From Sheik Yusuf Estes
Alexandria, VA - USASalam Alaykum:
Your question about the increase in the "reversion to Islam" is a good one. You have given me the excuse to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time. I have wanted to write on the subject of "Reverts to Islam in Modern Times" and the message that it carries to all of us Muslims about ISLAM TODAY.
BACK TO ISLAM?
Reverts to Islam In Modern Times
"Revert" As Opposed to "Convert"
I like to use the word "revert" as opposed to the word "convert" as it more suits the occasion of a person returning back to his natural condition at birth. The baby is born in true surrender, submission, obedience and peace with his Creator. And this is the desirable position of the Muslim, to be in peace and submission to the Will of Allah (God in English). Instead of thinking in terms of "converting" people over to Islam, it is better understood that they are simply returning back to their natural state at birth. And this is from the teachings of our beloved prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him. (Muslims should always say "Peace be upon him/them" when referring to any of the prophets).
Like A Baby
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: "Every child is born on the "fitrah" (natural inclination) of "Islam" (surrender, submission and peace to the Creator on His Terms). And it is their parents who raise them up to be Jews, Christians or fire worshippers."
Dr. Ted Campbell who is the professor of religion at the seminary school in Maryland and I were both sharing the speakers platform last year in Maryland University. At the closing of a very nice interfaith dialog there came a strange question for both of us. Noah, the moderator said: "This last question is for both speakers: "Why are each of you in your religion?"
Dr. Campbell took his position in front of the microphone and then looked around the room as he thought about the question. I will never forget his words. He said: "I guess I would have to say that I am a Methodist because, well because, my parents raised me that way. As a Methodist."
He was right.
That is what we know as Muslims. However, as I mentioned in my answer to the same question: "And then some are brought back to their original state as a baby." They are "reverted" to Islam by the Mercy of Allah.
Actual or Factual Numbers of American Muslims
Many people are claiming that twice as many, or three times or four times, or even ten times as many people are coming into Islam as they did prior to the events of September 11. Who could possibly know the numbers? We are not even sure how many Muslims live here in America. I have heard the numbers range from around 3,000,000 all the way up to 11,000,000. I'm sure that only Allah Knows for sure how many Muslims there are in America.
Rate of "Reversion"
Actually, I can't give accurate statistics before or after the September events. I have heard from some "experts" that Islam was the fastest growing religion in the world prior to the September 11 events. I have no reason to doubt it either. In the many mosques around the United States and in the many countries that I have been fortunate enough to visit I have found thousands who have entered into Islam. The Anglican Church of England expressed concern that if something does not change in the trend of new Muslims in England that the Muslims will out number the Anglicans by the year 2010. The number one name of the birth certificates for new born boys in England was not John, or Michael, or William. It is "Muhammad." In Mexico, Sweden, Denmark and Canada I have witnessed so many coming into Islam that I cannot count them all. Everywhere I go I meet new Muslims. Prisons, universities and even in the military I have personally seen thousands who came to Islam. This is all before the events of September 11.
More Exposure to the Message
What I feel comfortable saying is that more and more people are being to exposed to Islam all over the world. Whether or not the picture they are receiving is painted correctly or not is not as important a factor as is the fact that at long last many people on this planet are looking at Islam as something very real. Therefore, when they ask about Islam some of the information is stimulating feelings inside of the people. Naturally we are going to see those who are stimulated to be against Islam. At the same time you have to understand that there are a number of people who will take the position that you cannot always believe everything in the news media. These are the ones whom Allah guides to inquire and learn more.
Allah is the Only Guide
It is only Allah who Guides the people and it is only Allah who Misguides. The biggest problem in the past used to be the lack of interest in Islam. People were not interested in talking about Islam or any religion for that matter, even their own. Now the problem is the lack of correct knowledge of Islam. There simply was not anything about Islam out there. Then came the events of the 1970s with the actions of some of the Iranians when they hijacked airplanes and we saw on the news, men prostrating on the ground outside the airplanes. We in the West learned a new word; "Shi'ism". People said this is some strange religion (Islam). What is going on? Then came the 1980s and we saw acts of terrorism that occurred in Palestine and the words "fundamentalist" and "Muslim" became associated together. At the very beginning of the next decade we saw something take place in Iraq and Kuwait. Again religion is brought into the picture. Not a pretty picture, but a picture. Midway through the 1990s we saw big actions taking place everywhere in the world. The Trade Center in New York, airplanes, embassies, attacks and counter attacks. All along we are hearing something about "Islam" and "Moslems." Still not very positive to say the least. Then what occurred in September brought out more information, although distorted, about this religion of the East.
President Says "Islam is Peace"
Every home, every business, every place on earth became exposed to this religion called: "Islam." The president of the United States went on television at a time when everyone who had a TV set was watching to see what the United States Commander in Chief was going to say about the events of September 11, and what US was going to do. His message contained a lot of threats and promises about what the Americans were going to do to those who committed these horrific acts of terrorism. But the words that stick in my mind are the words that introduced Islam to a lot of people around the world who had never heard of Islam before in their lives. The words of President G. W. Bush when he said: "Islam is a religion of peace." Every single place on earth that could receive the broadcast signal from the TV towers or the satellites orbiting the earth got the message. And for those who were not so fortunate as to have a TV set, it was simultaneously broadcast on every radio station in the world. And for those who might have slept through the broadcast, it was rebroadcast over and over. And then for those who did not speak English of course there was translation. And then the written word took over where the broadcasting left off. There was not a newspaper in the world except that it carried something of the meaning of what Mr. Bush said on that occasion. It was a historical speech. One that will go down in the books of history as the retaliation of a nation against terrorism. He said it. "ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF PEACE."
Now we know that Mr. Bush is not promoting Islam by any stretch of the imagination. However, he still could not afford to say something derogatory against all the Muslims in the world by attacking Islam. That would then unite all the Muslims against America (at least most of them).
In fact it was to the advantage of the Americans to make statements that would help divide the Muslims over the situation existing in Afghanistan and the situation that was sure to occur. By making this statement, he left the door open for the Muslims who did not want to see any problem between the materialism of the West (which they personally enjoyed or would like to enjoy) and the sacrificing of those who were willing to stand up against the tyranny and oppression of the Western society and all that comes along with it.
So the strategy was to say things that made certain Muslims look bad while at the same time not exactly attacking Islam. This led up to the next desirable situation for shayton: Divide the Muslims against each other. So, now we had "mainstream Muslims" and "fundamentalist Muslims" and "terrorist Islam" and "modern Islam." It worked too. The Muslims did the thing that the non-Muslims could never have done. The Muslims defeated themselves. Anytime that Muslims fight Muslims and Muslims kill Muslims, then Allah's Protection is lifted from them and they will loose. That is what happened.
People Want to Know
Still in the midst of all of this negative propaganda and bad press, non-Muslim people were curious to learn more of this "cult" of Islam, its people and their beliefs. Books about Islam and Muslims were disappearing off the shelves of the bookstores faster than they could replenish them. Unfortunately almost every single book was written either by a non-Muslim or authors from the various deviant sects of Muslims. So the people were still not getting the real message of the true Islam.
Websites, chat rooms, email and message boards became alive with information (and misinformation) about Islam, Muslims, Quran, Muhammad, peace be upon him. Some people wanted to know the truth, others wanted to hide it. Discussions and arguments about what Islam is about and what Muslims do were very common place. This was the most exposure that these subjects had ever had in the world at one time.
Open Communication Between Muslim & Non-Muslim
The good news came when the various dialogs between the Muslims and Christians began to take place. When the non-Muslims began to enter the masjids and sit with the Muslims and shared together in discussions and shared together enjoying the food and traditions of other cultures an amazing thing began to happen. They opened their minds and their hearts to the true message of the submission and surrender and obedience to the One True God, Allah -- in Islam.
Back to Islam
Since September 11th, I have seen a huge increase in the interest of people wanting to know about Islam and at the same time a marked increase in the "dawah" (invitation) to Islam on the part of the Muslims around the world. This is how the people are coming to Islam. The same way people have come to Islam for 1,400 years. By learning the true message and being with real Muslims. Those who are inclined to "revert" back to the natural state of baby-like submission and peace with Allah, are finding their way back to Islam.
Many New Muslims
Islam today, is growing faster than ever. It is the Will of Allah, for only He Guides. The people want to know. The interest is keen. The materials are available in more simple terms in many languages. The Muslims are starting to carry the responsibility of sharing the message of the true "Peace With God in Islam."
Islam In Every Home
Somewhere in the middle of all of this is occurred to me an expression of our prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. When he said what might translate to English as:
"The Last Day will not come until Islam has entered every house on earth, whether it is made of animal skins or from the earth."
And now it has.