E CHANGING NEW MUSLIM
By Khadija Watson
Embracing Islam is not just embracing a new religion but a new way of life. It affects our whole outlook on life, because Islam is not just a compartmentalized area of your life like some religions, but a new way of living. It is not an indoctrination of a religious idealism or ideology but a world view of life itself, how Allah has intended us to live. The closer we come to fulfilling His requirements for life, not only will it mean inner peace for ourselves but a more peaceful world.
Contrary to the idea that Islam is a religion of terror which has been projected by people who are ignorant of the religion itself, Islam is a way of peace and justice.
Most of us upon embracing Islam, were not aware of its everyday aspect, rather we noted the theological Oneness of God (The Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipowerful God). Who could understand the Trinity since the word itself is not mentioned once in the Bible?
Suddenly our life is changed into doing things that never occurred to us to do before, nor had we interest in; such as praying five times a day, wearing hijab, or going to the mosque. It all seems so radical from our previous life style. One which might have included parties, drinking, drugs, or those who were not evolved in such evils themselves, perhaps lived a more sedate and moral life.
What are the most difficult thing facing a new Muslim?
It is not its religious duties such as praying and wearing hijab, rather it is dealing with the people who are closest to us: our family and friends. Up until the last few years most of us had not heard of Islam, or if we did it held some vague concept of a far off people different in culture than our own. ( see the article Islam the fastest growing religion on this web site) ) Suddenly it was thrust upon us as a religion of terror and most of us have to deal with this concept. My own family being ignorant of Islamic beliefs thought that I had become a terrorist!! After which I sent them some booklets explaining the religious beliefs, they then thought I was trying to convert them, rather then just inform them! (We didn't get off to a good start and Allah forbids us to force people to become Muslims)
Many sisters from Christian back grounds have been disowned and thrown out on the street, not very exemplary Christian attitude. Most families are not understanding at first: it took seven years for some of my family members to accept, not approve that I had become a Muslim and would never return to Christianity. At least I was an adult and could deal with them on this level; it will be more difficult if you still live with your parents or in a culture where parents and older brothers or sisters have the final say.
In either case one should always be respectful to them unless they are at the point of physical violence, in which case you may need to seek help from Muslim brothers or sisters. Allah cautions us in the Holy Quran not to break relationships with our family unless under the severest of terms. He further admonishes us not to obey our parents if they tell us to do something that goes against His Word : such as kneeling before statues or making partners with God, as in worshipping the Trinity, Saints, Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism or different Occults. We may find this exceedingly difficult in the beginning when everything is new and we are still unfamiliar with the Holy Quran and Sunnah (the way of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him) Allah will give you strength and resolve during this time. He says in the Holy Quran that He will not change a person until they change themselves. In other words you take the first step and He will see you through, this is called Faith.
Also try to learn as much as you can about Islam, join any study groups or lectures that are available. If you are unable to do that, study as much as you can on your own, there are many good books available. If this is not possible then at lest read the Holy Quran and try to get hold of Sahih Al-Bukhari, which is the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) The Ahadith (plural for hadith) are the teachings, sayings, explanations of the Holy Quran, example and way of life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the way he taught his companions, called the Sahaba. If you have no other books these two would be the most important to be able to learn about Islam and how a Muslim should behave and live. When you finish reading them then read them again and again and again. Then enact upon what you have read. Be inspired to imitate and incorporate in your life the things that the early Muslims did, this way you will not go wrong or end up following a person who might mean well but is not following the way of the Prophet. (peace and blessings be upon him) As you read you will be inspired to follow one idea, then another and another. It is not necessary to try to follow everything at once but rather take it one step at a time.
Your friends you won't have to worry about because they will probably drop you before you drop them. A friend is one who accepts you for who you are not what you are; only a true friend will be able to do this. When they find out you are no longer interested in the type of behavior that you previously exhibited, there is a natural desire to stop wanting to be with you and you with them. Some who feel empty of their own life style will surprisingly show an interest in yours!! What made you change, what do you believe? This is an excellent opportunity for you to share what Allah has done for you and what you know about Islam. Don't be afraid to share, unlike Christianity you don't have to be a theologian or evangelist. And don't think that you don't know enough, because you as a new Muslim know more about Islam than the non-Muslim even if your knowledge is limited. Don't be afraid of the exuberant Christian who wants to thump their bible in your face, after all it is not Christianity that you are interested in it is Islam! Christians have only studied Islam from a Christian perspective so they are sincere but sincerely wrong! Let them study Islam from an Islamic perspective then they are ready to have a discussion.
Prayer is a time we separate ourselves from our busy activities to reflect upon and worship our Creator God, Allah. Praying five times a day is mandatory on a Muslim, however trying in the beginning to say the prayers in Arabic, the heavenly and earthly language in which it was revealed will be quite difficult and have little impact on you. It is better to learn the words of the prayer in your native language first, whether that is English or some other language, so that you understand what you are saying. Later after you feel comfortable and enjoy praying then every effort must be made to learn it in Arabic.
Likewise wearing the hijab or scarf is also mandatory for a Muslim woman. This is probably the most difficult thing the Muslim woman is required to do, as wearing the hijab identifies us as a Muslim and separates us from the rest of society. Funny, that a Catholic nun can wear a habit (the covering of a Catholic nun) and she is called religious, but a Muslim woman wearing a hijab is called suppressed!! It is important to know first why we are required to wear this. It is not because any husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather or any other male in the Muslim society is forcing you. It is because it is a direct command from Allah, that the woman should cover herself as a way of protection, modesty and obedience to Allah. Found in Chapter An-Nur (24;31) and chapter Al-Ahzab (33:59) of the Holy Quran. A Muslim woman not wearing hijab is in direct disobedience to Allah and has moved out from under His protection in this area. Many Western and European countries are now at odds about a Muslim woman or child wearing hijab while in public or in schools. If you were to go down the street wearing little clothing, no bra and see through clothes no one would say anything to you. But if you are wearing a hijab and outer covering you are scorned by society. Take heart my dear sisters as your reward for obedience is great. This is your jihad (meaning struggle not holy war) may Allah give you courage and dignity. Many of us have experienced harassment and cruelty but it has only served to enforce our resolve to obey Allah, and to be better stronger Muslims.