The Move – To Islam

by Sister Diana Beatty

While every study cites different numbers, there is evidence that increasing numbers of people in the West are choosing Islam as their religion. The Almanac Book of Facts reported that the number of Muslims is roughly quadrupling each decade while the number of Christians is increasing by 50% each decade, including increases due to conversion, birth, and immigration.

Published scientific studies about the reasons people in the West become Muslim, such as those by Poston (1992), Köse (1996) and Gerholm & Litham (1988) as well as more recent studies, have found thirteen factors that contribute to the decision. Most individuals who choose Islam report several of the factors being involved in their choice. So what are the reasons that people say they choose Islam? The list below is in no particular order, as data on percentages of people mentioning particular reasons was not available for all of the reasons.

1. Dreams

A relatively small percentage of people report having dreams of holy figures that say or do things to invite or tell them they should become Muslim.

2. Dissatisfaction with a previous religion

A good number of converts to Islam said that issues with a religion they were raised with led them to study other religions and find Islam. Common reasons for dissatisfaction with other religions include issues of logic, fairness, reliability of text, and issues of practice.

3. Disillusionment with modern society

Some people who chose Islam said that materialist, imperialist and capitalist traits of Western society were unappealing to them and contributed in some degree to their search for other paths. Islam in the ideal seemed to address most or all of their concerns.

4. Marriage to Muslims

Some people, generally but not exclusively women, said that they came to Islam through marriage to a Muslim. Most of these said that the marriage was a factor but that their decision was ultimately made on belief in the truth of Islam and not just for the sake of marriage. Some people converted before marriage and some converted after marriage.

5. Interaction with Muslims

A high number of people who chose Islam said that meeting and making friends with Muslims influenced their decisions. Often, many of their misconceptions about Islam were dispelled by knowing real Muslims. Curiosity about their friends’ belief and culture contributed to their decisions to study Islam.

6. The Qur’an

The vast majority of people who chose Islam reported that the Qur’an was influential in their decision. For many, it was the primary reason given. Upon reading a translation of Qur’an, these individuals said that they were ultimately convinced of it being from God. Particularly compelling to converts is the clear message of the Oneness of God contained in the Qur’an.

7. Islam as a way of life

Many people also claimed that they appreciated Islam as a philosophy to live by that encompasses every aspect of daily life. This was often reported in contrast to their prior religious upbringing in which they felt religion was often compartmentalized away from many parts of daily life and thought.

8. Rationality of Islam

Converts commonly reported that they chose Islam because they found it rational, consistent and understandable in terms of the nature of God, the nature of God’s message to mankind, and the expectations for how to live life.

9. Morality and ethics

Some people who chose Islam said that they found its moral and ethical standards to be refreshingly high yet attainable. They also appreciated that the standards were fair for all people regardless of class, gender, race or creed, in contrast to the standards of many other faiths and the practice of most cultures.

10. Disillusionment with racism

Some people chose Islam in part because of the emphasis in its teachings of the equality of all races and the more consistent practice of this ideal as compared to practitioners of other faiths in history.

11. Status of women

As compared to other faiths, many converts said that the elevated status of women in Islam was a factor in their decision. They often mentioned the absence of a concept such as Original Sin and a very high, equitable level of rights and respect given to women in Qur’an and in practice of the Prophet of Islam.

12. Spirituality

A large number of people choosing Islam claimed that they felt a higher degree of spirituality in their lives as Muslims and felt closer to God through the variety of prayers and remembrances of God available to them at all times.

13. Religion as both community-based and individual-based

Finally, some said that Islam balanced communal and individual aspects of religion. Everyone has direct access to God, yet human relations are highly emphasized and the communal effects of one’s actions are not ignored.

Unfortunately, studies about Muslims and converts to Islam have often been conducted with questionable motives. A quick Internet search shows that most sites about this phenomenon are motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, Christian proselytizing efforts, and sensationalists attempting to portray a cataclysmic clash of cultures and beliefs as a great threat to people in the West.

Further, an honest survey of the worst behaviors of some Muslims and cultures with Muslim-majority populations would lead some to believe that Islam has little good to offer.

In spite of this, people in the West are embracing Islam in significant numbers. As the reasons given above demonstrate, they are able to see beyond the fallacies of humans to the beauty of Islam itself. People are choosing Islam out of sincere belief in the Oneness of God, the revelation of Qur’an, and the message of the prophets sent by God. They find internal harmony with the genuine way of life that is Islam and the relationship with God they find in Islam. With rare exception, people choosing Islam are normal people leading normal lives, seeking God.