A product of Christian-American ancestry dating back to the year 1677, up until his conversion to Islam in April of 1994, Dr. Brown easily could have passed as an example of a man who lived the stereotypical American dream. A graduate from two Ivy League universities with subspecialty training in ophthalmology, Dr. Brown served as a respected ophthalmologist in the U.S. Air Force for a period of eight years.
Midway through his Air Force career, Dr. Brown’s ideal American family’ included a wife, two children, and the requisite two cars and a dog. His country home was crowded with the full array of comforts and toys which clutter the lives of those preoccupied with materialism. Yet Dr. Brown ended up sacrificing virtually everything he had worked for when he faced a religious conviction that overturned his lifelong priorities.
Following a personal miracle through which the life of his daughter was saved, Dr. Brown redirected his focus to religious study in an attempt to make good on a promise made to God. In the process, Dr. Brown followed the chain of revelation through the Abrahamic religions from Judaism to Christianity and, in the end, to Islam. It is the result of that study that he relates in this series of thought-provoking books. In the same manner that Dr. Brown’s choice of religion confronted his slice of the American dream, so too do his religious conclusions challenge the Western religous establishment.
Laurence Brown received his B.A. from Cornell University, his MD from Brown University Medical School, and his ophthalmology residency training at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC. His immediate family presently consists of his wife, three daughters, and an ever changing assortment of parrots and hamsters.
What I am
Religion: I am a Muslim, an ordained interfaith minister, and a devoted seeker of religious and temporal truth. My platform includes:
- Freedom of religious choice and tolerance of differences.
- Respect of the various religions’ holy precincts.
- Global adoption of a “Golden Rule” ethic that transcends race, culture and creed.
On the other hand, I recognize that we don’t live in a “Barney” world – we are not one big happy family. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to work toward that end, and adopting the above values will move all of us closer to peaceful coexistence.
Politics: I avoid politics, not because I don’t take a stand on issues, but because I’ve never known a politician or political party I felt I could trust. My loyalty lies with God, and the only political issues I am passionate about are reducing American intervention in foreign affairs, allowing foreign countries freedom of self-determination, increasing domestic aid and reducing taxes. In short, I would like to see America take care of it’s own as best it can, and leave the rest of the world to do the same.
Profession: I am an ophthalmologist and an author. I make money on the first, spend it on the second.
Hobbies: I enjoy a variety of sports, but my primary hobby is helping people – physically, through my medical practice; and spiritually, through my religious works. Regarding pets, although I dislike Howard Stern, I echo his sentiment, “I like animals as much as the next guy, but if I’m hungry, I’ll eat a panda sandwich.” Pets are treated better in developed countries than how most people live in the rest of the world. My priority is to help people live well enough that they aren’t forced to eat panda sandwiches.
Favorite food: Anything my wife cooks.
Birth: 1959 — San Francisco, California, USA.
Raised: I grew up a few blocks away from the infamous Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco during the Hippie cultural revolution of the 60’s and 70’s. I’m a product of the ‘tune in, turn on, drop out’ generation, although I didn’t do any of those things. In the language of the times, I would have been considered a nerd and one of the last of the all-time squares. And I’m proud of it, because it’s gotten me to where I am today.
- AMA Physician’s Recognition Award, 1995 – 1998 and 1999 – 2002
- Armed Forces Commendation Medal, 1995 and 1998
- International Who’s Who, 2009
- Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009: International Biographical Center
- Great Minds of the 21st Century, Fourth edition, 2009; American Biographical Institute
- Hall of Fame for Distinguished Accomplishments in Medicine (July 1, 2009); American Biographical Institute
- America’s Top Ophthalmologists, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2103. Consumers’ Research Council of America
What I am not!
I am not a debater. Don’t try to engage me in argument. I believe everybody should simply put their material out there for those who are interested. If people want it, it’s there for them. If people don’t want it, shoving it down their throats isn’t going to do anything but antagonize them. Keep it polite, okay?
I’m not an Islamic scholar. Please don’t write asking for fatwa (legal ruling). I have an interest in comparative religion, moral outreach and Islamic invitation, but I do not make fatwa under any circumstances.
For the most part, I’m also not available for one-on-one counseling. I say “for the most part” because I do answer emails personally, and I post the best question of the week on my blog. However, I have little free time to socialize or get into lengthy exchanges.
And I’m not patient. Please. Read my work before contacting me with questions. I have already covered most of the issues people inquire about, and it’s frustrating when people email questions without even looking at my articles and books. There is little or no excuse – the articles and e-books are free on the website.
Lastly, I’m not a silver bullet. Many Muslims want to see the message of Islam spread, but only if someone else does it for them. As for themselves, they won’t lift a finger or spend a dollar on the effort. I receive many requests to talk with husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, friends, etc., and teach them about Islam. Please, study my material, arm yourself with the information, and then talk to them yourself. You will find I have organized my information to be accessible, systematic and convincing. Learn it, use it, teach it. I have spent most of my Muslim life compiling this information, the least others can do is take a couple of weeks to learn it, and then pass it on.
There is a certain fascination with conversion stories, and for good reason. Frequently they involve dramatic life-altering events, sufficient to shock the convert out of the materialistic world and into the spiritual. Most who pass through such moments of trial and panic experience an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, and turn to their Creator in prayer. In virtually every case I know, they forget the strained theological formulas they have been taught and instinctively pray directly to our Creator.
For example, a lady once related her ‘Born Again Christian’ conversion story on a popular evangelical television show. This lady told how she had been the sole survivor of a terrible boat-wreck. During her days and nights alone in the harsh elements of the open ocean, she told how God spoke to her, guided her and protected her and how, seeking His favor, she prayed to God and to God Alone. In her long tale, she mentioned God over and over again, and never once mentioned Jesus Christ. However, the moment she was saved by a passing ship, she threw her arms open to the heavens and yelled, “Thank you, Jesus!”
There is a lesson here. When in panic and stress, people instinctively pray directly to God, without intermediary or intercessor. That is the default setting of our spiritual consciousness. However, when relieved of their distress, people frequently return to their previously held theological formulas, no matter how strained or bizarre. All converts feel God saved them, and that the miracle of their salvation justifies their beliefs. But there is only One God, so it makes sense that there can only be one religion that is true in all aspects. Hence, only one group can be right and all others are, to one degree or another, wrong. For the latter group, their personal miracles serve to confirm them upon disbelief rather than upon truth. As Allah teaches in the Holy Qur’an, “Allah leaves astray whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ — Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an: 13:27) and “So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.” (TMQ 4:175) As for those astray in disbelief, our Creator leaves them to stray upon whatever misdirected path they themselves choose.
So who will become Muslim based upon my conversion story? Only one person: me. Muslims might appreciate my story, others might not. Either way, here it is:
In 1990, I was in the last year of my ophthalmology residency at George Washington University hospital in Washington, DC. My second daughter was born October tenth. To my great dismay, she was a dusky, gunmetal blue from the chest to the toes. Her body was not getting enough blood, and the cause was found to be a coarctation of the aorta — a critical narrowing in the major artery from the heart. Needless to say, I was shattered. Being a doctor, I understood she needed emergency surgery, with a poor chance of long-term survival. A consultant pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon was called from across town, and I left him in the neonatal intensive care unit to examine my daughter. With no companion but my fears, I went to the hospital prayer room and fell to my knees. A product of Christian-American heritage dating back to 1677, nonetheless this was the first time that I even partially recognized God. I say partially, for even then I prayed the prayer of a skeptic, “Oh, God, if you are there . . .” I promised that if God existed, and if He saved my daughter and then guided me to the religion most pleasing to Him, that I would follow. I returned to the neonatal ICU roughly fifteen minutes later, and was shocked when the consultant told me that my daughter would be fine. True to his assessment, within the next two days her condition resolved miraculously, without medicine or surgery. She grew to be a perfectly normal child and as of this date — July 2008 — is on the verge of her eighteenth birthday.
Now, as I said before, I am a doctor. And although the consultant provided a medical explanation for my daughter’s miraculous recovery, I simply didn’t buy it. I remember him explaining about a patent ductus arteriosis, low oxygenation and spontaneous resolution. But I also remember thinking, “No,” my daughter’s salvation was not a medical miracle, but a divine one. Many who make promises to God in moments of panic find or invent excuses to escape their part of the bargain, once God relieves them of their distress. I could easily have assigned my daughter’s recovery to the doctor’s explanation rather than to a miracle from God. But faith had entered my heart, and it wouldn’t leave. We had cardiac ultrasounds taken before and after, showing the stricture one day and gone the next, and all I could think was that God had made good on His part of the deal, and I had to make good on mine. Even if there was a medical explanation, that was nothing more than the pathway by which Almighty God chose to answer my prayer and effect His decree. I did not then, and I do not now, accept any other explanation.
For the next few years I tried to fulfill my side of the bargain, but failed. I studied Judaism and a large number of Christian sects. I felt I was on the right track, close to the truth but not upon it. I never fully embraced any specific Christian formula, for I could not reconcile the differences between Christian canon and Jesus’ teachings. Eventually I was introduced to the Holy Qur’an and Martin Lings’s biography, Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources.
During my years of study, I had encountered the Jewish scriptures’ reference to three prophets to follow Moses. I had concluded that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were two, but that left one. In the New Testament Jesus Christ spoke of a final prophet to follow. When I found the Holy Qur’an teaching the oneness of God, as both Moses and Jesus Christ had taught, I become convinced Muhammad was the predicted final prophet. Suddenly, everything made sense: The continuity in the chain of prophethood and revelation, the One-ness of Almighty God, and the completion of revelation in the Holy Qur’an. It was then that I became Muslim.
Pretty smart, hunh? No, I would err greatly if I believed that I figured it out for myself. One lesson I have learned is that there are a lot of people more intelligent than I who have not learned the truth of Islam. It is not a matter of intelligence but of enlightenment, for “…whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart” (TMQ 64:11), “Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ 42:13), “And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.” (TMQ 24:46)
So I thank Allah that He chose to guide me, and I attribute that guidance to one simple formula: recognizing our Creator, praying to Him and to Him alone, and sincerely seeking His guidance. And whom He guides, none can lead astray.