Thursday, August 24, 2006

A "Muslim Response" to the Jill Carroll Story

I've been following the Jill Carroll story on for some time now, waiting till all the parts have been published to give my response.

Why am I so interested in this story? There are several reasons and the purpose of responding is to really give an interesting perspective on the issue and in a sense, re-invite Jill Carroll to the Truth. She or you might say "whatever, give me a break, you know what she went through, why on earth would she even want to be Muslim?"

Don't ask me, but ask Yvonne Ridley who was kidnapped by the Taliban and to many people's shock and surprise ended up converting to Islam. Yvonne Ridley and her story made me even more interested in Jill Carroll's story. Both were white Western women kidnapped by Muslims. One embraced Islam after promising her captors to study it and the other didn't.

What works for "you" is not what pleases your desires. What works for you is what the Creator ordered you and the rest of humankind to follow and embrace: a system of life from God that agrees with human nature and what guides people if truly understood and practiced properly.

Converts to Islam don't go from not fornicating to fornicating. To not drinking to drinking. To thinking when it comes to religion and reality to not thinking. To using no profanity to using it all the time. The fact that both Islam and Christianity forbid things like profanity, fornication, etc., but for some reason when one converts to Islam from Christianity he or she usually drops the things that her previous religion forbid should tell you something if you are a thinker. A religion can tell you what's right or wrong, but only God can guide you and it is done through truth and not just any "religion" that makes you feel good or more "spiritual".

Back to her story. She was kidnapped and her friend murdered. She was held captive for almost three months and made to endure a lot of things. But that part to me is not the most interesting part. The one that interests me the most is the part where she as a person had to deal with Muslims and Islam. To me, her interest in Islam is not an issue of truth or falsehood or what God wants His creation to follow but rather something that will help in her reporting. If I am correct, I would like to ask her why not deal with the question of Islam not on a level of a subject to be studied for the purpose of work but rather is Islam is the truth and so on. If she delved into the subject of Islam's truth and still not embraced it, I would then try to do da`wah in a way she might not of have received due to the fact she didn't encounter converts to Islam while in the Middle East (that I know of).

Trust me, I am well aware of the phenomenom of non Muslims studying Islam and Muslims, even risking their lives and for what? To never embrace it. I always have been intrigued by this, and have studied the Orientalists for years. They treat us Muslims like subjects, it's now time we treat them the same way but we do it for the purpose to help, not exploit or spread lies.

I lived in America all my life and met many, many converts. Their stories are very interesting but the one thing that gets me the most is how they changed: from impiety to piety to not thinking to thinking, a Muslim submits not to the will of his or her desires but rather to the will of God. Some of them even hated Muslims and Islam with a passion, but now they're Muslims. You ask yourself how and they will tell you but the point is this: anyone who is sincere will embrace "the" Truth. If they are not and would rather follow their desires and live in a delusion will not.

Furthermore, I am not at all naive when I am trying to re-invite her to Islam. I heard practically all the arguments for and against converting to Islam from people who lived amongst Muslims or at least observed them and/or studied Islam. From what I read, Jill Carroll is a Catholic or just a nominal Christian. But does she really believe in it and if she does, why? She has observed how Islam plays a major role in Muslims' lives, where most Muslims do not openly live in the sin of let's say fornication or adultery while most Christians have had sex outside of marriage. Are Christians to her guided by God? The reformation of Christianity and the Church in the past few centuries was greatly influenced by secularists; how can disbelievers in God or your religion reform it? Does that prove something wrong to you? One of the most segegrated hours is when church services are held? Does this prove that Christianity cannot unite people of different races?

She might ask similiar questions about Islam, but all such questions can receive a good response from me.

While I wait for all the parts of her story to be published, I ask myself, will this response do anything? Only Allah knows, and whom Allah leaves astray, none can guide, and whom Allah guides, none can lead astray.

Just don't get the impression that I never propagated Islam to a non-Muslim before, even one who lived amongst the Muslims and studied Islam. It's all about inviting them not to a "religion" but the irrefutable truth via the process of making them to think...


At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaikum,

I am a convert to Islam and was interested in several of your comments.

In some ways, I think you are confusing the product with the process. I was raised in a conservative Christian home, but never got on with Christianity. I felt there were too many unanswered questions and points left unsaid or too vaguely defined. But Christianity as I was taught it in a small rural town dominated by lay ministers and Bob Jones University-style "scholars" is a far cry from the message taught by the companions of Jesus, peace be upon him.

You need only spend a bit of time with a Pentacostal Christian or Southern Baptist and you'll see that they are ardent believers in God, but perhaps not very informed about their "beliefs". They just accept what has been explained to them as being correct because they trust implicitly the person doing the explaining.

My grandmother was an incredibly committed Christian and active in her church on many, many levels. She was almost in a constant state of walking, waking prayer. May I one day achieve this level of belief and peace, insha'Allah. But trying to discuss specific points of religion often went nowhere because fundamentalists of all ilks are taught to believe, not question. We won't even go into the Middle Ages approach of "credo quia absurdum" (I believe *because* it makes no sense).

But I think you are wrong to say that what "works" for someone is somehow necessarily based on their desires. When I started learning about Islam, I was sceptical in the extreme, but that started to change with time. I still don't understand many things, but hope that with time and learning that will change.

But you only have to look at some of the nonsense propagated by Muslims based on tribal custom or a long line of misunderstanding stretching back years if not centuries to see that Muslims are not immune from "getting it wrong". For this reason, it's not wonder that people turn away from all forms of religion in droves. There are far too many smug and arrogant poor examples in all religious communities.

I can only believe that if we try to be better people and live better lives regardless of our faith or religion, this must be pleasing to God. Not all people have the same level of understanding. Some have more, others less. But God knows best with regard to the individual and I firmly believe that the striving Buddhist is just as pleasing in God's eyes as the striving Christian, Jew, Muslim or what-have-you.

YOu may or may not agree. So be it. But I can't help but hear a small amout of "she's screwing up here if she doesn't see things my way.". I heard that all through my childhood and it drove me away from God, not to him.

In closing, one of my first meetings with a group of Muslims to discuss Islam was at a young man's home. We all sat, talked, I asked questions, they tried to answer them. It was fairly productive. Then, as I was leaving, this one young brother put on a big smile, warmly shook my hand and said, "You know, now that you've taken the time to find out about Islam, if you don't become a Muslim, you're going to Hell". I just smiled and left.

This was the same brother who, about a year later, told me that if I wasn't a Muslim, God didn't hear my prayers. This is also the brother who once told me that he became a Muslim after talking with a group of brothers who basically held him captive until he made his shahada. At the time I was undecided on my path and he said to me, "It doesn't matter to me, of course, if you become a Muslim or not, but why not make shahada now and if things don't work out, at least you won't die without having done that (making shahada)".

If Jill Carroll becomes a Muslim, good for her. If she doesn't, I hope she will be the best Christian she can be. In the end, God will settle our debts with us. As for us as individuals, we need to concentrate more on ourselves.

Salam alaikum

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Mahdi Ahmad said...

As-salaamu `alaikum,

Thank you for the comment.

As Muslims, our reference for our beliefs is what was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saaws) from Allah (swt), nothing else. So when we say a statement regarding the deen, it must be based on the Quran and Sunnah not opinions or conjecture.

Kufr is the rejection of la ilaha illa Allah Muhammad rasul Allah. A person who knows about Islam but refuses to embrace it after it was made clear to him or her the truth of Islam is a kaafir. He or she will not be admitted in Paradise regardless of how "good" they are. This is according to Islam, not according to me or anyone else's "interpretation".

This is what our deen teaches. Allah says that the deeds of the unbeliever basically nothing, comparing it to things like a mirage or dust in the wind. He or she might believe that they are doing things that will help them attain Allah's mercy for admittance into Paradise but it does nothing for them.

Remember the Prophet's uncle? The man who protected the Prophet of Allah? He died as a kaafir, even though he was sympathic to him and his cause, he refused to embrace Islam. It is reported in the Hadith that he will have the lightest part of the Hell Fire, but nonetheless, he will be in Hell not Heaven.

Now as for those who have not heard the message of Islam or at least heard it correctly, their judgment is with Allah. I cannot say if they are going to Heaven or Hell, only Allah knows that. But a person who knows Islam cannot have the excuse of ignorance.

I cannot look into the heart of people. I know non-Muslims who "love" God and are always mentioning Him. That does not mean that they are guided. Loving God is just an emotion; loving God while being guided by the Truth is something else. I know many Christians who "love God" but they have sex out of wedlock, curse like sailors and even do things that are even unholy in their religion's beliefs and YET they consider themselves as "religious". Unfortunately their sincere emotional love for God does not carry to their beliefs and actions that are direct opposition to what God teaches.

I was born and raised in America. I am well aware of the customs, traditions, etc., of America and Americans. I believe and know that most people in America are decent people. I have many non Muslim friends and am fortunate to met so many cool people in my life, non Muslim and Muslim. Islam is so misunderstood by non Muslims and Muslims that any attempt in doing da`wah will be a hard one, since you have to first deal with the endless amount of misconceptions of Islam that makes many people hestitant to even learning objective about the way of life.

One of the beauty of Islam is that it is tolerant of other religions. Jews had some of their best years under the Islamic state. Christians benefitted greatly from the Muslims. Because I am Muslim, I am tolerant of other religions and their adherents and respect their right to practice and worship their religion. I hope that more see the beauty and truth of Islam and realize that Islam is not terrorism, fanaticism and bigotry!

At 2:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wa alaikum assalam,

"Kufr is the rejection of la ilaha illa Allah Muhammad rasul Allah".

If you look at the root of kufr, you'll see that this means "to cover" (and I believe that this is endorsed by the majority of reputable scholars). In other words, it's not whether you accept something, it's whether you actively attempt to cover it up or keep it from people. Good-hearted, honest Christians can hardly be kafirs. They are the most evangelical people on Earth!

And yes, as Muslims we must base our deen on what is revealed: The vast majority on the Qur'an and less so on authentic hadith with the correct understanding of context and application. Failing this, we must use ijtihad. Certainly not on hadith that purport, for instance, that there was originally an Ayat detailing stoning to death for adulterers, but this was eaten by a goat on the prophet's death, so we'll just have to accept that it was there, but isn't now.

I grow weary of Muslims beating other people over the head with spurious hadith or hadith taken out of context because it suits their purposes. We are told in the Qur'an that all those who believe (Jews, Christians, Sabeans) will know no sorrow and will be received by Our Lord (of course, with the understanding that they are living a life that is pleasing to God). That's pretty clear to me.

And I, too, know plenty of the sort of Christians you mention: they drink to excess, swear, lech after women, gamble, and do all manner of disreputable things that are not condoned by their faith. But I know how these people were raised and there is a heavy mix of "but we're all imperfect and God understands". I can't agree with that - you know when what you're doing wrong.

I also know the baggage that is prgrammed in: there will be people who will try to bring you off the "right path", so when they start telling you about their religion, don't get sucked in.". That's pretty powerful stuff. And self-fulfilling as well: you need only see the number of people who approach others about their faith to see that this will happen.

And not accepting something is not the same as rejecting it. I may not believe, for example, in global warming, but that doesn't mean that I'm not open to learning more and perhaps being convinced at a later date. If I reject it out of hand, then there's not much likelihood that I'll change my mind later, although who knows. Plus people are the product of their experiences (and their level of understanding). Not all people have the ability to step outside themselves and question their belief systems, societies, values, etc.

Also, I think you'll find (with regard to the Prophet's uncle) that at his death, we don't know for certain that Abu Talib didn't whisper his shahada before his death. And besides, it's a Hanafi ruling that a spoken shahada before witnesses isn't a requirement to make someone a Muslim: living, believing, and then praying as a Muslim are. You can have shahada in your heart and that is the first and most important step to being closer to God.

I'm sure we could debate back and forth about this all day - many scholars have (and I am not a scholar by any use of the word).

I simply wished to point out that none of us knows the heart of another and as such we are in no position to even posit on their relationship (or lack there of) with God.

Da'wah will only become successful when Muslims make it clear that what Islam is, is a daily reality, not what people jump to point out after a bomb has gone off somewhere. And even when that becomes the case, there will always be people of good hearts and firm belief in God who are not going to be Muslims. Some of them are my friends. Will these people be with God in Heaven? I have no idea.

But I'll add this: I once asked one of my grandmother's sisters what she thought about Buddhists. "They're all going to Hell.", she said without hesitation. But I pressed the point: "What if they have never heard of this man Jesus, but have been the best Buddhists they ever could be? What if they were kind, patient, took care of the sick?". Her reply? "They're still going to Hell.".

I leave it to you.

Salams and thanks for replying to my comments. I wish you and your family peace and well-being, brother.

At 4:13 AM, Blogger dawaholic said...

Dear Anonymous,
You said

>If you look at the root of kufr, >you'll see that this means "to >cover" (and I believe that this >is endorsed by the majority of >reputable scholars).

and went on to say that Christian evengelsist are not kaafirs...

In every language there is literal meaning and there is the meaning of the word in context.

But, if you insist on taking literal meaning then Quran calls a farmer also as kuffaar (in Surah Hadeed).
Does that mean all the farmers will not enter Heaven ???

Obviously NO...So please don't try to confuse people

In context of Quran, Kafir mean a person who rejects Islaam...plain
and simple.

Also, can you name a few from "majority reputable scholars" who hold this opinion ?


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