This is the first article in a series designed to assist new Muslims, (and those who have reaffirmed their faith), in settling into a lifestyle that sometimes feels at odds with this brave new century.
Now days, perhaps more than at any other time in the history of Islam, there are many obstacles that stand in the way of those considering taking a leap of faith and accepting Islam.
Despite the many negative connotations associated with Islam, the number of people converting continues to grow. Clearly many people are able to look past the bad press and biased media representations and see the inherent beauty in a religion designed for humankind by the Creator of humankind.
For many, taking that final step and testifying to their belief in One God and His messenger Muhammad, is fraught with unnecessary fear of the repercussions from their previous lifestyle and beliefs.
Mercifully this fear is totally unfounded because accepting Islam means that life begins again. From that moment forward the new Muslim begins life with a clean slate.
A Clean Slate
A clean slate is an idiom used frequently in the English language. The online Free Dictionary says that if you are given a clean slate you can start again, the past is forgotten.
Dictionary.com goes a little further and tells us that it is an opportunity to start over without prejudice, and that you can make a new start by clearing the record.
This idiom comes from the use of chalk and slates in school rooms of the past. By wiping the slate clean, a student removed any evidence of a mistake.
Both the Quran and the authentic Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad make it clear that the past is forgotten. The record is clear when a person chooses to accept Islam.
Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief), their past will be forgiven… (Quran 8:38)
“If a person embraces Islam sincerely, then Allah shall forgive all his past sins…” (Al-Bukhari) 
Thus it is clear that the mistakes and sins of the past have no bearing whatsoever on the new beginning. It is just that, a brand new beginning. One where a person’s good deeds will be rewarded not once but ten to seven hundred times over. And each bad deed will be recorded as one bad deed only, unless Allah, the Most Merciful, forgives it completely.
Put Your Mind At Ease
Once you have declared your belief in the religion of Islam, you can put your mind at ease. Feel the peace and relief that wash over you when you think about the sins that have disappeared.
Nothing is so big that it cannot be forgiven by the All Forgiving Allah. That is a huge notion to fully understand, but it is true and it is one of the euphoric moments that seem to propel the new Muslim into their new life.
It might not be too long however before you begin to think that even though all sins have been wiped away, the concept of never behaving badly again is an even bigger challenge to the mind and to your peace of mind.
What some people refer to as the rules and regulations of Islam may seem like insurmountable obstacles to your new life.
You might be plagued with questions of self-doubt.
How am I ever going to be able to get up at dawn every single morning?
How am I ever going to stop drinking alcohol when everybody I know drinks alcohol?
These are very real and troubling questions.
Develop a Lasting Relation With Allah
Let me put your mind at ease by saying that developing a lasting relationship with Allah is far more important than implementing life changes that you cannot sustain. When the bond between you and Allah is firmly fixed, obeying rules becomes something you want to do because you know it pleases Allah.
Thinking about the erasure of your sins and mistakes helps you to focus on behaving in a way that keeps your slate clean. Easier said than done, but remember that Allah is fully aware of the struggles in our daily lives. If we look, we will almost certainly find that He has provided us with the tools required to make the adjustments.
There are a number of changes you may have to make to your day to day routine. But there is no need to make them all in one day. That slate will remain clean so long as you are holding on to your connection to Allah no matter how tenuous you may feel that it is.
All Humans Make Mistakes
While you are trying to implement the changes bear in mind that Allah knows and even expects us to make mistakes. He knows we will fall into sinful behavior again. These are the hallmarks of being a human being. The fear of making a mistake should never ever hold you back from fully embracing the religion of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad tells us that, if we were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take us away and replace us with people who sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness.
Allah has a creation that is sinless, the angels, who obey without question or doubt. They never make the wrong choices.
We are something different altogether. When we sin and sincerely ask forgiveness, Allah will accept our repentance and grant us forgiveness. Even if the sins were so many they reached the clouds in the sky, and even if the sins are bad choices that we make over and over again.
Every era in the history of humankind had problems and challenges for those who choose to change their lifestyles in order to worship God correctly.
The Need for Islam Today
The 21st century however has unique trials never before encountered. Every day we are assaulted by an endless stream of facts and figures; propaganda, 24/7 news broadcasts, increasingly sophisticated sales techniques, and a relentless social media that keeps our minds spinning and in over-drive. In fact it is just this sort of world that makes the religion of Islam seem inviting. It is a chance to make a connection with Allah and slow down the pace of life.
Beginning again with a clean slate is a desirable prospect. Remember however that although the trappings of the world have changed the nature of humankind has not.
The things that were true at the beginning of time are still true today. We still laugh and cry, we still long for a family and community of likeminded people. And we still feel incomplete without a link to Allah.
We can use the 21st century way of life to make ourselves better in every way. And we can control the flow of information; it does not have to control us. The delete button is there for a reason, so too is the on and off switch. Just as we can fade to black we can swipe left or right and reboot with a clean slate.
 Sahih Al-Bukhari
 Sahih Al-Bukhari
 Sahih Muslim
 At Tirmidi
 Sahih Al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim.
(From Discovering Islam archive.)