I converted to Islam just before Ramadan. I had studied the religion for nearly a year and I had met with a few Muslims before doing so. I came to realize that my true journey to faith would not begin until I accepted Allah into my heart. The problem is that I am having great difficulty in actually practicing my faith. Ironically, the first week went wonderfully. I fasted every day and did all of my prayers. Then something went wrong.
I stopped doing all these wonderful things. I have no conscious idea as to why other than to speculate that I have felt overwhelmed. Sadly, I was given a great gift when I took my Shahadah (testimony of faith). I have tried to fast again, but I have failed. I don’t bother because I get angry during the day and then I figure my fasting would be in vain – my heart is not pure. I put myself in the company of Muslims last weekend thinking it may be of some benefit. Unfortunately, it did not help.
I have been reading the Qur'an to try to ease my personal jihad (striving for Allah). Ironically, I feel worse, because I tend to focus on the verses that are related to the hypocrite. I am very worried. I am scared I am losing my iman (faith). I tried to talk with some Muslims about this, but it’s been unsatisfactory. I’m hoping your expertise will be of some help.
I thank you for any advice that may help me connect to our beloved Allah. May Allah reward you for the good you do.
In this counseling service:
• Maybe it’s a good time to begin a personal journal, the first entry of which is to recall those elements that sparked your fitrah and opened your heart towards Islam.
• Keep company with Muslims.
• Unless you have fasted before in this manner, you must give yourself and your body time to adjust as it is a process of training the will.
As-Salamu `Alaikum brother,
Our heart and prayers go out to you. We pray for your burden to be lightened during the last few days of this Ramadan.
We appreciate you sharing your situation with us. Most of all, we pray that you will be patient with yourself. Being a Muslim is quite a personal affair in the sense that it is a living religion which affects all parts of one’s life. Hence, it is natural to feel the anxiety that you feel. Even more so during Ramadan, because Ramadan is a time of self-evaluation. As much as we feel your anxiety, we also feel joy at your good news – your journey to Islam, your journey towards yourself and unification of your will with Allah’s Will, in sha’ Allah.
So what happened to your joy, your moment of realization? Did you suffocate it with presumptions of what is expected of you in Islam? What led you to Islam, as with all of us, was the reawakening of your fitrah (pure nature), as bequeathed by Allah. Now, maybe a good time to begin a personal journal, the first entry of which is to recall those elements that sparked your fitrah and opened your heart towards Islam. Remember that you are “finding your feet” so to speak and this takes time.
All the guidelines are there for us within Islam, but nature, the finer details only become revealed to us in the practice and the striving of the practice. The person has to be defined before your purpose in this life becomes clear. Therefore, Allah, your Creator, Who is closer to you than anyone or anything else, is the Only One Who knows your intentions and the nature of your intentions. This point can sometimes be lost as we try to fine-tune our actions, but who else knows you best? In this process, we try to unify our intentions and our deeds instead of continually struggling against ourselves. This is the deeper meaning of jihad.
Have Good Muslim Friends
In both the Qur’an and in the Sunnah, we are advised to keep company with Muslims, and that improves our thoughts and deeds, as we learn from each other. It is a means of mutual self-improvement. Also, in this manner, we learn to love for the sake of Allah and avoid loving men and things of men, which is tantamount to shirk (associating other beings with Allah) by making minor gods of the visible world.
With regard to making the Shahadah, to whom did you make it? Did you make the Shahadah to fellow Muslims or to Allah? The life transaction is primarily to Allah, not to men. To swear to the Unity of Allah by testifying that there is only One God and that God has no partners holds a deep meaning that we renew every time we pray because it affects our daily lives.
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He is the Creator of all life and the Sustainer of all life. What does this statement mean in your life? What parts of your life are working in harmony and what parts are not? Look at the natural order of things in your environment – harmony, and disharmony; these are the signs that guide us. To submit to Allah is to submit the whole self, trust and all! Again, no one is perfect and we are all striving.
“This is because Allah is the Truth and that which they call upon besides Him is the falsehood, and that Allah is the High, the Great.” (Luqman 31: 30)
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
Considering the duties of reading the Qur’an and fasting, Prophet Muhammad advised:
“Recite (and study) the Qur’an as long as your hearts are in agreement as to its meanings, but if you have differences as regards its meaning, stop reading it.” (Bukhari)
It will only cause resentment and contention in your willingness to understand that which your heart wishes to understand but which your mind is not ready to accept or practice. Again, this emphasizes the purpose of jihad or jihad akbar (the greater struggle), which one works with and not against. It is not about imposition, but about the strengthening of the will with all the parts of oneself working in unison.
That brings us to your fasting, where you have found that your mind is working against your will. Fasting in Islam is a total fast of all the senses that lead to desire: the appetite of the eyes, the ears, the mouth (including the tongue), and smell; otherwise one creates contention in one’s fasting, making it invalid.
At the same time, this is your first Ramadan. Unless you have fasted before in this manner, you must give yourself and your body time to adjust as it is a process of training the will. It is foolish to expect the will to submit willingly to the purification of the mind, body, and soul. After all, there are many negative habits to hold on to!
Pertaining to your self-perception of being a hypocrite, Islamically speaking, the connotations are greater than the everyday use of the meaning in English. Weigh yourself between the following two hadiths:
“There are three qualities, for which anyone who is characterized by them will relish the sweetness of faith: he to whom Allah and His Messenger are dearer than all else; he who loves a man for Allah’s sake alone; and he who has as great an abhorrence of returning to unbelief after Allah has rescued him from it, as he has of being cast into Hell.” (Muslim)
“”Whosoever possesses these four characteristics, is a sheer hypocrite; and anyone who possesses one of them, possesses a characteristic of hypocrisy till he gives it up. (These are:) When he is entrusted with something, he proves dishonest; when he talks, he tells a lie; when he makes a covenant, he acts treacherously; and when he quarrels, he utters foul language.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
I think you are being too harsh on yourself. If and when the time comes that you fit the later characteristics, then you may refer to yourself as being a hypocrite in Islamic terms.
We pray for your continued guidance and patience in your life transaction with Allah and that we will never lose what you have to offer to us fellow Muslims. Be kind to yourself. We are here for you, so please keep in touch and let us know how you are getting on.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.