Wednesday, 23 December 2009
A Roman Catholic Converts to Islam
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is taken from Colin D. Amato's blog, which no longer exists, on Monday, 14th December 2009.
“Several persons have requested that I talk about my conversion story, and in light of the many requests I have decided to type up a summary of how I came to Islam, and why. This will probably be unlike most ‘conversion’ stories you have heard or read because I will not go into detail into ‘how I felt’ or other emotional sides of the equation. It will of course come up, how could it not? But the majority of my experience with religion stems from actual research and not a dream or some other theological vision that other converts claim.
I was raised in a Roman Catholic household, but both my parents were not strict in their faith and did not force me to be an active member in the Church. Did we go to church on Sunday? Yes. All the time? No. However, I loved reading the Bible and it was common even in my youth to watch movies about Biblical stories and even read large portions of the Bible here and there. However, because of my upbringing I would have to say that my education of Catholic or even Christian Doctrine for that matter was probably very low, considering I never went to Catholic school, but obtained a mere secular education.
It was not until my sophomore year of high school that I finally realised that I knew nothing about my religion. I took an online test to see ‘what faith are you?’ which was produced be Beliefnet.com. My mother happened to see me taking the test, and when the question came - What do you believe God is?
a. There is only one God and there is nothing like him.
b. God Incarnates in some form human or otherwise.
c. Not really sure.
d. There is no God.
I picked ‘a’, which to my mother's surprise was obviously very unChristian. I would later find by talking to her afterwards that Christians believed that Jesus Christ (a.s.) was literally ‘God’ in the flesh, but also ‘the Son of God,’ and also the 2nd person of the Trinity. I, to my horror, was completely ignorant of such things, and suddenly realised I knew nothing about Catholic or Christian theology. I set out at once to learn what I had been ignorant of most of my childhood. I first read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and other books on Christian Theology. Here I learned that Jesus (a.s.) was ‘God Incarnate,’’ the Son of God,’ and also learned about the Trinity. Even during this time, I found these concepts very confusing and at times hard for me to wrap my head around. I kept thinking to myself 'if God wants us to know about him, why does He Reveal himself in such a confusing way?' However, I did not give up and decided that year I was going to read the entire Bible, from start to finish, and that is exactly what I did.
Reading the entire Bible is no party, let me tell you that right now. If you manage to get through the Torah, then you are hit by the historical books like 1st and 2nd Chronicles and Kings which are full of dull history and genealogies which could drive someone insane. However once pass the historical books and into the Writings and Prophets it was a piece of cake. I also did research on other faiths during this time, but getting through the Bible was my main focus. I finally made it to the New Testament and finished it amazed. It was probably one of the most amazing events in my life, to read the entire Holy Bible. However, amazement was not the only reaction I had.
I will never forget reading the Book of Joshua and seeing how God ‘ordered’ the Israelites to kill everyone in certain pagan lands just because that land was theirs. This was totally a contradiction to how I was raised to view God, which was full of love and kindness. This seemed like a totally different deity, but I also could not wrap my head around why God would actually sanction such horrible things. That is when my faith in the Bible began to crack. What also got me was the blatant absence of Christian theology in the Bible as a whole. Nowhere to be found where the verses that taught clearly who Jesus Christ (a.s.) was, and what his relationship to God was as well. Furthermore, passages talking about the Trinity as an actual concept was absent. This troubled me, and when I read the writings of the early Church Fathers, the first being The Confessions and The City of God by Augustine and also The Incarnation of the Word of God, by Athanasius, I realised that these theological precepts did not come from the Bible, but from these men. The Christian dogma was founded by the writings of men that had no firm bases at all in the Bible. Therefore, it was not God who was teachings these things, but men, not even Jesus Christ (a.s.). That is when I left Christianity and became an agnostic.
My period of agnosticism or as my best friend would call it, my period of ‘Christian only by name’, was from my sophomore year to my senior year of high school. During that time, I read on every major world religion, reading every major scripture as well. I read it all; I first read books on early Christianity, any book I could get my hands on. I still own the large multiple page lists of books that I read in high school and trust me, that list is ever growing. Sometimes I even forget to write titles down. Huston Smith was a huge gateway to knowledge. His book, ‘World Religions’, really taught me to look at each faith and scripture on its own merit and to respect all religions regardless if you belong to one, and I still try to maintain that to this day. I looked into Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confusionism, Judaism, Christianity, Satanism, pagan faiths, animistic, shamanism, even Scientology and Mormonism. I read all their respected scriptures, except for the books about Scientology; I must confess did not reach my eyes at that time. However, I felt well grounded and well read, more so then most people I met who had not even fully read their respected text.
During senior year, I read ‘Misquoting Jesus’, and this book seriously changed my view of the Bible forever. I still respected the Bible, and still do to this day, even though I am not a Christian. However, I never bothered to think about the physical text of the Bible, and Bart Ehrman’s book taught me that the present Bible we have today is full of corruptions and errors that made the book very questionable. This further cemented me away from Christianity now that the text itself was something that could not be relied upon.
My first encounter with the Qur’an was when I bought my first copy at the used bookstore in town. It was during senior year, I saw it, knew what it was, and that bought a copy, because hey, I did not own it. I brought it home and it sat on my shelf for weeks. That was until I read Mawlana Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi (q.s.). Mawlana ar-Rumi (q.s.), the famous Muslim poet, caught my attention when I was surfing the internet. I read his poems and how he talked about God, and I found his poems hit me square in the, well the heart. I wanted to know what religion is this guy? Because surely a person who is talking like this, speaking in this way, must be in the right place. That is when I first found Islam. It of course was a faith I knew about, but I wanted to know more about it, why was Mawlana ar-Rumi (q.s.) a part of it, and what was so special about this religion. So I did what I do best, I studied my brain out on the subject. Read the Qur'an in one week, and it was totally speaking about theology the way I had always wanted. Respecting and believing in all prophets and only believing in one God. Jesus (a.s.) was just a prophet, which sounded fine to me considering I had seen nothing contrary to this in the Bible. I read up on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and was amazed by his story, his life, and all that he did. I read beginners guides to Islam and then moved onto more extensive books. Totally engrossed myself in the religion. However, I still was not sure if I Islam was it for me. I mean it sounded good, theologically grounded, and seemed to be the perfect fit. But I was in need of more convincing.
That was when I first saw Shaykh Ahmed Deedat (r.a.) on YouTube. I watched all of his lectures and debates, along with Dr. Zakir Naik. These men both found me challenging long held beliefs and for the first time in awhile, going back to the Bible to see if what they were saying was the truth. They brought Islam to life for me, not just in books, but seeing real people talking about theological concepts. I read the Bible and Qur’an side by side, and found the Qur'an winning on every topic, and saw the Bible sinking further and further away. That was when I realised that Islam was the religion for me. So one night, sitting at my desk I said to myself in English and Arabic: ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger’. I had become a Muslim at 17 years old.
After entering Islam, I told my friends and most of my family who showed me love and support and I am still thankful to them all. They made the conversion process very easy. I learned to pray, did my first Ramadhan and gave to charity. I read more books on Islam and also on other faiths as well, I still to this day do this, and will probably never stop. Studying comparative religion has become my hobby and one of my greatest pleasures. I enjoy talking to people about religion, regardless of the topic. My best friend is an atheist, and yet we respect each other and can talk to each other about theism and atheism. I would like to thank him for teaching about atheism and showing me to also respect those outside of the great world religions.
I quickly become part of the Islamic community, online and in person. Creating a YouTube account and also speaking on Stickam, I have had the honour to meet many great people from all backgrounds, and also created many friendships. YouTube has been a lot of fun, and I have learned so much, and also learned that every misconception regarding Islam can and is refuted, further cementing my faith in it. I also have done many lectures at my college, which of coursed enhanced my faith and experience.