Qur'an Wins Heart of US Professor Dr. Jeffrey Lang : From Atheism To Islam Katagori : Muslim Convert News <http://swaramuslim.net/islam/weblog.php?id=C0_48_4> Oleh : Redaksi <http://swaramuslim.net/> 26 Jul 2007 - 8:18 am <http://swaramuslim.net/islam/comments.php?id=5425_0_4_0_C> By Ammar Bakkar, Arab News [image] Dr. Jeffrey Lang is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas, one of the biggest universities in the United States. He started his religious journey on Jan 30, 1954, when he was born in a Roman Catholic family in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The first 18 years of his life were spent in Catholic schools, which left him with many unanswered questions about God and the Christian religion, Lang said, as he narrated his story of Islam. "Like most kids back in the late 60s and early 70s, I started questioning all the values that we had at those times, political, social and religious," Lang said. "I rebelled against all the institutions that society held sacred including the Catholic Church," he said.
By the time he reached the age of 18, Lang had become a full-fledged atheist. "If there is a God, and he is all merciful and all loving, then why is there suffering on this earth? Why does not He just take us to heaven? Why create all these people to suffer?" Such were the questions that came up in his mind in those days. As a young lecturer in mathematics at San Francisco University, Lang found his religion where God is finally a reality. That was shown to him by a few of the Muslim friends he had met at the university. "We talked about religion. I asked them my questions, and I was really surprised by how carefully they had thought out their answers," Lang said. Dr. Lang met Mahmoud Qandeel, a regal looking Saudi student who attracted the attention of the entire class the moment he walked in. When Lang asked a question about medical research, Qandeel answered the question in perfect English and with great self assurance. Everyone knew Qandeel-the mayor, the police chief and the common people. Together the professor and the student went to all the glittering places where "there was no joy or happiness, only laughter." Yet at the end Qandeel surprisingly gave him a copy of the Qur'an and some books on Islam. Lang read the Qur'an on his own, found his way to the student-run prayer hall at the university, and basically surrendered without much struggle. He was conquered by the Qur'an. The first two chapters are an account of that encounter and it is a fascinating one. "Painters can make the eyes of a portrait appear to be following you from one place to another, but which author can write a scripture that anticipates your daily vicissitudes?... Each night I would formulate questions and objections and somehow discover the answer the next day. It seemed that the author was reading my ideas and writing in the appropriate lines in time for my next reading. I have met myself in its pages..." Lang performs the daily five-time prayers regularly and finds much spiritual satisfaction. He finds the Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer as one of the most beautiful and moving rituals in Islam. "It is as if you temporarily leave this world and communicate with the angels in singing God's praises before dawn." To the question how he finds it so captivating when the recitation of the Qur'an is in Arabic, which is totally foreign to him, he responds; "Why is a baby comforted by his mother's voice?" He said reading the Qur'an gave him a great deal of comfort and strength in difficult times. From there on, faith was a matter of practice for Lang's spiritual growth. On the other hand, Lang pursued a career in mathematics. He received his master's and doctoral degrees from Purdue University. Lang said that he had always been fascinated by mathematics. "Maths is logical. It consists of using facts and figures to find concrete answers," Lang said. "That is the way my mind works, and it is frustrating when I deal with things that do not have concrete answerers." Having a mind that accepts ideas on their factual merit makes believing in a religion difficult because most religions require acceptance by faith, he said. The Muslim religion appeals to man's reasoning, he said. As faculty advisor for the Muslim Student Association, Lang said he viewed himself as the liaison between the student and their universities. He gets approval from university authorities to hold Islamic lectures. "The object of being their faculty advisor is to help them get their needs met as far as adjusting to the American culture and to procedures of the university. They appreciate the opportunity to have misconceptions corrected," he said. Lang married a Saudi Muslim woman, Raika, 12 years ago. Lang has written several Islamic books which are best sellers among the Muslim community in the US. One of his important books is "Even Angels ask; A journey to Islam in America". In this book, Dr. Lang shares with his readers the many insights that have unfolded for him through his self discovery and progress within the religion of Islam. Sumber : http://thetruereligion.org/modules/xfsection/article.php?articleid=189 <http://thetruereligion.org/modules/xfsection/article.php?articleid=189> Dr. Jeffrey Lang (b. 1954) [image] "For those whom Islam has embraced, the greatest witness to God's unremitting, pursuing, sustaining, and guiding love is the Qur'an. Like a vast magnificent ocean, it lures you deeper and deeper into its dazzling waves until you are swept into it. But instead of drowning in a sea of darkness, as described above, you find yourself immersed in an ocean of divine light and mercy. as I read the Qur'an and prayed the Islamic prayers, a door to my heart was unsealed and I was immersed in an overwhelming tenderness. Love became more permanent and real than the earth beneath my feet; its power restored me and made it so that even I could feel love I was happy enough to have found faith in a sensible religion. But I never expected to be touched by such intoxicating mercy." "Dad, do you believe in heaven?" When young Jeffery asked his father about the existence of heaven as they walked their dog along the beach, it was apparent that this child possessed a highly inquisitive mind. There perhaps was also a sign that he would subject things to a logical scrutiny and validate them from a rational perspective. Little surprise was it, then, that one day he would end up being a professor of mathematics, a matter where there is no place for anything but logic. During his senior years at the Notre Dam Boys High, a Catholic school, he formed certain rational objections against belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Discussions with the school Priest, his parents, and classmates could not convince him of the existence of God, and to the dismay of the Priest and his parents, he turned into an atheist at the age of eighteen. He was to remain so for the next ten years throughout his undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies. It was a little before or after his becoming an atheist that he first saw the following dream: It was a tiny room with no furniture, and there was nothing on its grayish-white walls. Its only adornment was the predominantly red-and-white patterned carpet that covered the floor. There was a small window, like a basement window, above and facing us, filling the room with brilliant light. We were in rows; I was in the third. There were only men, no women, and all of us were sitting on our heels and facing the direction of the window. It felt foreign. I recognized no one. Perhaps I was in another country. We bowed down uniformly, our faces to the floor. It was serene and quiet, as if all sound had been turned off. All at once, we sat back on our heels. As I looked ahead, I realized that we were being led by someone in front who was off to my left, in the middle, below the window. He stood alone. I only had the briefest glance at his back. He was wearing a long white gown, and on his head was a white scarf with a red design. And that is when I would awaken. During the next ten years of his atheist life, he was to see the same dream several times. He would not be disturbed by the dream, however, for he would feel strangely comfortable when he awoke. But not knowing what it was, he could not make any sense out of it and thus gave no importance to it despite its repetitions. Ten years later in his first lecture at the University of San Francisco, he met a Muslim student who attended his mathematics class. He was soon to develop a friendship with him and his family. Religion, however, was not the topic of discussion during the time he shared with that Muslim family, and it was much later that one of the family members handed to him a copy of the Qur'an. He was not looking for a religion. Nevertheless, he started reading the Qur'an, but with a strong prejudice. "You cannot simply read the Qur'an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side." Thus he found himself in an interesting battle. "I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself." It was as if the Author was reading his mind. Every night he would make up certain questions and objections, but would find the answer in his next readings as he continued his readings in the accepted order. "The Qur'an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries." He fought vigorously with objections and questions, but it was apparent that he was loosing the battle. "I was being led, working my way into a corner that contained only one choice." It was early 80's and there were not many Muslims at the University of San Francisco campus. He discovered a small place at the basement of a church where a few Muslim students made their daily prayers. After much struggle in his mind, he came up with enough courage to go and visit that place. When he came out of that place a few hours later, he had already declared the shahada, the proclamation of a new life "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger." After he made his proclamation, it was the time for the afternoon prayer and he was invited to participate. He stood up in rows with other students behind a prayer leader named Ghassan, and started following them in prayer - We bowed down in prostration with our faces on the red-and-white carpet. It was serene and quiet, as if the sound had been turned off. And then we sat back on our heels again. As I looked ahead, I could see Ghassan, off to my left, in the middle, below the window that was flooding the room with light. He was alone, without a row. He was wearing a long white gown and on his head was a white scarf with a red design. The dream! I screamed inwardly. The dream exactly! I had forgotten it completely, and now I was stunned and frightened. Am I dreaming? I wondered. Will I awaken? I tried to focus on what was happening to determine whether I was asleep. A rush of cold flowed through my body, making me shudder. My God, this is real! Then the coldness subsided, succeeded by gentle warmth radiating from within. Tears welled up in my eyes. Everyone's journey to Islam is unique, varying from one another in many different ways, but Dr. Lang's is an interesting one. From one who challenged the existence of God, he became a firm believer in God. >From a warrior who fought a fierce battler against the Qur'an, he became one who surrendered to it. From one who never knew love and who only wanted to live a comfortable materialistic life until he died and became "long-forgotten soil underneath an unmarked grave", he turned into one whose life became full of love, mercy, and spiritualism. "God will bring you to your knees, Jeffery!", said his father when he denied the existence of God at the age of eighteen. Ten years later, that became a reality. He was now on his knees, and his forehead on the ground. The highest part of his body that contained all of his knowledge and intellect was now on the lowest ground in complete submission before the Majesty of God. Like all Muslim reverts, Dr. Lang felt that he was favored by God's mercy and that it was God Himself who directed him to Islam. "I perceived that God was always near, directing my life, creating the circumstances and opportunities to choose, yet always leaving the crucial choices to me. I was awestruck by the realization of the intimacy and love that reveals, not because we deserve it, but because it is always there and all we have to do is turn to Him to receive it. I cannot say with certainty what the meaning of that vision was, but I could not help seeing in it a sign, a favor, and a new chance." Dr. Lang is author of two books both make interesting readings and are useful for both Muslim converts and born Muslims to read. He is married with three daughters. It is no surprising that his children shared some of his inquisitive mind. The boy who threw questions at his father, was now a father himself who was to face questions from his children. One day he was confronted by his eight-year-old daughter Jameelah after he finished the noon prayer with her - "Daddy, why do we pray?" Her question caught me off guard. I didn't expect it from an eight year old. I knew of course the most obvious answerthat as Muslims we are obligated tobut I did not want to waste the opportunity to share with her the experience and benefits of salah. Nevertheless, as I tried to put together a reply in my mind, I bought a little time by beginning with, `We pray because God wants us to!' `But why, daddy, what does praying do?' she asked. `It is hard to explain to a young person, honey. Someday, if you do the five prayers every day, I'm sure you'll understand, but I'll do my best to answer your question.' `You see, sweetheart. God is the source of all the love, mercy, kindness, and wisdomof all the beautythat we experience and feel. Like the sun is the source of the light we see in the daytime, God is the source of all of these and much more. Thus, the love I feel for you, your sisters, and mommy is given to me by God. We know that God is kind and merciful by all the things He has given us in this life. But when we pray, we can feel God's love, kindness, and mercy in a very special way, in the most powerful way. For example, you know that mommy and I love you by the way we take care of you. But when we hug you and kiss you, you can really feel how much we love you. In a similar way, we know that God loves and is kind to us by the way He takes care of us. But when we pray, we can feel His love in a very real and special way.' `Does praying make you a better daddy?' She asked me. `I hope so and I would like to think so, because once you are touched by God's love and kindness in the prayer, it is so beautiful and powerful, that you need to share it with those around you, especially your family. Sometimes, after a hard day at work, I feel so exhausted that I just want to be alone. But if I feel God's kindness and mercy in the prayer, I look at my family and remember what a great gift you are to me, and all the love and happiness I get from being your daddy and mommy's husband. I'm not saying that I am the perfect father, but I believe I would not be as good a father without the prayers. Am I making any sense at all?' `I kind of understand what you mean,' Jameelah answered. Then she hugged me and said, `And I love you, Daddy!' `I love you too, sweetie pie. I love you too.' Bibliography: Dr. Jeffrey Lang, "Struggling to Surrender", Beltsville, 1994 Dr. Jeffrey Lang, "Even Angels Ask", Beltsville, 1997 http://www.welcome-back.org/profile/jeffrey_lang.shtml <http://www.welcome-back.org/profile/jeffrey_lang.shtml> Shalom, Tawangalun.