As often as converts endlessly talk about the beauty of the day they took shahadah, the feeling of weightlessness, as Allah cleansed their past sins and blessed them with a clean slate.
No one really talks about the aftermath of shahadah, how difficult it can be. Islam is not merely a religion but a way of life; and as per my experience, going from an extreme lifestyle to living as a practicing Muslim woman can be incredibly tough.
Often in such situations, new Muslims can very easily and unintentionally isolate themselves; they try to protect their faith and stay away from activities and social situations that ultimately cannot coexist with Islam.
When I became a Muslim nine years ago, I was 17, my friends were not Muslim; I had only one Muslim friend that I was speaking to in order to learn about Islam.
The most difficult part was telling my friends that I had made the decision to become Muslim. It was frightening, the thought of being judged and abandoned by people that I had called friends for years.
Sadly, as time went by, a lot of friends did disappear from my life because of my decision. Yet, those friends that really cared, deep down, stuck around; they asked questions and made an effort to understand my choice.
To this day, my friends that respected my choice and made an effort to socialize in different ways such as coming around to my house for a meal, going for picnics and watching films at the cinema.
Ultimately though, I wanted to immerse myself into Islam and meet like-minded people. I found a group called New Muslim Project (NMP) in my city. I started attending their Friday night circles not only to learn more about Islam but to meet people who understood the journey I was on.
This group was the main foundation from which I built on many beautiful friendships; I learned of many other organizations, mosques, and study circles that offered different activities and services to all Muslims, not just converts.
As time went by, my friendship circle grew; I met sisters from all different parts of the globe, I began to understand that our common link was Islam and our belief in La Ilaha Ilalah Muhammadun Rasoolullah.
Age became irrelevant before being a Muslim I would never have imagined being friends with women ten years older than me, as our lives would have been so different.
Islam brings people together. We are one Ummah, one community; and some of my closest friends are 10-20 years older than I am now.
Soon enough I no longer dreaded weekends after work. My diary was soon full of different activities, sister socials, study circles at the mosque, tea at a friend’s house. I was always busy, never alone and constantly in the company of those who reminded me of Allah. Alhamdulillah!
I appreciate that my journey may have been easier than others, Allah blessed me with a great support system and many opportunities to go out and meet people.
Although, I was blessed with many opportunities to meet new sisters, it wasn’t always easy, putting yourself out there, starting over and making new bonds and new friendships, but alas forcing myself into new situations I was unsure of, paid off for me.
Choosing to remain isolated even with the best of intentions can be detrimental to your iman (faith).
My advice for any new Muslim would be to use internet search engines to find any support groups or study circles in your locality.
Visit your local mosque and see if they have a notice board for activities or even attend a Friday Prayer at your local mosque to meet new people. Start frequenting shops in your local Muslim neighborhood to buy your halal meat and groceries, visit Islamic clothing stores, even to browse.
As crazy as it sounds, just immersing yourself into the community, they will welcome you with open arms. The best piece of advice I can offer is when you see another Muslim greet you with Salaam, even if visually you may not appear Muslim if you don’t have a beard or have chosen not to wear hijab yet, just give Salam and leave the door open so to speak for people to get to know you and your journey as a New Muslim.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
The person closest to Allah is the one who precedes others with greetings. (Abu Dawud)
I pray that whatever stage of your journey you are on as a new Muslim that Allah makes it easy for you; may He guide you and bless you with a righteous and pious support system.