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Theory #006: Why Conversion? 11 January 2006

Posted by ALBUS in Culture, GUESTS, Spirituality.
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by ALBUS

What draws Americans to becoming Muslim? There are many paths to Islam,
of which one or more of the following hold in individual cases (noted in
parentheses). Of course, multiple reasons apply in many a convert’s case.
See also Theory #007.

1. Catholics confused by the theology of the Trinity, and non-Muslims more
generally, find beauty in the simultaneous simplicity and logical
coherence of Islamic `aqida [credal belief]

2. folks seeking a personal relationship with God without the excesses and
complications of rituals and organized administrations are impressed by
Islam’s clear theology, direct prayer ritual, and simple mosques

3. liberal hippies “searching for answers” gravitate toward Eastern
religions and eventually stumble upon Islam (Hamza Yusuf)

4. African-Americans are attracted to the non-discriminatory Islamic ideal
(Malcolm X)

5. intermarriage, both non-Muslim men who want to marry Muslim women and
non-Muslim women who get interested in Muslim men and then convert; that
said, if they openly convert and “act like Muslims,” we generally ought
not question their sincerity

6. troubled youths or gang members appreciate the structure and focus of
an Islamic lifestyle (Suhaib Webb)

7. women find Islamic social norms liberating from what they perceive as
the sexist and materialist pressures of contemporary popular culture

8. Western travelers in Muslim countries are impressed by the nur [light]
in the faces of simple yet happy Muslims and their adab/karama [etiquette/
generosity] (Muhammad Asad)

9. correspondingly, people who befriend practicing Western Muslims are
impressed by their moral compass and unique outlook on existence

10. moralistic people like the stark and rigid social views propagated by
some Muslims

11. in a similar though distinct vein, people are attracted to a religion
in which the religion is an active part of one’s life, and all the time,
like constant remembrance of God; these people find Islam practical,
focusing on action to a great extent

12. academically deep thinkers, such as philosophy and theology students,
find appealing the intellectual coherence and elegant simplicity of Islam
(Nuh Keller)

13. Muslims tend to have tight communities, and those with broken homes or
otherwise stunted social lives find solace in the umma’s embrace

14. Muslims in prison offer fellow Muslim prisoners protection from being
gang-raped, beaten up, and picked on by guards and other inmates

15. Sufism and spirituality attract people who feel an emptiness of
purpose in contemporary materialist life. As one Sufi put it, “The baraka
of taking a tariqa and connecting oneself with the awliya of Allah going
back to the Prophet (salla Allahu `alayhi wa sallam) is unbelievable.
It’s the wind behind the sail of someone travelling to Allah.”

16. peer pressure in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods (more of a
European Muslim ghetto thing, not in the US)

17. a form of liberation theology with a violent upshot; Antoine Sfeir
argues that disaffected and often troubled young people see the current
wave of Islamic terrorism as “a kind of combat against the rich, powerful,
by the poor men of the planet”

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Comments»

1. Dave - 15 January 2006

I think you have done a remarkable job of cataloguing these various factors. However, it should be noted that all of these are secondary or tertiary causes at best. The original cause is Allah, who for whatever reason casts the light of faith into whomever He wills (al-Ghazali’s definition of iman). In my own case, I can look back at 5 years of study and prayer and searching, and pat myself on the back for reaching the shahada. But when I reflect deeply upon it, I have to ask myself, “Why, of all my friends, did I care so much about religion? Why was it so fascinating for me?” The answer is, that it just was. Alhamdulillah.


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