I started this blog with a promise: to be honest about my experiences. Well, I have been wanting to write about set backs I have had for a while now but I felt ashamed and scared of how people would react. But, I made a promise, and the whole reason I started this blog was to help other converts! How can I do that if I am not honest to you about EVERYTHING involved in converting to Islam?
When you first convert to Islam, everything is new and exciting. You look forward to everything you still have to learn and cannot wait to uncover all the far realms of this beautiful religion that you found. Your new brothers and sisters are all very excited for you and keen to teach you things and join you in the mosque. The fact that you most probably upset your family and lost many of your friends over this choice you made seems irrelevant compared to this feeling that you are at the start of an amazing journey.
After a while however, things start to sink in. Other Muslims are not as excited to teach you anything anymore, let alone even talk to you when you see them in the mosque. You start to realize your family may not actually see how good this is for you and will continue to fight you on it for many more years to come. You start to feel a little lonely, because 99% of your friends never really call you anymore because you can’t go out drinking and partying with them. And keeping up with reading Qur’an, praying five times a day, always covering up perfectly, and not engaging in any inappropriate behavior gets increasingly difficult.
The important thing to do when you start to feel this way is to try and list all the blessings Allah (SWT) showered you with since you took this step. For example, the fact that I now have Allah (SWT) to talk to and to ask for guidance at any time and place has made me a much calmer and more confident person. I realize that the friends He (SWT) left to drift away from me were never really friends to start with! Because is something that ends when you stop drinking and smoking really a friendship? He has opened my eyes to my real friends and has blessed me by keeping them close to me and having them be there for me when I needed cheering up. He has given me the strength to study hard for my exams and supported me in my journey out of my home country and towards new opportunities in London. After a while, you will realize you could go on for hours talking about all the good things that came your way…
Another thing that is extremely important is to surround yourself with people that will be good for your Imaan. And that doesn’t necessarily mean surrounding yourself with just Muslims! Having a lot of Muslim friends is a great form of support but it should certainly not be your source of knowledge of Islam. Different people will tell you different stories so sticking to high quality books is the better way to go. It can also become overwhelming to be around fellow Muslims all the time. After all, I wasn’t a Muslim for the twenty first years of my life, I need time to adjust… Just make sure you do not spend time with people that will lead you astray. Ask Allah (SWT) for guidance in your friendships and follow your heart.
But despite all of this, I had setbacks. I remember one time, I just stopped wanting to pray. The way I deal with setbacks is to give myself a break. Remember, converting to Islam has changed your life drastically and will continue to do so, but forcing yourself into things and pushing too hard may eventually lead you to resent all these changes. For example, when I first converted, I was introduced to a group of converted sisters of about my own age. Unfortunately, out of the five of us, two have now distanced themselves from their faith, even though they were initially much stricter than I was! It’s all about keeping everything balanced, and having good Muslim as well as non-Muslim friends around you is a big part of that! Do not listen to people that judge the way you worship Allah (SWT) , just keep reading books and asking for his guidance and support.
One day during Ramadan, I broke my fast, and then decided not to fast the day after that. Although I realize the sin I have committed and the blessings I have missed out on, I know it was the right decision. The fast was leaving me completely exhausted and emotionally wrecked. I needed a break in order not to walk away from it all together. I was hesitating whether I made a huge mistake, but when I prayed Fajr the morning after, all alone in the darkness of the sleeping house, I suddenly started to cry. I asked Allah (SWT) for forgiveness and felt the warmth of His guidance and support flowing through me again.
Islam is such a beautiful religion and Allah (SWT) does not mean for its teachings to be a burden on us, keep that in mind when you are having a hard time. Take a step back, breath, and ask for His forgiveness when you are ready for it… Because He will be there for you.