Short Answer: My advice is that you go ahead and declare the Shahadah and then you can strengthen yourself by learning how to perform the Prayers and other forms of worship. If you keep delaying your acceptance of Islam until you feel you are “ready” you will never feel ready. Enter the fold of Islam and then gradually learn to practice the faith.
Salam Dear Sister,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
You say you want to convert but are waiting until you feel strong.
My advice is that you go ahead and declare the Shahadah (the Testimony of Faith) and then you can strengthen yourself by learning how to perform the Prayers and other forms of worship.
If you keep delaying your acceptance of Islam until you feel you are “ready” you will never feel ready.
This is just one of Satan’s tricks to keep you away from Islam.
Do you have any guarantee that you will live until tomorrow?
So don’t hesitate if you are convinced that Islam is the Truth.
Also, don’t expect your faith to be perfect and strong before you enter Islam. Actually, all of us see our faith increase and decrease in turn.
Nobody, including Allah, expects you to be perfect from day one.
Enter the fold of Islam and then gradually learn to practice the faith.
You say that you want to be strong and know how to respond to other people’s reactions.
This is something that comes gradually, and all new Muslims have to deal with it to a greater or lesser degree, depending on their circumstances.
You don’t tell us what country you are from, so I can’t give you more concrete advice about dealing with the Muslims and non-Muslims in your area.
If there is more than one mosque in your area, try to visit them in turn.
Some may be more supportive than others. Try to find even one other sister who can help you through the first twelve months.
It would be best, of course, if she lived near you, but even if she is just an e-friend, it can help a lot. Please visit: Islamic Finder
You also say that you “live in an area where white Muslims can be the target of hatred from both Muslim and non-Muslim communities.” I want to make it clear that such behavior of one group of Muslims against another group of Muslims is totally against the teachings of Islam.
Any discriminatory or hatred-based behavior based on race, ethnic origin, or the like, is forbidden by Islam.
Unfortunately, there are Muslims who, out of ignorance, do not follow all the teachings, so please judge the religion by its books — the Quran and Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) — and not by how people behave.
I can’t give you too much practical advice at this point without knowing more details of where you live and the conditions there.
But I will try to encourage you by reminding you that the early Muslims and the Prophet himself (peace and blessings be upon him) faced persecution, boycott, and torture for their beliefs, yet they remained firm.
God willing you will never have to face anything as difficult as they faced.
As you seem aware, hijab (Islamic dress code) is one of the most difficult tests for the Muslim woman of today. Even your hijab you can apply gradually.
Hijab is more than a head scarf. It is covering the whole body with loose fitting, opaque clothing.
If you are not ready to wear the full hijab [with head scarf] yet, I would suggest that you move gradually, in steps, starting with covering your legs by wearing long skirt or dress, or loose trousers and loose knee-length top and arms by wearing long-sleeved tops.
Try to find a style that feels right for you and that is not too drastic a change from how you dress now.
If now you usually wear jeans or trousers, you can add a long loose jacket for now. This will be easier on you psychologically and spiritually, and easier on your budget.
I don’t understand your statement that because you are a non-native Muslim your boss has the legal right to sack you for wearing a scarf. What do you mean by “non-native”?
Do you mean a non-citizen, an immigrant to the country you live in? Are you sure that the law is such?
Ask at the mosque or research it yourself to verify this and to clarify what rights you do have. It may be that your boss is wrong.
Definitely, you and other Muslims need to work together to campaign to change such laws if they do exist.
As for a style of hijab to wear around your mental health patients, I have several suggestions. One is that you start with wearing a simple turban or a scarf tied behind your head. This is, I realize, a compromise on hijab, but, again, gradualism is best.
If you wore such a scarf with turtle neck tops – at least in winter – or with a decorative scarf or shawl to cover the neck and bosom, not much of your neck or anything else that shouldn’t show would be exposed.
Such a style might appear less threatening to your patients, less “foreign”, although a shawl or scarf around the neck does present a problem if you still fear strangulation.
Another alternative would be to wear a stretch knit fabric tube. The opening of the tube should just fit around your face.
With this style, the tube does not extend much below the bottom of the neck, so you have to be sure that the neck opening of your shirt or dress is closed.
This style is best if you wear under it another piece like a wide headband or bandanna tied behind your head. This piece would cover the top of the forehead and hairline. The tube itself tends to slip back and expose the hairline. This style covers everything – although it does not cover the bosom – but does not have dangling ends that are easy to grab.
Although the act of becoming a Muslim by saying the Shahadah (the words meaning “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah; I bear witness that Muhammad is the Servant and Messenger of Allah”) takes only a minute, “really” becoming a Muslim in your heart and your habits — in other words, becoming a mu’min (believer) — takes months, years, maybe even a lifetime. Take the first step by becoming a Muslim and then work gradually to become strong and a believer.
May Allah help you, guide you, and strengthen you.
Write to us again if you need more help and always keep in touch.
Thank you and salam.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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