Everything I have experienced in Islam has occurred in steps. From the moment I first learned about the religion, I have been slowly transforming into the Muslim I desire to be. I am not there yet, nor do I expect I will ever reach my true goal, as I strive for perfection, and this is simply not possible. But improving myself and becoming a better Muslim is an extremely slow process, and this frustrates me at times.
Islam was revealed over a period of 23 years. During this time, Prophet Muhammed (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam) presented the early Muslims with many new changes through the revelations of the Qur’an. But the changes weren’t suddenly slammed down on the Muslims all in one sitting. For example, the drinking of alcohol was not prohibited completely at the start. First Muslims were forbidden from attending prayers while they were intoxicated (4:43). Then after that, the Qur’an stated that in gambling and drinking, there is some good to it and some evil to it, but there was more evil in it than good (2:219). Later on, drinking (and other intoxicants) were deemed to be “Satan’s handiwork” which pull people from God and also from prayer, and Muslims were prohibited from partaking in it (5:90-91). During this time, the Prophet Muhammed (sallalahu alayhi wa salaam) additionally informed Muslims that if a large amount of something would lead to intoxication, then even a small amount of it was prohibited.
So as you can see from the process in which the prohibition was revealed, Allah spread the revelations about the prohibition of alcohol over a period of time, instead of outright banning it right from the beginning. This made it easier for the Muslims to change and to follow Islam. Allah always strives to make Islam easy for us – it is not meant to be difficult. “Allah intends for you ease, and does not want to make things difficult for you” [2:185]; and “Allah does not want to place you in difficulty” [5:6].
So I have to learn to have patience with myself. It is not good to rush into things, as you can easily become overwhelmed. Sincerity is more important than anything else, and Allah knows what is in our hearts. Changing your lifestyle is not an easy task – but it is not impossible, and if concerted efforts are continuously made, then progress will occur. This is what I aim for – to each day become better than I was the day before as a practicing Muslim. So while I may not fully carry out all of my duties as a Muslim yet, I am on the right path and I feel confident that I will continue in my journey. All I have to do is keep taking steps in the right direction.