I recently reread his account, and I realised how wrong I was. It seems that one of the central factors that strongly influenced reversion was the beauty and spirit he discovered in the religion and particularly in the character of Imam Ali [a]. What I didn't appreciate when I first read his account was that this way to Islam beats any clever proofs. And in my limited experience, this path is the most commonly traversed by reverts, who tend to be drawn to the religion not by clever syllogisms but after reflecting on the profoundness of its teachings. The fitra plays the biggest part in reversion - people feel an intuitive and deep pull towards become Muslims. Becoming a Muslim just feels like the right thing to do. In Legenhausen's case it was primarily this appreciation of the beauty of Islam, and secondarily philosophical argument that convinced him to revert. The passage below illustrates this pretty well:
The character of Imam ‘Ali was a relentless inspiration. He was a persistent defender of the weak and oppressed, a poet, a treasury of practical wisdom, a theologian, a statesman, a paradigm of virtue, courageous, insightful, humble, faithful, patient, and he had a sense of humour. How could he have been wrong about the existence of God? I might make a jumble of the arguments, but he seemed to see the matter with such clarity as to leave no room for doubt. Certainly emulation of such a person would be a noble thing, but such emulation would be far less than noble if there were no god, and so, God must be! These are the sorts of thoughts that occupied me until somehow the “Why not?” of doubt – of thinking that in some sense maybe it could be true that God exists – became “OK, that can be taken as true”, and then “Indeed, God is!”
We can fomalise part of the above as follow:
(1) Emulation of the Imam [a] is a very noble thing
(2) If God does not exist, then emulation of the Imam is a less than noble thing
(3) Therefore, God exists
A valid deductive syllogism, but with premises that are known foremost intuitively through the Fitra. He had a deep conviction that the Imam was worthy of emulation, but then realised that if God is a lie, this emulation is surely less than very noble. God is so central to all that Imam Ali [a] was and everything that he did. Given the choice between devaluing the greatness of the emulation of the Imam on the one hand, and accepting God on the other, the latter won. In other words, if it's a choice between atheism and the Imam, the Imam comes out on top. Only a tainted spirit and polluted mind which choose the former.
Edited by .InshAllah., 22 March 2011 - 05:31 PM.