When one reverts to Islam, two things are going to happen: first, you are going to have so many people coming at you with advice on what you need to start doing in order to be a proper Muslims. Though their intentions are good, they can be overwhelming.
For me, the biggest thing everyone says I need to do, to be considered a Muslim, is grow a beard.
Growing a beard is not one of the compulsory pillars of Islam, like Salat and fasting. There are, however, different schools of Islamic law – Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali and Shafi – which, amonog other things, hold strong positions on beard length and shaving.
Those brothers and sisters who have told me I need to grow a beard, though well intentioned, don’t understand my current situation as far as employment and grooming standards that are within my contract for employment.
In the end, Allah (swt) judges us by our intentions, not what we may fail to do.
What follows are ten bits of advice for the new Muslim. Insha’Allah, you will take them for what they are, advice from someone who is not a scholar.
1. Keep your name.
Your parents have known you for nearly two decades or more by one name. Do not force them to call you by your new ‘Muslim’ name, especially one they cannot pronounce. It will create a rift between you and your parents.
Another reason for keeping your name, it’s not easy to change it. Between court costs, time to change it across all government document, it’s not easy.
Lastly, there is really nothing in Islam that says you must change your name.
2. If you are in college, stay in college.
Do not drop out of school, travel to some dusty village to learn the basics of your faith. You can learn a lot of stuff by reputable online classes and institutions or by attending a class at your local Masjid. Complete school. Don’t listen to someone who tells you that completing your degree is haram, or not the way of Islam. The people telling you this, they are not going to be there when you need to pay rent, buy food or keep the lights on.
3. If you have a job, do not quit.
Unless you are a stripper or bartender, but even then, you probably need to make a gradual transition to halal gains. But if you work in corporate America, do not let some zealot make you feel guilty because you work for “the man.”
Another one that I have been told is that if you are currently serving in the military, or have served, you are not now, nor will ever be a Muslim. Where that idea comes from, I don’t know.
Muslims have fought in all major US wars including the War of 1812, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. More recently they have served in Gulf War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan. … In 2015 there were approximately 5,896 American Muslims serving in the United States military.
So, is it haram for a Muslim to be in the military?
If you are American and your country is attacked, it becomes your duty to defend it to the extent that if you are killed in the line of duty, you are considered a martyr.
However, aside from that the military is another profession. As long as it is not serving as an instrument of oppression, I don’t see any reason to consider it haram.
4. Don’t act like you’ve joined a cult.
Maintain ties with your non-Muslim friends and family. It may also be a good idea to keep saying praises and thanks to God in English.
I have met reverts who have, just the day after saying Shahadah, cut off their family and friends. That gives Islam and Muslims a very bad image. Even worse are those who say if your very own family will not accept Islam, it is your duty to leave them alone.
It is sunnah to always be there for your family. Our Prophet Muhammad endured great pain from relatives but still loved them and prayed for them. Families are hard I know but at least try.
In my life, for example, I have had both family and friends stop talking to me. On my end, I ask myself what has happened to make them feel this way. Then, when I had a realization as to why, I started asking to talk to them. Insha’Allah, good will come out of those conversations.
Just know, cutting ties has never been the answer to anything.
6. Don’t take it all on.
This relates to my first reason.
Pace your learning so that your practice matches your knowledge. This is not a race. Don’t know or feel like you have to memorize the Quran and become a muhaddith tomorrow. Look for creative ways to contribute to your community that doesn’t overburden you, but gives you a sense of place.
Also, when you are told to do this, that or the other, take it with a grain of salt.
7. Avoid hypercritical analysis of everything around you.
Just because you found Allah (swt), doesn’t mean that the whole world is going to hell. The Prophet (pbuh) said that people’s faith ebbs and flows. Just because you’re on a spiritual high now doesn’t mean everything is bad, wicked or evil.
As we grow in Imam we will see that there is good in the world around us. Just remove what is haram from your life, and keep yourself in mind. Make sure you are a better Muslim today than you were yesterday.
8. Avoid rushing into marital decisions.
I cannot stress this one enough.
DO NOT RUSH INTO MARRIAGE!
Some people rush to marry a new Shahadah. It better to wait. Take your time to develop yourself both as a Muslim and a human being. Also, you should make sure that your potential partner knows his/her responsibilities and is willing to be a supportive partner.
Please, take your time. Yes, getting married is considered completing half your Deen, and you don’t want to mess that up.
9. Refrain from religion wars.
Don’t start debating your family members or friends and chastising them about their “mushrik,” “kafir” faith. It is better to live by example and if they have questions answer them to the best of your ability. But maintain respect for your family ties.
From the Quran:
“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.” (The Holy Quran 2:62 )
“…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (The Holy Quran 5:82)
To even engage in argument with Non-Muslims is a disrespectful manner and is prohibited. As the Quran states: “And argue not with the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner), except with such of them as do wrong, and say (to them): “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have submitted”(29:46)
Please, don’t argue. Just answer questions to the best of your ability.
10. Trust in Allah (swt).
Lastly, trust in Allah (swt). Seriously, place all your trust in Allah (swt) for He is Most Merciful, Most Forgiving.
If you can’t make Salat in Arabic from start to finish, do what you can and say the rest in English. Allah (swt) knows your heart.
If you are in a situation where your family will not let you wear hijab, wear modest clothes. Again, Allah (swt) knows your heart.
One thing I always tell people is that Allah (swt) will meet you where you are.
Allah (swt) says “Take one step toward me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” It’s that simple.