Mrs. MAVISH B. JOLLY (G.B.)
I was born as a Christian in Britain. I was babtized, and I was raised with an education based on learning what is written in today’s copies of the Bible. As I was a child, whenever I went to the church I was deeply impressed by the various lights, the candles burning on the pulpit, the music, the smells of incense, and the monks in magnificent attirements. The prayers that I listened to without understanding their meanings would make me shiver. I think I was a devoted Christian. In the course of time, however, as I reached higher levels of education, some questions began to rise in my mind. I began to find some faults in Christianity, in which I had held a full belief until that time.
As days went by, I noticed an increase in my doubts. I developed a gradual apathy towards Christianity. Eventually I ended up in a state of denial of all religions. That splendid sight of the church, which had been at one time the center of my infantile admiration, was now gone, like a phantom. By the time I graduated from the school, I was an atheist in the full sense of the term. It did not take me long, however, to realize that believing nothing would hollow the human soul, leaving a perpetual mood of despair weakness. The human being definitely needed some power that would provide him refuge. Consequently, I began to study other religions.
I began with Buddhism. I minutely examined the essentials which they called ‘Eight Paths’. These eight essentials contained deep philosophy and beautiful pieces of advice. Yet there was not a certain right way that they showed, nor did they provide the information that would help you choose the right way.
This time I began to examine Magianism. While running away from trinity, I encountered a religion of many deities. Furthermore, that religion was too full with myths and superstitions to be accepted as a religion.
Then I began to study Judaism. It was not an entirely new religion for me, for the former section of the Bible, the Old Testament, was at the same time a part of the Judaic book Torah. Judaism could not satisfy me, either. Yes, Jews believed in one God, which I approved entirely. But it was all that; they denied all the other religious facts, and the Judaic religion, let alone being a guide, had been turned into a cult of various complicated forms of worship and rites.
One of my friends recommended that I practise spiritualism. “Taking messages from the spirits of the dead will stand for a religion,” he said. That would not satisfy me at all. For it took me only a short while to realize that spiritualism consisted in a manner of self-hypnotism and could therefore by no means be nutritive to the human soul.
The Second World War had ended, and I was working in an office. Yet my soul was still yearning for a religion. One day I saw an ad in a newspaper. It announced a “Conference on the divinity of Jesus (Îsâ ‘alaihis-salâm’),” and added that people from other religions would be admitted. The conference revived my deeplyrooted interest. For in that conference they were going to discuss Îsâ’s ‘alaihis-salâm’ being the son of God. I attended the conference, and met a Muslim there.
The answers that that Muslim gave to my questions were so beautiful and so logical that I decided to study Islam, which had never occurred to me before. I began to read the Qur’ân al-kerîm, the Holy Book of Muslims. To my astonishment, the rules stated in this book were by far superior to the statements made by most of the well-known statesmen of the twentieth century, which aroused strong feelings of admiration and adulation in me. These statements were quite above the human linguistic capacity. So I would no longer believe the lies that “the Islamic religion is a concoction. The Qur’ân alkerîm is a fable,” with which they had been dosing us for years.
The Qur’ân al-kerîm could not be a concocted book. Statements in that acme of perfection could be made only by a being above the human race. I was still hesitant, though. I spoke with some British women who had embraced Islam. I asked them to help me. They recommended some books to me. Among those books were ‘Mohammad and Christ’, which compared Muhammad ‘sall- Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa sallam’ with Îsâ ‘alaihis-salâm’, and ‘The Religion of Islam’, which described the Islamic religion. Another book, namely ‘The Sources of Christianity, explained in an extremely clear manner that most of the Christian acts of worship were the continuation of the rites that had been performed by primitive people, and that today’s Christianity is in actual fact an idolatrous religion.
I should avow that I felt bored when I read the Qur’ân al-kerîm for the first time. For it contained so many reiterations. It should be known that the Qur’ân al-kerîm is a book that impresses and penetrates the human soul slowly. To understand the Qur’ân alkerîm well and to attach yourself to it, you have to read it a number of times. So, the more I read this holy book, the more strongly did I become attached to it, so much so that I could not go to sleep without reading it every night. What impressed me most was the fact that the Qur’ân al-kerîm was a perfect guide for mankind. The Qur’ân al-kerîm did not contain anything that a person could not understand. Muslims looked on their Prophet as a human being like themselves. According to Muslims, the only aspect that made prophets different from other people was that their intellectual and moral levels were very high, they were sinless and faultless. They had by no means any proximity to divinity. The Islamic religion declared that no prophet would come after Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’. I objected to that. “Why should there be no other prophet,” I asked. My Muslim friend’s explanation was as follows: “The Qur’ân al-kerîm, the Holy Book of Muslims, teaches people all the elements of beautiful moral quality that a person should need, all the religious essentials, the path that will guide one to the approval of Allâhu ta’âlâ, and all the necessaries required for attaining peace and salvation in this world and the next.”
The veracity of these statements gets demonstrative evidence from the fact that the essentials in the Qur’ân al-kerîm, which are still the same as they were fourteen centuries ago, are perfectly consistent with today’s life-styles and today’s scientific levels. Yet I was still demurring. For we were now in 1954; fourteen centuries later, that is. I wondered if there was not an iota of obsolescence in Islam that would make at least one of the principles communicated by Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’, who was born in 571, inconsistent with today’s conditions? I embarked on an assiduous quest for mistakes in Islam. My efforts to find fault in Islam despite the fact that my soul had already attained a complete belief in Islam, -so much so that the verity of the Islamic religion was like a live picture in front of my eyes-, should no doubt have been rooted in the vilifications of Islam iterated by priests for the purpose of imposing into our infant minds the idea that Islam was a very defective, inferior and heretical religion.
The first file to rake around in was polygamy. Here, I had found an important loophole. How come a man could marry four women (at the same time)? When I asked about that, my Muslim friend, whom I have mentioned earlier, explained the matter as follows: “The Islamic religion appeared in a society where a man could cohabit with as many women as he liked without any official responsibility towards them. With a view to restoring the woman into her proper place in society, the Islamic religion pared down the number of women that a man could marry, and stipulated that he should support the women, mete out justice among them, and pay them (the canonically prescribed) alimony in the event of a divorce. Furthermore, if a woman had no one to support her, she could join a family as a member, not as a slave, of the family.
Moreover, marrying four women was not a religious commandment enjoined on men. It was a permission with provisos. Marrying more than one women was forbidden for men who would not be able to fulfill the stipulations. It was for this reason that many a man had only one wife. Marrying up to four women was a kind of tolerance.” On the other hand, the Mormons in America compelled every male member to marry several women. My Muslim friend asked, “I wonder if the British men cohabit with only one woman?” I confessed in embarrassment, “Today all European men enter into relations with various women both before marriage and even after they get married.” Then the words of my Muslim friend reminded me of the story of a young woman who had lost her husband in the war World War had ended, and a programme called ‘Dear Sir’ on a British radio announced the following request of a poor young woman: “I am a young woman. I lost my husband in the war. I have no one to care for me now. I need protection. I am ready to be the second wife of a good natured man and to carry his first wife on my head. All I want is to put an end to this loneliness.”
This shows that the Islamic polygamy is intended to satisfy a need. It is only a permission, not a commandment. And today, when unemployment and poverty are making the rounds over the entire world, there is next to no place left where it is practised. These thoughts completely eradicated the possibility that I would any longer look on polygamy as a fault in Islam. Then, with the presumption of having found another defect, I asked my Muslim friend, “How can the five daily prayers be adjusted to our life-styles today? Wouldn’t so many prayers be too much?” He smiled, and asked me, “Sometimes I hear you playing the piano. Are you interested in music?” “Very much,” was my answer. “All right. Do you practise daily?” “Of course. As soon as I am back home from work, I play the piano at least two hours every day.” Upon this, my Muslim friend said, “Why do you find it too much to pray five times daily, which would take you only half an hour or forty-five minutes in all? As you might lose your proficiency in playing the piano if you did not have practice, likewise the less one thinks of Allâhu ta’âlâ or thanks Him for His blessings by prostrating oneself, the farther away will the way leading to Him become. On the other hand, praying daily means making progress step by step in the right way of Allâhu ta’âlâ.” He was so right!
There was no obstacle to my accepting Islam now. I embraced the Islamic religion with all my soul and conscience. As you see I did not choose it at first sight and without thinking at all; on the contrary, I became a Muslim after examining Islam minutely, looking for the possible faults in it and finding their answers, and reaching the conclusion that it is an immaculate religion. Now I boast about being a Muslim.