By Fatima- Minna
Reflecting on how belief found its way into my heart all those years ago, I realised it must have been precipitated by a willingness to believe. Prior to finding Islam, I suspected there was a God, but had no clear path to incorporating that into my life. So where did the willingness to believe in God within the context of Islam come from?
For me, it was seeing the actions and character of the Muslims around me. I think converts differ from each other in this way, as Allah understands our personality and what we need to be shown. Sinead O’Conner (now Shuhada), the famous singer who converted to Islam recently was quoted as saying that Islam is, “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey”.
For Shuhada, who had a long term interest in religion, Allah showed her the way through a study of theology. I have a friend who became Muslim after several years of raising her children as Muslims: for her, it was the impact of Islam on her children that was the sign she needed to see.
Back to my own journey, I think I had a willingness to believe, and I was convinced enough that I had found a treasure, that I accepted the basic tenets of faith, and at this point I took my Shahada. Only after this did I build a more established and knowledge based belief.
I look back at this time and see a mixture of naivety and sincerity, and I see this now when I meet newly Muslim sisters. There is something so pure about this state, and I suspect we are very close to Allah at this time. To say my belief at this point was weak would be wrong. This is the time that I lost friends, hurt my family, and found myself having to justify my faith to others, and it takes strength to face that challenge.
But I feel like my belief at that time was like a sapling tree, delicate and hopeful. I needed to nurture it to have it put down roots and not be blown down by a strong wind. My faith now feels like something that comes from a deeper place, with more certainty. Psychologists have found evidence that the first few years of our lives form patterns within us that are hard to break. Indeed, in those first few years of faith I found myself having to consciously circumvent those patterns.
For people born into Islam, the roots of their faith come from their family and their community, but we have to work out how to put down these roots ourselves.
For me, I did that by studying, and forming connections with the wider Muslim community. Studying my faith to a level that I was confident in my practise helped me in that if challenged or questioned, I could stay firm in my belief and my actions. We have many options these days to study our faith. If there are not reasonable courses in your area, perhaps the neighbouring city has them? If not, there are many reliable courses delivered online, and many are free. Even those that are not generally, will sometimes make exceptions for new Muslims. Previous generations of Muslims would leave their homes and family and travel thousands of miles to seek knowledge- the sacred search takes effort and dedication.
Making connections with the wider Muslim community was more challenging. Many of my earliest experiences had me doubting whether this was really where I belonged. But I persisted, and eventually found my sense of belonging. I tried to change the things that I found challenging (unclean and unwelcoming mosques for example).
I think we all find our own way of becoming comfortable with our new faith, and letting those beliefs take root. But I do feel sure that this is not a passive experience.
If I could send any message to a new Muslim sister it would be that this is the time to be brave, and take the bull by the horns. Attend that circle, and if you don’t like it, find another. Talk to your husband about caring for your children while you study. Don’t allow the Muslim community to make you feel like you don’t belong; you have as much right to attend the masjid as anyone else. I remember being so fearful of making a mistake in the masjid, and unwittingly doing something that was perceived as bad manners. But I know now that most people make exceptions for new Muslims, and the few that don’t are wrong.
Allah gives us the greatest gift when he puts belief in our hearts. He is telling you He has a place for you in paradise. Nurture your belief as you would a sapling tree – give it time, and feed it well, and of course, be patient. And inshaaAllah you will see the fruits of that belief in this life and the next.
About the author:
Fatima-Minna lives with her husband and two lively little boys, and has a full time job that she enjoys. That doesn’t leave room for much else, but she continues to strive to be close to Allah and help her children to have a deep understanding of Islam.
What is the thing you do and make you feel that Allah is pleased with you. Is it prayer, fasting, do istagfaar or what?
Asalam u alikum sister, thank you so much for reading my post and asking an interesting question. I think it’s hard to know, and we can only hope that Allah is happy with us. But I think the most important thing is intention. Allah has told us clearly what he wants us to do, including the things you mentioned, but he won’t accept them without the correct intention. There are also many acts that we can perform that become worship with the right intention. So I think I try to check that every so often, in case I have drifted or become habitual in what I do.
May Allah accept all of our efforts.
I’m a new Muslim and struggling as I came from a Christian background and lost both my parents just before I became Muslim. Do you have any general advice on what I should concentrate on first?
Thank you for your question Helga. I’m really sorry to hear about your parents, and I hope that you can take some Solace from the fact that our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, also lost both of his parents and had to struggle with filling that gap in his life, just as you are now. Undoubtedly, that is going to leave an indelible mark on you, yet we know that Allah is “Ar-Rahmaan” -The Most Merciful, so there is definitely a reason and purpose behind this, and some good to come of everything that He ordains out of His Mercy. Even if you cannot see it now, let your heart rest assured that you WILL indeed see it at some point.
As for what you should concentrate on first, that would depend on where you are at, but I would say that you have taken a wonderful step in recognizing your Creator, and the most important thing now is to learn to love Him and trust Him, and you can only do that through getting to know Him. How can you get to know Allaah? Firstly, through His Words- that’s how we generally get to know people too, isnt it 🙂
So, to do that, find a copy of the Quran in English ( or your native language) that you are comfortable with – we like the Quran translation by Dr. Abdel Haleem, and you can even listen to that one on You Tube as a kind of audiobook by Safina Pblications, I believe.
Sit and ponder over the Quran, and on what it teaches you about Your Loving Creator; attend classes on it if you can, or sign up to some online ones.
Then learn about Him through a study of His Names and Attributes that He has described Himself with – there are lots of online resources to help with that ( there is a short explanation on some names done by Shaykh Dr Yassir Qadhi on YouTube that is a good introduction).
As for struggling, my dear Sister, we all struggle at times. It is good that you have identified the struggle, but what it actually boils down to, may need some more analysis and help- Solace would be happy to help support you through your difficulty. Please contact us via the form on the website or call the number 07985641080 (Mon-Fri 10-11am and 8-9pm) / Sat-Sun 8-9pm) and a referral will be taken over the phone with you.
Our duaas are with you.