Congratulations, if you have made it this far in your journey and my prayers that you will remain steadfast as you progress along this path of Islam throughout your life. Long after the chants of Allahu Akbar die down if you had the opportunity to witness your faith at a masjid in front of other Muslims or silently at home with only Allah and the angels to witness like I did, it is possible that you might see some of what I’ve seen and experienced. Here are some convert survival tips drawn from my own experience:
I came in like most converts wide-eyed, with an open heart, and ready to learn about and accept my chosen faith. I read voraciously about Islam before and after my conversion. I read everything from different translations of the Quran, books giving an overview of Islam, books about iman (faith), aqeedah (theology), hadith to books on sale in Christian bookstores full of untruths and distortions by “ex-Muslims” to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. As for the latter, I had read Rushdie’s book while in high school trying to make sense of the furor around it and rather enjoyed his unique literary style. It was only later, upon re-reading as a Muslim with some basic understanding of the faith that the blasphemous passages became more clear. My advice to anyone, read as much as you can, not only the “approved” books but whatever piques your interest, and you might learn a lot by reading that which others try to tell you to avoid. Always look critically to what is excluded from your masjid’s library, bookstore, or curriculum, and you’ll learn a lot about what they really believe and often like to present as a universal or “more authentic” expression of Islam.
Don’t Accept Opinions & Views Uncritically
It took me almost a year or two to cautiously begin navigating the Muslim community through my regular attendance at various mosques in the area including the ones my well-meaning friends never told me about including the smaller offshoot masajid, the Ahmadiyya and shia mosques as well. What an eye-opener to the different expressions and manifestations of Islam. Now, this is not theology class where we scrutinize our own beliefs and the beliefs of others, it’s just about being open to learning about our fellow human beings. Don’t fall into the trap of demonizing without critical thought and reflection. Learn and if you don’t know, just be quiet, don’t add fuel to the fire. I seriously doubt that anyone’s iman goes up from attacking others and it most likely will only serve to coarsen your manners and harden your heart. Although, there can be benefit in clarifying issues related to belief.
I’ve always been inquisitive by nature, I actually consider this a blessing, the same inquisitiveness that caused me to read my older siblings history textbooks while still in elementary school cover to cover led me to want to find out about the religion of Islam through reading the Quran after 9/11. And it is this same spirit of inquiry, which causes me to ask questions, sometimes even the hard questions, in reflecting upon the situation of our communities today.
To be honest, even though I didn’t entirely lose my inquisitiveness after accepting Islam through my interactions with other Muslims, I subdued that part of me along with my penchant for asking questions especially in classes (is the voice awrah or not?), and my own individuality to fit in with the prevailing mood of the community. Lower your voice sister, lower your voice, don’t laugh, brothers are walking by. Continue reading