Jeffrey Lang, Professor of Mathematics and Writer, USA

“Dad, do you believe in heaven?”

When young Jeffery asked his father about the existence of heaven as they walked their dog along the beach, it was apparent that this child possessed a highly inquisitive mind. There perhaps was also a sign that he would subject things to a logical scrutiny and validate them from a rational perspective. Little surprise was it, then, that one day he would end up being a professor of mathematics, a matter where there is no place for anything but logic.

Dr. Jeffrey Lang is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kansas, one of the biggest universities in the United States.  He started his religious journey on Jan 30, 1954, when he was born in a Roman Catholic family in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The first 18 years of his life were spent in Catholic schools, which left him with many unanswered questions about God and the Christian religion, Lang said, as he narrated his story of Islam.  “Like most kids back in the late 60s and early 70s, I started questioning all the values that we had at those times, political, social and religious.

By the time he reached the age of 18, Lang had become a full-fledged atheist.  “If there is a God, and He is all merciful and all loving, then why is there suffering on this earth? Why does not He just take us to heaven? Why create all these people to suffer?” Such were the questions that came up in his mind in those days.

The Beginning

Dr. Lang met Mahmoud Qandeel, a regal looking Saudi student who attracted the attention of the entire class the moment he walked in.  When Lang asked a question about medical research, Qandeel answered the question in perfect English and with great self assurance.  Everyone knew Qandeel – the mayor, the police chief and the common people.  Together the professor and the student went to all the glittering places where “there was no joy or happiness, only laughter.” Yet at the end, Qandeel surprisingly gave him a copy of the Quran and some books on Islam.  Lang read the Quran on his own, found his way to the student-run prayer hall at the university, and basically surrendered without much struggle.  He was conquered by the Quran.  The first two chapters are an account of that encounter and it is a fascinating one.

My beginning with the Quran

“Painters can make the eyes of a portrait appear to be following you from one place to another, but which author can write a scripture that anticipates your daily vicissitudes?...  Each night I would formulate questions and objections and somehow discover the answer the next day.  It seemed that the author was reading my ideas and writing in the appropriate lines in time for my next reading.  I have met myself in its pages...”

Convert to Islam

Lang performs the daily five-time prayers regularly and finds much spiritual satisfaction.  He finds the Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer as one of the most beautiful and moving rituals in Islam.

To the question how he finds it so captivating when the recitation of the Quran is in Arabic, which is totally foreign to him, he responds; “Why is a baby comforted by his mother’s voice?”  He said reading the Quran gave him a great deal of comfort and strength in difficult times.  From there on, faith was a matter of practice for Lang’s spiritual growth.

On the other hand, Lang pursued a career in mathematics.  He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue University.  Lang said that he had always been fascinated by mathematics. "Math is logical". Having a mind that accepts ideas on their factual merit makes believing in a religion difficult because most religions require acceptance by faith, he said.  Islam appeals to man’s reasoning, he said.

Like all Muslim reverts, Dr. Lang felt that he was favored by God’s mercy and that it was God Himself who directed him to Islam. Dr. Lang is author of two books which make interesting readings and are useful for both Muslim converts and born Muslims to read.

Lang now

He is married a Saudi Muslim woman called Rakia 12 years ago with three daughters. It is not surprising that his children shared some of his inquisitive mind. The boy who threw questions at his father, was now a father himself who was to face questions from his children. One day he was confronted by his eight-year-old daughter Jameelah after he finished the noon prayer with her

“Daddy, why do we pray?”

Her question caught me off guard. I didn’t expect it from an eight year old. I knew of course the most obvious answer—that as Muslims we are obligated to—but I did not want to waste the opportunity to share with her the experience and benefits of Pray. Nevertheless, as I tried to put together a reply in my mind, I bought a little time by beginning with, ‘We pray because God wants us to!’

‘But why, daddy, what does praying do?’ she asked.

‘It is hard to explain to a young person, honey. Someday, if you do the five prayers every day, I’m sure you’ll understand, but I’ll do my best to answer your question.’

‘You see, sweetheart. God is the source of all the love, mercy, kindness, and wisdom that we experience and feel. Like the sun is the source of the light we see in the daytime, God is the source of all of these and much more. Thus, the love I feel for you, your sisters, and mommy is given to me by God. We know that God is kind and merciful by all the things He has given us in this life. But when we pray, we can feel God’s love, kindness, and mercy in a very special way, in the most powerful way.

For example, you know that mommy and I love you by the way we take care of you. But when we hug you and kiss you, you can really feel how much we love you. In a similar way, we know that God loves and is kind to us by the way He takes care of us. But when we pray, we can feel His love in a very real and special way.’

‘Does praying make you a better daddy?’ She asked me.

‘I hope so and I would like to think so, because once you are touched by God’s love and kindness in the prayer, it is so beautiful and powerful, that you need to share it with those around you, especially your family. Sometimes, after a hard day at work, I feel so exhausted that I just want to be alone. But if I feel God’s kindness and mercy in the prayer, I look at my family and remember what a great gift you are to me, and all the love and happiness I get from being your daddy and mommy’s husband. I’m not say­ing that I am the perfect father, but I believe I would not be as good a father without the prayers. Am I making any sense at all?’

‘I kind of understand what you mean,’ Jameelah answered.

Then she hugged me and said, ‘And I love you, Daddy!’

‘I love you too, sweetie pie. I love you too.’

 

By Ahmed Yousef

References:

http://www.islamreligion.com/

 

http://islam.thetruecall.com/

 



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