By: Shannon Abulnasr
When you are learning the basics of anything, you must start with the most important things first before you can build up to the smaller things.
When someone accepts Islam, they have a desire to try to do everything perfectly right from the start.
However, being very new to the faith, they don't always know what the most important things to focus on and what is minor.
This can make a new Muslim so overwhelmed at times, that it makes them contemplate Islam. They feel that they will never be able to do things they are taught and give up.
I asked several reverts to contemplate back on their first days, weeks, and months of being a new Muslim, what things they felt that they let stress them out which they should have overlooked in the beginning. After looking back, they found that they worried themselves over minor things, while ignoring some of the major issues.
New Muslims are always told that “Islam is easy”, yet something about the religion for them seems extremely difficult (for whatever circumstances or reasons), and it can cause them to think that they will never be a good Muslim because they can't manage to do it from the very beginning.
“I was wanting to do everything perfect and to know how to do it yesterday. But all I ended up with was confusion.”
So, let us learn from others who have already been through this because hindsight is always clear. I will only touch on the common “small stuff” they all shared that were things they wished they didn't focus so much time and energy on when they were new to Islam.
One sister told me that they get frustrated when people remind them that they are not saying a particular du'a or the correct one of the seemingly millions of du'a out there for everything. It can take "the religion is easy" feeling out of the equation completely. It takes time to remember all the du'as.
A brother agreed with her and said he was worried about memorizing a prayer in Arabic for every time he walked through a doorway, woke up, went to sleep, sneezed, etc. His Imam advised him to concentrate on his prayer, and to just read the Quran.
The Imam told him the "small stuff" will come in time. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) received the Quran over a long period of time. He told him that he didn't have to learn everything the first month. His advice helped him greatly.
Their comments reminded me of a day, when I worked at a dawah office in an Islamic center. There was a new Muslim that had taken her shahadah within the last 24 hours, and she was coming for her first time to the masjid.
Another Muslim woman saw her in the parking lot, just standing, as if she didn't know where to go and approached her. She told the woman that she had just done her shahadah, and that this was her first time to a masjid, so she walked to the door with her. Once they got to the door, the woman practically forced her to try to memorize adu’a before entering the masjid before she would let her enter, and told her that she “had” to always say this before entering.
When she came to me, she told me about it, and was freaking out thinking that she would never be able to do all that, and wasn't sure if she would be a good Muslim! I had to tell her that these are minor things, and “don't sweat the small stuff” for now.
Subhanallah, to think that the fear of having to memorize a du’a made this sister feel that she wouldn't ever be able to be a “proper” Muslim!
When you go to school, assuming that English is your native tongue, you will not be taught anything in German or Chinese, it will be taught in English, right? Learn first in your language, then later move on to learn it in Arabic to ensure you truly understand it first.
Learning Arabic is “small stuff” in the beginning. Many non-Muslims have told me that they haven't accepted Islam yet simply because they haven't learned Arabic yet! This is not a requirement to be a Muslim. Did you know that the majority of Muslims around the world are not Arabic speakers?
While it is important to learn Arabic to be able to read the Quran in Arabic, and to pray in Arabic, it is not a critical matter in the initial stages of your learning process. It will come later.
When you are learning the basics of anything, you must start with the most important things first before you can build up to the smaller things. This doesn't mean that the smaller things are less important, but you can't build a house by starting with the roof. You need a solid foundation that is sturdy before you can start with the rest. The roof is just as important as the foundation, but without the foundation, you will not have anything!
One sister was overwhelmed by doing the sunnah prayers because she was struggling to learn the details of the Fard (obligatory prayers). She said: "I am very grateful for whoever it was that first taught me about hanging on tight to the rope of Allah. I do that... a lot. It's like my little reminder not to sweat the small stuff.”
A brother was once told he was supposed to pray all the sunnah and nawafil for every prayer and he just simply could not do that. It took him a couple of years before someone told him to stop trying to do that and to just pray the obligatory prayers.
Remind yourself with this little tip when you feel you are struggling with anything (prayers or otherwise): “Fard (obligatory) First, Sunnah Second”. If you can't do the fard (obligatory) things yet, you need to stop worrying about all the minor sunnahs related to that particular fard thing. Focus on the obligatory before moving on to more, otherwise you will just feel overwhelmed like Peter.
Peer Pressure To ...
Katherine tells of the pressure from others to convert her family that stressed her out. She gave this advice:
“I was pressured to influence my family - only God can bring someone to Islam. We set an example. We communicate our love for Islam. We make comments, give suggestions. We make du’a. But it is not our duty to convert our families.”
Almost every revert out there has shared the sentiment with me about the pressure placed on them to get married. A woman once told Katherine – “I want you for my son!”, and Katherine thought to herself:
“No. Your dunya-focused, salat ignoring, party boy son is not an ideal match for a new Muslimah.”
There is no reason for a new Muslim to rush into marriage and plenty of reasons to delay it. How can you be a good spouse, or find a good spouse that will respect you and give you your rights if you don't know how to tell if they are pious or not, or if you don't even know what your rights are?
Take your time, learn your deen, learn about marriage in Islam, and don't fall into the trap of “learning from the opposite sex” that will, most probably, lure you into a haram relationship outside of marriage. Learn about Islam and marriage from the same sex so that you are more prepared for it in the future.
A revert sister tells her experience and gives her advice:
“In retrospect I feel I shouldn't have cared so much about born Muslims critique about whatever I was doing imperfectly. Now, 20 years later, I find that it’s difficult to find the right words to guide someone if I felt they could use my suggestion.
It’s annoying, but they care, and that’s sweet. Just say 'thanks!' and change the topic. You will progress in Islam by time, not in an instant, and if they can't grasp that then brush it off. You both have a few things to learn.”
Changing everything overnight is impossible. You have to have knowledge of something before you can implement it and stick to it. The Prophet’s companions, the best generation of Muslims ever, had 23 years and the best example to bring their lives in line with the shari’ah. New reverts can't be expected to be model Muslims immediately following the shahadah. A baby doesn't jump out of the womb running and talking. They must be taught, practice, and practice some more before they can do anything.
The “Big Stuff” vs. “Small Stuff”
You need a clear understanding of the five pillars of Islam, the articles of faith, with an emphasis on prayer and tawheed (oneness of Allah). Once you have these fundamentals covered, move on to other things. Focus on the big things, and the small things will come with time and fall into place with ease.
The most important thing all new Muslims need to remember is “don't sweat the small stuff”.
Keep yourself in a constant state of learning and implementing what you learn to your daily life gradually.
“For him who embarks on the path of seeking knowledge, Allah will ease for him the way to paradise." (Muslim, 6 )
“O ye who believe! persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that ye may prosper.” (Qur’an 3:200)
Adjusting to an Islamic Lifestyle as a New Muslim: