By: Raya Shokatfard
We talked in the last episode about the creation, how it happened, and how Adam and Eve erred and disobeyed God’s commandments, and how they basically had to leave Paradise, but it was not something that just happened by accident.
We understood the role of Satan and how he from his jealousy, he disobeyed God to bow down to Adam when God created him; he was expelled, and he also caused Adam and Eve to be expelled by tempting them to disobey God and eat of a certain fruit that they were not supposed to eat.
We as Muslims don’t believe in original sin being the cause of human sin and error from the time of creation until now, and unlike Christianity who feel that this sin would not be wiped out except with the blood of sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross, and through his blood all are redeemed.
God tells us very clearly in the Quran that no one will pay for the sin of another, that everyone is accountable for themselves.
I was asking myself when I was practicing Christianity why is it that if Jesus died on the cross for me and for my sin, or for the sin of humanity, let’s just say the Christians, and how is it that they are committing so many sins? How is it that they oppress one another? How is it that they do things against God’s commandments? What happened?
I had to just basically come to some conclusion myself that even if that was the case, that he came to be sacrificed for the sin of humanity, humanity is still responsible for their own actions, and for their own commitment of righteousness or sin. so no matter what we look at it from that doctrine, we cannot say that OK because it’s sin …Basically, when I was going to church we were told as a given that we will all go to Heaven because we are Christian.
From Christianity to Islam
Everyone is saved by the Grace of God, but this does not mean that your deeds are not counted.
For seven and a half years I went to church, I was teaching the Bible, and I was younger and I was seeing many people men and women live together, they were not married with each other, and they were going to church. There were many things that were not going right, and I kept asking myself well are they going to go to Heaven? It is the consciousness of having this belief that I am going to Heaven? This by itself was bothering me. And the other thing was that the teaching was that we are all saved by the Grace of God, not by our deeds.
Later when I came back to Islam, God explains very clearly: the deeds and the Grace of God is what are needed. But He tells us yes, ultimately, everyone is saved by the Grace of God, but this does not mean that your deeds are not counted. God would be unfair to us if I did everything righteous and my brother did everything unrighteous and ultimately by the Grace of God both of us would make it to Jannah (Heaven).
The Prophet, peace be upon him, he made it very clear that every single deed that we do, even our thoughts, are recorded: I’m thinking of doing something good or I’m thinking of doing something evil, even our thoughts are recorded. And if I do think of something evil and I don’t do it, I get reward for it. If I think of doing something good and I don’t do it I get reward for it. If I think about something good and I do it I get up to seven hundred rewards just for one good deed.
So deeds are part of every religion, otherwise religion does not have any sense any more, otherwise it is just like basically I am pacifying myself that I am going to Jannah to Heaven anyway, so what is the point of doing good deeds? I could just work based on my desire. Yes, I’m conscious of God, yes, I’m not going to steal, I’m not going to do this I’m not going to do that, but ultimately I am safe.
We have people, righteous companions of the Prophet, they were probably some of the most righteous people, they said I am not sure, I am not sure I will make it to Jannah, because maybe I will do something wrong. And the Prophet, peace be upon him, tells us that there are some people who do the deeds of the people of Paradise, and towards the end of their life they do something evil, and it is written for them to go to Hell, and they end up in Hell. And vice versa, somebody does the work of the people of Hell, but at the end they change, they do righteous work and they end up going to Jannah.
So my point is that prophets were sent to us to teach us what are these righteous deeds. The prophets were sent to us in order to give us the commandments of Allah, but to begin with they had to basically cast in stone the belief that there is only One God, because all these prophets who came to bring guidance to mankind they came to people that had all kinds of idol worshipping and wrong thoughts and ideology in their minds and they were practicing incorrectly.
Then it is important that we make sure in our mind we have this idea of unity, monotheism, cemented in our mind that there is only one God lest we turn one day to someone or something or some idea, and seek help from other than Allah so we would go astray.
My dear brothers and sisters that have come to Islam, and you are new to Islam, I’d like to congratulate you for this wonderful decision, for this awesome decision, for this magnificent decision that you have made to come to Islam and follow the religion of truth. We help each other to be stronger, but what will help you more than anything else is the Book of Allah itself. I suggest to you to spend a lot of your time reading, studying and asking questions.
Allah (SWT) says “Ask those who know.” So ask those people who are granted knowledge, you ask. And it is wonderful today we have access through the Internet, we have access to a vast amount of knowledge, so we have no excuse.
Twenty five years ago when I came back to Islam I only had one Quran, that is all what I had. My wealth about Islam was just one Quran with translation and some explanation, and I spent a few years just reading that back and forth, and maybe I should be thankful because I didn’t get corrupted by joining other groups that maybe had wrong ideology or reading books that were not correct. I basically stayed with the Quran, and Allah blessed me later by knowing and joining other communities in the United States, bigger communities, making friends, and up to now, more than twenty years later, I still have some of the same friends.
So my recommendation to you is seek knowledge, to begin with. And second of all, as you strengthen yourself in the religion, some transformation happens in the mind and the body. I can say I have seen in the United States some sisters that I became close with that were not Muslim, and at the beginning they were weak, they were concerned, and there were some marriage problems as a result of the conversion, there were problems with the kids, problems with the parents, and naturally there was confusiom, there was sadness with the concerns. And I observed that as these people got stronger, some sisters specifically, and I can think of at least a handful of sisters that became Muslim, and they did have challenges they were going through.
Stay Connected to the Muslim Community
If we stay by ourselves and we are new to Islam, it is almost guaranteed that we get sidetracked.
As a result of it, as a result of learning and their perseverance to stay with Islam, to stay with the community – the most important thing is to stay with the community of Muslims – as Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said the one who separates himself from the flock is the target for the wolves to snatch him, or snatch her. So he told us do not separate and stay with the community of the Muslims.
So we must stay with the community of the Muslims, we have to, be with them, go sit with them, go to their house, invite them, go to the mosque together, go to the lessons … If we stay by ourselves and we are new to Islam, it is almost guaranteed that we get sidetracked and we end up going to something that is more comfortable. This is not the reason why we entered Islam.
We embraced Islam because we realize that this is the only religion that has given us complete truth, the Word of Allah, uncorrupted. So if we know this, this was the case for me. In order for me to be stronger, I had to research the compilation of the Bible and the compilation of the Quran. I was serious, for me this is what I did. If you can take my word for it, then you don’t have to go through all those years I researched, I did it for you.
This is when I was deciding between Christianity and Islam, and I came to Islam realizing this is the Word of God, proven to me. So once I realized that the Quran is the Word of Allah, every word from Him it was like it is such an awesome process for a person to think this is from Allah, this is the word of Allah, this sentence that I just read is from Allah. It shakes me to the core that Allah is speaking to me. If I don’t see Him, He sees me. If I’m too small to realize His greatness, He shows it to me in this Book.
So I keep strengthening myself and my belief through this Book, and at the same time I stay connected with the community of the Muslims. I seek help, I seek guidance, I seek knowledge, and slowly – this is not an overnight transformation, it takes time – as I strengthen my own faith in Allah, my resolve gets stronger in Islam to a point where nothing can shake it, nothing.
I am a Muslim, I’m proud to be a Muslim. Yes, sometimes I get disappointed by even the Muslims themselves, the way they behave, the way they treat me, the way they treat themselves or each other, or what the media just pounds into our heads about Islam and Muslims. I know that if somebody does something wrong, it is not Islam that is wrong, it is the action of the people who have gone astray, who have not understood the religion properly, what do I do?
As Raya, what I do is that instead of condemning, instead of going around putting under youtube all the hatred messages about other sects of Islam, other Muslims in other parts of the world that I don’t agree with I think that are misguided, I do everything I can to reach out to them in the best possible way. If I feel their ideology is wrong, what is the best way for me to teach them? It’s through kindness, through proof, through righteous actions, and I know they will never change if I shoot my arrows at them.
This is also the case for those who are new Muslims, to behave the best possible way that they can with their family, even though they see them misguided, they see them doing wrong things, be patient with them. Let your behavior, your actions, they speak louder than words. Many people and families converted to Islam as a result of seeing the change in the member of the family who became Muslim.
When the time is right, you can open the conversation, you can talk to them about Islam. But to begin with, please do not be reactive, just keep strengthening yourself, because if you become strong like a rock, what can penetrate a rock?
But your heart never becomes a rock, your heart is always soft for Allah, soft for His human beings, soft with kindness, soft you are compassionate, but your faith becomes like a rock, that means it is not going to be shaken because you chose the right religion.
Have a wonderful day …
Assalamo Alaikom wa rahmatu-Allah wa barakatuh
Published on: Monday, 29 April 2013