This article is a shortened version about the conversion to Islam of Jeremiah D McAuliffe, Jr., PhD. It is a truly fascinating account which will certainly inspire the reader. It (Islam) is simply astounding. Beautiful like a work of art. Dynamic and vibrant. Brilliant, the way the story unfolds. Mature - no magic, no superstition. Excellent! What can be said but Alhamdulillah - Glory to Allah, the Highest?
Nothing else can be said! Alhamdulillah!
I was raised a Catholic and went to a Catholic grade school and high school. I was always interested in religion as well as things like psychology, and was reading rather broadly on the subjects even in late grade school. I often used the rosary and asked for faith, because that is what the Catholic nuns said one should pray for-faith.
Anyway, in college I studied philosophy and focused on areas such as philosophy of religion and existentialism. I also studied Christianity as well as Buddhism and other religions, and psychology. I very strongly considered being a priest or a monk. I would visit a particular monastery once in a while and had twice begun the entrance procedure into a seminary for the priesthood. (Indeed I was in this process when I accepted Islam. Isn’t that ironic?)
In college I practised yoga and Buddhist/Hindu styles of meditation for two or three years. Near the end of my first year in college I made a very conscious and ritualised type of personal vow to go all the way with religion. To reach enlightenment. To find God.
Ask and You shall Receive
I had many, many years of fighting for just a naked faith in God. Years of praying at night:
“If You are there, give it to me. You said, ‘ask and you shall receive’. Well, I am asking. You said knock and the door will be opened. Well, I am knocking. You promised guidance to those who ask for it. I am asking for it. And later I prayed like this: ‘I am sending this prayer out to the One True God, the God of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Jesus. If You are there, guide me, make me Yours’... and stuff like that. I specifically used this kind of a phrase naming these people for a good length of time.
I remember one time with particular clarity. I was standing in the hall between my living room and bedroom when it all really hit me: I had no reason to believe in God. None at all. But I remembered all I had read and said to myself: ‘I say ‘yes’ to God in spite of the fact I have no reason to believe in God. I choose to say ‘yes’ and have faith that it is all true.
When it was time to write my dissertation for the PhD I had to include a section about a religious tradition that was not my own i.e. something other than Christianity. I chose Islam. Believe it or not, it was the one religious tradition I knew nothing about! This struck me as somewhat odd.
But I noticed I did indeed have a prejudice against it. I felt somewhat repulsed by it, actually. (Stuff left over from the Crusades just gets into Euro-Americans, I think.) It was difficult finding decent books on Islam. I had to get most by mail-order. There was an Islamic Centre here so I began to go there and learn some things.
The people at the Islamic Centre were very nice. Not really what I expected. No one put the slightest pressure on me to convert. It was nothing like being around born-again or evangelical Christians, which was what I half expected. I mean, aren’t all Muslims supposed to be a bit on the crazy-fanatical side? Well, they weren’t like that at all.
This went on for a few years. I was reading a lot ABOUT Islam, but did not read the Qur’an. Slowly, my prejudices and repulsion faded away as I learned the true stories about Muhammad (God love him!), as well as Muslim history, beliefs and theology.
Reading the Qur’an
I will never forget that day (the day I first read a translation of the Qur’an). Ever. I can still see it happening. Little did I know what I was in for-that my life and total world-view would be changed - that I myself would bechanged. I read the whole translation through in one sitting. I don’t think I even changed position.
Right from the start it grabbed me. The very beginning called Al-Fatiha is a prayer. I immediately liked it as a prayer. It was, in essence, what I already prayed: You are God the Creator. Guide me, make me into one of those You love. I certainly couldn’t argue with those sentiments!
Then, in the beginning of the second chapter, it gave the description of who this book was addressed to: people who believe in God, establish prayer, give in charity, believe messengers were sent to us, and that we will return to God. Well, that was me, that this book was not to be doubted, that it was truly and sincerely from God to these people; like me; precisely, to guide them, which was what I had wanted for years. So right off, it was speaking directly to me as an individual.
Right off, it wasn’t just some ancient, 1400 year-old-text. It really grabbed me and did not, would not, let go. As I read a thought began to form and then started going through my head over and over and over: Oh my God! This is from God! It was like being slammed in the head with a brick or a hard wooden plank. I was stunned. It was real. Not the inspired writing of the Bible. It was direct revelation - it really was the Word of God. Literally. Oh my God! This really IS from God.
Well, needless to say, I was floored. I knew there was something very extraordinary here. Quite amazing. Something was happening. Imagine how bizarre it would be to really see a UFO. How unusual and fantastic something like that would be. Or what if someone just started to truly levitate and fly around right in front of you. Or what if you really truly did see a miracle? Your view of the world would necessarily change after such a non-ordinary experience.
What was happening to me as I read the Qur’an was beyond that. Way beyond that. There was nothing that gave me pause. I kept saying ‘yes’ to all that I read. One thing pulled me up short and that was that Jesus did not die on the cross. But by that time, the evidence was so overwhelming to my heart, my soul and my mind that this Book was indeed EXACTLY what it claimed to be, that I had no trouble accepting this as the truth from God Himself. And none of this is the slightest exaggeration whatsoever. I am not sugar-coating or embellishing my story to make it more attractive, or pious-sounding, or dramatic, or whatever. I am telling the truth. (I was especially struck by how contemporary the Qur’an is - remember my academic background. Everything about it is just absolutely brilliant!)
I don’t know why Muslims are so afraid of contemporary philosophy, psychology, or textual criticism. There is nothing to fear. The Qur’an is very true today. Actually, it is very true tomorrow. Two weeks later I declared in public that I bear witness there is no god but Allah and I bear witness thatMuhammad is a messenger from Allah. (Jamiat)