For nearly eight years, I’ve navigated the murky waters of my chosen spiritual path. Both the outer and inner manifestations of faith can prove challenging for convert brothers and sisters. Over the years, my imaan has risen and fallen, but like the tide, I always return to my Rabb. During my trials, I’ve found solace in expected and unexpected places which I pray may also benefit you.
1. Seek Speakers Who Speak Truth
“This world cannot break you—unless you give it permission. And it cannot own you unless you hand it the keys—unless you give it your heart. And so, if you have handed those keys to dunya for a while—take them back. This isn’t the end. You don’t have to die here. Reclaim your heart and place it with its rightful owner: God.” – Yasmin Mogahed, Reclaim Your Heart.
There are many scholars —both self-proclaimed and properly trained— who speak to a fearful, unforgiving and austere deen. This is not to say that we should avoid learning about hard truths, but remember the phrase Allah calls us to say most frequently: bismillah ar-Rahmin ir-Rahim. In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Our deen embodies forgiveness, compassion and mercy. Seek speakers who speak truth and remind you of your Lord. These are the ones most worthy of your time.
2. Make the Qur’an the Light of Your Heart
“O Allah, I am your slave, the son of your slave. My forelock is in Your Hand. Your judgment of me is inescapable. Your trial of me is just. I am invoking You by all the names that You call Yourself, that You have taught to anyone in Your creation, that You have mentioned in Your Book, or that You have kept unknown. Let the Qur’an be delight of my heart, the light of my chest, the remover of my sadness and the pacifier of my worries.” (Source: Musnad Ahmad # 1/391).
Non-native Arabic speakers need not fret; the Qur’an is within your reach. Our Prophet (SAW) was sent as a Messenger for us all. I came across this dua in a prayer book I was given after taking my shahada. Recite this to relieve your troubles and to guide you closer to the Qur’an. Find a translation that works for you alongside a transliteration and the Arabic texts. Try to make it a part of your day, even if it’s only an Ayah. The Qur’an is the heart of the religion. Without it we navigate this world without a guide.
3. Keep Ties with Friends and Loved Ones
After my conversion, many people told me to have only Muslim friends, or were anxiously awaiting the conversion of all those close to me. Please don’t follow this. Your greatest act of dawah is the grace and courtesy shown toward those same relations they wish you to cut-off. Some may treat you poorly or may dissociate from you, which says more about them than you. For family, pray for sabr and give them space. Hopefully, they will find their way back to you again with acceptance and love. We cannot control the actions of others, but we can choose to rise above the hate.
4. Islam is a Religion of Ease
“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (Qur’an, 2:185).
You’ll find that there are many extra acts of worship—fasting white days, Duha prayer, etc.—cultural opinions confused with religion, and varying opinions on a variety of matters. Prayer and seeking knowledge can help you make informed decisions. Scholars, religious leaders and other Muslims are all welcome consultants, but don’t forget your voice and the power of prayer for guidance. Don’t forget the Qur’an and sunnah are accessible guides for you. Ease into the religion. When I tried to do too much all at once, I eventually ended up right back where I started. Remember, no one learned the religion in a day.
5. Stay True to Yourself
There are things and lifestyles which many of us must give up after taking our shahada. For example, for those of us growing up in the South, the struggle to give up pork when it permeates your culture can be difficult. I mean, what’s a Muslim to do at a pig pickin’? However, don’t feel pressured to take on other people’s cultures. You don’t need to be Arab or Desi to be a “real” Muslim. There’s nothing haram about spaghetti at iftar. Saying shukran doesn’t make you religious, it just means you speak Arabic. I say this because I’ve had people correct my “thank you” at the mosque. When you stay true to yourself within the bounds of your new faith, people will respect you, even if they disagree with, or don’t understand you.