Archive for Pillars of Islam

12 Tips for the Convert Muslim

By Brother Alex (Dallas, TX)
1. Practice Islam as much as you can

“He who loves my Sunnah has loved me, and he who loves me will be with me in Paradise.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Tirmidhi)

As a new Muslim, you will have trouble keeping up with prayers every day, fasting during Ramadan, and the many other practices in this religion. The struggle that we face, with such a radical change in lifestyle, is difficult and will take some time. Awkward moments are bound to happen, don’t fret. You are not expected to wake up at 4am every morning to pray tahajjud (extra night prayers). If you have problems with certain practices, then gradually work yourself into the mindset of worship. A counselor once told me when I was young, “How do you eat an elephant? Just One bite at a time.” Think of it as one step at a time. Pray to Allah (swt) and ask for Him to make it easy for you and the rest will come naturally.

Keeping up with your devotional practices is something that will strengthen your faith immensely. Read the Qur’an whenever possible. Find a collection of hadith, such as Riyadh us-Saliheen, and read it often. You will start to feel a connection to Allah (swt) and you will become used to Islam as a religion and way of life.

2.  Respect your parents

“Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Ahmad, Nasa’i)

Keeping up a good relationship with your family is essential. Try to avoid bringing up or taking part in controversial subjects regarding religion. This is almost unavoidable, but your parents will eventually accept that Islam is not going to turn you into a terrorist if you stay calm during these tense moments. Gradually, your parents will gain some respect and understanding of Islam and may start to become genuinely interested. This is a great sign and insha’Allah, God will make a way for them to accept Islam.

What you do not want to do is act like you know everything, attempt to debate everything, or overly defend yourself in a way that might make you angry or upset. This will just cause heartache and uneasiness. Your priority now should be to work on yourself.

3. Find a teacher

“For him who follows a path for seeking knowledge, Allah will ease for him the path to Paradise.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

Finding a teacher to bounce ideas off of is a great way to learn your deen (religion). I found it is good to find someone with as much knowledge as possible who also has an understanding of the English language and American culture. It is difficult to listen to someone with a thick accent or someone with a back-home mentality. When I first accepted Islam, I would drive every day to visit my teacher and I would ask him what seemed like an endless stream of questions. Sometimes he seemed overwhelmed! This is a great way to clarify things you hear on Sheikh Youtube or Google or any part of the Qur’an you are reading at the time.

This will also help you have a real grounding in the Islamic tradition. You will eventually have spent more time learning Islam than most people from Muslim families. Maintain a sense of humility if you do gain a lot of knowledge, as there will always be someone who will be more knowledgeable than you. Learn everything you can in small chunks, no one is asking you to be a scholar!

4. Keep away from debates and arguments

“Verily anger spoils faith as aloe spoils honey.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)

Trying to constantly defend your religion is something that will cause you a lot of stress. I remember when I first accepted Islam, it seemed like the whole world was after me. This may happen to different people at different levels, but it was a very overwhelming experience for me. The best thing to do is avoid these arguments at all costs. If you are mature about your religion and display a desire to explain yourself without refuting others, then many doors will open for you. You are bound to give someone a refreshing view of Islam, which is what so many people are hungry for after seeing Islam in such a negative light in the media.

Staying away from these discussions will put you at peace and give you breathing room. A lot of converts are not really comfortable with bringing up their religion because of the backlash they receive. Personally, I recognized that if I just mention it when necessary, I get a more positive reaction. You’ll be surprised to hear “Oh that’s cool dude, what made you pick that religion?” This is always an opportunity for da’wah (inviting to Islam).

5. Gain a connection to the Arabic language

“Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.”
-The Holy Qur’an, 12:2

This is one of my favorite parts of becoming a Muslim. To be honest, I’m a language-lover and I realize everyone is not the same in this regard. Just because you failed high school Spanish though doesn’t mean you will have trouble with Arabic. There are many tricks to learning the language that I won’t go into here, but there are ways to make this easier on yourself. These methods can be found online or in books; with a little research you can pave your way to gaining an understanding of Arabic.

Start by learning the alphabet and connecting letters together. You can learn this in an afternoon if you know someone that is a native Arabic speaker (but go at your own pace). Sit on that for a while and eventually you will be able to follow along in the Qur’an if you listen to a recitation on your computer or MP3 player. You will start to recognize words, after which you can get into simple grammar rules. I recommend learning common nouns and prepositions first (words like “in”, “on”, “for” and “with”).

Arabic can be really enjoyable, and you are bound to gain an Islamic vocabulary after listening to talks or lectures. Eventually you will know meanings of words like “furqaan” and “sajdah” and you’ll be able to use them in conversations with Muslims. Sabr (patience) is essential!

6. Understand Islam’s organic nature

“Those who make things hard for themselves will be destroyed. (He said it three times.)”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

Coming to Islam will sometimes put you in a situation where you are overwhelmed with opinions that are hard to follow. As an example, one might be told that you have to wash your feet every time you make wudhu (ablution) unless you wipe over leather socks that have been worn from your previous wudhu. For most Americans, the idea of wearing leather socks is something that we find extremely unusual. If we do a little research, we find there are opinions of scholars that mention the permissibility of wiping over cotton socks (even ones with holes in them!). To an American convert, these opinions can cause a huge sigh of relief.

7. Maintain your Identity

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
-The Holy Qur’an, 49:1

Being a Muslim is a huge part of your identity now. That doesn’t mean you can’t barbeque with your friends or watch football on Sundays. If there are things in your culture that do not directly contradict with basic Islamic creed, then you are welcome to keep those things in your life. You do not need to start wearing Arab or Indian clothing. As long as your clothes cover what they are supposed to cover, you are in the clear.

Many converts are also exposed to really weird food that is overly spicy or funny tasting. This might lead us to think that eating curry is sunnah or something righteous. We can still have our own culture and tastes in food: pot roast and beans are still halal!

There are many other examples of things that you will be exposed to that are from foreign cultures and do not necessarily have anything to do with Islam. Our goal as new Muslims is to worship Allah (swt), not to add a Pakistani or Arab identity to our persona.

It is good to have a teacher who understands the subtleties of different opinion in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and can inform you of differences among the scholars on issues that are of concern. Most people in masajid will have a very limited view of the juristic possibilities inside the Islamic tradition. Islam is a vast tradition and we should not make it small. These diverse opinions are there to help us, not cause strain on ourselves.

8. Force yourself to go to the masjid

“The person who receives the greatest reward for the Salah is one who lives the farthest and has the farthest to walk.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Bukhari, Muslim)

Going on Fridays is a given, but I would also recommend trying to fit a few prayers (at least) per week in the masjid. This will open many doors for you and will insha’Allah grant many good deeds to your account. You will meet people who are connected to Islam; networking opportunities are more readily available; and you are bound to make long-lasting friends. This is one of the things that I really love about Islam, that you can almost always find people in the masjid.

Although this may be hard initially, try and go to the masjid. The payoff will be huge, even if you just pray and leave right after. You will eventually warm up to the community and you can feel more comfortable going to the masjid whenever you like.

9. Find Muslim friends and avoid severing ties

“On the Day of Resurrection Allah Almighty will proclaim: “Where are those who have mutual love for My Glory’s sake? Today I shall shelter them in My shade where there is no shade but Mine.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

Saying “As-salamu ‘Alaykum” ( “Peace be upon you”)  to people you see on campus or at the grocery store is a real blessing in Islam. It immediately lets people know you are Muslim and they usually will be happy to return the greeting and hopefully share a few words with you. Doors of friendship will be opened and you will meet lots of people. Try and spend some time with Muslims when you can. It is beneficial to remind yourself that you are not the only Muslim on the planet and you share your religion with almost 2 billion people around the globe.

Also, don’t sever your friendships with your non-Muslim friends unless they are constantly partying or using the list of major sins as their weekend to-do list. You can be a light to your Christian, Agnostic, Jewish, or Atheist friends. You never know who Allah (swt) will guide, and showing that you are living an ethical life can encourage these people to learn a little about Islam or change their mind to having a positive view of the religion.

10. Avoid Loneliness

“Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Muslim)

This is a major problem in the convert community. We are lonely. The best thing we can do to fight the feeling of loneliness is to spend as much time as possible with good company. Having dinners with people a few nights a week is a sure way to maintain a good attitude. The practice of becoming a nun or a monk is alien to Islam; we are social creatures and Islam recognizes this.

Try not to lock yourself away in your apartment to avoid the world. This will just cause a vicious cycle that will cause deep depression and can lead to searching for solace in haram (unlawful).

Make it an obligation on yourself to remain a sociable human being. It takes a lot of work but the result is happiness and contentment in life.

11. Stay away from extremism

“And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people.”
-The Holy Qur’an, 2:143

Most converts do not enter Islam looking for an extremist point of view. Unfortunately, we have seen some converts do end up overseas working for terrorist organizations. This is something that can happen from a person feeling victimized or ostracized by their own culture and being overcome with anger.

I personally have not had a problem with anyone trying to “radicalize” me. It does happen enough though that it should be a concern. It will be best for you to keep your head on your shoulders and not get caught up with extreme points of view. Know that all of the scholars overseas and in America have absolutely refuted terrorism in their fatawa (legal rulings). Extremism is on the very edges of the Islamic thought. Do your best to stay on a middle way.

12. Do not despair

“So know that victory is with patience, and relief is with distress and that with hardship comes ease.”
-The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

Being a convert to Islam, you will face a lot of tribulations. There is not anything that you cannot overcome though, and never despair in Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) guided to you to Islam, you searched for the answer and you found it. Be happy and constantly remind yourself of the blessings in your life. There are a lot of good things that will happen to you and you are on the straight road to Jannah (paradise). Rejoice in being Muslim. Remember the Sahabah (companions) were all converts to Islam and they were human beings that came from Adam and Eve just like you! Be strong and find comfort in your prayers and worship to Allah (swt). The first six months were the hardest for me, and insha’Allah we will all continue to grow as a convert community in America.

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The Five Pillars of Islam

Five Pillars of Islam

In Islam, the term ‘worship’ covers any action that one does in accordance with the will of Allah. It can be mental, physical, spoken or otherwise. All such actions will be rewarded. There are five acts of worship that are so fundamental that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) grouped them together as the Five Pillars of Islam. Every muslim is expected to fulfill these obligations. They are:

The first pillar of Islam, the Shahadah

The first pillar of Islam, the Shahadah, written in Arabic script in the shape of a man praying.

1. Shahadah

Recognising and acknowledging the monotheistic nature of Allah stands at the core of Islam. This is to firmly believe in the heart and declare:

“Ashhadu allaa ilahha, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar-rasulullah.”

{” I bear witness that there is no God except Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad is Allah’s Messenger.”}

This is known as the Shahadah. Once a person declares it, he becomes a Muslim.

The Shahadah has two parts. Firstly, its a declaration that Allah is the only Lord and Ruler, and He Alone is worthy of worship. He has no partner, and He cannot be compared with any other thing. Everything which is in this universe is under His control and wors according to His Command. Mankkind is also required to live according to the C ommands of Allah. Allah loves those who follow His command and He dislikes those who disobey Him.

The second part of the Shahadah is the declaration that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. He was the one who b, and ask Allah to give him brought the Qur’an to us. Muslims are required to obey the Prophet (PBHUH) and follow his example without hesitation. Muslims are also required to honour and respect him blessings and salutations. Whenever his name is mentioned we must say: Sallallaahu ulayhi wa sallum meaning “Allah’s peace and blessings upon him.”

2. Salah – Prayer

The second pillar of Islam, the salat or prayer

The word "salat" or prayer, written in Arabic calligraphic script

Prayer or Salah is obliguitary on every muslim and they must pray five times a day. “Verily, the prayer is enjoined on the belivers at fixed hours.” [The Holy Qur'an 4:103] It is the distinguishing feature of Islam and the most obvious act which a muslim does to shows his obedience to Allah. A person abandons prayer at the risk of going out of Islam.

When Allah made us, He made us for a purpose and that was to Worship Him and Him alone. “I have only created jinns and men, that they may worship Me.” [The Holy Qur'an 51:56] Praying regularly reminds us of this prupose and bring us closer to Allah thereby preventing us from straying off the right path. “O all you who believe, bow down and prostrate yourselves and worship your Lord, and do good deeds, so that you may be successful.” [The Holy Qur'an 22:77] Theoretical recognition of Allah and saying you believe in your heart is not sufficient. Many people say that they worship God in their ‘own way’ but by taking this view we make ourselves gods and decide how Allah should be worshipped, rather than follow His command.

The five daily prayers have a physical and spiritual nature. They consist of a series of bowings and prostrations together with recitations of the Holy Qur’an and praises of Allah, complemented by personal requests. They are a fusion of body, soul and mind. We start the day with Fajr which is prayed at morning twilight before sunrise; the second prayer is Zuhr, prayed after the sun has passed its zenith or highest point at noon; then at mid-afternoon Asr is payed; Maghrib is prayedafter sunset, and the final prayer of the day is Isha, which is prayer after the onset of night. The five daily prayers reaffirm again and again that we are in the service of Allah. “Verily, in the rememberance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [The Holy Qur'an 13:28]

The Zakat, third pillar of Islam

The word Zakat or charity, one of the pillars of Islam, in Arabic script

3. Zakat – Alms giving

Zakat means purification and growth. Once a year every Muslim above the poverty threshold must give 2.5 % of all his belongings which are not in regular use and wealth which has been allowed to accumulate for a whole year to set categories of recipients, those who are needy or without support. It is way of doing our duty to other Muslims less fortunate to us. Giving zakat reminds a person that his wealth is not his own, but its real owner is Allah. This should make a person ready to spend in accordance with Allah’s Command. “Truly, those who belive and do deeds of righteousness, and perform Salat, and give Zakat, they will have their reward with their Lord, On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [The Holy qur'an 2:277]

Zakat is not tax imposed by Islam, but a due fixed by Allah so that the wealth of a person may be purified. It is an act of worship and purifies the heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. It is a way of showing sympthay to those who are less fortunate. It is also to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. As a result, the society at large; will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.

4. Sawm – Fasting

Ramadan kareem, or blessed Ramadan, in Arabic script

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam

Fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was for those before you, that you may attain piety.” [The Holy qur'an 2:183] Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. Fasting is both a spiritual and physical exersice which allows Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, to atone for their past sins, and to remind them of the needy.

During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, harsh language, gossip and to try to get along with each other better than normal. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. If he does not control himself and avoid evil deeds, his fast will not bring him any benefit nor reward from Allah. Fastiong throughout ramdan trains one to control their desires and strengthen their will-power.

For those whom fasting is dangerous and excessively problematic, fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory, and is even forbidden in some cases. These include pre-pubescent children, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is considered acceptable not to fast are those who are ill or on a travel. Missing fasts usually must be made up soon afterwards, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.

5. Hajj – Pilgrimage

The Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah, one of the pillars of Islam

Hajj or pilgrimage is a pillar of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform once in a lifetime

Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah is obligatory in every muslim who is finicially and physically able to, once in a lifetime. “And Hajj to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses.” [The Holy Qur'an 3:97] No annual event on the face of the globe, religious or non-religious, compares to Hajj in terms of the sheer number of participants, duration of the event and the breadth of agenda. In spite of this fact, it has always remained equally fascinating and mysterious to not only non-Muslims, who are barred from entering the holy city, but also to millions of Muslims, who had not performed Hajj.

At Hajj a number of rituals are carried out which reflect the efforts of Abraham (Ibrahim), peace be with him, who had left his second wife Hajar and her young son Ishmael (Ismail) there in the arid desert, and Allah rewarded Hajar’s struggle to find water with the well of Zamzam, a spring which made the region prosperous and a religious focal point after Ibrahim and Ismail built the Kaabah. There is also the gathering at the plain of Arafat, reminiscent of the even larger gathering to come on the day of judgment.

Hajj is more than a get together of Muslims from all over the globe; it is akin to a virtual reality training camp. Pilgrims leave behind their busy world, dress in simple white sheets of cloth not unlike the ones they will later be buried in, and concentrate on the concept of sacrifice – recalling Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Ismail for Allah. Properly conducted, this simulated journey from this world to the next prepares the pilgrims for the remaining life ahead of them, assisting them in making the right choices and judging their worldly affairs against the standard of the hereafter.

All over the Muslim world the conclusion of Hajj is celebrated with the festival of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, where the meat of a sacrificed animal is shared out between family, friends and the needy, celebrating the fact, that Allah only tested Ibrahim’s willingness, but did not demand of him to give up his son, letting him slaughter a ram instead. Islam thereby categorically rejects the concept of human sacrifice but also emphasises that nothing should be so dear to us that we are not willing to give it up for the sake of Allah. “And proclaim unto mankind the Hajj. … That they may witness things that are of benefit to them.” [The Holy Qur'an 22:27-8]

Adapted from Islam A Brief Guide & Basic Principles of Islam

Images of the Ka’bah, and the Significance of the Ka’bah in Islam

The Ka’bah: the First House of Worship Ever Built, and Dedicated to one God

A Blessed Place

The Ka`bah is the first and the most ancient house of worship ever built for all humankind and it was dedicated to the worship of one God. It is found in the city of Makkah in Arabia, and is surrounded by a mosque known as “Masjid Al-Haram” or The Sacred Mosque, and by a sacred precinct in which no animal may be killed, no plant cut, no weapons borne, and no lost object may be picked up by anyone except with the intention of locating the owner.

Muslims all over the world face toward the Ka’bah in prayer at least five times every day. Also, every capable Muslim is required once in his lifetime to make a pilgrimage known as Hajj to Makkah, and to perform ancient rites of worship to God along with other Muslims from all over the world.

By facing toward the Ka`bah in our prayers, Muslims are stressing the unity of mankind under the Lordship of the One and only God. Moreover, by facing toward the Ka`bah, we are stressing the concept of Allah, the Almighty being the center of our lives.

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

Allah says in the Qur’an;

“The first sanctuary ever built for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples.” (Aal `Imran 3: 96).

Thus, by ordering us to face towards the Ka`bah, we are taken back to our Adamic roots. One of the most essential messages of Islam is to break the barriers such as race, language and ethnicity, etc. that separate human beings from one another by stressing their common origin in Adam and Eve. We need not emphasize the fact that racism is the scourge of humanity in all times. Thus, through its entire teachings, Islam cuts at the root of this menace. It is no wonder then that all of the Islamic rituals of worship stress equality and egalitarianism rather than division and distinction based on caste, clan or status. One of the last messages delivered by the Prophet during his farewell pilgrimage was, “O people, (through Islam) Allah has abolished from your hearts your boasting on your ancestors. Remember all of you are descended from Adam and Adam is created from the dust of the ground.”

Do Muslims Worship the Kabah or the Black Stone?

Islam teaches us to worship one and only God. Unlike all other religions, which tend to revere their founders excessively often to the point of worshiping them, Allah makes the Prophet Muhammad to declare: “I am only a human being like you …”

Therefore, nothing is farther from the truth than stating that Muslims worship the Ka’bah or the black stone, or that they undertake the Pilgrimage (Hajj) to touch the black stone or the Ka`bah. They are going to undertake the Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

While it is true that while going around the Ka`bah, some pilgrims may touch the black stone, doing so is not an integral rite of Hajj. It is therefore totally absurd and incorrect to say that Muslims go to Makkah to touch the stone.

Touching the stone is a mere symbolic act; it is merely intended to symbolize the beginning of the ritual of circumambulation around the Sacred House. In this context, it is worth remembering what the Caliph `Umar said while touching the black stone: “I know for a certain fact that you are simply a stone; you have no power to benefit or harm anyone; if I hadn’t seen the Prophet touching you I wouldn’t have even bothered to touch you.”

We do not attach any importance to this stone other than the fact that it was placed there by Prophet Ibrahim by the order of Allah. So we are merely renewing our memory of the great Prophet, whose faith and sacrifice is celebrated in the rituals of Hajj.

Do Muslims Turn to “The East” in Prayer?

This is a common misconception. In reality, it is not correct to say that Muslims always turn to the East; rather they always turn towards the Ka`bah while performing their prayers, and its precise direction may be different, depending on where we are located in the world.

The Unity of Humankind

The Ka`bah is the first and the most ancient house of worship ever built for all of humankind and dedicated to the worship of one God. So by facing toward the Ka`bah in our prayers, we are stressing the unity of humankind under the Lordship of the One and only God. Moreover, by facing toward the Ka`bah, we are stressing the idea of centrality of God in our life.

Excerpted, with slight modifications, from:

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