Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
I am so excited to have my awesome sister Chelsea back around for a guest post! In case you didn’t read her first post, Chelsea is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist specializing in Healthy Eating for Weight Loss and she also holds a degree in Psychology. She is passionate about healthy, natural living and Islamic Medicine. She wishes to inspire other women to live more natural and mindful lives for the sake of Allah.
I was so excited when Chelsea approached me about doing this post, as it is something a little different from her niche, but right up my alley! We talked about how helpful it was to have our husbands around to answer questions when we converted, but how many new Muslims to do not have this luxury. To help ease the confusion and overwhelm a new convert may be feeling, Chelsea wanted put together a kind of “first-aid kit” for reverts, and this is the result! I love how she tackles some of the tougher things like istinja, that many feel awkward asking about, and therefore never know about.
It is a bit of a long one, but it is packed full of great advice and resources, so go grab a cup of tea and dig right in!
Coming to Islam is one of the most beautiful things a new Muslim experiences. Finding the truth and uttering the Shahadah is a feeling so deep and so emotional it is hard to put into words. Your sins are cleared away. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) has granted you a fresh start, a new life, a clean slate. Feelings of peace and contentment surround the air and your body feels light from the burden of sins that have been lifted.
Unfortunately, this beautiful feeling is short-lived. Not to say you won’t feel peaceful or content, of course you will. But with the acceptance of a new (and often misunderstood) faith comes a whole new lifestyle. Panic starts to kick in. “How will I tell my family and friends?” “What will they think?” Then comes the feeling of overwhelm. “There’s so much to learn, where do I begin?” “What am I supposed to wear, I don’t even own a hijab!?”
Before you lose your mind, remember this: Islam is an easy and simple religion.
“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…” (Qur’an, 2:185)
Yes there is a lot to learn. Yes, there are a lot of changes to make. And yes, it is scary at times. But, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. All you need is a foundation. You need to understand the basics and start building up from there. You need to start with the priorities.
I was lucky enough to be married to a Muslim before I even reverted. Once I accepted Islam, I had my husband by my side to answer my questions and help me through all of the steps, and mashaAllah he was so patient. But not every revert has that luxury. Many are out on their own with no clue how to begin or where to go. That’s why I thought it was pertinent to put this first-aid kit together.
This first-aid kit entails all of the basics; the priorities. Push everything else aside and start with these, then build from there. Remember, Islam wasn’t revealed in one day, but rather it was revealed over the course of about 23 years. Take your time, don’t stress, and start here.
- Understand the Basics of Islam
Now, there is so much to learn about Islam that you can spend your entire life seeking out knowledge. In fact, we’re encouraged to seek knowledge throughout our lives.
Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Salam) said: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
You can dig deeper into knowledge as you get more comfortable, but start with learning the basics. It’s important to understand the seven main beliefs (belief in Allah, the angels, His books, the Messengers, the Day of Judgment, destiny, and life after death) and the five pillars of Islam (shahadah,salah, zakah, fasting, and hajj).
It’s important to have a basic understanding of Quran, Islamic history, the Prophets, the Afterlife, Islamic dress code, and so on.
When I first reverted I took a Free Online Islamic Course from Understanding Islam. I highly recommend this course to any new Muslim. It was simple to understand, it was broken up into sections so you can take it little at a time at your own leisure, and it had all of the basic information that you really need to know. They had even gotten in touch with me through email at one point to make sure I understood everything. Even if you can only get through one section per week, definitely take a look through this course, in shaa Allah.
Here are some other new Muslim courses you might want to check out:
- Introduction to Islam: What It Means to Be Muslim
- New Muslims eLearning Site
- Introduction to Islam by New Muslim Academy
- Learn How to Pray
Learning how to pray is probably one of the toughest parts of being a new Muslim. Between learning the flow of movements, to learning how to say prayers in a completely foreign language, to stopping everything you’re doing five times a day to get them done. For this reason, many reverts leave off prayer until they’ve become more comfortable in the religion.
This is definitely not something you want to do. Prayer is one of the most integral parts of being Muslim. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) says: “Strictly observe the prayers.” (Quran, 2:238).
Further, prayer is what now sets you apart as a Muslim. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Salam) said: “The criterion between us and the polytheists is performance of the prayer. Thus, whoever abandons it is an unbeliever.” [At-Tirmidhi & An-Nasa’i]
Once you say your shahada, salah (prayer) becomes obligatory upon you. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to learn how to pray all at once. Do the best you can with the knowledge you have. If you need to write out a cheat sheet to look at while praying, that is OK.
I recommend learning salah in the following steps:
- Learning the names and times of all prayers
- Learning the flow of movements
- Memorize the phrases that go along with each movement, then memorize Surah Al-Fatihah (the opening prayer), then memorize the Tashahhud.
- Once you feel comfortable in your prayers, learn the translation so as to understand what you are saying.
- Lastly, start memorizing some short verses from Quran to recite after Al-Fatihah.
Here are some resources to better help you in your salah, in shaa Allah:
- Practice Proper Hygiene
One thing about Islam that really stood out to me before I reverted was the emphasis on cleanliness. Muslims uphold exceedingly high standards for maintaining personal hygiene.
Aside from basic hygiene practices (like brushing your teeth, washing your body, etc.), Islam also requires specific acts of cleanliness in certain circumstances.
Let’s learn more about the types of hygiene required in Islam.
Wudu (Ritual Cleansing)
Wudu is a physical and spiritual cleanse that one must partake in before performing prayers. It includes the wiping of certain body parts with water. Not only does it remove impurities from the skin, but it also removes sin and dirt from the heart.
Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Salam) said: “Allah does not accept any prayer performed without being in a state of purity.” [Muslim]
Before standing in front of the Almighty Allah, one must be in a state of wudu. Not only do they need to be physically clean, but their hearts need to be purified from sin, desires, arrogance and hypocrisy.
Here are a few resources to help you learn more about wudu:
Istinja (Cleansing of the Private Parts)
Istinja refers to the practice of cleaning oneself with water after using the toilet. Unfortunately, many reverts have no idea about istinja, as others around them often feel awkward bringing the issue.
It may not seem like a serious matter, but in fact it is. Ibn Abbas (Radiy Allahu Anhu) narrates that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Salam) came upon two graves and said: “Their occupants are being punished, but not for a great sin (in their own view). However, it is in fact a great sin. One of them went about spreading slander. The other did not clean himself properly after urination…” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Here you can see the seriousness that Allah has placed on cleanliness. Istinja is compulsory on every Muslim after using the toilet. If one does not clean properly, their wudu will not be valid and thus their prayers will be void.
Here is a great article to help you learn more about istinja and how to do it.
Ghusl (Full Body Cleansing)
Ghusl means to wash to entire body with water. Think of it like a shower. There are certain instances where wudu or istinja is not enough to be able to pray.
Here are some requirements for making ghusl:
- After sexual intercourse
- After a woman’s period is finished
- When one has discharge due to stimulation
- At the finish of a woman’s post-childbirth bleeding
How to perform ghusl:
There are two types of ghusl. The first is the obligatory and accepted form (which just requires making the intention to purify oneself, then washing the entire body once with water, making sure to hit every spot).
The second form of ghusl is the preferred method because it was the method that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Salam) used. This method simply requires a few more steps which you can learn about in this article.
- Slowly Begin Changing Your Wardrobe
For women, one of the very first things to come up after reverting to Islam is the topic of hijab. While I am in no way belittling the importance or obligation of hijab, it’s important for a new sister to understand that she does not have to go into full hijab and abaya all at once.
If you feel comfortable and ready to wear hijab right away, that’s amazing. If not, that’s OK too. Start by slowly changing your wardrobe and work your way up. Start off with tunics, longer tops, and looser clothing. Start getting comfortable in long skirts and dresses.
In the meantime, delve into your own research on hijab and its meaning and importance, so as to soften your heart towards the idea of wearing it.
Where ever you start know that it is your intention that counts. So start where you can with end goal of hijab in mind, in shaa Allah.
- Seek Deeper Knowledge
Islam is a lifelong journey through seeking knowledge. There is always something to learn so we should continue to use our time wisely in search of more knowledge of our deen.
Rasulullah (Sallalahu Alayhi Wa Salam) said: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God.” [Riyadh us-Saleheen]
Once you feel comfortable and confident in the basics, continue to seek more and more knowledge overtime. The more you learn, the closer you are able to become to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala). Islam is such a vast religion with so many gems and blessings and the more you learn the more everything makes sense; the more proud you are to be a Muslim.
Always remember in your long and beautiful journey that Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) has made Islam a religion of ease. He does not want to burden us or cause hardship. Rather, He wants to purify us and to bring us closer to Him so that we can attain Jannah.
Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Start with the basics. Start with the tips in this article. From there just allow yourself to grow little at a time, and always continue to ask Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) for help and guidance.
May Allah make our journeys easy and may He fill our hearts with the love and knowledge of His religion, ameen.