By Asma Nemati
There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger. You have just taken the shahada. A million and one thoughts are rushing through your mind. There are doubts and misgivings but there are also many, many convictions which lead you to say this weighty statement. Alhamdulillah, I made it. Tears are shed, hugs are exchanged and you finally feel like you’ve reached home safely. A burden is lifted off from you and the infinite light of the shahada illuminates your soul — alhamdulillah.
Fast-forward to some time later and you may not be feeling the same. The light that was kindling in your heart is still there, but not with the same intensity. Regrets can overpower you sometimes, especially when alone. Is there something really out there? Did I do the right thing?
Well, the thing is, this is quite normal. Even for Muslims who have been born into Islam, such thoughts can certainly be entertained and that’s ok — you’re at the start of your journey and the noble yet unfamiliar road ahead can seem quite threatening sometimes. Pause. Just breathe. It takes many years to work on strengthening one’s faith — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. In Farsi there is a saying: little drops of water make a mighty ocean. And indeed, the ocean of faith will be filled and inundated with noor ( light ) – gradually and slowly. Here are some steps to kick-start this journey into increasing your faith in the Almighty inshaaAllaah:
Protect your Shahada
Your journey to Islam took a while. You manoeuvred the rough patches gracefully and then you took your shahada. Promise yourself that you will protect this and cling to it. Many of my convert friends tell me putting on a hijab right away helped a lot, as that reminded them of their identity — there was an outward sign to go with their inner inclinations. This might not be so easy for everyone, however. Another way to protect your shahada is to write down the reasons why you became Muslim and put it somewhere you can see every day -next to the mirror, door, etc.
Perfect your wudu, ghusl and prayer
The steps going through wudu, ghusl and praying can be quite daunting at first. How on earth do Muslims know all these steps by heart? Can I actually memorize all this? It can leave you feeling overwhelmed just to make wudu, especially doing it several times a day, if you have not really looked into it before becoming Muslim. You can start by putting together three note-cards of instructions; one for wudu, one for ghusl and one for prayers. A convert friend of mine would stick the wudu note card above her sink and the ghusl one in her shower (maybe get it laminated ). The prayer card can be next to your prayer rug. Look at the steps as you go through them, even when praying — it’s ok, you’re just getting started and you’re not expected to know all the movements by heart. My father started teaching us the prayers first when we were 7 and by the time I actually had to pray, it was a good few years after that.
Have Good Company
Another thing that has helped me deepen my faith (and continues to do so) is to keep the company of those who are more firm in their belief in Allah than I am. Because of being around them, one will surely be influenced in a positive way. You can also have a handful of such friends to call on when you need them, especially when going through something emotionally difficult or when you simply have questions about the deen that haven’t been answered.
Conventions and Islamic talks are another way to have good company; you’ll be around people of faith and even if you don’t understand what is being talked about, you will still benefit by being around those who are well-grounded, and it will give you an opportunity to meet new people who will revive the spirit of the din within you inshaaAllaah. In it’s stead, having an online community of sisters who are going through the same thing and who can be contacted right away will also help.
Develop a Relationship with the Quran
When my 86 year old grandfather, who did not understand anything in Arabic, would read his large print and very old Quran every day, it would really get me thinking. There must be a reason for this. Only later did I realize and experience for myself that there is a particular noor or light that is present in the heart of a believer when connecting with the Quran. And that light only comes from this luminous connection. That’s why many people who don’t understand Arabic will still read it every day; they can feel this special light and this light affects their body, mind and actions. One can start out simply by reading a translation, or learning some Arabic to pick up vocabulary here and there- However you do it, this special tie to the Quran will strengthen faith without the reciter even realizing.
Purification of the Heart
The body does not exist without a soul and the soul of Islam lays within its inner dimensions. This point can be easily overlooked as it’s not really “seen” but it is important nevertheless to nurture Islam in our hearts in this deep way. Of course, this nurturing is a beautiful and arduous life-long journey but it can be started at any point, and ideally soon after becoming Muslim. Imam Ghazali has numerous books on this topic and the translations are easy to read.
Inshaa’Allaah the above steps can lay the foundation to strong faith in our deen; and with the help of the all-Wise, all-Knowing and all-Merciful we can all surely succeed.
About the author:
Asma Nemati is a full-time mother who lives in Jordan with her husband and three children. She loves to cook, organize and deepen her understanding of Islam as much as possible.