Much has been written on what a new Muslim should do after converting. What the first steps after shahadah should be is a topic even I have expounded on many times—like the article I wrote entitled, The First Step A New Convert Should Take which is all about intentions, motivation, and matters of the heart.
But sometimes this kind of advice makes it seem as if material matters aren’t important. But you should know that they are.
Islam teaches us a balance, to be in this world and to take care of one’s worldly needs while also thinking of the life of the hereafter and taking care of one’s spiritual needs.
We are beings of duality. We have a physical existence and a spiritual existence. When the needs of one or the other are ignored, bad things happen.
Far too often the worldly needs of new Muslims are brushed off as less important than spiritual needs. And what comes from this kind of treatment is understandable.
New Muslims often complain that being a Muslim is impractical or difficult. If the Islam presented to you seems Impossible, excessively difficult, or impractical, know that this is a kind of imagined Islam that ignores the worldly needs in favor of the spiritual needs.
However, Islam demands balance and that all needs are met. Here are a few practical things to think about after taking the shahadah.
Know Your Rights as a New Muslim
As a new Muslim, one of the first things you should understand about your faith are your rights in Islam. Often new Muslims’ complaints about Islam have nothing to do with Islam at all, but a failing on the part of other individual Muslims or even their community as a whole.
It is critical that you, as a new Muslim, understand that Allah has instructed your community to provide you with support. If it is not offered to you, or if support is not given when you seek it, then you need to know that that is man’s failing, and not Islam’s.
Muslims have an obligation to help new Muslims in a number of ways, including but not limited to mentorship, counseling, education, supportive community, and even financial support if need arises. You can read a declaration of the rights of new Muslims here that discusses this in more detail.
It is important to note that new Muslims should also know their rights in marriage. More often than not new Muslims seek out marriage soon after converting. And sadly, they know little about their rights and responsibilities in marriage. And as a result, many new Muslims are taken advantage of because they don’t know their rights. Arm yourself with knowledge. Here, here, and here are a few resources to start with.
Find Friends and Community
Most new Muslims face debilitating loneliness after the shahadah. Even those who are introverts and enjoy being alone most of the time feel extreme isolation after converting to Islam. Friends you’ve had your whole life may distance themselves from you. Family may disown you. And many people in your life will look at you differently or just challenge everything you do as a Muslim.
This loneliness is not something that should be minimized. The human being is a social being. You need other people to talk to, to seek advice from, to confide in, and so on. You need community and when all those around you that you have relied on leave, distance themselves, or stick around just to berate you for your choice of faith, it is devastating.
But as a new Muslim, you have a huge community to look, to befriend, to take as brothers and sisters. Sometimes this community is not perfect at being there for new Muslims, but there are still many Muslims who are more than willing to be the listening ear or shoulder to lean on.
If you find some Muslims who are not responsive or sympathetic to your struggle, keep them in your life and dua, but also know that you can keep looking for other fellow Muslims who may be more empathetic to your situation.
This is a time for many new beginnings in your life. Do not shy away from reaching out to fellow Muslims. And in this day and age, this doesn’t even have to be in person at the local masjid. You can find a lot of support from fellow Muslims and even fellow converts online. Read more tips for new Muslims to overcome isolation here.
Find a Teacher (or a few)
Not many people become Muslim just to say they are Muslim. People come to Islam to live Islam. And this takes learning. As you start to learn more and more about your faith, you will seek out other Muslims around you to learn from.
But be careful with taking everything a Muslim says about Islam as the absolute truth. This will be difficult at first since it might seem like someone who has been raised as a Muslim will know a lot about their faith and will be able to teach you a lot. This is not always the case.
Sometimes what lay Muslims know about Islam is not actually Islam. It all gets very confusing very quickly. But there are plenty of scholars from which you can learn authentic knowledge that is not confusing or contradictory nor piecemeal or independent study.
What you, as a new Muslim, should do is find a teacher who speaks your language fluently, who lives and understands the culture in which you live (culture has its place in Islam), who has a high degree of learning, and who takes both the Quran and Prophetic tradition (Sunnah) into account. And learn from that person or persons.
Thankfully, YouTube has many resources like this. A few scholars who are effective teachers are Yasir Qadhi, Suhaib Webb, Shaykha Reima Yosif, Nouman Ali Khan, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Tariq Ramadan, Omar Suleiman, Anse Tamara Gray, Dr. Shabir Ally, and many, many more. Here are some more learning resources for new Muslims.
Above all, no matter what, trust in God. Take those steps toward Him and keep going. First steps are always shaky. It will get easier. And you will grow and change in amazing ways.
(From Reading Islam’s archive.)