Dr. Laurence Brown
There is a certain fascination with conversion stories, and for good reason. Frequently they involve dramatic life-altering events, sufficient to shock the convert out of the materialistic world and into the spiritual. Most who pass through such moments of trial and panic experience an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, and turn to their Creator in prayer. In virtually every case I know, they forget the strained theological formulas they have been taught and instinctively pray directly to our Creator.
For example, a lady once related her ‘Born Again Christian’ conversion story on a popular evangelical television show. This lady told how she had been the sole survivor of a terrible boat-wreck. During her days and nights alone in the harsh elements of the open ocean, she told how God spoke to her, guided her and protected her and how, seeking His favor, she prayed to God and to God Alone. In her long tale, she mentioned God over and over again, and never once mentioned Jesus Christ. However, the moment she was saved by a passing ship, she threw her arms open to the heavens and yelled, “Thank you, Jesus!”
There is a lesson here. When in panic and stress, people instinctively pray directly to God, without intermediary or intercessor. That is the default setting of our spiritual consciousness. However, when relieved of their distress, people frequently return to their previously held theological formulas, no matter how strained or bizarre. All converts feel God saved them, and that the miracle of their salvation justifies their beliefs. But there is only One God, so it makes sense that there can only be one religion that is true in all aspects.
Hence, only one group can be right and all others are, to one degree or another, wrong. For the latter group, their personal miracles serve to confirm them upon disbelief rather than upon truth. As Allah teaches in the Holy Qur’an, “Allah leaves astray whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ — Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an: 13:27) and “So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.” (TMQ 4:175) As for those astray in disbelief, our Creator leaves them to stray upon whatever misdirected path they themselves choose.
So who will become Muslim based upon my conversion story? Only one person: me. Muslims might appreciate my story, others might not. Either way, here it is:
In 1990, I was in the last year of my ophthalmology residency at George Washington University hospital in Washington, DC. My second daughter was born October tenth. To my great dismay, she was a dusky, gunmetal blue from the chest to the toes. Her body was not getting enough blood, and the cause was found to be a coarctation of the aorta — a critical narrowing in the major artery from the heart. Needless to say, I was shattered.
Being a doctor, I understood she needed emergency surgery, with a poor chance of long-term survival. A consultant pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon was called from across town, and I left him in the neonatal intensive care unit to examine my daughter.
With no companion but my fears, I went to the hospital prayer room and fell to my knees. A product of Christian-American heritage dating back to 1677, nonetheless this was the first time that I even partially recognized God. I say partially, for even then I prayed the prayer of a skeptic, “Oh, God, if you are there . . .” I promised that if God existed, and if He saved my daughter and then guided me to the religion most pleasing to Him, that I would follow.
I returned to the neonatal ICU roughly fifteen minutes later, and was shocked when the consultant told me that my daughter would be fine. True to his assessment, within the next two days her condition resolved miraculously, without medicine or surgery. She grew to be a perfectly normal child and as of this date — July 2008 — is on the verge of her eighteenth birthday.
Now, as I said before, I am a doctor. And although the consultant provided a medical explanation for my daughter’s miraculous recovery, I simply didn’t buy it. I remember him explaining about a patent ductus arteriosis, low oxygenation and spontaneous resolution. But I also remember thinking, “No,” my daughter’s salvation was not a medical miracle, but a divine one. Many who make promises to God in moments of panic find or invent excuses to escape their part of the bargain, once God relieves them of their distress. I could easily have assigned my daughter’s recovery to the doctor’s explanation rather than to a miracle from God.
But faith had entered my heart, and it wouldn’t leave. We had cardiac ultrasounds taken before and after, showing the stricture one day and gone the next, and all I could think was that God had made good on His part of the deal, and I had to make good on mine. Even if there was a medical explanation, that was nothing more than the pathway by which Almighty God chose to answer my prayer and effect His decree. I did not then, and I do not now, accept any other explanation.
For the next few years I tried to fulfill my side of the bargain, but failed. I studied Judaism and a large number of Christian sects. I felt I was on the right track, close to the truth but not upon it. I never fully embraced any specific Christian formula, for I could not reconcile the differences between Christian canon and Jesus’ teachings. Eventually I was introduced to the Holy Qur’an and Martin Lings’s biography, Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources.
During my years of study, I had encountered the Jewish scriptures’ reference to three prophets to follow Moses. I had concluded that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were two, but that left one. In the New Testament Jesus Christ spoke of a final prophet to follow.
When I found the Holy Qur’an teaching the oneness of God, as both Moses and Jesus Christ had taught, I become convinced Muhammad was the predicted final prophet. Suddenly, everything made sense: The continuity in the chain of prophethood and revelation, the One-ness of Almighty God, and the completion of revelation in the Holy Qur’an. It was then that I became Muslim.
Pretty smart, hunh? No, I would err greatly if I believed that I figured it out for myself. One lesson I have learned is that there are a lot of people more intelligent than I who have not learned the truth of Islam. It is not a matter of intelligence but of enlightenment, for “…whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart” (TMQ 64:11), “Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ 42:13), “And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.” (TMQ 24:46)
So I thank Allah that He chose to guide me, and I attribute that guidance to one simple formula: recognizing our Creator, praying to Him and to Him alone, and sincerely seeking His guidance. And whom He guides, none can lead astray.