Conversion to Islam: "the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian's journey"?

I see Sinead O'Connor has converted to Islam. I don't really know much about her, but I was particularly struck by part of her announcement:
This is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant.

Do you agree with Sinead O'Connor's assertion? Why (not)? Does her reasoning mirror that of other converts to Islam from non-Muslim backgrounds? What's the appeal of Islam? Is it really theological, or is it something else?
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Comments

  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    My first reaction is to think that ther reasoning is shallow, and blinkered, but I'll look up the story. In today's world, I think careful, and practical, thinking is required before choosing Islam.

    ETA quick look at story seems to show that she has, as the saying nowadays goes, issues.
  • Well it certainly echoes the narrative that Islam says about itself. For example this from a Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary*
    we reiterate that it is Islam which exposes the true teachings of Jesus Christ. Islam is an embodiment of the complete, final and universal form of the message which Jesus had prophesied. The Holy Quran, the holy scripture of Islam, is the intact and pure word of God, in which we can trust with full confidence. By enjoining belief in all prophets, Islam invites the world to a common platform of unity, love, brotherhood and peace. Islam stands for the true honour of Jesus. Through lslam alone will be recognized the true exalted position of Jesus

    Interestingly, the Islamic cleric mentioned in the reports is a Barelvi, a Sufi movement popular in Pakistan.

    * I know the Ahmadiyya are something of an outlier movement in Islam - however I think this sentiment is shared by many Muslims.
  • I don't think movement towards Islam is an altogether outrageous thing for a Christian.

    Of course both Islam and Christianity are broad - but stepping from a fairly austere version of Christianity to an even more austere version of Islam doesn't seem like a massive step.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    I don't think movement towards Islam is an altogether outrageous thing for a Christian.

    Of course both Islam and Christianity are broad - but stepping from a fairly austere version of Christianity to an even more austere version of Islam doesn't seem like a massive step.

    Or maybe stepping from a fairly mystical and sensorily engaging version of Christianity to a similar Sufi version of Islam?
  • The “any intelligent” language has already been well parodied in our house this morning. The arrogant certainty of it amuses me.

    Any intelligent person has their coffee black, by the way.
  • I think that it is a fairly common thought by Islamic clerics that people are only Christians because they've not been thinking very hard about it.

    Of course that's hardly a unique sentiment.
  • That "logical conclusion" one is pretty much what "Cat Stevens" said back when he did it.

    Anything that gives you something get up and to pray of a morning gets my vote these days...

    Blessings upon her - hope it gives her peace
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    I think that it is a fairly common thought by Islamic clerics that people are only Christians because they've not been thinking very hard about it.

    Of course that's hardly a unique sentiment.

    I think they're only wrong inasmuch as they don't extend that to all objective exclusive faith-based truth claims.

    Doesn't necessarily speak to the truth of any of those truth claims of course. Most people haven't thought deeply about how internal combustion engines work but they still do.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    I was thinking of her past as I read the link and hoping she had come to a place of peace.
  • Any intelligent person has their coffee black, by the way.

    No they don't.
    But surely we can agree that any intelligent person MUST drink coffee?
  • The “any intelligent” language has already been well parodied in our house this morning. The arrogant certainty of it amuses me.
    Point taken, but people converting to Islam in the West might perhaps give us pause for thought as well as amusement. What's the attraction? And what's the attraction compared to Christianity?
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    The “any intelligent” language has already been well parodied in our house this morning. The arrogant certainty of it amuses me.
    Point taken, but people converting to Islam in the West might perhaps give us pause for thought as well as amusement. What's the attraction? And what's the attraction compared to Christianity?

    As Mr Cheesy referred to, it is the thrust of Islamic theology that God's revelation began with the Jews, progressed with Christians but it completed in the final Prophet. So for one who converted to Islam, it's not a surprising statement.

    And whilst, I do hold a lot with Thomas Aquinas' position about the reasonableness and logic of Christian faith, I don't think there is much to be gained from such 'intelligence' arguments. They are usually deeply flawed and rely on either unwitting assumptions or arrogance or both.

    AFZ
  • Huia wrote: »
    I was thinking of her past as I read the link and hoping she had come to a place of peace.

    Ditto. Although it felt rather dismissive to do so.

    & the academic arrogance found in many religious traditions is off putting. Although the desenters are too.
  • @alienfromzog the people I know who convert to Islam don't do so through theological reasoning.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    KarlLB wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    I think that it is a fairly common thought by Islamic clerics that people are only Christians because they've not been thinking very hard about it.

    Of course that's hardly a unique sentiment.

    I think they're only wrong inasmuch as they don't extend that to all objective exclusive faith-based truth claims.

    Doesn't necessarily speak to the truth of any of those truth claims of course. Most people haven't thought deeply about how internal combustion engines work but they still do.

    Islam is a fairly "narrow" train of thought if you are starting from Christianity.

    It seems to be a chain of ideas that build on the last - so it may well be true that if you start in that direction you are very likely to end up at Islam as a destination. It may also be quite true that those who have travelled that path remain puzzled why everyone else doesn't follow them down the "obvious" path of thought.

    I'm not saying it is a correct way to think, I'm just saying that it is a common way of thinking and talking for people who are in that school of theology.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    @alienfromzog the people I know who convert to Islam don't do so through theological reasoning.

    That's interesting. So why do they convert, in your experience.

    I don't know many converts - I think it is still a fairly rare phenomena - but the ones I do say that they converted because of the beauty of the theology.

    I don't think I've heard of anyone who has ever converted C to I for any other reason.

    Marriage, perhaps. But even there of the people I've heard of, I don't think any were active Christians in the senses we are all usually familiar with.
  • The people I know who convert are young people without much structure to their lives and either no spiritual background at all or rebelling against a broadly Christian background.

    Islam provides them with rules to live by and a spirituality. It can also provide them with a sense of family (in prison this can also take the more sinister form of protection).

  • & the academic arrogance found in many religious traditions is off putting.

    Presumably not to the convertee to Islam, though!

    Although the desenters are too.

    Do you mean the "desenters" (presumably those who convert to Islam) are offputting?

  • Eutychus wrote: »
    The “any intelligent” language has already been well parodied in our house this morning. The arrogant certainty of it amuses me.
    Point taken, but people converting to Islam in the West might perhaps give us pause for thought as well as amusement. What's the attraction? And what's the attraction compared to Christianity?

    I think some are attracted to the patterns of daily life and the (perceived) lack of bickering.

    That said, there is a considerable amount of sniggering behind the hand about Western* people who convert to Islam. The general feeling seems to be that they're trying way too hard.

    * White people in particular. Black conversions to Islam seem to be generally more acceptable, although maybe that's because they often convert to their own versions of the faith - like the Nation of Islam - which is already considered Pretty Weird. Mind you, it's a long time since I spoke to a Muslim about this, it might be that converts are more integrated into the existing structures than they were.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    @alienfromzog the people I know who convert to Islam don't do so through theological reasoning.

    I know an entirely family (to which I am related through aister-in-law) that converted to Islam from Christianity some years ago, but then they are Palestinians living in East Jerusalem (I don't think they have ever regarded themselves as Jordanians). They did so primarily because they were more welcome in the Islamic community than in the Christian or Jewish ones, and yes, they find their former and present faiths compatible.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    It's rather sad. You've only got to read a simple version of her autobiography to realise that she's a deeply troubled person, emotionally all over the place. Is this yet another thing to try, because it's a very dangerous one under current conditions, if she changes her mind yet again.

    Not sure, either, what basis there can be for the claim that "it is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam." True, I haven't researched Islam that profoundly, and am not proposing to. But as a starter, assuming both Christianity and Islam both depend on being founded in revelation, ours is rather more convincing than theirs.
  • I think part of the attraction of Islam is that unlike Christianity it’s demands, although stringent, are doable.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I went to a big Muslim convention type thing in London once with a Muslim friend. She had wanted me to know a bit more about her faith - she also came to my church Alpha course to find out more about mine. The Muslim thing in London was very different from any Christian thing I'd been to - and I've been to plenty of huge interdenominational Christian talks.

    It was about peace - I can't remember the details, but it wasn't about rules or theology. It was more practical, more political, maybe - I can't think how to describe it, but less individual and more communal in focus. It was very friendly. There was a talk, maybe a few talks, and then afterwards there were different stalls set up, and I talked to a lot of people that my friend introduced me to. There were quite a few white people who had converted to Islam. They were kind of eccentric or hippie types, very friendly and peace-loving - and quite different in approach from the Muslims like my friend who have grown up with it being their culture, their whole family. This was, I suppose, relatively soon after the 9/11 attacks (maybe a couple of years later) so I think that influenced the emphasis on the peacefulness of Islam.

    I can see how people might want to convert for the friendliness, the communal aspect, and maybe seeing it as a more exotic than Christianity. Also I can see an appeal in the lack of legalism and petty rules you can often get in British churches, and which to some extent may be British culture (thinking how nuns here in the UK tell me that nuns in Italy aren't so strict with rules as British nuns - that strictly following rules is quite a cultural thing in the UK). Not that there aren't rules in Islam, of course, but perhaps the whole cultural approach to them is somewhat different to the British approach to rules.

    I suppose if you convert as a white British person, you aren't going to have all the family pressures that many of the Asian Muslims have - the big extended families who are very involved in your life, which can have both pros and cons, from how my friend and other Muslims friends have described it, and from what I observe. Family disapproval seems to be the biggest motivating factor for keeping rules (or keeping it secret when you don't!) rather than a sense of being frowned on by a deity - at least with the Muslims I've known personally. I suppose it becomes more of an individualistic thing when white Brits convert, because our culture is more individualistic, and there is more freedom without such pressures.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Any intelligent person has their coffee black, by the way.

    No they don't.
    But surely we can agree that any intelligent person MUST drink coffee?

    Ah! The origins of schism...
  • tclune wrote: »
    Any intelligent person has their coffee black, by the way.

    No they don't.
    But surely we can agree that any intelligent person MUST drink coffee?

    Ah! The origins of schism...

    :grin:
  • Enoch wrote: »
    But as a starter, assuming both Christianity and Islam both depend on being founded in revelation, ours is rather more convincing than theirs.
    To you. Perhaps some of it is poorly phrased, rather than intentional, but there are some arrogant posts on this thread. Islam is no crazier or less rational than Christianity.
    SO’s motivations for change are a separate issue to what theirs changes might be, IMO.
  • SipechSipech Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    The “any intelligent” language has already been well parodied in our house this morning. The arrogant certainty of it amuses me.
    Point taken, but people converting to Islam in the West might perhaps give us pause for thought as well as amusement. What's the attraction? And what's the attraction compared to Christianity?
    The answers to these questions are those that could most inform evangelism. When I commuted through Oxford Circus, I was used to hearing the shouty the street evangelists, who would either be declaring damnation or stating that Jesus loved them. Aside from the timing and location, what struck me as particularly ineffectual was that neither approach were attempting to engage with the needs or questions of the people they were seeking to preach to.

    Since then, I've become increasingly convinced that the first step in evangelism is to listen to people. What are their needs, hopes, fears, etc. and where are they currently looking for (and maybe even finding) the solutions to these needs. Only then, by meeting them where they are can we start to think about how best to love them.

    Intellectual rigour may appeal to some, though I suspect it may be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to argue someone into the Kingdom of God. It would be very interesting indeed to dig into the thought process that led Sinead (who I last saw at Greenbelt!) to Islam.

  • I sometimes wonder how much difference there is between golden rule Christianity and Islam. A belief in an overarching God, a code of practice that codifies how to live a good life and believe that if the code is followed then God mercifully accepts us. The more centrality of this type of behaviour within Islam makes it seem like a natural progression.

    I equally wonder if there is not a similar difference between the Christian liberals who believe in the inevitable progress of humanity and Atheists. These type of liberals tend to see stages in human religious development as progressive and each stage more rational than the last. It seems that the natural progression here is towards Atheism.

    In both these cases, the inherent direction of belief fits more closely with other religious traditions.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    That said, there is a considerable amount of sniggering behind the hand about Western* people who convert to Islam. The general feeling seems to be that they're trying way too hard.

    * White people in particular. Black conversions to Islam seem to be generally more acceptable, although maybe that's because they often convert to their own versions of the faith - like the Nation of Islam - which is already considered Pretty Weird. Mind you, it's a long time since I spoke to a Muslim about this, it might be that converts are more integrated into the existing structures than they were.
    Nation of Islam is, erm, different. But there are black Muslims of many variations.
    What I don't get is why white people converting should be strange. If one feels one's religion is the true path, then it is reasonable that everyone should see this as well, regardless of colour.
    I say this whilst, admittedly, being sceptical of many Westerners who claim to be Buddhist. Not that Westerns cannot be serious, committed or learned about Buddhism, just that there are a lot of tourist adherents. I suppose that could be true of Islam as well, but it doesn't seem as amenable to that.
  • Sipech wrote: »
    ...
    Since then, I've become increasingly convinced that the first step in evangelism is to listen to people. What are their needs, hopes, fears, etc. and where are they currently looking for (and maybe even finding) the solutions to these needs. Only then, by meeting them where they are can we start to think about how best to love them.
    ...

    That's also the first step in figuring out how to start a cult. Or a Ponzi scheme.
  • The thing that doesn't seem natural to me is the "dethroning" of Jesus as the center of faith if one converts to Islam. So if someone's previous version of Christianity was all about morality, I can see it; but not if it was all about Jesus.
  • Sipech wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    The “any intelligent” language has already been well parodied in our house this morning. The arrogant certainty of it amuses me.
    Point taken, but people converting to Islam in the West might perhaps give us pause for thought as well as amusement. What's the attraction? And what's the attraction compared to Christianity?
    The answers to these questions are those that could most inform evangelism. When I commuted through Oxford Circus, I was used to hearing the shouty the street evangelists, who would either be declaring damnation or stating that Jesus loved them. Aside from the timing and location, what struck me as particularly ineffectual was that neither approach were attempting to engage with the needs or questions of the people they were seeking to preach to.

    Since then, I've become increasingly convinced that the first step in evangelism is to listen to people. What are their needs, hopes, fears, etc. and where are they currently looking for (and maybe even finding) the solutions to these needs. Only then, by meeting them where they are can we start to think about how best to love them.

    I was reading the book of Acts not long ago and it is very obvious that the Apostles preached different things to different groups of people according to their interests. It is also obvious that none of the sermons in the book of Acts can be summarised as 'Jesus died for your sins'.
  • The thing that doesn't seem natural to me is the "dethroning" of Jesus as the center of faith if one converts to Islam. So if someone's previous version of Christianity was all about morality, I can see it; but not if it was all about Jesus.

    Well I guess we don't know what the attitude of any particular person was with regard to their Christology. But it is also fair to say that Muslims have a high regard for Jesus, albeit not as deity.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Not sure, either, what basis there can be for the claim that "it is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam." True, I haven't researched Islam that profoundly, and am not proposing to. But as a starter, assuming both Christianity and Islam both depend on being founded in revelation, ours is rather more convincing than theirs.

    Depends. I personally agree with you. But OTOH, the Qur'an (AIUI) doesn't have the same issues with textual transmission and variation as the Bible, and, being by a single author, avoids the issues of 'Luke says X while Matthew says Y and Paul says Z'. Plus, since it's largely lacking historical statements, it doesn't get caught out by questions like whether Quirinius was contemporary with Herod.

    To my mind, the problem with Sinéad O'Connor's claim is that the Old and New Testaments, to my mind, just don't point to Islam, and if you then argue that that's because the divine revelation in them has been corrupted, then there's no guarantee that the divine revelation in the Qur'an hasn't been corrupted either.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Black conversions to Islam seem to be generally more acceptable, although maybe that's because they often convert to their own versions of the faith - like the Nation of Islam - which is already considered Pretty Weird. Mind you, it's a long time since I spoke to a Muslim about this, it might be that converts are more integrated into the existing structures than they were.
    By black do you mean Afro-American / Afro-Caribbean? Islam has been established in sub-Saharan Africa for centuries, so a black Muslim shouldn't be anything unusual in the way a white Muslim is.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Black conversions to Islam seem to be generally more acceptable, although maybe that's because they often convert to their own versions of the faith - like the Nation of Islam - which is already considered Pretty Weird. Mind you, it's a long time since I spoke to a Muslim about this, it might be that converts are more integrated into the existing structures than they were.
    By black do you mean Afro-American / Afro-Caribbean? Islam has been established in sub-Saharan Africa for centuries, so a black Muslim shouldn't be anything unusual in the way a white Muslim is.

    Well as I said in the rest of the post, I was talking about Western converts.
  • But surely we can agree that any intelligent person MUST drink coffee?
    No, we cannot.
  • As Mr Cheesy referred to, it is the thrust of Islamic theology that God's revelation began with the Jews, progressed with Christians but it completed in the final Prophet.
    That would be the Báb, the the last step would be Baha'i. Unless there's a religion that claims there's another prophet after the Báb, and then that one would be the thinking man's religion. Claiming to be the terminus doesn't make one so.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    As Mr Cheesy referred to, it is the thrust of Islamic theology that God's revelation began with the Jews, progressed with Christians but it completed in the final Prophet.
    That would be the Báb, the the last step would be Baha'i. Unless there's a religion that claims there's another prophet after the Báb, and then that one would be the thinking man's religion. Claiming to be the terminus doesn't make one so.

    Nope that's true.

    But it seems to me the question here is about understanding how Muslims (and/or new Muslim converts) think rather than attempting to critique their thinking or in pointing out that other religions disagree with their assertions.
  • magnilo wrote: »
    I think part of the attraction of Islam is that unlike Christianity it’s demands, although stringent, are doable.
    And, I think, measurable. The demands of Christianity can tend to be somewhat nebulous. "Don't sin." "Pray" (when? with what words? for how long?). "Read your Bible" (how much? how often?). "Love your neighbor" (what does that look like? How do I know if I've succeded?"

    In contrast, Give this much alms. Eat or don't eat these meals. Pray these prayers at these times. You can rest assured when you've finished that you've prayed the right prayer at the right time.
  • The thing that doesn't seem natural to me is the "dethroning" of Jesus as the center of faith if one converts to Islam. So if someone's previous version of Christianity was all about morality, I can see it; but not if it was all about Jesus.
    This.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Well I guess we don't know what the attitude of any particular person was with regard to their Christology. But it is also fair to say that Muslims have a high regard for Jesus, albeit not as deity.
    They have a high regard for him, when they bother to think about him at all. How often do they do that, given the exigencies of everyday life and the positive demands of their religion? Probably not a lot.

    Not coincidentally, they also think a lot more highly of Mary (officially, with the same caveats mentioned in the paragraph above) than your average Protestant.
  • I wonder if there is any kind of observable ongoing journey of some converts;

    Christian => Muslim => Ba'hai => something else

    I suspect it is rare. But I don't know.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    I wonder if there is any kind of observable ongoing journey of some converts;

    Christian => Muslim => Ba'hai => something else

    I suspect it is rare. But I don't know.
    There is a somewhat analogous journey for some who enter Orthodoxy expecting to find a religious impetus to back their hate for certain people or practices. They join a canonical church, then when those people aren't nasty enough for their tastes, they join a splinter group, then when they're not nasty they join an even splintier group, and so on until they become an "Orthodox" church of one, or leave the faith entirely.
  • Mm I was going to make this observation about a completely different Christian group!



  • mousethief wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Well I guess we don't know what the attitude of any particular person was with regard to their Christology. But it is also fair to say that Muslims have a high regard for Jesus, albeit not as deity.
    They have a high regard for him, when they bother to think about him at all. How often do they do that, given the exigencies of everyday life and the positive demands of their religion? Probably not a lot.

    Yeah, I think that's fair.

    But is it the case for the Christian convert? Is there space for a bigger role in daily life for Jesus than maybe most Muslims have?

    I don't know.
    Not coincidentally, they also think a lot more highly of Mary (officially, with the same caveats mentioned in the paragraph above) than your average Protestant.

    Yeah. I think neither figure are central to their faith. Generally they've "parked" the issue and are content to say to themselves "there, we've given them some serious respect" and go back to reflecting on various other important points of the faith.

  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    As Mr Cheesy referred to, it is the thrust of Islamic theology that God's revelation began with the Jews, progressed with Christians but it completed in the final Prophet.
    That would be the Báb, the the last step would be Baha'i. Unless there's a religion that claims there's another prophet after the Báb, and then that one would be the thinking man's religion. Claiming to be the terminus doesn't make one so.

    Nope that's true.

    But it seems to me the question here is about understanding how Muslims (and/or new Muslim converts) think rather than attempting to critique their thinking or in pointing out that other religions disagree with their assertions.

    Yep this.

    I (as a Christian) would of course, reject the argument that Islam is the terminus but it is what - as far as I understand it - mainstream Islam believes so it is not a remotely surprising statement for a new convert to make.

    I am also in agreement with @Lamb Chopped that the centrality of Christ is so critical to my Christianity that I cannot imagine moving to a position other than that necessitated by Islam. However, not everyone believes the same as I do....

    AFZ

    P.S. @mousethief are you telling me you don't drink coffee? And I had such respect for you... oh well...
  • I wonder which strand of Islam Sinead /Shuhada has converted to. And from which expression of Christianity she converted from.

    I admit I don't know much about all the different ways there are to be a Muslim. I presume there must some kind of Islamic feminism somewhere going on? Expressions of the faith where women have sole agency for themselves and equal freedoms with men? Female Imams presiding over mixed-sex Mosques? Hard to imagine Sinead settling for less, unless she's decided that these things no longer matter to the kind of world she thinks we should be living in.

    Because I'm a cynical 'B', my first instinct about well-off, influential, privileged Westerners, who move from lifestyle to lifestyle, is to simply think 'another itch to be scratched, till the novelty wears off'. Especially bearing in mind how often Jesus used to say that the more comfortable a person was in life, the less likely they'd be to find the heaven they're hoping for. But why should her search for peace be any less real than anyone else's. I'm sure she's a sincere seeker; and I hope she finds what she's looking for.

  • I was surprised by her decision to wear middle-eastern clothing in the photo I saw and to change her name. Like Cat Stevens before her. It is one thing to feel called to convert, and quite another to believe you cannot be yourself.

    Did she convert to Islam and to a middle-eastern culture at once? I realize that apparently God spoke Arabic in the views of some, and that worship must be in that language in their view, and the cultural practices of the adherents have been dragged along. Much like Christianity dragged along Latin and Greek for centuries, and Christianity being still far too heavily burdened by European culture.
  • Ms O’Connor’s antipathy towards the Roman Catholic Church (or st least it’s leaderdhip) is well documented. I wonder if the attraction of a religion which is in large part founded on on institutional antipathy towards Christianity would be too hard to resist?
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