If you want to change your life, you should always buy a house, because choosing a house is easy; you can always – almost always – sell a house. Choosing a religion’s a little bit different to buying a house and once you put it on, it’s kind of hard to take off.
So you sit and you think, and you read and you think, and you question and you think, and you try and you think. You dip your feet into the waters of a few – a seder meal with a Rabbi friend, a bible studies course, a confession, perhaps. You wonder if yoga could lead you to Hinduism, or if Buddhism’s where ‘it’s’ at. And you sit and you think, and you read and you think. And you try to enter each with an open mind. Throw preconceptions away. Start again.
And that’s just what Islam offers: the chance to start again. It is narrated in Hadith – Islamic jurisprudence, calling upon the sayings or examples set by Prophet Mohammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) – it is narrated that whoever gives their soul to Islam has their past sins forgiven. In reciting the Shahada, or declaration of faith, you erase all past sins in the eyes of Allah. You get to start again.
So you start again, and you sit and you think and you read and you think. and you ask yourself, what happens to those who don’t start again. Those who don’t make the declaration of faith, those with unforgiven sins – what of them?
The biggest perhaps of all misconceptions surrounding Islam is the relation of our religion, we believe the ‘final’ religion, to the religions which came before. This month, the ninth lunar month and the Islamic Holy Month, Ramadan, is the month in which we believe Allah sent down the Koran via Prophet Mohammad. We believe this book is the last book, and Mohammad the Last Prophet. The last book, a follow-up – revision if you will – to those which came before. The Torah and the Bible were both sent by Allah, through Prophets in which all Muslims believe. Our book, the Holy Qur’an, holds true to all guidance given in those before. It is the same as; and for Muslims, more than.
The Qur’an talks of “people of the Book”. It talks also of Jews, and Christians and Muslims, but mostly it talks of people of the book. “Believers”; those who believe in one God. On our day of judgement, we will all appear before God himself. Those who believe, have believed in Him – Muslims, Jews, Christians alike – those who believed in the One God will be shown the gates of heaven. Simple. There is only one God.
But what of those who simply don’t believe. They don’t worship to idols, or place anything at God-like status within their lives; they just do not believe in God. What of them?
My best friend is one of the finest beings the Angels ever carried. She’s funny and she’s smart and she questions and she listens. She’s one of those rare people repeatedly hurt for caring too much rather than not enough and gives everything she has to help anyone in distress. She’s the only person in my world who has never asked or implied that maybe my husband asked me to wear the hijab and is the only person I didn’t fear to tell of my conversion. This friend of mine, who ran with me on the playgrounds and drank vodka with me in trolleys, is a person who totally, but totally deserves heaven after earth. But this friend of mine, not only does she still drink the vodka (though not so much in trolleys) and eat bacon to cure its effects, she also does not believe. She’s not a “believer”. To her there is no God, so Carpe Diem! What will be will be. That used to be my moto too.
So I sit and I read and I think and I read and I question and I question and I question.
And Ramadan’s here again, a chance to recleanse our souls. For Allah knows we’re only human and through the year we will sin, so through His grace, we have the chance to repent, to cleanse, to be forgiven. Again. But she won’t get the chance to be forgiven, just once? “For disbelievers is a painful doom.”
So I sit and I think and I read and I think and I thank God for enlightening my way and I pray for those not on this path, though I can’t help sometimes thinking it would have been easier had I simply bought a house.