It was a very normal day at the office. Patients coming and going at a steady pace, staff sticking their head in the door to say a quick hello and the telephone singing it’s same urgent song. It was September 11, 2001.
I was busy at my desk finishing some paperwork when I came across some work that I had some questions about. I speed-dialed the county office to clear up the matter when the voice on the other end quietly and nervously said:
“Have you all heard the news?”
My reply was quick and sarcastic:
“No one here has time to listen to the news!”
And the voice on the other end cracked as she said:
“I think you should turn on a radio or TV; a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center and it’s bad.”
With those words my small world changed forever.
I ran into the outer office and repeated the news and we quickly grabbed the TV from the closet and turned it on. What we saw was as unbelievable to our eyes as the initial news had been to our ears. Not one plane, but two by now, had flown directly into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Hundreds of miles away from us in our sleepy little southern corner of the world, distance suddenly seemed to vanish into inches as we saw and heard and felt the devastation in front of our eyes. Nothing in our wildest imagination or our most cynical thinking could prepare us for this kind of cruel intent.
Even through the speakers of the TV we could begin to hear the horror, and terror, that in a matter of minutes had gripped our nation and threatened our sense of safety and security in ways that would never recover or return to the naive days of pre September 11, 2001.
Suddenly I was aware of the questions that encircled the news commentators, and also the small group of us standing transfixed in front of a snowy TV screen witnessing the scene of death and destruction. Why? Who? How? Don’t we still live in America? Aren’t we still the greatest and strongest nation in the world? Don’t we still have the strongest and most vigilant military in the world? What is going on? Who is responsible?
Then I started hearing things like, “It has to be the Arabs.” “It must be Al-Qaeda.” “It’s those Islamic extremists and terrorists!” I tried to pull up some information from my memory bank, some small bit of knowledge to help me process this; but I could think of nothing. My mind was empty of answers, but so full of questions. I knew so little about the Arab nations.
Who was Al-Qaeda? Isn’t Islam a religion? Why would a religious group instigate such devastation and death? As those around me were so sure of their assessments and assignment of guilt, I was beset with questions.
As the days and weeks unfolded the extent of the destruction and death of this horrific attack, my questions grew to monumental proportions. As I heard the TV commentators and newsmen entertain different thoughts and ideas I kept hearing Islam named as a culprit; as a force of great evil.
And the questions continued. Could a nation of faith like Islam be so cold and devious and evil? Were they all right? Was this an attack from the Islamic community and culture? I did not have enough knowledge to know. I could not decide if these accusations were valid or if they were the result of uninformed media or perhaps just malicious propaganda. I simply did not know.
I searched my knowledge bank to try to recall what I might have been taught or heard about Islam. The thoughts were, at best, sketchy, and came slowly.
I somehow thought I remembered that Muslims did not believe in Jesus. They did not believe in the Bible. They pinned their faith not in God but in Mohammad, I could not remember who Mohammad was supposed to be except that he was a man. They dressed oddly. Oh, and yes, somewhere I got the idea or heard they were an extremist group of people who thought that fighting and killing brought them favor with God.
Was this information true? Was it exaggerated? I did not know. What I did know, however, was that I had to find out the truth …I had to know more in order to make my decision. Those around me obviously felt they knew enough to make their decisions about guilt. I did not. The one thing I knew was that I would have to learn enough to reconcile this event.
Two weeks later I bought the first of many books. It was a small paperback book called Teach Yourself Islam. It was interesting and informative but all it really did was open the door. My thirst grew at a fairly rapid pace and I quenched it with reading. I eventually did something I never thought I would do….I entered a chat room online. It was not my habit nor my style. But one night I became very bored and found myself just cruising through chat rooms. It quickly became evident that I was not chat savvy as I had no real luck chatting.
Eventually, however, and it was really quite accidental, I found myself in an Arab American chat room. I read the conversations of others with an odd sense of curiosity. When someone sent me an instant message, I hesitantly answered with a sense of fear and anticipation.
What grew from that chat was a wonderful relationship that took me even farther than I imagined into the dynamics of the Islamic faith. I learned of some wonderful references and books to read. I devoured each one, hungry for the next. I watched videos and I read, and read, and read.
After about 6 months of studying I began to feel very touched, but in a special way that still is very hard for me to describe. I began to feel a connection with God that never before had I experienced. So many things that had all my life had seemed so mysterious now seemed to make sense.
The puzzle seemed to be coming together in a very realistic and very understandable fashion. But more importantly it was what was happening in my heart that made all the difference in my life, then and now. There was and is an indescribable peace that descended upon me and filled me with such completeness that there is no real way to explain it beyond miraculous.
I learned that the essential creed of Islam is two parts; There is no God but Allah and that Muhammed is the Prophet of God; “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah.
My study took on a new relevance. My hunger grew. I learned that the things I thought I knew about Islam were so totally wrong that it was at though I really knew nothing at all. I learned that being a Muslim has nothing at all to do with being an Arab but simply means “one who submits.”
I learned that the concept of Islam is a very simple one. It is simply an act of submission to God; a recognition and declaration that there is One God, Supreme and Unique and that God gave his revelation to the Arab prophet Muhammad and this is the genuine and final and complete revelation from God and it supersedes all that came before it. I learned that the essential creed of Islam is two parts; There is no God but Allah and that Muhammed is the Prophet of God; “La ilaha illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah.
Read Part II
Source : AboutIslam