Becoming Muslim: Between Confusion & Shahada

Standard

God tells us in the Qur’an “Allah guides to His light whom He wills.” (24 v. 5)  If your journey in search of God has brought you here, then there are some important things you should know about becoming Muslim.  Most importantly how easy it is.

Often times due to the fact that Islam still seems “foreign” to a majority of the American population, which it undeniably is not, many people interested in or curious about Islam are hesitant or apprehensive about becoming Muslim.  Many think that Americans; such as Latinos, Whites, Blacks, or Asians, are not Muslims.  In America and around the world, Islam is as colorful as the rainbow.

1. Can you become a Muslim? Yes, as a matter of fact anyone can become a Muslim with ease.  Islam is not a religion just for Arabs or Indians, it is a universal religion and is welcoming to people of every ethnicity “Say : O mankind, surely I am the Messenger of God to you all” (7:158), “mankind is a single nation” (2:213).  Muslims come in every color and the only race Muslims pay attention to is the human race.  Some of the largest Muslim populations are actually in China and Indonesia, not in the Middle East. There are also large Muslim populations in Bosnia and Albania.

2. Is it weird for me, an American, to become Muslim? Not at all, becoming Muslim is a path to having a pure conception of God and a healthy relationship with your Creator.  It is a means to bring discipline and priorities into our lives through practices like 5 daily prayers, fasting, prescribed charity, etc.  It is also a means to perfect our character and enhance our experience with others through values with specific practices such as maintaining family ties, humility, reflection on God , eliminating anger, etc.  It should also be noted that Islam is one of the most ethnically diverse religions on Earth.  In America you walk into a given mosque and you will likely find Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Arab, Black, and White Muslims.  People embracing Islam is not an anomaly, it is natural.

3. How do you become Muslim? The funny thing about becoming Muslim is that often times you become Muslim without even realizing it. Many people who research Islam and agree with the most basic principles and agree with them become Muslim unknowingly.  If you believe that the only thing worthy of Worship is God (devoid of co-gods, children, or parents) your belief in God is the belief that Muslims find to be the natural belief in God. The next step is to believe that Prophet Muhammad is a Prophet from the biblical prophetic family.  If you believe this in your heart you are a Muslim. Many people already believe in God’s oneness at a basic level, however, believing in the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a Messenger of God is sometimes and area of research people need to spend some time.

Shorter Reads:

Medium Reads: 1.  In the Footsteps of the Prophet- Tariq Ramadan 2. Muhammad- Martin Lings

4.  Do I have to become a different person if I become Muslim? Often times people coming to Islam find themselves asking questions, such as, “Do I have to___”change my name? change my friends? change my clothes, change my interests)  The simple answer is that to become Muslim all you have to do is hold our basic beliefs, then work towards establishing the basic practices and towards consistently improving yourself. Having a mindset such as, “Im going to be better than I used to be, but I am worse than I am going to be.” is key to being a Muslim.

5. Muslims don’t drink, have sex out of marriage, etc, what if I do these things?  If you decide to become Muslim, you should realize that these are not things our religion approves of, however, engaging in them does not bar you from being a Muslim.  Rather it is an area you might need to work on developing.  We all have our own struggles in life and Islam is the path to help us tame our vices and control our inner selves.

6. So then what makes me a Muslim?

Belief in the following:

1. There is nothing worthy of worship except for God

2.  God has created other creations such as angels

3. God has picked excellent human beings throughout history to serve as role models and spiritual leaders such as, Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus.  Prophet Muhammad being a part of this prophetic family and bringing a conclusion to the biblical era by being the final Prophet to humanity.

4. God has revealed scriptures to specific Prophets throughout history. Such as, believing in the original Torah and Gospel before they were changed at the hands of humans.  Also, believing that the Qur’an is the final scripture revealed to humanity and will be the final guidance until the end of times.

5.  There will be a day when we will all be called to account for all of our actions at the God’s Justice will reign supreme.  No one will be slighted and everyone will get what they have earned.  That is the Day of Judgement where all humans will be resurrected to stand before their Lord and account for their deeds.

6.  To believe in Divine Decree.  That God has ordained specific matters in our life and has knowledge of how our lives will play out. At the same time we also have free fill to make our own decisions.

In addition, we you should know the Five Pillars of Islam, accept the fact that they are obligations upon us and strive to eventually fulfill these five pillars.  You do not have to already be doing them in order to become a Muslim.  Upon becoming Muslim you set on your journey to establishing these pillars in your life.

1. Shahada

2. Five Daily prayers

3. Fast during the Month of Ramadan

4. Pay a purifying chairty ( small portion of your money)

5. Go to the Pilgrimage (hajj) to Makkah once in your life if you have the money and health to do so.

So long as you believe in the pillars of faith and you understand the pillars of Islam with an intention to implement them in your life, then you are a Muslim.

What does it take to become Muslim? To believe these things in your heart.  Then you can take your shahada, by contacting us, your local mosque or a friend.  You do not have to publicly take a shahada, however, it is highly advisable.  If you are a Muslim, the Muslim community becomes responsible for taking care of you.  If you fly under the radar, then no one will know that you are a part of this beautiful family.  That way you can meet other Muslims, find teachers to teach you Islam, and if hard times fall on you, you can find some people to give you a hand.

The shahada is as follows

-I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except for God and I bear witness that Muhammad is a Messenger and Slave of God.

This shahada summarizes all of the beliefs posted above.  The first part indicates ‘who’ we worship ( God and God alone) and the second part indicates ‘how’ we worship (following the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him. Even without publicly taking your shahada, if you believe these things, you are a MUSLIM!

Welcome to Islam:)

Moments Really Can Last a Lifetime

Standard

It was a cold October day, the 29th night of the blessed month of Ramadhan, when I found myself at dinner with a childhood friend. A friend who always remained my friend during our times of companionship and at times of estrangement. It had been over 2.5 years since I departed in my search for the divine; my journey for a path to empower my soul. Where did I find myself? Sitting in a sushi restaurant in my hometown, opening my long day of fasting with a dear friend during the blessed month of Ramadhan.

I recall how surreal the thought was that it was only in a matter of a few hours that I would officially be a member of the global Muslim family, “The Ummah”.  Although my heart had already submitted to God’s Oneness and that Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be upon him) Messenger-ship, I hadn’t yet publicly proclaimed it.

We drove together in his car until we reached the local mosque.  I had previously visited this mosque once while talking to the shaykh (Islamic Scholar) about taking my shahada. On that previous visit to this mosque I was ready to take my shahada (testimony of faith), but decided that I couldn’t make such a move without letting my family know beforehand. They opted out of attending so, it was on this night that I had decided to make my leap of faith.

We entered the mosque, seemingly foreign, lined with faces that delivered me distant stares. We made our way to the prayer hall and joined the congregation in the evening prayer (taraweeh). We prayed for a while until the congregation took a break. This was it!  The moment I had been waiting for, yet fearing at the same time.

The Director of the Mosque made an announcement in a thick subcontinental accent, ”where is that boy who said his friend wants to take his shahada?”. My nerves were stretched up to my throat and I could barely utter any words as the gentle man with a detached look on his face asked me my name.

There I stood in front of a few hundred people whom I had never met. The man began to say these words that I could hardly understand and I struggled to repeat them after him. When we reached the end of the short string of Arabic words, the crowd erupted with “ALLAHU AKBAR” “ALLAHU AKBAR” “ALLAHU AKBAR.” At this moment I was so overcome with an ethereal sense of serenity that everything became a blur.

Here was where it all began. Welcomed with a line of men, young and old, white, black and brown, all waiting to come give me a hug, bestow upon me  some sagely wisdom, and welcome me to this religion. Such a warm welcome from so many unfamiliar faces. Many of those faces remain etched in my heart to this day. However, the tears of loneliness from the weeks to follow also remained in my memories until this day.

This feeling of isolation from the community and loneliness that I felt is not unique to myself.  It is a common narrative in the experiences of converts to Islam.  When we see someone become Muslim we should do our utmost to try to become a friend to that person and do what we can to make their development in this faith easy and sustainable for them.

For converts who feel lonely or feel like they don’t have community, I highly recommend you go out and seek it!  You might have some bad experiences along the way, but I know that every community has people out there that are caring and can support us through this journey.  Never stop seeking for a sense of community.  Try looking into your local MSA, local mosque, or even try going to a nearby Muslim business and become friends with the owner.  If you are in Chicago there are many great opportunities to find a safe and welcoming space.

May God guide us all to the straight path and provide us the strength to care for one another as God says in the Qur’an “the believers are compassionate towards one another” (Surah Fath)- ameen

Explaining Zakat Al-Fitr

Standard

This is a simplified “how to” on the charity due at the end of the month of Ramadan known as “Zakat al Fitr.”

Many people, especially new muslimsm get confused about this “Zakat al Fitr” thing. Don’t be scared. Don’t get overwhelmed. It is really quite simple.

Continue reading

The Unwritten Code: Social Etiquette of the Muslims

Standard

The Unwritten Code: Social Etiquette of the Muslims

Often times people have interesting experiences in their initial interactions with the Muslim community.  Most of us can probably remember some awkward occurrences prior to learning the social “Do’s and Don’ts” around Muslims. These are the unknown and often awkwardly discovered social codes of Muslims that many people are not initially aware exist.  We can call committing these mistakes a “Beginners Blunder.”  Those little things that you may not have realized Muslims don’t do that might get some strange stares cast at you.

I have had people ask several times “What do I need to know so I don’t offend anyone or look stupid?”  Below is a small compilation of these unwritten codes that will hopefully save some people from awkward or embarrassing moments. Feel free to print it out and study it carefully, depending on your level of concern for cultural literacy.

Continue reading

Happy Ramadan to the World!

Standard

This is a sample post that I send to all of my friends and loved ones to let them know what Ramadan is about and what it means to me personally.  Often times speaking from our own experience is the most effective way of explaining aspects of religion to people.  No one likes to be preached at but most people like to quench their thirst for curiosity.  Copy this or create your own :) Continue reading