The following is the account of a soul that searched high and low for nothing else, but the truth that is al-Islam. Written by a recent revert to Islam, Br. Roberto Infante, this piece is one that inspires, promotes thoughtfulness, and stimulates the hearts and minds of those who reflect. And so we begin a uniquely thought provoking..Journey to Islam…
“After experience taught me that all things which occur frequently in ordinary life are vain and futile; when I saw that all the things on which account I was afraid, and which I feared, had nothing good or bad insofar as the mind was moved by them, I resolved at last to inquire if there was some good which was genuine and capable of communicating itself, and by which the mind would be affected even if all the others were rejected; in sum, if there is something such that, when it has been discovered and acquired, I might enjoy for eternity continuous and supreme happiness.”
I believe these words from a treatise by Benedict Spinoza serve as an appropriate introduction to what I am about to relate in regards to my journey to Islam. When I first read them many years ago, they were as invigorating as a rallying call, one which nevertheless betrayed a certain urgency and desperation in its very echo. It doesn’t take much guesswork to figure out the state of someone who finds the heart stirred by these words, what do they convey other than longing and a desire for fulfillment?
Ah, I remember when I was first introduced to the secrets and methods of philosophy while still a high school student in my native Colombia. I suppose the whole thing seemed like a sport in the beginning, a beguiling game of cat and mouse played within the labyrinth of the mind. Back then I was – shall we say – secure in the world view that had been established for me. After all, when it comes right down to it we are all born and raised to understand the world in a certain way. We are shaped, just like the family unit is shaped within the larger mould of society, and society that is shaped by culture. I was born and raised within a liberal Roman Catholic perspective; mind you that ‘liberal’ is not a qualifier in terms of what my faith was like. I was for a time very devoted within that world perspective and never suspected that I would one day doubt and forsake its very foundations and security, only to regain it after a long search and within the much more fulfilling framework offered by Islam. How was I to suspect that something like that could ever happen? All due to something which at first seemed nothing more than simple logic riddles, with which I could frustrate and tease others less patient than me.
Alright, let’s add another dimension to that whole “we are all shaped by our surroundings” story. Not only are we defined by the context around us, but each one of us in turn possesses certain innate characteristics that are specific to who we are and are also thus independent of the environment (though not however, unaffected by it). We can change the way we’ve been conditioned to think and see the world, but this inner essence never changes. To illustrate the point: philosophy was little more than a game while I remained in the environment I had been born in. It had done little to radically alter the status quo, but that all changed once I moved to Canada with my family and made that transition between high school and university. Like a lot of people out there I was facing the “I’ve no clue what I want to study” dilemma. Up until this point I was content in riding the bandwagon of childhood and adolescence, without worrying too much about the moment I would have to set out along my own path. When I did reach it though, the implications seemed clear: whatever decision I took, it was one with which I would have to deal with for a very, very long time, as changing majors wasn’t an option for me, due to several weighty circumstances. In all honesty the prospect wasn’t an exciting one. My moderate competence in physics had convinced everyone that engineering was the way to go, and my actual career inclinations (archaeology) hadn’t elicited a very favourable response from the jury. Due to the circumstances and the toll which the move to Canada had taken on my family, I felt that the least I could do was choose what they considered to be a ‘decent career’. That way a lot of sacrifices would seem to have been justified at least and this was more important than whatever my immediate inclinations were.
But that is when a certain trait kicked in, that had until then been lying dormant and harmless. I’d always had a certain melancholy disposition, but it had been reined in by the willful acceptance of my condition and experience. As soon as it saw itself constrained and controlled by events and circumstances outside of its own power, when it felt that the possibility of self-determination had been seemingly negated by outer necessity, it broke loose and began to gnaw at the very pillars of that framework I had always taken for granted, perhaps out of a lack of anything else to gnaw on. I began to feel disenchanted with everything, what was the point? Little by little, life seemed to become more and more systematic, more mechanical, more untrue to the spirit. I started to feverishly question what it meant to ‘truly exist and live’ in a world-system which in itself seemed to nurture nothing outside of the impersonal and abstract cause and consequence. Ah, at this point you might say “What about the professed Catholic beliefs? Surely, a faith is able to fill a void which the world can’t.” And therein was the crux of the matter, because I found that it didn’t. I found, slowly but surely, that the Catholic path wasn’t quelling my ever increasing need for answers. You see, outside of the rituals and the sacraments there really seemed to be nothing holding the pieces together, or rather I simply failed to see it. How was I to relate and find my place amidst a view that to me seemed so disjointed? Looking back, I can say that I felt it had all the basics, the essence if you will, but it was the form that was missing. That’s in hindsight however, back then all I knew was that I needed answers from somewhere else.