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Crescent over Cross

Why I chose Islam over Christianity

by Hussain Wilson, U.K.

(The writer of the article below, Mr Hussain Dean Wilson, a university student in England, embraced Islam earlier this year in 2001 at the U.K. Centre of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore in Wembley, London.)

In my years of searching for an understanding of what God requires of me and what he requires in “true” worship, I have encountered many varied beliefs and doctrines. I have spent many years searching for “the truth” of what is true devotion to God, and the true religion of God. It is not an easy task, as many various religious doctrines all purport themselves to be the “true religion of God”. Many such doctrines produce their own evidence to back their claims up.

            I spent a time as a Buddhist. This is after I lost faith in the mainstream Christian religious ideal. I could not understand the doctrine of God’s son and the fact that salvation was only available through God’s Son. This did not make much sense to me.

            I was attending a local church called the King’s Church, populated with many “Born Again Christians”. The religious ideal they followed was one that Jesus, the Son of God, was the only one who salvation can be attained through. All prayer must be thus addressed through “Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ”.

            I fell out of favour with that brand of Christianity and spent a time believing nothing, which I did not particularly enjoy. It was at this time that I was reading about Buddhism and a lot of the central doctrines appealed to me. Right Speech, Right Thought, not harming living creatures. For a while I followed Buddhism, and even entertained the notion of going “on retreat” where you join a monastery for a time. But there was one nagging doubt about Buddhism and me. I could understand the principles of reincarnation and cessation of self, but I could not wholly understand the principle of no supreme creator God. Only a God spirit that was in essence nothingness. Complete emptiness. I stopped being a Buddhist and picked up the threads of Christianity I had been living with since birth.

            A Christian friend of mine pointed out to me a passage in the Christian Bible about searching for God as if you were searching for gold and that if you keep up your search, all the time, you will find it. I think that has been the most profound and true statement I have encountered anywhere on the search for a religious ideal.

            I was brought up by my mother’s belief in God, and that He was everywhere and not necessarily in a church. I grew up in Italy, where God, Jesus, and Mary (Mother of God) play a very important part in all daily affairs and consciousness. My father did not have much of an influence religion wise, so I had the Catholic view and my mother’s view. Two contrasting and sometimes alien to each other’s, points on the doctrine of God and the “Celestial Holy Family”. I attended a Catholic primary school and religion was introduced as part of the curriculum as well in infants and junior school. It was taught, on and off, by various visiting monks and priests, depending on the government of the day and it’s view of religion in school. It was taught as well, unofficially by friends, neighbours and what you hear in the street.

            Catholicism appealed to a certain point and it is from this that I formulated the idea that perhaps Jesus was not the Son of God, but perhaps God himself. Perhaps not to frighten the people of the time God descended from heaven and took on the visage of a man. … This theory, of course, has holes in it!

            My mother’s doctrine of God and religion is that God exists, He had a son, and that you reach God by praying to him. She is a firm believer that you do not need a church to be close to God, as you can find God in anything. The woods, a stream, quietly or even in a crowd. God is everywhere and in every thing.

            The Jehovah Witnesses came to my door, both during the period that I was a Buddhist and also more recently when I stopped being a Buddhist and was ‘looking into’ Christianity. They and I engaged in long, and interesting, conversations about God, the universe and all things religious. I was still struggling with the notion of God, Son, Mother and father of both Catholicism and my own mismatched beliefs.

            I even contacted the Mormons, The Church of the Later Day Saints. Their doctrine, based upon the Prophet John Smith made some sense to me. They have this religious belief that they are a lost tribe of Israel, who left Israel and sailed across the oceans with God’s help in the manner of both an Angelic presence and a compass given them by God himself. They found America and set up a colony. The Prophet John Smith was given a divine revelation by the Angel of God to find the stone tablets relating their journey across the ocean, as well as the device that acted as a compass. After digging these items up, he led the converts across America to Salt Lake City in Utah, where the Mormon Church was founded.

            I did not attend any meetings with the Mormons, but accepted some bible study, learnt about the church, its beliefs and history but felt that as a branch of Christianity it was not exactly the branch for me.

            I have looked at Baptists and understand the basic tenets of their beliefs in baptism as a way to redeem and to be accepted as one of God’s flock, but have a lack of total faith in that idea. It is the same with Methodism. I understand the why of not accepting drink, and also how they could have interpreted it from the Bible. There are so many Christian sects, doctrines and variations all based upon the same set of scriptures, finding a ‘True Christian Doctrine’ is increasingly difficult. I could accept this part of this faith, but not the whole thing. I could accept this from Methodism, this from Baptism. I could accept the dissatisfaction with church structure as expounded by the Presbyterian, Reform and Calvinist (Anabaptist) and Jehovah Witnesses churches, whereby they advocate a return to the simpler methods of ‘church’ organisation and worship and an elected council and body of elders from within the congregation — having no official clerics, monks, clergy, priests or hierarchy. I could understand Lutheranism and why it evolved, also orthodox (both Eastern, Russian and Greek). I could understand Evangelism and the need to go forth and spread the word of God, especially as Jesus (peace be upon him) said to go forth and make disciples and to preach the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.

            What I could never accept is that there must be about a thousand different Christian groups all under the banner of ‘Protestant’, as well as several churches under the heading ‘Orthodox’ and just one under ‘Catholic’.

            Catholicism is viewed as the closest church to what Jesus (peace be upon him) was actually trying to communicate to us mortals. Unfortunately that may have been true at the beginning, but so much has been added and altered within the Christian New Testament that the original message has been lost. Added to that is the churches fascination with making money and rules. I discounted Catholicism as the ‘True Church’ and continued to search.

            The message as God intended it was given to Moses (PBOH), then later it was given to Jesus (PBOH). Jesus’ message was to a limited amount of people, the sick, the inform, the needy and was at a time that a strengthening of the message and commandments from God was needed. Therefore, it stands to reason there must be another messenger after Jesus. In Judaism the Messiah is still anxiously awaited, in fact, most Jews have given up with the notion of a Divine messiah and put their faith and trust into the Nation of Israel as the only hope for Salvation and redemption of their people. In Christianity the return of Jesus, the ‘Second Coming’ is eagerly anticipated. What does this leave? A hope for the return of the Martyred son of God, or the eagerly anticipated arrival of another saviour? But what about the Prophet Muhammad (PBOH)?

            Whilst I was entertaining the various Christian factions and trying to work out what one was the right one I returned to looking at Islam. I had looked at Islam before, but never in a serious manner. I was always fascinated with the history of Muhammad (PBOH), the call to Prophethood as well as the beautiful revelation in the Holy Qur’an. I had read the Qur’an before and liked the way that the passages have the ability to sing and to touch one’s heart as one is reading — an ability I am sad to say the Christian Bible lacked with me.

            When I started to study Islam seriously I discovered that the message of the Qur’an, unlike the Bible, had never been altered. In all of its years, translations and copies, the same message appeared, with nothing added, altered or removed. This is one indication that the message in the Qur’an was an important one. Another indicator is that despite many attempts to stamp out the Qur’an, it has survived. The same can be said for the Christian Bible, but that has been, fundamentally, altered over the passage of 2,000 years. Not so for the Qur’an.

            Is the Qur’an a message from God? Undoubtedly it must surely be. I strongly believed for a while, and still strongly believe, that God in all his wisdom sent a message to every nation and tribe upon the earth, in their own language, to fit within their own cultures. Unfortunately the message may have got corrupted over time. Some may even have been forgotten, others have died out along with the race or tribe. Other messages have survived in some form or another, perhaps not the original form, but the message is there. The Annalects of Confucius, the Dharmaphada, Rig Veda, Pali Cannon, and of course the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah. Each religion of the world has a fundamental thread running through them, this thread must surely be God inspired!

            I thought I was alone in this belief in many prophets for many nations. I thought I was alone in the understanding for the need for a message to the individual nations at the appropriate times. I was amazed to discover that Islam also has these beliefs! Beliefs I thought I was unique in believing! I was also rather amazed to discover that Islam only used the Qur’an. There are no necessary additional and supplementary writings. Just the plain message of the Qur’an. I was also amazed to further learn that the Qur’an of the Algerians is identical to the Qur’an of the Ethiopians and all of them are identical to that of the Saudi Arabians and Iraqis! I was further amazed to find that, despite politics, there is no difference between a Sunni and a Shia Muslim and that in Islam there is no fractions of the ‘Church’. Islam is Islam, the same, world over! Here is a religion that has perfected what Jesus had said. The message of God shall be preached in the Four Corners of the world. A World religion, as often fantasised about, and a world wide message of peace, do not have to be waited for, or anticipated or even a mere fantasy. It is here and has always been here, it is a message revealed in Medina and collected together into one volume: The Holy Qur’an.

            Islam is not a difficult thing. There are no difficult rules or laws to obey. The rules and laws are the same basic rules that run through every religion of the world and are mostly common sense. There are no priests or bishops giving their own interpretation to the holy Qur’an, there is a plain message for all to read and all to understand. The only ‘difficulty’ is the obligatory prayers and even that is not difficult. It may be used as an excuse by many (even a friend of mine said that he would simply not have the time to pray 5 times a day). Everything in Islam is designed not to bring hardship upon the believer and all it asks for is the total submission to God’s will. It has many characteristics of both Catholicism (originally, Catholicism was the submission to the divine will and plan) same with Judaism (what God wills, shall be) and Christianity. It is a religion of peace and mercy, compassion and love and one of the few that actually practise the principles it preaches.

            One could say, if it is so wonderful, why are we not all Muslims? One could also reason, that if Islam is so peaceable, why is the Middle East so violent? Unfortunately the answer there does not lie in Islam as the cause, but politics like most quarrels and squabbles. As to answer why are we not all Muslims? Perhaps that is because the message is not reaching the people fast enough. For when it does reach the people and they know in their hearts that it is a good and true message, then they instantly become Muslims. Islam is an emerging and fast growing religion in the West. It is the fastest growing religion in America and the second fastest in Europe. People are flocking to Islam and its clear message.

            I always had a difficult time accepting Christianity’s message. I always had doubts and questions. It preaches a nice message, but that message is buried under the incomprehensibleness of the dogma, tradition and practise of each church. There were always things I needed clarification upon and if I got clarification, it would not be upheld by others’ view. Islam I found to be clear, concise and without the attached clutter. Not involving politics, it is an easy message to accept and to understand and since converting and accepting Islam I have found I have had no head aches or doctrinal quandaries and queries as to what, how, when and who to believe.

            It was with suddenness that I realised I was a Muslim. I had been searching for a long time for a clear, understandable and true religious practise to follow as I was dissatisfied with the melting pot of beliefs and ideas that I had accrued searching. I wanted a label to attach to my religious beliefs, so that I could ‘fit in’. I made arrangements through the Muslim Book Depot to study Islam, as at the same time it was, coincidentally, part of my Open University course. It was whilst attending the Mosque at 16 Stanley Avenue (Wembley) that I suddenly realised, talking with Mahmud Shaukat, that the principle beliefs of Islam were the same basic beliefs I also believed in. I remember he said to me that it was ‘not his, or anyone else’s opinion that mattered, no one could rightly say that you, or him, are a Muslim’. I remember questioning him further on what a Muslim was, what made a Muslim. After being told I said quite clearly, “so! I’m a Muslim!” I left Stanley Avenue after making arrangements to spend a week there in May. I thought long and hard about what a Muslim is, Islam and the message of Allah in the Holy Qur’an. I also thought long and hard about my position in the world and about religion and God in general.

            I have been an Evangelical Baptist; a Buddhist; Atheist; Communist (Marxism is now an accepted religious belief in “alternative religion”), primal religions (mainly North American Indian). I have even tried Haitian/Creole Voodoo (Santoria as it is now being called). Mennonite and Calvinist Anabaptist (briefly), non-denominational Christian, and finally a practising Jehovah’s Witness. I have tried most things and there are several I know just where not me. For instance, Judaism, Catholicism (although some aspects of it really attracted me), Hindu and any Chinese religion.

            Islam I did not see as an end-of-the-road religion, as there are still aplenty more to choose from if that is the case. What I thought long and hard about was the fact I had finally found a religion that I was 98% comfortable with! I was always a 60% Buddhist, 50% non-denominational Christian and about 80% Jehovah’s Witness. I made a lousy Communist and an even lousier Voodoo practitioner. Islam rests easy with me and I am incredibly comfortable with it. As I travelled home I realised that the extremely long search for a religion was over — I had come home.

            What amazed me the most was, that in all the time of searching I was already believing, just not practising, what I am now: a Muslim. I have always been a Muslim! I just did not realise it! It has always been the Crescent over the Cross. I always found excuses and holes with the Cross, so far and with Allah’s help, I shall never find fault with the Crescent.

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