Salam (Peace) Dear Jessica,
Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.
It is good to see that you are considering embracing Islam as a way of life. I ask Allah the Almighty to guide you and make the decision easy for you.
Regarding the eternal nature of God, when you think about it, there is really no other possibility for His existence. He could not have brought Himself into existence if there was a time when He didn’t exist.
Everything that we see around us came into existence by His will, having only existed in God’s knowledge before that. Even if we take the big bang theory to be fact, the original material that exploded and formed the elements of the universe had to have come from somewhere. The force that caused the explosion had to have come from somewhere also.
Conversion to Islam, should you decide to embrace Islam, is first made between you and God. If you come to the realization that there is only one God and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His final messenger to mankind, then you have become a Muslim.
To make it “official” and to benefit from the community of Muslims worldwide, you need to make a declaration of Islam in front of two Muslim witnesses. A mosque is the best place to go for this. Try to find one in your area and ask to see the imam. You can discuss your intentions and clarify any questions you may have with a knowledgeable Muslim.
The imam can also offer you some suggestions to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Some suggestions I would make are that you explain to your family that you still love them and that you have not gone crazy or come under the influence of crazy people. You are still the same person once you embrace Islam, but with one important difference.
You will now be embarking on a journey to purify yourself from the evils of this world so that you can receive God’s mercy and enter Paradise.
Assuming that you were born into a Christian family, you must let your family know that you will still love Jesus and all prophets of God, you still love Mary (peace be upon her) and you still anticipate the second coming of Jesus (peace be upon him).
You will need to make gradual changes in your lifestyle for their benefit and yours. Some things will need to be changed immediately, however, such as avoiding major sins (that you may or may not be engaged in).
With respect to jihad, it is a lifelong struggle to ward off evil wherever possible, and to encourage good, wherever possible. This evil may be within yourself, which means that you will always have to struggle against things like laziness, listening to or spreading gossip and backbiting, lying, stealing, and the like.
The struggle against evil around you is just as important because influences around us affect our personality.
Speaking out or struggling against injustice or oppression, wherever we find it and whomever it affects, Muslims or non-Muslims, is a responsibility of every one of us. Jihad in the form of warfare is the last resort and used in extreme situations that we may find ourselves in as Muslims.
For a Muslim lady to have male friends is not forbidden in Islam, but interactions between men and women need to be dealt with carefully and wisely. Being alone with a young man who is not your father, grandfather, brother, son, uncle, or nephew can lead to shameful deeds, especially if the meetings are repeated over time.
When associating with your friends try to make sure you are with a large group and avoid physical contact (hugging, kissing, etc.). Your honor and chastity are the most valuable things you possess. Protect them at all costs, even if it means losing friends. God will replace them with better friends if you protect your honor and chastity for His sake.
I ask God to guide you and assist you in making your decision. There are many, many young ladies like yourself who are considering Islam as a way of life, and there are thousands more who have already embraced Islam.
It requires sincerity on your part and also a bit of bravery to choose a new course in life and stick to it against all odds. I hope I have been of some assistance to you in making a decision.
Thank you once again for your questions. Please keep in touch.