Qur'an Wins Heart of US Professor Dr. Jeffrey Lang : From Atheism To
Katagori : Muslim Convert News
Oleh : Redaksi <http://swaramuslim.net/>  26 Jul 2007 - 8:18 am 
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

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

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 :

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

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

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 answer—that as Muslims
we are obligated to—but 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 wisdom—of all the beauty—that 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.'

Dr. Jeffrey Lang, "Struggling to Surrender", Beltsville, 1994
Dr. Jeffrey Lang, "Even Angels Ask", Beltsville, 1997




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