HOW HAVE WE UNDERSTOOD IT ALL?
By Elvira Maria Mathews
I was born into a Christian family and journeyed through the world of Christiandom. I was exposed to various denominations of Christianity and did a considerable amount of study and analysis. A lot of what I read and heard just did not make sense. However, certain things were clear and I was completely convinced- that there is a creator , Almighty God, a God of order, a God who is understanding and merciful, a God most gracious and kind, a God who is all knowing and who has complete foreknowledge, a God who had no beginning and no end, a God whose plans and purpose would be undisrupted, a God full of justice, a God who gave mankind a free will to choose his path, a God who rewards and punishes mankind according to his piety and deeds, a God who keeps to his plans and knows the eventuality of all future events, a God who has sent messengers and scripture from time to time to keep man on track and guided. Off all this I was sure. What I was unsure of was man’s interpretation of scripture, the mixing of man’s word with the word of God, errors that arise alongside translation, the addition, deletion and manipulation of God’s word to suit the whims and fancies of political heads and religious leaders. I spent many years in silent prayer begging God to guide me and my family to the right path. Finally after twenty five long years he did answer my prayer and showed us the light that was always there but which we failed to see. Praise be to God!
I have read the scriptures again and again and have tried to understand what exactly happened in the Garden of Eden, as those events seem to have laid the foundation for most of Christiandoms beliefs and doctrines. I believe that God has given every human being the intellect to reason and analyze and a conscience to guide his thoughts and actions apart from his written word. I believe that God expects us to exercise this power of reasoning and not accept anything we are told that basically goes against common sense. I do not wish to impose my views on you but request you to keep an open mind and read on.
While going through the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, I came across many errors in connection with the sequence of creation. According to the scriptures, green vegetation preceded the creation of sunlight and this sequence goes against the law of nature. Most of us know that plants need sunlight to grow and God being a God of order would have created everything to follow the fixed laws of nature which he had put in place to govern all procreation. This is just one example and I do not wish to delve on the errors at this point as I have more important issues on hand.
While I read through the book of Genesis, particularly the verses that narrate the creation of man, (Gen. 1: 26-30) I was able to visualize the whole scene. What I saw was a beautiful park-like place with every conceivable kind of flora and fauna that was a feast for the eyes, everything co-existing in harmony. I saw man, Adam having domination over all life, completely satisfied after a companion Eve was created for him, every desire of his fulfilled and a loving and caring creator to guide him through life’s journey. In the midst of all this I saw two trees- one, known as the tree of knowledge of good and bad and another known as the tree of life. (Gen. 2: 9) I was able to understand that the creator commanded both Adam and Eve to keep away from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. They were told that the day they eat from it, they would positively die. I also understand that Adam and Eve were tempted by the power of evil( Satan), were made to believe contrary to what their creator told them , exercised free will that their creator had given them and chose to eat from the tree resulting in disobedience to their creator. Going through the events that followed this incident, I realized that Adam and Eve lost the state of innocence and ignorance became aware of each others nakedness and experienced guilt and fear for the first time. (Gen. 3: 1-7)
Reading on, (Gen. 3: 8-13) I was able to understand that our creator got Adam and Eve to do a bit of introspection by questioning their actions. They in turn try to justify themselves. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Satan. In the end all three receive just punishment, they are sent out of the Garden of Eden so that they won’t be able to repeat the same with the tree of life and live eternally. What really amazed me at this juncture was that, even after man’s disobedience and the pronouncement of punishment, our creator doesn’t leave Adam and Eve in the lurch. He personally makes clothes for them and sees that they are well clad. (Gen. 3: 21) This demonstrates his mercy and forgiveness.
At this point a few questions need to be asked. Since most of Christiandom believes that man was created to live forever from the very beginning and lost eternal life because of disobedience, does that mean that our creator’s plans went haywire? If that is so, can he be called God? Or was that his plan? Were all the events predetermined by him? Is sin hereditary? If man was created to live eternally from the very beginning, how could he have died in the first place? Why was there a tree of life in the garden if man already had eternal life? Was woman supposed to have birth pains from the very beginning? Or was that her punishment for sinning? Finally why would our creator not want man to have knowledge of good and bad? Does that sound like a God who has always been encouraging man to grow in knowledge and learn to distinguish between right and wrong and remain on the right path?
I have spent many years meditating and pondering on these questions and have tried to find answers that would agree with scripture make sense and explain the events in a plausible way. At the same time I have never leaned upon my own understanding alone but have sought the guidance of our creator who is the master designer of all that exists. Therefore, relying on his guidance, I hope and pray that what I’m about to express will sound reasonable to reasoning minds and will help my brothers and sisters of the book to look at the issues from a different perspective than what they are used to.
Let’s try to reason together. If man was created to live forever from the beginning, it would mean that he was created having eternal life. Once man has eternal life, he becomes indestructible. There are no scriptures that support the idea of eternal beings dying Moreover; God told Adam that the day he ate from that tree he would die. (Gen. 2:17) This very statement proves that man was not yet bestowed with eternal life and faced certain death if he ate from the tree.. Another point to be kept in mind is that the tree of life was also in the garden but man was driven out and it was heavily guarded so that man should not partake of it and live to time indefinite. (Gen. 3: 22-24) So we can see that the provision for eternal life was there but not meant for that period of time.
God’s plans and purpose are never defeated. He accomplishes all things. He has power over all things. If this was not so, he can’t be God. Then we come to the question of predetermination. Did God predetermine all the events that took place in the garden? If that was so, then man cannot be held accountable for his actions and it would be unjust on the part of God to punish him for things he had no control over. I have spent years trying to find answers and finally realized that God allowed man to exercise his free will and make choices for himself. The forces of evil or Satan could have influenced his thinking and man chose a path of his own wish and had to bear the consequences. Since Almighty God has complete foreknowledge of all things, he would have known before hand all of man’s thoughts and actions. The only thing he did was permit them as all things happen only with his permission. Man becomes accountable the moment he exercises his own free will and chooses to do wrong. If God had intervened and taken control of events, then man cannot be held accountable. God is able to test the integrity of man only through thoughts and actions which result from his free will.
Most people seem to be confused with ‘predetermination’ and ‘foreknowledge of God’ and tend to mix the two. I myself spent a lot of time meditating on these two abstract terms and finally derived at a very simple explanation: Anything which happens that is beyond the control of man, be it his birth, death, health, wealth, children or natural disasters is predetermined and completely within God’s control. Whereas ‘foreknowledge’ is the knowledge that God has of all future events which include his own predetermined ones as well as those events that would result from the free will given to man. God has complete knowledge of each man’s thoughts and actions even before he can think or do them. However he doesn’t control them. He only permits them. This is the reason why man becomes accountable for his thoughts and actions and God is able to judge, reward and punish him accordingly. However, that does not mean that man is left alone and that God doesn’t interfere with his thoughts at all. For instance, when we pray and ask for his guidance, he certainly inspires and guides us to do what is right. Does all this seem reasonable to you? For me it does. Keeping all this in mind makes me believe that God had foreknowledge of all events that took place in the garden and permitted them but his plan and purpose remain unchanged.
Is there any way we can understand what God had planned for man? I have picked up some clues from the book of Genesis, compared them with the scriptures of other books and have derived at a conclusion that is very satisfying to me and I hope will be for you as well. To me, it seems like God planned for man to pass through three phases: The phase of innocence and ignorance, The phase of knowledge and death and The phase of eternal life. During the phase of innocence and ignorance, God would be the provider of all that was necessary to make life pleasurable. A life filled with peace, harmony and happiness. A phase where man and woman would be exposed to all of Gods creation and become familiar with their surroundings. A stage of sheer innocence, not being aware of their nakedness or what it would be like to be clad. In today’s terms ‘Infant Stage’ For how long they would have lived through this phase, I can’t say for sure. However, The Bible says that Adam lived for nine hundred and thirty years and died. so, all we can say is, this period included the second phase as well.
Now the second phase symbolized by The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, would be a phase where man would grow in knowledge, grow in knowledge of his creator, learn from his experience, become aware of what is good and bad for himself and for his surroundings, experiment and invent with God given intelligence and finally die and return to dust. A phase of knowledge and death. The phase that we are all going through at present. It seems to me that Adam and Eve made the choice to move into the second phase prematurely exercising free will. Perhaps they could have remained in the first stage longer and enjoyed the peace and security that came with it. But they chose not to do so and therefore had to bear the consequences - Death. I just cannot digest the idea that God didn’t want man to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad and grow in knowledge of what is good and bad. In fact it contradicts many scriptures within The Bible itself, leave alone other holy books. (Pr. 10:14) Therefore, I personally feel that God was making it known to Adam and Eve that they were not ready for that phase yet and hence must abstain from eating from that tree.
Coming to the third phase, The Tree of Life, it symbolizes the phase of eternal life which is the reward for those who pass the test of the second phase and whose names are written in the book of life. This phase commences after the resurrection and judgment of all mankind based upon their deeds. The book of Revelation in The Bible and other holy books confirm this.(Rev. 2: 7; 20:11-15; 22: 14,19) So it becomes clear that the Tree of life placed in the garden of Eden was meant for a future time period and hence has been guarded by God. (Gen. 3:24) So God using the second phase of knowledge of good and bad as a testing period for man and the third phase – The tree of life meaning eternal life as a reward for those who pass the test seems very reasonable to me. It also demonstrates the justice of God and serves as a motivating factor for all to grow in knowledge of our creator and live our lives in accordance with his will and stipulation to be able to enter into that third and everlasting phase. A phase of eternal life filled with bliss. (Joh.17:3)
This reasoning of mine fits well with what our creator had to say about man through the scriptures of his holy books- that man will be born, die and return to dust and then rise again.
Now let us think a little about the punishment given to Eve. Most Christian religious scholars seem to think that the punishment given to her was great pain and distress during child birth. So does that mean that Eve wouldn’t have had pains during child birth if she hadn’t disobeyed God? I don’t think so, because if you read the scriptures carefully in the book of Genesis 3: 16, God says he will INCREASE her pain. So, this stands to reason that God designed woman to go through a natural process of child birth which would be accompanied with certain amount of discomfort and the punishment for Eve was increased pain. However, I would like to add that God didn’t say that all females born from Eve would be punished the same way. After all why should they be punished for something they didn’t do? Very often I’ve heard of women going through child birth effortlessly. For some it’s so easy, it happens in a twinkle of an eye. For those who have pain, it’s the natural process put in place by Almighty God, the great designer. It just varies from woman to woman. Does that sound in keeping with scripture and reasonable to you?
Last but not least, let us try to find answers regarding SIN as sin seems to be the focal point for Christiandom. I went through many dictionaries and all of them define sin as the breaking of divine or moral law. Though expressed in different words, they all mean the same thing. In my view, sin isn’t something physical. It is a negative force which at times is influenced by evil forces and stems from the heart and mind. It manifests itself through thought, intention and action which violates God’s laws, very much the same way as piety manifests itself, except that piety brings about good thoughts and good intentions which result in good actions that find favor with our creator. So then what do the early scriptures say about sin and sinners? While going through the first five books of The Bible, I found that God in the first nine chapters of the book of Leviticus clearly instructs people how to perform various rituals of cleansing along with various types of sin offerings that could be offered to demonstrate their repentance and receive forgiveness. In fact Almighty God gave clear-cut rulings and punishments to be meted out to offenders. The matter ended there. However in the book of Exodus God makes it very clear that man shall not make for himself any kind of image that stands for anything or anyone in the heavens, on the earth or in the ocean and bow down to it. He says he demands our exclusive devotion and if we should violate this command, his anger will be carried over for four generations.( Exodus 20:1-4) In these scriptures, God makes his point very clear and simple and does not leave anything to the imagination. His anger will be carried over for four generations and it ends there. Sins are not inherited. It’s his anger that spreads over four generations. In other words the impact will be felt for four generations. Each one is responsible for his own deeds and will have to answer God on the day of judgment. Ezekiel 18:20 in The Bible makes this point very clear. While reading through the whole Old Testament, I could not find a single scripture to support the idea that humans inherited the sin of Adam and Eve and that we are born imperfect and are sinners from birth as Christians are made to believe. All this seems so unreasonable and unjust. Then from where did this idea come about?
The concept of original sin, the spreading of original sin to all mankind, death through original sin and salvation of the whole world through Jesus (PBUH) can be found only in the new testament of The Bible. What is interesting to note is that 99% of the verses have been claimed to have been written by Jesus’s disciples and those who came after him. Don’t you not think that an issue of such great importance should have been discussed by Jesus (PBUH) himself? Don’t you think that he being God’s mighty messenger should have been the one to make these matters clear and give guidance rather than his disciples and those who came after him? Or are the disciples greater than their master? Doesn’t it seem odd that our creator would reveal important issues to the disciples of his messenger rather than through his messenger himself? I request you to reflect upon these questions for a few moments and try to figure out the rationale.
Once, Jesus (PBUH) was approached by a man who asked him what he should do in order to gain eternal life. He gave him a very simple and clear answer. Then Jesus (PBUH) told him to give away all his riches and follow him. (Mat.19:16-21) In my view Jesus (PBUH) was telling him to stop being materialistic, to be charitable to the poor and serve God. If gaining eternal life meant salvation through Jesus’s sacrifice and blood, don’t you not think he would have told the man that? There was another occasion when Jesus (PBUH) was praying to Almighty God and according to his prayer, everlasting life was to be achieved through gaining knowledge of the one and only true God and of him that was sent forth. (John.17:3)Again there is no mention of salvation through his blood. Moreover, if you go through the book of Revelation, the last book of The Bible, it says on judgment day, each and everyone will be judged according to his deeds and will be given everlasting life or punishment based upon the justice of Almighty God.( Rev. 20:11-15; 2:7) Here is where The Tree of Life is mentioned again. Those who had filled their lives with good deeds will be invited to eat from The Tree of Life and live forever in paradise.
In my opinion, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding between belief in Jesus (PBUH) and salvation through his blood. Belief in Jesus (PBUH) is a must for the people of the book. If we reject him, we reject the one who sent him - God. Almighty God, through his word has made it clear that we must accept all his messengers and follow their guidance but salvation through Jesus’s blood is another issue and should not be confused with belief in him. At this point a few questions arise in my mind. If salvation was only through Jesus’s shed blood, what about the millions who died before him? Especially the earlier messengers and prophets? Abraham was considered a friend of God. What happens to his salvation? So lets assume that God had other ways of forgiveness and all those who died before Jesus (PBUH) received their salvation in a different way. Then we need to ask ourselves why couldn’t God forgive the whole world as he forgave those who died before Jesus (PBUH)? Why did God have to put Jesus (PBUH) through so much misery when he could just Will it and we would be forgiven. After all he is Almighty God. It’s in his hands to forgive. I am also aware that some Christians believe that those people who died before Jesus (PBUH) will not go to heaven but live an everlasting life on earth. They say that heavenly life will be reserved only for those who died after Jesus. If this were so, where is God’s justice? Did they ask to be born before Jesus (PBUH)? Was it their fault? I have read a lot of literature on this topic and have tried to analyze it all with an open mind but have found the whole idea so unreasonable and ridiculous. Doesn’t seem like it comes from a just God. I invite you to ponder on these questions a little and share your thoughts with me. Now let us focus on Jesus (PBUH), his purpose and mission on Earth
Jesus (PBUH) was one of the mightiest messengers our creator sent man. His conception was divine and a miracle of God. Why was he sent? For the answer, let us examine what Jesus himself had to say regarding his mission. Please check (Mat.15:24) He said that he was sent only to the house of Israel, meaning the Jews. His mission was to guide those Jews who had strayed away from the right path and teachings. In fact he instructed his disciples not to go to other nations or to the Samaritans but to go after the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mat.10:5-6) Even when he was approached by a Phoenician woman who begged him to help her daughter, he said how can I give you what belongs to the children of Israel, but her answer, deep faith and persistence moved him to cure her daughter. (Mat.15:22-28)
So when I meditate on Jesus’s (PBHU) words and instructions, I cannot find any indication that his mission was for the whole world. However, I must admit that there are a few verses which are narrations or reports that Jesus commanded his disciples to go to all the people of all the nations and make them disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to observe all the things he taught them. So then, Why this contradiction? Would God’s Mighty messenger contradict himself and give confusing instructions to his disciples? In the beginning he instructs them not to go to the nations and then finally tells them to go to the nations? If Christian scholars are confronted with these questions they will explain that since the Jews rejected him, they were being replaced by the Gentiles. Anyway, taking for granted that the Gentiles were invited to embrace the religion of Jesus, (PBUH) did he give any indication that another messenger would be sent after him to make all things clear and guide all mankind to the right path? Yes, he did. First he told his disciples that he had many things to tell them but they were in no mental state to absorb them and then continued to tell them about the one to come and guide them to truth. Please read John16:12-15. Unfortunately, Christians fail to accept Jesus’s words as a prophecy for a future messenger (PBUH). Instead, they are made to believe that Jesus (PBUH) was talking about the holy spirit. If, as they assume he was referring to the holy spirit, some questions need to be answered. Wasn’t the holy spirit already present when Jesus (PBUH) was on earth? (Mat.3:16) Wasn’t Jesus (PBUH) using holy spirit to perform all his miracles? The answer to these questions would be YES. Therefore, there was no need for Jesus (PBUH) to leave earth for God to send the holy spirit as a guide for his disciples. Holy spirit was already present.
The reason for all this confusion seems to stem from the misunderstanding of the words ‘Spirit of truth’ and confusing it with the words ‘The Holy spirit’. Most Christians are aware of what ‘The Holy spirit’ means, so I will not go into that now but let’s spend a little time on the words ‘Spirit of truth’ as these words appear in John 16:12-15 and in other verses and point to the coming of another prophet. The words ‘Spirit of truth’ appear as ‘Paraclete’ in the Greek texts. If one examines what ‘Paraclete’ meant to the early Christians, much of the confusion will be removed. The term ‘Paraclete’ meant Counselor or Advocate and referred to a human being, an inspired person and synonymous with ‘Prophet’ and NOT someone supernatural. If one were to examine the verses in John 16:12-15, you will find that Jesus (PBUH) used the pronoun “he” several times. One cannot find this kind of reference in any other verse in the Bible. So if one were to stop and reason a little, it will become clear that Jesus (PBUH) prophesized the coming of another prophet, a counselor, who will not speak of his own impulse but will speak as he hears and guide all mankind to the truth. His guidance will remain till the end of this system of things. Pondering on this prophecy, I realized that it would be impossible for a messenger to live indefinitely till the end of days and guide all mankind, so I reasoned that perhaps his guidance would come in the form of a book, which would be preserved till the end of days as a guide for mankind.
Having realized this, I started doing a bit of research into history and the various world religions. I discovered that after Jesus (PBUH) had left the earth, apart from some of the old inspired scriptures, a large number of people had written various accounts of what they had heard or seen of Jesus’s three and a half years ministry. There were also many writings that were just letters. According to history, around the year 325 AD During the reign of emperor Constantine who was a pagan and had no idea of the true religion of Jesus, there arose clashes between those who upheld the teachings of Jesus (PBUH) and the Pauline church. To bridge the gap between these two groups, the emperor called for a council in Nicea and asked for both groups to present their case. According to one source, 270 versions of the Gospel were presented while another states there were as many as 4000 versions. To cut a long story short, most of the Gospels were burned leaving only a few which later in 387 A.D. were compiled by Jerome and became known as the famous Vulgate Bible. This was the first Latin translation of some of the scriptures which had been translated into Greek from the Hebrew texts. This was the first Bible that was adopted by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and came to be their official book. Over the ages, this version has seen many changes- deletions and additions. Taking all this into consideration, the Bible didn’t fit the bill. Jesus (PBUH) spoke about only ONE messenger speaking what he heard.
My journey to discover the ‘Spirit of Truth’ continued. Being from India, I read a lot about the lives of Gautama Buddha, Mahavira and Guru Nanak. I went through their teachings and found them to be great men filled with wisdom but not one of them claimed that their words were the words of God. Their teachings seemed to have stemmed from deep meditation and self realization and they taught man what THEY thought would be the best way to live life.
So then who was the messenger that Jesus (PBUH) spoke about? Who was the messenger known as ‘The Spirit of Truth’? Who was the messenger who was unlettered and didn’t know how to read? Who was the messenger that brought divine guidance for the whole of humankind? Who was the messenger who didn’t speak his own words or thoughts but declared what he heard from God? Who was the messenger who brought glory to Jesus? (PBUH) The search went on.
In 1998 a job with the Ministry of Education took me to Oman. I fell in love with the country and spent 10 glorious years there. My search for the truth lead me to investigate and research Islam which is the religion of the country. At first it was curiosity, but as time went on it became an awakening, I was amazed! This is what I discovered:
The only messenger after Jesus (PBUH) who was known as ‘The Spirit of Truth”, in Arabic ‘Al Amin’ was the prophet Mohammed (PBUH). He was unlettered and didn’t know how to read or write. The Quran, The last and final testament which is said to be a blessing and guidance for all mankind was revealed to him over a span of 23 years. The first revelation came to him while he was meditating on a hill in a cave. The book was opened and he was asked to read but he answered that he was unable to read. (I was able to see fulfillment of the prophecy in the book of Isaiah chapter 29 verse 12 taking place here –“and the book must be given to someone that does not know writing, (somebody) saying: “Read this out loud, please,” and he has to say: “I do not know writing at all.”)
Then Mohammed (PBUH) was asked to recite what he heard and later when he realized that God was putting words into his mouth and that it was divine revelation, he repeated the same to his companions and they started writing them down. When I discovered all this, a shudder went through my being. Something deep within told me that I was finally being led to the truth. I spent much time reading the Quran and books on the prophet’s life. The more I read, the more I was convinced that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was the ‘Spirit of Truth’ and he was the fulfillment of Jesus’s words in John 16: 12-15. He didn’t speak of his own impulse, but repeated what he heard- The Quran was the result of those revelations – The true guidance of Almighty God. A blessing and mercy for all mankind. (Quran 31:3; 2:185)
In the Quran I found that the Almighty acknowledges all the prophets and messengers that he had earlier sent. To mention a few - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, David. Solomon, Job, Moses, Aaron, Zachariah, John, Elias and Jesus (PBUT). (Quran 6:84-86) He acknowledges all the books that he had revealed - The Torah, The Psalms and The Gospel revealed to Jesus (PBUH). (Quran 3:84; 5:44-48; 21:105; 17:55) I also discovered that the Quran was the last and final revelation of God through the last and final messenger. This book would remain our guidance to the end of times as Jesus (PBUH) said. I was amazed to find scientific discoveries made in the recent past already mentioned in the Quran. For the people of the past those verses would have been difficult to decipher. Only with the passage of time, nature unfolds these phenomena and man is able to comprehend and relate them to the information in the Quran. The Quran isn’t a book for a particular sect of people or for a particular time period. It is for the whole of humankind and for all times till the end of this system of things as Jesus (PBUH) said.
I spent much time reading through the Quran, reasoning and rationalizing along the way. The more I read the more intrigued I was. As I went through CH5: 82-83, a strange sensation went through my being, tears were flowing from my eyes and I felt exactly the same way as was written in those verses I felt the TRUTH. This is what those verses had to say (And you will certainly find that the people most hostile against the believers are the Jews and the ones who ascribe partners to Allah. You will certainly find that the closest of them in friendship with the believers are those who say, We are Christians..That is because among them there are priests and monks, and because they are not arrogant.When they hear what has been sent down to the Messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognized. They say, Our Lord, we have come to believe. So, record us along with those who bear witness.)
I discovered that Islam is a Biblical religion. Islamic beliefs and practices already existed in the Bible, but for political and selfish reasons were pushed aside by leaders who came after Jesus (PBUH) only to later adopt pagan Babylonian and Roman customs. For example, the Christian Sabbath was changed to the Roman Sun-day; The traditional birthday of the Sun-god on 25th December was adopted as the birthday of Jesus (PBUH); The cross being the emblem of the Sun- god was adopted as the emblem of Christianity and many ceremonies performed at the Sun- god’s birthday were incorporated into the church’s own ceremonies. I, for one didn’t want to be part of this kind of worship. I wanted to worship God the way Jesus (PBUH) did, free of all pagan influence. I just had to go back to the time of Jesus (PBUH) and then find my way back to the present time keeping firm on the right path. I spent a considerable amount of time doing this and finally was lead to Islam.
The message of Islam revealed through prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is the continuation and fulfillment of the same Abrahamic faith which was taught by Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, David and Jesus (PBUT) and all the other prophets. The Quran confirms the truth, exposes falsehood and makes clear the position of Jesus (PBUH) in relation to God. Then I realized that if I was a true follower of Jesus, (PBUH) I had to believe in the last messenger and in the message that was revealed through him and like Jesus (PBUH) did, submit myself unto Almighty God and worship him alone.
At this point I started thinking about the name ‘Allah’, because most people seem to think it to be the name of the Muslim God. Therefore, I did a little research and discovered that "Allah" is the same word that Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews use for God. If you pick up an Arabic Bible, you will see the word "Allah" being used where "God" is used in English. This is because "Allah" is the only word in the Arabic language equivalent to the English word "God" with a capital "G”. I was aware that every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God, but learned that this is not the case with ‘Allah’. ‘Allah’ is the personal name of the One true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word ‘god,’ which can be made plural, as in ‘gods,’ or made feminine, as in ‘goddess.’ I further learned that ‘Allah’ (ăl'ə, ä'lə), [Arab., =the God]. Derived from an old Semitic root referring to the Divine and used in the Canaanite El, the Mesopotamian ilu, and the biblical Elohim.
After deep thought, I felt it was better to use a name that was exclusively God’s. For me Allah, Elohim or Jehovah seemed appropriate as they were exclusive names for the one and only true God.
Next, I needed to know what ‘Islam’ really meant. Therefore, I did a little bit of research and discovered that every religion of the world has been named either after the name of its founder or after the community and nation in which that religion took its birth. For instance, Christianity springs forth from the name of it’s prophet Jesus Christ (PBUH); Zoroastrians from its founder Zoroaster; Judaism, the religion of the Jews, from the name of the tribe Judah of the country of Judea where it took its birth and Buddhism from it’s founder Buddha Similar is the case with other religions. But not so with Islam. This religion enjoys the unique distinction of having no such association with any particular person or people. The word ‘Islam’ does not confer any such relationship, for it does not belong to any particular person, people, or country. It is neither the product of any human mind nor is it confined to any particular community. It is a universal religion and its objective is to create and cultivate in man the quality and attitude of Islam. Islam isn’t a man made religion but one chosen by Almighty God for man. (5:3; 3:19) Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salama": which means peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, it means the attainment of peace through submission to the will of God and obedience to His law. Islam dates back to the age of Adam and its message has been conveyed to man by God's prophets and messengers, including Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad.(PBUT) Now I was able to comprehend Jesus’s complete submission and obedience to God’s will. So, It would be reasonable to say that the religion of Jesus (PBUH) was Islam as he was in total subjection unto the will of Almighty God.
Having understood the meaning of Islam, I started thinking about the word ‘Muslim’ and what it meant. I discovered that a person who surrenders himself unto the will of God and thereby attains peace with himself, peace with God and with those around him is a Muslim. For that matter anything that submits to the will and laws of God is Muslim. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that everything God created is Muslim including the sun, moon, stars, trees etc. as all these things operate in accordance with his divine laws and is in submission to his will. Keeping this in mind, I realized that I was born Muslim but grew up accepting the religion of my parents. But Almighty God doesn’t leave us without guidance. He has given each one of us a conscience, which is his secret voice within us, guiding us to do and think right. He also gives us signs and intelligence to reason and discern for ourselves. It is up to us to become aware and grow in knowledge, to question our beliefs and hold fast to what is true. It is written in the Quran that Allah looks deep down into our hearts and guides those who are sincerely searching for the truth to the right path but those who are not interested in finding the right path, he leaves them to their own ways. They are the losers.
I spent many years sincerely searching for the truth. Allah’s words proved to be true in my case. He looked deep down into my heart and guided me to the straight path. I must admit that ever since I embraced Islam, I have experienced a kind of peace that excels all thought. Having guided me, He guided my mother, husband and sons as well. What more could I ask for? All praise and glory is due to him alone.
My humble request to all who have patiently read through my thoughts and experience is to do a little bit of introspection, to reason, to ponder, to meditate and discover if you are on the straight path. Well, this is what Prophet Abraham did (PBUH) and then was guided by God to the truth - away from the false religion practiced by his father. If you are sincere in your search for the truth, you will be lead to it. PEACE be with you all!
If you are interested to know more about Islam, Please feel free to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be only too happy to assist you. I am also giving you a few links where you will find valuable information about Islam.
May all praise and glory be to Allah alone and may his peace and blessings be upon all the messengers he sent forth for our guidance.
http://tanzil.net/ (you can read and listen to the Quran in English and Arabic)