Written by Kaighla Um Dayo and Theresa Corbin
As the new Muslim walks through the threshold of Islam with the short but powerful declaration of faith, exuberance enters stage left. And zeal rears its head from stage right. The world starts to look like a very different and amazing place. The metaphorical, mental clouds clear and the true priorities of life come into focus.
But with zeal and fervor for faith, naiveté often tags along for the ride. And new Muslims, unfortunately, can find themselves going down dangerous paths. Traps are set for the new Muslim and with the help and hindrance of zeal and naiveté many find themselves stumbling or being tripped.
We (Kaighla and Theresa) have been there. We have sooooo been there. And with our combined experience of 21+ years of navigating the path between culture, Islam, politics, and corrupt co-religionists, we have some advice. And we want to offer it sincerely to the new additions to the Muslim nation, to the Muslims who have just walked through the threshold of Islam and have brilliant and brand new faith.
We offer our sage wisdom– that we had to stumble upon by necessity– so the fledgling Muslims may have the tools to protect their iman (faith), their safety, and their sanity. We, being two women, have a skewed view of things from the female perspective, so brothers can adjust our thoughts to their male perspective.
You are still you
Embracing Islam is surely one of the most life-changing choices you’ll ever make, no doubt.
But when the people clear out of the masjid (mosque) and the bags of donated hijabs (scarf worn over the hair and neck), ill-fitting abayas (long, loose-fitting dress), too-big kufis (skull cap), and/or shalwar kameez (South-East Asian outfit) are left in your trunk you will be sitting there in your car, in the same skin in which you walked into the masjid.
And this is a very, very good thing. Islam did not come to kill identity, but to enrich it.
As soon as the people in the Muslim community learn you are a Muslim (and forever more when you meet a new person) the very first question they will ask you is what your name is. And if it isn’t Arabic, they’ll likely launch into a spiel on how you must choose a ‘Muslim name’.
Smile politely. Thank them. And ignore them.
Don’t change your name unless it has a bad meaning. There is no evidence whatsoever in the tradition of our Prophet Muhammad or his companions that suggests that when a person converts, they must change their name, unless their name has an obviously bad meaning.
So, unless your name means ‘star-worshipper’ or ‘I am God’ or something, you don’t need to change it, and really shouldn’t. (Sorry, all you ‘Christina’s and ‘Christian’s out there-your name does need to change).
One of the most important rules in Islam is to honor your parents, and not to cut ties with your family. Part of honoring your parents is recognizing that they chose that name for you, often after pouring over baby name books and asking members of their family for their opinions for, literally, months.
If you have children, think how you would feel if they came home one day and told you they had decided their name wasn’t good enough because God didn’t like it. Yes, you want a new slate today, but in a few years you will miss your deepest identity, and a great portion of that is tied to your name.
No one has been able to pronounce Kaighla’s name her entire life–a fact she used to loathe–but now her weird name is part of her (It’s pronounced KAY-la, for the record). And she is proud of it. Theresa loves the reminder her name gives her. Read more about it here.
We don’t need Arabic names when we come to Islam. We are not becoming Arabs. We are becoming Muslims, and our names ARE Muslim names because we are Muslims.
Speaking of Arabic, don’t sweat learning Arabic right away (except when learning how to pray). Allah says He is nearer to us in knowledge than our own jugular vein (Quran 50:16 commentary here).
Allah knows what you want to say, before you even want to say it. Yes, there are duas (prayers the Prophet Muhammad used to pray regularly which you can find here) and these are great, but the important thing is to speak from your heart.
The point: Let go of this delusion of a brand-spanking new life post-conversion. Yes, many things will change. But you can’t escape yourself (even if you want to) by embracing a religion, even Islam. You will still have the same oddities, the same hardships to overcome, the same strengths and weaknesses, and the same fears and dreams.
Allah wants you to refine your identity, not toss it in the burn pile.
Listen as we discuss more on this topic. Click here for Podcast Part 1.
Explanation of the Quran: http://qtafsir.com/
Learning Arabic: http://bayyinah.com/
Answers to tons of questions: http://www.ifoundislam.net/revert-supports/
New Muslim Support Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RevertSupportGroup/
Find Prayer times and a Mosque near you: http://www.islamicfinder.org/
Ask a question: http://www.onislam.net/english/ask-about-islam.html?start=1420
Ask us: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Muslim Care: http://newmuslimcare.org/
Theresa Corbin is the founder of islamwich. Look her up on the About page, or on Twitter @islamwich
Kaighla Um Dayo is a writer and story-teller extraordinaire. You can find more of her work, as well as her podcast, at her blog, Lemonade For Bitter Souls. Her work was also published in Al Jumuah Magazine, in 2011 and 2012. She is a momma of four, currently living in small-town Egypt. Before embracing Islam in 2009, she was an evangelical Christian who attended Bible college before traveling the world as a missionary. Her favorite things are procrastinating, eating chocolate, fixing things, making things and taking risks.
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