My Religious Beliefs

I believe in God.

I believe that God is good.

I am grateful to God for giving me the gift of experiencing God’s goodness.

I express my gratitude towards God by thanking God, obeying God’s command for me, and loving God’s creations.

I express my gratitude towards God by inviting and encouraging others to do the same.

Those are my fundamental religious beliefs. I am simply a God-loving person. If I lived in a vacuum or I was an ascetic I would simply stop at the first 4 points of belief like Hayy Ibn Yaqzan.

However, given that I exist in a society with other people and I have the gift of speech I believe I have a duty to also fulfill the final point which involves other people. Thus I must find labels and approximations in the material world to express what I feel in the spiritual world.

On a theoretical level, I believe in every religion that believes in the concept of One God (Tawhid (توحيد‎)). However, on a practical level, I choose to practice Islam because that is the religion God has led me towards. It is the religion whose practices and rules best suit my natural disposition. However, there are practices from other religions such as Christianity which I also practice.

Occasionally, I come across beliefs and practices from other religions such as Sikhism, Canadian Aboriginal religion and Indigenous Yoruba Religion that I also like.

As an example, I occasionally start presentations in Canada with a land acknowledgement. A practice I learned from the Canadian Indigenous community whereby we express gratitude to The Creator.

“Land acknowledgment pays respect to those from our past and also those who will experience our territories in generations to come. Land acknowledgments should be respectful, reverent to the Creator, recognize the need for the right relationship, and communicate with humility and gratitude.”

As another example, from the Yoruba religion, I like the 4 practices for maintaining positive energy:

  1. Ara: Physical Energy When negative emotions arise, one simple, yet powerful ritual is to engage in some form of physical activity
  2. Okan: Emotional Energy Another ritual that purifies negative emotions is to express gratitude. It can take the form of a spoken prayer, praising someone for a job well done or merely saying “thank you.”
  3. Emi: Spiritual Energy This is perhaps the simplest, yet most powerful ritual you can perform when you’re experiencing negative emotions and the energy they create. Just take a long, deep breath. Inhale into your stomach – not your chest – and release the breath slowly, for eight to ten seconds.
  4. Ori: Mental Energy Finally, one of the most enduring rituals you can perform in the midst of negative emotions is to change the stories you tell yourself about who you are and what you represent.

The best way to think of my religious beliefs is to compare them to spoken languages. The two main languages I speak are English and Yoruba and a little bit of French. I speak other languages. If you label me as an English speaker you would be correct. If you labelled me Yoruba you would also be correct. In fact, if you even called me a Spanish speaker you would still be correct, despite the fact that I know about 20 words in Spanish, I technically speak the language.

Similarly with my religious beliefs, I am primarily a Muslim, I am also a Christian. To a lesser extent (in terms of practice and not veracity of belief) I am also a Sikh, Indigenous God worshipper and every other monotheistic religion.

Some people believe that religious beliefs are mutually exclusive, you can only be one religion. Since religion is such a personal and strongly held belief, I usually just present myself as whatever label will allow peace to reign. In Arabic/Islam this is called Taqiyya (تقیة ).

However, in my heart, I know my beliefs, God knows my beliefs and I have no desire to convince others of my belief.

Al-Kafirun 109:6: For You is Your Religion; For Me is My Religion.

Al-Baqarah 2:256: Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood.

The main goal for me writing and sharing these religious beliefs is for better unity and harmony amongst the people I interact with closely. Currently, this can be categorized as family and close friends. It also allows me to have my personal principles written down and documented to prevent others from trying to mislead and sow seeds of confusion.

I believe that the more people know about how your heart and mind works, the easier it is for them to relate with you, trust you and work with you.

I would have been happy to just keep these beliefs to myself, but it reached a point where it started to feel like I was hiding my religious beliefs and as I prepare for marriage I noticed it has reached a point where my religious beliefs will necessarily need to become more known. It may also allow others who hold similar beliefs to feel comfortable sharing their beliefs.

If I believe all religions are valid, why do I call myself Muslim? What does this mean for the religion in which I was raised, Christianity? I will expantiate in the next section.

Why I Accepted Islam

I accepted Islam because God spoke to me directly. It had been a nudge I have been feeling from God over the course of many years. I will provide the spiritual and worldly reasons next.

A few weeks after my 27th birthday, I felt lost and aimless in life. I felt like I was lacking a purpose. I talked to my father about this and he told me to make a plan. I made a 5-year plan for my life and wrote it down. This gave me a renewed sense of purpose and so I wondered if I could get even more energized by making a 25, 50, and 100-year plan for my life.

Beginning with the end in mind I decided to jump forward to the 100-year plan. I vividly remember getting up from my chair, walking towards the mirror near the entrance of my house, and asking God, “What should my 100-year plan be?”. He said 1 word: “great-grandchildren”. It is one of the few times in my life I have heard God speak so clearly to me.

Making a 5-year plan was relatively straightforward and it involved worldly things like making more money, getting married, buying a house, etc.

However, I knew that a 100-year plan required 2 things. 

  1. The grace of God
  2. Discipline

Thus I knew I had to do 2 things. 

For point 1, I knew I had to become closer to God and please God. For point 2 I knew I had to pick a religion with rules that would allow me to stay close to God and please God.

After talking to many people and praying I realized that the rules and discipline of Islam that I had been running away from for years, out of laziness and fear was exactly what I needed for God to help me achieve my 100-year plan. 

Of course, God is Al-Wakil (ٱلْوَكِيلُ), he is the best disposer of Affairs and the fruition of my 100-year plan is in his hands. Whatever his will is for my life, I accept it with gratitude.

Reflecting on my life, the decision to accept Islam started long before I started telling people about it. I have many instances of when I could feel God nudging me towards Islam that I will elucidate later.

However, I officially gave my Shahada on Thursday, November 23, 2023. 2:16 am EST. I know because I called my maternal grandmother on WhatsApp to profess my faith.

On that night, I felt a white light enter me while I was sleeping. I felt myself get physically realigned while in bed. Imagine if your spine was out of place and it got reshaped to the correct order.

Immediately, I called my grandmother at 2:16 am when I woke up and professed my Shahada. Then I gradually started telling close friends and family. To maintain peace and harmony and to ensure that I was doing it for myself with a sincerity of heart.

Reasons I like Islam

  1. The 5 pillars of Islam are simple and universally followed. Islam is one of the few religions where the definition of what it means to be are simple, fair, reasonable and there is wide agreement amongst Muslims.
  2. There is wide agreement on when to pray and how to pray. I like the fact that every Muslim in the world knows the first prayer of the day is Fajr. I like that there are very clear rules on how to do the prayer. I like that there is general agreement on how the prayer should be done. I originally disliked the rules because I felt it was limiting and I wanted to be “free”. However, I increasingly find that I get decision fatigue from too many decisions and freedom in modern society. I actually prefer when people just give me a set of rules to follow that I don’t have to think about. I like Islam because the rules are generally based on nature and personal observation and not on politics. This also means that there is more unity on how the rules are followed as opposed to different practices in different places which causes disagreement and people doing things at different times.

    The other day I was at the library and it was time for my Zuhr prayer. I asked if they had a prayer room and they said no but said I could pray in a public place near the study chairs. At first, I was nervous, would that be seen as performative? What if I see someone I know? Then I decided to just do it anyway. God knows my heart and knows I had tried to pray in private. I also thought it might be a light Dawah and someone who is also Muslim may see me praying and remember to do their prayer as well.

    While I was praying a man came beside me and started praying as well. I was so amazed.
  3. Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh (فقه)) is fair and well-documented. I will share one example:
    1. My paternal grandfather is a great man and may he rest in peace. However, I noticed that in his will, very few provisions were made for any of his 3 wives, daughters, and even sons who were not the firstborn. I believe this is because his will was based on the Idi-Igi system in Yoruba culture. My paternal grandfather was a Christian. In Islam, there is a vast literature on Islamic inheritance jurisprudence ensuring that wives and children get fairly compensated. At first, I was apprehensive of pointing out areas of improvement in the will of my grandfather but I found solace in 3 facts:
      1. None of us are the paragon of perfection except for the Almighty God.
      2. Most parents want their descendants to improve upon their knowledge and understanding. My grandfather, an aspiring lawyer himself would have been proud to see his grandson, studying his will and suggesting areas of improvement.
      3. The Quran has instructed us to follow God versus always blindly following our ancestors:

        When it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they reply, “No! We ˹only˺ follow what we found our forefathers practicing.” ˹Would they still do so,˺ even if their forefathers had ˹absolutely˺ no understanding or guidance? – Al-Baqarah 2:170
  4. Islamic Finance is fair and well documented.
    1. Many economic ills in our society are caused by Usury. Lending money with interest. The Quran cautions against this as Riba(الربٰوة). While I believe there is a time and place for lending with interest in a fair and non-exploitative way. The fact that the dangers of usury are already well documented and explicitly called out in Islam makes us hypervigilant and cautious of how we lend money with interest and makes society more open to Sharia-compliant alternatives.
  5. It accommodates for human nature. Polygamy is allowed. Divorce is allowed. Islam has this great balance where there are lots of rules but the rules still provide allowances for the needs of human nature like Polygamy and Divorce. As opposed to other religions that ban things that are so fundamental to human nature that people end up just breaking those rules anyway. Islam provides space for us to enjoy life and stay true to our nature while providing guidance for how to indulge our nature with moderation and temperance.
  6. I like the concept of Ramadan. I like that all Muslims worldwide celebrate Ramadan at the same time. Fast at the same time. Feeding the poor is explicitly mentioned as part of Ramadan. Ramadan time is based on simply looking at the sky and observing the first crescent of a moon. The 9th moon sighting of every 12 new moons (lunar Calendar). I like things that are based on first principles and natural observation that anyone can observe for themselves.
  7. The Quran has preserved its original Arabic format and has not been changed.
    1. Many people have memorized the entire Quran (Hafiz حافظ) so even if all the physical texts were to somehow cease to exist, the entire content of the Quran would still exist in people’s minds.
  8. It is a very social religion. While driving around Nigeria. I would notice people praying in public places. I believe that such things make it easier for Muslims to stick to their prayers.
  9. Islam is part of my heritage. The maternal side of my family is Muslim while the paternal side of my family is Christian. I love, respect and identify with both sides equally. Yet, interestingly, although I have been surrounded by the Chrstianity side growing up. And despite the Muslim side of my family never actively trying to proselytize to me, just observing how they conducted their religion was very apealing to me. I like how they practice Islam in a very tolerant and moderate yet principled way. They have also provided me with a lot of spiritual guidance. I also learned recently that my maternal grandfather comes from a line of Alfas/Islamic Clergy. In combination to my father also being a Christian clergy. I believe that both of these are God leading me towards a spiritual ancestral calling towards being a religious cleric.
  10. I want to practice a religion that would be easier for myself to follow and also easier for my children and successive generations to follow. I chose Islam because I believe it is the religion that will provide the greatest unity amongst my family. Ultimately God is the ultimate disposer and will decide what religions my children will follow. My children also have Fitra and free will to decide for themselves their religion once they reach an appropriate age. Islam also has many demographical benefits.
    1. Polygamy and pro-natalism of Islam means that Muslim populations will have more children. So eventually non-Muslims will marry Muslims simply based on that will be who is most available. Since Islam already permits interfaith marriage, it will be easier for my Muslim children who choose to marry non-Muslims. However, other religions may not have the same provisions for marrying Muslims and may face disagreement and conflict.
    2. More disciplined religions tend to crowd out more relaxed religions. None of this requires the use of force or coercion It will simply just happen naturally, peacefully and consensually. Example from The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

      A Kosher (or halal) eater will never eat nonkosher (or nonhalal) food, but a nonkosher eater isn’t banned from eating kosher.

      In the United Kingdom, where the (practicing) Muslim population is only three to four percent, a very high number of the meat we find is halal. Close to seventy percent of lamb imports from New Zealand are halal. Close to ten percent of the chain Subway carry halal-only stores (meaning no pork), in spite of the high costs from the loss of business of nonpork stores. The same holds in South Africa where, with the same proportion of Muslims, a disproportionately higher number of chickens is Halal certified.
    3. The rules, unity and social nature of Islam means it will be easier to keep a family aligned on Islamic principles

I am Still a Christian

Some may be wondering what this means for my Christian faith. My father once asked me, “What about the Christian beliefs I was raised with and brought me so many blessings thus far?” 

I still identify as a Christian. I still read the bible, quote it and reference it frequently, I attend Church, say the Lord’s prayer. I still regard Jesus Christ (PBUH) as one of the Great messengers from God whom I try to emulate and I respect greatly. I will not stop doing any of these things.

In fact, one of my favorite revelations about Islam is on Monday, November 20, 2023 when I was at an event in Brampton welcoming Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa after the event I had an interesting conversation. A Hajia, named Jumoke and I were talking about religion and she was subtly inviting me to Islam (Dawah). She asked me if I was a Muslim and at the time I said that I was a Christian and I wanted to also be a Muslim but I didn’t want to discard my Christainity. I wanted to practice both. She told me that if I am Muslim I am automatically also a Christian. Immediately she said that it gave me so much clarity. Thank you Jumoke. You are definitely an angel sent from God.

I have read the Quran and Hajiia Jumoke’s words are true:

  1. Al-Baqarah 2:136: Say, ˹O believers,˺ “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us; and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and his descendants; and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and other prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them. And to Allah we all submit.”
  1. Al-Ahzab 33:7: And ˹remember˺ when We took a covenant from the prophets, as well as from you ˹O Prophet˺, and from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, son of Mary. We did take a solemn covenant from ˹all of˺ them.
  1. Ash-Shuraa 42:13: The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).

This should be sufficient evidence but some may still not be convinced but I will not argue further.

Al-‘Ankabut 29: 46: And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are in submission to God.”

I would tell my father that I still very much cherish, follow, and practice the Christianity in which I was brought up.

Train up a child in the way of the Lord: And when they are old, they will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

Lakum dīnukum waliya dīn (For You is Your Religion; For Me is My Religion.)

Al-Kafirun 109:6: For You is Your Religion; For Me is My Religion.

Al-Baqarah 2:256: Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood.

My religion with God is my personal relationship with God. I will not try to force anyone to believe what I believe. Nor will I allow anyone to force me to believe what they believe. I encourage everyone to do what is best for them and may God help us all.

Editor’s Note – March 5, 2024

This was originally shared privately with friends and Family starting on January 4, 2024. However, I’ve decided to share it publicly on my blog. Why am I sharing it Publicly?

  1. I like expressing my thoughts to the public and sharing my knowlege and learnings with others. Some people are not good at verbalizing their thoughts. God has given me the gift of being able to express my thoughts and feelings to help others do the same.
  2. Document and timestamp my beliefs for posterity. In case people try to discredit me in the future. The proof is documented.
  3. I believe that many others experience similar feelings to me, so I want to give them a voice. Since this is not a topic many people are willing to talk about publicly. Usually because of fear. However, I don’t fear man. In fact, I fear no one but God. I must give some credit to Penelope Trunk amongst others. Her blog is so shockingly honest that it gave me the confidence to be honest as well. Thank you Penelope.

    For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.
    2 Timothy 1:7
  4. What if I change my mind? One challenge with sharing beliefs is that people feel like you are locked into those beliefs. Not me. I follow my heart and my head. Today my heart and head tells me to do X and tomorrow it may tell me to do Y. I used to fear judgment because of changing my mind but if you pursue truth, changing your mind is inevitable. In fact, it’s a necessity of pursuing truth. Like Keynes, said, “When the facts change I change my mind, what do you do?” If anyone is blindly following me and I change my mind and they get disappointed, That is your problem. Don’t follow me. Follow God.