Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam
By Rexcel Sorza
November 7, 2005
IOL Philippines Correspondent
When Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari wanted Mindanao to secede and
become an Islamic state, a Mindanao-born theologian and sociologist
was among the first to rise and argue that the southern Philippine
island is never home to Muslims alone.
Catholic priest Estanislao Soria campaigned against the Moros'
takeover of the whole of Mindanao. "I vehemently disagreed with Mr.
Misuari. I campaigned against the Moro movement," said Soria, who used
to be popularly known as "Father Stan."
Soria did not want to argue without basis as he is an academic and
theologian schooled in the Jesuit-run learning institutions.
He embarked on a historical and sociological research to back his
arguments. In the back of mind, though, was the thought of the need to
convert Muslims to Christianity. This also brought him to read Islamic
writings, and, quite surprisingly, lead him to revert to Islam.
"As a linguist well-versed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, I thought I can
learn Arabic that easily. I also wanted to translate Arabic writings
into English as well as translate Western ideologies like
existentialism into Arabic but I realized it was difficult," he told
Soria believed that making Western writings available in Arabic would
lead Muslims in Mindanao to appreciate Christianity more than Islam.
"I wanted to open their minds to Christianity because I had heard a
lot of negative things about the Muslims. I told myself they have to
But in getting deep into his readings, Soria realized that persons
considered as "Church fathers" such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, got their
knowledge from Islamic readings and teachings; that many of the
so-called Western ideologies and theologies have long been discussed
"[My readings] enlightened me that Western civilization's thoughts
sprung from Islamic teachings. After reading more works of Islamic
theologians, I strongly changed my views on Islam," he told
Soria added, "I even realized that the Gospel of Barnabas is even more
credible than the gospels of the four evangelists [included in the
Christian Bible]." The Gospel of Barnabas is a work purporting to be a
depiction of the life of Jesus by his disciple Barnabas. It is also
considered to be pro-Islamic.
He, too, found out through his sociological research that most of the
negative things said of the Filipino Muslims were untrue. "They were
not what they were stereotyped to be."
In 2001, Soria, who had served as parish priest in various cities and
towns in Metro Manila after taking his college and theology studies at
Xavier University and Loyola School of Theology, both of the
Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, reverted to Islam.
He has since been known as Muhammad Soria, but many, including his
Muslim friends, still call him "Father Stan."
The 64-year-old Soria said his decision was met with condemnation and
disgust by most of his relatives and former parishioners, an
experience similar to what many of the Muslim reverts, locally known
as Balik Islam, go through. This, however, did not deter him from
leaving the priesthood after 14 years and embracing Islam.
Soria is getting used to Islam, which to him is not only a religion
but a way of life.
He has gone on Hajj in Makkah five times already, being a member of
the Islamic Da`wah Movement of the Philippines. He also married a
24-year-old woman last year after living a celibate life as a priest.
Soria said that if there is one thing that Muslims should learn from
Christians, it is being organized. To him, having a structure would
greatly help in spreading Islam as structure helped the Christians.
For example, he said, Muslims should put up universities all over the
globe, as Catholic missionaries did with their universities. Also,
"why can't Islamic states produce preachers and do what the Christian
missionaries did?" he asked.
He further said there is a need to "intellectualize Islam through
rationality" because by doing so the teachings embodied in the Qur'an
would be better appreciated by people totally new to it.
He is also ecstatic about the annual fast this Ramadan. He said he is
again reminded of the sunrise to sundown fast's "spiritual value" in
contrast to the Christian's dieting "which is too material or human."
Soria said, "In Islam, we are taught that if you discipline your body
the Creator would grant your wish." Harmony between Filipino Muslims
and Filipino Christians in this largely Christian nation, amid the
stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, is among the wishes he prays to
Please feel free to contact the editor of My Journey to Islam at:
Journeytoislam @ islam-online.net
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