What Drives People to Convert to Islam? (part 1 of 2)
The nature of religious faith is quite mysterious. As part of their religious faiths, people believe in a variety of deities. There are people who have religious faith in the unseen supreme inimitable power, and then there are others who believe in some humans as Gods, or animals (e.g. monkeys), fire, idols made of stone, and the list goes on.
A lot is associated with having a religious “faith”. Part of it has to do with beliefs passed on through generations. People’s identities therefore get tied to it. Many times, these beliefs and associated feelings are not completely demonstrable by reason or any rational arguments. There is nothing right or wrong with this, but that’s just how the nature of religious faith has come to be.
Almost everyone thinks they are right in their faith and beliefs. Being with people and groups with similar faith further strengthens people’s faith, and they see it as right, even though logical reasoning and argument sometimes can’t explain it all. That’s simple human psychology.
Islam’s arguments based on intellectual reasoning
Muslims believe however, that the Islamic religion is different in this context. One may argue that similar to other faiths there are aspects of it which are not completely demonstrable by reason, but on the other hand the Quranic text, which is God’s words addressing humanity at large, uses intellectual reason, critical thinking, and the process of reflection as a means not only to reinforce the faith of the believers, but also to call non-believers to ponder about the authenticity of Islam as the way of life for humanity at large. Although no religious beliefs can be fully based on logic and reasoning, Islam and Quran provide more than enough examples and an opportunity to examine the truth and the soundness of its message through the lens of empirical evidence and knowledge.
No one (Muslim or otherwise) would argue that critical thinking and reflection can be a major catalyst for changing ones life. Critical thinking has been used by many to improve their lives simply because a critical thinker asks probing questions about a situation, collects as much information as possible, reflects on the ideas collected and generated in context of the information available, keeps an open and unbiased mind, and carefully scrutinizes assumptions and seeks alternatives.
This is the reason, therefore, that new Muslim converts would attribute the use of intelligent reasoning, reflection and critical thinking when explaining their journey to Islam. Such people cut through the hysteria created in the media to view Islam from a critical lens and following the truth thus comes naturally to them as part of this process. How else can one explain the increase in conversions with the increase of anti-Islamic rhetoric? How else can one explain that more non-Muslim preachers have been converting to Islam than ever before? Although, as Muslims, we believe that guidance comes only from Allah, the use of a person’s God-gifted intellectual reasoning has a very powerful role to play in Muslim converts making that destiny changing decision. And once converted, they rarely go back to their old faiths, simply because a faith whose foundations are built on logic and reason is much less likely to be shaken down than one which simply builds upon a set of rites and sacraments.
Reasons attributed by new Converts
Some of the reasons given why people convert to Islam are the eloquence of the Quran’s language, its overwhelming scientific evidence and proofs, arguments rooted in intellectual reasoning, and the Divine wisdom behind various social issues. The uniqueness and beauty of the Quran’s text has been marveled by the best of Arab linguists and scholars, both Muslim and otherwise, from the days it was revealed until today. The more knowledgeable people are in the language, the more they appreciate the wonders of the textual fluency of the Quran. Revealed more than 1400 years ago, the Quran also has numerous scientific facts that are being validated by science only in this era. Furthermore, it is the only known religious text that challenges mankind to think, reflect and ponder over the creation at large, social issues, God’s existence, and more. The Quran, in many instances, challenges people to reflect and think on their own, rather than heeding the loose talk of those whose criticism is based on baseless foundations. Finally, the Quran provides a solution to numerous social issues, deviation from which has been known to cause societal chaos at all levels.
The Quran is a confident assertion of a Supreme Being; the only known religious book that has a confident assertion of a Supreme Being on all issues ranging from the creation of the universe to most particular components of the social milieu. Moreover, its Divine Text - the language and prose of the Quran - is very different from the language in the Prophet’s sayings, which demonstrates that the Quran is not from the creative imagination or inspired words of Prophet Muhammad, as many doubters have alleged in the past, and continue to do even today.
We can see that most of these reasons can only be attributed to the process of critical thinking and intellectual reflection. However, cold reasoning is not enough. The heart has to be engaged in the search: a search whose aim is to reach for the truth at its core. No wonder, then, that when such sincere people hear the Quran for the first time, and understand it, they say:
“We believe in it; surely, it is the Truth from our Lord. Indeed, even before it, we were Muslims!” (Quran 28:53)
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Indeed, an ignorant man who is generous is dearer to God than a worshipper who is miserly (Hadith 580 - Al-Tirmidhi)
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