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Q.  I’m simply curious as to why a Greek would choose a religion that is so antithetical to his or her own culture. Beyond that, there are more general questions about Islam and its treatment of non-believers that I, as a non-believer, would like answered. Perhaps you can help.

A.  Thank you for asking about our religion and coming forth with your question.  I will answer the question based on my own experience as a Greek convert.  I know this is a really long post, but please bear with me.

(Special note to the questioner: Before we start, I have a special request, actually two.  First, I need you to forget about your culture for just a few minutes and think openmindely and objectively.  Second, I would like you to make a prayer.  I know you wouldn’t normally agree to this since you are an agnostic, but please, just try it.  It’s not going to hurt.  Turn to the one who created the heavens and the earth (whoever you think that is and even if it’s ‘unknown’) and say, ‘The one who created the heavens and the earth, if you have the power, strength and knowledge to create these, then you surely have the power to show me the truth. If you are out there, guide me to the truth, whatever that may be’  I know this might sound insane to you, but please trust me on this one. )

I’m serious, just try it.

For me, it all started when I was very young (about 7 years old, actually!) when I first started to contemplate on what the purpose of life is.  I’ve never really understood it but growing up, it would sometimes become a burning question that I did not have an answer to.  Without an answer, I would then often drift into “go with the flow” mode, where the purpose of life is the ol’ get a good education, get a good paying job, get married, by a house and a nice car…. and then, well, die.

I first met Muslims in my university classes.  Before that, they were always around me but I just never noticed.  I honestly naively thought that the entire world was full of Christians only! Can you believe it?  I thought it was a really strange thing that anyone would believe in some wierd god, oppress their women and speak some wierd language but I was still respectful to them because I felt sorry for them.

Later our discussions transformed into full-fledge debates at the student cafeteria.  I was their staunch opponent.  I started becoming more and more practising as a Greek Orthodox and going back to the church, perhaps because I felt that I had to defend my religion – everything that I was raised with. 

Without that much knowledge about Islam, it was harder to convince them that they were dead wrong, so when no one was looking, I would sneak into the library and try to find some books about Islam.  What I found were some books that looked like they were published 1000 years ago – they were so ancient, it seemed!  So, then I started to search online as well.  I needed some substantial evidence to prove that they were wrong.

Then everything changed.  I made a prayer that God show me the truth.   I wanted to know and I was so sincere in that prayer. 

I was absolutely sure that the truth would be Christianity and that the Muslims will soon find out but God had another plan for me. 

When no one was looking, I started to step back from my preconceived notions and started to think objectively for the first time in my life.  Why are Muslims so strict about not associating Jesus (peace be upon him) as God?  Don’t they know that we need Jesus to be a salvation for our sins?

I went to visit our local priest and asked him a lot of questions, especially about the trinity.  I finally had the guts to nonchalantly bring up the word ‘Islam’ (for all those Greeks out there, you know how hard that would be!) but as soon as I uttered that word, his eyes immediately bulged out of his head and he strongly suggested that I stay away from those bad people.  However, the problem was that he didn’t answer my questions with proper answers.  It was all a big run-around.

That just left me on my own to find out.  Slowly, with more and more research and evidence, my heart was realizing the truth of one God without partners but my mind was opposing it with all its might.  I just couldn’t even dream of leaving everything known to me – my religion, my culture, my family, my rituals and celebrations- behind.

Then it happened in my bedroom.  I was finishing up some more reading on the subject and contemplating heavily if Jesus is really God or not.  All of a sudden, within a few seconds, I felt something go through me very quickly, as if it was some fresh air or spirit washing out my heart and then BOOM (!), automatically, I felt this massive, I mean massive, sense of tranquility and almost said outoud, ‘Jesus is not God!’. 

Then immediately after that, I thought, ‘How in the world am I going to tell my parents that I am Muslim?’

I know what I am writing is going to be extremely difficult for some to believe.  No, I was not possessed by some devil or spirit.  Actually, I found when speaking to other converts that some of them related the same thing to me (before I even mentioned my story to them).  Now, after knowing more about Islam, I do believe that it was God answering my initial prayer and it was, perhaps, an angel, under the instruction of God, who cleansed my soul of the prior disbelief.

So, this is a super long post – sorry for that- so to conclude, I would like to answer your question, why would a Greek choose a religion so antithetical to his or her own culture?  Well, for a few reasons. 

First, it wasn’t my intention to do so.  In fact, it was the complete opposite but in my search for the truth, I found that it was that God is one without any partners.  I later found the answer to my question of what the purpose of life is explicitly mentioned beautifully in the Qur’an.

Second, after seeing all this truth, my priorties in life changed drastically.  I no longer was going with the flow for worldly success only.  I now had (and have) a primary goal of reaching paradise so whatever I can do to take me there, I will do.  If that is to leave some of my cultural aspects that contradict worshipping one God without associating partners, then I will do so. 

Third, becoming a Muslim does not mean I forfeit my culture.  In fact, Islam embraces diversity of all cultures.  For example, I have lots of friends who are Pakistani, Somalian, Arab, Greek, Bosnian, Canadian, British, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Spanish, etc who are Muslim.  Islam embraces culture and actually Islamic law is very dynamic in the sense that it changes with the people, culture, customs, generations, technology etc.

This is why we say we are Greek Muslim.  I hope that I have answered your question fully and that it has given you greater understanding of us.  I pray that the creator of the heavens and the earth show you the truth. 

I hope that we can create a discussion based on sincerity, honesty and respect.  I look forward to receiving your top 3-5 questions about the other aspects of Islam you have.

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Recently, we’ve been having some discussions about Shia Islam so I wanted to start this thread to organize all the comments. 

I’m going to move all of the comments over to this post so we can continue the discussion here so please post below.

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(Translated loosely as ‘Wishing you well being every year’)

 

I just got confirmation from our local community that tomorrow,

Tuesday, September 30 is Eid day

Things have been a little crazy in preparation for the big day so that’s why I haven’t been posting as much. 

I pray that Allah has accepted our fast, prayers, dua and good deeds.  Ameen.

May Allah give you a joyous Eid celebration. 

Taqqabal Allah mina wa minkum.  (May Allah accept from us and from you all.)

 

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Oh, and for those of you who gave feedback about me using Arabic phrases (that for the most part are common knowledge to Muslims around the world regardless of the dozens of languages that they speak), here is an Islamic phrase glossary to help you out.  Hope that helps! 😉

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Ok, I have no idea if this is true or not but if it is, I want to emphasize that this tragic event has NOTHING to do with Islam, even if the guy is Muslim.  And there is much evidence to prove that this is absolutely wrong.

Does anyone know if this news report is even true?  I couldn’t find an “About Us” page on the website its published at.

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Source:  Daily Times (Pakistan)

Published date: September 26, 2008

 

ATHENS: Police have arrested a Pakistani in Athens after he allegedly tried to set his Greek wife on fire and then stole her purse, the semi-state Athens News Agency said on Thursday. They had an argument as they drove in the western Athens district of Peristeri on Wednesday, ANA said. The suspect then poured a container of gasoline over the woman who was in the driver’s seat, jumped out of the car and attempted to set it on fire. He was thwarted by people passing by and fled, but not before grabbing his wife’s purse. The man was later arrested outside his house, ANA said. afp

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I found this article to be quite interesting considering I didn’t even know there were that many mosques in Bulgaria to begin with! 

 

Source:  Adnkronos.com   

Published Date: September 24, 2008

 

Bulgaria’s highest Muslim authority has announced the closure of 200 mosques due to a lack of religious leaders or imams to lead prayers.

“Although the number of faithful has grown, we are forced to close the mosques due to a lack of religious leaders,” said Bulgaria’s Grand Mufti, Mustafa Haji.

“Many years of Communist rule and a lack of funds are the reasons for this crisis,” he said.

Bulgaria has 1,500 mosques, but only 900 are currently open to the faithful and 200 of those are likely to be shut down indefinitely.

Bulgaria has 8.7 million inhabitants, of whom 12 percent are Muslim. The country joined the European Union in January last year.

Most Muslims in the country are Bulgarians of Turkish origin that have been living in the area since the time of Ottoman rule from the late 14th until the late 19th century.

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The other day, a family sponsored an iftar dinner specifically for converts.  I thought that was really nice since, many times, converts don’t have a big circle of Muslim family or friends to enjoy socializing as much as others.

Now, Eid is coming up. 

Eid is supposed to be a fun time but that might not be the case for converts.  While others always have their families to visit, the only place many converts can visit on the Eid day is the prayer. 

Many converts won’t tell you this but they really do WANT you to invite them over.  Otherwise, many times, the only place that they go after the morning prayer is, well, you guessed it…home.

What’s really nice is if your community has a Family Eid Day party/gathering or children’s festival on the same day as Eid. That way, at least converts can attend and feel part of the celebration too.

Logistically, this doesn’t always work out and more than not, Eid parties are shifted to the weekend because that’s when most people are free.

So, if you know someone with no where to go on the Eid, here’s an idea:  invite them over! 🙂

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We can relate to the example of purifying gold by extracting it from unwanted metals of particles, but I find it interesting that the literal meaning of zakat means the same thing -to grow (in goodness), increase, purify or make pure, just like you would do to your gold. 

 

So, we give a very small portion of our assets to purify our wealth, to protect us from misfortunes and to gain Allah’s blessing to make it grow in goodness.

 

Many people like to pay their zakat in Ramadan.  Here are the recipients you can pay it out to:

 

  1. Poor
  2. Needy
  3. Those who administer the zakah
  4. Those whose hearts are reconciled for Islam (new Muslims or non-Muslims opening their hearts to Islam etc.)
  5. To free the slaves
  6. Those unable to pay their debts
  7. Travelers rendered helpless
  8. In the way of Allah

 

(Note: These categories are mentioned in the Qur’an in Surah At-Tawbah:60)

 

 

Many people tend to have lots of questions about how to go about calculating zakat etc. so you can post your questions/comments here below and I will try to answer or find the answer for you insha Allah.

 

 

 

 

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