Nouman Ali Khan – Muslim who turned to be an atheist and then back to Islam

Nouman Ali Khan
AI: Summary © The hosts of a deen show discuss the struggles of Muslims against their beliefs and the importance of faith in achieving peace. They also talk about the impact of faith on behavior, including a recent prayer session with a representative from a Muslim college in Flushing, New York. The speakers emphasize the importance of finding a cultural fit for one's life and offer guidance on finding a good company to learn the religion. They also encourage finding a supportive company and visit the website for more information.
AI: Transcript ©
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messengers, the angels

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the Holy Scriptures to believe in Justin neither

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both come from him and

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hamdulillah salaam aleikum, which means peace be unto you. Welcome to another episode of the deen show. We have a great topic for you today, something very interesting. Muslim, you know, the Muslim is one who surrenders and submits to one god worshipping Him alone without any associate. And you know what atheist is, it is something as weird, just something that's way out there. But you got some people that are weird, and they're atheists. But today we have someone who's a former Muslim atheists

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that I catch you by surprise. Well, it kind of caught me also, but we're gonna be back with our next guest. And we're gonna help clear this up. What do we mean? Is that possible? Muslim atheist? When we come back on a date, she'll be right back.

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Jesus was his messenger.

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Why did that maybe? Maybe it's just to break the ice? A Sidamo a chrome article sidama. How are you very good. Omen Ali Khan. Yes. How are you? Brother? Very good. Very good. I'm very excited to have you on the show. Thank you very excited to be here. All right, you got your this is a gift for you. You got to the show come you can take home with fantastic. Something to give my kids candy. And

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yeah, and we want to talk a little bit about the wonderful work that you're doing. But before that, we're going to talk about what I just had mentioned, Muslim, atheist. Is that even possible? I don't think so. But it kind of happens in the closet since Oh,

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what he was referring to and what you were referring to is a little bit of an internal struggle that I went through when I was at the age of about junior high, you know, junior in high school, senior in high school.

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Basically, it was a loss of religion. So when I came to the United States, this was about in ninth grade.

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You know, I came, it was a culture shock. And a lot of the values that I was raised with were all being questioned all at the same time. And it was really nobody that I could talk to, or

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verify my own beliefs with. And eventually what happens in the school environment is you make friends, you know, based on proximity based on common interest, whoever is accessible to you. So most of my friends were people that were either polytheists or they were actually atheists. What do you mean? polytheist? Oh, some Hindus, some Buddhists. Those are they worship multiple gods, they worship multiple gods. And actually, each of them have their own different God among themselves. Okay, that's a big No, no, yeah. And a good number of them very smart people were actually atheists. So you know, falling into that crowd and just not being around any Muslims generally.

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I kind of had hid these thoughts and these confusions from my family because I knew how taboo they can be. And you can't really share these kinds of confusions at home.

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So I kind of learned to live with them. And over time, what ended up happening was I had a really good bunch of really messed up friends. And my company became such that was, I actually had a hatred almost for the concept of God, I thought it was a detestable concept. And reached that point. And Subhanallah it is by the mercy of Allah subhanaw taala that Allah opened many, many, many doors one after another for me that I couldn't have opened for myself. That led me back to EMA and that led me back to my face and back to my

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Arabic words, you're going to have to define Okay, and the D show, we got a lot of non Listen, listen, and you said, I think I caught two of them. They said Imani and back it up. Okay. That is conviction and faith. Yeah. So I said, I was like back to my conviction. But man, that's the Arabic term for faith and it's actually related to the term I'm in which is peace. So actually, we Muslims believe that your faith is actually a source of peace for you and others.

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On the other hand, the other term I use was Al Hamdulillah, which is my expression and all Muslims expressions of expressing our faith, our gratitude and our appreciation of what Allah does for us. So and you said a lot

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supanova Delos, Allah subhana wa Tada. So I don't without I mean Allah is his name, his glorified name. So Allah who that part of it means how perfect he is. It's so raw translation of Subhana huhtala means how elevated how high he is. Meaning we aren't to say something that is belittling the status of a lot. Okay? they can put their Arabic books away now. Okay, cool. So your parents, were they devout Muslims with a practicing? Were they not practicing how they were semi practicing Muslims?

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I wouldn't call them strictly religious. Yeah, but they there was some practice in our home. My dad was fairly regular with his prayers. We didn't really have religion far beyond that at home.

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But really, religion and belief became a thing that I associated more with my friends than I did with the family over time. And actually, it reminds me of a famous statement of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. The Arabic goes and Miranda de Nicola De Filippo Atacama New Holland, what that means is a person depends on the religion of their friend, and watch out who you make friends with a young woman, Johann. And those words actually ring a really strong Bell with me in my life, and have a great impact on the advice I give to other youth. Because no matter how smart you think you are, or how on top of your faith you are, it's just a matter of having messed up friends,

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and you're just gonna get just as messed up, if not worse than you are now, depending on that. So. So I was at that stage in my life. And there were two kinds of doors that were open for me. One of them was intellectual. And that was a little later. But the other one was social. Allah opened a door for me in college where I met a person that I would probably never have associated imagine being friends with an a kind of, you would call it by chance ran into him at you know, just sitting in the hallway just hanging out. I see this, this guy come up and just post a flyer on the, you know, the college billboard where all these clubs, post their flyers. Yeah. And this was a Muslim

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Student Association. Right? Like, what is this Muslim stuff? They must really party because they might, they might get all the Muslims for all the different countries. Yeah. And jam together. That's what I thought it was. Right. So. So I go to him and I start talking to music. Yeah, it's a lot of fun, you got to come and you know, it's gonna be great.

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So the other clubs that I was part of, I skipped out on, and I went to this supposedly great party club that I was going to join. And so I go there, and there's no one in the room, except that one guy that had put up the flyers, and there's a box of pizza. And he's kind of waiting for folks to show up.

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So when I walked in, I felt kind of awkward, like, I don't know what to do if I really belong here or not. So I was trying to leave, but he kind of reeled me in, we just start talking. It'll pizza become a little friend. Yeah, you know, a growing acquaintance. And what ended up happening was, I used to take the subway home, I used to go to college in New York City. I used to take the subway home, and he would just instead give me a ride home. And he had a nice ride, too. So it was kind of nice of him. And we'd start by grabbing by, you know, here and there just hanging out. And this was this became almost every two three days, I'd just go hang out with him. No Islam, no religion,

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nothing. It was just he was just a friend. That's all. And after a few months of just giving me a ride and hanging out being great company, giving good advice on what professors to take classes, because he was a senior in college. I was a freshman. Yeah.

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You know, he says to me, you know, one time we're stuck in traffic on the lie still remember, he's like, we're getting late

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to get home. Do you mind if I stop and pray motive? And it just so happened that the prayer times never conflicted in my commute? home with him? Yeah. Now that's the that's the fourth prayer of the day, this the fourth way this evening prayer know what that was, you know, for me, I did back then. But I hadn't. At that point. It must have been at least six years that I had prayed at all. I mean, Friday, eat whatever. I hadn't read anything at all. Yeah.

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So you know, he says, You mind if I stop nicely? Okay. Yeah, why not? So he goes, and I kind of, inexplicably feel the urge to pray with him, I kind of felt bad. So I go when I make when I pray with him, at the masjid, in Queens. And it kind of, I felt something, you know, that I hadn't felt in a very long time, just to kind of piece. Yeah.

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I tried to bury it for a while. But then from there, again, praise and glory and thanks to Allah and appreciation, only becoming of Allah, that he, he gave me that consistent company. And through him, I got to meet a lot of wonderful people. But he's just kind of connected me to just some amazing people, one of which is announced that Roger Hodge, you know, a great hero of our community is just some really mesmerizing individuals. And he acquainted me with other young Muslims that were very active in their community, just doing things that matter, you know, and they were they were trying to make the world a better place kind of thing. And it made me think like all these people have such

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sense of sense of purpose, where they're getting

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Get from but you didn't really have a purpose, then? No, I just, I mean, what were some of your ambitions? I mean, you obviously a Muslim one is striving for the hereafter to please his Lord to become the best human being he could possibly be. What were your ambitions? And before I turned to Dean? Yeah, I don't think I really had much of an ambition. I was I mean, if you if you ask the average college youth, what are your goals in life? They'll say, I don't know, I'll think about it later. That kind of thing. You know, they just want to take one day at a time, just live it up, live for the day sort of thing, you know, you know, you can't really think even beyond your immediate

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semester, only when you get like to junior year, senior year in college, you start thinking about your career, or like, what major you want to do and things like that. So even in the worldly sense, young people tend to be very, at least myself, I was very apathetic, like, I didn't really care. It was kind of like, you know, let it just all slide. Yeah, you know. But anyway, because he connected me to these individuals, one of the things he did for me was, he introduced me to this program that was going on in the Muslim center in Flushing,

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which was basically in Ramadan, you know, Muslims get together and congregate in high numbers. And the long term prayers go on at night. But this program was special in that there was a prayer and then it was coupled with a lecture series of the entire course on beginning to end in 30 days there in 30 nights. So you pray and listen to the recitation of Quran. But at the same time, you get to hear the entire thing explained in brief transmission and brief is very key now, knowing what is being said, right. And I had never, I mean, before this, I had tried reading the translation of the Quran once maybe the use of it. Yeah, I found the English May Allah reward him for his work, but I

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found the translation biblical. And at that point, you know, late High School, early college, I was like, Okay, I don't know, I don't get this. So I don't put it aside. But then

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what ends up happening is I, I listened to this live presentation of the Quran beginning to end it's being presented as a dialogue. And what this is probably the first time in my life, I came to realize for myself, that the Quran is actually a dialogue. And Allah is talking to me, right? The Lord of the worlds is directly engaged in conversation with me, you know, when you read a book, it's different. But when you hear a conversation, it has a different effect, even now, like if you read an article of a great speech, or a transcript of a great speech and want to move you like that. But if you were at that speech, and it was, the order knew what he was doing, that would really rattle

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you, right? So this ends up happening to me, I'm just mystified by this book. And I mean, I spent those 30 days I mean, the thing was long, it was like one just a 30th of the Quran every night in explanation with the prayer. So this was like an 8pm to like a 2am 3am. endeavor. So you know, I did this for the entire month. And this was like my first exposure seriously to Islam. After my childhood schooling, it was being exposed to the entire book in one shot with one teacher with one one presenter. Yeah. And you know, at that point, I had started listening to other lectures and talks by different speakers and presenters on various topics, just getting curiosity in Islam. But

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of all the things I had heard, I had never heard something so moving, as the Quran presented itself, let it speak for itself. So at the end of the 30 days, I went to the presenter, his name is Dr. Rob the semi Yeah. And I said to him,

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a lot of people are doing things for Islam. But I want to do what you do.

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How do you do what you do? I want I want to be what you're doing. Now. Hold that point. We're going to get to that and tell us before you went, and you had this experience of being an atheist, did you check into any other religions? Like Buddhism? Christian, did you like kind of I took a lot of philosophy courses and call it la Sufi. Yeah. And it was actually more of a turnoff than anything else. I was very dismayed, first of all by other religious theologies, because the the inconsistency wasn't even something you find later on its site on the front page, you know, it's you don't have to go further to you saw it on the front page, it was like just move on, you know? And it kind of uh,

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generally, it turns you off from religion in general, because you figure Okay, this religion doesn't make any sense. By assumption. All religions must be this nonsensical. Okay. Right. And this is what a lot of people do, actually, they find one religion, that doesn't make sense. So they make that assumption for all religions is there they're all men made or they're all this way or that way.

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I did study some Islamic philosophy in college, but it was presented by a Zoroastrian professor, most probably an agnostic himself.

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So he presented it in a very strange kind of way, so I didn't really see anything to it. But though in my mind, I was already the idea of Islam being more than just a spiritual thing, being an intellectual thing was fermenting. It was in my in the back of my mind, why do you think this is very important? Because I'm

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There are people closet Muslims or people who are born into families that are Muslims. But you have to make a subconscious decision to submit yourself. Yeah. So it's not by default. Now you just got it made. I got two things to say about that. Yeah. atheism is actually a conscious decision. It doesn't occur naturally. Not at all. No. You mean, you made a good point? We spoke earlier that when a person is up and hit some turbulence in a plane, yeah, and this is what a loss isn't. turns off his atheism is for those few seconds. Oh, God save me, you know, or they say there's no atheists in foxholes. Yeah, yeah.

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So now you have

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this one thing about atheism. The other thing about atheism is, it's actually not rooted, at least from all the atheist friends that I had. It's not rooted in something intellectual. That's the facade, it's actually rooted in something psychological. These people are either traumatized, or they had a really bad experience in life, or they've seen something that they were really emotionally disturbed by. They decided to blame God for it. Right. And as part of their reaction against God, let you know what what's the biggest difference I can do? He doesn't even exist. Right. So it starts with questioning God and then moves on to the ultimate, you know, supposedly offense

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against God, I don't even think he exists. So this would be something like I said earlier, this is weird. Isn't it? Weird? It is weird. It is. It's, to me, it's actually a disorder. Yeah. And these are disturbed people. If you've come to the conclusion of atheism, first of all,

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you've made an absolute statement about something you have no idea. Right? The agnostic is different from the atheist, the agnostic at least says, I don't know. Maybe there is a God, maybe there isn't. I don't have a way of knowing

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in that at least there is some acknowledgement of humility that I don't know. Right, at least there's that much. And we can work with that somewhat. But the atheist, with explicit like, absolute, you know, certainty says there's absolutely no way there's a God.

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And he's absolutely denying something that he can't even see or judge. So is basically then he's saying, he or she, if I can't see it, it doesn't exist. Right? If I can't see it, it doesn't exist. This is the the essence of their intellectual problem, right? They say that, you know, the only thing that can be judged, is empirical evidence, meaning the five senses science, this is what exists, that's it. But even then, who decided what the five senses are? Who decided this is the only sources of knowledge etc? No answer. Where does love come from? Where does hate come from? Where does fear come emotions? Where does hope and aspiration come from? Or they're just chemicals in our

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body? So they want to reduce the human being even to just a sophisticated animal? And because they've done that you'll find these different kinds of weird crimes in our society that you never found in history, like the craziest kinds of things sickest kinds of things people do, when they have no sense of consequence. They have no purpose left in life. There's no one watching over them. There's, there's no one they have to answer for. If they can get away with it, they'll get away with it. And that's the society in which you get these heinous crimes. Like we're not even talking about murder and stealing. And you know, these are your average Joe crimes. We're talking about just sick

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disturbing. I don't understand why anybody would do this kind of thing. Yeah, kinds of crimes. That's a byproduct of atheism. You've given you've taken hope and purpose away from people, and their law calls them animals or even worse, this is the even worse part. So tell us maybe there's somebody here that you know, where he can relate to what you have to say he might be somehow covering up that belief in the one God and something that's really rational. And he doesn't want to be weird anymore. Yeah. Would you invite him and give him some just some some basic Dawa, okay, inviting him and to, you know, something that's natural, I could, I could speak from my personal

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experience. On the one hand, you have to have sincerity and nobody can put that in you. You have to you have to beg for it. If you if you kind of even say if there's a God out there. I need sincerity. I sincerely seek you out. I'm sincerely in search of ask for the guidance, ask for the guidance.

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The other thing is beyond that leap beyond that seeking of guidance. What brought me to absolute conviction after my background in philosophy and like, you know, the atheist phase and rationalizing everything that exposure to for under I had wasn't just a spiritual experience. It was actually a very powerful intellectual experience for me, like every major argument I had against religion, or God was answered without me having to ask the question I was just listening to put on carefully. And it was, it was like there were a lot of knots in my mind and it was just undoing them one after another Kron answered all the questions. Yeah, the doubts that you had all the doubts that I think

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that's one problem people have, they might be born in a family of atheist, or some other religion, and they use their intellect and they see that this stuff, don't

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Make sense is weird. Yeah. And now they paint everything with the same brush that Islam is not that Islam is not that. But I tell you one more advantage that I did have is that I had somebody who had given their life to studying the Quran. Yeah, simplifying it for me. And this is a big deal. Like, even the average person has to read the Koran for themselves, right? They will get guidance. I know people that went to the public library, read the Quran and became Muslim. Yeah, right. And this does happen. But there's also the chance of you reading the Koran and because there's so many passages that are contextual. And you know, if you don't understand that context, and that entire scenario,

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you're not really going to get what it's saying. So you might even read the Quran and come out a little confused. You might you might say, I wonder what that's about? or Why is this here? Why is that there? And this is what actually some evangelicals like to pick on, right? Yeah, they'll take a bigger piece of bits and pieces they'll put on and they'll take it out entirely out of context out of historical and textual context and say, Aha, look at what your book says. Right.

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But on the look at the flip side, just on quoting out of context, the Koran says way, Lillian Muslim, and Alina whom Ancelotti, himsa, who is to two verses, if you will, I like the word is better, rather than worse, because it's proprietary to the Quran, says ultimate destruction is to fall upon those who pray. That's the first verse. Those who in regards to their prayers are heedless. They're careless in regards to the repair. Now, if you just take the first verse, and say ultimate destruction is for those who pray, and you forget the rest of the context, you get this crazy conclusion that the Quran is saying people who pray are destroyed. But it's talking about

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people who don't care about their prayer, who make a mockery of prayer. Right. So, context is really important. And that's the benefit I had, with this teacher, the entire Quran presented in context. And it really I without doing any formal training in Islamic Studies, this was my first exposure formally formally in Islamic Studies.

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In a thorough way, what this did for me was basically solidified, this is what I have to say, if I want to confirm my conviction, I have to become a student of this book. So over the last nine years or so, I still going on. First I became a student of the Arabic language. Then I became a student of this it's a specific science in Islamic Studies called the science of tafsir. Yeah, which is the science of studying the explanation of the Quran, the scholarly explanation of the Quran, in connection with the other sacred literature in Islam, the Sunnah. So the Quran and Sunnah come together, and you properly understand that there are other components to so became a student of this

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area specifically because it brought me to the dean, it brought me to my conviction, it pulled me out of my darkness into whatever light Allah had brought me to. So I stuck to this topic. I you know, there are other topics in Islam, you could study, you can study arcada, you can study many different topics. I studied them so much as they apply to my personal life. But as an endeavor, I stuck to two things Arabic classical Arabic studies and Koran related studies. And within that journey, what happened was in the first couple of years, I was looking at

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the message of the Quran, understanding comprehensively its lessons, its teachings, it's it's overwhelming, overlying themes, right? So like the bigger picture of the Quran. But then over the last, I think about four years now, my focus changed to what makes the Quran miraculous. So the first part was the message of the Quran, and the latter part became the miracle of the Quran. And when I was first introduced to that topic, even though I had been the student of the Quran for a few years already, when I first got introduced to the topic formally on the miraculous power of the Quran, I felt like I hadn't been studying Quran before. Like, I thought I knew what it's saying, but

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I never saw it in this light. So what Allah opened for me subhana wa tada

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May his name be glorified, and he deserves the attribution of all perfection. What he opened for me was a door to appreciate this called Art in an entirely new light. Now, to sum this up, basically most people, their experience with the Quran, even if you're like devout Muslims, right? Muslims are not. Your experience with the Quran is just as a message as a religious message. You don't necessarily see it as a miracle. Like, I mean, imagine standing next to Moses musala Islam, when the waters parting, right, that kind of a miracle. We don't associate reading the Koran with that. But if you engage in the study, it takes a little bit of an effort. But if you engage in this study, you

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can begin to experience that marriage. We're almost out of time tell us for a couple avenues a person that is a Muslim, but he has doubts and he is kind of confused, you know, parents going through the rituals, he's just going through it rituals going back like a robot, what advice to him and his

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Got the atheist attention also he wants to know what's up with this miracle you're saying about the Quran? Yeah, give us we're gonna do so show talking about the miracles of the Quran and how we will give proof and evidence is that it is indeed, not a man made book, but a revelation from the Creator. Give us some some advice for the Muslim, and who was in your situation and the atheist, by advice to Muslims, my first bit of advice company, you need company that is serious about learning the religion that is supportive, you may find that company on campus, you may find it at your local machine, it might be the mom of your mustard. But find someone in your community that you look up

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to, that you can spend more and more and more time with. This is the key in the end, like that Hadith says, and it was true for me, our religion, it does depend on our company, you know, you have good company, your religion will benefit you will grow intellectually, you'll have people that can address your concerns. And if they themselves can address your concerns, if they're sincere, they can point you to the right resources and people that can address your concerns. And this is what happened with me, I had a certain kind of question. And I got pointed to a certain kind of specialist in that area that would help me with that question. So this would be my probably primary

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advice. Yeah, change of company. You know, don't waste your life away. If you're if your life looks the same. Every day, you just wake up, do some school or whatever, hang out, and then you know, party and go to sleep and that's your, your everyday so your entire life looks like one day. It's like there's no, there's no, nothing new in your life is wasting time. It's just wasting, you're giving your life away. Don't assume that you have all the time in the world, our time our clock is not in our hands. So feel a sense of urgency find good company, and sincerely begin to look into the religion for proper proper guidance. Also, recently, because of the advent of programs like a lover

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of Institute, where and others that are you know, they're doing Islamic Studies, kinds of programs, find those programs out. And t classes tell us also the baina Albania Institute you the head, yeah, but you know, some of you, yes. Now, in collaboration with a mother in law, the idea behind Vienna was to facilitate Arabic studies for Muslims in general audiences across the United States. The reason I started it was I had to go through a very difficult journey in learning. And I didn't want other people to go through that journey. So I as a student developed a program along with some colleagues, that the idea behind which was to get the message out there that Arabic is easy to

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learn, actually, I would argue, miraculously easy to learn, despite it being such a complex language. If only you come to it with the intention that you want to learn Hold on, there's actually divine intervention and how easy it becomes for you. So with that intention, we started Alhamdulillah. It's been over 72 communities thus far across the country, nearly 8000 students, they can they can visit you at which you have Yeah, it's but you you can see our website, our programs that are being offered. We got one minute left atheist, you got to tell him something. Talk to him. Okay, so show my fellow human atheist, my sincere advice, if you

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even fathom the possibility that there is a creator, if that possibility, even like the slightest ounce of that possibility exists in your mind, consider the consequences of not reflecting on that possibility. If you are willing to take a chance on your life and your your, your your well being, to guarantee yourself, there's no hereafter at all, nobody's looking after me, nobody's gonna question what I did. And you want to just live your life, if you're willing to take that risk. Go ahead, God is not gonna force you to accept him. But if there's that minute idea in your head, that you know, if it's even possible that he exists, and that he is, he has given me guidance, and he has

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expectations of me, and I have deliberately chosen not even to think about it, then the consequences are on you and not on him. So with that, that slightest possibility, be sincere to that possibility for your own sake, not for anybody elses. And inquire into into the divine look, and really ask for guidance in the end. Because as Muslims, we know, it's not our intellect that reaches God, or that we guide ourselves. Our intellect only goes so far. And then there's divine intervention, something opens up in your chest, you feel a peace, you feel an ease, and you'll you'll be able to find that that faith, but it is part of it is an intellectual journey. And part of it is a spiritual journey.

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I know for an atheist, acknowledging anything spiritual is very, very difficult. But Humble yourself. You've had spiritual experiences. No matter who you are, you've had a spiritual experience. acknowledge that you there's an entity inside you that isn't entirely rational or logical. We're not purely like we're not machines. We're human beings. We have

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have emotions we have spirituality. So let that humaneness of you seek out the Lord of the worlds. Thank you very much we're out of time and we're going to inshallah do some more shows with you quite well today look forward to seeing more of my brother nouman Ali Khan from the Vienna Institute and jazak Allahu Allah reward you for being with us today, you can benefit for your story. And I'd like to thank you, and all of you that are out there supporting the show coming back every week to see a new show. And all those people out there who are watching us trying to learn about Islam, which is the fastest growing way of life out there. It's not something weird, don't be weird. Don't want to

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be somebody standing out like an atheist. You're small minority you got what the what the brother had to say. God wants to guide you. He's out there. But do you want to be guided start with that first step, ask him to guide you. And then use the tools that he's given you and the truth shall be made clear. We hope to see you again next time on the deen show. Until then, salaam legal peace be unto you see what everyone's talking about.

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You find one contradiction, it can't be from God.

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But the rational idea, the rational explanation is you do your best to give up for spring guidance. I will never give up spreading this hope that you take the necessary steps you don't know if you're gonna live to tomorrow.

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So you got to find that urgency to do the right thing right now.

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The reality of life usually doesn't sink in until tragedy comes.

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You get a few bad people. The media grabs ahold of that and spends it the way they want to

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believe in Jesus you have stepped outside of Islam you cannot be a Muslim as a tenant are afraid to

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eat me everybody sleeping.

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And ask

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you see

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things I do. I turn to you to forgive me.

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