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I am a Christian, and in Christianity a person becomes a Christian when they say a prayer to God. The prayer would include:

  • asking for forgiveness with heart felt meaning and sincerity
  • turning away from their ways that are in contradiction to God commands and good desire for our lives
  • most importantly they recognise that they cannot save themselves and ask God to save them.

As Christians we believe that salvation is a gift from God and in order to receive the gift, one needs to ask but ask in faith that God has the desire to give them the gift of salvation, and by His grace God would remember that Jesus died to take the punishment of sin for every sinner. This is how as a Christian we would say a person has become a Christian and therefore saved.

I am aware that in Islam the belief is that Jesus did not die, but what I would like to know is how someone is saved in Islam and is there a similar process for a person becoming a Muslim, how would you teach someone to become a Muslim. What steps should a person take to become a Muslim and what do they do after they become a Muslim in order to stay a Muslim?

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@DavidWallace I do not think it should matter, this question is good the intent behind it is not really our business. –  Mujahid مجاهد Nov 1 '12 at 18:12
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Sorry to mislead, this is not totally an academic question, I am not at the point to become a Muslim as I simply do not have enough info to make an informed decision, still in the learning phase. If I decide to be a Muslim I promise I will let you know, so far you guys have been excellent and helpful. –  Monkieboy Nov 1 '12 at 21:52
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I cannot understand what you mean by "how someone is saved in Islam". Actually I'm not sure that I understand the reason of being saved in Christianity. Would you explain a bit more? Or say exactly what you suppose Islam to do about saving? Then we can tell you if we have such a process or not –  Ezati Nov 2 '12 at 14:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

NOTE. Parts of my answer is in the Shia perspective, other Muslims may not agree upon them.

- First. Is Islam the religion that I want to switch to?

Perhaps a main distinction of Islam compared with its previous versions (mainly Judaism and Christianity) is that its prophet's miracle (The Quran) is still with us. Anyone can read it, think about it, ask about its ambiguous verses and eventually decide by himself whether to accept this claimed miracle as a real miracle and believe in Islam or not. Be warned, there are some ambiguous verses intentionally placed inside the book; see [3:7] for announcing this news.

This simplifies accepting Islam in comparison to accepting the other heavenly religions, since no Christian can ever claim that he can show you the miracles of Jesus --peace be upon him-- that prove he was a prophet (being a God is superior to being a prophet of course!). Also no Jew can claim a similar thing with respect to Moses --peace be upon him--, but all Muslims can make such a claim. It is somewhat like living in the time of the holy prophet, peace be upon him. There are differences as well, since no one of us know The Quran as well as it was understood by the messenger himself. The prophet's successors, The Fourteen Infallibles according to Shia Muslims, are considered as exceptions as they were taught be the holy prophet himself whatever was required for guiding the humanity. However, the fourteenth of them Imam Mahdi peace be upon him is hidden in this era, not accessible by all. Thus your questions may either be answered or left unanswered when are asked from us, the Muslims.

The Quran, like almost all other beings created by Allah, is layered in the sense of truth. It has one face and many layers of truth hidden inside. Behind the face, each layer of truth is covered by an upper layer of truth. The gradual simplification of The Quran from its utmost real being to its face available and understandable to many believers and non-believers is called the revelation of The Quran (تنزیل القرآن). The truth itself is in no language; it is basically a light of knowledge, but its revelation is in Arabic, as it is the most precise and natural language, and therefore the best choice to clarify, albeit in an encrypted manner, the truth in alphabets and within a rather small number of pages.

Each verse in The Quran is called a sign (Ayah: آیة) and acts as a door to the deeper layers of truth that Allah has meant to show us. The way to open this door is through the heart and by being clean and purified. The cleaner and more purified one is, the more deeply one can travel inside the verse and the more one can touch its truth meant by Allah:

إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ \ فِي كِتَابٍ مَّكْنُونٍ \ لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ \ تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ \ أَفَبِهَـٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَنتُم مُّدْهِنُونَ \ وَتَجْعَلُونَ رِزْقَكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ تُكَذِّبُونَ

That this is indeed a qur'an Most Generous [that is, open handed], / In Book well-guarded [that is, highly encrypted], / Which none shall touch but those who are clean [touching its face allowed only by having Vozu', and touching its deeper truth only by having clener hearths] / A Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. / Is it such a Message that ye would hold in light esteem? / And have ye made only this your livelihood that ye should declare it false? [while you could exploit its messages many times more by accepting them!] [56:77-82]

See here for a probable explanation of the layered structure of the universe Allah has created.

As already explained, the book, although being much simplified, is still mysterious and ambiguous in parts. Indeed, this is the very intention of Allah. We should go to His men, those firmly grounded in knowledge (which means they should be purified more than everyone else), for them to better clarify the situation for us, [3:7]:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.

since Allah wants us to stay on their door, they are the most purified people as no one can access the concepts hidden in Quran but those who are clean. The cleaner and more purified one is, the more one can understand of this encrypted book. So people who reject going to the door of those firmly-grounded-in-knowledge, to ask them, learn from them, accept from them and finally obey them, are rejecting staying on the doors of those who are the most purified humans ever. This is due either to their lack of knowledge, or to arrogance and/or jealousy. In the latter case, they will arise in discord:

اللَّـهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ ۗ أُولَـٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ ۖ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the evil ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (For ever). [2:257]

With this short guide about The Quran, you may start a survey about this claimed miracle, then if you decide to convert, you should follow the next step.

- Second. What should I do to become a Muslim?

When a non-Muslim decides to convert and become a Muslim, then they must confess to two things: that Allah is God and the only god, and that Muhammad is his messenger (اشهد ان لا اله الا الله و اشهد ان محمد رسول الله). This is the beginning of becoming a Muslim and the final stage of being a Muslim as well, depending on how much the concepts are understood and believed by the person and applied to his everyday life. This has been already addressed elsewhere.

- Third. How do I stay a Muslim?

The first thing to do (which may take days, months, or even years, but anyway it is a must-do for staying a Muslim) is to understand and completely admit the pillars of Islam, the most fundamentals belief in Islam. This is completely on your own shoulder; you cannot accept any of them unless you understand and admit them by yourself. Following the scholars is not permitted in this stage. Then (second in rank but not in timely order) you should do the duties commanded by Allah, as you have already chosen to submit to Him, if and when you have passed the two steps mentioned above this paragraph. These duties, their details and sometimes even a whole duty, may vary from sect to sect, so you should choose one and follow its rule. After you have chosen your sect, you will no longer be expected to learn why you should do what, although it is always good that people know the wisdoms behind what they are expected to do, so as to help them do what they do better.

Sectarianism is not a real part of the religion but like the pillars of Islam you should have a reason for yourself why to choose which. Otherwise you would always feel unsafe and uncomfortable, wondering if the one Sect whose rules you are following is not the true Sect and whether how you pray to God is not the way that is really expected from you. This is the reason why I asked this question and hope that a Sunni brother will answer it; also I pray that the Sunni brothers would not consider it an attempt to increase the sectarianism, as I think that at Judgement Day, all of us should be able to rigorously explain the reasons behind our deeds. If we are expected to do whatever Allah has commanded us, we should first make sure what we are told is really what Allah has commanded, so that we always have reason for ourselves why we are doing such. [maybe not bad at this stage to take a look here and here]

This is the way to stay in Islam. Rebelling against a rule of Islam, after we have understood it being a command of Allah, is to explicitly disobey Allah, which is equivalent to quitting Islam. But as long as a Muslim has not quit Islam, he will be considered a Muslim, though he may be a wrongdoer Muslim (Fasiq). He may commit sins over sins and still be titled as Muslim, since he doesn't reject the rules of Allah and knows what he is doing is against the will of Allah, he is Muslim in belief although not being Muslim in deeds!

- In Christianity, salvation is through the Christ, what about in Islam?

About salvation, yes at least Shia Muslims believe in the concept. Shia scholars sometimes describe the issue by making an analogy between this life and traveling by bus. Suppose you are to move from your city to another city, if you are on the right bus you will reach the correct destination even though you may find your hands broken due to not fastening your seat belt. If you are on the wrong bus, you will never reach your correct destination, no matter how pleasant the trip! Simply being on the right bus is what really matters, not the inside decoration and facilities of the bus, or even its safety. Shia Muslims believe, based on Ahadith from the holy prophet and The Quran, that believing in Imam Ali's real rank is being on the right bus, and that the believer people may still suffer their wrong deeds but eventually (maybe even after thousands of years suffering in hell) they will survive; this is called intercession (Shafa'at).

This is somewhat similar to the concept of Salvation on Christianity but maybe not exactly the same. Christians believe that salvation is only through the Christ (if I am not wrong) and Shia Muslims believe the salvation is only through Imam Ali, peace be upon them both. However, I saw some Christians were talking like no non-Christian would ever reach salvation since none of them would accept Jesus as a son of God, and this is not what Shia Muslims say about those who are not Shia or even Muslim. What Shia Muslims believe is that no enemy of Imam Ali peace be upon him would ever enter the paradise, but not all the non-Muslims or non-Shia Muslims can be considered as enemy to him; everyone who likes good intentions and good deeds would like Imam Ali --peace be upon him-- very much, albeit if they know anything about him.

Of course, according to Shia Muslims' way of thinking, those who can gain more are those who know Imam Ali peace be upon him more, like him, and of course obey him. Obeying him is obeying the holy prophet and obeying the holy prophet is obeying Allah. Also I saw some Christians believing that when they confesses Jesus is God or His son it will suffice and there is no need to be good any more, at least not very seriously. According to the Shia way of believing, we should try our best not to commit any sin, be it major or minor in the sense classified by the religion. Imam Ali --peace be upon him-- has advised us not to look at the smallness of the sin, but to see the greatness of the one we are rebelling against by disobeying Him. Most of us cannot keep ourselves clean in practice; in the inside fight between desire and intellect, some examinations of Allah are indeed very difficult and Allah Himself has told us that human in general is created as weak:

Allah doth wish to lighten your (difficulties): For man was created Weak (in flesh). [4:28]

and impatient:

Man is a creature of haste: soon (enough) will I show you My Signs; then ye will not ask Me to hasten them! [21:37]

Truly man was created very impatient. [70:19]

and very loving of wealth:

إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ \ وَإِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ \ وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ

Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful; / And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds); / And violent is he in his love of wealth. [98:6,7,8]

so that our need to Allah's forgiveness is not a trivial need for most of us. We would need the intercession of God's distinguished men's for salvation, and Allah wants us to stay on their door, to learn from them and obey them; for they are our patterns.

Godspeed

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+1 for the bus analogy and the lengthy description which has helped me understand a great deal. –  Monkieboy Nov 3 '12 at 17:53

Becoming a Muslim is done by:

  • Saying the Tashahhud (bear witness):

    أشهد أن ﻻ إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمداً رسول الله

    Transcribe: Ashhadu anna la ilaha ella Allah, wa ashhadu anna Muhammad rasoul Allah

    Translation: I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah

  • Completely believing in that statement without any doubt in heart or mind, (and consequently obeying what Allah ordered us and not doing what he banned us. And believing that Muhammad is His messenger and what he says is correct and obeying what he says).

It's also recommended according to many the scholars to take wash after saying Tashahhud as there are many Hadiths that mention stories of people becoming Muslims and taking wash right after that. But that's not obligatory as other Hadiths mention Tashahhud without any other action.
Also there are Hadiths that mention that people say Tashahhud, take wash, and learn how to pray two rakaat and pray them. But that doesn't mean that praying those two rakaat is required to become a Muslim, it's to indicate that prayer is the most important thing in Islam and that a Muslim must care most about it.

Also here's a good hadith to mention:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Apostle said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Apostle.
2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity) .
4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca)
5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.

حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُوسَى، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا حَنْظَلَةُ بْنُ أَبِي سُفْيَانَ، عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ بْنِ خَالِدٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ بُنِيَ الإِسْلاَمُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلاَةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَالْحَجِّ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ ‏"‏‏.‏

[Sahih Bukhari]

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Both answers are silent on main point in the question. How a person is saved from his wrongdoings in Islam? @Monkieboy that is what I understand is also of your interest. –  user426 Nov 2 '12 at 10:48
    
@user426 please read links provided in another answer. –  Kashif Nov 2 '12 at 13:03
    
please mention the 5 pillars describes in your answer are five pillars of Islam according to sunni view. –  Battle of Karbala Nov 3 '12 at 5:09
    
I think I was too quick to accept an answer I will open it up again for people to try and provide a more thorough answer. –  Monkieboy Nov 3 '12 at 9:38

Very Simple:

If you truly believe that:

There is no true god (deity) but God (Allah) and that Muhammad is his Messenger (Prophet of Allah).

then you are a Muslim. Next step is to pronounce the “Shahada” (visit links below) to do it formally, which you can do by yourself or ask any Muslim AND then Start learning about Islam. SO SIMPLE!

Few links:

How to Convert to Islam and Become a Muslim

Who can become a Muslim?

EDIT:

what do they do after they become a Muslim in order to stay a Muslim?

Until unless you believe in "Shahada" you are a Muslim. You can be a good Muslim or bad Muslim but you will remain Muslim. Nobody, even a Muslim, has authority to declare you Non-Muslim if you believe in Allah and his Prophet (Muhammad PBUH).

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Converting to Islam requires that you believe in one God and that you believe in Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Ibrahim and all others were messengers of God. Most importantly you believe in the fact that "Muhammad is the last messenger of God". You have to utter the shahadah

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله

There is no deity (god) but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.

You can do this alone or in company with another Muslim. I would highly recommend to visit a local mosque and ask them for guidance to converting to Islam. They will be very pleased to help you out. After this you would want to learn how to Pray Salat (prayer to God). You would most likely want to learn it from another learned Muslim.

To make things a little complicated

Ok so that is how you will convert to Islam, where is the complications? Well there are two main sects in Islam, sunni- the bigger one and Shia - the smaller one. According to Sunni Sects, Islam stops at prophet Muhammad. According to Shia, you have to give special reverence to Ali (RA) who was the follower of Muhammad, Son in Law of Muhammad, a great warrior, a very wise man and indeed very righteous. That is a whole new story that you may want to explore more. I would stick with mainstream Islam first and then later change my mind if I want to.

Changing your mind later

Most people only tell you half the story. The complete story is like this. If you later change your mind and found that this is not a religion for you, then you can't change your mind (strictly speaking). The punishment for leaving Islam is death (esp if you begin to propagate the flaws in Islam). However the punishment is death only in Sunni Islam (mainstream Islam that I follow). There is no death penalty in leaving Islam in Shia sect. Realistically this death penalty is almost never exercised by any government (but may be in some countries). However an extremist my exercise this penalty on his own although it is not common either.

About Islam Convertion

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+1 for the detailed answer about changing your mind later and including the facts of not being done by any government. as for extremist my exercise this penalty on his own, This is not true. even the extremist don't ask/teach their followers to do that.they respect laws and know that only government/ruler is the one who should do it. The only one I know probably AlQaeda. They are not regarded Muslims. So we can't say they are extermists –  Sohaeb Dec 10 '12 at 1:36

(Shia Islam view)

The answer to this question depends on how "Muslim" is defined. to explain lets use an example. it is like to ask "how would I become an student?" here are some answers:

1- A students is who enrolled in university and has gotten an student ID cart. this definition is valid for a keeper at gate of university.

2- A student is who participates in classed properly.

3- A student is who can pass all exams of university.

4- A real student is who pass all units with best grade.

5- A real student is not only who study lessons but do extra research to be an expert.

Becoming a Muslim is like it. if you mean the minimum requirements to be counted as an Muslim it is only saying Sahadah ( I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah). in this case one is counted Muslim even if do not perform rituals of Islam like prayer and fasting.

But there are higher defines of Muslim. for example prophet Ibrahim calles himself Muslim:

مَا كَانَ إِبْرَ‌اهِيمُ يَهُودِيًّا وَلَا نَصْرَ‌انِيًّا وَلَـكِن كَانَ حَنِيفًا مُّسْلِمًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِ‌كِينَ

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian; he was a Muslim, wholly devoted to God. And he certainly was not amongst those who associate others with Allah in His divinity. http://tanzil.net/#3:67

Indeed he was not a minimum requirements Muslim.

Immediately after saying Shahadat this question is raised: what are correct beliefs of a Muslim? the principal beliefs that a Muslim should believe them are called Five Pillars of Islam. unfortunately from this point Muslims become two branch with two standard for pillars of Islam. Shia believes that Imamat (Islamic rules regarding political leadership) is one main pillar of Islam and not believing them makes serious problems for a Muslim after death at grave and judgement day. some say only Muslim and no shia sunni. this would be very good is was possible. but in real world it is not possible. finally a Muslim believes in Imamat or not and this makes him shia or sunni. and what he calls or labels himself is not important.

After beliefs there are Practices like prayer and fasting,... which have detailed rules. these rules relating practices are called Fiqh (jurisprudence). again unfortunately Shia and Sunni have different standards for practices. for example shia Muslims pray with hands standing at sides of body but Sunni Muslims with crossed hands which makes prayer void by shia Fiqh. again one should decide what standard to select. the Fiqh of Shia is called Jafari Fiqh and Sunni Muslims have 4 different school of Fiqh which are made by four of their scholars who all of them were directly of indirectly students of the great polymath Imam Jafar Sadiq a.s. (the founder of Fiqh of shia) and according to had divine knowledge of prophet as heir and was one of the fourteen infallibles who never said "I do not know"

Five Pillars of Islam according to shia Muslims are:

  1. Monotheism: The Oneness of Allah (tawhid)

  2. Divine Justice ('adl)

  3. Prophethood (nubuwwa)

  4. Succession to Muhammad (imamat)

  5. The Day of Judgement and the Resurrection (Qiyama)

Practices of Islam according to shia Muslims:

1- Prayers (salaat) - 5 times a day

2- Fasting (sawm) during Ramadan

3-4. Alms giving (zakaat and khums)

5- Pilgrimage to the city of Makkah (hajj)

6- Holy Defense (Jihad)

7-8. Enjoining good (amr bil-ma'rouf) and forbidding evil (nahiy an al-munkar)

9- Supporting those who walk in the path of Allah (tawalli li awliyaa' Allah)

10- Turning away from the enemies of Allah (tabarri min a'daa Allah)

Five Pillars of Islam according to Sunni Muslims are:

  1. professing (Shahadah)

  2. Prayer (Salat)

  3. Alms-giving (Zakāt)

  4. Fasting (Sawm of Ramadan)

  5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

also different sects of sunni have differs in five pillars. for example Mu'tazilate Sunni Scholars like shia consider Adl as one pillar. but Ash'arites does not believe Adl is one of Pillars although believing in Adl as an attribute of God but with an interpret of Adl that in view of shia and Mu'tazilate is equal to not having Adl.

how someone is saved in Islam?

To be saved someone should become alley of God to God save him from darkness (ignorance) to light (divine knowledge). for this someone should find true leaders who God has chosen them to lead humans and follow them and disobey Taghut (hypocrite leaders who are in fact dictators but call themselves Islamic leaders or corrupted scholars who are in fact servants of dictators)

Quran says:

اللَّـهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُخْرِ‌جُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ‌ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُ‌وا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِ‌جُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ‌ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ أُولَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ‌ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve - their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein. http://tanzil.net/#2:257

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+1 for mentioning both Sunni and Shia perspectives –  Monkieboy Nov 3 '12 at 17:48

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