I know what you're thinking... I'm a bitter woman who had a bad experience with a Muslim man, and now I want to spew my venom all over Islam just because I was mistreated. Or perhaps I'm a European right-winger who fears that more people will convert to Islam, and help spread it on the continent and take over my country and steal my job? Or maybe I've been brainwashed by the Western media to believe that Islam is pure evil. Maybe I've seen suicide bombers on the news, and I think women in hijab are oppressed, and I just missed out on all the beauties that can be found in the Quran if I just read it.
Let me tell you that I have been beat up, by a Columbian. I have Muslim friends, I live among Muslim families, and I love them for their kindness, hospitality and openness. I've found Arabs to be mainly warm and respectful, quick to form friendships and easy to socialize with. I love their culture and lifestyle. I don't care how many Arabs move to Europe. I was once a refugee myself, and we all do what we have to in the quest for bread. I live in a Muslim country and I wear hijab, mostly because it's safer to do so, but ultimately I don't care who wears this piece of cloth and who doesn't. I never believed the media when it came to Arabs, and I still don't. I'm pro-freedom in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, anti-Assad, anti-Morsi and anti-Ahmadinejad when it comes to Persians.
What other excuses will you make to discount what I have to say? I've read the Quran many times and yes, it has many moving and poetic passages. Nobody can deny the beauty of an azan heard live across the street, or the warmness of an iftar shared in a happy, laughing group of friends. Nobody can deny the goodness of many, many Muslims, or the love and respect that a Muslim man can show a woman.
However. Absolutely none of that is a reason to convert, because none of that is Islam.
Islam is the Quran (which does NOT stand alone, but must be read along with tafsirs (and if you think tafsirs are not needed to understand God's universal word, then ask yourself why they're written and studied)) and for Sunni Muslims this religion is also six volumes of hadith which you must follow as models for your life. You must believe in all of it, without exceptions, to become a Muslim. No matter what anyone tells you, you can't just read the Quran once and feel moved by its beauty and convert, because if you do - you are only knowing and believing in a small part of this religion. If you also say anything on this website is taken "out of context," then nothing can stop you from reading the surah or hadith before and after the quoted passage to see if what's quoted still stands.
Why am I writing this? I don't regret the time I spent as a Muslim, and I can say I've met many good people and learned a lot. But I want to save you from humiliation in your near future. If you say the shahada without knowing the tafsirs and ALL of the hadith, then you are simply fooling yourself. And you may fool yourself for the rest of your life, if you never bother to read it all after you convert.
There are, in my opinion, three basic types of Western converts to Islam. You're one, or a mixture of the three:
1. YOU'RE POLITICAL: You've seen the media lies about Arabs and their causes, you've watched them get disrespected on the street, stereotyped and hated, you've seen footage of torn-up fields of olive trees in Palestine, and hateful ads on New York subways. You feel guilty, and you start to sympathise and you're curious. You read more about Arab culture, and about Islam, and of course you learn they're not as bad as the media portray them. And they're not, and neither is their religion - the one thing that everybody seems to pick on them over. You discover the Quran isn't as evil as you thought, and that it's actually quite beautiful, and you say the shahada not knowing there are six very long books of hadith and even more volumes of tafsirs. Because faith is in the heart, and it's the job of the scholars to sort through the minor details and irrelevant histories, right?
Muslims love other converts and you may feel like you're part of their group, but you are doing nothing to help them gain respect or empowerment when you say the shahada. You can attend protests, have Muslim friends, sympathise with their causes and love their culture WITHOUT being a Muslim. Want to shatter people's bad stereotypes? Then do it by showing others the music, literature, art and food of the Arab world and the goodness of its people.
Why does religion have to get involved? Let's say I was racist towards Mexicans. And I hated the Catholic Church. But are you going to tell me the Catholic Church isn't so bad just so I can stop hating Mexicans? Why not tell me how great the Mexicans are, what beautiful beaches they have and what a proud history of labour strikes? Why must anyone respect any religion, let alone Islam, to not be considered a racist?
2. YOU'RE IN LOVE: You met a kind and respectful Muslim who tells you about a kind and respectful religion. You're in love, and believe he's a perfect human capable of nothing but good. You convert because he gave you an English translation of the Quran, and you believe that if he is good, then so must be his religion. Did you ever read the six books of hadith and tafsirs with this man? Does he even own them? Consider that he may love his religion, but that doesn't make him an expert. Are you willing to sign your life on the dotted line by saying the shahada when all you have is the Quran and his word that it's all good? It is your life, and your responsibility as a thinking human being to find out EVERYTHING about this religion BEFORE you say the shahada. How can you embrace a religion before you know everything about it?
3. YOU WANT THE TRUTH: You never understood the concept of the Trinity or the resurrection in the Bible, you were forced to attend mass and you hated it, you didn't like the idea of Eve and her tempting Adam to eat the apple. Somebody, or something, comes along and tells you that Islam is different. There is only one God, Jesus is not his son, Adam was equally to blame for the apple incident. You read about women's rights like full right to divorce, how Islam stopped infant girls from getting buried alive, how a husband must care for his wife as head of the household because women are precious.
But. None of the websites, or the Karen Armstrong books you read, are Islam.
Islam is nothing else but the Quran and tafsirs and hadith. It is not a Western institute or a sheikh online telling you about equal rights and the freedom of religion. If all you've read are those kinds of websites and the Quran, then you know nearly nothing about Islam.
You are considering the shahada - the declaration of faith in Allah and in Muhammed, his messenger. How can you commit to a religion for the rest of your life if you don't read the explanations of what the Quran means, and if you don't read all the hadith that talk about how Muhammed lived his life?
But you're excited and eager now, and you figure you'll sort the details out later because Muslims are "always learning" about their religion and your education will never stop and you'll never become a sheikh. But I'm telling you it's irresponsible and foolish to embrace something as serious as a religion if all you're going on is a warm gut feeling and a Quran. Please stop and think, and read this website with an open mind. Some of the language is harsh, but that's because it's written by ex-Muslims who are humiliated that they never got the full truth of this religion. And their only intention is to wake you up and spare you that same pain.
I'm sorry but u have not considered everything at all.
Mentioning Christianity says to me that u think there has to be a god of some sort at least. No it doesn't.
Humans have been on this planet how many years? Many hundred years. They settled down into civilisations only recently and u really think god now thought to show himself in the last 2000 or so years? To a group of ignorant unquestioning middle eastern people. Rather than Chinese who had books and ability to question miracles and tales. That is how god would want his message to be sent to people?
U really need to read something simple as the "magic of reality" by Dawkins. Just read that- nothing else. Educate urself. more educated people are atheists. It's the fastest growing thing in the world! Human need to stop belief in non-sense as its harmful and destructive.
Look there is too much u would be shutting down ur mind to. Truth is the the biggest casualty- dont castrate urself.
I was talking about how some Western converts grew up as Christians, and then they stopped believing in Christianity and then later they converted to Islam because they thought Islam was the truth... I've seen it happen many times. Happened to me, too.
Hello exene I totally agree with what you say about westerners converting, I am in category 2 ...of course I tried to discover this so called peaceful religion I was being sweet talked into and did what research I could and bought myself an English koran. But of course it's all all sugar coated for newbies to the religion. Of course they do not want you to discover the real islam, how barbaric their prophet was, ...so about to be married to a muslim, I thought good idea for me to embrace this peaceful religion. I must add I was a Christian, but not a devout one. Just by name...so here I go throwing myself into this new life for me and my husband..only to slowly and painfully realise what I had done. Stupid mistake. I discovered the real islam when I read the koran front to back..the more I read, the more I googled ! What would we do without Google...so here I am...trying to come to terms with what I have done and how to tell him I can't be muslim anymore as I do not believe what I am reading. Every question I asked he tried his best to explain but it wouldn't wash with me. He.was angry sad and disappointed I left, and said as I'm Christian he would need to ask his God if I die before him to come and rescue me from hell ! I was still naive to a lot back then. That was 2 years ago. We did marry in his country, and after marriage I slowly learnt more and more I'm still learning. But I feel I know enough to make me realise what they believe, and their mentality. We married a year and a half ago and still live apart as he's been refused his visa twice. My only option is to go there, or give up on my marriage. There is a good age difference too, and I can't give him children. I knew nothing of marriage scams before and at times do wonder and question his motives...I have tortured myself about this over and over..I'm still here, he is there...the more I learn and read about islam and stories from what others have been through in similar situations to me, the more I'm afraid to carry this through. I'm so glad to have found this site it's valuable to me..thanx for reading my post ...God bless you all..