Your time on this planet is limited, so make your intentions to live a productive life serving Allah and not serving meaningless desires that won’t benefit you in the hereafter (akhirah).
“Hasten to do good deeds before six things happen: the rising of the sun from the west, the smoke, the Dajjal, the beast and (the death) of one of you or the general turmoil.” (Muslim)
We can’t worship Allah and live a life as a pious Muslim if we don’t know what it instructs us. It is learned, not automatic. Gaining knowledge is incumbent upon all mankind, but where to find the time?
Did you know that spending just 15 minutes every day at a fixed time to increase your knowledge of Islam can be more beneficial than spending 4-5 hours a day, then taking a few days off in between?
The message of the Quran was delivered to mankind over a span of 23 years, so don’t expect to be able to learn and implement everything there is overnight. Many new Muslims go overboard in the beginning after taking their shahadah, and end up burnt out, or just lacking overall interest due to feelings of being overwhelmed. The best advice is to take it slow, but steady. A little here, a little there.
“The most beloved of deeds according to Allah are the continuous ones, even if they are little.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
I asked several reverts what advice they had which they found useful when they had just reverted. I compiled their advice and expanded on each. So, what did they say?
Don’t Hesitate, or It may be too Late!
Gina Davis, an Irish revert, told me that she recently met a woman who felt that she should postpone her shahadah until after her exams for medical school. She was working so many hours and had to also study for exams.
Sometimes Islam can be seen like a lot of ‘extra’ work, so she advised her to just do her shahadah and concentrate on the 5 daily prayers even if they were late because of work. You never know when your time will be up, so do what you can, when you can, otherwise you may run out of time.
We should not look at Islam as “work” or something that we do in our spare time. Islam is a way of life, and it helps us understand our purpose in life, and draw us closer to our Creator. You must make time for learning about your deen and implementing it, even if it is slowly, to reap the benefits.
Multi-tasking with Your iPod, and Computer
You can download lots of lectures or Quran recitation onto an iPhone or iPad, etc. and listen to it during times that can appropriate it, such as while you are cooking, cleaning, exercising, driving, or even while gardening. Have it set and ready to play at any given moment, and when you first wake up in the morning, turn it on while you are getting ready for work and having your breakfast.
The opportunities are endless. Learn what times of the day you could be multi-tasking, and utilize that time to focus on the deen. There are most probably at least 5 times during the day that one can listen to a lecture while doing something else, but you just never thought about it.
Nouman Ali Khan stated in a lecture he gave that it was better to learn smaller amounts of information regularly instead of large amounts of information infrequently to retain what was learned. Gary Larocque, a Canadian revert, and Patricia Banas, an American revert, implemented this technique.
Gary said that he would have lectures playing 10-12 hours a day, usually just as background noise like most people would treat music. When he would get a chance to focus, he would pick things up little by little, and after a few days of repeating the same lectures, he would be able to sit and listen to it in full, and by then, it was basically just a reminder.
Learning from lectures is great, but make sure that it isn’t just going in one ear and out the other. Repeat it a few times, until some of the information can be recalled by memory, otherwise, what benefit did you get from it? You forgot it already!
Book Clubs & Tea Time
Louise Bensaid, a British revert, said that her friends and herself would take a book, read a small section from it, and then meet for coffee and discuss what they had read once each month. She would schedule it to be while her husband was busy doing an activity with the kids.
Stephanie Roberts, an American revert, finds 15 minutes of reading time while she drinks her tea every morning. It helped her make a habit she could keep, and gave her grace at the same time.
The majority of people who are pressed for time are mothers. When you have kids, it can be quite a strain to even find time to go to the bathroom in peace, much less get some study time in.
A simple way to make this happen is to coordinate with other mothers in the neighborhood or community. Each mother takes turn babysitting the kids to let them play together, while the others take a break. Play dates can be 1-4 hours depending on the availability of the mothers. All mothers would love to have a break, so get a play date started!
Study with Children
Many new Muslims with children have to ensure their children are learning about Islam, and not just themselves. Since new Muslims are babies in Islam, it makes it really easy for the parents and children to learn together. They are both at the same level, so it makes it easy for a parent to review materials and teach it to their children.
When you teach something to others, it helps it “stick” in your mind better. So, maybe have a day on the weekend that is spent learning various stories from Islamic history with your children. There are lots of Islamic websites on the internet that cater to children that are interactive, so don’t forget to use those resources to keep it interesting.
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule for “Me Time”
My friend Dina Aboubasha, from Egypt, who has helped me support new Muslims over the past several years, offers valuable advice about waking up early and having a regular sleep schedule.
She emphasizes the importance of having a regular schedule and not wasting all of our time sleeping the day away. She also encourages arranging your schedule to have at least one hour per day that is “me time”, usually before going to bed to spend on learning the deen. Typically this is achievable by mothers that need to wind down before going to bed after they put their children to sleep.
Read a book about Islam that holds your interest and won’t put you to sleep, but will relax you. If it is interesting, you will find yourself wanting to stay awake to finish the next chapter. It will also trigger your memory while sleeping to think about Islamic matters, since we tend to dream about what we last saw or heard before sleeping. Also, waking early to study is beneficial. The Prophet Muhammad said:
“O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings (i.e., what they do early in the morning).” (Ibn Majah)
Go-At-Your-Own-Pace Online Courses
There is a vast amount of online courses on nearly every subject these days. Some are free, and others for a fee.
I recommend for the very new Muslims to visit The New Muslims e-Learning website, which is designed to teach new Muslims in a systematic approach, that is go-at-your-own-pace and free. It teaches the most important topics in order of importance to make it easy for a new Muslim to get a good foundation of knowledge to build upon.
After going through this introduction series, I would recommend going for a university education in Islam.
They can both be done in your spare time, and doesn’t require long hours and strict schedules.
Keep a Book in Your Bag or Car – Make “Wasted Time” Beneficial
How many of us sit on the subway train, or a bus for any length of time during the day?
Do you sit and wait for your children to exit the school when you pick them up?
Do you sit at a laundry mat waiting for 2 hours for your laundry to wash and dry?
Use these times instead of wasting them.
Somayah, an American revert, says to take a book with you wherever you go, or keep it in your car in case you get time. It’s easier for some people to just get in a little here, a little there. Every spare moment, just get a little bit in. Get your book out of your bag, backpack, car, or purse and read it!
Make “A to-Do” List – Identify Unused Time Gaps
Helma Müller, a German revert, suggests to make a list of all activities that one does during the day to be able to identify the gaps throughout the day, which can be used to insert study time in, even if it is just 15 minutes. It can help make a regular routine achievable and manageable, and habit forming.
My friend Zeeshan Akbar said it best: “One needs to dedicate time to strive for more. That is why the pursuit is what makes one a believer, not just the pledge.” Simply saying shahadah doesn’t automatically insert all the knowledge one needs into their brains, and makes them believe. One must take the time to study, and understand Islam which puts the meaning into the shahadah.
Slowly but surely wins the race, and as Zeeshan says “Drop by drop you make your own ocean.”
So learn drop by drop, until you have your ocean of knowledge! You are in a constant state of learning, so make what you learn benefit your life on this planet and the Hereafter.
If you want something badly enough, you will find time for it!