By Ricardo Peña, Convert Support Group
One of the many things that I find fascinating about Islam in general and the Quran in particular is that they contain something of interest to people of all different walks of life having a myriad of tastes, personalities, dispositions, and life experience. No matter who you are, if you approach the Quran with the right attitude, you are certain to come across something that you will find intriguing. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many people find Islam anywhere from interesting to admitting it’s the truth, they still find it rather difficult to bring themselves to embrace it. In fact, this can happen even if the person is already a Muslim.
One of the ways that the Quran appeals to people is by utilizing the ordinary business transaction as a metaphor. For example, in Surah As-Saf Allah (swt) says:
O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know.
– Quran, Surah As-Saf [61:10-11]
And in a warning Allah (swt) says in Surah Baqara:
Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided.
– Quran, Surah Baqara [2:16]
Derivatives of the Arabic word “ish’tara” (أشترى) meaning to buy, to purchase, or to exchange, are used in various ayat of the Quran having the effect of appealing to the business-minded. We all want the best deal. We negotiate, we use coupons, we join reward programs, and we’ll even battle through the madness of Black Friday in stores all in the pursuit of getting more for our money. Then when we do, it feels awesome.
Viewing Islam through the lens of a profitable business transaction has gotten me thinking about my deen at certain times. When dealing with financial matters I am reminded of the things I might purchase in this life that will yield a profit or loss in the next. If you think about it, almost anything could be a transaction that yields profit or loss on the Day of Judgement. If I give in charity, help someone with a problem, or even offer someone a smile, then it profits me in the next life. If I lash out in road rage to someone in another car, fail to perform one of my daily prayers, or break a promise, then I lose – a lot.
With the metaphor of a transaction representing our deeds, we can look at our spiritual rank like the volatility of the stock market, where each one of us is a unique ticker symbol of highs, lows, bull runs, and crashes. Then we can imagine our daily spiritual lives in the form of a stock chart. When we think of a stock chart, most of us have seen line graphs that look pretty much like the image below.
However, if you don’t already know, there’s another way to show a stock chart that conveys much more information than just the value of a stock at a given point in time by utilizing what is called a “candlestick.” As an example, below you’ll see the same stock chart from above in candlestick format.
The cool thing about this type of chart is that a single candle conveys multiple pieces of information beyond just the price at a given point in time. For the purposes of this article, instead of getting into the mechanics of all the financial information a candle conveys, there are three things I’d like to point out about a candlestick on a chart.
- For us, imagine that each candle represents one day.
- If a candle is green it means there was a gain in value.
- If a candle is red it means there was a loss in value.
So, what’s the point of all of this?
First, we must understand that each day we do and say things that cause our spiritual value to rise for that day and each day we do and say things that cause our spiritual value to fall on that day. At the end of each day we net out in the green (yielding a gain for us on the Day of Judgement) or we net out in the red (yielding a loss for us on the Day of Judgement). With this in mind, you can see as in the example chart above that we all experience some highs and lows. But every once in a while, just like in the stock market, we have a chance to score BIG.
Take a look at the next chart below.
Here you see a big day represented by the tall green candle to the right. This is what it’s like when we’ve done some good deed that Allah (swt) was very pleased with, producing a giant gain in our book of deeds. You can also imagine that this is what it’s like when a person converts to Islam, except that in the case of converting, the green candle is so high we could not possibly fit it on a single page or maybe even a thousand pages … and Allah knows best. It truly is a jackpot.
This is the kind of transaction that we are offered and yet so many people turn it down. I have experienced this myself with friends, family, and colleagues who see the truth and admit as much, but they still couldn’t bring themselves to embrace Islam. Why?
There are many barriers to embracing Islam such as devotion to their current religion, resistance from a spouse, or persecution from their family. These are all very challenging barriers to deal with to be sure but those reasons notwithstanding, the biggest barrier that I have seen to embracing Islam happens to be lifestyle. Confronted with the truth and the realization that the truth dictates that one must stop drinking alcohol, stop clubbing, stop dating, start praying, start dressing modestly, fasting, etc. the hesitation to embrace Islam is intense. It takes a great deal of integrity to stand by the truth in order to overcome those barriers. But the reward is worth it. If that big green candle above made you ten thousand dollars in a single day, how then would you feel if you got a much better deal on a Day when it counts the most?
The discomfort with embracing Islam or even certain aspects of our deen is nothing new. In Sahih Muslim we find the following hadith.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said:
Islam initiated as something strange, and it would revert to its (old position) of being strange. so good tidings for the stranger.
And in another narration, it continues.
It was said: “Who are the strangers?’ He said: “Strangers who have left their families and tribes.”
You see, Islam has become strange and awkward in these times. Even for the born Muslim it isn’t always easy to walk the talk of the deen. However, where one person sees a problem another person sees an opportunity.
If you want to earn a green spike in your spiritual stock chart, do that Islamic thing in your life that is strange to you for the sake of Allah. Whatever it is about our practice that puts us in an awkward situation with our friends, our family, or being at odds with our culture and tradition, then that is the time to get out of our comfort zone and embrace Islam.
As a harmless example, consider the practice of some people who say “Allah Hafiz” when they depart each other’s company. My wife is Pakistani and she along with her family does this so I’m not trying to pick on the desi culture. I’m just saying, look at it as an opportunity. Do you want to know what it feels like to be a Convert doing something that goes against the norm of the family? Then say “As-salaam walaikum” when you depart each other’s company instead of “Allah Hafiz.” Is it wrong to say “Allah Hafiz”? I’m not saying it’s wrong and indeed I actually have no idea if it is but that’s not the point. I suspect that if your family members are all saying “Allah Hafiz … Allah Hafiz” and you alone say “As-salaam walaikum” instead, then you are likely to feel awkward and they are likely to feel awkward as well. If that’s the case then welcome to the world of Converts.
Let’s face it, “As-salaam walaikum” is better. Is “Allah Hafiz” wrong? Perhaps not, but I would argue that the way the Prophet taught us is better. So why not embrace it? Take the first part of the 23rd hadith from the collection of 40 Hadith Nawawi for a hint on how valuable the Islamic words are.
On the authority of Abu Malik al-Harith bin Asim al-Asharee (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Purity is half of iman. ‘Al-hamdu lillah’ fills the scales, and ‘subhan-Allah and ‘Al-hamdulillah’ fill that which is between heaven and earth. And the salah is a light, and charity is a proof, and patience is illumination, and the Qur’an is a proof either for you or against you. …
And so, when you embrace the Islamic way over your culture perhaps you will be counted among the strangers and it would be incumbent upon me to give you glad tidings of a Day when you will see the towering result of your decision to favor Allah and His Messenger over the cultural practices of your tribe. Maybe doing what your family and friends do will bring you little-to-no harm as it stands today but consider the possibility that just as in our conversion to Islam, maybe that will be the one thing you do that will cause you to score BIG.
According to hadith, the Day of Judgement will be held on a Friday. It will be a sorrowful Black Friday for some and a very Blessed Friday for others. What will you purchase for a good deal on that day? As the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said in the final statement of the Nawawi hadith above …
… Every person starts his day as a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or causing its ruin.
May your Friday be a Blessed one … ameen
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Mecca Center.