Short Answer: One of the women at the mosque where I converted told me: “Take it slow. Your Islam should be like a ladder. Climb it one step at a time. If you try to leap to the top, you will fall.” Also, take good care of yourself, find a good support system for new Muslims, and my advice to you is do not get married right away.
Salam sister and thank you for your e-mail.
Firstly – alhamdulillah and congratulations on accepting Islam.
It was exactly nine years ago that I, myself, accepted Islam.
I remember feeling the emotions you are feeling and having that peace in my heart after I said shahadah in front of everyone at Friday prayers.
I have a lot of advice for new converts, as a matter of fact. This is a topic that I have written and spoken about many times before and is one of my favorite topics to discuss.
Beware of a Quick Marriage
The first thing I feel obligated to say to every new convert (especially women): do not get married.
There is immense pressure on new converts (again, especially women) to marry right away. Please do not do this.
It is not haram to remain unmarried. Remember: you have just made a huge and life-changing decision. You need time to find yourself and find your comfort within Islam.
More often than not, marriages to converts are intercultural. Intercultural marriages can be beautiful and extremely rewarding.
However, when you are in the infant stages of being a Muslim, taking on the additional challenges of marriage, let alone an intercultural one, is not advisable.
People who have been Muslim all their lives often have their practices down a certain way.
There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but you will be better off in the long run establishing your own practices and feeling firm in them, rather than accepting someone else’s way of doing things.
This can lead to resentment and misunderstanding of faith.
This misunderstanding is exacerbated when people bring cultural expectations into marriage. This will happen, regardless, but oftentimes cultural practices are touted as Islamic.
It is very important for you to be firm enough in your faith that you will be able to sift through what practices are cultural and what are Islamic.
Marrying someone who has been Muslim all his life – even marrying a sheikh or Islamic scholar – does not mean getting a pious spouse.
Eager Convert: Take it Slow
Moving on to other topics outside of marriage…
I have one piece of advice that was given to me as a new Muslim.
I did not want to take it. I ignored it. I shouldn’t have.
One of the women at the mosque where I converted told me: “Take it slow.”
“Your Islam should be like a ladder. Climb it one step at a time. If you try to leap to the top, you will fall.”
Remembering life as a new Muslim, I know how eager you are in your heart to do everything right as soon as possible.
You want to learn the rules and follow them. You want to keep that amazing, pure feeling in your heart for as long as you can.
But please, do take things slowly. When I was learning to pray I would learn one line in Arabic at a time, then finish in English and go through the motions, even if I didn’t know what to say.
If you try to do everything and learn everything straight away, you are more likely to accept people’s word on what Islamic practice is.
You may be told that it is haram for you to be single, that women must wear black, that women cannot speak in front of men, that we cannot be with our families during holidays.
For every single piece of information you are given by word of mouth, take it with a grain of salt. Unless it is a well-known truth about Islam (e.g. pork and alcohol are forbidden to consume), insist upon evidence before taking it as truth.
Take Good Care of Yourself
Be kind and patient with yourself.
You will encounter difficulties and frustrations. You may have times where your faith is shaken. Know that this is normal.
I have been Muslim for nine years and I have had many ups and downs. All Muslims do.
We do not go through our entire existence feeling strong and happy in our faith. Conversely, you will not be eternally struggling.
Lastly, I want to advise that you attempt to create a support system for yourself. This is often easier said than done, but with the internet there are a lot more possibilities for connection that there once was.
Look for groups of converts at your mosque, your college, online, etc.
Any support system of Muslims will be helpful, but I do recommend reaching out to converts primarily.
People who have been Muslim all their lives are not able to understand all the struggles converts encounter; just as people who have been Muslim all their lives have some unique struggles that we may not understand.
Please feel free to reach out to me through the About Islam website or using our Facebook page, where I often lurk in the comments.
May Allah make your adjustment easy for you and guide you to be among the best of His believers.
Salam and please keep in touch
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