By Fatima- Minna
Reflecting on how belief found its way into my heart all those years ago, I realised it must have been precipitated by a willingness to believe. Prior to finding Islam, I suspected there was a God, but had no clear path to incorporating that into my life. So where did the willingness to believe in God within the context of Islam come from?
For me, it was seeing the actions and character of the Muslims around me. I think converts differ from each other in this way, as Allah understands our personality and what we need to be shown. Sinead O’Conner (now Shuhada), the famous singer who converted to Islam recently was quoted as saying that Islam is, “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey”.
For Shuhada, who had a long term interest in religion, Allah showed her the way through a study of theology. I have a friend who became Muslim after several years of raising her children as Muslims: for her, it was the impact of Islam on her children that was the sign she needed to see.
Back to my own journey, I think I had a willingness to believe, and I was convinced enough that I had found a treasure, that I accepted the basic tenets of faith, and at this point I took my Shahada. Only after this did I build a more established and knowledge based belief.
I look back at this time and see a mixture of naivety and sincerity, and I see this now when I meet newly Muslim sisters. There is something so pure about this state, and I suspect we are very close to Allah at this time. To say my belief at this point was weak would be wrong. This is the time that I lost friends, hurt my family, and found myself having to justify my faith to others, and it takes strength to face that challenge.
But I feel like my belief at that time was like a sapling tree, delicate and hopeful. I needed to nurture it to have it put down roots and not be blown down by a strong wind. My faith now feels like something that comes from a deeper place, with more certainty. Psychologists have found evidence that the first few years of our lives form patterns within us that are hard to break. Indeed, in those first few years of faith I found myself having to consciously circumvent those patterns.
For people born into Islam, the roots of their faith come from their family and their community, but we have to work out how to put down these roots ourselves.
For me, I did that by studying, and forming connections with the wider Muslim community. Studying my faith to a level that I was confident in my practise helped me in that if challenged or questioned, I could stay firm in my belief and my actions. We have many options these days to study our faith. If there are not reasonable courses in your area, perhaps the neighbouring city has them? If not, there are many reliable courses delivered online, and many are free. Even those that are not generally, will sometimes make exceptions for new Muslims. Previous generations of Muslims would leave their homes and family and travel thousands of miles to seek knowledge- the sacred search takes effort and dedication.
Making connections with the wider Muslim community was more challenging. Many of my earliest experiences had me doubting whether this was really where I belonged. But I persisted, and eventually found my sense of belonging. I tried to change the things that I found challenging (unclean and unwelcoming mosques for example).
I think we all find our own way of becoming comfortable with our new faith, and letting those beliefs take root. But I do feel sure that this is not a passive experience.
If I could send any message to a new Muslim sister it would be that this is the time to be brave, and take the bull by the horns. Attend that circle, and if you don’t like it, find another. Talk to your husband about caring for your children while you study. Don’t allow the Muslim community to make you feel like you don’t belong; you have as much right to attend the masjid as anyone else. I remember being so fearful of making a mistake in the masjid, and unwittingly doing something that was perceived as bad manners. But I know now that most people make exceptions for new Muslims, and the few that don’t are wrong.
Allah gives us the greatest gift when he puts belief in our hearts. He is telling you He has a place for you in paradise. Nurture your belief as you would a sapling tree – give it time, and feed it well, and of course, be patient. And inshaaAllah you will see the fruits of that belief in this life and the next.
About the author:
Fatima-Minna lives with her husband and two lively little boys, and has a full time job that she enjoys. That doesn’t leave room for much else, but she continues to strive to be close to Allah and help her children to have a deep understanding of Islam.