By Yusef’ Abdul-Lateef
From an early age, in fact as far back as my pre-teens, I was, although I believed in God, obsessed and not clear about the idea of God, heaven, hell, and His creation. My parents, may Allah bless their souls, were Christians, adherents of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Therefore, they raised me within that religious discipline, which they believed to be good for me. They sent me to Sunday School and many other church activities, and after I became a grown man and began to travel, I always carried a Bible with me, which I would read not infrequently.
Throughout my teens, into my twenties, I intuitively believed in the benevolence of God and the goodness and brotherhood of mankind. I continually searched for religious and spiritual understanding. When I read something in the Bible that I didn’t understand or when I heard something preached in church that I didn’t understand, I would ask for explanations from elders of the church.
My somewhat perplexed state of mind concerning my position as one of God’s creations continued on into my late twenties. At the age of 27, while living in Chicago, Illinois, I met by chance, Ṭālib Dawūd, an Ahmadī Muslim. There was something about his appearance and mannerisms that prompted me to ask him “What are you into?” as was the colloquial expression at that time. Without hesitation, he said that he was Muslim, and that he was a member of the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islām. From that moment we became friends and within a few hours of meeting him, he gave me some literature, which contained some of the writings of Ḥadrat Mirzā Ghulām Aḥmad, Promised Messiah and Mahdī (peace be on him), and Ḥadrat Mirzā Bashīr-ud-Dīn Mahmūd Ahmad, Second Successor to Ḥadrat Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (may Allāh be pleased with him).
During that year, which was 1947, I continued to read the various literature published by the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islām, and from time to time I would attend Islāmic classes at the Mosque in Chicago located at 4448 South Wabash. Although, I had not begun saying the five daily obligatory prayers, I continued to read the Ahmadiyyah literature.
In 1948 I moved to New York, where I found myself visiting the Mosque and continued to read Islāmic literature published by the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islām. Finally, in candor I can say, I believed that, as a result of reading the writings of Ḥadrat Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, and Ḥadrat Mirzā Bashīr-ud-Dīn Maḥmūd Aḥmad, Second Successor to the Promised Messiah, the angels of God descended on me. What I am trying to say is that at that point, I believed in my heart that the message of Islam promulgated through the Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islam was true. Subsequently, in 1948, I became Muslim, and accepted Ahmadiyyat. I believed that it was incumbent on me to do so. At that moment I felt that to not embrace Islam was equivalent to turning my back on God or the truth. I was convinced then, as I am now, that the way of Ahmadiyyat is the path of truth, the path followed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). I am convinced that it is the path where one does not encounter destruction. I am convinced that it is the path where I and my family can find salvation. I am convinced that it is the true Universal Brotherhood for all mankind.
Al-hamdu lillāh, that I’m no longer perplexed, as I was early on in life about questions such as, Is God the Father? or, Is God the Son? or, is God the Holy Ghost? It is that, I believe in Islam because Islam does not compel me to accept enigmatic matters of religion merely on authority. Islam has furnished me with convincing arguments in support of its doctrines, one of which leaves no doubt, in my mind, that Allah alone is the Lord of all the Worlds. Al-Ḥamdu Lillāh that I am no longer perplexed about Divine Law and its benefits, revelation and its importance, resurrection and the life after death, heaven and hell. I am convinced, Al-Ḥamdu Lillāh that Islam which is embodied in the Holy Qur’ān, the Ḥadīth, and Sunnah gives detailed answers to all the questions I have ever entertained. In reality, Islam furnishes me with the faith and understanding I have searched for early on in life, and as well it satisfies my spiritual nourishment and my intellect. In fact, I perceive Islam as the perfect religion, perfected by God and offered to mankind through the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) for mankind’s eternal evolution. Al-Ḥamdu Lillāh.
Dr. Yūsef A. Lateef teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After becoming an Ahmadī Muslim, Br. Yūsef has experienced, Divine Signs, first hand. Edited from Al-Nahl, No. 2, Winter 1993/Spring 1993.