The question our teacher posed to us on the first day of high school still haunts my mind. It was a question we were sure we couldn’t answer, but he asked it with hope of receiving an answer: “Why are you Muslims?” Though only two words in theory, this question was inherently challenging for us. Each of us looked at the other, seeking the answer in each other’s faces, only to find a whole class full of silence. His confidence in himself or in the question was justified; we didn’t know the answer. But we were Muslims, and we said, “Alhamdulillah.” Then our teacher answered his own question. The answer was very simple: “Because you were all born into Muslim families.” We were Muslims for that reason, and it was true.
While we may be born into the Islamic circle, this is not generally applicable to the rest of the world. Yes, sometimes geography is fate for people. But choosing the path is in our hands. That’s why the number of our brothers and sisters who convert to Islam later in life is not negligible. Perhaps their stories will serve as inspiration and reasons for gratitude for us, so let us witness a conversion story.
A Guided Mathematician
Garry Miller, a Canadian mathematician, spent fifteen years as a missionary teaching Christianity to people. While still a student in divinity school, he often wrote questions to scholars of different Christian denominations and sought answers. He asked them questions about the interpretations of some verses in the Bible that did not make sense to him and presented challenging arguments.
In the 1970s, he first encountered the Quran and directed his interest towards it this time. Just as he had sieved through the Bible, he wanted to subject the Quran to a test. As he read and examined the Quran, he realized that it actually aligned with the principles he believed in and found it to be a correct and reasonable book. As you might guess, Miller became a Muslim by finding answers to his own questions while actually looking for evidence that the Quran was wrong.
The verse that impressed and surprised him the most when he first read it was: “Do they not reflect upon themselves? If it had been from someone other than Allah, they would have found much inconsistency in it.” (Quran, 4:82)
After hosting his television and radio programs in Canada, Miller turns his attention to mathematics. With a series of entrance exams, it is determined that Miller’s personal mathematics studies are equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, and even more, and he receives special acceptance for a master’s degree in mathematics from Queen’s University in Canada.
He completes his master’s degree within a year. To finance his doctoral studies at the University of New Brunswick, from which he received his doctorate in 1994, he also earns a scholarship from Canada. Miller also holds a Higher Education diploma from the University of New Brunswick.
After teaching mathematics in Canada and the United States (where he was the entire mathematics department at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon), he moves to Saudi Arabia and teaches mathematics at King Fahd University and the Women’s College in Dammam. Currently, he is teaching mathematics at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi.
As we conclude this story in its trajectory, we would like to end it with a verse from our greatest navigation guide, peace be upon you.