Akifah Baxter - USA/Christian background
I have always been aware of the existence of God. I have always felt that He was there. Sometimes that feeling was distant, and often times I ignored it. But I could never deny this knowledge. Because of this, throughout my life, I have been searching for the truth of His Plan.
I have attented many churches. I listened, I prayed, I talked to people from all different faiths. But it seemed that there was always something that didn't feel right, it felt confusing, like there was something missing. I've heard many people in the past say to me, "Well, I believe in God, but I don't belong to any religion. They all seem wrong to me." This was my feeling exactly, however, I didn't want to just let it go at that and just accept it. I knew that if God exists then He wouldn't just leave us with no direction, or even a warped version of the truth. There had to be a plan, a "true religion." I just had to find it.
The various Christian churches is where I concentrated my search, simply because that is what I grew up with, and there seemed to be some truths in some of their teachings. However, there were so many different views, so many conflicting teachings on basic things like how to pray, who to pray to or through, who was going to be "saved", and who wasn't, and what a person had to do to get "saved." It seemed so convoluted. I felt I was near giving up. I had just come from yet another church whose views on God, and the purpose of our existence, left me so completely frustrated because I knew what they were teaching wasn't true.
One day, I had wandered in the bookstore and I went over to the religious section. As I stood there gazing over the vast array of mostly Christian books, a thought occured to me to see if they had anything on Islam. I knew virtually nothing about Islam, and when I picked up the first book it was solely out of curiosity. But I became excited with what I was reading. One of the first things that struck me was the statement 'There is no god but Allah,' He has no associates, and all prayers and worship are directed to Him alone. This seemed so simple, so powerful, so direct, and made so much sense. So from there I started reading everything I could about Islam.
Everything I read made so much sense to me. It was as if suddenly all the pieces of this puzzle were fitting perfectly, and a clear picture was emerging. I was so excited my heart would race any time I read anything about Islam. Then, when I read the Qur'an, I felt like I was truly blessed to be able to read this. I knew that this had come directly from Allah through His Messenger (SAW). This was it, the truth. I felt like all along I had been a Muslim but I just didn't know it until now. Now as I start my life as a Muslim, I have a sense of peace and security knowing that what I am learning is the pure truth and will take me closer to Allah. May Allah keep guiding me. Ameen.
Taken from trueislam
Islam in China
Yusuf Abdul Rahman
Although it may come as some surprise, Islam has survived in China for over 1300  years. It has done so despite such upheavals as the Cultural Revolution as well as regimes hostile to it.
Even though there are only sparse records of the event in Arab history, a brief one in Chinese history, The Ancient Record of the Tang Dynasty describes a landmark visit to China by an emissary from Arabia in the seventh century. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (ra), one of the companions of Prophet [Muhammad (s)], led the delegation [in 650 C.E.], which brought gifts as well as the belief system of Islam to China. According to the traditions of Chinese Muslims, this event is considered to be the birth of Islam in China.
Although the emperor of the time, Yung-Wei, found Islam to be a bit too restrictive for his taste, he respected its teachings and considered it to be compatible with the teachings of Confucius. For this reason, he gave Saad complete freedom to propagate the faith among his people. To show his admiration for Islam, the emperor ordered the establishment of China's first mosque at Ch'ang-an. The mosque still stands today, after thirteen [fourteen] centuries.
As time passed, relations between the Chinese and the Muslim heartland continued to improve. Many Muslim businessmen, visitors, and traders began to come to China for commercial and religious reasons. [Arabs had already established trade in the area before Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam).] The Umayyads and Abbasids sent six delegations to China, all of which were warmly received by the Chinese.
The Muslims who immigrated to China eventually began to have a great economic impact and influence on the country. They virtually dominated the import/export business by the time of the Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE). Indeed, the office of Director General of Shipping was consistently held by a Muslim during this period.
In spite of the economic successes the Muslims enjoyed during these and later times, they were recognized as being fair, law-abiding, and self-disciplined. Thus, there is no record of appreciable anti-Muslim sentiment on the part of the Han (Chinese) people.
By the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE) Islam had been nourishing in China for 700 years. Up to this time, the Muslims had maintained a separate, alien status which had its own customs, language, and traditions and was never totally integrated with the Han people. Under the Ming Dynasty, generally considered to be the golden age of Islam in China, Muslims gradually became fully integrated into Han society.
An interesting example of this synthesis by Chinese Muslims was the process by which their names changed. Many Muslims who married Han women simply took on the name of the wife. Others took the Chinese surnames of Mo, Mai, and Mu - names adopted by Muslims who had the names Muhammad, Mustafa, and Masoud. Still others who could find no Chinese surname similar to their own adopted the Chinese character that most closely resembled their name - Ha for Hasan, Hu for Hussein, or Sai for Said, and so on.
In addition to names, Muslim customs of dress and food also underwent a synthesis with Chinese culture. The Islamic mode of dress and dietary restrictions were consistently maintained, however, and not compromised. In time, the Muslims began to speak Han dialects and to read in Chinese. Well into the Ming era, the Muslims could not be distinguished from other Chinese other than by their unique religious customs. For this reason, once again, there was little friction between Muslim and non-Muslim Chinese.
The rise of the Ch'ing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE), though, changed this. The Ch'ing were Manchu (not Han) and were a minority in China. They employed tactics of divide-and-conquer to keep the Muslims, Han, Tibetans, and Mongolians in struggles against one another. In particular, they were responsible for inciting anti-Muslim sentiment throughout China, and used Han soldiers to suppress the Muslim regions of the country.
When the Manchu Dynasty fell in 1911, the Republic of China was established by Sun Yat Sen, who immediately proclaimed that the country belonged equally to the Han, Hui (Muslim), Man (Manchu), Meng (Mongol), and the Tsang (Tibetan) peoples. His policies led to some improvement in relations among these groups.
After Mao Zedong's revolution in 1948 and the beginning of communist rule in China, the Muslims, as well as other ethnic minorities found themselves once again oppressed. They actively struggled against communists before and after the revolution. In fact, in 1953, the Muslims revolted twice in an effort to establish an independent Islamic state [in regions where Muslims were an overwhelming majority]. These revolts were brutally suppressed by Chinese military force followed by the liberal use of anti-Muslim propaganda.
Today, the Muslims of China number some 20 million, according to unofficial counts. The government census of 1982, however, put the number much lower, at 15 million. These Muslims represent ten distinct ethnic groups. The largest are the Chinese Hui, who comprise over half of China's Muslim population and are scattered throughout all of China. There is also a high concentration of Hui in the province of Ningsha in the north.
After the Hui, the remainder of the Muslim population belong to Turkic language groups and are racially Turks (except for the Mongol Salars and Aryan Tajiks). The Turkic group is further divided between the Uygurs, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirgiz, Tatars and Dongshiang. Nearly all of the Turkic Muslims are found in the western provinces of Kansu and Xinjiang. The largest of these Muslim groups are the Uygurs.
The Uygurs are most populous in the province of Xinjiang, where they make up some 60% of the total population. This relatively small percentage is due to the massive influx of non-Muslim Chinese into the province in recent times, a situation that has brought problems of assimilation and raised concerns about the de-Islamization of one of China's predominantly Muslim regions. [Muslims in Central Asia, under the USSR, were subjected to a similar population management, Russification of Central Asia;Muslims, and the Uygur in particular, suffered tremendously under the regime of Mao Zedong and his "Cultural Revolution." During the communist reign of terror, there was a violent campaign to eradicate all traces of Islam and of the ethnic identity of all non-Chinese. The Uygur language, which had for centuries used Arabic script, was forced to adopt the Latin alphabet. The Uygurs, as with most believing Muslims, were subjected to forced labour in the some 30,000 communes set up in the predominantly Muslim provinces. The Imams and akhunds were singled out for humiliating punishments and tortures....[and were forced to] tend to pig farms, which were sometimes kept in government-closed mosques.
Under the pretext of unification of national education, Islamic schools were closed and their students transferred to other schools which taught only Marxism and Maoism. Other outrages included the closing of over 29,000 mosques, the widespread torture of imams, and executions of over 360,000 Muslims.
Since the death of Mao and the end of his hard-line Marxist outlook nearly fifteen years ago, the communist government has greatly liberalized its policies toward Islam and Muslims. And despite the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, Islam has continued to thrive in China.
Today the campaign for assimilation started during the Cultural Revolution has slowed somewhat and the Turkic Muslims have greater freedom to express their cultural identity. The government has, for instance, allowed the reinstatement of the Arabic alphabet for use with the Uygur language. There is, however, continued discrimination against the Turkic Muslims by the immigrant Chinese (favored by the government) who have settled in the far western province of Xinjiang. This immigration has posed a problem as Han Chinese are migrating to Muslim areas at the rate of 200,000 a year. In many places where Muslims once were a majority, they are now a minority.
Since religious freedom was declared in 1978, the Chinese Muslims have not wasted time in expressing their convictions. There are now some 28,000 mosques in the entire People's Republic of China, with 12,000 in the province of Xinjiang. In addition, there is a large number of Imams available to lead the Muslim community (in Xinjiang alone there are over 2,800).
There has been an increased upsurge in Islamic expression in China, and many nationwide Islamic associations have been organized to coordinate inter-ethnic activities among Muslims. Islamic literature can be found quite easily and there are currently some eight different translations of the Qur'an in the Chinese language as well as translations in Uygur and the other Turkic languages. The Muslims of China have also been given almost unrestricted allowance to make the Hajj to Mecca . In 1986 there were some 2,300 Chinese Muslims at Hajj. (Compared to the 30 Soviet Muslims allowed to make the same pilgrimage, this number seems quite generous, considering that the Soviet Muslim population outnumbers China's by nearly four times).
China's Muslims have also been active in the country's internal politics. As always, the Muslims have refused to be silenced. Several large demonstrations have been staged by Muslims to protest intrusions on Muslim life. Last year, for instance, Muslims staged a massive protest rally in Beijing to demand the removal of anti-Islamic literature from China's bookstores. The Turkic [group] Muslims have also held demonstrations for a greater voice in the running of their own affairs and against the continued large-scale immigration of non-Muslims into their provinces. In the news this spring are more reports of demonstrations and struggles by Chinese Muslims to regain their rights. Insha'Allah they will be successful.
Ambassadors of Islam
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Umm Haram bint Milhan, a Sahabiya, (a companion of the Prophet) was married to Ubadah ibn as-Samit Ansari. Along with her husband she undertook several trips to foreign countries. Now her grave is in Cyprus, and is called the grave of the pious woman (Hayat As-Sahaba 1/592). The grave of Khalid ibn al-Walid, who was born in Mecca, is in Hims (Syria).
The same is the case with the majority of the Companions of the Prophet. At the time of the Prophet’s demise, his companions numbered more than one hundred thousand. However it is worth noting that if you go to Mecca and Medina you will find only a small number of graves there. The reason for this is that these companions left Arabia and spread to various countries far and beyond its borders. The majority of them breathed their last in various Asian and African countries, where their graves still exist.
Why did this happen? It was because during his last days the Prophet gathered his companions together in the mosque in Medina and addressed them in these words: God has sent me as his messenger for the entire world. So you do not differ with one another. And spread in the land and communicate my message to people inhabiting other places besides Arabia. (Seerat Ibn Hisham 4/279).
It was this injunction of the Prophet that led to the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) settling in foreign lands. In those countries either did business or earned their living by hard work, all the while communicating to their non-Muslim compatriots the message of monotheism which they had received from the Prophet. Every one of them thus became a virtual ambassador of Islam. This resulted in Islam spreading across the globe. Its evidence can still be seen in the inhabited world of that time.
I feel history is repeating itself in modern times. New circumstances, produced in the wake of industrial revolution, have resulted in Muslims leaving their homelands to spread all over the world. Today, whichever part of the globe you visit, you will find Muslims there. Mosques and Islamic institutions have come up everywhere. Muslims have settled in these countries either for work or for business. However, in respect of their religion, their actual position is that of Islam’s representatives. It is as if each one of them is an ambassador of God. Now the need of the hour is to awaken the missionary spirit in these Muslims settled in foreign lands, so that they may effectively communicate the message of Islam-a task of universal magnitude made incumbent upon them by their new sets of circumstances.
Why Did I Embrace Islam?
By Muhammad Nazeeh Khalid
I was born in the city of Mansoorah in the Arab Republic of Egypt in an ordinary Christian family in which religion had not much significance. We did not go to Church except on festive and ceremonial occasions. As far as we were concerned, religion did not mean anything more than rites which we observed, when necessary, even though we did not understand the language in which these rites were conducted. Despite our not grasping what they meant, the rest of my family was deep in the blind fanaticism of the ignorant, who fear the loss of a thing even though they do not know its value. As for myself I never had such feelings even for a single moment. I found the services so tedious that I never sat through them to their conclusion. I was plagued by boredom and unease. I felt sure that I was not meant to be one of them. I felt a total stranger in this place full of pictures, icons and statues like the temples of the idolaters of yore. Then I turned to reading with inexhaustible greed and enthusiasm, which stimulated my faculties and sharpened my feelings.
Questions began to strike my mind like a spade striking virgin land to prepare it for the sowing of good seeds to bring forth delicious fruits. It was at this time that doubt arose within me about the religion to which I was born, violently and extensively shattering my frame of mind. My heart rejected emotionally and my mind denied logically the idea that Almighty God could appear in the tangible form of a man and come down to the earth and permit sinners to beat him, to spit on his face, and ultimately to torture and crucify him (according to the Christian claim), even if it was to exonerate them from the fault of their father Adam, as the Christians argue. As for the belief that God has three entities, this too I refused to admit as true, because God is one and only one and He has no compare. As for the doctrine of the trinity, it must ultimately lead to a division of the entity of God Himself, whose glory is far above such a misconception. Such beliefs are the fundamentals of Christianity, viz., the divinity of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion as an atonement for humanity, and the Trinity—the Father, the Son and The Holy Ghost. I banished these beliefs totally from the domain of my thinking; expelled them from my mind; and struck them off the register of my beliefs and conviction. I thus discarded all false and misleading beliefs.
They say that it is not possible to acquire sound belief through wisdom, because it is too sublime to be within the reach of the human mind. I, on my part, am fully convinced that if we use our intellect rightly, refined of the turbidity of passion and pre-conceived, ready-made ideologies, we can surely find a wealth of firm and unshakable Faith in Allah and in His supreme might and ability, before Whose dazzling signs one has no alternative but to surrender in humility and helplessness. Thus did I cross over the mountains of doubt of firm belief: the true religion of Allah which is Islam.
I studied the revealed religions as well as the non-revealed cults, like Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, etc. In some I found traces of high morals and philosophy of the sort to guide man to ideal conduct. But when it comes to formulating a definition of Allah, they go too far either by supposing many gods, each of them entrusted with the management of one specific department of the affairs of the world, or by presenting Allah in tangible form, resembling very closely the forms and shapes of earthly creatures. These gods indulge both in serious activities and in vengeful pranks, express anger, eat and drink, and generally behave as mortals do.
As for Islam, it is the religion of nature. Almighty Allah has purified it of all material and tangible forms, and raised it to the highest degree of spiritualism and purity. Islam confirms that Allah possesses, will, wisdom, discretion, knowledge and authority. According to Islam, Allah beautiful names are attributes which cannot be separated from His Being under any circumstances. It also emphasizes His oneness, which is not shared by anyone, and His existence for all eternity, as mentioned in Surah 112.
Say He is Allah the One and Only.Allah, the Absolute, the Eternal.He begot none, nor was He begotten. And no one is comparable to Him.
Thus did Islam attract me to its sublime and sacred fold—Islam the purest and most sublime of the revealed religions, unsullied by apostasy or the doctrine of incarnation.
ACCEPTANCE OF ISLAM
On the 8th of Ramadan I entered the mosque for the first time with two companions. My soul and conscience became purified in the melting pot of magnificent faith. I underwent that sweet, pleasant experience which opened to me the door of salvation. Every bit of my body pulsated with a pious soaring, high in the high heavens. Neither did I feel disgusted nor perplexed—No, never. It was the radiation of brilliant light which shone outside and inside of me which acquainted me with who I really was. Soft, soothing, melodious inner voices whispered to me that from now onwards, till the end of my life, my path was Islam. In this moment which rose high above the summits of time, I stood before Allah, the One and Only, the Almighty, the Forgiving. His most High Spirit embraced me and asked me to resign myself to His care after the period of my prolonged loss and misfortune. Immediately after concluding the prayer, I took the Holy Book at the gate of the Al-Husain mosque, and came back home imbibing enlightenment from the seas of its sacred verses and its eternal, clear wisdom by which I was thoroughly overwhelmed. This is the Book of God "about which there is no doubt.""Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it." (41:32)
It shall remain preserved till the end of the world without distortion or change.
"We have without doubt, sent down the message; andWe will assuredly guard it (from corruption)." (15:9)
In plunging into this Divine, copious and flowing bounty, I uttered the two Shahdatain (testimonies) and announced my Islam to Allah. So that the firmness of my faith might flourish and its impact on me might grow strong, I began to read books and works of contemporary Muslim thinkers who command influence in the Arab and other Muslim countries, Aqqad, a famous literary figure in Egypt, being one of them.
I hope in all humbleness that Allah may accept my Islam which I have embraced heart and soul as my last refuge. I have entered the fold of Islam in love of God, and His Prophet whose status is sublime and exalted and whose personality is unique and exceptional. I have always appreciate and honored him in the past and have an unflinching belief that he is the greatest of all personalities to love an indelible mark on the annals of world history.
Tips for Da’wah
· Know what you have to convey: Make sure you have the correct knowledge about an issue or point in Islam. Practise explaining different key aspects of Islam to yourself, so that when you actually have to do the explaining, it comes easily.
· Know who you are talking to: ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’ is one of the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’ as detailed in Steve Covey’s book. Listen to people carefully to understand their background and what they know already. Then you will know better where to start. Once we had some Jehovah’s Witnesses round for tea. I was talking to the lady trying to prove to her that Jesus (Peace be Upon Him) never asked people to worship him…he always asked people to worship God and he himself worshipped only God etc. She was agreeing with me..later I found out that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t worship Jesus (alaihis salaam)! A little bit of background research on my part about JWs would have been useful.
· Use terminology that people understand: Depending on if they are atheists or Christians etc, you have to use the language that will convey to them the message in the best way. Some people find religious terminology off-putting as it reminds them too much of a concept of God they have already heard of. So use words like: the ‘Creator’ or ‘the Source of Creation’ (instead of God), ‘communications from the Creator’ (for the books and scriptures that God sent), ‘extraordinary individuals who were given a message by the Creator’ (for the Prophets) etc. Be easy to talk to.
· Never underestimate the value of your contribution. Every good thing you convey, even a smile or helping someone is valuable. Think of a persons coming closer to Islam as a puzzle. Each Muslim they meet causes a piece of that puzzle to click into place until eventually they can have a whole picture. You are a piece of that puzzle.
· Chat to people in public places. Sometimes they think we can’t speak English or that we don’t want to talk to people. Open the doors to conversation and smile! (At people of the same gender of course).
· Be willing to talk to anyone. If anyone wants to talk to you, be willing to engage with them. If you don’t have time, make a date. If it is a member of the opposite sex, answer the most important questions they have but try to refer them to a brother or sister for long term da’wah.
· Be clean in your appearance. We should be clean and smart. Not showing off or trying to attract attention, but just smart.
· If someone asks you something about an issue don’t go on the defensive…sometimes people genuinely just need a full explanation and just want to understand.
· Acknowledge mistakes that Muslims make and show people that Muslims don’t always do what Islam tells them to. Tell them not to judge Islam by the actions of Muslims because Muslims are fallible and don’t always follow Islam.
· Don’t water Islam down when explaining something….say the truth and try and make it easy to understand. Allah will help you insha Allah. For example when talking about polygamy…some people say …’oh but you have to ask the first wife’s permission’….or ‘it’s better to have one wife’. Just explain it as it is and show them the benefits.
· Keep your composure at all times, don’t get angry or thrown by anything. Have tawakkul. You don’t have to address all issues there and then. If someone puts something to you that you don’t know how to explain, tell them you will get back to them on it.
· Be positive and measured in your response: be understated and in your language…not full of anger and emotion. Be confident because you know the straight path.
· Be calm and not a hothead: ‘The strong person is not the one who wrestles and wins, the strong person is the one who controls himself when he is angry.’ That is a paraphrased translation of a Hadeeth.
· Do da’wah along with another Muslim for support: if you forget something, they may remember and vice versa.
· Deconstruct the argument and appeal to common sense.
· Give gifts to people as a genuine token of good will towards them. We can even give zakah to people who are close to Islam.
· Utilize scientific evidence and statistical evidence: Back Islamic teachings up with scientific findings if possible.
· Obtain consensus as you go along. Get the persons agreement on a point before moving on. Sometimes just leave them with one point and let it sink in over time.
· Offer the Islamic solution or proposition: at some point you have to present Tawheed and Islam as the answer. Reach a balance between not being too pushy, and not too reserved in da’wah.
· If lost for words to explain something: quote a Qur’anic aayah or Hadeeth...they are the most eloquent.
· It’s sometimes easier to write a letter to someone than to talk face to face.
· You could write articles or letters to editors of newspapers.
· Have a website or blog: any sort of web presence is useful, even if it is just to stick articles up on it by other people, because if someone does a search on an aspect of Islam your blog may come up as one of the hits. Otherwise they may find some dodgy website.
· You could produce or distribute leaflets & literature about acpects of Islam. Some books like: ‘From My Sisters’ Lips’ by Na’ima B Robert, or ‘Enemy Combatant’ by Moazzam Begg explain a lot about Islam and may be suitable to give to different types of people even people who are not interested in religion.
· Radio phone-ins. You could contribute to Radio phone ins. (See the ‘Guidelines for Radio Phone-in Da’wah’ article.)
· Hold exhibitions or open days or coffee mornings. This could be at your local mosque...or even at your home for a few Muslims and non-Muslims to meet and chat.
· Arrange to visit a school and give an assembly on ‘What do you know about Islam?’.
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