This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.
Understanding Islam for new Muslims opens avenues to an exciting world of knowledge and life-long practices.
While the realization of Islam’s beauty can come in a single verse of the Quran, or materialize in a particular meeting with a Muslim, coming to Islam with the intention of understanding the details of the religion in its entirety can be intimidating.
It is easy for new Muslims to feel overwhelmed when embracing their new faith, even when it comes with full conviction in their beliefs. Although Islam is a relatively easy faith to fully embrace and practice, the initial stepping stones may seem stressful and arduous, as it carries connotations in lifestyle changes as well as the fundamentals that can be difficult to establish. This is especially true if a new Muslim is coming from a lifestyle that was totally different.
On the outset, learning the religion can also seem difficult because it is so easy to get confused about Islam, especially with the amount of malignant information through the mainstream media about the religion and Muslims, and it can also become confusing when Muslims prioritize cultural teachings over and above what is taught in the Quran and Sunnah.
However, there is a lot more to the “seriousness” of Islam than meets the eye. Teaching and learning Islam encompasses a lot more than rigorous understanding about rituals and practices and many times – especially today – contemporary teachers of Islam infuse fun, games and humor into their classes and courses, to engage with their audiences and students.
Learning Needs Time
While it can be an exciting journey and a motivated new Muslim may be enthusiastic in studying and learning everything possible about the new faith, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to learn too much, too quickly. For both new Muslims and Muslims who struggle to study their faith, it is important to remember that the Quran was revealed over the course of 23 years and not in a pint-sized pill.
Islam did not come in an instantaneous package – like a “magical” du’a to become a great Muslim – but in the form of the Quran, which is also broken down into 30 chapters. The chapters also comprise of multiple verses with multiple different messages to learn from. And many of the verses were also revealed in parts.
This way, the 114 chapters of the entire Quran were pieced together to become the complete and perfected way of life. Over and above the Quran, the first handful of Muslims were observant of how the Prophet carried himself in his daily life and committed most (if not all) to memory for it to be recorded for Muslims today. This was how they observed the Quran-in-motion, through the way the Prophet spoke, interacted, taught, socialized and led the believers.
Even the most pious companions spent their entire lives trying to perfect their own practices and cleanse their hearts from any ambiguity and doubt in Islam. This is a good reminder that even the most religious people of today are also humans and can make mistakes as they learn and grow, thus studying Islam should not be one that is flanked with stress and anxiety but is motivated through the positive emotions of love and intrigue of the religion.
A Good Dose of Halal Humor
Infusing humor in teaching and learning is not only a great way to learn – but an effective way for messages to get communicated.
Humor breaks down barriers of communication, pre-conceived notions, and reminds that learning should have a fun dimension in it, in order to soften and guide confused hearts.
As long as humor is not used to allude to shirk, glorify the haram, poke fun at a particular group of people or individuals, and is not used excessively (to the point of debilitating the message at hand), humor is probably an element that will effectively fuel the desire to learn. And after all, all Muslims should know that a smile is a wonderful form of charity.
Take a look at anywhere on the net, from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, well-known Shaykhs and Ustadhs today send out humorous messages, even with respects to “serious issues” to share important lessons. Obviously, it does not happen in every single post, tweet or video, but a joke or a funny story adds a sweet icing to a cake of valuable lessons. It brings in the light-heartedness in learning and puts matters that are difficult to understand into perspective – that learning is a life-long journey, full of pit stops, crossroads, junctions and even u-turns.
Prophet Muhammad – A Teacher with a Smile
For most part of his own journey as a teacher to humanity, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always sported a smile. Despite his difficulties and challenges in reaching out to followers, the Prophet always carried a positive outlook to life. His positive vibes resonated amongst his followers through the way he acknowledged them and the way he shared jokes with his family and friends.
It is well known that the Prophet would share a funny story when it was appropriate, and he used to share time with his companions at the masjid compound while they spent their evenings reciting poetry to each other. He would smile upon joyful renditions.
The Prophet even once warned his followers not to indulge too much in religious affairs, as it could have an adverse effect upon their interest in Islam.
Seeing Islam is very much a balanced religion – one that encourages the middle path in all things – it is supposed to encompass leisure and entertainment to nurture peace and tranquility, while being vigilant and discipline.
Teaching Today: The Charity of a Smile
Islamically, sadaqah is the term for “voluntary charity.” This goes beyond any form of material charity and in many narrations, Muslims are told to not discount the good deed of sharing a smile.
Smiling is a great way to connect two people together and to conjure positive energy, even when things become difficult. It is also scientifically easier to smile than it is to frown. And of course, there are many instances where a smile is a function of something humorous.
Many new Muslims take learning their new faith with a great deal of seriousness. Although this is natural (due to a sudden flame of ignited iman or faith) and extremely commendable, many new brothers and sisters may easily feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that is suddenly at hand.
Keeping a balance in learning is a great way to nurture self-motivation, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) demonstrated the importance of keeping upbeat and positive.
Smiling is charity, as he once said, and the way he taught and learned should be emulated by teachers and students today.