This Question was asked by one of our sisters who recently converted to Islam. Maasha-Allah! May Allah grant her patience and ease in learning. It is a great achievement when you choose to embrace Islam and give up the misguidance in which you had grown up. We welcome you as a new sister in Islam.
The learning curve is one of the struggles new Muslims face today. Just like learning anything, it can seem very difficult at the beginning when you are pumped about embracing your new found faith.
But, you don’t have to know everything before you become a practicing Muslim. You learn as you practice Insha-Allah. Right from the moment you take the Shahadah, you are no longer that person you use to be, but a new person who we can only refer to as a Muslim.
So at this particular moment, anything you know about Islam should be applied in your everyday life. Even if it’s only “Bismillah” that you know, please put it into practice. Say it whenever you are to do something. And keep learning gradually with prayers.
But the message I will like to present before all new Muslims is that, you should not base your faith on your feelings. It is nice to feel good though. But good feelings don’t prove that you are guided. There may be times when you feel Allah’s love and closeness to you. And there may also be times when you feel so disconnected from Him.
That’s why you shouldn’t base your faith on your feelings. No matter how your feelings turn out to be, just have it in mind that Allah is always near as he stated in the Glorious Quran:
“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein” – (Quran – 50:16)
You may also experience doubts!
This is a common thing among new Muslims. But most of the time, it is influenced by the environment in which we find ourselves.
Yet, you should be reminded that in this world man passes through great tests and trials, which require him to be patient and steadfast and to stand firm until the day he dies.
“O man! Verily, you are returning towards your Lord with your deeds and actions (good or bad), a sure returning, and you will meet (the results of your deeds which you did)” – (Quran 84:6)
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One of the trials with which believers are tested is the enjoining of obligations and duties such as prayer (Salaat), Fasting (Sawm), Poor due (Zakat), Pilgrimage (Hajj) and other acts of worships.
And the things that believers are deprived of doing include lying, cheating, adultery, homosexuality and all other forbidden things.
Why are we tested?
This is to see the sincere believer who respects Allah’s commands, so that He/She may be granted Paradise, and the hypocrite and liar who refuse to obey Allah, so that they may be punished.
Below are more tips on a step by step guide for all new Muslims around the globe.
Make a Learning Plan
Insha-Allah, if you make a game plan for your learning, you will succeed. We must be adamant in our learning process, as Islam is a way of life, not just a belief we hold and then neglect to implement it into our lives.
What knowledge to seek first, and what to avoid? This is the big question.
Muslims should have a clear understanding of the five pillars of Islam, and articles of faith, with an emphasis on prayer and Tawheed (oneness of Allah). Once you have these fundamentals covered, move on to other topics. The next suggested things one should learn is about living as a Muslim, such as manners and other things that involve your everyday living.
Reading the Quran is vital since it is our guidebook for everything in our lives. When you are reading the Quran, you may find verses that you get hung on. If you have the Tafseer (Quran commentary), then it can shed a lot of insight on confusing or unclear verses. You can read the Tafseer of the Quran here.
The seerah (biography of the Prophet Muhammad) is also an excellent source of a vast amount of knowledge. You will find almost every topic in it, and it will also give you the understanding behind certain aspects of practices.
Otherwise, you will just be reading, or told a bunch of rules and feel that it is too complicated to remember it all. If you know the history behind things, you are more likely to remember things and implement them naturally and easily.
The book called “The Sealed Nectar” is widely known, and is the most recommended especially amongst English speaking Muslims.
What should you avoid?
Avoid sectarian issues. It will only confuse you in the beginning. If you are not knowledgeable about mainstream Islam, you will never be able to comprehend the sectarian divisions and make sense of it all and will be left confused and lost.
Study mainstream Islam according to Quran and Sunnah until you have developed vast knowledge before delving into such matters, otherwise, you will not be able to identify things that are incorrect.
Another thing that is not of urgent importance is learning Arabic. Islam is not about how well you can read, write, and speak Arabic. The Quran was revealed in Arabic, so it should be a long term goal we have to learn it, but focus on the major aspects and then gradually start learning Arabic.
You will not be “more or less Muslim” if you don’t know Arabic. The Quran is available in practically every language of the world, so start with that.
Handling Advice and Instruction from Others
As a new Muslim, nothing is worse than a bunch of people shoving information down your throat faster than you can absorb and implement it. It is bound to happen, so be prepared for it, and take it with a grain of salt.
Most people are just over-excited to know a new Muslim and want to make sure they learn as much as they can.
You will always encounter some people, what Muslims have coined “the haram police”. They often forget you are still learning the basics, and don’t know many things.
They tend to spout “haram, haram” about small things frequently and don’t realize how it can make a person feel judged and criticized. Ignore it, and take their efforts as sincere intentions, and don’t let it bother you if you can’t adhere to everything they tell you immediately. They usually just want to make sure you do your best.
Lastly, you have the people that have the “holier than though attitude”. These sorts of people are the ones that have the most damaging effect on a new Muslim. They will tell you something, and if you question it, or can’t bring yourself to implement whatever it is immediately, they will turn their nose up at you and tell you things that make you feel like you are a bad Muslim, or not good enough to be Muslim.
Ignore this because it is easy for people to criticize others than to criticize themselves, and more often than not, they have lots of work to do on themselves. Don’t let these people bring you down.
Structured and Non-Structured Forms of Instruction
In non-Muslim societies, finding sources of instruction can either be fairly easy to find, or extremely difficult depending on where you live, and if you live in a densely populated area, or a rural location. The more densely populated cities tend to have masjids, or Islamic centers, while the rural areas do not.
If you have an Islamic center or a masjid in your area, it is very crucial that you go as soon as you are able. Once you go, inquire about classes and lectures they may offer, whether it is for new Muslims or the general Muslim community at large. There are usually regular study circles called “halaqas” that you would never know about unless you asked.
I advise not to depend on just sending emails or making phone calls, because more often than not, you may not get a reply or answer. Take action and make the effort to go in person.
The times of the day where you are most likely to find the correct people to inquire about these matters is between Maghrib and Isha’. Or on Fridays just before, or just after Jummah prayer. Speak to the Imam or the office administrator to get the most information, rather than just random visitors of the masjid.
Don’t despair if you are in a rural area! Many new Muslims in rural areas tend to learn about Islam at a much slower pace due to resources available to them locally.
If you are in a rural area, the most advisable thing to do is move to a larger city where there is a Muslim population if you are able to. If not, there is still hope for you! You should contact Muslim organizations like WhyIslam in the USA and iERA in the UK. They can send you information, books, CDs, DVDs, and many other things to help you. They usually have operators taking phone calls from people as well if you have questions.
The internet has lots of information, but make sure you ask a respected scholar, or an Imam at a masjid (even if it is just a phone call made), to ask them what websites and books they recommend to you to learn about specific topics.
Excellent websites I recommend is this and this. They have a syllabus and lessons that are structured with the important matters in a go-at-your-own-pace structure that is highly effective in teaching you what you need, and in the order you need it.
Stay positive, and stay steady in your learning process, and you will find yourself gaining knowledge without realizing it Insha-Allah.
“For him who embarks on the path of seeking knowledge, Allah will ease for him the way to paradise” (Muslim).
Over time, you will find all the pieces of the puzzle we call Islam, falling into their appropriate places.
“O you, who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful. – Quran 3:200].
May Allah protect you and guide you in your learning. Amen.