My Journey to Islam Part 2: Exploring My Beliefs

jesus and disciples

 

As a Christian in high school, I felt that I was pretty set in my beliefs—that nothing would ever change my opinions on God and religion. Even though I didn’t agree with all Christians or all Christian leaders, I felt that nothing could shake my belief in Jesus as God. To me, there was no other option; for me, to believe in the ‘true’ God was to believe in the trinity.

As often happens to many young people, my college years opened my eyes and mind to a world filled with people of differing beliefs. I was introduced to different ways of thinking, new ideas, and new religions. It was in college that I really came to understand who I was and more firmly establish my personal opinions and beliefs—and not just regarding religion.

In the first couple years I was in college, I chose to continue to surround myself with those of similar beliefs as those I was raised with. My first year, my roommate was also a strong Christian with a similar religious background. She introduced me to a Bible study group on campus which we attended together every week. This helped me stay connected to my religious roots. In classes, however, as well as among my classmates and friends, I began to experience new ideas and beliefs. The school was attended by students from very diverse backgrounds: Christians, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims . . . there was also a diverse mix among the faculty. I learned a lot about other cultures and religions, and learned to enjoy the diversity around me.

While nothing really changed my belief system those first two years, my heart and mind at least became open to the idea of alternate worldviews. It was during my last few years, and my year in graduate school that my beliefs really began to change.

Being open to diverse people and ideas made me willing to date my first boyfriend: a Turkish Muslim (who later, as it turns out, became my husband). I did have my doubts about dating him though—even though he seemed to be a great guy, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Should I be doing this? Should I be dating someone with a different religion from me?” For me, dating was about finding the person I was meant to be with. Did God really want me to be with someone who, at that time, I considered to be ‘unsaved’? Looking back, it is interesting however to note that even though I met him in 2006, when resentment towards Muslims was high, I never thought about that. My only concern was how our differing religious beliefs would allow us to make a life, and eventually a family, together.

This relationship opened my eyes further and made me question myself. I have to admit, we got in a lot of arguments about religion at first. We are both very stubborn people who were stuck in our ways. We eventually decided to not discuss religion anymore since it was such a point of contention. It was during that time period that I really began my journey of self-discovery that led to a change in my religious perspective.

I began to think about how most people in the world did not choose their religion—they were born into it, just as I was born into Christianity. My schooling taught me to think critically, and I began to apply such skills to my beliefs; why was I Christian? Why do Christians follow the Bible? Is the Bible really the word of God? And ultimately, was Jesus really the son of God?

I have always been a big reader, so it was my reading that ultimately led me down my road to self-discovery. I can actually chart my spiritual journey through the books I read. It started with the historical fiction The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory – an unexpected source for religious inspiration, I know. While many of the details of this novel about Queen Elizabeth were made up, a lot of things were based on actual history. I remember reading something that really caught my attention and made me think. When Queen Elizabeth first became queen, she was faced with a difficult decision: to use the Catholic Bible or the Protestant Bible in her royal chapel . . . wait, what? There were two different Bibles? I had never heard of such a thing. But apparently there were.

I also read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. For me, this book was inspiring because the author described her own spiritual, emotional, and physical journey as she traveled to three different countries, on a mission of self-discovery. She opened her mind to new experiences and beliefs, and attempted to re-orient her life; it really encouraged me in my own journey.

There were also other random experiences which either made me question my beliefs or encouraged me to research more—like watching The Da Vinci Code. While I realize most of that story is fictional, there was one point in the movie that caused me to pause—when it I discussed how Christ’s divinity was actually debated among early Christians. The issue was decided once and for all at the Council of Nicea in 325. There was also the question of how the Bible actually came together, and who decided what books were divinely inspired or not, and which ones should be included.

Another big part of my journey was a class I took in graduate school: Spirituality in Social Work. This class encouraged us to better understand our own spirituality so that we could keep it from interfering/ creating biases in our counseling relationships. This gave me some structure as I explored who I was spiritually, where I came from, and where I was going.

With the above experiences as a starting point, I began doing a lot more reading and researching into Christianity, especially in terms of understanding the origins of Christianity and the belief in Jesus’ divinity. Among other things, I learned that not even all modern-day Christians believe in the trinity or that Jesus is the divine son of God. I also learned that the origins of the books of the Bible are a little murky.

I tried to keep an unbiased point of view, reading books from different perspectives—ones that were written by Christians in support of Christianity, and other that were written by atheists in opposition to Christianity. One important book I read was Lee Strobel’s The Case for the Real Jesus. I had read his book The Case for Christ several years before, and remembered feeling that it made a good argument. So while I was at the bookstore looking for that book to re-read, I saw this other one and thought it seemed more like what I was interested in learning about. I also read a book with an opposing viewpoint: How Jesus Became Christian by Barrie Wilson. This book argued that the apostle Paul was the originator of the view that Jesus was divine, something it states that Jesus himself did not preach and the original 13 disciples did not believe. This book actually made a lot of sense to me; I had always thought that Paul, who wrote or influenced much of the New Testament (and wrote the earliest books), was one of the original disciples of Jesus. I learned however, that he was not – that while Jesus was alive, he was actually deeply opposed to Jesus and his teachings, and often spoke against him. The author of this book suggested that Paul staged his ‘conversion’ to Christianity, and then used his power to negatively influence and change the religion Jesus had taught. Paul eventually became the top religious authority on Jesus and essentially founded modern Christianity.

The two books mentioned in the above paragraph were probably the most influential on me as I tried to understand who Jesus really was. I read The Case for the Real Jesus specifically with the idea that maybe it could explain away some of what was discussed in How Jesus Became Christian—that maybe it would present a good argument countering what I had just read. I was very disappointed, however. I felt that Lee Strobel’s logic was counter-intuitive to me— I felt he used false logic, and gave more of an emotional argument than a factual one. Most of the book was spent arguing how the Bible was true and had been well-preserved with little to no changes,–and that therefore if the Bible was true than Jesus must be divine. He did not even address what I had just read about Paul—which was the most compelling argument I had ever read against Jesus’ divinity.

By the time I felt I had read and researched enough to understand the origins of Christianity and Jesus, I had a lot running through my mind. Frankly, I was confused. I didn’t know what I believed anymore. I was seriously doubting Jesus’ divinity, but I wasn’t ready to completely renounce Christianity – what if I was wrong? What if Jesus really was the divine Son of God? To say he wasn’t would be blasphemous. But even in my confusion one thing remained clear: there was a God, and I wanted to follow Him. I wanted to know the one true God. So I continuously prayed for God’s guidance, and to show me the way, the path to Him – the path I was supposed to be on.

Photo credit: Foter / Public domain

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About Meditating Muslimah

Sharing my experiences as a new Muslimah, thoughts on religion, things that inspire me, foods I love to make and eat, Islamic fashion, travel, and life in general!
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9 Responses to My Journey to Islam Part 2: Exploring My Beliefs

  1. Nurul Lubis says:

    It’s interesting article, sister.. I can’t wait for the part 3..

    keep on writing..

    regards,

    nurul

  2. I always enjoy reading your blog. I particularly enjoyed this one. I wish more people of all religions really understood the historical context of their belief systems. Joseph Campbell said that the ultimate barrier to understanding God is one’s own religion. What he meant was exactly what you described here. That we often stop at dogma rather than experience the divine.

    A few years ago I went to India and stayed with my friends who are Hindu. I was a little confused when my friends mother kept saying, “as god will’s it”. It sounded so much like Christianity. It was a big eye-opener for me. Although I know a good deal about Hinduism, I had never really experienced the idea of unity and multiplicity. I understood the concept, but I always thought that the emphasis in Hinduism was on multiple deities. I found out it is and it is not. Although they were Vishinites, we went to Vishnite and Shivite temples, the local temple dedicated to Hanuman, the ancient temples, and even to the Catholic church there that dated from Roman times.

    The ideas of Hinduism and the Vedas (as well as the idea of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Roman-Greco world) are evident to in Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, not to mention many other religions. When you examine the area historically, you begin to see how each religion influenced the other. They are all tied by ancient trading routes and empires that spanned many different cultures and modern countries. The deeper one digs, the more one finds that all these religion are indeed saying the same things, just in different spiritual languages.

    As always, I look forward to reading more about your perspectives on Islam and your own spiritual journey.

    Wishing you peace.

    Karie

  3. Nanoladoo says:

    Reblogged this on NANOLADOO.

  4. Nanoladoo says:

    I am so very happy for you sister. May Allah guide us! Love you for the sake of Allah 🙂

  5. fitri says:

    masyaAllah, may Allah bless you dear sister and your family 🙂

  6. Rob Young says:

    It’s been well over a year since you wrote this. May I ask where you have gone? While I am Orthodox Christian I understand some of what you went through. I believe that the Protestant, Evangelical Mainline and Fundamentalist Christians are not following Christ as was intended. Many of them have no desire to know the history of the Church. Some even think their church has “always” been around. It’s too bad, because I came from such a background and had to find out for myself what religion and Christianity were really about. I believe strongly that Jesus is the Christ, and divine Son of God, I also believe that St. Paul did not fake his conversion, and that God blessed him in his ministry to bring many to the one true (Orthodox) Church, but I can see how you could have been led to a different path. I hope God has blessed and continues to bless you in your life.

    • Thank you for sharing your opinion; I haven’t had time to write in a while because I had a baby a year ago; I’ve also been busy running a business. I hope to be able to finish the third part of my conversion story eventually.

  7. rosehaven says:

    Thank you for writing this. Through your writing I was able to remember God. It brought my heart back to life, if only for a few moments.

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