Salaam everyone! Today’s guest post is a particularly exciting one for me; it was so hard when I got it in my inbox last week and I had to hit “schedule” instead of “publish!”
Convert Karrie blogs over at The Convert Life, where she is dedicated to helping converts discover the resources and support they need on their new journey as Muslims. She shares her experiences as a convert of 20 years, which includes living in a foreign country for five years, and also her experiences as a home school mom in hopes of helping other Muslims who are interested in homeschooling.
Basically, her blog is where I hope I will be in 20 years (inshAllah)! But seriously, I do really love her writing, and it is always so interesting to me to see how, though we have the same mission of sharing support and resources for converts, we both have very different journeys and ways of going about achieving our shared goal.
For today’s post, she graciously agreed to write for me about some of her biggest lessons learned in over 20 years as a covert to Islam. I hope all of the converts out there reading this will find it insightful and helpful, and I hope as well that there will at least be some small thing of interest that my born Muslim readers can take away!
I am so grateful for Allah SWT bringing me to Islam. I converted in my twenties, before 9/11. There weren’t the number of awesome Western scholars there is today. And Alhumdulilah for the internet, which can be an excellent place to learn about Islam or to be able to reach out to other Muslims, especially converts. I know there are converts in small towns or in areas where there is not a large population or mosque to attend, so it can be a lifeline to some. My biggest lesson, that I have learned is to learn Islam for yourself from reliable sources and continue learning. Of course, we need guidance from others, but don’t take people’s word for things, not even a close friend or spouse. There is so much information on the internet and Muslims who want to offer sincere advice to the newbie, can be so overwhelming. If you are offered advice, smile and say, “Thank You,” politely and then verify the information.
Keep a thick skin and trust in Allah SWT.
You can’t just say your shahada and then be content that you’re a Muslim. You need to seek out reliable scholars, books, people, that you can rely on to guide you. You need to weed through the information to find what suits you. Muslims from all over will offer advice which may not be correct. I am married to a Pakistani so by default, I guess I am a Sunni and Hanafi. I just thought I was Muslim. But when we lived in Dubai, I noticed the Arab women always covered their feet when they prayed and abaya culture is the norm. So I wanted to know if I needed to cover my feet so I researched it myself to find it is a difference between madhabs. Something I hadn’t really thought of. And not necessarily something to figure out ASAP when you are learning about Islam. Get the basics down first and the rest will come. Otherwise, you bombard yourself with too much, get overwhelmed, and then do nothing.
Take it slow.
I have seen converts of all types. Some take to wearing hijab slower than others or not at all. I have seen sisters convert who are wearing hijab and abaya and flying off to foreign countries to learn Arabic. Take it at your own pace. The revelation took 23 years. You are not going to be SUPER Muslim(a) overnight. There will be times of utter excitement and your emaan is flying high. There will be times when your emaan is low. Know that this is normal and regardless of a high or low, don’t abandon prayer. Try to be consistent in whatever action you are working on. Is it prayer? Is it reading Quran? Is it learning Arabic? Some of your Ramadans will be so spiritually uplifting and fasting will be easy for you, other times not. When I had my children and couldn’t fast and didn’t have time to read Quran, I felt very down for not being able to join in and worship. But there are seasons of life. Taking care of your family and childbirth are a form of worship and the time will pass. Allah SWT knows what your intention is and what is in your heart.
Learn true Islam and not culture.
It does not say in Quran you have to change your name when you convert. You do not have to wear an abaya. Learn what Islam says and not the culture of the ethnic groups that follow Islam. This can be difficult depending on your situation. But culture over thousands of years gets mixed up with Islam and so people call things Islamic that really aren’t. I learned this while living in Pakistan. Especially where the literacy rate is low and people cannot read. People learn from what is told to them, not from actually reading the Quran first hand.
Read the Quran in whatever language you understand, dream, and speak in first.
Arabic can be overwhelming. The letters don’t look like anything recognizable from a Western perspective. It’s written/read from right to left. My sincere suggestion is to get a Quran whether it is an English translation or Spanish or Urdu. You must be able to read the MESSAGE of the Quran and APPLY it to your life. The only way to do that is to read it and ponder it yourself. Certainly, listen to Quran in Arabic. No doubt it is the most melodic, beautiful sound to the ears, but you can’t apply what you don’t understand. A time will come when you should learn, but don’t put yourself down for not learning first thing. It can be difficult to find the right resources to do so. When you have the sincere intention to learn it, Allah SWT will make it happen for you. In sha Allah.
Of course, there are so many experiences I would love to share, but cannot in one blog post. Learn from an elder’s experience. Wishing you all the best in your journey to Islam. I pray you found this advice helpful and any wrong advice is from me and my misinformation, not from Allah SWT. May Allah SWT keep us all on the straight path. Ameen.