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Your First Practical Steps as a New Muslim

written by Theresa Corbin

originally written for and published on About Islam

Much has been written on what a new Muslim should do after converting. What the first steps after shahadah should be is a topic even I have expounded on many times—like the article I wrote entitled, The First Step A New Convert Should Take which is all about intentions, motivation, and matters of the heart.

But sometimes this kind of advice makes it seem as if material matters aren’t important. But you should know that they are.

Islam teaches us a balance, to be in this world and to take care of one’s worldly needs while also thinking of the life of the hereafter and taking care of one’s spiritual needs.

We are beings of duality. We have a physical existence and a spiritual existence. When the needs of one or the other are ignored, bad things happen.

Far too often the worldly needs of new Muslims are brushed off as less important than spiritual needs. And what comes from this kind of treatment is understandable.

New Muslims often complain that being a Muslim is impractical or difficult. If the Islam presented to you seems Impossible, excessively difficult, or impractical, know that this is a kind of imagined Islam that ignores the worldly needs in favor of the spiritual needs.

However, Islam demands balance and that all needs are met. Here are a few practical things to think about after taking the shahadah.

Know Your Rights as a New Muslim

As a new Muslim, one of the first things you should understand about your faith are your rights in Islam. Often new Muslims’ complaints about Islam have nothing to do with Islam at all, but a failing on the part of other individual Muslims or even their community as a whole.

It is critical that you, as a new Muslim, understand that Allah has instructed your community to provide you with support. If it is not offered to you, or if support is not given when you seek it, then you need to know that that is man’s failing, and not Islam’s.

Muslims have an obligation to help new Muslims in a number of ways, including but not limited to mentorship, counseling, education, supportive community, and even financial support if need arises. You can read a declaration of the rights of new Muslims here that discusses this in more detail.

Continue reading here on About Islam

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New Muslims: Why Celebrate Eid?

New Muslims: Why Celebrate Eid?

written by Theresa Corbin for About Islam

No matter what the weather, no matter how tasty the Eid breakfast, no matter how well I felt my Ramadan went, for many years after I converted to Islam, I followed the same old Eid pattern.

Wake up. Pray fajr (morning prayer). Eat breakfast. Go to Eid Prayer.

Then I, my husband or both of us, would go to school or work. It was anti-climactic at best.

After a month of character building, spiritual highs and building a better relationship with the Quran, it was always right back to pre-Ramadan business as usual, hoping to keep the lessons and increased faith as we exited the month un-commemorated.

Until one year, I said enough! I put my foot down and didn’t go into work. I took the day off of school and insisted my husband do the same. Guess what happened?

No, the world didn’t fall apart. No, we didn’t fail our classes. We actually enjoyed ourselves.

We spent time to acknowledge what Ramadan meant to us and to celebrate our successes in it. And because of our celebration we felt more Muslim somehow. We felt closer to our community. We felt better prepared to move on and face the challenges of life outside of Ramadan.

In the Western world where few even know what Eid is, it is very difficult to get out of day to day commitments to celebrate the holiday or rather the holy day. It is even more difficult to have that holiday feeling when those around you are treating the day like any other ordinary day.

As converts, we have to give up a lot of our old holidays when we come into Islam. Giving up holidays where everyone is celebrating and everything is decorated can be difficult.

Many of us treasure our holiday memories and family traditions. But as Muslim we are not left with nothing in the place of our old tradition. As converts we can and must make new traditions and create a holiday feeling for ourselves.

Why Celebrate? For Gratification and Gratitude

Read more

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7 Things I Didn’t Expect When I Converted to Islam

Written by Theresa Corbin

Take the overwhelming desire for people to know how others live, along with the fact that I am having a hankering to talk about myself this week, and mix in the fact that lists are fun and in the world of technical writing- easy to digest.

And what results is:unexpected things about converting to islam

Let the countdown begin!

7. I didn’t expect to love dressing modestly

I thought I would have to swaddle myself in hideously, un-creative clothing in order to observe hijab. While I became interested in controlling who saw what parts of me, I didn’t want to give up my style. Now there is nothing wrong with looking bland if that is your thing, but it is not mine.

I am in LOVE with color, and I am a highly creative person with a love for fashion. I learned that I didn’t have to give up my signature style just because I wanted to be modest. See islamwich’s pinterest page if you want more examples of what I mean. Modesty doesn’t mean giving up style. I was very happy to discover that.

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Being Muslim- A Review

Being Muslim
beingmuslim.org

Reviewed by Theresa Corbin

Being Muslim: A Practical Guide is a new book written to help people learn how to live and practice the faith of Islam-to learn what Muslims believe, how to pray and fast, and how to perform the Islamic devotions appropriately.”

This is a book I really could have used in 2001 when I took my first shaky steps into Islam. As the author, Asad Tarsin, writes, when he was approached by a convert and asked for resources, he realized there really wasn’t much out there for the new adult Muslim.

Read more

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A Field Guide for New Muslims Part 1

Field Guide for New Muslims 1

Written by Kaighla Um Dayo and Theresa Corbin

Part 2 Part 3Part 4Part 5

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.what is in a name

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).

New Muslim same you

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.

Arabic namesSpeaking 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. 

Preventing Bitterness a New Muslim's Guide 1

Resources:

Prayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDit-zlSp7g

Quran: www.quran.com

Hadith: www.Sunnah.com

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: islamwich@yahoo.com

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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Like the post, share it, pin it, comment on it, and/or do whatever social media magic it is that you prefer. Find out more about us in the understandably named “About Us” page and browse other posts in “Table of Contents”.

Footprints in the Sand: On Converting to Islam and Family

Footprints in the Sand: On Converting to Islam and Family

Written by Stephanie Siam

When I reverted to Islam in March 2005, I have to admit I was afraid. Okay, perhaps nervous is a better choice of word, as I wasn’t scared or frightened. And I know I’m not alone in admitting this feeling, especially with female converts. The process of transitioning into Islam from a previous faith/belief system (because face it, even if you don’t believe in God, you believe there is no God) is daunting:

What will my friends think? How will I be received by the public? Does this mean I have to start dressing like an Arab or East Asian-er? Do I have to start my life over from the beginning, rethinking every choice I’ve ever made?

While all of those are valid concerns, and ones that I did contemplate at some point in time post-reversion, they weren’t what I was afraid of. My fear came from telling my father.

Not my family. Not my Mother.

My Father.

f and d on the beach

Now, before you start thinking my dad is this overbearing and close-minded totalitarian who lives for controlling others’ lives, he’s NOT. In fact, he’s the polar opposite. He’s one of the most open-minded individuals I’ve ever known in my life. And if there is a perfect antonym for overbearing, that describes him, too. I mean, for Heaven’s sake, the man used to sit and logically discuss with me the reasons I should pick up my toys when I was 3 years old. If there’s anything my dad is not, it’s overbearing and close-minded.

So, why was I scared of telling my dad I had become Muslim?

My father has a strong head on his shoulders (don’t confuse strong with stubborn). His choice of worship was not made based on how he was brought up (Nazarene). He didn’t look to his parents to tell him how he should worship God or practice his religion (Christianity). Instead, he went to a Christian college, studied the history and lineage of the Bible and Christianity, and majored in Bible Studies. His goal: to become a preacher.

When he became a member of the Church of Christ denomination, he did so knowing full-well that it represented the beliefs he personally held based on his extensive studying. To him, it was correct.

Now there I was, his 23-year-old daughter, midway through my graduate school program, and I’d converted to Islam. And I had to tell my Father. The same father who responded to my 16-year-old self’s idea of becoming Baptist with, “I’ve failed as a father!”

So, one day while my parents were in town for a wedding, my father and I drove over to the beach at Gulf Shores. We had lunch, talked about religion a little bit, and mostly discussed general life topics. (My father is also a severe introvert, like me, and idle conversation is not a forte of his.)

After lunch, we walked out on the beach. I’d planned my delivery. I asked him what it was exactly that he believed about life and death. He started out with the history of religion (he always starts with the history behind the pertinent question), and then he transitioned into his personal beliefs. Once he finished, I offered my part. I told him nobody had ever really asked me what I believe. It was always just assumed because I was part of a certain family or church that I shared the same beliefs. But, obviously, I didn’t.

Then came the time to deliver my blow. I told him I was thinking about becoming Muslim. (I couldn’t own up to it full-force yet; I needed time to let the idea sink in for him.) Surprisingly, he didn’t stop walking. He didn’t yell (not surprisingly). He just said one thing, and his response has stayed with me every day since. It has had my back when people were against me. It has given me conviction along my chosen path. And those words were:

As your father, it is my job to let you know that I think you’re wrong. But you’re an adult. And if you chose to believe something just because I told you so, that would be just as wrong.

It was all I needed. I didn’t need an “I support you” or a “That’s wonderful”. And I know he still doesn’t like my choice. And I know there have been many tears shed on his side on my behalf.  But I also think both he and my mom have come to conclusion that after nearly a decade, a husband and a child, I’m not going through a phase.

And as each day goes by, I never lose hope that one day my family will join me in truly understanding the history, relevance and authority of our beautiful Islam, insha’Allah. Until that day comes, I will continue to enjoy the avid discussion my father and I have about our beliefs, and I will rest easy knowing that despite our differences, we still respect each others’ beliefs … and rights to have them.

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Memories from the Dorm: A Conversion Story

What follows is my old roommate’s response to I Bear Witness: How I Came to Islam Parts 1 and 2.

Written by Gracie Lawrence (the roommate)

You know it has been at least 16 years since we had those talks, and reading about it reminded me how I am still trying to “figure it all out”.

I remember it was a time of a lot of questioning, we were free from both conservative Christians AND Muslims – where we could just THINK and we had the time to do it.

Dorm Room conversations

I don’t recall thinking that it was strange to think those things- but I use to have the bad habit of thinking everyone must be the way I am (got screwed over a lot for it, lol).

I remember during that time your mother had passed away. That impacted me a lot. I think I remember that more than the details of our talks exactly (I was a bit of a chatterbox, I think you once referred to me as a puppy and you were the cat. And a lot of times you just needed some peace and to be left alone- and I didn’t understand that).

I know one thing I struggled with as I became Muslim was wondering if I could make that cultural leap/ sacrifice and I would take a few steps forwards, and then a few steps back- then I just dove in and became extreme- then balanced out, made more mistakes, etc.

Ultimately, I became Muslims to become a better Christian- I think you remember us speaking about that. I think even from a cultural viewpoint we both saw something lacking, even lonely in our modern North American existence and I saw Islam as the natural progression to fill that gap.

Nowadays, I see Christians and Jews as very close to me. Christians and Jews are easy to understand us, as we have the same background- are just like siblings that bicker.

Anyway, one things that is great about Islam, even if people are reluctant to believe in anything divine, is that it makes for a great play-book on earth i.e. you are much less likely to F-up your life than if left to your own whims or faulty logic. You are more likely to win the game if you are given the instructions of how to play. Ya know? I think that for something like this to exist- is, by itself, pretty awesome.

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Like the post, share it, pin it, comment on it, and/or do whatever social media magic it is that you prefer. Find out more about us in the understandably named “About Us” page and browse other posts in “Table of Contents”.