Converts Like Us is a new Rational Religion series highlighting the experiences of converts to Islam Ahmadiyya. We begin with Alex Borthwick, a physics student from the North of England, who found God in the teachings of Islam.
Assalamu Alaikum, (peace be on you).
It was the Saturday of Jalsa Salana 2016, the massive annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I sat down opposite an Ahmadi brother, (Tahir from Rational Religion), and expressed my foremost concern with religion. I stated that I studied physics at university and that the scientific method worked in such an elegant way of eliminating the incorrect propositions and establishing ones which were true, (or at least approached the truth in the overall direction). I expressed to him that I had had a personal relationship with God for as long as I can remember, but that no religion offered anything consistent. None offered a clear methodology whereby I could satiate my spiritual ambitions. I knew of course that many members of other religions claimed to be spiritual; but all of them were exceedingly inconsistent in their teachings, and I observed that their claim didn’t match what I could see. I argued that I should be able to see it as clearly as I see sunlight being dispersed through a prism. I should be able to see a clear difference in spirituality and morals of those of a faith with a Living God compared to all other people. I should be able to follow a clear methodology from an All-Knowing Creator. I should be able to feel myself getting close to Him as a direct consequence of following this method. Other religions had a bit of information here and there, but in their vagueness and disorderliness they weren’t living up to scientific expectation. A Divinely guided faith however, being created by the same Creator of the scientific laws, must be even more capable of producing results.
To this Tahir replied:
‘Look, I cannot convince you that Islam Ahmadiyyat is true or not. I can put forward the theory and the claim, but to know if it is a Divinely guided religion that will get you to God, all you need to do is ask Him. Make an extra effort to pray to Him and pay some charity and He will see you want guidance to His faith. If we’re true, you’ll get a response from Him telling you it’s the right path. If we’re not, then you won’t.’
To me this was a breath of fresh air! I had finally got someone presenting a religion that was promoting success or failure of results as a means to claim its truth. No compulsion on blind faith. Not merely rational but experimental. Investigate and if you don’t get a result then move on. Then he added something else:
‘I promise you though, if you’re sincere, within 3 months you will have got a response from God’.
The icing on the cake; complete certainty of faith. Truth has a stubbornness about it; two plus three makes five, increased mass gives increased force. Whether you like it or not, they’ll remain the same. And here was someone associating that with religious faith alongside no fear of someone going off and testing it themselves. So what happened once I began my quest of studying and following the Qur’an and praying to God more and more? I had read and heard of the wealth of religious experiences in this community in books such as My Mother and the Essence of Islam series. I had learnt of the miraculous survival of Ahmadis in the plagues of India in the 19th and 20th centuries. Unlike all other religions today, those miracles of the past in The Torah, The Bible etc. were being lived today. I was enthused but needed to know if I could experience them myself. You see, something phenomenal happens when one studies the Qur’an with a sincere heart. I had heard of its apparent ‘magical’ qualities, (with slight scepticism at first). Nonetheless, I began reading it and at first it felt just like any other religious book. Then, however, as I read more, it was as if something was born inside me. For the first time I could literally feel my soul inside of me. For those of you who wear glasses (or perhaps when using a magnifying glass, say), it was as if all my life I had taken the blurred perception of the world around me as normal, and then this book focused everything to clarity. For the first time I could see God in everything. I could feel His presence more than I would feel a person’s presence when standing next to me.
Alas, for the reader this probably will mean nothing. Perhaps it also won’t mean much if I were to tell you that as I developed this relationship with God via the Qur’an, I was informed of events happening before they did by Him. When some trial or felicity is ahead of me now, I am informed by Allah of it approaching. What I will say to the reader is this; do not take my word for it, don’t believe me, because you have no reason to. Take inspiration from what I have said, because either I, alongside all the other members of the Ahmadiyya Community, am either delusional or telling the truth. However, when someone comes to you with certainty regarding something, it deserves investigation. What people such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris don’t tell you is that they will never have given religion a sincere look into. Despite being scientists, they will have never experimented with religion themselves before denying it to the world. What they do is use their own narrow perception of religion and use that view to make sweeping generalisations of all religions. So if you want to prove or disprove me for yourself, then repeat my experiment.
Read the Qur’an sincerely, pray to God for truth, pay some charity and research the Ahmadiyya Community’s claim and you’ll find out if it’s true or not. I promise you though, if you’re sincere, within 3 months you will have got a response from God.
We thank Alex for sharing his experience with Rational Religion, and look forward to future contributions. You can read more about Alex’s story here.