Joyce Both was raised in a Catholic home in Illinois until she was 17, when she converted to Mormonism, but she still had questions about God. She remained a Mormon for the rest of her adult life, raising her children under that religion, until two months ago when she converted to Islam.
Wearing long sleeves and a hijab, Both told her testimony to a room full of self-proclaimed Christians at the Middle East Understanding Club’s first member meeting on Feb. 12. A self-declared “logical person,” Both said everyone believes in God when they are infants. According to her, that is natural.
Islam brought her back to having what she called “one God.”
Since Both was a child, she questioned the Trinity. Both said she knew all about the Trinity — she had been told many times. Still, it did not make sense. How could God be three in one? Converting to Mormonism narrowed God down to two persons since Mormons believe in the Father and Son, but claim that the Holy Spirit can be given. Both believed everyone is born with the Spirit. When she switched to Islam, Both said she returned to the state in which she was born, believing in “one God.”
Both encouraged the students to ask questions about God, for how can anyone know about him if they do not do so?
Furthermore, while the Muslim guests said that Western thought viewed hijab’s as restricting, Both said it makes her feel beautiful. Both was accompanied by four Muslim men, all from mosques in the Chicagoland area. Hoping to clear up misconceptions about Islam and convey the religion’s true message, one of the men addressed this incorrect belief about the hijab.
He said the hijab is meant to liberate women rather than restrict them, for they do not have to try to dress up their physical appearances to be beautiful. With a hijab, women can be viewed as individuals rather than be judged based on their looks.
In order to fulfill the purpose of the event, clearing up misconceptions about Islam, the Muslims explained the five pillars of Islam and then addressed anonymous questions the audience had written on note cards and given to club president senior Josiah Cohen. Firstly, Islam is based on faith — belief in one God. Secondly the religion is based on prayer. Muslims are to pray five types of prayer throughout the day. The third pillar of Islam is fasting in the season of Ramadan. Next, all Muslims who are able are supposed to take a pilgrimage to the center of the earth: Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Finally, the fifth pillar of Islam is charity. Muslims give 2.5 percent of their earnings to the poor in order to alleviate world poverty.
According to the Muslims speaking at the meeting, if anyone believes those five things, he or she is a Muslim, regardless of the sect. There is only one Islam. If the person diverges from Islam yet still claims to be Muslim, he or she is not actually Muslim, the men said. They also noted that the Nation of Islam is not real Islam because it added Elijah Muhammed as the final prophet, whereas Islam believes Muhammed to be the last and final prophet after Jesus.
The topic of violence and the real meaning of jihad, which in English literally translates “struggle,” were also addressed, with the men emphasizing that Islam is a peaceful religion. They quoted verses about peace from the Qu’ran and said that “jihad” has become a buzzword.
They noted that the Qu’ran has been attacked ever since it was revealed but that terrorism by Muslims was not commonly in the media until 2001. They added that the Twin Towers were never proved to have been destroyed by Muslims, and they said that acts of violence by Muslims do not represent the religion of Islam itself. The men maintained that Muslims are commanded to be peaceable people.
According to the Muslim guests at the Middle East Understanding Club’s meeting, the “meaning of Islam” is to surrender oneself to God, submit to him, obey the Ten Commandments and do all this sincerely. Peace results from doing these things, according to the speakers.
The Middle East Understanding Club has been developing relationships with people at the local mosque, including their contacts who visited for the event and came from the surrounding area. The club visited the mosque previously and is planning a second trip. The guest speakers welcomed students at the event to plan a visit there to learn more about Islam.