When Helen came to Islam, she’d already done quite a bit of reading around on a lot of Islamic websites and watched loads of YouTubes, she’d joined a couple of chat rooms and asked a lot of questions, and she’d even met up with some Muslims locally.
She liked Islam. It seemed to be based on good morals and had explanations that made sense to her.
But what she really liked was that Islam wasn’t nearly as rigid as she had thought it was going to be. There seemed to be so many different opinions; everybody she talked to seemed to give a slightly different answer to her questions. She could cope with a religion like that, she thought it would be easy; she could pick and chose the bits that suited her and then leave the rest.
Wasn’t that what everybody else was doing?
New Muslim’s Challenge
It’s an incredible challenge for a new Muslim to find the right path to follow. There seem to be so many different groups, madh-habs and opinions; how on earth can you work out which is the right one?
Or in fact if there even is a ‘right path’?
The temptation is to do what Helen did, look around at everything, pick the bits that seem right to you and then pray to Allah that you’ve done the right thing.
When I came to Islam, way back in the early 1990s before the information explosion, I faced a very different world to the one facing new converts today. There were very few quality books on Islam by people who understood western culture, the internet was only just developing and there were very few support groups for new Muslims.
Now there are numerous groups vying to ‘do Daw’ah’ and get people to convert to Islam and there is a deluge of information; hundreds of Islamic websites, millions of YouTube talks, courses and talks being organized by every different group imaginable, all claiming to be guiding to the true path of Islam. It can be overwhelming. So how can a new Muslim find the right path?
Is Islam a DIY Religion?
Can you teach yourself Islam by taking the bits that feel right?
Many are trying to do that.
What helped me though the minefield were two things that I relied on; Islam is the revealed religion from Allah and it’s based on two main preserved sources; the Quran and the Sunnah. It was holding onto those simple truths that helped me to stay on the right path and the truth I encourage other new Muslims to hold onto. If they hear any information, the basic initial test is, is there evidence for it from the Quran or Sunnah? This helps in the early days, but it that enough?
Learning with the Family
When people first come to Islam, they have usually followed one of two paths. They have either learnt about it from the Muslims they have contact with, or they have learned about it from their own research. Whichever path they have followed, Allah has brought them to Islam in the way that suited them best.
Those who come to Islam through knowing other Muslims tend to refer them to get their early knowledge, especially about praying and other basics and they may feel comfortable staying on that path, as Jenny did.
Jenny met her future husband online through an online games site. She became curious about his manners and this led onto discussions about his religion.
Abdullah had a good Islamic education and was able to answer most of Jenny’s questions and even enlisted his sister to answer Jenny’s more personal questions. Eventually Jenny decided that Islam was the right path for her and Abdullah asked her to marry him. She moved to live with him and his family and they became her first teachers.
After a while, her thirst for knowledge increased. It is often assumed that because people are born Muslims, they understand their religion, whereas their understanding is often cultural and they are just following what their forefathers did before them. Jenny was lucky. Her new family sought knowledge from good sources and Abdullah’s sisters started to take her along with them to their local masjid where she started to attend regular classes.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“… He who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy, leading to Paradise for him and those persons who assemble in one of the houses of Allah (mosques), recite the Book of Allah and learn and teach the Quran (among themselves), there will descend upon them tranquility, mercy will cover them, the angels will surround them and Allah will mention them in the presence of those near Him.” (Muslim)
Read Part 2.