Danielle LoDuca: ‘I was forced to accept Islam’

I never aspired to be a Muslim, I didn’t even want to be a Christian, writes Danielle LoDuca.

The whole concept of ‘organized religion’ was distasteful. I sought to use my mind, not resort to some ancient book for assistance in living my life.

If you had offered me millions of dollars to join one faith or another, I would have declined.

One of my preferred authors was Bertrand Russell, who maintained that religion is little more than superstition and generally harmful to people, despite any positive effects that it might have. He believed that religion and the religious outlook serve to inhibit knowledge and promote fear and dependency, in addition to being accountable for much of our world’s wars, persecution, and misery.

I remember laughing out loud while reading “Hey, Is That You God?” By Dr. Pasqual Schievella, in which he derided the concept of God through satirical dialogue. It all seemed so logical. Thinkers like us were surely above religious devotees, I thought smugly.

But, for me, it wasn’t enough to just think I was better off without religion. I wanted to systematically prove religions were no more than a hoax. I purposefully set out to do just that.

Yet, here I am. Muslim.

Sure, I made the declaration of faith, but the choice I had was really no choice at all. Essentially, I was compelled – forced to accept Islam.

Interestingly, in my talks with followers of religions, especially those other than Islam, I have often noticed that they clearly desire to believe. As if, no matter how many contradictions or errors are pointed out in their scriptures, they brush them aside and maintain their unquestioning faith.

Rarely do I ever find that the scriptures themselves convinced them, but rather they decided to have faith, and then the studies began after that decision, if at all. They knew what they believed, either by having been raised upon it, or like a friend of mine told me, “Islam seems foreign, so I never looked into it. Christianity is more familiar and convenient, because most of the people around me are Christian. So when I was seeking God, I chose Christianity.”

Personally, I never considered myself to be seeking God, but if I had, the last place I think I would have looked would have been in an old book, or a building, or a person.

Some people, who decide to believe in something at the outset, may then develop selective vision when it comes to learning the faith they’ve chosen. I had also decided to believe something; I chose to believe that religions were simply fabricated delusions of grandeur.

In actuality this notion was not built on hard facts, it was an assumption. I had no evidence. When I undertook reading the religious books, I was not biased towards them, but my intentions were to look for flaws. This approach helped me manage to maintain a fair amount of objectivity.

My paperback translation of the Quran had been acquired for free. I didn’t even stop to chat with the MSA students standing at the table stacked with books. I curtly asked, “Is it free?” When they replied in the affirmative, I grabbed one and continued on my way. I had no interest in them, only the free book to assist me in accomplishing my goal of debasing religions once and for all.

But, as I read that Quran; as its cover became worn and its pages tattered, I became more and more subdued. It was distinct from the other religious books I had also collected. I could understand it easily. It was clear.

A friend of mine once began ranting about how God in Islam is angry and vengeful. I came to its defense without even realizing it, opening it up and easily flipping to one of the many pages that said, “Surely, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

It was if the Quran was speaking to me directly – responding to my life. It was an “old book” but somehow, it was entirely relevant. Something about its cadence and imagery and the way it communicated to me intimately; It was exquisite beauty I hadn’t really felt before, reminiscent only of the moments I had spent out west, staring out over a seemingly endless desert landscape. I found it exhilarating; comparable to the way it felt running barefoot in the sand under the stars with powerful waves crashing at my side.

The Quran was appealing to my intellect. Offering me signs and then telling me to think, to ponder and consider. It rejected the notion of blind faith, but encouraged reason and intelligence. It directed humanity towards goodness, recognition of the Creator, plus moderation, kindness, and humility.

After some time, and life-changing experiences my interest intensified. I began reading other books about Islam. I found that the Quran contained prophecies, as did many of the hadiths. I found that the prophet Muhammad was corrected several times in the Quran. This seemed strange if he had in fact, been its author.

I had begun walking down a new path. Led by the amazing Quran, paired with the beautiful paradigm of devotion; the Prophet Muhammad. This man showed no signs of being a liar.

Praying through the nights, asking forgiveness of his oppressors, encouraging kindness. Refusing wealth and power and persevering with the pure message of devotion to God alone, he endured unfathomable hardship.

It was all so uncomplicated, easy to understand. We’ve been created; all this intricacy and diversity could not pop out of nothing. So follow the One who created us – Simple.

I remember the warm artificial lighting in my apartment and the weight of the air on the night I read this verse:

{Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We split them asunder and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?} (Quran 21:30)

My mind was split asunder when I read this. It was the Big Bang – suddenly not just a theory… And every living thing from water… wasn’t that what scientists had just discovered? I was astonished. It was the most exciting and yet frightening time of my life.

I read and studied and double-checked book after book until one night I sat in my library at Pratt Institute, staring wide-eyed at the piles of open books. My mouth must have been dropped open slightly. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I realized I had in front of me, the truth. The truth I had been so sure did not exist.

Now what?

There were only two choices and one was no choice at all. I could not deny what I had discovered, ignoring it and going on with my life as before, though I did consider it briefly. That left only one option.

I knew I had to accept it, because the only alternative was denying truth.

Danielle LoDuca is a third generation American. Although raised as a Catholic, she considered herself agnostic and was disdainful of religion until she chose Islam in 2002. She blogs at her own site in an effort to reveal the familiarity and relevance of Islam to those who are not Muslim. Follow her on FB at https://www.facebook.com/youramericanmuslimneighbor and on Twitter: @DanielleLoDuca

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Categories: Hadith, Islam

13 replies

  1. Strange.

    If the quran was the book that convinced the poor woman that islam was true, then why does she follow the precepts of the hadith – man made works of fiction written centuries after mohammed died that are not in any way supported in this supposed word of allah?

    In other words, she reads a book that declares absolute monotheism and decries paganism, but she worships (as do all muslims) like the pagans.

    She sounds confused.

    Like

    • Probably she understands the fact that hadiths written centuries after Muhammad(saw) were actually oral traditions passed down through numerous companions.

      If I’m not wrong, stories of Abraham(as), Noah(as) in the Torah were also written centuries after they died.
      The actual words of Jesus(as) in his native language is not even there.

      Regarding monotheism, there is only 1 choice out of Islam and Christianity for a truth seeker.

      Nothing can be more paganistic than worshipping an incarnate God.

      Like

    • You’ve avoided the answering the point. The quran does not command muslims to follow what is written in hadiths that were written well after mohammed died – where does allah command muslims to adhere to the words of Bukhari and Sahih Muslim?

      The quran does not command most of the practices of islamic worship – 5 prayers, kaaba circling 7 times, going to mecca for hajj, shahada, kissing the black stone, wudu, salat positions and on and on – none of it is in the quran. Most of it is pagan practices warmed over.

      So the problem remains, this woman was supposedly convinced by the quran, but then follows the dictates of the hadiths which are not divinely written. Seems like a bait and switch.

      Like

    • She could not sound more coherent or straight forward.

      You are the one who is confused. Confused and desperate.

      Glory be to Allah who guides whom he wills

      Liked by 1 person

    • If god guides whom he wills, then why do muslims have to follow some books other than the quran? And why aren’t people ever convinced to become muslims by reading the hadith?

      Like

    • Kev,

      The answer is quite simple. Qur’an does command prayer, zakat, fasting, etc. a number of times. Qur’an asks us to obey Muhammad(pbuh). 5 times prayer, hajj rituals, ablution etc. were all taught and demonstrated by Muhammad(pbuh) and practiced by thousands of his companions and passed down generation after generation.

      Hajj rituals are symbolic. How do you define what is paganistic or not ?. Worshipping an incarnate God is paganistic as incarnation is a common feature in most pagan religions. Human sacrifice is a pagan concept as well. I feel that the Old Testament practice of sacrificing animal and spraying blood on the altar as paganistic. Even setting up a bronze serpent and healing people through it sounds paganistic.

      Liked by 2 people

    • gabriel

      You are being transparently dishonest.

      If you pray 5 times a day, perform the salat the way the man made hadith command you to do and do all the other forms of islamic worship, then you are following the dictates of the pagans – allah does not command that muslims do these things the way muslims do it. What muslims follow are the traditions passed down from pagans and commanded by human beings.

      Like

    • Qur’an tells you to follow the Prophet peace be on him. “O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is best, and most suitable for final determination.” (4: 59). See https://learndeen.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/quran-tells-us-to-follow-the-sunnah-hadith-obey-the-messenger/

      ‘Hadiths’ mean ‘reports’. We have reports of what the Prophet, peace be upon him, said and did.

      Muslims follow only the authenticated and/or sound reports – not the fabricated ones. The authentication process is rigorous. See http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6522462-hadith

      Note. The Prophet peace be upon him got rid of traditional idolatry. Where are all the statues of (fake) Gods in the kaaba? Why do many churches have statues of Jesus nowadays?

      Having said that, many Muslims and Christians and others are worshipping newer idols of Modernity (for instance, the Self, or Materialism, are some examples) without fully being aware of it. We ought to come together against this. Just saying.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Kev said “You are being transparently dishonest.”

      I think you are being ignorant, unable to grasp even the basics.

      Our Prophet(pbuh) prayed 5 times a day. He did that for more than a decade in presence of thousands of companions who too did the same and taught it generation after generation. Even before hadith were written down, prayers were performed by Muslims uninterrupted in any time in history. Not everything is learned from books.

      You said” allah does not command that muslims do these things the way muslims do it. ”

      That just shows your ignorance.

      You said “What muslims follow are the traditions passed down from pagans and commanded by human beings.”

      I would say that the following is certainly pagan:
      1. Worshipping an incarnate God
      2. Human sacrifice
      3. Sacrificing an animal and pouring its blood on the altar (what is that for ?)

      Your doctrine is entirely pagan, unless you define that everything outside of Protestant Christianity is pagan.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Modwest

      You are equivocating.

      Nowhere in the quran does it say that you should follow books written by human beings centuries after mohammed died that tell you to worship allah using pagan rituals and practices.

      Just show me one place in the quran where it says you should worship like the pagans and adhere to Bukhari and Muslim. Just one place.

      As for the hadith being “rigourous” – that is a complete joke. The supposed rigour of the hadith is itself a tradition not supported by extensive manuscript evidence. And please don’t embarrass yourself by citing Muwatta – the earliest “manuscript” of muwatta consists of a solitary torn up sheet that was written decades after mohammed died – it isn’t even complete. The idea of an early complete muwatta hadith “collection” is merely another tradition that has little manuscript evidence to support it.

      In short, muslims are Bukhari-ists – you don’t worship according to the quran because you can’t. The quran gives no details of such things so you have to rely on man made books that make historical claims that have little historical credibility.

      As for idolatry – by imitating a human being by doing what the hadith tell you, even though it explicitly contradicts the supposed word of allah is itself idolatry. Copying a human being to worship god amounts to worshiping the human being.

      This is the greatest evidence that islam is not from Yahweh and is not part of the judaic tradition – no prophet of the true god is meant to be imitated. The word of god should be enough. for jews and christians god’s revelations are enough, no mere human prophet and servant of god can provide an example that supersedes the clear word of god.

      This is exactly what muslims do – else, why perform rituals and worship in ways that you holy book doesn’t even come close to commanding?

      As for being commanded to follow the example of mohammed, in lieu of many examples in the quran that should be followed, it is likely that this verse is an interpolation added later by people who wanted muslims to follow the man made hadith.

      Why would your god tell you to follow the example of a flawed human being and not actually provide many examples of, or even tell you where to read about these examples? How do you know that allah was talking about the hadith of Bukhari and co when he commands that you follow mohammed’s example?

      You simply have no idea whether that was what the quran is referring to. LOL.

      Like

    • I guess modwestmuslim hasn’t thought about the many problems of worshiping allah through the filter of the paganistic rituals commanded by Bukhari in the hadith.

      Like

    • @Kev,

      The claims you make are unfounded.

      Muslims were praying five times a day long before Bukhari. To say that Muslims are Bukhari-ists because on this basis is nonsense. Were the Zaydis, proto-Shias and Kharijites followers of Bukhari? All of these groups and their heirs prayed the five prayers. The prayer was passed down through living tradition of generations of people across a vast geograpichal area by individuals of differing political and sectarian views. Bukhari was just a recorder of this tradition like many before him

      If you don’t trust Muslim sources, consider non-Muslim Chinese sources that predate Bukhari mention that Muslims prayed five times a day and even mention the friday prayers.

      As for Muwatta, it was one of legal code books in Spain and North Africa. But even non-Maliki scholars of different legal traditions quote it and praise it greatly. It is highly attested across legal traditions of the schools of Fiqh. It is well-known that the Umayyads were the political faction that dominated Spain and North West Africa. But the Muwatta and other legal tracts that were practiced under them are full of legal traditions that pass through the Zubayrids, a rival family. Why would the Umayyads patronise documents that has the legal traditions and case precedents of their political opponents? Answer- because they understood these narrations as going back to a source that preceded the Zubayrids.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kev,

    I don’t see the writer talking much or anything about the hadith.

    I think you completely missed the essence and even the details of her article.

    Regards the issue you bring up, I don’t have time to talk much about it but I will leave at what I have written below.

    Muslims are people like all other people.

    Most peoples are very fond of

    –tradition (of their overall culture/religion)
    –what their elders did (same thing as tradition in a sense but more narrowly to their parents, grandparents, relatives)
    –details…details…details…actually Surah Al Baqara in the Qur’an criticizes certain Jews for focusing on Jews to evade action and in missing the point

    So Muslims are tempted by the hadith and it is a strong temptation. Having said all that, I am not against hadith.

    Hadith are an important part of Islam that Muslims should indeed follow. However, Muslims need to realize that paramount is reason. In the Qur’an, reason is paramount….not hadith.

    The verses that say to follow the Prophet can mean to follow him in the important sacrifices he was asking this companions to make rather than putting their right foot in the shoe before the left foot (hadith).

    The verses can also be prescribing following these one-off statements by the Prophet but it is not very clear.

    God knows best. I think it is safer to follow hadith that are considered authentic and not conflicting with Qur’an, obvious facts, clear morals.

    I agree with comment above that hadiths are indeed helpful to carry out rituals prescribed in the Qur’an but even without the hadith, the mass transmitted practices from generation to generation would have been helpful…of course hadith helps further.

    But Muslims have made a serious mistake giving hadith the practical certainty as the Qur’an.

    According to God’s criteria in Surah 2(282), some 95% of “sahih” hadith do not fully meet the criteria for sufficient reliability.

    So what to do?

    Follow the hadith if they do not conflict with the Qur’an explicitly OR conflict with Quranic spirit and if they don’t clearly conflict with clear morals and intellect that the Qur’an commands us to use.

    Of course there will be gray issues.

    Do what is best in the gray issues.

    The stubborn ideologues and sectarians are too pushy in the gray areas and often they create more harm than benefit.

    God knows best.

    Kev, what religion are you?

    Check out the Qur’an with an open mind and open heart if you are not a Muslim.

    There are good translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Asad, Abdel Haleem, a very fine but sadly not known too much translation T B Irving (the original printing of T B Irving had made mistakes in missing some pages and duplicating others but I assume that all printings thereafter are fine).

    Peace.

    Like

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