Q&A with Imam Elahi

Journey to Islam

Q: I was brought up Christian and went to a Catholic school for many years. There were many things I disagreed with growing up. When it was time to marry, I married a Muslim man. This opened up a whole new world to me. I am trying to learn as much as I can about Islam. Recently I started praying. Still there are so many questions I need answered. As a Muslim I need to pray 5 times a day Christians however pray differently. So since Christians pray another way does this mean they are any less? Muslim believe that Allah wants you to do all of these things such as pray 5 times a day, wear a hijab, eat only halal meat, and so on. So Christians do not do these things. What will happen to Christians on the judgment day? How do I really know what Allah wants me to do in order to be strong, spiritually?
A:
 What may happen to Muslims or non-Muslims, we believe that Islam is the final and the most comprehensive message of God to humanity. Everybody is invited to study this religion, and nobody should be compelled to accept it. The best way to learn is to read books, look at the right web sites, talk to scholars, and associate with Muslim communities, and so forth. Certainly prayer is a powerful path towards spiritual strength.

Q: I am a Caucasian female who has in the past year discovered Islam. I'm almost addicted to learning what I can about the religion. I've never understood, respected, or admired any other religion as much as I do Islam. A Muslim coworker opened my eyes to it. He would speak about religious or spiritual matters with me just as small talk and he was always impressed by my feedback. He finally told me one day that my ideas and view on life are "so Islamic". I had never been told this before and since I only knew of the Islam that which was broadcast in the American media I had to do research of my own on Islam. I bought a book simply titled "Understanding Islam". I was very shocked at how much I agreed with and understood. He was right. The natural ideas I have thought were all my own and my own view of life were all in this book! Anyway, months later we got married! My next step is to convert. I just have to overcome this fear of society judging me when they see a white, blonde-haired, blue eyed girl wearing a hijab. Also, my family would eventually accept it but not easily. I have not yet gained the courage to wear the hijab. I'm 27 years old, brought up in this materialistic environment. Anyway, before I convert I would like to be fully educated on Islam. I want to learn how to pray and I of course would like the guidance of a muslimah. Can you help me? 
A:
 It is a tremendous blessing to make a friend who has true faith in God. The bond of faith is an excellent reason to get married. Congratulations for this wonderful realization! From what I read, you are already a Muslim. What is left is simply a declaration of faith. There are many things you can read, but the best way to learn about prayer is to join the group prayers, especially the one on Fridays. During the Friday prayer, we at the Islamic Hose of Wisdom not only do the prayer but have a sermon about moral, social and political issues in our society. If you are close by, you are welcome to participate. You must wear the hijab to perform the prayers, and then gradually adjust yourself with the hijab. The first step is to project a modest serious image by keeping your legs covered and your eyes lowered. As a new Muslim whose former social support network may now be shaky, you should learn about Islam without alienating your family. Wearing hijab step by step may reduce your family backfire. Take it slowly. Practice wearing a scarf outside on rainy or windy days would be the best start.

Q: I know we Muslims get judged by our good and bad deeds and we have the Holy Quran, but my question is, will Christians and people from other religions all go to hell because they are not following the right path, and they don't know about our religion? 
A:
 Islam doesn't teach an exclusive doctrine. There is no such thing as chosen people in Islam, nor the doctrine of Vicarious Atonement (that is, to believe that those who lived before the death of Christ are in a bad shape before the Throne of God.) Islam's beliefs about the other faith communities is mentioned in Chapter Baghara, 2:62. " Those who believe in the Quran and those who follow the Jewish scriptures and the Christian and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day and work righteousness, shall have reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." Allah knows best which individuals have true faith.

Q: I embraced Islam when I was in the US Army in Saudi Arabia in 1995. I got out of the Army and currently lie in Europe and work for the US Army as a civilian. When I accepted Islam, despite several hard times, I still believed and practiced. Slowly but surely, by the Grace of Allah, I was able to learn a lot, had a circle of good Muslims around me, and even though I had problems and trials of this life, I was happy and at peace. Then after sometime, I got married to a Muslima. To make a long story short, I had to divorce her because no matter what we tried we could never see eye to eye and several other reasons. Also, from the start of my marriage my faith started to fade slowly. Due to the fact that I am an American and most brothers at the mosque I attend are Arabs, I was getting criticized because of my divorce and because I am American. I would try to just be patient in that situation, pray, and ask Allah for guidance. Even though I tried everything I could to build my faith, I was fading back into my old self. I slowly started to fade from being with brothers because it seemed as if no one wanted to associate with me. I slowly stopped praying, stopped going to Jummah, and then slowly my faith faded. I realize that only Allah knows the heart of a believer or disbeliever no matter what, I couldn't seem to get my faith back. I think that my heart was dying and began to go back to my old ways before Islam. I got the total negative belief that Allah didn't want me in the Deen and I started to give up. This led me only to a road of serious social, economic, and mental problems. I don't sleep very much, I don't like my existence, and I reached a point of total negativity that I even now doubt that my sins would ever be forgiven, that " I am going to hell anyway". All my life, I've been told by one person or another that I would be nothing ....ranging from my parents, teachers, fellow soldiers, my ex-wife, and even more painfully, my brothers in Islam. The fact that people told me this used to motivate me to try harder at anything I did until I heard it from Muslims. Now I have very little motivation and have been just going through the motions of life for a few years now. Going to work at a job I hate, working for people that are ruthless and cold-hearted, and (worst of all things) not living for the sake of Allah. Even though I was a soldier and I work for the Government, I never had the desire to do this. I joined the Army due to the situation at the time. I was one of the top 5% of US students when I graduated from high school and could not go to school due to the lack of money. Even though I am no longer part of the Army as a soldier, I do work for them. This also was a major factor in my downfall. I no longer have the desire to work for the Government because I feel that my life is passing me. I always had the goal of getting my Ph.D. and starting my own business. After I accepted Islam, I wanted the same goal but to use it to help brothers all over the world to empower themselves. Now it's just a dream. After 9/11, I started to really search my soul. I realize that my belief in Allah is still there but very limited. I see that Allah has power over everything and that there is a difference between Islam and Muslims. My questions are: After reading in the Qu'ran that once you accept the faith and turn from it that Allah will give those people the punishment of this life and the next. How in my situation do I repent? Is a sin to seek professional help? I ask this one because I've been told that it's never good for a Muslim to seek it and I never have. Can you explain the true meaning of fate to me? Last and hardest, is there any way that I can get my faith back in Allah and myself? 
A:
 Dear Brother, your faith is dwindling because you are trying to become someone you are not. You are a Muslim because Allah chose you as a Muslim. The Quran says Allah wants to forgive you time and time again. There are a lot of people in the world who don't want to see you succeed. They are not your friends. In some cases you will have to persevere alone. But everything comes from Allah. If your job is making you depressed quit. Ask Allah to help you find an alternate source of livelihood. Allah didn't take you this far to let you down. Sometimes a person has to hit rock bottom in order to bounce back. It is time for you to ask Allah with total honesty for what you really want. So don't act too religious. But never doubt that you are Muslim. Be true to yourself, so Allah can send you the person who is right for you, and together you can journey on the path.

Q: Is eel (a kind of fish) halal or haram? Also, please explain the criteria for the seafood to decide whether it is halal or haram.
A: Concerning sea animals, only the fish that have scales are permissible for food. It is not necessary to have complete scales, but at least a few. There are books that have instructions on what types of fish have scales and are halal.

Q: I recently broke up with my non-Muslim girlfriend because she did not want to observe the basic Islamic Modesty regarding dress (I am not talking about headscarf). I wanted her to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants, but she refused, saying it would be too much for her, especially in the summer. She did not like my interference in her way of life. She had agreed to nominally convert to Islam after marriage, but was finding it difficult to understand why she should change her lifestyle to bring it closer to an Islamic one. Please let me know if I should make any efforts to patch up with her, hoping that she may change sometime in the future (although there is always the chance that she may not change).
A: Allah says in the Quran "Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious." (16:125). Keep talking to her if there is any hope of improving her knowledge about Islam. Help her to become more modest and understanding about Islam.

Q: Many scholars today say that preaching [da'wah] to non-Muslims using their Bible is haram. That this is not the method of the holy Prophet. But on the other hand we find this method of to be so fruitful and so many Christians are embracing Islam through it. What do you say? 
A:
 How can it be haram, while the Quran itself argues with the People of the Book [Ahlol ketab] and mentions certain verses from the Bible and Torah to prove certain points?