R'11 Day Twelve: Welcome to Islam
1. Don't feel pressured to jump into everything Islam-related!
When someone first joins Islam, is it extremely easy to jump into every single Islamic practice all at once. The concern here is (a) you may not know WHY these practices are in place, which may lead to (b) getting overwhelmed and confused and stopping everything all at once and falling back to square zero! Converts who use such an approach often leave Islam after a while, so you want to ensure that you take things slowly but surely :)
2. Build up background knowledge about Islam while dabbling in religious practices.
One perspective I realized recently is that I need to know the reason WHY I am ordained to complete a certain religious practice before my heart is fully into completing it. So for example, why do Muslims complete five daily prayers? What are the reasons for fasting for 30 days in Ramadan? (umm, not continuously by the way!! lol) And why are women asked to cover their hair and bodies? The more we understand the reasons behind these actions, the more likely we are to complete them with the right intentions :)
3. For religious practices that seem overwhelming, tackle one at a time and take a graded approach.
I have no doubt that once you've decided to embrace Islam, it can seem a little overwhelming and you wonder 'where do I start?!'. Praying five times a day; attending a public prayer at a mosque; learning Arabic greetings which Muslims exchange with one another; etc. To be honest, I think it's best to tackle major practices one at a time. And use your learning style to your advantage! If you're someone who needs to jump into things hands on, like I am, then you'll learn best by trying right away. However, if you learn best by observing and processing things first, then take that approach and spend time around Muslims watching and learning, and then practice when you're comfortable. You know yourself best, and no other Muslim can tell you to get a "move on" with religious practices!! It all depends on where you're at and your learning style.
4. Rest assured that in Islam, intentions count for ALL of what we do!
According to the Quran, our holy book, Muslims are judged by the intentions they hold for the actions they undertake. These intentions are solely between you and God (in Arabic, called Allah). You had the right intentions for converting into Islam, and while you're learning about your new faith, Allah (swt) is hopefully aware that there's a steep learning curve! So while you're learning, remind yourself of your good intentions and it should provide comfort :)
5. Learn about Islam from its teachings, and don't judge it by its people!
Ah yes, the saying goes that no one should judge a religion by its followers, but rather from its teachings. Just as with other religions, there are a spectrum of Muslims in terms of spirituality and practice. The best way to learn about Islam is by going back to its original sources: The Quran (holy book) and word of the Prophet Muhammad (called the Sunnah), Peace Be Upon Him. That way, you're getting the information from the original source :) And we're always here to guide you and answer questions to the best of our ability!
6. Ask every and all questions that comes to your mind!
Oh yes, please do this, and as always, no question is ever stupid! You should hear what I ask sometimes, and I was born into Islam! Remember again that your intentions for asking these questions is pure...you need to know the answers in order to fully understand the reasons behind practices and beliefs.
7. If you need to process what you're going through, think about confiding in someone, or using other means to let things out so to speak!
Just as with any major life change, some of us need an outlet in order to express our feelings and process what we're going through. For me, it's blogging, and for others it's art, creative media, etc. So truly think about having an outlet present since it does help psychologically to process your thoughts rather than going around in circles in your head! For example, I blog because I need to let things out, but I have NO expectation that others will read what I write...and if they do, God bless 'em! ;)
8. Take one day at a time and don't be hard on yourself! Things will come with time!
It's easy to get overwhelmed when you think about the bigger picture. But truly, take one day at a time. A few years ago, I wanted to tackle wearing the headscarf, incorporating more spiritual practices into my daily routine, and trying to understand Arabic so I can finally recite the Quran and know what I'm reading! There was NO way I could have taken all of these on at once. The headscarf was first, I'm still working on the second spiritual practice goal, and I just started the third Quran goal. Even creating a brief goal sheet for yourself, listing things you want out of Islam (and life overall), is a great way to create a feasible plan.
In its essence, Islam is about 'submission', essentially followers submit to a way of life that is laid out in a very easy to understand way. There's nothing rigorous or complicated about Islam, it's a religion of peace, practice, and moderation. You will never hear that Islam preaches that followers should stay at home all day and recite the Quran. Nope! We need to practice what we learn and integrate the religion into our daily lives.
Lastly, the beauty of Islam is utmost reliance on a higher being and understanding that destiny is beyond our control. Muslims believe that our life is pre-destined. We were given intellect to make choices and act upon them, but we do so with (a) reliance on Allah (God) and (b) with an understanding that things may or may not work out. And if they don't, it's for a reason, and while we may not understand now, we hopefully will see why in the future. So there's really no need to worry about anything else, because ideally, Muslims have no need to. (by the way, easier said than done, because we're also human!!). We 'submit' to a higher being and destiny, and ultimately, we go with the high times and roll with the punches we're dealt with. Umm, metaphorically speaking that is! ;)
So in conclusion, welcome to Islam! We're all praying that you will hopefully have a pleasant stay :)