Oct - Dec 2008, Other

What Love Means to Me

By John Cordero

I felt the gentle breeze blowing as I cautiously made my way to the unassuming white structure guarded by a wooden fence, which had been erected around it. Walking past it, the last vestiges of doubt were removed and all that remained was an entrance that welcomed any race, color, or creed. Officially, I had spent the past year seeking knowledge about what might be contained inside these walls. The more I read and studied, the more answers were given by the dried ink on white pages; yet the last piece was heavily guarded by the custodians of the unseen, making my aim for this particular day the acquisition of a key which would then unlock the final chamber.

Under a bright, sunny sky and no longer feeling apprehensive, I approached this last and ultimate door separating the open and clear world from the unknown. The quest had brought me here at last! It had delivered me to a place, that I must have passed hundreds of times and never fully took note of, a place that on the outside looked no different from the dwellings next to it, yet upon first sight had taken the aura and significance usually accorded to sacred sites. Throughout the recorded centuries of human history, man had always embarked on a journey for the source of cause and effect, of intellect and reason, and of the natural wonders of the world, which had been precisely set and put in perpetual motion. I considered myself only the latest meek, humble pilgrim in an infinite line of supplicants that shared the same burning desire to know the answer to the question that has driven some insane and others to levels of unimaginable bliss: “what is the meaning of life?”

Seeking the answer, I entered with no hesitation and immediately felt the strong attraction of one who has seen his beloved after a long absence. Overwhelming feelings of peace and tranquility descended upon me like the water falling from the sky to replenish the earth and cleanse it of its accumulated dirt. Now in the first stage of inner purification, I began to take stock of my surroundings: bare walls save for a clock and finely woven rugs bearing calligraphy, and under my bare feet the sensation of a comfortable green carpet. In short, just as I had imagined it in my mental travels. I was home, and the point of no return had long since passed.

Suddenly, a man appeared with an extended hand and a smile. A firm handshake later, he bade me to sit on the floor and asked my name, origin, and purpose. On this last inquiry we spent a good two hours discussing the various methods devised by man through the ages to arrive at a satisfactory answer, yet somehow each one had some flaw or defect that deprived of supreme wisdom. The fact that there was a mutual agreement between two persons who didn’t even know the other existed a day before was a reminder that the path I was on seemed for all intents and purposes true and correct.

A point should be made about the external appearance of my host. Dressed in traditional Eastern attire complete with turban and a long, flowing beard, he most likely would be judged and classified as the anti-thesis of a learned, cultured person by those who are blinded with notions of prejudice and superiority. However, by conversing with him one was able to notice that not only did he have a wide range of knowledge regarding different philosophies and ideologies, but a calm and patient demeanor that was at the same time inviting and intuitive. Naturally, my feelings of comfort and belonging increased with each passing minute.

An example seems appropriate so I can illustrate my point. At one point during our conversation, a tray bearing rice was brought to us. Immediately thankful for the unexpected nourishment, I watched with amusement as my host used his right hand to scoop the rice and eat. Far from feeling disgusted or wary, I reasoned that before utensils came into existence, this was how people ate. So as I sat there feeding myself with a fork, I thought that this was an inequality that must be remedied. Up until now we had been in unanimous agreement regarding our topic of discussion, so why should we not strengthen the bond and eat in the same manner? Either he must eat with a fork or I must eat with my right hand. In this way we could achieve brotherhood and stay on the common ground.

After eating, our conversation continued as other guests began to arrive. Gathered around in a circle, they were amazed to discover that the points I made were in total agreement with their understanding and practice of the spiritual path. At this point the question was asked: was I ready to submit to the one who had revealed the correct guidance and follow the human example of the one who brought it to the world? For a split second it seemed as if the world had stopped. Now was the point of final acceptance or rejection. Would there be another opportunity? Who knows, especially when death can strike at any time, any place. Clearly, there was nothing left to do but make public what was already in my heart.

With radiant smiles and calm dispositions, the assembled waited as I was instructed by my original host in the proper pronunciation and meaning of the words that reach across all cultural, national, physical and mental barriers to unite a fifth of humanity. Acceptance of this banner meant loving what they meant and this love was implanted through the practice of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil by the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds and everything they contained. This is how I came to love and cherish the reality of “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” and thus became a Muslim, one who submits to the will of Allah and loves what Allah has revealed to Muhammad.