Muslim World

Reversion: Why Nobody Converts To Islam

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Currently boasting 1.8 billion adherents, it is expected to surpass Christianity as the world's leading religion by the end of this century. Some estimates have it claiming that title within the next decade, which would not be surprising. Much of Islam's rapid growth is due to the value the religion puts on family. Muslim couples are encouraged to have a comparatively large number of children. As such, Muslims have the highest fertility rate in the world, with an average of 3 children per family. Meanwhile, Christian couples are having less and less children. Aiding Islam's rapid ascent to the top of world theology is the high number of converts it welcomes every year. Despite not being a missionary religion in the vein of many Christian denominations, Islam converts hundreds of thousands of people every year. Except it doesn't. While many people abandon previously held religious beliefs and embrace Islam each year, Islam does not necessarily recognize them as converts. Instead, new Muslims are considered to be "reverts". Read on to find out why!  

b2ap3_large_Why-Nobody-Converts-To-Islam Reversion: Why Nobody Converts To Islam - Blog

Use Of The Word "Conversion"

In many previous articles published on this site, we have referred to new Muslims as "converts". We will likely continue to do so in future articles. We are not alone in this practice. Most sources, Muslim or otherwise, use the word "conversion" rather than "reversion", "convert" rather than "revert", and so on. This is not the result of an error, but rather a matter of simplicity. You see, the description of new Muslims as "converts" is so widespread that it would likely confuse readers to describe instead them as "reverts", even if doing so would be more correct.

Why Is "Reversion" Correct?

No matter what the statistics say, nobody converts to Islam. This has nothing to do with people not accepting the message of Muhammad. It also has nothing to do with Islam's ban on the consumption of alcohol, its condemning of sex outside of marriage, or any of the additional "high demands" required by the religion which may turn people off it. Instead, it is the result of Islam's teaching that everybody is born Muslim. Islam believes that no matter where a person is born in the world, they are born with the innate knowledge that there is only one God - Allah - and that Muhammad was His messenger. This is comparable to a baby's natural instinct to swim or grip. Unless this natural Islamic belief is nourished, however, it is lost. Over time, it is replaced by the religious beliefs of the family in which one is raised. It may even be replaced by the atheistic beliefs many people subscribe to later in life. When a person who was not raised in a Muslim household discovers the Quran and is inspired to perform their Shahada and become a Muslim, it is said that they reverted to the set of Islamic ideals they were born with. As such, they are welcomed into the religion in a manner befitting the Prodigal Son recalled in the Old Testament. The concept that one is born Muslim is referred to as "fitra". Fitra also states that we are born in a state of total innocence, uncorrupted by the world. This is a drastic and, for many, an alluring deviation from the Christian concept of original sin.

Is There Scriptural Basis For Reversion?

There are some even within Islam who reject the idea that a person reverts to the religion rather than converts to it. Oftentimes, they point to the apparent lack of anything in Islamic scripture suggesting we are born Muslim to support their preference for conversion. While it is true that the Quran does not contain a whole lot of specific references to this concept, many respected Islamic scholars have identified several passages which seem to allude to it. In Surah Ar-Rum, for example, we find the following passage, which directly references fitra:

"So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitra of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah . That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know."

-Quran, 30:30

​In Surah Al-A'raaf, meanwhile, we find the following verse. It recounts the moment Allah brought all of the descendants of Adam into existence at once, commanding them to testify to His divine authority before returning them to the loins from which they came. It reads:

"So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitra of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know."

-Quran, 7:172

There are also a number of Hadith in which Muhammad seems to promote the concept of fitra. The most notable example of this can be found in Sahih Muslim, which relates the following:

"The Prophet reported that Allah said, 'I created my servants in the right religion, but devils made them go astray'. The Prophet also said, 'Each Child is born in a state of fitra, then his parents make hima Jew, Christian, or a Zoroastrian, the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring. Have you noticed any that were born mutilated?'"

-Sahih Muslim

In the above Hadith, the prophet Muhammad clearly states that Allah creates all human beings with the inherent knowledge needed to worship Him. In fact, being a Muslim is so natural that Muhammad compares it to the birth of an animal. He goes on to compare veering from the path of Islam to mutilating an animal, as the former act would malign the inherent set of beliefs with which we are all born to such an extent that they are unrecognizable.

What About the Early Muslims?

Many people struggle to wrap their heads around the idea of fitra. This is understandable. After all, it goes against society's portrayal of religion and our relationship with it. One of the most common questions asked by those struggling with the idea of inherent Islamic belief relates to the earliest Muslims. How, they ask, could the very first Muslims have reverted to a religion that didn't even exist when they were born? It is a fair question and one that can be easily answered. In responding, we must first look at the core belief of Islam. Now, we know that Islam is generally presented as having five core beliefs- the Five Pillars of Islam - and, today, it certainly does. However, these pillars evolved over the course of Muhammad's lifetime and weren't truly defined until long after his death. The only Islamic belief that was in place from the moment Muhammad received his first revelation and remained unaltered as Allah revealed more and more of the Quran was strict monotheism. According to the Quran and Hadith passages examined in the previous section, all human beings - even those born in the early days of Muhammad's ministry - are born with the knowledge that there is only one God. Therefore, those who followed Muhammad in his lifetime were indeed reverting to Islamic ideals, even though the religion had not yet been firmly established.

Conclusion 

​ There has been significant debate as to whether a person converts or reverts when they embrace Islam and the message of the Quran. However, the Hadith and Quranic passages examined in this article would suggest it is the latter that is the case. As we know the word of Allah is unchanging and does not contradict itself, it's safe to say that those extracts cannot be argued against using Islamic sources. But although "reversion" is technically correct, we should not waste time arguing with those who use the phrase "conversion" instead, be it due to their differing opinion or their unfamiliarity with the concept of fitra. Ultimately, both words denote the same thing: an embrace of Islam. This is cause for celebration and should not be marred by a matter as trivial as terminology. Whether you consider yourself a revert or a convert, if you have recently joined the Islamic faith, we applaud your decision and welcome you with open arms!

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