In this counseling answer:
It’s natural to feel anxious after Ramadan as Ramadan is a time of self-evaluation. But new Muslims should not be too hard on themselves. They should give time for themselves to gradually adjust to their new way of life. Allah knows best their intentions and that they are striving to practice their faith.
As-Salamu `Alaikum brother,
Our heart and prayers go out to you. We pray for your burden to be lightened. We appreciate you sharing your situation with us, but most of all, we pray that you will be patient with yourself.
Being a Muslim is quite a personal affair in the sense that it is a living religion that affects all parts of one’s life. Hence, it is natural to feel the anxiety that you feel, and even more so during and after Ramadan because Ramadan is a time of self-evaluation. As much as we feel your anxiety, we also feel joy at your good news of your journey to Islam.
So, what happened to your joy, your moment of realization? Did you suffocate it with presumptions of what is expected from you in Islam? What led you to Islam, as with all of us, was the reawakening of your fitrah (pure nature), as bequeathed by Allah (swt). Now may be a good time to begin a personal journal, the first entry of which is to recall those elements that sparked your fitrah and opened your heart towards Islam.
The fourth caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib said: „Be generous with your wealth to your friends, and with your support and your presence as proof of your friendship, and with your enthusiasm and affection towards everyone in general, and with your justice and fairness to your enemy, but keep your life transaction (religion) to yourself, and do not mention it to anyone.” This might seem superficial and selfish, but this is not the intention. Remember that you are „finding your feet”, so to speak, and this takes time.
All the guidelines are there for us within Islam, but nature, the finer details only become revealed to us in the practice and the striving of the practice. Allah, your Creator who is closer to you than anyone or anything else, is the Only One who knows your intentions and the nature of your intentions. This point can sometimes be lost as we try to fine-tune our actions, but who else knows you best? In this process, we try to unify our intentions and our deeds instead of continually struggling against ourselves. This is the deeper meaning of jihad.
In both the Qur’an and in the Sunnah, we are advised to keep company with Muslims. This improves our thoughts and deeds as we learn from each other. It is a means of mutual self-improvement. Also, in this manner, we learn to love for the sake of Allah (swt) and avoid loving men and things of men, which is tantamount to shirk (associating other beings with Allah) by making minor gods of the visible world.
With regard to making the Shahadah, to whom did you make it? Did you make the Shahadah to fellow Muslims or to Allah (swt)? The life transaction is primarily to Allah (swt), not to men. To swear to the Unity of Allah by testifying that there is only One God and that God has no partners, holds a deep meaning, a meaning that we renew every time we pray because it affects our daily lives. He is the Creator of all life and the Sustainer of all life. What does this statement mean in your life? What parts of your life are working in harmony and what parts are not? Look at the natural order of things in your environment–harmony and disharmony–these are the signs that guide us. To submit to Allah (swt) is to submit the whole self, trust and all! Again, no one is perfect and we are all striving.
„This is because Allah (swt) is the Truth and that which they call upon besides Him is the falsehood, and that Allah is the High, the Great.” (Luqman 31: 30)
Considering the duties of reading the Qur’an and fasting, Prophet Muhammad (saw) advised:
“Recite (and study) the Qur’an as long as your hearts are in agreement as to its meanings, but if you have differences as regards its meaning, stop reading it.” (Bukhari)
It will only cause resentment and contention in your willingness to understand that which your heart wishes to understand but which your mind is not ready to accept or practice. Again, this emphasizes the purpose of jihad or jihad akbar (the greater struggle), which one works with and not against. It is not about imposition, but about the strengthening of the will with all the parts of oneself working in unison.
That brings us to your fasting, where you have found that your mind is working against your will. Fasting in Islam is a total fast of all the senses that lead to desire: the appetite of the eyes, the ears, the mouth (including the tongue), and smell; otherwise one creates contention in one’s fasting, making it invalid. At the same time, this is your first Ramadan, and unless you have fasted before in this manner, you must give yourself and your body time to adjust as it is a process of training the will.
Pertaining to your self-perception of being a hypocrite, Islamically speaking, the connotations are greater than the everyday use of the meaning in English. Weigh yourself between the following two hadiths:
„There are three qualities, for which anyone who is characterized by them will relish the sweetness of faith: he to whom Allah and His Messenger are dearer than all else; he who loves a man for Allah’s sake alone; and he who has as great an abhorrence of returning to unbelief after Allah has rescued him from it, as he has of being cast into Hell.” (Muslim)
„Four characteristics that made anyone who possessed them a sheer hypocrite: anyone who possessed one of them possessed a characteristic of hypocrisy until he abandoned it, when he talked he lied, when he made a covenant he acted treacherously, and when he quarreled he deviated from the truth.” (Abi Dawud)
I think you are being too harsh on yourself, new to Islam or not. If and when the time comes that you fit the later characteristics, then you may refer to yourself as being a hypocrite, in Islamic terms.
We pray for your continued guidance and patience in your life transaction with Allah (swt) and that we will never lose what you have to offer to us fellow Muslims. Be kind to yourself.
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