New Muslim/convert/revert survival guide
First things first, the whole debate of which is the correct term to use: convert or revert.
It really is a pain in the lower pelvis!
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said,
كل مولود يولد على الفطرة فأبواه يهودانه أو ينصرانه أو يمجسانه
“Every child is born upon fitra then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or a fire worshipper.”
The hadith talks about the person’s innate state, which is called fitra. A person fitra state is to believe in God/Allah and in the world believe in the Messenger is added. This depends on the time that they are born and the Messenger/Prophet who was alive or whose message was present in that time. This fitra belief system is innate in human being. It can be covered up by the affects of their environment but it is never fully removed. So the term revert is not correct because the declaration of faith/shahada affirms monotheism and Prophethood. Yet the indication here is that there is no affirmation of Prophethood because that was dependent on the time in which the person was born.
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفاً فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“So be firm in directing oneself to the pure religion; the nature/fitra that Allah created people upon does not change; there is no changing the creation of Allah; this is the ancient religion yet most of the people do not know.”
Be firm, meaning make your entire purpose, to religion, purify your religion for the sake of Allah; according to Sa’ed ibn Jubayr. Hanafiya meaning pure monotheism that was taught by all prophets. Fitra does not change and this according to the above is unchangeable.
أَلَسْتَ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى
(Allah the Exalted said) “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes you are.”
Allah (the Exalted) gathered humankind and Jinn then asked then if He was not their Lord and they replied yes. Therefore, this is the innate fitra of monotheism and with the seed of belief with the Prophet of their time.
So can you call someone a revert? A revert linguistically means returning to a previous state. A convert is moving to another state. Here is the confusing thing that either term has some proof to it. They convert by adding Prophethood and they revert to their previous monotheist state. Both have some truth but I would rather drop both terms from common usage. Why? I feel it has become a derogatory term to refer to those who are not ethnic Muslims. They were not born Muslims from Muslim parents. When someone has accepted Islam then there is no need to ‘label’ them with either term. That person is Muslim now and none of the rest of the revert and covert debate is worth having. Yet we will look into some proofs about this and see where this leads us.
This verse is also a proof against any of the aforementioned group claiming there is no god because they have already admitted it before they were created! So they have no excuse, even if the message has not reached them. Please read article about Dawah.
You could call those who have just entered Islam as new Muslims but even this term is strange. So why not drop them both.
This is the most important part of Muslims life. Especially someone who has just entered Islam. You will soon learn (after reading a single book) that you have more knowledge than most born Muslims. Partly because many Muslims are not interested in learning and have not attained any interest during their formative years. Rather than look down on such people you should try to spread your knowledge because pride is like pouring acid over ones knowledge.
You need to learn a lot, so be prepared for the important things that I will tell you. Know that there are many groups and they all have different opinions. So this will confuse you a lot and there is nothing you can do about it. I know there should not be so many fragments but here we are. Stick to the majority who are the Sunnis and even then know that most disagree. Learn from the person who explains things to you, rather than tries to indoctrinate you.
Take your time
Do not rush anything that you have to do. First get one prayer (of the five obligatory prayers) right then when you are ready add another until you get all five in. Then add witr (wajib – after Isha) and then the following Sunnahs: two before Fajr, four before Zuhr, and then whatever Sunnah you wish to add. Do not rush to do all the prayers at once. For most people it will scare them and they will not be able to hack it. It is not a race it is a marathon – so take it slowly. Be the tortoise not the hare.
Find a teacher of one the four schools of Sunni law (Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki or Hanbali) and then try to study aquida Tahawiyyah (few times). Do not be sacred to ask a question, I know many are. Apply knowledge slowly too and do not rush. Satan is the one who makes you rush into doing many good things at once. Then when you get tired, you run out of energy! So now, you cannot do anything and that is what he always wanted.
Early on in Islam, wine was prohibited when approaching prayer and then it was from everything. If one is addicted to alcohol or even pork, then try substitutes and give them up. I am not saying that they are allowed because you have to give up. What you should do is allow new Muslims to make mistakes and allow them time to remove the unlawful.
Know that a Muslim who commits a major sin is still a Muslim according the majority of scholars. So if a new Muslim drinks, then give them time and room to quit. If a Muslim commits major sin then you should do your best to refrain yourselves and remove the haram from their lives one at a time.
Please click here for an article on halal and haram.
Allow yourself time to grow into the religion. Things like prayer are paramount but do not think that you have to change your clothes! You may have to modify them, depending if you are a male or female. Clothes should be modest, cover ones nakedness (appropriate to your gender) so not flesh is exposed. Women are obligated to wear hijab but its more than that. Please click here for article on hijab.
This is very difficult for women to do. Mostly because of the added attention that they will get from Muslim men. Muslim men, for some reason, look more at women with hijabs that those without, stop it. Leave them alone. Take your time with hijab and when you are ready go for it. You could also wear other fashionable headwear that fulfils its purpose, in the time being.
Now, this is where the mistakes are made. I would recommend that new Muslims should avoid marriage for at least two years or until they are firm in religion. This is especially for women and maybe not so much for the men. Do not worry there will be plenty of suitors for you. The females have to be extra careful because there men dreaming of marrying a new Muslim women. Some will go to many lengths to do this. By feigning righteousness and wealth, to achieve their goal. You, as a female, need to take a friend with you, even one of your families and meet in a public place. Take your time and chose someone who is right for your religious level or someone who inspires you. Meet them over a long period and if you get married do it within English law too. Do not marry the first dribbling man that comes to you. Marry the one who is not going to die if you are not going to marry him! Maybe that is an exaggeration but women need to be careful. Click here to see advice about marriage.
Inevitably, you are marrying into a family, so this might be more difficult for you that you might expect. Even if the man you are marrying is open minded, it does not mean that his parents are. Often born Muslims do many things that they are not allowed to, so bear this in mind when you spend time with the dreaded in-laws!
You still have to maintain family ties with your parents and have them meet families. Yusuf Islam accepted the choice of his mother, who was non-Muslim, for his future wife.
Culture is something that will crop up repeatedly, if you marry an ethnic Muslim. I personally think new Muslims should marry each other and support each other. As they can understand what each other has been through. I also think there is greater chance of success in maintaining a successful marriage. Marriage is difficult enough without additional difficulties.
This is another potential banana skin. This is one reason why I would recommend new Muslims marry each other because there is no culture clash. This can be positive or negative depending on whatever background your spouse is from.
Often Islam says one thing and culture dictates something else and its not as clear as it should be. If you are near the indo-pak community then expect invites to spicy food, so keep a glass of water handy, or should that be a jug? Most families are welcoming but you might find some individuals who are not. Thats a sad fact of life.
Others might expect you to dress in a certain way or into traditional dress of their people. Halal clothes are any clothes that are not see thru, tight, and protect one from the elements. Now that my tribe has the only halal clothes and so on.
There are also cultural scholars who are the worst type of speakers. I do not consider them scholars if they belittle knowledge. They are often narrow minded, how strange!
Some uneducated people think the only Muslim people are they own tribe. Substitute the word tribe for any race or nationality of Muslim. Some may even say one cannot be Muslim if they belong to western race. Which is course racism and its totally unlawful in Islam. Anyone from any background can become Muslim, their past does not matter. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) disliked any nationalism, and the only way that one Muslim was better than other was by peity/Taqwa. Not all culture is bad but all religion is good.
Your Parents and siblings
This is a different one because many parents will not be able to understand why their children have become Muslims. They are might even see it as treason.
In any case, they need time to get used to the change, so try to be kind. This might be more difficult for some and less difficult for others. However, a good parent will want to see their children happy. Therefore, if they see happy then another religion will not seem so bad. This is a difficult transition for both sides, so bear that in mind.
One of my friends said that they should not tell their parents until later. Rather make a slow transition like becoming vegetarian. Let them find out by seeing a change in you, instead of telling them. Leave a prayer matt out, show your parents more respect and so on. This can be more positive for you. I have heard of parents throwing their kids out and even disowning them. One parent is normally more receptive than the other.
Now you have made the change then continue on this path. You have made the correct choice. There will be better days than others. You will come across shocking things. Many Muslims do not live up to expectations. Do not be surprised about how bad things are. You will not find that perfect Muslim, so keep your hopes in Allah (the Exalted) strong.
The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Islam severs that which is before it.” (Reported by Imam Ahmad in Al-Musnad, 4:199.)
Know that when anyone accepts Islam then their sins are all removed except monies owed to people.
They normally get two rewards: one for following previous religion and now for following Islam. You will struggle for a while, especially at the beginning, but things will become clearer after a while. Take your time and welcome to your new life.