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The Guidance of an American Mathematics Professor: Jeffrey Lang

Every person is born with the inclination towards Islam. We often hear stories of individuals, influenced by family, environment, or negligence, embracing Islam or returning to it after exploring other religions. One such story is that of Professor Dr. Jeffrey Lang, a mathematics professor in the United States.

The Journey of Faith That Started with a Quran Gift

In an interview in 2010, Prof. Dr. Lang spoke about a Muslim student without directly sharing his experiences. He noticed the student’s dedication and honesty, which led the student to introduce Lang to his family. As a gesture of goodwill, the family gifted him a Quran. Lang, unsure of why they gave it to him, began reading the Quran with curiosity and, in a way, to challenge it. This marked the beginning of his encounter with Islam.

Even Angels Ask

Jeffrey Lang’s conversion to Islam occurred in the early 80s. Feeling the need to compile his observations, thoughts on choosing Islam, the challenges of being a Muslim in America, and the obstacles hindering the spread of Islam in the West, along with the ways to convey these to future generations, Lang published his enriched ideas in the book “Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America.

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Is Praying That Difficult?

One of the most remarkable parts of the book is Jeffrey Lang’s first prayer experience. On the day he converted, the mosque’s imam gave him a book about how to pray. Despite the advice of Muslim students to take it slow, Lang decided to perform all five daily prayers immediately, wondering, “Is prayer this difficult?” Recalling the moment of his first prayer, Lang expressed:

“That night, I withdrew to my dimly lit, cramped room, and following the book, I performed the ablution and prayer movements. I spent hours memorizing the Arabic pronunciation and English meanings of certain verses to be recited during the prayer. When I gained confidence for my first attempt at the nightly prayer, I went to the bathroom, book in hand, performing the movements with the precision of a chef trying out a recipe for the first time. After ablution, standing in the middle of the room, I ensured that the doors and windows were locked and closed. Then, facing what I believed to be the direction of Mecca, I took a deep breath, raised my hands, and whispered, ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Hoping no one would hear or see me, I slowly recited the Fatiha and a short chapter in Arabic. I presume that had any Arab heard me, they would not have understood what I was saying.”

I Will Complete This Prayer Regardless of the Outcome

Hesitating before going into the bowing position, Lang, who had never bowed in such a way before, felt a profound nervousness. He paused for a long time before going into prostration, considering it embarrassing and fearing it would make him appear ridiculous. After some hesitation, he took a deep breath, bowed his head to the prayer rug, and, without entertaining distracting thoughts, proceeded to the second prostration. At that moment, he thought to himself, “There are three more cycles ahead of me,” and he was determined: “Regardless of the outcome, I will complete this prayer.”

I thought of my pitiable and ridiculed state in front of my friends and acquaintances who saw me in this situation, and I could hear the laughter of my friends. I imagined that they would say something like ‘Arabs in San Francisco were hit by this’, and I felt that I was in a miserable state. After hesitating for a while, I took a deep breath, put my head on the prayer rug, threw all the thoughts out of my mind, and made the second prostration without any distracting thoughts. At this time I thought to myself, “I still have three more rounds ahead of me,” and I was determined: I will complete this prayer no matter what it costs me.

An Unprecedented Feeling

After completing the prayer, Lang felt embarrassed and prayed, “Oh Allah, forgive me for my foolishness and arrogance. I have come from a distant place, and there is a long way to go.” Describing his feelings after the prayer, Lang said:

“At that moment, I felt something I had never experienced before. Words cannot express it. A wave, originating from a point in my heart that I felt, enveloped my body. It was cold, and at first, I recoiled. It affected my emotions in a strange way, more than my body. I felt the presence of a visible mercy. This mercy penetrated me, starting to boil within me. Then, without knowing why, I began to cry. As my crying increased and tears flowed, I felt the embrace of a wonderful power from mercy and grace. Although I was a sinner, I wasn’t crying because of my sins or out of shame or joy. It was as if a great dam had opened, and the fear and sorrow within me had become a flood.

While writing these lines, I said to myself, ‘The mercy and forgiveness of Allah are not just about forgiving sins; it is also a healing and tranquility.’ For a long time, I remained kneeling, my head bowed. When my crying stopped, I realized that it was impossible to explain the experience with reason. At that moment, the most important thing I understood was that I desperately needed Allah and prayer. Before getting up, I made this prayer: ‘Oh Allah, if I ever dare to return to disbelief, kill me before I enter disbelief, and save me from this life. I know that living without sin is very difficult, but I know this with certainty: living without You, even for a single day, is impossible.’

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