I am a VERY new Muslim. I only took my Shahada a week ago. Since then I have had a seemingly overload of information in regards to everything.
My question is actually about culture, and gender roles. Growing up in the US, I have always believed that men and women are (mostly) equals. But now that I am a Muslim, I've had to re-evaluate certain things.
Should I adopt and adhere to Middle Eastern culture since I have converted? Or as an American, should I embrace and be proud of my own culture? Well...if there is any…
I am torn. I have been told I should be proud of my country and to stand up and fight for America. I also feel like Middle Eastern culture is Islamic culture. Shouldn't I embrace that? This is really bugging me.
I am learning prayer, and trying to make du'a correctly. However, I have been told that I'm not allowed to pray yet until I learn it entirety in Arabic. (My tutor and my Imaam assigned it to me). Without being able to pray, I feel alone and helpless. Please, share your guidance brothers and sisters!
In this counseling answer:
• PRAY, PRAY and then PRAY some more. Also make duaa.
• Continue working on your Arabic, but do what you need to in English.
• Seek knowledge via reading, classes, lectures on YouTube, classes at your masjid or other sources of education.
• Don’t try to change who you are, just be the best version of you that you can be.
• Pray for guidance and strength and have faith you will find your way.
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatuulahi wa barakatu.
Thank you for taking the time to write in with your concerns. It is my understanding you are a brand-new Muslim. Alhamdulillah, welcome to the fold of Islam, brother!
From what you asked, I understand you were instructed not to pray until you can do it in Arabic. Emphasis was put on you studying culture and emulating that. You are also questioning cultural ideas, and which one you should identify with. Brother, I am a revert myself Alhamdulillah, so inshallah, I will be able to help you with your confusion.
Brother, please go pray, right now. Stop reading this and trust in me that Allah (most honored and revered) wants you to pray. Go pray or make duaa, whatever you like, then come back and I will explain.
I hope you went to pray or took time to make duaa and have now returned to reading this. I am sure the brother helping you had the best of intentions; however, this is a prime example of why we do not obey any culture. This brother was incorrect in telling you not to pray unless it is in Arabic. Don’t worry, Allah (Swt) knows your intention was good so it is okay, and you don’t need to make these up but start praying today. Here is a video from Dr. Shabir Ally that clarifies this.
It is good to work on praying in Arabic. This has a few reasons behind it. Firstly, the language is not fully translated correctly. As an example, the name Ar-Rahman is roughly translated to meaning The Most Merciful and this is not incorrect, but it is not fully comprehensive either. I have found the Arabic language is beautiful in that one word may take sentences to fully comprehend. If we want to dig deeper into Ar-Rahman we find this:
“Ar-Rahman. The Most Lovingly Beneficent, The Most Kind and Giving, The Most Gracious, The Infinitely Good The One who continually showers all of creation with blessings and prosperity without any disparity. The One who is most kind, loving and merciful. The One whose endless, loving mercy is perfect and inclusive. The One who is overflowing with the quality of loving mercy and is continually pouring it upon all of creation. The One whose perfect mercy and loving beneficence endlessly embrace all of creation. The One who loves and cherishes all of creation. The One who is most loving, gentle and merciful.”
Additionally, praying in Arabic unites all of us and learning Arabic has a wealth of benefits, such as preservation of the Quran and digging deeper into meanings. Inshallah, It is okay to pray in English for the time being. We all started somewhere. It took me months to be able to pray in Arabic.
To help you with prayer, I suggest the app “SALAH” on your phone that has audio clips and images. You can look up how to pray on YouTube, I personally used this video as a new Muslim combined with asking other Muslims to help me. MuslimPro is another App that can help you with specific duaa and especially those associated with prayer.
At the core, Allah (swt) loves you and wants to connect. When you communicate, when you worship, when you steer your intention towards that God-consciousness then you are doing a great thing. Pray my Brother, make duaa but find some comfort in remembering Allah (swt) sees it all anyways.
Having a type of identity crisis after reverting is common. Becoming a Muslim does not change who YOU are. It simply changes how you express that. Don’t try to behave like someone from the middle east or someone from Pakistan etc. that is not you. You, my brother, are American and there is nothing wrong with that.
I must tell you the harsh truth. Much of Islamic culture that we see in other countries is not actually Islamic. It is just the culture of that country, but it is not based in Islam or takes Islamic ideas to an extreme when Islam is supposed to be moderate and not made to be difficult. A problem across the believers worldwide is obeying culture, not faith.
Check out this counseling video:
Be an American, my Brother, just be an American Muslim and understand it takes time to develop this.
I would strongly advise you not to focus on any culture at this stage. Focus on Quran, gaining knowledge and your relationship with the divine. The sahaba are the best example of this so what did we see with them? A dedication to the Quran as if it was their heart, they sought out understanding not just recitation and would go to the Prophet (saw) with their questions. We see people studying, discussing and changing from their cultural ways to more Islamic ways. The focus, in the beginning, was on belief, values, character and the afterlife.
As I see it, this is the best approach. Emotions run high as a new Muslim, but emotions are not static and are bound to fluctuate. Knowledge is more stable and will ground you in your faith inshallah. You can look into online classes in Islamic studies or purchase books if you prefer to study alone. Many new Muslims enjoy watching videos on YouTube. Two popular YouTube lecturers are Yasmin Mogahed and Omar Suleiman.
Gender studies is a large topic, but all people are worth the same. I suggest listening to your heart and you can find thorough lectures on that specific topic from those two people mentioned above.
Don’t worry about changing your culture, focus on your knowledge and personal connection.
You can consider attending community events within your mosque, especially those aimed at New Muslims and support groups for Muslims. Even just making friends online with a few Muslims can be of benefit. It helps you to have support as you find yourself as a Muslim and will give you varied perspectives on topics.
Here is a summary of your next steps forward.
- PRAY, PRAY and then PRAY some more. Also make duaa.
- Continue working on your Arabic, but do what you need to in English.
- Seek knowledge via reading, classes, lectures on YouTube, classes at your masjid or other sources of education.
- Don’t try to change who you are, just be the best version of you that you can be.
- Pray for guidance and strength and have faith you will find your way.
I know this can be a confusing time and you will encounter a lot of questions. Take it one day at a time and don’t rush or make drastic changes suddenly. Seek knowledge, look to Islamic characters such as how we treat our neighbors and parents and work on increasing your God-consciousness throughout the day. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Islamic groups in your area for events and support groups.
May Allah (Swt) make it easy on you and guide your path,