Steven Byers, a fourth-year science student, has been learning a lot lately.
But his latest studies are not limited to just physics and biology.
Byers is learning about Islam; a religion he’s recently embraced.
About five years ago, Byers couldn’t have pinpointed what belief system he followed.
He was raised a Christian, but Byers remembers feeling let down by his faith when bad things happened in his life.
“I would always question like why would God do that to me, my family, or my friends? It just didn’t make sense to me. And then I would get pretty angry. It was like the only time in my life I was really angry with a lot of stuff.”
Now Byers is feeling more settled.
This past spring he was encouraged by some friends to learn more about Islam. What he found was a belief system that he says was a perfect match to his logical mind.
Islam reminds people that they need to step away from the material world in order to find peace from within
So in the summer, Byers said the Shahadah (testimony of faith) that states Allah is the only God and Prophet Muhammad is the last prophet of God.
“Once you say that line and you mean it in your heart and you are honest with yourself, you are a Muslim.”
Abdullah Hamza says one reason why people gravitate to Islam is because there is something missing in their lives they want to fill. Hamza is a science professor at the University of New Brunswick and also president of the Fredericton Islamic Association. He says Islam reminds people that they need to step away from the material world in order to find peace from within.
“Because Islam tells you that you have to pray five times a day, so you have to disconnect yourself from that growing and fast-pacing life.”
The idea of peace is integral to Islam’s message. A message that is two-fold; first a Muslim is called to submit to God, and through that submission comes peace. Hamza says the only way to achieve peace outside is to achieve peace inside through the will of God.
“It’s like a glowing peace of coal. If you look at it when it’s not lit, then it’s just dark. When it’s lit, then the darkness disappears. It’s just a source of light.”
The other major duties that are required in Islam can strengthen a Muslim’s commitment to God and to peace. They include praying five times a day and reading Allah’s book of revelation (the Quran), fasting in day-light hours during the lunar month of Ramadan, giving to charity, and if you have the money taking a pilgrimage to the holy city Makkah at least once in your life. Byers hasn’t been to Makkah yet, but he did take part in the fast of Ramadan for the first time.
“Not eating during that period of the day teaches you discipline and it just knocks you down a step, makes you realize what it is like for those people that can’t eat.”
This was just one of many firsts for Byers. But he says that still it has been easy to adjust to this faith just because he feels the fundamental values of peace, charity, and good will were already part of his character.
“So just coming into it, I guess it would be just changing from the way I was to knowing that is how I was. Maybe it was more of coming to understand the way I am.”
“Islam is what is with you all the time. You are born with it. In Arabic we call it fitrah. It’s that which is part of you. They started walking the walk of Islam when they were ready for it.”
Byers says it’s important for people to learn a bit about Islam even if it’s nothing more than to clear away misconceptions that tag Islam as a religion of terror. Byers says if people incorporate the goals and aims of Islam into their lives, like him, they might find some peace that they didn’t even know they were searching for.