Islam teaches that each person is born a Muslim. For some, due to circumstances – namely, the corruption of the child’s parents – the child grows up in a false religion. Thus, when a non-Muslim converts to Islam, they say he/she is reverting to Islam. In other words, the person is returning to his/her original religion, his/her religion of birth (literally).
Islam teaches that upon conversion, a person’s sins are forgiven. It is as if he/she is reborn.
Quite often, conversion occurs for marriage. That is, a non-Muslim wants to marry a Muslim. Although a Muslim man may marry certain non-Muslim women, it is still considered expected that the woman will convert. Because a Muslim woman is forbidden to marry a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim man would have to convert to Islam for the woman to still be considered a Muslim. (If a non-Muslim woman married to a non-Muslim man converts to Islam, she is considered to be un-married, and would have to have her husband convert and then re-marry him or risk becoming a non-Muslim.)
Conversion to Islam is considered a person’s most important decision, and thus should not be taken seriously. Being an infidel is not as bad as being an apostate. Many hold that belief in Islam is a prerequisite for entering Heaven. No infidel will enter Heaven, so conversion to Islam is a matter of spiritual life or death.
Muslims will be surprised to learn than conversion to Islam was not easy (or encouraged) in the beginning of Islam. To convert to Islam meant to become an Arab; it involved being adopted by an Arab tribe. This is one reason why people formed an opposition group to the Islamic rulers. These people would become Shi’at ‘Ali or the Party of Ali bin Abi Talib. Ali and his followers believed conversion rules for non-Arabs should be made easy. But some people wanted the original rules to stand – if everyone converted to Islam, where would the jizyah tax come from? (Eventually, the lenient conversion rules would become normative for Islam.)
Once conversion became something encouraged, missionary work began in earnest. While the Islamic polity was spread by the sword, the religion was spread by wandering missionaries. Many people converted to enjoy the fruits of being an equal of their new rulers (and to be full citizen, rather than second-class citizens, and to avoid the jizyah tax); others converted out of liking the new religion. Many missionaries did a good job rephrasing Islam in terms the non-Muslims would understand, which in many cases introduced non-Muslim elements into Islam. (This is most prevalent in South Asia.)
Today, conversion is highly encouraged. Efforts in da’wah (literally, “invitation,” now usually referring to missionary work) are encouraged by all Muslims. Indeed, some Muslims have said that Muslims living in non-Muslim lands are living there against Islamic law unless they engage in da’wah. Whether it’s educating people about what they want people to think about Islam, or leading people to conversation, ordinary Muslims lead many people to conversion. There are missionary organizations – Tablighi Jamaat and Jamaat-e Islami are two – but many focus on “converting” Muslims to true Islam or to train Muslims in missionary methods.
(It’s still Monday on the West Coast!)
Having recently attended two conversion ceremonies to Islam, I thought I might throw up some posts on conversion in the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), discussing the history of conversion, the theory behind conversion, and what actual conversion entails.
The history of conversion in Islam will come tomorrow (or today, depending on one’s timezone).
I see America as strong – perhaps stronger than most nations. But the people seem to be changing, and not for the good. We need to entrench within ourselves and our children and associates those values that helped us become great. We’re either going uphill or going downhill – there is no resting, no plateau, no station to rest. Our government didn’t bring us where we are today, we did. Our government won’t lead us to future success, we will.
One of most pernicious ideologies that hinders a nation’s progress and development is statism. The state is not the answer. That’s why we fought a war with the British. That’s why the establishment of a government was such a contentious affair in the beginning of our history. There were plenty of models to choose from, but few which didn’t include statism as its foundation. The Founding Fathers erected a system of government that not only didn’t enshrine statism but, in fact, tried to prevent it. By going against their mechanisms, we are now turning into a statist nation.
I had lived in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates for so long that when I returned to The United States, I was a statist. I’d wonder why the government isn’t doing this thing or that thing, why it wasn’t solving such-and-such problem or issue. Or I posited that the government is the solution to our ails and woes. After all, in Pakistan, the first question that’s asked when an issue arises is: “What’s the government doing about it?” But I realized that this statism causes more problems than it solves. Rather than relying on the industry and ingeniousness of the people, we were relying on burdensome, cumbersome, inefficient bureaucracy. Each involvement of the government, furthermore, eroded the people’s freedoms, their area of movement and activity, and, indeed, even their will to work, solve, and prevail.
Mark my words – every statist nation is full of dullards, lazy people, unrealistic ideologues, and far from industrious.
I don’t care about communism or socialism. Russia, China, or Iran won’t do us in. If things don’t change, statism will be end of America as a world power.
Wherein lies the strength of a nation?
Not in its planes or tanks or missiles. Not in its economic prowess. Not in how low people bow to its diplomats and leaders. Quite often, though, these are taken as signs of the strength of a nation – it’s prestige.
But the true strength of a nation lies with its people – their willingness to move the nation forward, their willingness to work together, their courage and determination, their cherishing of their past and their optimistiz gaze to the future, their industriousness and valuing of honest, hard work. With such a people, no government or military can frustrate them. Without such a people, no government or military can lead the nation forward.
So, look to a nation’s people to judge its true strength.
With my MBA done, I’ll have more time to write so look for posts here thrice weekly!