by Will Cheung
I grew up in a typical Chinese family where religion was not a major aspect of my life. Like many immigrant parents, my parents encouraged me to go into medicine or engineering. My years in middle and high school were filled with science classes where basics like DNA and mitosis were taught. There was no mention of Allah in this secular and scientific environment. My young mind didn’t question these facts. I simply learned and memorized.
The first time my beliefs about faith were questioned was as a post-bacc student at a diverse city university. I was taking a physics class to fulfill pre-med requirements when I became friends with a Muslim classmate. She questioned me about my faith and I said that I didn’t have any. I was a man of science and I fully subscribed to everything that it offered. I remember going home that day and thinking how can Allah exist. Coming from this scientific background, I needed proof in order to believe. But deep down I felt there must be a higher being. I can remember calling out to God as a kid if things weren’t going well in my life. But I maintained my position with my new Muslim friend. I would need something spectacular for my mind to be changed.
Being naturally inquisitive, I began researching Islam. My opinion about the religion had to be informed so that my arguments against it could be valid. However, the more I read about Islam, the more I admired it. My interest also grew. It represented many of the things that I personally believed in; things like peace, family and respect for all. I remember watching a video of Muslims praying in Mecca during this time and hearing the Adhan. The call to prayer transfixed me. I didn’t know what the words meant at that time but I was drawn to it. Yet I still could not believe in Allah.
The evidence for Allah came this past summer when I traveled to Peru with some classmates. This was my first time outside of America and I was going to stay for a month with strangers in a strange land. One of the travels involved a trip to Lake Titicaca where we stayed overnight on one of the islands. The island was sparse, rocky and very minimalist. There was a small village but there seemed to be more cows and chickens than people. That night, there was a festival being held in the town square and we were invited. When we stepped out of our room, we realized that the island didn’t have any road lights. We would have to make a 25-minute trek in total darkness! But it was in this moment that Allah chose to make his presence known to me. As I looked out into the horizon, I could see traces of Allah; the pitch-black night with the full and glowing moon hanging mysteriously in the sky, the beams of moonlight bouncing off the gentle waves of the lake and penetrating the wispy, white clouds, the whistle of the wind as it passed by and the chill of the nighttime air. I thought to myself, “How could science create this?” This is too perfect and amazing to be a random act of molecules bumping into each other. A higher being must’ve created this flawless view. In that moment I thought about the enormity of the world and I felt like an ant.
When I came home to the States a few weeks later, I couldn’t shake the feelings that I had on the island. I began to think more about the world and what my place in it was. My life was insignificant compared to the vastness of this universe. I must’ve been put here for a reason. This was the beginning of my religious journey. I started researching Islam again and I finally had the proof I needed.