- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Conversion: An Intellectual Transformation
Conversion—A universal principle Another aspect of conversion, pointed out repeatedly in the Quran, is that it is not confined solely to religion. It is rather a universal principle, by which all kinds of progress have been set in motion. The present universe was originally composed of condensed matter, then it underwent a process of internal change, by which it began expanding until this vast universe, with which we are now familiar, was formed. (21:30). Similarly, the earth lies dry and barren, then it is transformed by the rain so that, “it begins to stir and swell, putting forth every kind of radiant bloom.” (22:5)
Again, some apparently unformed matter passes through well-defined stages in the womb, until it assumes the form of a complete living creature— this goes for both humans as well as animals. Then grass and grains enter the cow’s belly and, by a certain natural system undergo a transformation, until grass and grains are converted into milk, a very precious food for man (16:66).
By citing such natural phenomena, the Quran demonstrates how this world has been established on the universal principle of conversion. Here all kinds of progress are instigated through the process of transformation. For instance, the combination of two gases resulting in water, iron being transformed into steel, chemical combinations of various kinds producing useful metals, etc.
All these are examples of conversion in its broader sense. The same kind of conversion is at work in the world of human thought. There is an ongoing interchange of ideas in this world. Through this process one school of thought gives way to another, better school of thought. For instance, for several hundred years the geo-centric theory of the solar system dominated world thought. Then as a result of intellectual advances it began to erode, until finally it was rejected by the academic world, being replaced by the helio-centric theory, this having stood the test of observation. Conversion in the world of thought is called religious conversion, which is only a small part of the vaster scheme of nature.
The truth is that conversion is a universal law established by nature itself, on the basis of which all the material progress of the modern world has been taking place. Just as the physical growth of living beings (humans and animals) has depended wholly on this principle of conversion, so also has all the progress made in the world of thought over thousands of years. That is, theories have become established truths when proven by available facts. In this world no meaningful development can take shape without going through this process of conversion. This is especially true of the acceptance of religion, which is another name for recognition of spiritual truth. Only that religion can become one’s own, which has been discovered as a result of personal struggle. Religion is deeply related to conviction and conviction in turn is related to discovery. There is no conviction without discovery and there is no religion without conviction.
The true follower of a religion is not one who is simply born into it. Finding religion must be a matter of conviction and is possible only after a long period of self-analysis. Then the would-be adherent should feel that he is rediscovering something of which he is already in possession.