In The Name Of God The Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

New Muslims: Talk less and listen more

by Lauren Booth
Source: OnIslam

Filed under: Featured,Islam |

New Muslims Talk less and listen more

By: Lauren Booth

Source: OnIslam

Who can ever forget the overwhelming feeling of taking shahadah?

Wherever it happens – at a friend’s house, down the phone, in an imam’s office or at the center of a vast Masjid on Jummah, it is a heart-thrilling, experience.

Immediately after you testify to the Oneness of God and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His final Prophet, you are squished by your new sisters (or brothers if you are male).

Tears in eyes, your new family thrust phone numbers and email addresses at you, pledging with heartfelt intensity to ‘be there’ when you go through ‘tests’ about which, at that moment, you may have no idea.

And then, sometime after the fizzy, amazement fades, it will be you. On your own. With God.

It took me weeks to come down off that first spiritual high and look around at my new life, thinking: “Wow, how did I get here and how do I carry on this journey?”

Helpfully, as in all things, the Quran has the answer. This verse tells precisely what is expected of the believer.

{Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle.

Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 177)

This beautifully detailed verse appears before us, as a mountain to climb.

What to Do First?

Your gratitude at being chosen for this perfect faith can quickly turn into a rather confused sense of zeal. Do I adopt an orphan first or give away my old clothes then rethink all my old promises and see which ones I haven’t kept then…? Talk about a life spring clean!

I would like to pass on one of the most potent pieces of spiritual advice I have received since becoming Muslim. Alhamdulillah, it has been repeated by each imam and scholar who has offered me support on my way, until it is imprinted on my brain.

“Slow down. Take your time. God knows you, He knows you are trying. So take your time and go back to the beginning. And above all ask for God’s help in all things.”

Back to the Beginning?

Well that seemed a bit of a blow when I first heard it. Surely I was further down the path of knowledge, after a year than when I first took my shahadah. How long before I ‘knew’ stuff then?

Humility, then, is the best foot forward. The primary aim of Islam is to be able to answer this question with heartfelt sincerity.

Who is Allah? And why and how must I love Him?

Knowing God and understanding His divine attributes is a vast subject, one for those with knowledge to teach. A good idea, as you set out on this path, is to attend one of the growing number of excellent 3-5 day Basic Islam courses, springing up across Europe and North America. Such retreats are food for the soul and guidance. They take you out of your current environment (i.e. worries) and can put you in touch with learned people able to both answer your questions and raise your faith.

You may feel you are strange to everybody now you are a Muslim. Taking this time then to be around sisters and brothers from your own cultural background, I found this a real blessing. Many thanks are due to the Islamic Education and Research Academy (Iera – MuslimNow) for their subsidized retreats for new Muslims.

As we each take our first baby steps on the path to understanding, one of our greatest challenges can certainly be our new peers.

A few months ago, on a retreat, I met a 20 year old British revert to Islam. She said her shahadah and then had a series of pretty awful experiences at the hands of other Muslims. Men preyed upon her for her white skin – sad but true. But far worse than male lechery (a part of life for young women today), was the confusing advice on Fiqh – practical matters – from the sisters.

“I took my hijab off today and I hate it now!” Announced the young sister after a week of wearing hijab. She had been cornered by a group of hijabis who threw questions at her like poison darts.

“So which school of Islam do you follow then?”

“Name the greatest Prophets”

“Are you Hanafi then because you pray like a Hanafi?”

Later the same day she was cornered in a corridor by young Muslim girls who didn’t wear the hijab, yet. Faux intellectual bullying is a sad epidemic in our community.

“Where does it say in the Quran you have to wear hijab – can you tell us huh?’’

“The Prophet’s wives wore it didn’t they?” Stumbled the girl.

“Name them then!” came the harsh response.

{Behold! You are they who disputed about that of which you had knowledge; why then do you dispute about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows while you do not know.} (Al-Imran 3: 66)

You may feel pushed into making decisions on matters about which you know little or nothing. You may also see, in people’s way of prayer, a lot of apparent ‘contradictions’ in Islamic practice. There are four major schools of thought in Islam (madhhab) all of which are considered valid. It is hard to understand when we arrive in the deen and seek out absolutes in all things with the enthusiasm and zeal of the enthusiastic amateur. But, don’t be rushed.

When a discussion leads into something about which the listener does not have knowledge, men of great quality such as Imam Shafi’i simply said “I do not know” and left it like that. Seeking knowledge means accepting that we are worthy of knowing only a little at a time. And more, that until each teaching is absorbed and then practiced with consistency and sincerity in our daily lives and worship – why should the next treasures be unlocked for us?

One of the principles we learn from Islam is that being silent is better than speaking.

Learning to listen and to be quiet, to ponder on existence and wait patiently for God’s guidance – is one of Islam’s many gifts to humanity. Do this and your heart will begin to feel at ease in a way you have not experienced before.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Whoever is silent will be successful.”

Learning to be quiet and to live without music playing in the background of my life took me a while. Again, no fatwas on this page about music being haram or halal! Just a sisterly suggestion that now can be the perfect time to take a break from time wasting. There I said it. Stop wasting your time! Ibn Al Qayyim says:

“Wasting time is worse than death because death separates you from this world whereas wasting time separates you from Allah”.

So much on TV is foul and demeaning. Sarcastic people, doing mean things to one another. Women being denigrated to little more than a jumble of body parts – like is existence really best summarized as ‘it’s all about the Hair!’?

Not easy to stay spiritually connected when allowing ourselves to be bombarded with images of strangers’ body parts, harsh language and of course the unending pursuit of material goods and wealth. Please, turn off the TV and radio. Find a recording of the Quran and allow your ears to attune to its inspirational ebb and flow. A home where the Quran is recited has angels present. As the ads say – for far lesser things – ‘Try if for a month and notice the difference!’

God the Exalted makes it very clear, when He says:

{O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger, and make not vain your deeds!} (Muhammad 47: 33)

We live in a great age to be Muslims. Never has so much information been available on our faith, so instantly. But we are just far too busy to study right? The companions of the Prophet, used to tend their fields, their market stalls and their businesses by day, following the Prophet memorizing his words in the afternoon and then stay up for hours at night worshipping God. They certainly had blessed time. And that’s what time is when you seek closeness to the One who made you.

So what’s on your iPod or in your car CD player right now? When you’re cooking at home, why not seek out lectures on YouTube? For working mums, busy students, dads and business people; the car, the kitchen, the bus and the subway are our lecture theatres. And the lessons, in how to live a better way of life in Islam, well they quickly mount up, day by day, InshaAllah.

May Allah SWT be your guide on the straight path now and always.

Peace. Lauren.

Please find below some of my personally recommended links to inspiring resources which have and continue to help me and my family on our journey.

YouTube Recommendations

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf:   Stations of Gratitude

Ustadh Ali Hammuda:  Praying Attentively

Readings

The Holy Quran – http://www.quranproject.org – for your free copy

Agenda to Change our Condition – Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir

Don’t Be Sad -Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

2 comments
mashud
mashud

Being a born Muslim by family inheritance, I become so excited to learn the news of a non-Muslim embracing ISLAM after having travelled a long way to recah their ultimate decision and making a wonderful choice; in becoming closer to Allah SWT and declaring the Oneness and His commandment to be carried out both Here and Hereafter- according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Muhammad (pbuh).

Such people make better Muslim than we the Muslims by fortunate birth in a Muslim family. My heartfelt greetings to the writer of this educational piece. "Yes, Silence is weapon & Patience is mentor."

JazakAllahu Khairan    

SarahKn1
SarahKn1

This was one of the most wonderful articles I've read in a while, and so inspiring Alhamdullilah, even as a born-Muslim. Jazakillah Sr. Booth, you just brightened up my day and gave me a lot of inspiration and brain food! May Allah (subhanu'wa'ta'ala) provide you with guidance and patience forward into this beautiful journey, ameen.

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