Islam is not perceived by most people as a religion which is overtly evangelistic. In fact, the vast majority of individuals who are Muslims today, are so because of their birth. Personally, I have always believed that Islam, because it is a religion condusive to the Arab mindset, to its worldview; has a much higher attraction amongst those who either come from that part of the world, or have had strong cultural ties with it. Only recently was I made aware of Islam’s dynamic evangelistic thrust (known as Da’wah, or ‘the call’), and that it is growing, not simply by biological growth, but by conversion growth as well.
In my work in Senegal, and during my stay in the central part of Pennsylvania, I had personally seen an increasing evangelistic thrust by Islam amongst the native populations. The local mosque in Harrisburg, near where we lived, claimed to convert approximately three to four Americans per month. The Muslims there had plans to enlarge their premises so that they could build an Islamic Center which would cater specifically to North Americans. When speaking in churches, many people who had come into contact with Muslims asked me why Islam was growing worldwide, and what the attraction was. Unfortunatley, I had not been able to adequately answer them, because little had been done by Christians to ascertain what it was the Muslims were doing, or how successful their endeavors were, and why it was that those who were from outside the faith were attracted to Islam.
Previously, in Senegal, it had been simple enough to answer the question, “Why was Islam attractive?” as 92% of the population in Senegal is Muslim. Thus, most of the people there are born into Muslim families, and continue the religious traditions they have inherited.
In the United States, however, this is not the case. Most of those who have been attracted, or who have converted to Islam, have come from either Christian or non-religious backgrounds. They have, therefore, made a deliberate choice to reject a former faith and become believers in Islam. For that reason they are the best qualified to answer the question of, “What exactly is the attraction of Islam?”
In order to carry out this research I needed to conduct personal interviews with individuals who had converted to Islam, and find out from each why he or she had converted, what were the methods used, and how they had fared now that they were Muslims (including the acceptance or rejection felt by their family and friends).
These face-to-face contacts were not possible in the area I was living. Therefore, in 1992, over a period of four months, I traveled to seven different cities: Harrisburg, Lancaster, New York, Montreal (Canada), Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. In each city, in the mosques or Islamic centers, I was able to participate in numerous prayer sessions, and attend many religious meetings. I also talked with seven imams and interviewed over thirty American converts, some of them at length, and others more briefly.
From these conversations, along with printed written testimonies and my ongoing research, I was able to glean the necessary data to determine what the “Da’iyyahs” (Muslim evangelists) have done, what they are continuing to do, and what they plan to do.
To find out what the convertees felt were the factors for their conversion, I administered a questionnaire by mail to about twenty converts of Islam, and had personal interviews with the others whom I met in the mosques and Islamic centres. From their responses I was able to tabulate the 12 most common reasons for converting to Islam. They are listed below (in order of importance):
- Islam’s Social Laws
- The Unity of God (Tawhid)
- Brotherhood (taught and practiced)
- The Morality of Islam
- The Qur’an’s beauty and applicability
- The Simplicity of Islamic teaching
- The Testimony of Other Muslims
- Islam’s Rationality
- The Practices of Islam
- Its Superiority to all other Religions
- The Theology found in the Qur’an
- Islam’s Spirituality
With this information, I have been able to come to some conclusions concerning the attraction of Islam for Americans, and whether or not the reasons for Islam’s attraction will continue in the future. The following, then, is a summary of the significance of those studies.
1: Islam’s Social Laws
While some may be surprised to find Islam’s social laws at the top of the list, most of those whom I talked to had good, solid reasons why they felt it should be of the highest motivation for converting. In this category were included a number of factors from the original list (see paper on Da’wah in North America, Figure 1, page 106). For instance, a number of individuals felt that these social laws are comprehensive, that they are a complete guide to life, and consequently, that they brought about orderly living. This points up the fact that people need boundaries by which to live, especially in a society like the U.S. which emphasizes catering to special interest groups, while leaving-out the needs of the majority.
As a contrast, quite a few responders felt Christianity was just not powerful enough to change the evils of modern-day life. The majority of those who expressed this idea were African-American, all of whom live in inner-city areas of some of the largest urban centers in America. They see, first-hand, the anarchy going on all around them, and they feel Islam is the only religion which can stand up to the deprivation and violence, the racism and injustices in the U.S.A.
A number of those with whom I talked had come into contact with Islam in prison; and there, they had been reformed by “Muslim brothers” who came weekly for the Jumma prayers and Qur’anic classes. Now that they were “out,” they believed the disciplined lifestyle, espoused by Islamic laws, was the sole criteria to keep them from going “back in.” They were appreciative of the local masjid’s role in driving out drug dealers from their inner-city neighborhoods, and the ongoing campaigns to keep children off the streets and out of gangs.
A further attraction is Islam’s lack of a priesthood. Islam has no medial agents. As a result, the believer is not dependent on some-one else for his relationship to God, but can go directly to Allah.
The subject of an “Islamic education for young children, while they were still impressionable,” was mentioned frequently. I personally visited four Muslim schools; two Sister Clara Muhammad Schools, in Philadelphia and in Washington D.C., and two Qur’anic schools in Baltimore, at the Al Rahman Masjid, and the Masjid Ul-Haqq. While the schools appeared to be small and ill-equipped, the children appeared to be well-disciplined and happy. And, not surprisingly, the schools had become the center for other Islamic activity in their local areas.
According to imam Yusuf Saleem, from Washington D.C., though the students do not excel academically any better than they did at the public schools, the problems of discipline, crime, and sexual abuse are almost non-existent in these Muslim schools. That is their greatest attraction.
I made a particular note, that among the responders, there were three women who felt that Islam permitted them to own property, and that Islam gave them the best protection. While this may surprise some of us, the perception by most Muslims with whom I talked is that, “We take care of our women better than do the Christians.”
2: The Unity of God (Tawhid)
Monotheism, or the belief in the oneness of God, again, came near the top of this priority list. Under this heading I included the problem with the belief in the Trinity, the fact that Islam has no intercessor, and the belief that, “Each person has a choice in his/her salvation.”
The first and greatest teaching of Islam is proclaimed by the Shahada: “La Ilaha illa-l-lah, Muhammadun rasulu-l-lah.” (“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah.”) It is this very confession, which, once uttered sincerely, makes one a true Muslim. In Islam, Allah is one (Wahid), and has no partners, no equals. According to the Qur’an, Sura 28;88, it is stated: “And cry not unto any other god along with Allah. There is no god save him.” Thus, Allah is totally other. He created and maintains the world, and since Allah is one, no one else can share even an atom of his divine power and authority. Islam makes it clear that Allah has no son, no father, no relative, and no associates.
In the Hadith, Muhammad is reported to have related the ninety-nine names of Allah, to express some of his attributes. A number of these are: that he is merciful (that he provides humanity with food, drink, the means of movement, and all the necessities of life), that he is all-powerful (omnipotent), that he is wise and all-knowing (omniscient), and that he is eternal (has no beginning and no end).
This idea of the uniqueness of God (Tawhid) is repeated time and again in the Islamic institutions I have visited. In fact, there have been instances where I wondered if, indeed, they did it solely for my benefit when I appeared.
A number of my friends in the Harrisburg mosque questioned why we needed an intercessor, and specifically one who was human? They felt that in giving Jesus deity we had diluted the power of God, in that God would then be dependent on someone else to fulfill His purposes on earth. “Islam,” they felt, “corrected that perception, and put God back in his rightful place, where he belonged.”
In my conversations, the relationship of Jesus to God caused concern, as well. The administrator of the Masjid Ul-Haqq, in Baltimore, asked, “How could we believe that God would ever let Himself be killed?” and “Where is Jesus now?” “If He is sitting at the right hand of God, then that would imply that there are two gods, and that Jesus never went back into His original form (one with God).” It was this very idea, which directed this administrator, the son of a second-generation Baptist minister, to accept Islam as, “The only true religion,” and to become, probably, the most eloquent defender of Islam of those whom I interviewed.
Obviously it is clear to see that the belief in the uniqueness of God, and the rejection of Jesus as the Son of God, have a strong appeal. In fact, if we were to combine the two lists together (referred to in the paper on Da’wah), this category would be placed right at the top, in first place.
The idea of a sense of Brotherhood was the third most popular attraction for these converts. In this category is included the ideas of equality, charity and love, as well as the view that Islam allows for tolerance and broadmindedness. The universal brotherhood and equality for all Muslims is a cardinal tenet of Islam.
Poston, in his study found, curiously, that while almost all Europeans mentioned this category, not a single American male did so. The Europeans, he discovered, believed that Islam had a distinctively positive stand on social justice and racial equality (Poston 1992:178).
In my research, I found that this area, which was ranked second by those from a primarily European background, came third among African-Americans. Yet, the stress on “Brotherhood” was probably the most often mentioned in any interviews, among these same African-American converts. Almost without exception, they believed Christianity had failed miserably, stating in one case that, “Islam gives identity to the dispossessed, providing them with Allah’s identity, which is larger then one’s own. That is why Islam will always be accepted by the Blacks.”
This same individual, a son of a minister in Harrisburg, and, himself, the imam for the masjid there, believes that, “It is Islam which has eradicated slavery, and it will be the Blacks who will be the forerunners of Islam, worldwide, fulfilling what Muhammad prophesied during his life-time concerning Bilal’s descendants.”
When discussing the attribute of Brotherhood with Muslims, they point out that only in Islam does racism not exist. To back this up, they point to the Hajj, where millions of believers come together from many social, economical, and ethnic backgrounds, to put on robes, and fulfill the obligations prescribed in the Qur’an; all in unison, with no thought as to who or from where the person standing next to them is.
4: Islamic Morality
A surprising priority in the second listing was the category of Islam’s morality. For those who accepted Islam earlier-on, morality was near the bottom of their preferences, yet, for the more recent responders, the question of morality was the fourth most important category.
In Poston’s research, he similarly found that, eighteen percent of those who responded within the United States considered Islamic morality as the most significant factor for conversion, while only five percent of the Europeans mentioned it. He assumed the difference was due to a conservative American environment (Poston 1988:429).
Many of those I interviewed also equated the immorality of the West with that of weakened Christianity, believing it was the lack of correct ethical teaching and practice that had brought about the hopeless situation found within the inner-city families, where over fifty percent of all African-American families are now made-up-of and run by a single parent.
Others I interviewed believed Christians were hypocritical. A young Muslim in Harrisburg asked me, “Why are Christians holy only one day out of the week?” Another in New York stated that, “Of the families he knew, the Muslim men treated their women better than did the Christians, with few Muslims ever considering cheating on their wives.”
One administrator in a Baltimore mosque pointed out that the very day I was with him, the leader of the largest Black Baptist convention had just admitted to attempting to bribe a young girl with one-hundred thousand dollars to keep her quiet concerning an attempted rape by a well-known boxer, who had just offered to give five million dollars to that church. This, he said, does not happen amongst Muslims in the U.S.A.
Unfortunately, some of this is true. Islam, without taking the antics of earlier Muslim leaders into account, often does have a better moral witness than that of Christianity. Even in Africa, the rule-of-thumb is that a woman is safer on the streets of an Islamic capital than those of a Christian one. Our own experience in Senegal bears this out as well. Because of Islam’s stricter social laws, there will be dividends in areas such as morality. In any highly controlled society, there will be noticeable and direct consequences, and Islam can well-afford to claim credit where credit is due.
5: The Qur’an’s Beauty and Applicability
Both groups believed that the Qur’an was important in their decision to convert to Islam. They felt an almost mystical quality in the Qur’an, which they could not explain. The mere reading of it gave them unspeakable joy.
While Jews accept the Old Testament, and Christians accept both the Old Testament and the New Testament revelations as authoritative, Muslims consider the first three existing “revelations:” the Tawrut, the Zabur, and the Injil to be so. Yet, Muslims believe that human imperfections, or abrogations, have been introduced into the Tawrut and Injil. The Bible, they say, seems to be a mixture of history and revelation. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to separate the true revelation in the Bible from that of “history” and human intervention.
For that reason, the Qur’an, they believe, was sent as the perfection and culmination of all the truth contained in the “earlier scripture,” The Bible. Though written down in Arabic, The Qur’an is the Book for all times, and for all humanity. It guards the previous revelations by restoring the eternal truth of Allah (Sura 3:3-4a), and clears up all uncertainties.
In the Harrisburg Islamic Center I was introduced to an older man from Pakistan, who was highly revered for having memorized the entire Qur’an. Though he had been in the United States for a number of years, he could hardly speak a word of English, and so was totally dependent on others for his transportation and welfare. Yet, it was he who led the exercises of Qur’anic reading, and whenever he entered the room people stopped whatever they were doing and bowed. This is an example of the Qur’ans mystique, influencing Muslims worldwide.
Since the Qur’an is so highly honoured, it is treated honourably. No one would be permitted to let their Qur’an touch the floor. Every individual, therefore, is urged to use ornately decorated book-stands to rest their Qur’an on when studying its contents. My Muslim friends were horrified to learn that Christians not only stacked Bibles alongside other lesser books, but wrote notes in the margins.
Quite a few individuals explained that it was the beauty of the Arabic text in the Qur’an which had the greatest influence on them. One imam mentioned that “the wording within the Qur’an is pleasing and beautiful, and as such, a good guide.” He pointed to Sura 24:35-38, and Sura 2:3-18 as good examples of this.
6: The Simplicity of Islamic Teaching
Simplicity is an attraction which is mentioned by many Muslim converts. “Islam,” according to one imam in Harrisburg, “has a simple message for the world; believe in God and his prophets, and live a life which follows the Qur’an, and all will be well.”
Essentially Islam requires, only, that a convert repeat the “Shahada” (“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”) to become a Muslim, and then throughout his life to follow the Five Pillars of practice (the Shahada, the five daily Prayers: Zakat, the Fast of Rammadan, the Pilgrimage to Mecca: Hajj, and Almsgiving: Zakat), and know the Six Areas of Belief (Iman). But these are not complicated actions or beliefs, and require no engagement in theological or philosophical speculation.
“Theologically speaking,” according to another Muslim friend, “Islam has little to impede its understanding. There are no mysteries which get in the way. Even a child can explain it and follow it.” This is the reason, he believes, that Islam will always be more attractive than Christianity. If the believers can understand it, then they can, in turn, explain it to others.
For some, surprisingly, the flexibility of Islam has been an attraction. “It gives us lee-way to express our own African-American culture; to practice our own identity.” When queried further, the responder explained that, only in Islam does he feel free to be black, because only Islam admits to the injustices put upon the black people by whites, and so gives him the opportunity to become black again.
None of those I questioned felt that the Arab culture or its language was being imposed upon them; believing instead that Islam with its Arabic influence was really Allah’s culture and Allah’s language.
Another attraction is the dearth of religious trappings in Islam. There are no idols or lavish decorations as is well-evidenced in many Roman Catholic cathedrals and in Eastern Orthodox paraphernalia.
“The mosque,” a believer from Baltimore said, “is the best example of simplicity. There is nothing there to clutter your mind. You enter, and all around you are four empty walls, a carpeted floor, and the microphone, facing toward Mecca to focus your thoughts and prayers on God alone. There is no singing to show off your voice; and, to keep your mind from wandering into evil thoughts, women are kept out of sight.” What is more simple than that!
7: The Testimony of Other Muslims
Probably, one of the most recurring ideas which has come out of the literature on “Da’wah in America,” is the attraction of the witness of individual Muslims.
We have already mentioned the success of this witness in the area of morality within the community. The fact is that many individuals have converted because of the witness of another Muslim in their lives.
One of the few white Muslims that I know invited me to his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to discuss his conversion. He admitted that his initial interest and on-going search was due to the example of his roommate in college, a foreign-exchange student from Saudi Arabia. Ironically, this student admitted to having not been very religious while in Saudi Arabia, but that during his studies in the United States, he felt compelled to go regularly to the mosque. It was this witness which so impressed my friend, that he, in turn, acquiesced to Islam eleven years ago.
A number of those who responded to my questions claimed they were attracted by the honesty and trustworthiness shown by the Muslims they had met. But the overwhelming testimony expressed by most converts was the attraction of Muhammad himself. Many converts had seen videotapes of Muhammad’s life, produced and distributed by the Muslim League, for university campuses in the United States. While I am told that some of the historical data in these videotapes is somewhat suspect, there is no question that the story the videos portray of Muhammad as a prophet and statesman has impressed many who have viewed them.
8: The Rationality of Islam
Another category on the list of attractions is Islam’s rationality. Islam is considered to be a supremely rational faith. As was mentioned earlier, there are no real mysteries to explain in Islam, as there are in Christianity. Concepts such as “The Trinity,” and “The belief in the Incarnation,” as well as “The belief in personal sin,” and “The need for Redemption” are areas Muslims do not have to contend with. Islam has no water baptism, no catechisms, and no complicated traditions, as has Christianity.
In fact, interestingly, many responders turned to Islam out of a distaste for these very cardinal beliefs in Christianity. “The mystery of The Trinity, and the untenability of redemption was too much to believe, let alone accept,” one convert said. Other beliefs, such as The Incarnation, The Resurrection, and the belief in Transubstantiation were much “too mystical.” They were ideas which were “not compatible with reason and science.”
Another new convert was disappointed by the Roman Catholic Church, and the inadequacy of nuns who had taught him, because, “They had no explanations for their beliefs, and did not seem to know their Bible well.” He concluded, that, “There is a progression within the three faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam); that…God introduced His revelation through the Jews, but as they kept it to themselves, God gave this revelation to the Christians; yet, they strayed off the path and introduced new and difficult ideas, and, so, Muhammad was sent to re-introduce the simple revelation of Islam.” Rationally-speaking, if one believes in “the evolution of religion,” it makes sense.
9: The Practices of Islam
According to the responses, the most attractive Practices of Islam are: the allowance of polygamy, and the protection of the daily ritual of calling and chanting portions of the Qur’an.
Understandably, none of the women who responded spoke to the issue of polygamy (this being a factor which attracted the men primarily). I was able to speak to an administrator of the oldest mosque in Baltimore, who has two wives, each, with her own residence to live in. He felt that polygamy, when practiced as the Qur’an prescribes, would be a definite asset for Americans today. “Women,” he said, “needed the protection and security men could give.” He believed that the law against polygamy in America would soon fall, as the government would see how advantageous a polygamous marriage could be. He was not ready to explain what advantages these marriages had over monogamy.
On the practice of prayer (Salat), many I interviewed felt that it was best expressed in the context of obedience, which only Islam exemplified. To them the belief that God is personal, that He could be talked-to as with another human-being, was repugnant and audacious.
10: Islam’s Superiority to All Other Religions
The idea that one’s belief system is superior to all others is understood by most adherents; otherwise, there would be no reason to hold to it. Therefore, this category may seem rather redundant. Yet, enough respondents chose this category, believing strongly in the superiority of Islam over all other religions.
As an example, many of the respondees considered Islam to be practical. It is considered by them to be this-worldly, in contrast to Christianity, which is perceived as abstract in the extreme. Rather than preparing the individual for the hereafter, as Christianity does, “Islam,” they say, “provides a solution to the acute needs of human society, answering all of man’s problems, while bringing-in the Kingdom now.” Muhammad, Muslims believe, left behind a political, social, economical, and moral program, founded on religious principles, while Jesus, advocated nothing more than the hope of his imminent return.
Islam is also considered superior because it is compatible with science. Maurice Bucaille’s book The Bible, The Koran, and Science figured in a number of discussions. I was surprised to find that a large proportion of the converts were still not aware that this book has been refuted by many scholars as being erroneous and simplistic. Yet, even today it can be found in many Islamic bookstores.
During my time at the Al Faruqi Mosque in New York city, I was shown a video-tape proving the superiority of the Qur’an as it pointed to embryological breakthroughs which are just now beginning to be understood (i.e., the Alacca, or leech like stage expressed in the Qur’an, fourteen centuries ago, parallels what we can now observe in a human embryo).
Perhaps the greatest reason for Islam’s superiority, according to those who responded, is that it is the final revelation, and so fulfills the revelations which have preceded it. The other faiths were only precursors to the final and greatest faith, that of Islam. Christianity was corrupted and syncretistic, while Islam was preserved in its original form (Poston 1992:177).
Some believed that Islam was superior as “it has had the greatest influence on mankind.” At one session in the Harrisburg Masjid, the converts there related how Islam was responsible for “The Renaissance, Modern Science, and The Reformation!” While they could be blamed for not studying their history better, they could not be blamed for their exuberance in the knowledge that Islam’s influence is exemplified by its rapidly increasing population worldwide.
11: The Theology Found in The Qur’an
Theology is the cornerstone of any religion, and is studied and analyzed by great minds. For that reason it is not recommended that one use theology as a tool for evangelizing. It is surprising, therefore, that this area was chosen by some as the reason for their conversions.
A possible explanation could be, that the new adherents may not have understood what they were adopting. Take, for instance, the idea, offered by a few, that, “Islam has no doctrine of sin.” Very few Muslims would accept this conclusion. In fact, one woman who answered a questionnaire took offense to this statement, commenting that “nowhere in all her reading did Islam make this claim.”
As a contrast, Poston discovered that the sin question was actually a deterrent for Christianity. Only one of the seventy-two he questioned, believed that sin was a factor for conversion. Many felt they were not sinful people, that the Christian doctrine of original sin was repulsive, and for this reason they found Islam’s view of the innate goodness of humanity appealing (Poston 1992:175).
For a Muslim, personal sin is a private matter. The idea that one’s sin is consequential from one generation to the next does not exist. This is due to the belief that “Satan is the root of all sin; and Allah, who is all-merciful, will quickly forgive those who ask for forgiveness.” There is one sin, however, which is unforgivable, the sin of “shirk,” the practice of associating anyone or anything with Allah. It is this very category, according to Muslims, that Christianity, with its belief in the “Son of God,” falls into.
Sin, furthermore, is not necessarily the person’s responsibility. The sin of Adam and Eve (Adama and Hauwa) was not really their fault, as they were tricked by Satan, and, “they asked for forgiveness, and were given it.” Thus, contrary to the prevailing view of the Biblical account, their sin is not hereditarily passed-on.
For the Muslim, one’s salvation is attained not by faith alone, but also by works: by observing the five pillars of Islamic practice, by avoiding the major and the minor sins, as well as having faith. It is simple and easy to understand, and even easier to accept. Therein lies its attraction.
To add to the simplicity is Islam’s view on Paradise, described as a perfumed garden of material and sensual delights, surrounded by rivers and flowing fountains, populated with black-eyed virgins, who are there to serve the men with all variety of fruits (Suras 47 & 56).
On the other hand, a vivid hell (Gahenna) awaits those who fail the test, a hell which consists of boiling water, gore and fire, a hell of extreme physical pain (Suras 4, 38, & 50).
The theology of piety, that Muslims must be dutiful in their religion, conversely, is well-known in Muslim circles, and well-practiced. “If Muslims are anything,” one African-American convert told me, “they are disciplined in their faith, always filling the mosque for Jumma (Friday) prayers, and dutifully bringing their children to the Sunday School.”
Another convert told me that “Islamic theology is better then that of Christianity, because it is comprehensive; it tells you what to believe in every area of life.” Whether he was confusing Muslim practices with its theology, I am not sure. The impression is, however, that converts believe Islamic theology gives, much as a handbook gives, answers for all of life’s problems, and does it better than does Christianity.
A large number of those who conversed with me mentioned Islam’s emphasis on peace. “Islam,” according to the imam of the Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C., “is the religion which offers peace to the world, not just politically, but within the family, and society.”
I was interested in his statement, and so, asked the Saudi Arabian imam of the Islamic Center, also in Washington, D.C., why Islam is perceived as a religion of peace. “Peace,” he said, “has to come from Allah alone. Only he can offer peace. He is the creator, and he has created rules which are for this world. When we obey what he has demanded, we will live as he wanted us to live, and we will have peace. It is very simple.” When I asked him if there were any examples today of peace in the Muslim world, he answered, not surprisingly, “Yes, Saudi Arabia is the most peaceful country in the world”. It’s that simple.
12: Islam’s Spirituality
The final attraction of Islam is a difficult one to understand. The majority of those who chose it had written their testimonies many years ago, and so were not available for comment. Of those who responded, two felt Islam answered all their “spiritual” needs, while two others believed it was a combination of the spiritual and the material needs.
The definition of spirituality is: “purifying from the corrupting influences of the world.” With this definition I would have thought that this category would have been at the top of many peoples’ list. Yet, it dropped to last place on both the earlier and more recent lists.
There were many, who, in their conversations, mentioned that Islam was the only answer for today’s corrupting problems. I listened for two hours to an imam address over five-hundred believers in a mosque in Philadelphia. During the entire time he never ceased from describing the evils of American society, explaining that Islam was the only religion which could come to America’s rescue. This argument and definition of spirituality does exist within Muslim circles. In the answers to my questionnaire, however, “Spirituality” was not singled-out as one of Islam’s more attractive influences, or as a deciding factor for conversion.
On the other hand, the idea of Allah’s power and control came out clearly in interviews with many individuals. “Allah,” they said, “must be lifted high. He must be given complete allegiance. He is the all-powerful, the all-mighty, the all-compassionate…”
The word, “Islam,” means submission to the will of Allah. A Muslim, therefore, is one who submits, much as a slave submits to his master. The reason for this submission is found in the belief that, everything, including good and evil, faith and unbelief, is pre-ordained. As a religion, Islam is a code of political, ceremonial, civil, and criminal law, as well as moral and religious precepts, all promulgated in Allah’s name, while leaving nothing to the believer’s initiative. It is this all-encompassing view of Allah which has attracted many, as they seek to find a God bigger than themselves and their problems on which to rely.
Allah, they feel, fulfills that need. Muslims believe that Allah is in control of all of history. This belief embraces the doctrine of pre-destination, an acceptance of destiny, and a resignation to fate (Kismet). Allah, therefore, is sovereign. Thus, anything that happens is the will of Allah, and is attributed to him, explaining why the phrase “In sh’allah,” which translated means, “If Allah wills it,” is so common in the Muslim world.
These are the attractions of Islam. What, then is our response?