many people today.  The Western world holds fast to the idea that for each man there is one ideal woman and for each woman there is one ideal man.  And, it comes natural for one raised in the West to view a polygamous relationship as an uneven one in which the women are treated unfairly.


Other cultures have very different views that might be worth noting here.  In many cultures, in particular those stemming from Africa, a polygamous marriage is something greatly desired.  Having more than one wife for a given man provides security to the women because the man, already having a spouse, has demonstrated his ability to be a good husband.  Further, the women enjoy each other’s companionship and help in child-rearing and other duties.  In many war-torn societies, the women greatly outnumber the men and those who desire companionship and help in life turn to polygamous relationships because the only other choices are to remain alone or commit sin.


The polygamous relationship meets a need that could not be met otherwise.   In the West, perhaps, there is not much call for it, but if it were regarded with less taboo it could satisfactorily meet the needs of some.  For example, widows, who desire companionship and do not see an option of finding an unmarried man could benefit -- and in fact, it does meet needs for those who are strong enough in heart to pursue it. 


In practice, it is not exceedingly common for a Muslim man to have more than one wife.  That is because doing so is not about his pleasure but is rather about responsibility to society.   One verse in Qur’an which attests to this is as follows:


“And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice to so many then one only….  Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice.”  (4.3)


Polygamy is presented as a means of serving the needs of orphans in this verse, not as a means of serving the needs of lustful men.  The Qur’an emphasizes the need for justness in any marriage.  This is a heavier burden for a man with more than one wife because he is required to meet the needs of each and treat them fairly.  Each is entitled to her own home according to his means, and each is entitled to equitable possessions and time.  It is not permitted that a man should ignore or neglect one wife and prefer another in treatment.


It is good to keep in mind that a Muslim woman has the right to full choice in her spouse and if she marries a man who is already married than she does it knowingly and of her own volition.  If ever the case is otherwise and the woman is coerced into marriage, that marriage is void according to Islam and she has no responsibility to persist in it.  The one who does not have as much choice is the first wife, for she cannot prohibit her husband from taking another spouse.  However, she can put into her marriage contract that if he takes another spouse she is entitled to divorce.  Many women are discouraged from doing so (putting the clause in their contract), because it might imply that the girl does not trust her future husband. But, if a young lady knows full well that she could not be happy in a polygamous relationship than she should see to it that such a clause appears in her contract, no matter how unlikely she considers that it would be needed.


It takes an exceptional man and woman to build a truly Islamic, happy, successful marriage and that is only compounded in the case of a polygamous marriage.  There is no room in the heart of a Muslim woman in a successful polygamous relationship for jealousy.  Her time with her husband is shared with other women, but if she has a good husband she has nothing to fear because he observes all his duties to her, and is kind and loving.  In turn, she does and is the same for him.  Many people are well served by such a relationship and it should not be looked on with such distaste.  Our distaste stems from Western, rather than Islamic, views, and also from fear of oppression.   However, a polygamous marriage is not in itself oppressive and is in fact a blessing to many.  


Injustice within a marriage can be oppressive, and it is indeed harder for a polygamous man to be just to multiple wives, and that is why the Qur’an advises that the man who cannot do it justly simply should not do it.  In this modern society, the man who can do it is uncommon and likewise the woman who will live in such a marriage without undue jealousy is also uncommon.


I tried to imagine if I myself could exist happily and successfully in a polygamous relationship.  I think I could if I had confidence that the intentions of my spouse were pure.  If a man has an inclination toward taking another wife it is wrong to assume a bad motive.  Not only in this case but in any case, a woman must not assume bad intention on the part of her husband but instead should assume good intentions unless there is proof otherwise (and the husband should do likewise for her).


The question may be asked, though, why cannot the woman take more than one husband?  At first glance, it may seem unfair that it is not permitted.  But, in light of what has been explained above, that taking more than one spouse is not about pleasure but is a matter of meeting social needs and taking on enormous responsibility, that question loses considerable force.  Further, if a woman has more than one husband, paternity becomes an issue, as does family authority.  The most wealthy and sophisticated societies now have the technology to scientifically determine paternity, but this is not available to everyone.  And while successful marriages the world over tend to involve cooperation and counsel between husband and wife, it is also natural nearly everywhere that ultimately the husband is the final authority in the household.  When there is more than one husband, there is no longer a natural or clear household leader and discord results.


More importantly, one must ask, what societal needs would be served in a woman having multiple husbands?  While the opposite case can be seen to meet real societal needs, it is difficult to come up with a genuine need for polyandry. 



Temporary Marriage

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My last topic in marriage is perhaps the most controversial within the Muslim community, and this is the temporary marriage.  Among the Muslims are some who believe that the temporary marriage is unlawful and others who believe that it is lawful and even very important.   Those who believe it is unlawful believe that the Prophet of Islam (saw), through God’s command, allowed it for a very short period and then disallowed it.  Those who believe it is lawful believe that the Prophet of Islam (saw) never disallowed it but rather it was a Caliph, after the death of the Prophet (saw) at which time Islam can not be changed, who made it illegal. 


Further, those who find it lawful turn to a verse in the Qur’an in which they believe it (temporary marriage) is mentioned. They say that something which is lawful in Qur’an and not made unlawful somewhere else in the Qur’an must be permissible.   The matter of dispute is in 4:24, here presented as in the Puya/Ali translation and tafsir of the Holy Qur’an:


“As to those whom you married for a fixed time (Mutah), give them their agreed dowries; and there is no sin for you in what you mutually agree together after what has been settled.” 


The corresponding tafsir follows:


“Famastamta-tum bihi [the Arabic in the text which refers to the marriage] provides for a temporary marriage, knows as Mutah.  It has been specifically made lawful by the Qur’an and the Holy Prophet, therefore this provision subsists as unrescinded.


One day, for no reason at all, and having no authority to amend a law given and practiced by the Holy Prophet, the second caliph declared from the pulpit:


‘Two Mutahs (temporary marriage and combining hajj with umra) were in force during the time of the Holy Prophet, but now I decree both of them as unlawful; and I will punish those who practice them.’ (Tafsir Kabir, Durr al Manthur, Kashshaf, Mustadrak and others).


According to Tirmidhi even his [the second caliph’s] son, Ibna Umar, refused to agree with his father’s action because it was made lawful by Allah and His Prophet, whose pronouncements could never be revoked by any one after him.


Therefore the Shia school of thought holds both Mutahs lawful.  Ali ibn abi Talib reversed the uncalled-for innovation of the second caliph, and thereafter it was never again prohibited.”



Now if we look at a different translation, we find that there is no clear mention of the marriage referred to as being temporary in nature:


“And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty.  And there is no sin for you in what you do by mutual agreement after the duty (hath been done).”  (Pickthall)


Thus, for one who is not an expert in Qur’anic Arabic, it is difficult to determine whether “famastamta-tum bihi” refers to a temporary marriage.  It may be easier, then, to adhere by the law according to the Islamic school that you choose to follow, but this is not a truly satisfactory answer for the convert who may have not yet chosen a school.  However, it is possible to study the works of those who are more knowledgeable in Qur’anic Arabic or you can try to determine the matter using the information on which nearly all Muslims agree.


That on which nearly all Muslims agree, both Sunni and Shia, is that the temporary marriage was made lawful by the Prophet (saw) of Islam and was not made unlawful until after Allah swt had completed and perfected Islam and the Prophet (saw) had died.  It is also largely agreed upon that anyone after the Prophet (saw) cannot make anything that was lawful, unlawful, or anything that was prohibited, allowed, except on a temporary basis stemming from urgent political need.  As an example of a temporary change stemming from urgent political need, it would be acceptable for an Islamic scholar to prohibit the use of birth control temporarily to counteract an oppressor’s rule that all Muslims must not procreate.  Normally, many methods of birth control are permissible for Muslims, but in an emergency when the future of the Muslim society is at stake, the scholar can rule that they should not use birth control until the situation is alleviated.


Therefore it would seem that the second caliph’s ruling cannot have any effect on the permissibility of temporary marriage today and as such the conclusion I make is that it is permissible.  There are a minority of Sunnis who turn to different traditions that indicate that the Prophet (saw) himself forbade Mutah, but those traditions contradict each other and do not stand up to close scrutiny and we are left with the same conclusion that temporary marriage is permitted.  But, to address that opinion, the following is quoted from the Shia Encyclopedia (available online):


“Sabra al-Juhanni reported on the authority of his father that while he was with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), he said: O' people, I had permitted you to contract temporary marriage with women, but Allah has forbidden it (now) until the Day of Resurrection. So he who has any (woman with this type of marriage contract) he should let her off, and do not take back anything you have given to them (as dower).

Sunni references:

Sahih Muslim, English version, v2, chapter DXLI (titled: Temporary Marriage), Tradition #3255

Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v2, p1025, Tradition #21, "Kitab al-Nikah, Bab Nikah al-Mutah"


'A side comment here is that again the word "Istimta'a" has been used in this tradition for temporary marriage which is exactly what Quran has used.'


“In the next tradition after the above tradition in Sahih Muslim, the same narrator (Sabra) has narrated the same tradition with addition that:

"I saw Allah's Messenger standing between the pillar and gate of Ka'ba when speaking the Hadith."

Sunni references:

Sahih Muslim, English version, v2, chapter DXLI (titled: Temporary Marriage),      Tradition #3256

Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v2, p1025, Tradition #21, "Kitab al-Nikah, Bab Nikah al-Mut'a"


“The following tradition, however, indicates that the Prophet allowed Temporary marriage after the battle of Hunain (after 10/8 AH) which was after the conquest of Mecca:

Narrated Iyas Ibn Salama on the authority of his father that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) gave sanction for contracting temporary marriage for three nights in the year of Autas (this was after the Battle of Hunain in 8H), and then forbade it.

{Note: The sentence inside parentheses is the Saudi translator's footnote, and is NOT mine.}

Sunni references:

Sahih Muslim, English version, v2, chapter DXLI (titled: Temporary Marriage), Tradition #3251

Sahih Muslim, Arabic version, 1980 Edition Pub. in Saudi Arabia, v2, p1023, Tradition #18, "Kitab al-Nikah, Bab Nikah al-Mutah"


Now, let us see what the problems are: …

If the Prophet has forbidden the temporary marriage FOREVER in the Day of Khaibar (1/7 AH), why it was practiced even after the battle of Hunain (after 10/8 AH) with the direct order of the Prophet? (See the reference above) In other words:

How is that possible that one is forbidden FOREVER and in two different points of time, in the Day of Khaibar (1/7 AH) and on the victory Mecca (9/8 AH) FOREVER, and people were practicing it between these two instants of time and after these two instances with the order of the Prophet?

In the mentioned tradition about the battle of Hunain, it is said that the messenger of Allah ALLOWED to do Mutah  after the battle of Hunain. So we can not say people did it because they did not know it was forbidden forever. The traditions confirms that Mutah was done with the direct order of the Prophet. So how can we justify these few alleged traditions that the Prophet forbade it forever before that? …


Two Sunni scholars: al-Qurtubi (in his commentary of Quran) and al-Nawawi (in his commentary of Sahih Muslim) are in the opinion that different traditions concerning the ban of Mutah specify seven different dates!!! ….


What will be wrong if we take the opinion of Imam Ali (AS), the most knowledgeable one among the companions who said:


The Mutah is a mercy from Allah to his servants. If it were not for Umar forbidding it, no one would commit (the sin) of fornication except the wretched (Shaqi)." …. “


But why would anyone want to be in a temporary marriage?  What purpose does it serve? Temporary marriage is not intended as an alternative to permanent marriage, but rather, like polygamy, is an option for those who have needs that permanent marriage cannot meet.  To claim that permanent marriage meets all needs is foolish upon close examination of society.  Imam Ali (as), the 4th caliph of Islam according to the Sunnis and the first Imam (one appointed by God to succeed in leadership after the Prophet (saw) and to uphold the religion) according to the Shias, is quoted on this issue as saying,


“It [temporary marriage] is permitted and absolutely allowed for the one whom Allah has not provided with the means of permanent marriage so that he may be chaste by performing Mutah [temporary marriage].”  Wasail, vol. 14 pp.449-450.


In modern society, the temporary marriage may meet the needs of someone who is travelling for a long time and is in need of companionship, or someone who cannot find a permanent spouse.  Additionally it may serve the needs of someone without the financial means to have a wedding and then to support his wife financially. (The requirement that he maintain his spouse according to his means and according to what she is accustomed to does not have to apply in temporary marriage.)   The elderly widows who have little realistic chance of finding another permanent spouse can more easily find temporary spouses to serve the need of companionship.  Similarly, youth who are too young for the responsibilities of permanent marriage but in danger of committing sin may lawfully meet in a Mutah marriage.  This last case does not give freedom for youth to freely mingle with the opposite sex and have intercourse.  A condition mitigating against this abuse is the requirement that a virgin female have permission of her father to enter any marriage relationship, including Mutah, unless the father is found to be one who is unreasonable in that regard. It is further commonly required that a condition of the marriage be that sex shall not take place.  


Mutah is the way to avoid sin when permanent marriage is not possible.  Many Muslims today commit sin prior to their marriage with the person that they are engaged to.  Islam is clear that, between men and women, touching, viewing parts of each other’s bodies that should be covered, and visiting while unescorted are sins unless they are closely related or married. 


Engagement is not marriage, yet couples involve themselves in this behavior that should take place only in marriage.  The logical alternative to avoid sin is simply to have a temporary marriage prior to the permanent marriage so that the couple can make sure they are suited to each other.


Mutah is often referred to as a pleasure marriage and is compared to prostitution.   The man pays the woman a dowry and they enjoy each other and then move on.  But, in truth, Mutah probably more often occurs without any sex than it does solely for the purpose of sexual gratification.  Mutah, unlike permanent marriage, may have conditions put on it, including the most common one, which is that no sex shall take place.  Thus, its purpose is companionship and getting to know the other person and not just sexual pleasure.  Mutah is different than prostitution in that it is a union before God, and any children resulting will be legitimate.  It is in all senses of the word a marriage.  Just as in permanent marriage, the woman has a waiting period after the end of the marriage before she can take another spouse.  The waiting period serves many purposes including making sure of any paternity, avoiding running into another relationship too soon, and giving the couple time to reconcile.  A woman is unlikely to be able to make a living from Mutah, because she could legally have less than half a dozen partners in a year.  In this way, it is clearly unlike prostitution.  Payment of a dowry does take place in Mutah, but it is unlike prostitution because the payment is not for sex, but rather it is identical in purpose to the dowry given in permanent marriage.


I think the stigma placed on temporary marriage is largely unjustified, but I must also admit that the way it tends to be practiced is rather messy.  Most Muslims have heard stories in which a permanently married man had several temporary spouses on the side, while his permanent spouse was neglected. Or, that a man convinced a young girl to sleep with him in Mutah without the permission of her father by classifying the father as one who would unreasonably deny the marriage.


Personally, I have known a handful of women involved in temporary marriage, all of whom were converts.  The stories of blatant misuse of the marriage are not to be found with those I have known, but there were problems.  I think, in each case these marriages were too long.  What I mean is that temporary marriage is supposed to be just that --temporary.  But in all cases that I have personal knowledge of, they extended for years, often in a series of repeated temporary marriages.  Two-thirds of the time the wife was kept secret from family, friends, and/or community because of the stigma and judgment that would result.  Thus, when someone unexpectedly came to the door, the wife had to hide in a back room or closet silently until the guest could be taken care of.  The longer the relationship persisted, the more the woman became attached to the man and secretly hoped for permanent marriage, and some resented having to hide if they were one of the ones kept secret.  Often the men provided just enough hope of a permanent marriage that the women stuck around, but years passed and no longer term commitment was made, no permanent marriage plans arose -- but another temporary marriage was offered.  In public, the women frequently had to say they were unmarried because the temporary marriage was unknown. For some, the end result was a happy permanent marriage or a happy parting but that was not always the case.  Ultimately, being temporary rather than permanent spouses seemed to these women to indicate a partial rejection by their husbands even if there was no other reason to believe that to be the case.  The women just wanted more.


I do not wish to paint the men who choose temporary marriage even for prolonged periods in a bad light.  In nearly all cases they are trying to do right and love their wives.  Their dilemma often stems from the rejection they find or anticipate from their family and society because of the race or nationality of their spouse, or because they found each other without the traditional arrangement done by the family.  Or often, they were initially only able to pursue a temporary marriage and not a permanent one and had to hide their marriage because of the very negative reactions and rejection they would receive from people, especially family, if it were made public.  I sympathize with the desire to want both your family and your wife.  In the end, these men often have to choose one or the other.


Rightfully, they should not have to choose.  People should accept a man’s choice in spouse regardless of her race or nationality, especially if she is a pious woman. And people should not allow stigma to exist upon those who find the need for temporary marriage.  This stigma has no place on something that was made lawful by God and the Prophet (saw) and even encouraged or mandated when sin is the likely alternative. Mutah has a place in society and the need for it is not altogether uncommon.  It is a gross error to accept fornication and adultery more easily than Mutah. 


I strongly feel that people who engage in temporary marriage should do so only after having educated themselves about it and making clear in their minds and hearts that it is indeed temporary.  If it is not intended to lead to a permanent marriage, this needs to be absolutely understood by both sides.  And, if it is intended to lead to permanent marriage, then the permanent marriage should take place as soon as possible.


If, upon examination of your heart, you find that you are one who holds a stigma toward polygamy, Mutah or those who practice them, you should understand that whether or not your opinions are voiced, they do real damage.  People suffer because of the stigmas that others hold.  Just as in a monogamous permanent marriage, polygamous and temporary marriages can contain abuse and bad outcomes.  It is the abuse that should be stigmatized, and not the marriages themselves.  In fact, stigmatizing the marriages causes abuse within them to be more likely because it makes it more likely that the marriages will be done in secret. Therefore, if you are concerned about misuse of the temporary and polygamous marriages, then let them out of the closet and into the realm of the public.  One can only remove a stigma through conscious and deliberate effort within oneself.  Although past damage cannot be fully repaired, future damage can be prevented if more people, perhaps starting with the reader him/herself, would be active and audible in their support of polygamous and temporary marriage and those individuals who pursue them lawfully. 




The Sexes

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Just the other day I saw a promo for a TV show called “Battle of the Sexes”.  It caught my attention because it was filled with images of the Muslim world.  Pictures of women wearing black chador that showed only their eyes went along with images of a woman being placed in a chastity belt, which also went along with images of Arab men shooting large guns.  The accompanying words lead the viewer to imagine the large guns as phallic symbols.   Having been Muslim for a few years now, I was disturbed by these images because they portrayed the relationship between Muslim men and Muslim women very negatively, and in my opinion, very incorrectly.   Later, I watched the show to see exactly what it had to say about Islam and the sexes.  As it turned out, ninety percent of the show was about the Modern West or Medieval Europe and only a small portion was about the Muslim world, although the promo certainly lead the viewer to expect otherwise.


Why was the promo so skewed?  A likely answer is that those stereotypical images of Islam are attractive to viewers and thus serve as ratings-boosters.   People remember those images and the associations made with them and tend to believe them.   Many people who see these images are led to believe they know a lot more about the Muslim world than they do.  For example, if Saudi Arabia comes up in discussion, you can find someone who will say, “Oh, I know all about that place and how they hate Americans.  Did you know that the women there have to walk ten feet behind the men?”  And when you tell them that there is absolutely no truth to that claim, they do not want to believe you because you are not as authoritative as the media is.   “No, I am right, I saw it on Nightline or CNN.”   “I read it in the New York Times.”   


It is no wonder that so few Americans ever think to pick up a translation of the Qur’an when the religion looks so bad to them.  Yet, everyday men and women in America choose Islam.  Do these men and women think that women are property and should walk ten feet behind men or face being flogged?  I hope you realize that the answer is no.  These men and women have concluded that the stereotypical view of how Islam regards the sexes is inaccurate. 



Islamic Modest Dress

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When you picture a Muslim, you are likely to picture an Arab.  You may see a long-bearded man with a white robe and a checkered headdress and a woman covered from head to toe in black so that only her eyes, if that, are visible.   The prospect of dressing like that is often quite frightening to the convert.  Is that what Islam really requires?  And if so, why is it required? 


To the person investigating Islam, the answer is initially not that easy to find.  When a convert reads a translation of Qur’an, he/she finds the verses on dress hard to understand.  Further, the convert finds hadith and proponents of those hadith which say a multitude of different things on the subject. Personally, I think a reliable hadith is one in which the Prophet (saw) indicated that women should cover all but their hands and face.  And I think the most telling Qur’anic verses are 24:30-31.


“And tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest.  That is purer for them.  Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do.  And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands….”



First of all, it is important that the men are first directed to lower their gaze and be modest.  Men have a large responsibility in maintaining proper respect and treatment of women and to prevent wrongdoing.  Women have a similar role, but they are further directed to display only certain parts of their bodies.  Technically, even Muslim men have certain parts of their bodies they are supposed to cover, but those aren’t mentioned in these verses. It is not totally clear to the average reader what part of a woman’s adornment is “apparent” but a logical argument could be made that those are the parts that she has reason to uncover.  It is logical to have her hands uncovered because she is always using her hands to hold things and carry things.  It is possible to argue the same about the face because she uses it to talk, eat and see.  But for any other body part there is not much reason that it would need to be uncovered. 


The next phrase gives us further indication as to what is “apparent”.  It tells the women to draw their veils over their chests.  So the reader must ask, what is the veil?  It is something that begins above the chest area because it would otherwise not make sense to use the word “draw”.  The word “draw” in that phrase indicates that something beginning at least at her shoulders if not higher is to be closed over the chest so that the chest itself does not show.


If this verse were only requiring that the chest be covered, the mention of a specific garment to cover it is unnecessary because ordinary clothes could be adequate.  Since a specific garment is mentioned, we are lead to believe that that garment itself covers more than just the chest.


 Thus we conclude that the word translated as “veil” means what we typically take the word “veil” to mean: something which covers the head.  Thus, this phrase of the verse is directing the women to take their headcovers and make sure their neck and chest area is also covered.


This makes even greater sense when we consider the word “adornment”.  A woman’s adornment clearly would indicate her bosom, but it even more likely indicates her hair.  Without a doubt, a woman’s hair is one of her greatest adornments.  Women take pride and great effort in styling their hair and making it look appealing. This, along with the fact that there is no logical reason why she needs to have her hair uncovered, serves as a great indication that it is part of her adornment to be covered according to this verse.


What about the face?  Numerous traditions can be found which indicate the face is to be covered, but numerous can be found to the contrary.  Most of the modern scholars do not seem to think it is required, but many say it is not a bad idea if the woman finds herself in a place where it is customary to do so or if not doing so would cause a hardship to her.


I do not think a woman should ever be forced to cover since covering face or hair is a matter of belief.  I am not alone in this opinion; Ayatollah Taleqani, a noted Iranian Muslim scholar, stated during the Islamic Revolution in Iran that hijab is a personal choice and should not become mandatory.  That being said, I do think hijab should be encouraged.  There are two countries that require women to cover in public and at times punish women for failing to cover properly.  These countries look on hijab as a social matter since the way in which we view and interact with each other has definite social implications and hijab effects the way in which we view one another and interact.  However, I do not find an example in Qur’an or Sunnah for such punishment.


The question is “Why all this covering anyway?”  The Bible makes reference to women covering their hair in church or in public and clearly indicates that the veiling is a mark of status for her.  In the Bible, women cover as a sign of the male’s superiority.  But in Islam, this is absolutely not the case.  Women cover simply to help ensure that they receive the respectful treatment they deserve and it has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority.  Islam considers men and women as equal before God but acknowledges that being equal does not mean being the same.  Men and women are different and to ignore those differences is oppressive to women.  Although it is not often thought of this way, the modern world is oppressive to women in making them compete in the working world with men by acting just like men and neglecting their differences. Or, by acknowledging the differences, but using them to treat women as decorations and trophies in the workplace instead of equally deserving and capable employees. 


Women in Islamic modest dress, (loose clothing that covers all but hand and face in any cultural style), are recognized as pious, business-minded women on sight.  When I decided to wear the Islamic modest dress I was very surprised at what I experienced.  I found people opening doors for me more than ever before, offering to help me carry parcels, and cleaning up their language around me.  I realized that men talked to me differently.  I never realized that even “good” guys had been looking at my body while talking to me until I put on the hijab and they suddenly were no longer doing it.  They talked to me as if I were more intelligent, too.  More importantly, I felt better about myself.  I had been very worried about how people would react and I found that instead of being treated worse I was being treated better than before.  Up to that point, I did not fully understand the reasons for hijab, but seeing the positive results first hand, I was instantly and utterly convinced that it truly is a good thing and not oppressive at all.  I knew I was safer in hijab.  If I were to walk down the worst street in New York with a friend wearing a T-shirt and jeans, my friend would be whistled at and harassed, even groped at and called names.  But me, I get called “sister”, and the men lower their gazes instead of staring, and step out of my way.  Many women fret over dressing a little different than their non-Muslim counterparts, but they shouldn’t.  The negative reactions they anticipate are largely exaggerated and in fact, they will find increased respect from their counterparts when they are practicing as they believe.


A woman may find it unfair that she is asked to cover because some men can’t control themselves, but this is analogous to saying that it is unfair that she has to lock her house and car because some thieves can’t control themselves.  Hijab in practice is not burdensome in my experience, but rather is a remover of burdens. 



Mixing of the Sexes

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A very close cousin to the subject of Islamic modest dress is the subject of casual mixing of the sexes.  According to Islam, men and women should not interact socially, especially one-on-one.  This concept seems very strict and extreme to many in the West.  When I grew up, all my best friends were boys and I never had many girl friends.  And now I am not supposed to have male friends?  That is not entirely true.  But interaction with males should be business-like.  We’ve all seen the consequences of unbusiness-like behavior with friends of the opposite sex.  Attraction at some level is a common result, and this leads to trouble in marriages.  Maybe it will not always cause your spouse to be jealous or result in a fight, but it always does effect how you view your spouse or future mate.  You find things in your friends that you like better than the way your spouse is.  You imagine yourself with someone other than your spouse, and that is damaging even if you do not take it seriously.  “Falling out of love” with your spouse is absolute nonsense.  It only happens if you let it happen.  Thus, if you have a class or job with members of the opposite sex, fine.  You can greet them and be cordial but you have no need to do more. 


The issue of mixing at the mosque is one that regularly comes up in the Muslim communities.   Some of the men and women want to sit together rather than in different rooms or one in front of the other.  In my opinion, if they want to have everyone in the same room with women on one side and men on the other, fine, but then someone should be at the door handing out chador or other Islamic dress so that everyone is properly attired.  The mosque is a place for worship and not a place for absentmindedly admiring the opposite sex.  And it is impossible to say truthfully that you can have men and women together in a place, without concern for proper dress, and not have at least some thoughts about the other sex result.  Therefore, let them sit side-by-side if they must, but only if they all put on proper Islamic attire before entering the room.  Then, when they leave the mosque, if they take it off and choose to mingle and interact, it is their own responsibility.


I do not see any oppression or unfairness in separating sexes at the mosque.  However, I do have a problem with the many mosques that provide substandard facilities for women.  Women should be able to easily hear what is going on, and it is preferable that they can see, too.  I have seen some communities install audiovisual systems so that the prayers and sermons were on speakers that all could hear; and they used closed circuit TV so that the women could also see the speakers.  In question-and-answer sessions, properly attired women with questions could enter the back of the men’s area so that they could be called on, or another reasonable system could be devised.  Too many mosques have horrible or non-existent facilities for women and then wonder why their women are not knowledgeable about the religion or are being misguided.  Communities like the one I mentioned earlier in which the women couldn’t see or hear and many could not understand the language being used are the ones which find their next generations rejecting practice of Islam and moving away.


Most Muslim communities struggle to even have a mosque let alone have good facilities for women, but I maintain that they should not build a mosque that does not serve their women well.  Similarly, Muslim communities must work hard to provide facilities for both the men and women to participate in sports.  It is not fair to the Muslim girl in the West who takes swimming lessons and gymnastics lessons every year from when she is five to be told on her ninth birthday that she can’t do those things anymore. It is like punishing the girl for becoming baligh (Islamically of age to be responsible for dress, prayer, etc.), when instead it should be something she can be happy about.   Muslim communities who are able should rent or build facilities and hire single-sex staff so that their men and women can enjoy swimming and other sports.  Communities should develop single-sex sports leagues along with training for the many who did not have opportunities to learn the sports earlier.  I cannot stress enough the need for the Muslim woman and Muslim children to be an active part of their community and to have full access to learning and recreation.  It is essential to the well being and survival of Islam in the West.



Treating Women Differently in the Law

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The last things I wish to discuss with regard to women in Islam are instances in which women are treated differently in Islamic law.  Many of these may seem unfair at first glance but most really are not.  Probably all of us have heard stories of women being punished for crimes differently than men or inheriting less and so on.  One of the more common stories we hear is that of a Muslim woman being raped and then being punished for adultery because of that rape.  This is 100% totally unIslamic, but sadly it does happen.  The one who is raped is the victim and never the guilty one.  But, when the woman cannot provide witnesses to her rape, some countries decide she was guilty of extramarital sex and punish her for it.   Without a doubt, this is very wrong and inexcusable.  The fact that it does occur is a testament to the fact that in some places Islam exists in name only and the ignorant populace is mislead by corrupt rulers to believe that such barbarous behavior and degradation of women is right.  I can talk about True Islam all day, but the entire world falls short in some ways, and some places fall horrendously short and perpetuate the negative stereotype of Islam.  The rest of the Muslim world owes it to the oppressed brothers and sisters and to themselves to be very vocal against these atrocities when they become known.


Thankfully, most Muslim women do not face such oppression and experience an Islamic society closer to the ideal.  All Muslim societies believe in the Holy Qur’an, and thus believe in the verses which talk about women inheriting less than men, not serving as equal witness with men, and being punished by their husbands.  The Western reader finds these verses or hears about them and instantly thinks of oppression.  But again, those men and women who choose Islam find the matters differently.


In the case of inheritance, it is actually a complex issue and there are cases in which women inherit more than men.  As a general rule, the men do inherit more, but only because their financial burden is far greater than women’s are.  To not give men more would actually be oppressive to them because their duties with their money are more severe.  Muslim men are required to financially provide for their wives, children, elderly parents and so on.  This is regardless of whether the wife works or not.  On the other hand, whatever money the wife has she can spend in any way she likes.  She could spend it entirely on herself if she wanted and has no duty to spend it on anyone else.


As for women serving as witnesses, again the issue is more complex than it first seems.  In some cases when witnesses are needed, either one man or two women is required.  But in other cases, only the witness of a single woman will do.  Since men are required to work and women are not, cases that involve business are more likely to require two women witnesses.  This could be a matter of protection for the women, because in matters of money there is the temptation of coercing the witness.  Having two female witnesses helps protect either woman from coercion.  Men can be coerced, too, but it is undoubtedly, in most cases, easier for a man to threaten and intimidate a woman than another man.  On the other hand, many times only a woman’s witness is accepted, as may be the case when giving testimony about female anatomy.  Or it may even override a man’s testimony, as is the case when a man accuses a woman of lewd behavior and she denies it according to Qur’an 24:6-11.


Islam is a religion designed to serve all people in all times.  Thus, many of its laws are built upon what is best for most people.  Thus, it does not deny that some women may earn more than their husbands, or that some men may be coerced easier than some women.  The laws still apply even in these cases, because applying them in these cases hurts no one.  On the other hand, failure to apply the laws for those women who do not earn money or who might be coerced would be harmful.


A third case that is presented as oppressive to women is in 4:34 of the Holy Qur’an


“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means.  Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in their husband’s absence what God would have them guard.  As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them first, next refuse to share their beds, and last beat them lightly; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means of annoyance.”


This translation, by Yusuf Ali, is more clear than many in getting across that the man is not given free reign to abuse his wife.  This verse actually tells a lot about the Islamic family arrangement.  Men are duty-bound to protect and maintain their spouses.  This duty falls on them because they are generally stronger and more suited to such work.  Further, they do not have the circumstances of menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and breast-feeding that many women experience.  In return for protection and maintenance, women are not required to bear children or cook or clean.  They have not a single duty required of them in return, except two -- and those are simply to obey the husband in all that is reasonable and not contrary to Islam and to guard the husband’s property and their own chastity when their husband is not present.  That really is not a lot to ask and it is likely that the women have gotten the better end of the deal.


But, what of the last part of the verse that talks about beating women?  Many translations of this verse do not convey its full meaning, and so it appears to the reader that a husband who is displeased with his wife is permitted to beat her.  Truly, he cannot touch her in anger, ever.  If she has done something wrong, he is to simply tell her so and let her know that he is displeased.  If she persists, then he may sleep in a different bed, and if she still persists, then he may lightly hit her.  What does it mean to lightly hit?  To answer that, we have to go to the answer of the Prophet (saw) who was asked the very same question.  His reply indicated that she cannot be hit on the face at all and not even redness is to result. The “hitting” is supposed to be more symbolic than actually painful, and done with a feather or miswak (kind of like a toothpick).   The husband has to take several steps over a period of days because he must first try the other two before coming to the third.  Thus, it must be a problem of a serious and recurring nature.  And, if he is upset with his wife because of her adherence to Islam, he can do nothing.  For example, he can do nothing if she wears hijab and he doesn’t like it.  This verse is revealed for the case of severely wrong behavior on the part of the wife and nothing else.


When such problems in a marriage exist, it is possible that divorce will result.  Contrary to popular belief among non-Muslims, a Muslim man cannot divorce his wife simply by saying so three times in immediate succession.  He says it once and then the couple must go through a considerable period in which they may separate and try to reconcile.  During this time, he is still required to provide for her just as he always has.  Actually, there are some circumstances in which he is not permitted to pronounce divorce at all, one of them being while his wife is menstruating. 


The woman also has the right to divorce if she is facing any mistreatment by her husband by going to a legal representative.  In that way, the woman pursuing divorce is nearly exactly like it is in many American states.  The person wanting the divorce must file a case giving a reason for wanting the divorce, and then the case is examined by the law to determine if grounds for divorce do indeed exist.  For the men, it is easier to begin the process of divorce in Islam. And, if he initiates it, a no-fault divorce is possible after efforts to reconcile fail.  If a divorce results, he cannot lay any claim to his wife’s property, even that which he had given her, no matter how wealthy she may be.


In practice, it is sometimes made too difficult for the woman to obtain a divorce and too easy for the man. It is difficult for some women to obtain access to legal representatives and in turn sometimes the legal representatives have not granted divorce even in cases of clear physical abuse.  American courts are not free of error and neither are the courts in Muslim countries.   When the Muslim divorce system fails, though, the religion is blamed.   Actually, if the divorce system were managed the way Islam directs, it would never fail.  There are reliable hadith that the Prophet (saw) granted divorces for reasons as simple as the wife not finding the husband physically attractive.  There is no question that a divorce should be granted in cases of abuse.


Finally, I will briefly mention male and female circumcision.  Circumcision for Muslim males is enjoined for cleanliness and for the same reasons it is enjoined among Christians and Jews.  Some Muslims also practice female circumcision in a variety of forms.  There is a lot of debate as to whether this is an Islamic or cultural practice.  There is no reference to the Prophet (saw) advising circumcision of women or of its practice among his family.


There is a hadith of the Prophet (saw) which mentions female circumcision, but I am not qualified to judge its authenticity.  Assuming that it is authentic, for the sake of argument, this hadith tells believers that if they do practice female circumcision they must only remove a very small amount of foreskin.  In any case, it is clear that removal of sexual organs, sewing up the woman to ensure virginity,  and performing the procedure with unsterile equipment and lack of medical training are not approved of in Islam and rather are considered as evil practices.


Regrettably, it is not too hard to find room for improvement in the practice of Islam the world over.  This includes treatment of women.  However, to maintain that Islam is oppressive to women is to maintain an absolute fallacy. It is similarly erroneous to maintain that most Muslims propagate oppressive beliefs and behavior. Upon careful examination, Islam reveals itself to be the most just system of living available to mankind.  Further, most Muslims are sincere in seeking proper implementation of Islam rather than twisting it to satisfy personal gain.



Division Within Islam

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The topic of division within Islam is a sore spot for the world of Muslims.  It is easy to find Muslims polarized on this issue and acting with great emotion and vigor trying to prove their views.  In the minds of these Muslims, those who adhere to a different group are in gross error and have purposely twisted the meanings of true Islam to their own ends.


It is disappointing to converts when they find that Islam is not the unified religion it first appears to be.  For me, a sense of dread enveloped me when I began to encounter religious factions within Islam.  It was dread, because I was still mentally exhausted from the process of conversion to Islam, and yet here I was faced with different versions of Islam to sort out.  I would again have to engage myself in serious study, prayer for guidance and self-evaluation to try and determine which of the factions, if any, were truthful.  The discovery of division did not raise any doubt in me about Islam itself, but it raised doubt that any one group was in possession of true Islam.   I had to consider the possibility of being a Muslim without a school just as I had had to consider being a Christian without a church. 


The various schools of Islam sometimes harbor bad blood toward each other.  And thus, it is not unusual to find books written by a scholar from one faction viciously defaming another faction to the point of calling it non-Muslim.   Similarly, members from one faction will chastise members of another faction for causing disunity, when in truth neither group seeks disunity.  After all, you cannot blame someone for pursuing what he/she finds to be true, even if it is different than what you find true.  


I advise all Truth-seekers to stay away from those who speak viciously of other groups and accuse them of all sorts of misguidance and wrongdoing.  Avoid their interpretations of the writings from the questionable “other" group.  Instead, read their writings about their own beliefs.


As I have alluded to earlier, those who would find the Truth need to investigate all groups with an open mind and fairness.  They should read works about a group written by numerous scholars and members of that group.  They should judge a group by its own writings and teachings rather than other groups’ interpretations of such.  They should not neglect study of a group because of its reputation or small numbers.  They should not hesitate to ask questions of members of each group but should not take the answer of one person as representative of all members of the group.


It is each person’s duty, Muslim or not, no matter into what religion or school they were born, to determine for themselves where truth lies.  They should not be satisfied that their own religion, culture, nation, or school holds the truth without extensive verification.


“…They say, ‘We follow that wherein we found our fathers.’  What!  Even though their fathers were wholly unintelligent and had no guidance?”  2:170


Personally, I found a good place to start a study of all that is within Islam to be the Internet.  Although it takes some effort to find it, it is possible to find good-quality information presented by each group that explains what they believe and why they believe it.   You can also find lots of information about what they believe to be wrong with the other groups, but that type of information has to be regarded very carefully.


In my own study, I began first with the largest group, the Sunnis, and ultimately was not fully satisfied with any of the Sunni schools for the same reason that I was not satisfied with Christianity.  For Sunnis, after the death of the Prophet (saw), religion came to the hands of ordinary, even if well-intentioned, men and thus the major sources of Sunni law come from such men.  I also was unsatisfied that four schools within Sunni Islam should be considered as equally acceptable.  As a believer in a single Absolute truth and in a God who provides the means to that Truth, I strongly hold that minor differences in law do matter and that one way must be preferable to others. I could not accept using fallible collections of traditions of the Holy Prophet (saw), each of which contain numerous contradictory traditions and traditions which come from unreliable sources, as a primary source of the religion.   Just like the Bible, the numerous errors and contradictions of the Sunni hadith (tradition) collections make them unreliable as a determiner of Truth.  They are not from Allah swt, but from men.


“If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much incongruity.”  (4:82)


I do believe that traditions have a very important place in Islam but I feel that no collection of traditions should be regarded as sahih or error-free.  And I also believe that traditions from those who demonstrate themselves to be the best Muslims should be preferred over those narrated by any other individuals.


The Sunnis largely consider ijtihad or the means of determining right and wrong in any new cases, to be dead.  The scholars rely on centuries-old books for taqlid and, as such, do not truly have access to modern rulings about modern situations. Thus, the Sunni Muslims are left to make their own decisions on new matters that arise.  So, once again, there is no way for them to satisfactorily determine right or wrong on any new problem.  The quest for Absolute truth is failed.


As for other groups, I found many of them also to be unacceptable but I shall avoid discussion of them in detail for the sake of brevity.  The reader may wish to engage in his/her own study of Ismailis, Ahmadis, Nation of Islam, Qadanis, Fatimids, Bohras, Wahabis and Ja’faris.


After a detailed study, I chose the Ja’fari school of Islam because I found that it alone met my criteria. I shall briefly discuss some of the information and factors, which led to my choice, but I do not intend thereby to provide enough information to convince anyone of its correctness (that would take more pages than this entire book). Each person has a duty to conduct their own bias-free (or as near to that as possible) and detailed study of where Truth lies.


During the lifetime of the Prophet (saw), Allah swt appointed twelve successors after the prophet who would uphold the religion and prevent its corruption.  The first of these successors was publicly appointed at Ghadeer Khum, a short time before the death of the Prophet (saw), in front of hundreds of witnesses.  Two Qur’anic verses were revealed on that day and the event of that day has been recorded more times and by more sources than any other.


“O Messenger!  Make known that which hath been revealed unto thee from they Lord, for if thou do not, thou will not have conveyed His message.” 5:67


“This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion Al-Islam [submission to the One God].”  5:3


The first verse is a command to announce what the Prophet (saw) had to announce at Ghadeer Khum, and the second is a statement that upon the finishing of this announcement Islam has been completed and perfected.  What the Prophet (saw) said, according to the scholars of all schools of Islam, is as follows:


“O men and women!  Allah is my master.  I am the master of the faithfuls.  I have a clear authority over their souls, and of whoever I am the master, Ali [his cousin whose hand he was upholding while speaking] is master.  O Allah!  Love him who loves Ali, hate him who hates Ali.”  Muslim, vol.2, p.325 and many others


Further in verse 5:55, Allah says in meaning:


“Your mawla (master) can be only Allah; and His messenger and those who believe, who establish worship and pay the poor due while bowing down in prayer.”


It is virtually unanimous among all leading scholars of any school of thought that this verse refers to Allah, the Prophet (saw), and Ali.  Ali (as) is the one for whom it has been recorded in the traditions that he gave charity (in the form of a ring he was wearing) while bowing in prayer.


The disagreement arises over the definition of the word “mawla” because it can mean master or friend.  But, in the context of Ghadeer Khum, it is clear that it means master, because it is clear that when the Prophet (saw) is speaking of Allah swt and himself he means the master sense of the word.  Otherwise the phrase “I have a clear authority over their souls…” would be out of place.  And it also makes no sense to stop thousands of people in the middle of a hot desert to announce that Ali (as) is a friend.  After saying this at Ghadeer Khum, the Qur’anic verse came which announced that Islam had been completed and perfected.  This also would not make any sense if he had merely said that Ali was a friend.  But, it makes perfect sense if he had just announced that Ali (as) had authority over the people equal to his own authority.


Nearly all Muslim scholars believe in the concept of Imamate, i.e., the successor of the Prophet (saw) that upholds and protects the religion from corruption.  The Sunnis generally hold that the first four Imams were the first four Caliphs and do not know who the remainder were or are. 


However, the view that the first caliphs were imams is questionable since God did not appoint the caliphs into their positions.  The first caliph was chosen in a small private election that took place while the family of the Prophet (saw) was busy with the Prophet’s burial.  Others took power by being appointed by their predecessor.  There is no evidence in any Qur’anic verse or hadith that the successors of the Prophet (saw) should be chosen by election or personal appointment.  Rather, the evidence is to the contrary that Allah swt has chosen and appointed those who would lead mankind, just as He has done throughout history.


          “You will never find a change in the practice of Allah.”  35:43


This above is only a very small portion of my study concerning Ali (as) that led me to believe that he was appointed successor of the Prophet (saw) and that obeying him was made compulsory.  For one who demands more proof, there are many books dedicated solely to establishing that God did indeed establish Imams or guides on earth including twelve after the death of the Prophet (saw), the first of which was Imam Ali (as).


Among the leaders of Sunni schools and among the Imams of the Ismailis and so on, it is possible to find examples of sin and teachings contradicting the Qur’an.  This is to be expected from ordinary men, but not from those appointed by Allah swt to uphold the religion.  One set of Imams, those twelve followed by the Ja’fari school, are singular in their adherence to Qur’an and lack of sin.


There are reliable hadith in the Sunni hadith books that the Imams will be twelve in number.  Further there are hadith which name them all, and they are named in accordance with the Ja’fari (Shia) belief.  A few of these hadith are quoted here from Peshawar Nights:


(1) Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi Hanafi in his Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, ch.76, reports

from Fara'idu's-Simtain of Hamwaini, who reports from Mujahid, who reports

from Ibn Abbas, that a Jew named Na'thal came to the Holy Prophet and asked

him questions about Tawhid (Unity of Allah). The Holy Prophet answered his

questions and the Jew embraced Islam. Then he said: "O Holy Prophet, every

prophet had a wasi (vicegerent). Our Prophet, Moses Bin Imran, made a will

for Yusha Bin Nun. Please tell me who is your wasi?" The Holy Prophet said:

"My vicegerent is Ali Bin Abi Talib; after him are Hasan, and Husain and

after them are nine Imams, who are the successive descendants of Husain."


“Na'thal asked the Holy Prophet the names of those Imams. The Holy Prophet

said: "After Husain, his son, Ali, will be the Imam; after him his son,

Muhammad; after him his son, Ja'far; after him his son Musa; after him his

son, Ali; after him his son, Muhammad; after him his son, Hasan; after him

his son, Muhammad Mahdi will be the last Imam. There will be twelve Imams."


“In addition to the names of the nine Imams, this hadith further states that

each would succeed as Imam after his father. Na'thal made further inquiries,

and the Holy Prophet described the manner of death of each Imam.


“Then Na'thal said, "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that

you are His Holy Prophet. I bear witness that these twelve holy Imams are

your vicegerents after you. What you have said is exactly what is recorded

in our books and in the will of Moses."


“Then the Holy Prophet said: "Paradise is for him who loves them and obeys

them, and Hell is for him who is hostile to them and opposes them."


“Na'thal then recited some couplets to the effect that "May Allah, the

Exalted, shower His blessings upon you, chosen Prophet and pride of the Bani

Hashim. Allah has guided us by means of you and the twelve holy men whom you

have named. Certainly Allah has purified them and preserved them from

impurity. He who loves them is successful. He who hates them is the loser.

The last of the Imams will quench the thirst of the thirsty. He is the one

The people will wait for. Prophet of Allah, your progeny is a blessing for

me and for all the believers. Those who turn away from them will soon be

thrown into Hell."


“(2) The great scholar, Sheikh Sulayman Balkhi, in his Yanabiu'l-Mawadda, ch.

76 reports from Manaqib of Khawarizmi, who reports from Wathila Bin Asqa'

Bin Qarkhab, who reports Jabir Bin Abdullah Ansari; and also Abu'l-Fazl

Shaibani and he from Muhammad Bin Abdullah Bin Ibrahim Shafi'i, who reports

Jabir Ansari (one of the chief companions of the Prophet) as saying: "Jundal

Bin Junadab Bin Jubair, a Jew, came to the Holy Prophet and asked him about

Tawhid. After hearing his reply, the man became a Muslim. He said that on

the previous night he had seen Moses in a dream telling him: 'Embrace Islam

at the hands of the last of the prophets, Muhammad, and attach yourself to

the vicegerents after him.' He thanked Allah for the blessing of Islam. He

then asked the Holy Prophet to tell him the names of his vicegerents. The

Holy Prophet began by saying: 'My vicegerents are twelve in number.'


“The man said that he had seen this fact in the Torah. He asked the Prophet

to tell him their names, and the Prophet said: 'The first of them is the

chief of the vicegerents, the father of the Imams, Ali. Then follow his two

sons - Hasan and Husain. You shall see these three. When you reach the last

stage of your life, Imam Zainu'l-Abidin will be born, and the last thing

that you have of this world shall be milk. So cling to them so that

ignorance may not mislead you.'


“The man said that he had seen in the Torah and in other scriptures the names

of Ali, Hasan, and Husain as Elias, Shabbar, and Shabbir. He asked the Holy

Prophet to tell him the names of the other Imams.


“Then the Holy Prophet named the remaining nine Imams with their epithets and

added: 'The last of them, Muhammad Mahdi, will live, but disappear. He will

appear later and will fill the world with justice and equity, since it will

have degenerated into injustice and tyranny. Verily, Paradise is for those

who show patience during the time of his occultation. Paradise is for those

who are firm in their love for him. These are they whom Allah Almighty has

praised in the Holy Qur'an and for whom the Holy Qur'an is a 'guide for

those who guard (against evil). Those who believe in the unseen.' Also He

says 'These are Allah's party: now surely the party of Allah are the

successful ones.'" (58:22)”


Among the Muslims are those who do not believe in the sinlessness of God’s messengers and guides.  They say that those messengers and guides do not commit any sin or mistake in delivering the message or guidance but in other ways may commit fault.  They also interpret passages in the Qur’an to indicate sins on the part of some prophets.  There are numerous evidences contrary to that view, but such a belief is also contrary to reason.  First of all, God is perfectly capable of providing messengers and guides that do not commit fault.  Secondly, if ever a messenger or guide did commit fault, even outside the normal realm of his religious work, it would effect his credibility and it would corrupt his purpose.  Every waking deed of the messengers and guides is watched and is under scrutiny.  If one of them did commit a sin, the followers would be likely to see it.  It then becomes a question of how the followers are supposed to be able to tell which of the actions and sayings of that messenger or guide they are to follow.  Which actions are from God and which aren’t?   “Do what I say and not what I do” is inadequate for the deliverance and protection of God’s message, and God does not do inadequate work.


The Ja’fari school alone met my standards of possessing one absolute Truth derived from a God-protected source. Those who ultimately come to a different conclusion are entitled to do so.  Tolerance of those who reach varying conclusions is the only action that agrees with the behavior of the Holy Prophet (saw).   Among all groups and schools of Muslims are those who behave with very poor manners toward members of other groups.   They allow hate and ill will to cultivate in themselves and justify their behavior by making a large list of grievances about the other party.  I would ask those people to find any example in the demeanor of the Prophet of Islam (saw) or any prophet (sa) that matches theirs.  Even those who were the outright enemies of Islam, and rejected it although its truth was apparent to them, were never treated disrespectfully or cruelly, neither were they made the victims of aggression, neither were they abused in any way, be it with physical force or with words.


“… And let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly.  Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty.” (5:8)





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More than any other religion, Islam has the reputation of being a violent religion.  Typically when some people think of Islam, they think of terrorism.  News reporters have commented on events in the Middle East claiming that Muslims were acting out in a form of Holy War, or jihad.  And, yes, there are people out there who believe it is their duty to fight and attack in the name of Islam.  However, news reporters are notorious for telling only part of the story. There are several instances that I can personally remember in which the news discussed how a certain group of Muslims attacked another group of people.  What they forgot to mention was that members of that group of people had attacked the Muslims a week ago. Since the Oklahoma bombing, the press has become more careful about how it reports incidents involving Muslims, but they still do not always get the story right. 


I think we first need to know what jihad means.  The word jihad actually refers to striving for the sake of religion and does not translate as Holy War.   For example, it is a personal jihad to struggle against temptation to sin.  The personal jihad is referred to as the greater jihad and is given major importance in Islam. When jihad is carried out as war, it is a struggle against those oppressing or aggressing against Muslims and is referred to as the lesser jihad.


Lending to Islam’s violent reputation, many textbooks over the years have claimed that Islam was spread by the sword.  In truth, it is not permitted to wage war in Islam except against those who have aggressed against you or are oppressing you.  In those cases, it becomes a duty for able men to fight until the Muslims are again free.  Unlike Christianity, Islam does not always support turning the other cheek.  When your lives and well being are in danger, Islam says you should courageously defend yourselves even if you would rather fearfully ignore that some of your community members are being murdered or imprisoned or losing their jobs.  Turning the other cheek in such cases is to turn your eyes away from suffering and wrongdoing and excuse it.


Most of the Muslim world consists of very peaceful people.  But, throughout history there have been Muslims who were active fighters.  We are quick to say these Muslims are wrong, but it is helpful to see things from their perspective to understand why they feel they are justified in their actions.  Many people in the Middle East believe that the West is oppressing them.  Undoubtedly, the West looks out for its own interests first and has done many questionable things to Third-World countries.  When it is convenient, the West takes (or borrows and then wastes) land, takes or controls money, sides with immoral countries in disputes, prevents medicine and food from reaching needy people, and kills.  The West controls trade and hastens to spread its culture, at the loss of other cultures, throughout the world. 


Some peoples are subject to the effect of the West’s mingling in world affairs more than others and some feel they are being treated wrongly to the point of oppression.  And some of them are right.  No matter what the reasons, is it not oppressive that Iraqi children under sanction have been denied nutritious food and basic medicine?  Is it not oppressive that the Palestinians who had been living in their land for centuries were kicked out and not recompensed in any way?  Surely if your children were dying and your home was taken from you, there would be no question that you were a subject of oppression and you would very likely want to fight.


What are these people to do?  First of all, Islam is against the use of suicide tactics or cruel means such as biological warfare.  Further, it forbids attacking women and children.  Yet in practice, those things do sometimes happen.  Further, those who feel they are being oppressed may fail to see those that they have grievances against are generally societies of mostly non-aggressive individuals. The oppressors end up being a vague concept and an unclear body.  For example, the West and America are both vague terms. The butcher downtown in Anywhere, USA is not the West or America, nor is he likely to be an active oppressor of Muslims.  What about the President of the United States, is he?  Probably.  Are the people working in an embassy in Kenya or Tanzania oppressors of Muslims? Probably not.  As a result of this problem of identifying the enemy, the terrorists have made the mistake of hating and attacking innocent people who have personally done nothing against the Muslims.


Actually, in the absence of the Prophet (saw) or Imam (as) sent by God, many Muslims are of the opinion that no one has the authority to declare a jihad as an act of war, anyway. There is no truly Islamic government on Earth, and thus there is no Islamic leader who clearly has the authority to declare a war.  Leaders of nations can declare war against other nations, but not religious wars.  Americans who hear of a religious leader ordering attacks against the United States should realize there are not many Muslims who listen and most Muslims desire only peace and justice.





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The last topic I wish to discuss in this section is that of the many rituals in Islam.  Why do Muslims pray a certain way, wash before prayer, fast for a whole month, face one way in prayer, and slaughter their meat in a particular way, etc.?    To non-Muslims, being so concerned about minor details may seem silly.  Why should God care if I wash my feet or just wipe them in preparation for prayer?


No one can deny that good habits are useful.  Islamic ritual in part is designed to aid in the formation of good habits and in remembering God throughout our day-to-day lives.  Following Islamic ritualistic practices leads to good hygiene and diet and balance between spiritual, physical and social aspects.  The minute details may seem nit-picky, but taking care in the details of ritual shows respect for the importance of religion in all parts of life.  Further, in many cases logical reasons for the details exist.  In particular, careful adherence to the forms of the ritual often helps in understanding the purpose or meaning of the ritual itself.


Modern Muslims are guilty of practicing their religion too often on a purely ritualistic level.  Performance of prayer without careful thought to its meaning and purpose is very nearly meaningless and purposeless.  It is just an empty form of true prayer.  Allah swt did not prescribe rituals as a means to take up time but rather as a means of perfecting our faith and attaining nearness to Him.  A lifetime can be spent in education and effort toward engaging oneself completely and properly in all acts of worship. 


However, a good place to start is conscious attention to the acts being performed and their aims.  For example, washing before prayer can be seen as symbolically cleansing ourselves to face the Almighty.  If one learns the supplications that accompany the washing, it may add increased meaning to the act and enable the performer to concentrate more on the task at hand.   If you don’t know the purpose behind a ritual it doesn’t hurt to ask someone you regard as more pious or more knowledgeable than yourself.


Concentration toward the spiritual aspects of prayer and other rituals is difficult because our thoughts of worldly affairs tend to intrude.  But if we are persistent in our efforts, in time the task becomes easier and we not only enjoy the activities more but benefit from them more as well.   If you don’t enjoy praying to God, this is an indication that your attention to its true meanings and purpose are lacking.  Is not our ultimate goal in Muslim life to attain nearness to God or submission to His will?  In this life, prayer is an opportunity to speak with Him Whom We Are Seeking, so it should be something we look forward to and not just a duty to be completed.  If the heart is tired and your attention is not prepared for the ritual, then find steps to help you become prepared and if necessary, some recommend delaying the ritual awhile (so far as that does not mean committing a sin) until you can perform it better.  Hopefully, continual use of this practice will cause the tiredness of the heart to decrease and you will be more easily prepared.


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I hope that you have found something in this work to be of use.   I have attempted it purely for the sake of Allah swt, and I do welcome your feedback.  I know that it is not really a complete work or of an adequately scholarly nature due to my own personal limitations.  I have attempted herein to outline my own path to Islam including a bit of personal history, a modest portion of study in the field of comparative religion, and a brief expounding on topical subjects in Islam that were of particular interest to me as a female American convert to the religion.  All errors within the text are of course solely mine.


I owe thanks to a great many people who have helped me along my path and who continue to do so.


          A Brief Prayer


In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Peace be upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.


I offer thanks to the Almighty Allah swt who guided me while no one else around me was guided and who is the source of every magnificent bounty I have enjoyed in my life.  Allah swt is indeed the Beneficent, the Merciful, and to Him belongs all praise.


May Allah swt grant all readers of this work good health of body, mind and spirit and aid them in their daily struggles.


May Allah swt guide us all on the straight path and prevent us from departing it.  May He protect us from misguidance and evil temptation, decreasing the number of our sins and increasing the number of our good deeds.  May He purify for us our intentions, increase our wisdom and knowledge, and grant us the good from His endless bounty both in this life and the hereafter.  May our remembrance of the One God be constant and perfect.


Peace be upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, who have performed their duties perfectly and preserved the Truth.


Diana (Masooma) Beatty



A Short Reading List

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-        A Restatement of the History of Islam and Muslims, by Sayed Ali Asghar Razwy

-        An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an, by A Group of Muslim Scholars.

-        Marriage and Morals in Islam, by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi

-        Self Building, by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini

-        The Bible, The Qur’an and Science, by Maurice Bucaille

-        The Choice, by Ahmed Deedat

-        The Holy Bible, NIV or King James

-        The Holy Qur’an, translations by Pickthall or Yusuf Ali

-        Then I Was Guided, by Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi

-        The New Testament – A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, by Bart D. Ehrman

- contains many of these and other high-quality works.


-        ***Jazakallah to all those who helped with this work in any way, and to all those who helped me in my struggle. Alhumdooleluh.