Never have so few words changed lives so drastically.
To bear witness in the oneness of God and that Muhammad is God’s Prophet has the power to make you my brother or sister.
Such a simple sentence has the power to put us on the same path.
It also has the power to put love in our hearts for one another without ever even meeting.
What comes next after the statement of faith is phenomenal, funny, and subtle all at the same time.
As my newly born Muslim sibling, I would like to welcome you to this life as a Muslim. Welcome to a huge family that includes nearly one-quarter of the world’s population.
Welcome to a life that teaches you how to be more patient, steadfast, empathetic, humble, studious, insightful and much more.
As you take your next steps in Islam, remember that many have taken this path before you, the first of whom were the Prophets (peace be upon them).
Even if the path seems less trodden, you are in good company. You will see your predecessors’ footprints. You will see the messages they have left for you as you take on this journey. Use them to give you strength.
Never be afraid to tell people who you are. Those who came before you suffered so that you can declare freely and openly what you believe. Never feel unloved. Those who came before you have cared about you even before you were born. Never think you are alone. You are now a part of us and if you suffer, we feel it.
Right or Left?
I am so excited to see the new threads you will bring to the fabric of our global community. I would like to share a few of my stories with you. These are my embarrassing first steps into Islam. I tell them to you so that you will not be afraid to go forward, knowing that we all have to start somewhere.
The first time I was welcomed into a Muslim home, I was just starting to learn what this thing called Islam was. I thought I was well informed of the ins and outs of life as a Muslim. I prided myself (that pride was my first mistake) on knowing that Muslims eat with their hands.
So being proud of this fact, I refused utensils offered to me by my hostess. I was going to participate in this Islamic practice like a big kid. And my hosts and all those gathered where so proud of me. But there I was, a left-handed person trying to show off that I knew how to eat without a fork and knife. I got a couple of glances as I picked up piles of rice and meat with my left hand. No one said anything and everyone had a BIG smile for me.
I was pulled aside later by a friend who explained to me that Muslims eat with their right hands and use their left hands for cleaning themselves. And as such the left hand is considered unclean to use when eating. I was mortified. I fancied myself knowledgeable and got it completely wrong, all the while the Muslims who ate with me were so polite and tolerant.
Me and My Cat
Not long after my left-handed gaffe, I took my shahadah. When I did so, many born Muslims told me that I would start to see miracles in my life; that I would start to see my supplications answered; and that I had become in touch with the nature of all of creation.
All of this was so true, but it didn’t happen in the way I expected. I thought that somehow I would become like a Disney Princess who could sing to animals and all things would work out.
So when I adopted a cat shortly after converting, I was shocked to find that this animal did not respond to Quran or my Salam in a magical Disney fashion as I had imagined. In fact this frisky, young cat took to climbing up my prayer clothes during my prayer, scratching me on its climb up.
I thought that my cat was broken, but came to realize that Allah created the universe and all of its creatures in a certain way and pattern. And that pattern would not change simply because I believed in its creator. Islam was the key to change myself to work better within the creation. Not the other way around.
Ask, Don’t Be Shy
As I progressed in learning, I was astounded by all the things I had no idea about. Like the fact that farting breaks your wudu (the purification before prayer), meaning that I would have to clean myself before prayer if I were to fart.
So I thought to myself, well if flatulence breaks wudu, it stands to reason that burping will do the same. As a carbonated beverage addict (the kind that makes you burp, and burp often) I spent most of my time making wudu since I wanted to keep wudu at all times (which is not necessary, but a part of my perfectionist personality).
I was almost too embarrassed to ask a more experienced Muslim about this issue of gas and wudu. Almost. When I finally broke down and asked another convert who had been Muslim a lot longer, the issue was received with much laughter and admiration. The answer came in the form of a giggly release from forever making wudu after burping. I realized that I should never be too shy to ask.
Through it all, I have become a better person. I have learned a lot. And I have made many wonderful memories since I said I bear witness.
It is my hope that you, my new sibling in Islam, will have many years of wonderful experiences and memories as well.
And it is my ultimate supplication that the path we both take today will lead us to meet in paradise.
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)