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Paving the Middle Path: Supporting New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has always talked about Islam being the moderate path of life.

In Islam, a believer engages in obligatory worship at a given time, rests at a given time, works at a given time, and even takes time off for leisurely affairs, as long as they don’t contradict Islamic teaching.

This is holistically what worship in Islam is about – finding the balance in all things.

For new Muslims however, coming to Islam can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing, when faced with a new way of life.

We often hear of new Muslims getting confused with dress-codes, feeling they have to sever ties with family and friends, forced to go out on personal hijrahs (and maybe even feel compelled to move to another country), or feeling compelled to turn into hermits amidst a pluralistic society.

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Mentoring System for New Muslims

The responsibility falls upon the existing Muslim community to lend a helping hand to new Muslims, who are making a huge transition into their lives for the better.

Though it may not always seem like a great choice at times of vulnerability and adversities, new Muslims need to be assured that the journey they are taking is to please God alone.

Having a good mentoring system in place is vital for new Muslims to prevent them from feeling abandoned in such a new world. Ideally a mentoring system would allow a gentle transition in the shift of lifestyles.

As many new Muslims feel they’re giving up things like music, Christmas, parties, and alcohol even, they should know they’re stepping in at new heights: Ramadan, the brotherhood (or sisterhood), and knowledge of Islam. And all those previous sacrifices, though at times they may be missed, is really for the better. And if there is a will, there is always a way forward.

quoteOf course, for a handful of new Muslims, letting go of the past is easy, but even so, dealing with the new present, may not always be a walk on the middle path – especially when there is inadequate support.

A good Muslim mentoring system should help bridge the two worlds, without judgment towards the former, nor the latter. Changes in lifestyle need not be abrupt, although encouraging to leave whatever is haram is also of great importance.

Keeping new Muslims open and active in society is also important to feel they are still active participants of society, close to their beloved families, regardless of their choices of faith. After all, Muslims are required to remain contributors to their communities, regardless of where they are and are encouraged to do so, while feeling proud of their new faith.

And of course, the mentoring system needs a good marketing department, so it is well accessible to the masses and has a good da’wah program running.

A Call to the Muslim Community

However, even with a mentoring system in place, there may be challenges within born Muslim communities as well, especially those that are culturally-inclined and perhaps follow less of the Quran and the Sunnah than they should be obliged to.

This can also add to the confusion for new reverts as and when they try to differentiate between what is religiously practice (mostly, things that are clear cut and straightforward) as compared to what becomes a culturally Islamic practice – and there is the further need to differentiate what is allowed as per the Sunnah and what cultural practices may contradict it.

I suppose this is yet another calling to the Muslim community to work towards realigning practices to follow the Quran and the Sunnah for the greater good of everyone, and that’s one of the many blessings of having new reverts in society to reacquaint one’s selves with Islamic education.

An educated Muslim community really is a blessing for their society as a whole, even more so if living in a non-Muslim country – as mostly seen in the West.  As with Islam being one of the most misrepresented and often maligned religions as seen in the media, building trust between the two worlds of different faiths falls upon every Muslim, and when there is one mishap or a single crime committed by a Muslim, in general, the whole community and the religion of Islam is hung out on the line for judgment and prejudice.

That’s where the danger of the lack of education lies as well. Not only are some crimes committed by born Muslims, whose teachings probably have not been in line with the Quran and the Sunnah from a very young age, but misguided cults have also started to pick up on less informed new Muslims, luring them (especially the youth) into acts of violence and hatred, which are not taught in the name of the religion.

So while there are new Muslims who often feel depressed due to the sudden isolation after embracing Islam, there is also a darker breed of new Muslims who get caught up with waylay groups that fall outside the peaceful and tolerant religion.

But that’s when the onus falls on Muslim communities once again. Brotherhood is so important in Islam that the Prophet describes the religion of a person as the religion of his or her close friend and Muslims need to be reminded that their religion is one of moderation.

Tapping into international communities that lay out help for new Muslims is also a good way to go, and many of these organizations are also run by revert Muslims who have gone through the experiences of the transition and are able to share their stories in a positive light.

Leveraging on scholars who are active in Islamic education is advisable as it helps fortify the importance of understanding Islam in the correct light. Many misconceptions of Islam can be curtailed if Muslims are better acquainted with their religion and are stronger in their masses.

Those who feel isolated can be helped and perhaps those who are drawn towards violence against others can also be educated before they fall into the trap of “extremism”. Either way, a heavy responsibility rests upon local Muslim communities to not only fortify Muslim identity but to carry the message of Islam outwards, towards the pluralistic ones in light of many conceptions.

By doing so, many new reverts will also be at ease and find an easier transition in the journeys within Islam.

Published: June 2016.