How do I do this?
So, you converted to Islam? Masha’Allah! But what now? I remember when I converted last year, I was a little overwhelmed with all the things I had to learn and I felt like I had to learn everything at once in order to become a good Muslim. I think that a great way to start is simply to go over the five pillars of Islam.
- Shahadah. This is a set statement which you should recite in order to become a Muslim. It is normally recited in Arabic: “ašhadu an lā ilāha illá l-Lāhi wa ashhadu ‘anna Muḥammadan rasūlu l-Lāhi ” meaning “I profess that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger”. This declaration of faith consists of two important parts, i.e., the absolute belief in the Unity of Allah (God) and in Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as a mortal human being and the Messenger of Allah (SWT) .
- Salaat. Muslims pray at least five times a day. I have learnt all the basics of prayer from a series called ‘Pray as you have seen me pray’ which can be found on YouTube. However, I found it quite hard to learn a prayer by heart just by hearing it, so I would advise looking for a written version of the part you are trying to learn, so you can keep this with you while you pray. At first, you will probably need to hold this paper and read everything you recite, but after a while you should be able to just leave it on your prayer mat and only peek when your memory temporarily fails you. Once you have learned the absolute basics of the prayer, it is good to learn a few short suras to vary your prayer with. I would advise Surat Al Ikhlaas, Surat Al Falaq, Surat an Naas, and Surat Al Kafiroon (also known as ‘the four Quls’), as they are short and relatively easy to learn, as well as abundant in rewards if recited. It might even be a good goal for this Ramadan to memorize them!
- Zakat. Also known as alms-giving, this is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered the responsibility of the more fortunate amongst us to provide for others and eliminate inequalities. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. The easiest way to calculate your ‘wealth’ is by using a online zakat calculator. You may also choose to donate more that this mandatory amount, this would than be called Sadaquah.
- Sawm. Three types of fasting (Sawm) are recognized by the Qur’an: Ritual fasting, fasting as compensation for repentance (both from Surat Al-Baqara), and ascetic fasting (from Surat Al-Ahzab). Ritual fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan: you must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk during this month, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. You can learn more about fasting here.
- Hajj. The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the holy city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if he or she can afford it. I have not done Hajj yet, but hope I might be able to next year insha’Allah. However, Hajj is not something to be taken lightly, I still have a lot to learn before I go and a lot of arrangements to make.