By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Fanatical Christians often claim not to have heard of anyone being told by God to leave Christianity, while citing testimonies of “ex-Muslims” hearing directly from Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, to leave Islam. How much weight can we put in these claims, and how should Muslims respond to them?
Well firstly, how would anyone else know, that God, a vision of Jesus or angels, peace be upon them, told a person to join or leave this or that religion? Only the individual in question would know, as the experience remains firmly within the realm of personal perception.
What I find most peculiar, is how many people deny the experiences of those who are called to other than their own religion, while fully accepting every testimony that reinforces their own beliefs. Do they not see the hypocrisy in this?
As for myself, I can accept both the testimonies of those called to Christianity and Islam, even though I myself am a Muslim. If a person seems sincere, I can accept their testimony that God called them to Christianity. Why is this? Well, for starters, my faith is not one based upon exclusivity, but one firmly rooted in a personal relationship with Allah SWT. Personally, I’m not even that interested in religion as such. We all know organised religions are far from immune to corruption, and while acting in the name of a particular religion, religious authorities can completely contradict the messengers and the spirit of the very faith they proclaim to be acting in the name of.
Labels don’t interest me much either, Jew, Christian, Muslim, it doesn’t even occur to many people to question what these labels actually mean… Are they as mutually exclusive as some make out? Is Allah SWT really that bothered about what we label ourselves, which building we pray in, or rather what we actually believe and how we live our lives?
Psychologists know from decades of research that a person’s beliefs, culture and worldview tend to affect the dreams and visions they can have. Thus, even if someone is an Atheist or Agnostic, if they grew up in England or America, there is a very good chance that should they have a vision or dream, Christian imagery would be part of their experience. On the other hand, someone living in Egypt or Iran is more likely to have visions or dreams that consist of Islamic imagery. I fully accept that their experiences could be very genuine, but how much they’re from God or the product of their own minds, is certainly open to debate.
Religious fanatics have a tendency to drive people away from whichever religion they claim to be acting in the name of. Over zealousness is off putting, which is precisely why Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, advised us to direct this energy towards improving ourselves, while going easy on others.
Fanatics often don’t see the harm they do to the religions they claim to represent. Ultimately, Allah SWT will be okay, He’s in need of nothing. But it’s the congregations i.e. the communities that suffer as a consequence of the poorly thought through behaviour of a few. As is so often the case, a few spoiling it for the rest. May Allah have mercy upon us all.