This is the third article in a series of articles designed to assist the new Muslim of the 21st century.
You may well ask why for the 21st century when those who embrace Islam in any era have faced similar opportunities and problems. That is correct. However this is a brave new century and most of us have to find new ways of negotiating the rapidly changing world.
This is a century like no other, the world really is a village; technology and information rule our lives. We face private changes in the midst and glare of social media and 24 hour news broadcasting.
In a world that is overloaded with information and with lives that always seem to be on a stop watch how does the new Muslim build a support team?
In the two previous articles we looked at the new Muslim beginning a new life with a clean slate; a slate has been wiped clean from all former sins.
We also discussed moving forward into a new life slowly. Changes must be made but there is no reason that they have to be made all on the one day or even in one year, in some cases not even in one decade.
Build a Good Support Team
We are all a work in progress and each person progresses at their own rate. One of the first things to do is to build a good support network because a strong support team will help you negotiate any and all difficulties you might come across as you transition successfully into your new life.
Let us begin with the people who are already in your life; family and friends. Some people may already have family or friends that are Muslim and this is a great advantage. It is a firm foundation on which to build your team and these people have probably already shown their willingness to help you negotiate all the changes taking places around you.
Others however may not know any Muslims whatsoever. This is not unusual in this day and age where people embrace Islam after searching on the internet for the solution to their personal and spiritual dilemmas.
Although it is a personal decision about when and where to reveal your new religion (way of life) you have probably already been unable to keep it from your nearest and dearest companions.
In a perfect world there would be only tears and congratulatory hugs but sadly this is not always the case. Some people will be happy and pleased for you while others will be shocked and disappointed.
The First Person in your Support Team
The person that recognizes your fulfillment and is happy for you is the first person in your support team and a very important one. Enlist their help in convincing others that this is a great and beneficial change in your life.
Remember to treat everybody with the best Islamic manners even though there may be some who will immediately wish to antagonize you. Keep up family visits, and don’t impose strict guidelines on your family. This might have come as a great shock to some of your family members and friends and you must allow them to settle into the changes.
They also need to take things slowly. As your journey into Islam progresses many otherwise hostile family members and friends will begin to notice the worthy changes in your behavior and demeanor. Sometimes this is enough to put their minds at rest and may even encourage them to ask questions and participate in your new life.
Talk about what is happening to you by all means but remember that it is God who guides a person to the truth and some people are just not as far along in their journey as you are. Never ever argue.
Search for a Mosque or Islamic Center
The next thing to do is to visit your nearest mosque or Islamic center. If you have to tackle this momentous occasion on your own Friday prayer is probably a good time to consider.
You will not have to worry about what door to enter through or who or what to ask for. Attach yourself to the nearest group of people of your gender you see entering and introduce yourself. I can guarantee that you will be welcomed with open arms.
This might however sound beyond daunting for some people therefore making contact with a member of the local community might be a better solution. This could be done via phone, email or a private message on their Facebook page.
Many Islamic centers have their own web sites and Facebook pages. It is easy to have a look online and find the one that is nearest to you. They usually have both men’s and women’s groups and a number of learning circles. Some even have comprehensive education programs with dedicated mentors and buddy systems.
In contrast to this however, in some locations a new Muslim might be immediately confronted with problems they did not expect.
When you can’t find a welcoming Islamic center or mosque in your immediate area it could mean that you will be faced with difficulties such as, a lack of support, shortage of classes and books, and absence of friendly faces to guide you on your way.
If this is the case perhaps you have no choice but to slow down just a little bit more and do and learn what you can with what you have been given. Perhaps make a trip a little bit further away from your local area or look online for a good bookstore with a comprehensive catalogue of books for all levels of understanding. A good bookstore will show clearly what books are suitable for beginners.
If you are blessed with other Muslims in your life accept invitations. You will be invited to gatherings and learning circles, you will also be asked out for coffee or to people’s homes for dinner. Muster up all your courage and attend every event that you can.
Instead of worrying about not knowing how to behave, use each invitation as an opportunity to learn. Occasionally you will come across Muslims that are so excited about your new found happiness that they want you to understand everything very quickly. You might become overwhelmed by jumping into the deep end like this.
Islam is Easy
If this begins to happen take one giant step back. Stop, smell the roses, contemplate the awesomeness of what you have done and remember step two, take it slowly.
Try to keep in mind that God makes embracing Islam easy. Taking that giant leap of faith was the hardest thing and you have already passed that brief stage. God has chosen you and you are special thus He is not about to leave you stranded or floundering.
At every turn you will find opportunities to make a strong circle of friends. Do not be too busy trying to learn everything at once that you miss golden opportunities to meet people and experience the events in the daily life of a strong Muslim community.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)