So you’ve done all your research and have decided to take your Shahada and convert to Islam. Congratulations and welcome to the religion of peace! But while you're definitely excited, you can't help being left you feeling rather overwhelmed and concerned. Here are some of the main worries that new Muslims have and some practical advice on how to overcome them.
- There’s SO much to learn
If you’ve converted to Islam it’s likely that you have already researched a huge amount, otherwise you wouldn't have made the life-changing decision. Nevertheless it’s easy to still feel like you’ve gotten in over your head. After converting, it's best to start with practicing the five pillars of Islam, given that they are the foundation of the religion. After taking your Shahada, focus on your salah (prayer) and the meaning behind it. This way, you can repent for any mistakes you make while you're still learning as well as ask for guidance. Then when Ramadan comes around, try to keep as many fasts as you can as well as saving up for Hajj if possible. Also look into how and when to pay your zakat. These are the structure of the religion, so it’s important to not stray away from this.
Having said that, following the pillars of Islam is admittedly the easiest part. Take your time understanding the Qur’an and hadiths; you can do this in your native language but it would be beneficial for you to learn Arabic if that is an option for you. Try not to get too sucked into the idea of schools of thoughts and sects of Islam. On the Day of Judgement you will not be asked if you were Sunni or Shia, but whether you were a Muslim as sectarianism is forbidden is Islam.
Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah ; then He will inform them about what they used to do. (Al An’nam 6:159)
No-one is expecting you to get everything right or know everything straight away. In fact, people who are born into the religion and have been Muslim their entire lives are still discovering and learning new things everyday. Many are even relearning aspects of the religion since, growing up, they intertwined their culture with Islam. So acknowledge that as a revert, you will make mistakes and there will be a lot to learn. However you will be forgiven and you have the rest of your life to learn and practice Islam, so take your time.
- My family don’t agree with my decision
Given that Islam is portrayed negatively in the media, it makes sense that your parents and other relatives wouldn’t want you to become Muslim. They might ignorantly believe that you’re going to become a terrorist for example. Or if you’re a woman, they might think you’ll be forced to wear the hijab. If your parents don’t agree with your decision, you should still treat them with kindness as this is incredibly important in Islam. Talking about Islam and your choices can cause friction, so don’t bring it up around your family if this is the case. Don’t try to force the religion onto your family either as this is not what Islam is about; talk to them as you normally would and enjoy spending time with them. Keep trying, even if you feel a little ostracized at first. They might not understand why you chose to convert, but with time, they will accept your decision. This can take months or years, but if your family really love you they won’t push you away too far. You becoming Muslim can be a gateway to them seeing what Islam truly is about, just by seeing you live your daily life.
If your situation is extreme and you have converted secretly, knowing your family will disown you or physically harm you, it will be best to practice Islam in secret. This will be difficult if you live with your family, but it is achievable. For instance you may have to pray in your bedroom with the door closed, or go to the mosque without them knowing. Ramadan can be a difficult time, as your family will realise you haven’t been eating. If you usually have meals with your family, make sure you’re not at home during these times. If it’s feasible, you will have to consider moving out of your family home. This will allow you to practice your religion freely, whilst also maintaining a healthy relationship with your parents.
- I’m having an identity crisis
Whether you like it or not, when you’ve recently converted, you’re going to have to make a number of changes. This usually means you’ll be dressing differently, eating differently, not drinking alcohol, taking time out to pray among other things. As a result you feel as though your identity is changing; you might have even noticed your friends seem uncomfortable around you now. Maybe this is because you no longer want to gossip about others as much, you have to excuse yourself to pray, or you don’t want the beer or glass of wine they offered. However, if they can see that you are more at peace with yourself and are happier in general, your friends shouldn’t have a problem with you and should embrace who you are now. In most cases the more openly you talk about what changes you’re making, the easier it will be for them to understand you. On the other hand, if they’re still struggling to accept you, you may have to ask yourself the difficult question of whether they really are your friend.
Another reason why it may feel like your identity is changing is because you are unintentionally mixing culture with religion. Remember that culture and religion are not synonymous. You do not have to follow the culture of Muslim majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia, if it doesn’t sit well with you. It may not seem like it, but a big part of your identity is your culture and this does not have to change as long as it is not un-Islamic. If you’re British for example, you can still have a full English breakfast, you just need to substitute pork sausages for beef or chicken ones and back bacon for turkey rashers. If you believe that you were good person before converting, who you are on a fundamental level wouldn’t change very much after.
Regarding the topic of changing your name, this is a completely personal choice. While it is not unheard of for new Muslims to change their names, it is not something you are obliged to do - unless your current name has a bad or negative meaning. Your name is a huge part of who you are, so it will be no surprise if you don’t want to change it. Nonetheless, if you’re looking at changing your name as symbolic indication of a fresh start, this is acceptable too.
- I’m finding it difficult to fit into the Muslim community
A common problem many new converts have is finding Muslims friends. If you had any Muslims friends in the past, who you thought were good people, try to reconnect with them and see if they have any advice. You can also search for nearby mosques and attend regularly. Talk to the people there before or after you pray and explain that you are a new convert. You should find out about any Islamic events that are taking place in your area, as these are great opportunities to really feel like you are part of the Muslim community.
Generally you will be welcomed with open arms, where you will receive guidance and companionship. Unfortunately, there’s a small chance that a few Muslims will make you feel alienated, possibly by making assumptions about you or asking you questions in order to test your faith. In these circumstances, talk to your Imam and ask him to bring it up during a sermon. However if things are still not working out, or if you have no Muslims or mosques in your area, turn your efforts to making friends online. There are many Facebook Pages where you can ask questions and talk to other Muslims. Below are some examples:
If you have any other issues or questions, feel free to use the Ask the Imam page on HalalGuide, where an Imam will answer your question as soon as possible.Back to news
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