As salaamu alaikum
As I mentioned in my introductory post, I became a Muslim in later life. I became a paid-up, card-carrying member (so to speak) of the Ummah of Islam almost 7 years ago. However, I have been interested in things Islamic, for about 15 years.
My path to Islam was, by any stretch of the imagination, a gradual affair. Maybe the slow path is the best after all! In any case, my Islam was the result of a growing realisation of the centrality of God. Or, in other slightly less grandiose language, my eventual understanding of what Allah had always been trying to tell me! Or, once again, it was my awareness that I wanted God to be central to my life: the steering wheel and not just the spare time, as a song I once owned put it!
Although I took my time to investigate the teachings of Islam, I don't think there was really any competition. Somehow, I think I always knew that I would eventually become a Muslim! Coming from the East End of London, I've always known Muslims (probably even before I was aware of what Islam was) and of these, some have been especially influential. As I learned more, I was always struck by the ennobling qualities of Islam: wherever Islam has put down roots, it has produced generous, warm, just and committed individuals.
Theologically, Islam also seemed to be streets ahead of other faiths. It is simple to understand in its essentials, but not simplistic. It has a straightfoward and clear understanding of God and although some have commented that the God of the Quran is so high as to be distant, this is definitely not how I have experienced it.
The role and function of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also clear and easy to understand within Islam. Though a Prophet of God (the last, according to Islam), he is indelibly human. I have always found it hard to believe in semi-divine human beings. Being a student of ancient history (amongst other things) I have seen how many civilisations have used such ideas to bolster tyrants.
Islam, by contrast, always struck me as radically life-affirming (whatever contemporary jihadi extremists may say). There is no compulsion in faith; mankind has been born free under God; the middle path of tolerance, compassion and understanding is better than the extremes of violence and bloodshed.
These are teachings which ultimately drew me to Islam: respect, justice, tolerance, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and God-centred consciousness. These are also the ideals which I have tried to embody in my own life (though, as I say, I am a work in progress).
In closing, I eventually embraced Islam amidst the rural beauty of west Wales and there met and married my wife. Although I am Sunni Muslim (in that I try to follow the Sunnah - or way - of the Prophet), I dislike labels and groups. In this blog, I want to explore the roots and branches of the Islamic faith (and other things). I have many questions to ask and hopefully... we may even be able to answer some of them together!