Archive for March, 2011

Why Do People Leave Each Other?

When I was 17 years old, I had a dream. I dreamt that I was sitting inside a masjid and a little girl walked up to ask me a question. She asked me: “Why do people have to leave each other?” The question was a personal one, but it seemed clear to me why the question was chosen for me.

I was one to get attached.

Ever since I was a child, this temperament was clear. While other children in preschool could easily recover once their parents left, I could not. My tears, once set in motion, did not stop easily. As I grew up, I learned to become attached to everything around me. From the time I was in first grade, I needed a best friend. As I got older, any fall-out with a friend shattered me. I couldn’t let go of anything. People, places, events, photographs, moments—even outcomes became objects of strong attachment. If things didn’t work out the way I wanted or imagined they should, I was devastated. And disappointment for me wasn’t an ordinary emotion. It was catastrophic. Once let down, I never fully recovered. I could never forget, and the break never mended. Like a glass vase that you place on the edge of a table, once broken, the pieces never quite fit again.

But the problem wasn’t with the vase. Or even that the vases kept breaking. The problem was that I kept putting them on the edge of tables. Through my attachments, I was dependent on my relationships to fulfill my needs. I allowed those relationships to define my happiness or my sadness, my fulfillment or my emptiness, my security, and even my self-worth. And so, like the vase placed where it will inevitably fall, through those dependencies I set myself up for disappointment. I set myself up to be broken. And that’s exactly what I found: one disappointment, one break after another.

But the people who broke me were not to blame any more than gravity can be blamed for breaking the vase. We can’t blame the laws of physics when a twig snaps because we leaned on it for support. The twig was never created to carry us.

Our weight was only meant to be carried by God. We are told in the Quran: “…whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.” (Qur’an 2: 256)

There is a crucial lesson in this verse: that there is only one handhold that never breaks. There is only one place where we can lay our dependencies. There is only one relationship that should define our self-worth and only one source from which to seek our ultimate happiness, fulfillment, and security. That place is God.

But this world is all about seeking those things everywhere else. Some of us seek it in our careers, some seek it in wealth, some in status. Some, like me, seek it in our relationships. In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her own quest for happiness. She describes moving in and out of relationships, and even traveling the globe in search of this fulfillment. She seeks that fulfillment—unsuccessfully—in her relationships, in meditation, even in food.

And that’s exactly where I spent much of my own life: seeking a way to fill my inner void. So it was no wonder that the little girl in my dream asked me this question. It was a question about loss, about disappointment. It was a question about being let down. A question about seeking something and coming back empty handed. It was about what happens when you try to dig in concrete with your bare hands: not only do you come back with nothing—you break your fingers in the process. And I learned this not by reading it, not by hearing it from a wise sage. I learned it by trying it again, and again, and again.

And so, the little girl’s question was essentially my own question…being asked to myself.

Ultimately, the question was about the nature of the dunya as a place of fleeting moments and temporary attachments. As a place where people are with you today, and leave or die tomorrow. But this reality hurts our very being because it goes against our nature. We, as humans, are made to seek, love, and strive for what is perfect and what is permanent. We are made to seek what’s eternal. We seek this because we were not made for this life. Our first and true home was Paradise: a land that is both perfect and eternal. So the yearning for that type of life is a part of our being. The problem is that we try to find that here. And so we create ageless creams and cosmetic surgery in a desperate attempt to hold on—in an attempt to mold this world into what it is not, and will never be.

And that’s why if we live in dunya with our hearts, it breaks us. That’s why this dunya hurts. It is because the definition of dunya, as something temporary and imperfect, goes against everything we are made to yearn for. Allah put a yearning in us that can only be fulfilled by what is eternal and perfect. By trying to find fulfillment in what is fleeting, we are running after a hologram…a mirage. We are digging into concrete with our bare hands. Seeking to turn what is by its very nature temporary into something eternal is like trying to extract from fire, water.  You just get burned. Only when we stop putting our hopes in dunya, only when we stop trying to make the dunya into what it is not—and was never meant to be (jannah)—will this life finally stop breaking our hearts.

We must also realize that nothing happens without a purpose. Nothing. Not even broken hearts. Not even pain. That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. That we need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more dunya hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it.

And pain is a pointer to our attachments. That which makes us cry, that which causes us most pain is where our false attachments lie. And it is those things which we are attached to as we should only be attached to Allah which become barriers on our path to God. But the pain itself is what makes the false attachment evident. The pain creates a condition in our life that we seek to change, and if there is anything about our condition that we don’t like, there is a divine formula to change it. God says: “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)

After years of falling into the same pattern of disappointments and heartbreak, I finally began to realize something profound. I had always thought that love of dunya meant being attached to material things. And I was not attached to material things. I was attached to people. I was attached to moments. I was attached to emotions. So I thought that the love of dunya just did not apply to me. What I didn’t realize was that people, moments, emotions are all a part of dunya. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain I had experienced in life was due to one thing, and one thing only: love of dunya.

As soon as I began to have that realization, a veil was lifted from my eyes. I started to see what my problem was. I was expecting this life to be what it is not, and was never meant to be: perfect. And being the idealist that I am, I was struggling with every cell in my body to make it so. It had to be perfect. And I would not stop until it was. I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to this endeavor: making the dunya into jannah. This meant expecting people around me to be perfect. Expecting my relationships to be perfect. Expecting so much from those around me and from this life. Expectations. Expectations. Expectations. And if there is one recipe for unhappiness it is that: expectations. But herein lay my fatal mistake. My mistake was not in having expectations; as humans, we should never lose hope. The problem was in *where* I was placing those expectations and that hope. At the end of the day, my hope and expectations were not being placed in God. My hope and expectations were in people, relationships, means. Ultimately, my hope was in this dunya rather than Allah.

And so I came to realize a very deep Truth. An ayah began to cross my mind. It was an ayah I had heard before, but for the first time I realized that it was actually describing me:  “Those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, but are pleased and satisfied with the life of the present, and those who heed not Our Signs.” (Qur’an, 10:7)

By thinking that I can have everything here, my hope was not in my meeting with God. My hope was in dunya. But what does it mean to place your hope in dunya? How can this be avoided? It means when you have friends, don’t expect your friends to fill your emptiness. When you get married, don’t expect your spouse to fulfill your every need. When you’re an activist, don’t put your hope in the results. When you’re in trouble don’t depend on yourself. Don’t depend on people. Depend on God.

Seek the help of people—but realize that it is not the people (or even your own self) that can save you. Only Allah can do these things. The people are only tools, a means used by God. But they are not the source of help, aid, or salvation of any kind. Only God is. The people cannot even create the wing of a fly (22:73).  And so, even while you interact with people externally, turn your heart towards God. Face Him alone, as Prophet Ibrahim (as) said so beautifully: “For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” (Qur’an, 6:79)

But how did Prophet Ibrahim (as) come to that point? He came to it after being let down by other than Allah: the stars, the moon, and the sun. They were not perfect. They set.

They let him down.

So he was thereby led to face Allah alone. Like prophet Ibrahim (as), we need to put our full hope, trust, and dependency on God. And God alone. And if we do that, we will learn what it means to finally find peace and stability of heart. Only then will the roller coaster that once defined our lives finally come to an end. That is because if our inner state is dependent on something that is by definition inconstant, that inner state will also be inconstant. If our inner state is dependent on something changing and temporary, that inner state will be in a constant state of instability, agitation, and unrest. This means that one moment we’re happy, but as soon as that which our happiness depended upon changes, our happiness also changes. And we become sad. We remain always swinging from one extreme to another and not realizing why.

We experience this emotional roller coaster because we can never find stability and lasting peace until our attachment and dependency is on what is stable and lasting. How can we hope to find constancy if what we hold on to is inconstant and perishing? In the statement of Abu Bakr is a deep illustration of this truth. After the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ died, the people went into shock and could not handle the news. But although no one loved the Prophet ﷺ like Abu Bakr, Abu Bakr understood well the only place where one’s dependency should lie. He said: “If you worshipped Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead. But if you worshipped Allah, know that Allah never dies.”

To attain that state, don’t let your source of fulfillment be anything other than your relationship with God. Don’t let your definition of success, failure, or self-worth be anything other than your position with Him (Qur’an, 49:13). And if you do this, you become unbreakable, because your handhold is unbreakable. You become unconquerable, because your supporter can never be conquered. And you will never become empty, because your source of fulfillment is unending and never diminishes.

Looking back at the dream I had when I was 17, I wonder if that little girl was me. I wonder this because the answer I gave her was a lesson I would need to spend the next painful years of my life learning. My answer to her question of why people have to leave each other was: “because this life isn’t perfect; for if it was, what would the next be called?”

Courtesy of Yasmin Mogahed and

Blind in Broad Daylight

Thousands of men were killed in Gaddafi’s prisons, and many more were tortured. Prisoners of conscience were placed under inhumane conditions and treated with far more severity than actual criminals.  These harsh experiences, like any difficulty, expose people’s weaknesses and strengths and highlight the value of blessings often taken for granted.

Below is an account I received first-hand from a Libyan man’s experiences in Gaddafi’s prisons. An alternate name was used to protect his real identity. He was rounded up in 1989, along with hundreds of other young men. They were all imprisoned indefinitely, and without trial. All communication with family was cut off for the first 2 years. The imprisoned men came from various educational, ideological, and social backgrounds. The only common factor was that they were independent thinkers or had inquisitive minds and loved to read, or that they were associated with one of the afore mentioned groups. Guilt by association was the law. During the first two years of imprisonment, Gaddafi’s regime did not differentiate between any of the prisoners – they were all tortured equally. Afterwards, some of the more “dangerous” prisoners were kept under harsh treatment, while others of lesser “crimes” were given more privileges and relative comforts.

Muhammad Ali spent 6 years in Gaddafi’s prisons, from 1989-1995. Muhammad described his experience:

“We were placed in underground cells where we did not see sunlight for 2 years [straight]. The only way we could keep track of time was by hearing the athan (call to prayer) from a local mosque. Even in the cells we were kept in, there was no light. Sometimes there was a faint light from the hall way, but they mostly kept us in complete darkness, and often in isolation.

Different forms of torture were practiced on us, including severe whipping, blindfolding and gang-beating, and forcing prisoners to sleep on ice-cold cement floor during the winter without covers or blankets. Some of the infamous practices included lifting the prisoner upside down and whipping his feet until they were so swollen and torn that he could not walk for weeks or months. Other practices included hanging prisoners up by their arms or tying them up to the cell bars for days on end such that their arms would become stiff in that position and they could not move their arms for days or weeks after being released [from that position].

We were starved and given just enough food to keep us from dying. … After two years of this harsh treatment, they were planning to allow family visits and calls, but they needed to fatten us up before our families saw us because they knew families would be horrified if they saw their sons in the state we were in. To fatten us up, they gave each man half a loaf of bread every day. [That was his only meal the entire day.] Inmates were so excited: They were actually feeding us! They also started allowing us to go out into the sunlight for 1-2 hours every week…

While undergoing all of this torture, the prisoners were not allowed access to any books, especially the Holy Qur’an… We had one smuggled copy of the Qur’an that we shared on the prison floor that had a total of 180 prisoners… The copy was not our usual-looking, bound copy of the mus-haf, but rather pieces of papers rolled up in a way that can be smuggled from cell to cell. Each prisoner had only a few hours at a time with this mus-haf before it had to be passed on to the next inmate. Those few hours were his chance to read as much as he wanted to or memorize as much as he could, for this dose of Qur’an would have to keep him going for another couple of weeks [of underground torture and starvation until his turn came around again with the smuggled-in mus-haf.]

Prisoners started teaching each other the verses they knew. They shared whatever education they had with their inmates. Many of the prisoners were language, humanities and science professors, so many of the inmates learned foreign languages and material that would qualify them to get a college degree in various fields. The prisoners also included scholars in the Islamic sciences: Qur’an, Hadith, fiqh, and tafsir. I memorized a quarter of the Qur’an in 2 different qiraa’ahs and learned how to read a third. I memorized hadith with sanad and got ijazahs in the qiraa’ahs and classical books… Many of my inmates encouraged me to finish memorizing the entire Qur’an. I could have easily done that, but I chose not to because I knew that once I was released from prison and got back into normal life routine, I would not be able to maintain my memorization. So I stuck with the quarter of Yaasin because I could maintain it even after my release…”

Subhanallah, how many copies of the Qur’an do we have in our homes, bags and purses, cars, computers, phones and ipods? And yet, how do we appreciate the words of Allah? Do we take advantage of having easy access to the Qur’an by reading it daily and learning its meanings.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) said, “Two blessings many people are envied for are health and free time.” (Tirmidhi)

The prisoners in Libya took advantage of blessings we take for granted: time, moments of comfort and knowledge. They learned from the various scholars and professors whenever they could. How seriously do we take our studies? What is the ratio of time we spend on studying and on entertainment or other distractions? We have comfort, health, and free time. How do we use them?

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation, and your life before your death.” (Sahih according to Hakim)

Also, narrated Abu Burzah al-Aslami that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “The feet of a slave [of Allah] will not move on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about his age and how he finished it, about his knowledge and what he did with it, and about his money, how did he earn it and how he spent it.” (Tirmidhi, Hasan Sahih).

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (Glorified is He) has granted Muslims around the world, and especially in the West many opportunities to learn and earn a comfortable living. As American Muslims, we enjoy freedoms and privileges that many of our brothers and sisters elsewhere aspire to achieve. With these privileges comes a responsibility to utilize our time and resources in the best manner that pleases Allah (swt).

Unfortunately, sometimes we are blind to the blessings we have: the freedom to choose what to do every morning, the blessing of feeling the warmth of the sun in the daytime and seeing the serene moonlight at night, the ability to attend classes in colleges and institutes, masajid (mosques) and halaqas (study circles). Taking a moment to remember the less fortunate helps us recognize Allah’s bounties on us and strengthen our determination to continue seeking His pleasure. It is also a reminder to us: Do we need to be forced into extreme hardship before learning to benefit from the opportunities around us? Or will we be from the saabiqoon (forerunners) who take advantage of Allah’s blessings on us to develop ourselves and our societies, despite the distractions of society and the desires of our self?

“Do they think that what We extend to them of wealth and children Is [because] We hasten for them good things? Rather, they do not perceive. Indeed, they who are apprehensive from fear of their Lord And they who believe in the signs of their Lord And they who do not associate anything with their Lord And they who give what they give while their hearts are fearful because they will be returning to their Lord – It is those who hasten to good deeds, and they outstrip [others] therein. And We charge no soul except [with that within] its capacity, and with Us is a record which speaks with truth; and they will not be wronged.” (Qur’an, 23:55-62)

We ask Allah to alleviate the pain and oppression our brothers and sisters face around the world, and we ask Him to make us from His righteous and thankful servants

Courtesy of Assma Elkabti and

Why Am I Being Tested?

Developing Our Relationship with Allah

In July 2006, I was watching the news report on Israel’s devastating attack on Lebanon. As I saw the images of severed bodies and heard the cries for help, the frustration and helplessness I felt was overwhelming. So I decided to pray while reciting from the mus’haf (hardcopy of the Qur’an, which is the word of God). As I was reading, I arrived at the verse:

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” [Qur’an, 2:214]

And that was the answer. As human beings, we will be tested. But this doesn’t mean that we are going to live our lives in perpetual hardship, because ‘unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.’ So what does it mean when we are going through hardship? Is Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) angry with us? What if there is no way out?

Whenever we go through hardship, there are things we need to know with certainty. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an:

“[…] Allah will bring about, after hardship, ease.” [Qur’an, 65:7]

Certain hardships are so consuming that we cannot focus on anything but the difficulty. But we have to remember that if we were to enumerate the blessings of Allah (swt), we would not be able to count them. Reminding ourselves of the other blessings in our lives helps us to see the test within the context of the grand scheme of things. Just the fact that you can make sajda (prostration), and call out, “O Allah!” is a blessing that surpasses all others.

But why?

There is a purpose behind the trial, and this purpose corresponds to our internal state and our relationship with Allah (swt). Allah (swt) has 99 Beautiful Names, and it should suffice us to know that He is the Most Merciful, the Most Just and the Most Wise. Your test is not being put upon you by a random being, but by the Almighty Allah, who is closer to us than our jugular vein.

Tests are a way to purify us. The Prophet ﷺ said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that,”  [Bukhari]. Our ultimate aim is to earn Allah’s pleasure and Jannah (paradise), and all of us fall short in truly worshiping Allah (swt) as He should be worshiped. Many of us fail to ask for forgiveness regularly, or to reflect on our state and return to Allah (swt). These tests, as burdensome as they are, ease our burden on the Day of Judgment, if we respond with patience.

Trials also have a way of reminding us of our purpose. If we are far from Allah (swt), the test is usually to bring us close to Him. Whatever heedlessness we are engaging in, the test should make us realize we have no one, no one at all, but Him.

Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi related a story about a man in Syria. This man would always mock Islam. He thought people who ‘wasted their time’ praying were silly. No matter how much da’wah (calling, used to refer to inviting people to learn about Islam) the sheikh gave him, the man remained in this state. He then had a daughter, and this daughter became very sick. He went to so many doctors, even traveling abroad to Europe, but no one could help him. After that, he started praying and turning to Allah (swt). Years later, his daughter was better and healthy. Both his dunya (this life) and akhira (the next life) were saved.

If we are close to Allah (swt), it is to test our resilience. Are we only close to Allah (swt) in times of ease, or does our trust extend to the times of hardship? When we are tested, do we leave the good deeds that we used to do? Allah (swt) describes such people in the following verse:

“And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is reassured by it; but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face [to the other direction]. He has lost [this] world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss.” [Qur’an, 22:11]

This may seem counter-intuitive, but tests are also out of Allah’s love. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When Allah loves a servant, He tests him,” [Tirmidhi]. In a hadith qudsi (a hadith relating the words of Allah [swt]), Allah (swt) tells Jibreel to delay the response to the du`a’ of a servant because Allah (swt) loves hearing his voice [Tabarani]. Sometimes the answer to a test is that need for Allah (swt), those long hours spent in the night, and the tears of sincerity.

May Allah (swt) make us of those who constantly turn to Him, in hardship and ease.


Courtesy of Jinan Bastaki at

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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