I’ve Accepted Islam…Now What?

 

Each of us who have embraced Islam have our own stories.  Some of us easily embraced it, quickly and without hesitation.  Others ran towards it, only to cringe back in fear, then tried to ignore it for years before finally submitting themselves.  Still others struggled for many years in denial, not wanting to change, not wanting to accept what they had discovered.  Each person holds a unique story in their journey to Islam, but most all of us share one thing in common – internal struggle.

While my own personal story took me through many ups and downs, I remember that I had to experience most of it on my own.  There were few who could understand the deep emotions I was going through, vulnerable experiences mixed with tumultuous feelings with each step I took towards this new religion.  I didn’t want to face it – I wanted to turn away.  It was too much of a challenge at times.

While I cannot offer my readers much help through such a difficult period of their lives, I do want anyone who has finally accepted Islam to know that you are not alone and there are many, many others like you.  Finally acknowledging your beliefs in Islam is like removing a heavy burden from your shoulders.  The uncertainty will vanish and instead will come about your resolve.  You have taken that first step down the right path.  From this point on, you can be sure that Allah is with you – and many other Muslims are there to help you along the way.

This series is titled “Am I Muslim” because this was an issue I had struggled with for many years.  After accepting Islam, I still didn’t understand what made someone a Muslim.  What makes a Muslim a Muslim?  There are many things to learn about being Muslim.  Faith is not just in your words – it takes belief AND action to truly follow the path.  But Allah is patient with us.  Allah knows what is in our hearts.  So for now – in answer to the question “Am I Muslim” – if you believe, deep in the very depths of your heart, that there is only ONE God, if you believe that all of Allah’s prophets came to deliver the same singular message, and if you believe in the Qur’an as being the final one of those messages delivered to us straight from Allah Himself – then you are Muslim.  Believe in Islam and strive every day to be better than you were the day before.

After taking shahada, often new muslims are eager (and encouraged) to dive head-first into Islam and learn all there is to know.  This is important, but still, you are ultimately going through a very deep and meaningful change in your life.  Each step down the path to Islam should be taken carefully with much understanding.  It is not necessary for you to run full-throttle, as you could trip and fall and not want to continue.  Take your time, get to know your new faith.  There is no hurry, as this can be an overwhelming time in your life, and Allah is patient with us.

Khurram Murad reminds us in “Making the Most Out of Ramadan” that Allah “says that if you walk to Him a foot, He will walk to you two feet; if you move towards Him walking, He will come to you running.”  Another well-known description of the process in which we learn our Islam is as follows, taken from Advice to a New Muslim from the islamdoor.com website: 

“Islam is not something that you just gulp down in one swallow. It is a lifetime of daily meals to be enjoyed, savoured, tasted, digested. If you eat too fast and try to take it all in in one huge bite, you will get indigestion and probably it will come right back up again and make you sick so you don’t want to try another taste. If you eat too slowly and in tiny portions, you will always feel hungry and never be satisfied and if someone comes along offering you sweets and junk food (el shaitan does this) you will perhaps be tempted by that, so you won’t feel like eating any more of the good meal. But if you have a well-balanced meal (studying the Holy Writings, association with fellow believers, putting into practice what you learn) you will feel satisfied and healthy and in peak condition of life.”

However, from my own experience and after speaking with many other new muslims – the prayer is very important.  Learning your prayers can be one of the most important things you do as a muslim, which is why most encourage it to be done immediately after you take shahada. 

With myself and my own experience, it took years for me to finally begin my prayers (which I have started this past month – alhumdulilla.)  The whole time I had a strong desire to learn the prayer, and I would study it online, but I would never take the step to finally perform my prayers.  I constantly feared that I would fail, that I wouldn’t do them right, that I would not be strong enough to do all five at the proper times.  It wasn’t lack of knowledge; it was lack of strength, lack of confidence that held me back.

It wasn’t until I visited the masjid that I finally started to pray.  Praying in congregation is what gave me the strength to finally take the first step.  Feeling the power of other muslims beside me performing the prayer made me feel I could have the strength to do them, too.  Having someone show me, step by step, the postures, the words – helped me to understand and appreciate the prayer.  Getting to know other Muslims from the masjid, them approaching me, greeting me, offering to answer questions, inviting me into their homes – all of these things gave me the sense of community that I so desired and helped me to build the confidence in myself to fully embrace Islam and the prayer as I’d wanted to for so many years.

So this is why my first encouragement to any new muslim is to find their means of support, from wherever they can.  Meeting other muslims, surrounding yourself with people who share your beliefs in islam, can help you to be a better muslim and to follow the pillars of Islam.  Sure, you can do it on your own.  But for my own experience, the process went much smoother and faster when I had others around me.  In my path to Islam, after many long years of deep internal struggling, finding support from others like me was what ultimately helped me to take my next step down the right path.

Help!  I Need Support! 
1.  Online discussion forums: 
Try the discussion groups offered through modernmuslima.com for a list of online forums, discussion groups, and email connections with other muslims just like you. 
2.  Read about Others’ Stories:  Personal testimonies of converts to Islam.  New muslims tell their stories.  New converts stories, includes some videos. 
3.  Contact other muslims through blogging:  here are some other muslims who blog.  Search their blogs for lists of other muslim bloggers.
Daughter of Guidance
Ilmseeker
MuslimsMatter.org
Cool Guy Muslim
Writeous Sister Speaks
Muslim Musings
Naeem’s Blog
4.  Find a Masjid in your area:  http://www.islamicity.com/orgs/
And visit their website (if they have one) to find out if there are any groups or meetings for new muslims.  Masjids often have lots of activities, and if you speak with the Imam, he can help you to set up someone to meet there who can welcome you.

So while the path to Islam may be difficult, know that there is help and support out there for a new muslim who may be struggling with their new identity.  Other muslims are out there who are going through the same things, same emotions and struggles – and finding a connection with them through Islam is one way to help you through this time.

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5 responses to “I’ve Accepted Islam…Now What?

  1. While the internal struggle is very true for a new muslim or should i say one who is on the path to becoming one. It is not so unusual for a muslim either. The struggle carries on for the rest of our lives. It never stops until we die. Satan stands ready to misguide us from the straight path and doesnt give up even at our very last moments of existence.

    http://lightofquran.wordpress.com/

  2. Thank you for sharing your precious experience of grasping the true path. The way you express your experiences and the feelings gushing out of your profound inner world is really unique and gripping. It is obvious that your words are painted in a pure sincerity and that’s why they make an imprint on my conscience.

  3. Asalaamu alaikum.

    This is such a wonderful start on your series, mashaAllah!

    Sorry this isn’t relevent, but…

    You are a recipient of the “I Love Your Blog” Award. See my blog for details. :)

  4. Asalaamu alaikum,
    Great idea! It is really important to acknowledge our struggles so that we don’t give up.
    Don’t forget islamicfinder.com for finding local listings and resources.

  5. GENERAL ADVICE FOR NEW MUSLIMS FROM OTHER CONVERTS

    The following are accounts from reverts who are giving advice to other reverts because they know the many trials a revert may go through! Please do not worry allah has blessed you out of many people and guided you to the truth and will help you along your journey inshallah! just make much dua to him because allah loves it that his slaves ask of him as much as possible! Please feel free to pass on to anyone else that you think may benefit. Please make dua for me!

    Advice For New Muslims from Abdul-Lateef Abdullah (Steven Krauss)

    The following are accounts from reverts who are giving advice to other reverts because they know the many trials a revert may go through! Please do not worry allah has blessed you out of many people and guided you to the truth and will help you along your journey inshallah! just make much dua to him because allah loves it that his slaves ask of him as much as possible! Please feel free to pass on to anyone else that you think may benefit. Please make dua for me!

    Assalamualaikum new brother or sister!

    Alhamdulillah that Allah has guided you to our blessed deen. Islam is truly
    a blessing and we should all feel overwhelmed with gratitude to Allah for
    guiding us to the straight path, the path of real success and peace.

    My advice to you as a new Muslim is to find a teacher. In my year and a half
    of being Muslim (I’m 28 years old), one of the most important experiences
    for me has been the guidance and support of a very knowledgeable and pious
    teacher. Islam is a not a religion of self-interpretation. It is a straight
    path based on knowledge that must be acquired. It is a lifestyle that has to
    be adhered to, and is unfortunately being influenced by many negative
    elements, both within and outside Islam. Without a guide, it is difficult to
    differentiate the truth of Islam from the created falsehoods that are being
    propogated as Islamic teachings.

    Although many new Muslims, especially in the US, choose to teach themselves
    Islam through books, lectures and videos, there are many pitfalls to doing
    this that should be avoided. Without a teacher or a guide, one armed with
    the combination of knowledge and experience, the pitfalls of the ego and
    desires can confuse and lead us astray quite easily. Self-teaching is a
    western phenomenon, and because many of us are brought up in the west, we
    assume we can apply our cultural norms to Islam as well. However, Islam is
    not of the west, thus, these western norms cannot be applied to it with much
    success.

    For centuries, classical Islamic education was taught through direct contact
    with teachers. This is how wisdom, not just knowledge, was acquired. You
    cannot gain wisdom just from reading. Anyone can read and parrot, but how
    many can read and apply in the way Allah intends? One of the problems with
    the Muslim Ummah today is that there are too many of us reading and
    parroting, but not enough applying in the way truly put forth by Allah and
    His Messenger (SAW). Put simply, we have stopped learning from those with
    knowledge and wisdom. We have stopped becoming students. One of the first
    attributes Jabril (AS) (archangel Gabriel) said he would take from the world
    by Allah’s command toward the end of time would be humility. This is a sign
    of what Jabril (AS) was talking about. It takes humility to be a student and
    to give our trust over to someone to teach us, which is why fewer and fewer
    are willing to do it.

    The easiest way to know the true akhlaq (character) of a teacher is to look
    at how he lives. How does he live his life? Does he live the deen or just
    talk about it? Does he say one thing and do another? Does he invite you into
    his home and show you how to practice Islam, not just tell you? Does he make
    five solats a day? These are some ways of knowing the authenticity and
    genuineness of a teacher. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many people
    claim to be sheikhs and imams, yet have very little knowledge or wisdom of
    Islam. So don’t be fooled by titles in your search for a teacher.

    I don’t mean to put fear into anyone’s heart on this matter. I have seen,
    however, the importance of having guidance and the consequences of what
    happens without it. How we learn and are indoctrinated into Islam will
    greatly effect our appreciation for it, our love of it, our devotion to it,
    and most importantly, our ultimate success or failure with Allah. Knowledge
    with wisdom will make you LOVE Islam, not just blindly follow it. So I urge
    you to go out and find a good teacher to help you along the path to Allah.
    May Allah bless you and guide you further in your journey. Assalamualaikum!

    Written by Abdul-Lateef Abdullah (Steven Krauss) , December 28, 2000 skrauss@community-impact.net

    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    Advice For New Muslims From Maria Hannon-Khattabi

    Assalamu’alaikum,

    The most valuable piece of advice I was given and will pass on is this: Educate yourself. Emerse yourself in Islamic education informally and formally when the chances come about (books, magazines, Internet, seminars, workshops, on-line learning, classes). If you hear something or read something that doesn’t sit right with you, research the topic. Since Islam is from Allah and is the right path, every piece of it is logical and if something you hear or read seems lacking in common sense, it probably isn’t right. Keep informed and never stop learning.

    Written by Maria Hannon-Khattabi , January 11, 1999 Hannon@dmnh.org

    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    Advice For New Muslims From A Sister

    Assalaamu alaykum! Peace be upon you!

    The joy, exhilaration, and lifetime importance of accepting Islam can often be accompanied by a sense of being overwhelmed and unsure of how to best approach the new dimensions of one’s life. So many details, one might think, so many books, so many rules. Look again: Islam is not an obscure, complicated religion. It is the natural religion, and as such, it is a way of life – there is no need to panic. There are, however, several things that will greatly facilitate the transition to an Islamic lifestyle:

    (1) Venture, boldly or meekly, into a nearby muslim community so that you can enjoy the camaraderie and guidance of practicing muslims. Introduce yourself as a new revert and insha’allah, with some give and take, you will be welcomed into the ummah [muslim community]. If you find that you are uncomfortable amongst these people even after some time, don’t hesitate to try and locate other muslims at another mosque, if such a luxury is available to you where you reside. Muslims are people, you will like some, love others, and so on. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find a muslim soul mate immediately!

    (2) Learn salat, the five-times-daily contact prayer. Learning the movements and Arabic words will be challenging at first, but with *practice* you will master it eventually, I promise! It always helps to have a friend to ask about the details, hence (1) above. There are numerous muslim books and websites to guide you through learning salat. Try to learn the basics first before you get caught up with trying to learn many dua’as [supplications] or surahs [verses] from the Qur’an. Keep it simple and regular and your faith and self-confidence will improve daily.

    (3) Read the Qur’an. Try to get a widely accepted edition like the ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali Qur’an in Arabic with English translation and commentary. Read slowly, savor the words, but read by all means. It is the most important book you will ever come across.

    As you are becoming settled in your new life as a muslim, things that at first seemed daunting will become simple, and you will soon be ready for new challenges. Read! Listen! Learn Arabic (if possible!) There is a wealth of wisdom just waiting to be discovered by you. And you, too, are waiting for it. So progress and enjoy!

    Written January 15,1999

    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    Advice For New Muslims by Mona

    Given that I have been having major problems with my parents regarding my reversion, the following advice is particularly suitable for other new muslims having problems with their non-muslim family members:

    (1) It is very helpful and comforting to have a few muslim friends nearby in whom you can confide, ask questions of, and spend time with during the formative and often tumultuous initial period as a new muslim. Born muslims are generally honored and pleased to help you improve your faith by showing you the details that help you become a better muslim.

    (2) Before you decide to announce your reversion to loved ones who are non-muslim, make sure you are ready for their response, whether it is pleasant or horrible. Being ready means many things: understanding the basics of practicing your faith, understanding the reasons behind actions demanded of you by Islam, and being able to reconcile unfortunate world events that are attributed to muslims with your own understanding of Islam and its inherent goodness, logic, and beauty.

    (3) As hypocritical as it may be, many open-minded people cease to be open-minded when difficult issues such as religious conversion “hit home.” People who are ordinarily rational, educated, and worldly unfortunately can swing 180 degrees when a person they love converts to a religion they do not appreciate or understand. It may be in your best interest, and in theirs, to not discuss your reversion to Islam until a year or two has passed and you feel comfortable in your faith. At that point, it would be obvious to them that Islam has not made you a worse or lesser person, and has in fact (hopefully!) noticeably improved you!

    (4) Most importantly, remember that the best teaching is by example. If you want to help others overcome the stereotypes bound to Islam and lessen discrimination against muslims, be a model muslim! Remember to be tolerant, patient, giving, helpful, and peaceful with those around you, be they muslim or not. Be open to questions regarding your new faith, but do not feel compelled to answer questions to which you do not (yet) know the answers. Get involved in your ummah, mind your prayer, and with time, everything will become easier for you.

    Written by Mona August 5, 1998

    Please drop Mona a line. Her e-mail address is: mona@physchem.ox.ac.uk

    ————————————————————————————————————————————– Advice to new Muslimas by Judi Muhammad, MA, LLP, PhD Candidate; Vice President/ Clinical Director Islamic Health & Human Services, Detroit, MI
    AsSalaamuAlaykum (Peace be upon you)

    It feels like I have been Muslim all of my life. In actuality, I probably was – underneath. But, for most of my life (50 years) I was Christian. I was raised Catholic and converted to a fundamental Christian religion, The Salvation Army, in my 30s and remained there until Allah (SWT) rescued me at age 50. AlHamdullillah!!

    For many years I taught psychology and philosophy in college. In that teaching, and in my own education, I came to believe many concepts and philosophies things that did not fit with my religion. But, I accepted that there would be differences and that was OK. One of the things I knew was that while the Christian religion taught that I was (1) born in the image of God (on one hand) and (2) born in sin (on the other) – both were not possible. The first thing I heard about Islam was that we are born good.

    In succeeding years, fitrah has become a favorite topic of my reading. All of my reading has proven that what I always believed in my heart was true – that man is born good and his propensity is to live within the Will of Allah.

    I spent the first 8 months in Islam single – and when I did marry I was truly blessed with a good Muslim husband. I learned more in the first 1 month of my marriage to him than I had in the 8 months I tried to learn on my own. Always, however, my husband told me that, “Islam is a process. You are responsible for what you learn as you learn it. Worry about the ‘big’ things – not the little things.”

    Some of the most important things I have learned are:

    That I was always Muslim in my heart – that not all practice Islam the same but anyone who calls themselves “Muslim” is treated by me as Muslim – that Sisters make WONDERFUL friends ( too bad I waited so late in my life to learn that) – that being obedient to my husband has more benefits than I could have ever imagined – that women are more respected in Islam than anyone who is not a Muslimah would possibly imagine – and that the “Peace that passeth all understanding” is not a Christian reward – it is an Islamic reality.

    The most important advice I can give a new Muslimah is: Allow Allah to chose your husband – make Istikharah and trust that you will learn the truth from it Do not worry about changing those around you – worry about changing yourself , into the best Muslim you can be – Allah will take care of the rest Search for legitimate Scholars – not everyone knows enough to teach you the truth When you marry, trust your husband and look to him to teach you Islam – it is his job Enjoy obedience to your husband – it will bring rewards in heaven but also on earth!!

    Become friends with Sisters who are like you want to become.

    May Allah bless you and make your Islamic journey as peaceful as mine.

    Written by Judi Muhammad August 3, 1998

    Please drop Judi a line. Her e-mail address is: SMuslim@aol.com

    ————————————————————————————————————————————–

    FROM JIM (NASIR) who Embraced Islam Sat, 11 Apr 1998 at the ripe young age of 68

    Assalamu’alaikum

    As advice to a new Muslim I first greet you and congratulate you on your choice and good taste. If you are like I was the road will be a little to quite rocky at first but you must remember Allah is probably testing you to see if you are truly worthy. After a while things will smooth out. You will laugh. cry, get upset and be the happiest person in the world. In time you will have doubt that you chose was the best way to live. Nobody will tell you this, you will know deep down inside.

    When I started out I almost gave up many times. I was introduced to a converts/reverts group. The leader asked me if i was convert yet. I was so fed up I almost told what to do with his group. I thought here comes a third degree. Man did I eat crow. Then again it reminded me of the years back when I went to live in Australia. When you went to get anything. It had a different name over there and if it was not on the ladies counter she did not want to know about it. After I learend my way around things settled down for me. All I can advise you is patience and perserverence. Try to find a good Muslim friend who can guide you around, but best of all be guided by your inner self. I could tell you stories of my problems but then you have enough that you can probably tell me. Why dont you? As I look back I am reminding myself how much of Don Quixote there is in me. Also his epitaph on his tombstome which goes something like this.

    Here lies a brave and fearless knight Who had the courage in his day to live a fool and die a sage.

    I am not a sage yet but I am working on it.

    Nasir (Jim) Written July 20th 1998

    Please drop Jim a line. His e-mail address is: email address is: najim@swlink.net

    ————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Advice from Khadeejah (Jacklynn)

    Assalamo aleikum (Peace be upon you)

    This is the greeting and salutation that muslims give to each other. It is also the true blessing of Islam. The peace that comes from choosing the right path in life is incomparable! No one can tell you if you have found the right path – you will know it for yourself when you discover the inner calmness of your soul, the joy that even the difficulties cannot extinguish, and the sureness of feeling that you are home.. that you have found a WAY OF LIFE – not just a religion! Al hamdolellah! (thanks to God!)

    Islam is not something that you just gulp down in one swallow. It is a lifetime of daily meals to be enjoyed, savoured, tasted, digested. If you eat too fast and try to take it all in in one huge bite, you will get indigestion and probably it will come right back up again and make you sick so you don’t want to try another taste. If you eat too slowly and in tiny portions, you will always feel hungry and never be satisfied and if someone comes along offering you sweets and junk food (el shaitan does this) you will perhaps be tempted by that, so you won’t feel like eating any more of the good meal. But if you have a well-balanced meal (studying the Holy Writings, association with fellow believers, putting into practice what you learn) you will feel satisfied and healthy and in peak condition of life.

    And think about it… if someone who loved you made a meal especially for you, wouldn’t that make you feel surrounded by their love? Wouldn’t you be anxious to tell everyone you know how well you were treated and how much you enjoyed the food? They would probably envy you and wish that they could also have a meal such as this. Allah loves us and has prepared spiritual food especially for us, his creation, in order for us to be healthy and happy and to know that we are loved. That food of course consists of all the Holy Writings available to us. When the opportunity arises, we can let others know how good our food is and how much our Creator loves us, so that they might see our healthy souls and want what we have. This is human nature… wanting what we don’t have.

    So take things moderately, one bite at a time. Some foods take getting accustomed to, just like when we were kids and were told to eat our vegetables… as we grew up, we knew they were good for us, so we ate them as part of our meal even if they were not our favourite food. So, when you come across a “vegetable” in Islam that you find hard to swallow, just take a small nibble and leave it at the side of your plate until the next meal, or the one after that. Eventually you will grow up enough to realize that ALL “foods” in the spiritual meal are good for you and need to be partaken of if we want to stay healthy. As an example, imagine hijab as one of these “vegetables” that we might either love from the start or as something that we will only partake of after growing up and realizing that it is good for our spritual health.

    May Allah grant us all the wisdom and good spritual health we need to stay on the straight path. Ameen.

    Fee amanallah

    Khadeejah (Jacklynn) Written July 21 1998

    Please drop Khadeejah a line. Her e-mail address is: email address is: khadeejah@muslimsonline.com

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