Entering into Islam is a momentous personal experience.
Within, we may undergo monumental changes – we may have gone from wondering, to knowing; from wandering aimlessly to being on track and headed in a clear direction.
Our days that were once spent killing time, may begin to be filled with purpose and richness previously unknown.
While we grow internally, our interaction with the world must also evolve. This requires us to find the right balance between what is going on within us, and how we manage our external lives.
On the one hand, our prior lives are called into question. Are our family and friends supportive of our decision?
Are they beneficial for our personal development, or do we back-track when we are in their company?
Our routines, habits, even our manner of dress, all start to be issues of contemplation. If one were to even think about adjusting everything all at once, it could be far too overwhelming.
On the other hand, as a new Muslim, you may be interacting with a whole new community for the first time – the Muslims – multifarious and wide-ranging as we are. This presents an entire spectrum of experiences and challenges; from language barriers, to culture shock.
Some of our experiences with Muslims might be pleasing and prosperous, while others may be so severely off-putting they can cause us to question if we’ve made the right choice becoming one!
My approach to the acceptance of Islam was almost entirely based upon my reading of the Quran and books about Islam. I had met and even stayed with some Muslims, but it was for a relatively brief time. Our languages differed and my knowledge and interest in Islam was just beginning to grow at the time, so my observations were largely uninformed.
Later, my knowledge of Islam gradually increased. When I had learned enough to be convinced without a doubt about the truth of the message of the prophet Muhammad, in my somewhat naïve mind, I also formed dreamy assumptions about the Muslim population – the honored people who have been blessed with the guidance of Islam for generations upon generations.
I had imagined that Muslim overall would surely be living blissful lives steeped in the remembrance of Allah: Tranquil smiles must certainly grace their faces as they spread peace wherever they go.
Without a doubt, all of them must have learned Arabic and even speak it fluently. They get up in the last part of the nights, calling on their Lord, sure of His eternal reward, striving hard to attain His pleasure, day in, day out. They avoid unproductive talk and do not get caught up in gossip or treachery. They are kind, generous, helpful, loving.
They are patient; they generously share the message of their Lord by example and by word. Their standards of cleanliness are the highest; their homes – pristine and clean. Their children must be well mannered and behaved. Every action must be done with knowledge and for the sake of Allah, keeping in mind at all times the severity of this test and the frailty of time. I could go on and on!
This unrealistic idea about the Muslims was partially due to my own lack of knowledge, because in the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, we are in fact taught about all the variation in humanity and that Muslims are not excluded from having faults. It was also due to my lack of experience with the Muslim communities. I had very high hopes, impractically high expectations.
It was a very long time, almost two years before I really began interacting with a Muslim community. Although I was met with much kindness and care by many, what struck me most was the lack of knowledge and the meager desire to seek it.
I remember walking into a room and greeting a sister who was staring right at me and wondering why she wasn’t responding. A moment later I saw her fall forward into rukoo’. She was staring at me while standing in Salah, something one would know not to do if they had looked a book on prayer for children.
I was surprised to find ladies more concerned with designer products than encouraging each other to truth and patience. It was detestable to discover Muslim women suffering in abusive marriages when the Prophet Muhammad clearly admonished the Muslim men to “be kind to women.”
Messy homes, disorderly lives, people arriving to invitations extremely late, guests who come expecting 5-star hotel treatment rather than to appreciate good company, gossip and backbiting, ulterior motives, inability to forgive, grudges, small mistakes staining relationships forever, jealousy hatred, sabotage – you name it, I’ve seen it in the Muslim community – sometimes more starkly than I ever noticed these things in my previous world inhabited entirely by non-Muslims.
For me, all of this actually caused me to appreciate my family and non-Muslim friends much more. While our ultimate success depends on the conviction that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, our level of achievement is directly related to how we treat people and the manner in which we walk upon our Creator’s Earth. Personally, this dichotomy provoked a conflict and an internal struggle ensued.
The solution lies in continuing to seek the knowledge of Islam, and remembering that Islam is not some sort of “magic pill” as if once accepting it, or claiming to be a Muslim one is automatically as an angel! Rather, Allah told us and warned us in the Quran and Sunnah that this life is just a test. There are many distractions and pitfalls and furthermore, humans have been created weak.
Not a single one of us is immune from making mistakes and falling into sin, but the best of us who sin, are the ones who repent and learn from their mistakes. Our love for our Muslim brethren must lie in the very fact that we all believe in the Creator of the heavens and the Earth, in some way shape or form, we all hope to return to Him in a state He is pleased with.
Allah has so much Mercy on all of us and has instructed us to show kindness and mercy towards one another. None of us can judge any other Muslim for not being a perfect one. Remember, the Prophet Muhammad said:
“You will not truly be believers until you love one another.” (Muslim)
So if we have not loved our Muslim brethren as a result of our perception of them, we have actually a greater fault and according to the statement of Muhammad, we are not true believers. It is important to avoid this treacherous snare, instead having compassion and mercy for all of humanity. We are not meant to judge anyone, only Allah can do that, yet we must be constantly checking the status of our own hearts.
Islam is the middle path, encouraging moderation and patience. If we withhold from acting without knowledge, strive to be patient with ourselves, our development and everyone around us, we can avoid behaving in a way contrary to our faith without realizing it.
The most important aspect is our personal progress. The Quran is our companion and our guide, the more we read the words of our Lord, our hearts will grow and our actions will naturally evolve.
No one around us, Muslim or otherwise should ever be a reason for us to lose focus or forget the purpose for which we’ve been created, to serve our Most Merciful Lord to whom we are all ultimately returning.
May Allah help us balance our lives and stay focused on our goal of passing the test of life.
May He instill true love within our hearts for one another and make each of us beneficial to one another and the world we live in. Ameen.
Published: December 2015.