Why I converted to Islam [4]

Jafar Reynolds
AUC student.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I had grown up thinking that I was extremely average and would live a “typical life”. I would focus on doing well in high school so that I could attend a good university, get a good job, start my career and family life, and then live out the rest of my years. I had done well in high school, so, following graduation, the next step was attending a good university to specialize in the field of my choice. My interests led me to want to study politics and Arabic and/or German. Political science is a common major at most universities, so that wasn’t much of an issue; however, when it came to languages, my options were very limited, especially for Arabic.

While I eventually decided on a school I was accepted to in Washington, DC, the entire process had been a strain on me, as I had been forced to do everything alone, and the financial aspect of paying for school and living in the capital began to worry me. At the same time, I was still trying to deal with the death of my mother and the separation from my father. I was deteriorating emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. It was like having a mid-life crisis at the age of 18; I had no idea what I was doing, what I should do, or what the purpose of life was, if there even was one.

All I wanted to do was attend university, but my life was a mess and I had no one to turn to for help. Just before I was scheduled to start school, I made the decision that I should hold off on university for the moment and figure some things out. One option I then considered was joining the military and hopefully learning Arabic through them, as my test scores allowed me to do the Special Forces route, which has a focus on cultural knowledge and language acquisition.

However, I wasn’t overly keen on joining the military at the time, wanting instead to focus more on learning and figuring out my personal spiritual issues. At the same time I was considering the military, my former German teacher told me about a local, private language school and recommended I see if they have an Arabic teacher. Sure enough, they did; a Russian woman with her doctorate in Arabic, who also knew Spanish and French, just so happened to live and work in my area, and she gave private lessons on the side.

I spent about a year studying Arabic, and a little Russian, with her for a few hours every week. Even though she is not Muslim, as far as I know at least, one of the first things she encouraged me to do was purchase a copy of the Qur’an and memorize the opening chapter, al-Fatiha. I was excited to do so and found it easy to memorize, and I was surprised at the content and style, which differed completely from the Bible I was familiar with.

Meanwhile, now that I had graduated from high school, I had more time to deal with the grief and spiritual issues of the previous few years. I began to contemplate on existence, life, death, right vs. wrong, and other such topics. I started to reconsider my atheistic beliefs; just because the Bible had been changed throughout history didn’t necessarily mean that the personality of Jesus didn’t actually exist in some form or that God didn’t exist, and just because the society of my essentially Christian country didn’t necessarily follow the teachings of Christianity as Jesus taught it didn’t mean that Christianity itself wasn’t true.

I had also read some about Carl Jung and the idea of archetypes, which I found very interesting, especially with my love of culture. I could see how every culture experienced the same essential feelings and issues, merely expressed and manifested in various ways; love is love, hate is hate, mercy is mercy, tyranny is tyranny no matter how they are expressed. I realized that if this were true, than there must be some fundamental truth. If there is a fundamental truth and such an essential concept as right and wrong, then there must be a single God to have defined it and to have created the cosmos upon it.

For the first time in my life, I now contemplated the existence of God as a unique concept, irrespective of religion. I ultimately came to the conclusion that there certainly must be a single God, the Creator, and that there were most likely extremely spiritual people very close to Him – people who possess and manifest truth and righteousness, people who know the purpose life, people who should be followed as guides. With this understanding, believing that people such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Buddha, Muhammad, and others were divinely inspired was something that fell within the logical realm of possibility.

I was now sure that God existed, but I wasn’t sure as to which religion was correct. I decided I would investigate the various religions more in depth and try to access sources as close to the original as possible in order to avoid being affected by any changes that had occurred. I purchased various books on religion, including a Bible with the Gospels translated into English directly from an early Syriac-language copy, the so-called Gnostic texts that had been kept out of the Bible following the early centuries of Christianity, the Jewish Dead Sea scrolls, and others. My thinking was to investigate Judaism, followed by Christianity and Islam, and then other religions.

Insha Allah, I will next continue discussing my search for truth and my study of religion, taking me out of my homeland and eventually to Islam.

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