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Worried New Muslims: Don’t Give Up

Isn’t shahadah a beautiful thing?

Entering into Islam by affirming one’s faith in Allah and the Messenger brings the body and soul into harmony, the tongue finally submitting to the inclination of the heart towards Allah.

In the simple utterance of a few words, the burden of a lifetime of sins is lifted, leaving behind an equal amount of good. That’s why the shahadah will so often bring a new convert and any witnesses to tears.

And after that blessed act, followed as it frequently is by supportive hugs from new friends, it may seem that following Islam will be the easiest thing in the world.

Of course… that’s not the case.

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{Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested?} (Quran 29:2)

But not everyone’s test is the same. Have you faced a challenge since converting?

One obstacle many converts face early on is simply learning to pray. There are a number of reasons it can be particularly difficult. One is the very high bar set for beginners. A new convert might hear very early on about the many requirements of prayer, not the least of which is that it is entirely in Arabic!

And while it’s not especially intimidating to learn how and when to make wudu’ (comparatively fewer steps), the steps of prayer are slightly more complex. The matter is further complicated when taking into account the need to learn appropriate prayer times and formats (number of rak’at). And then to top off all of that, the memorization of a lot of Arabic might just make it all too difficult to deal with.

So here’s a question–how can a new Muslim, who hasn’t yet learned how to pray or even the first word in Arabic, be expected to do so immediately?

I’ve noticed a lot of people ask the question of whether it is necessary for salah to be in Arabic. Of course, the answer is yes. But if so many people are asking, it must be a difficult hurdle.

When a Muslim tells a new convert that they must begin praying from memory in Arabic, is the proverbial cart being placed in front of the horse?

Before that convert can pray, isn’t it first necessary to learn how?

Yet there doesn’t seem to exist any clear method for teaching someone how to pray, just books and recordings. That’s why it’s perfectly natural for a new convert to get frustrated at this step.

I know I did. For 6 months or more the whole concept of salah just seemed completely beyond me. In that time I wondered if I really had what it took to be a Muslim. I wondered if I could even call myself a Muslim.

When Ramadan came around I didn’t even bother to fast. I still hadn’t even made any Muslim friends. There were times when I couldn’t even imagine ever practicing Islam, and times when I thought I should just stop pretending I had converted.

But that was 6 months, before I learned. And now it’s been almost 10 years that I’ve been praying. It took me a while to get past that test, but if you’re facing the same one, know that you can get past it too.

For me, the solution was being able to read while I was praying. With each part I would need to say written in front of me (on a piece of paper or note cards) while I was praying, I could read the text until I had it memorized. That allowed me to pray before having it memorized.

I could glean meaning from English translation, and while I was not actually praying, I could practice pronouncing and memorizing the Arabic with the help of recordings. It only took about a month for me to memorize the whole prayer in Arabic. It might not be the perfect method, but it worked for me until I could make the transition from not knowing at all how to pray, to doing so easily without any aids.

Perfect Right Out of the Box?

“I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness so He could forgive them.” (Muslim)

This hadith in particular reminds me that Allah’s forgiveness doesn’t run out, and that I shouldn’t be too embarrassed to ask for it. He blessed me with the tremendous favor of guiding me to Islam, and I need His help to stay on that path.

I asked for a lot of help when it came to learning to pray–and once I started asking, I started finding it. If I find that I’m losing my way, by sins or by losing sincerity in acts of worship, then the right thing to do is to turn back to Allah, ask for forgiveness, and ask for help.

If you’re struggling with prayer or something else, don’t lose hope–just turn back to Allah.

May Allah make Islam easy for us and beloved to us, and keep us firmly guided on its path.