New Muslims face various challenges after converting or reverting to Islam.
I think that some simple advice is sufficient enough to overcome many of the obstacles which might face a new Muslim.
This advice encourages the new Muslim to focus on both spirituality, which means through prayer and reading the Quran, and also social relationships, both with other Muslims and family.
First, remember the sincerity in your heart when you first embraced Islam. While it is natural for faith to wax and wane, we may feel lost if ours gets too low, so remember the conviction your felt when you decided to become a Muslim, and when you declared your shahadah.
I spent months learning about Islam, even reading the Quran, before deciding to embrace Islam, and months more before I ever started practicing. But I never felt like reversing my decision because I remembered the incredible experience of declaring my shahadah– though it was on the phone! But at the time I had such conviction in my heart that Islam was the correct path, that I’ve had no need to reconsider. Even on days when I am weak in faith, that same conviction is still there, determined not to let go.
So remember the feeling of that certainty and the effort and prayer before it arrived. And then focus on your relationship with God. Prayer is a time to foster your faith, so maintain the presence of your heart and soul lest it becomes an empty ritual.
And read the Quran. Islam provides us these tools for increasing our faith, so when we feel that our faith is low we should turn first to God, through prayer and by reading His Book.
During the immense trials and hardships faced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Quran was sent to console and comfort him. If the Quran was a comfort to him and his companions during times of difficulty, then why should it not be for us as well? If you aren’t able to read it in Arabic and understand it, then read a translation which can convey the meaning to you, and don’t let Satan put a barrier between you and the Quran.
Secondly, it is important to tend to one’s social relationships. We should surround ourselves with other Muslims, something of critical importance to new Muslims. A strong Muslim social circle can inform us about things we didn’t know, encourage us in practicing Islam, and reinforce our commitment to our new faith.
One blessing I enjoyed in my first year as a Muslim was a few sincere and dedicated Muslim sisters. Though I could attend prayers and lectures at the mosque, meeting with these few sisters socially helped me appreciate Islam as a complete lifestyle. They strengthened my faith simply by proximity, without “teaching” me anything, they showed me how to live as a Muslim. I can’t stress how important this social connection is. When new Muslims feel their faith is low, and they are alone, it is their Muslim friends who can encourage and motivate them.
The other important social relationship to cultivate is family ties. Changing religion has the potential to severely damage family bonds, but Islam teaches us instead to strengthen and foster those ties, and forbids us from cutting them. So for those who do face difficulty from our families after converting or reverting to Islam, we must not give up, and must persistently treat our families with love and respect, regardless of how they treat us.
Damaging these relationships early on can be detrimental, in the long run, to a new Muslim. In my first year as a Muslim, argumentation with my parents left them with the feeling that they had no choice but to kick me out of the house. But even then it wasn’t too late to repair the damage, something I’m still working on.
But repairing this relationship with my family and maintaining these family ties, (despite having moved away) has been one constant source of comfort in my life. It is a commandment of the religion, and the longer I spend as a Muslim, the more I value my family and my opportunity to serve them, especially my parents.
Briefly, there were two pieces of advice which I have found beneficial as a new Muslim and would like to pass on. The first was to maintain the connection with God through presence and sincerity while maintaining the regular prayers, and also through reading the Quran. And the second piece of advice was to cultivate strong social relationships with other Muslims, and with family.
Published on December 2015.