Question to my readers:
Do you believe God favors one religion over the other? If so why do you feel that way? If you don’t, then what’s the basis for your belief?(Please see the end of the post for comments and how to respond to the question.)
I am a practicing physician, with a specialty in pain management. But I have been referring to myself as a Born-Again Muslim. My Muslim friends had never heard of this term. My Christian friends frown at my courage to steal the ‘born again’ Christian concept, though what it really means is a matter of considerable debate within various Christian denominations but in its essence it simply indicates a Christian finding salvation in Jesus.
But born again Muslim?
Well, I use it to refer to my spiritual journey that eventually led me to re-discover my faith, though I must say I never “lost it”. My mother was very religious however you would define that. As a young child, I was religious in that I would pray often, fast during Ramadan regularly; stay up all night during Lailatul Qad’r– a super special night in Ramadan. This religiosity did not last very long.
When I moved to the United States some 33 years ago, life was too busy for me to be worrying about Salat and fasting. I would occasionally turn to God when I needed Him for something, essentially treating him like sugar daddy. Along the way, I got married and had my first child. I was grateful but still not very connected to God and my faith. The irony is that when it came to my perception of Islam and other faiths, especially towards Jews and Christians, I still suffered from “I am right, so you must be wrong syndrome”.
All that changed in a hurry in 1994.
One of my family members had a serious illness and I made a pledge that if he gets the needed rare surgery to cure the ailment, I would perform the Umrah, or minor Hajj/pilgrimage to Mecca. He did and I embarked on Umrah, which essentially change my life completely.
I still remember the very moment I laid my eyes on Ka’aba for the first time. Same Ka’aba Muslims around the world face five times a day when offering their obligatory prayers. I saw uniformity despite immense diversity- people wearing the same white unstitched piece of cloth from all over the world.
People spoke different languages. I saw blacks, whites, browns, pilgrims belonging to various ethnicities, national origin, men, women-all assembling in one place united in their remembrance of God, with a common goal of seeking His pleasure and nearness. I had never felt so close to God before. Never felt more peace in my heart before, or since.
Deeply moved by the experience, on my return to home in California, I started to study the Quran, the Muslim holy book-the very book that I had recited cover to cover in Arabic numerous times before but without understanding much of it. The difference this time was that I undertook a study in English and Urdu- my native tongue.
This opened my eyes and mind (and heart). It changed my narrow worldview about religion in general and Islam in particular. I soon realized that Islam is much more global in its reach and that as a Muslim, I did not have a monopoly on God’s love and mercy. Islam, I found out, is one religion– from Adam to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them all.
I came across verses that provided a severe jolt to my superiority complex, such as:
The same religion has He established for you [Muhammad] as that which He enjoined on Noah—that which We have sent by inspiration to you—and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that you should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than God, hard to the unbelievers is that which you call them to. God chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him). 42:13
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may (get to) know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored among you in the sight of Allah is (the one) most righteous (best in conduct). 49:13
Surely those who believe (in the Quran, this is typically a reference to Muslims), and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, whoever believes in God and the last day and does good- they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. 5:69
The last verse at the end refers to the Day of Judgment and describes the criteria for God’s favors on the Day of Judgment. The most honored in the sight of God are… not Muslims only? What? Moreover I came across passages in the Qur’an that speak about the Torah and the Gospels as Books wherein was guidance and light.
After finishing the Quranic study and pondering over its verses, I decided to study the Bible. That’s when I found that many of the core teachings of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an are very similar. Sure there are differences, at times significant, such as the doctrine of Trinity, but I was deeply impressed with the commonality of the beliefs- in One God, the angels, prophets, the Day of Judgment, and what are considered good deeds and qualities- honesty, respect, kindness to neighbors, orphans, widows, parents and so on.
That was the beginning of my new journey into the interfaith word, to help bridge the gap between various faiths, especially the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Since we share so much in common- more than we realize. I have shared my observations and findings in my two books, The Quran: With or Against the Bible? and the recently released, The Three Abrahamic Testaments.
In this blog, I will be comparing and contrasting the teachings of the Abrahamic Scriptures. Along the way, I will be dispelling many myths we all have- Jews, Christians, Muslims, Agnostics and Atheists alike. In my posts, I will be answering many of the questions you may have had for a long time but were too shy to ask.
Religion has been in the news and politics, and has been used to divide people. I strongly believe our faith actually can help us come together! I will go over as to why I feel that way. I will also be covering current events as they affect relationships between various faith groups. I invite you to join me in my travelogue- a journey into the Quranic and Biblical teachings.
You can use the ‘Comments’ section on this post to respond to the question at the top. Alternatively, you may use my website contact section for any questions and your response by clicking here.