When the light of guidance approaches someone, he/she seizes the opportunity and converts to Islam.
We would like to congratulate all those who made their minds and took the best decision in their life and became Muslims. Welcome to the fold of Islam. We ask God the Almighty to strengthen your faith and reward you abundantly.
After conversion to Islam there are many choices ahead of new Muslims. Some new Muslims start to learn the basics of their new religion and way of life from authentic sources. Some others focus on how to cut their relations with their families because they remind them of their past. Another group has excessive indulgence in the practices of their families which contradict the teachings of Islam. Still a final group commits itself to the beliefs and practices of a certain Islamic group or a certain Islamic center without giving themselves a chance to evaluate such practices.
If you are in a non-Muslim country you will recognize new Muslims from their long beard and short clothes with a siwak (a teeth cleaning twig) in their hands. We are not against this way of dressing, but most importantly is how we deal and interact with people. What should new Muslims do to live a well-balanced life after conversion?
A Practical Religion
Before delving into this issue, I would like to emphasize that Islam is a practical religion and needs to be embraced fully in our life. Islam teaches that the most important thing after conversion to Islam is to focus on the basics and to leave out the minor and controversial issues. First and foremost, we should do our best to correct the new Muslims’ understanding of Islam.
The details come later. Once a new Muslim’s firm belief in God is established, we can introduce the rest of the beliefs and pillars of Islam and how to lead his life in accordance with what pleases God.
This is exactly what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did when he advised his Companion Mu`adh ibn Jabal who was going to Yemen to call the Yemeni people to Islam.
“You are going to a nation from the people of the Scripture, so let the first thing to which you will invite them, be the Oneness of Allah. If they learn that, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them, five prayers to be offered in one day and one night. And if they pray, tell them that Allah has enjoined on them zakat (obligatory alms) of their properties and it is to be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor. And if they agree to that, then take from them zakat but avoid the best property of the people.” (Al Bukhari)
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi relates this anecdote:
’I was shocked and dismayed during a tour of North America to find that devout young Muslims, who belong to some Muslim groups, have initiated a great controversy because Muslims sit on chairs during the Saturday and Sunday lectures in mosques instead of sitting on mats on the ground, and do not face the Ka`bah as Muslims do and also because those who attend wear shirts and trousers rather than loose outer coverings, and sit at dining tables to eat rather than on the ground.
I was angered by this kind of thinking and behavior in the heart of North America. I, therefore, addressed these people: It would be more worthwhile in this materialistic society to make your paramount concern the call to monotheism and the worship of Allah, to remind people of the hereafter, of the noble Islamic values, and to warn them of the heinous acts in which the materially-developed countries have been totally immersed.
The norms of behavior and the ameliorations in religious practice are governed by time as well as place, and should be introduced only after the most necessary and fundamental tenets have been firmly established. In another Islamic center, people were creating a considerable fuss over the showing of a historical or educational film in a mosque, claiming that ’mosques have been turned into cinemas’, but forgetting that the purpose of the mosque is to serve the worldly as well as spiritual interests of Muslims.
During the time of Prophet Muhammad the mosque was the center of da`wah and of the state, as well as of social activities. We are all aware of the Prophet’s granting permission to a group of people from Abyssinia to sport with their spears in the middle of his mosque, and that he allowed `A’ishah to watch them.’ (38-9)
To the hard-line sects of Islam, remember Prophet Muhammad’s advice. The Prophet is reported to have said:
“Surely this religion is firm, so walk through it step by step.” (Al Bayhaqi)
Islamic Dress Code
Gradual legislation must be applied on new Muslims. Do not expect from new Muslims to know all the rules and apply them in a day. The Prophet continued to say in the same hadith: “This is because the traveler who is too harsh on his riding animal will not reach his destination, and the riding animal will die.”
Another important issue is that of the Islamic dress code. Some new Muslims insist on wearing short garments because, they argue, the Prophet wore it and that they should not imitate non-Muslims. We do not blame those people for applying the Sunnah; what is blameworthy is their insistence on such issues without having proper knowledge. Wearing short garments is desirable, but wearing long clothes is not forbidden if it is just a habit and it is not for showing off and arrogance.
If we read Prophet Muhammad’s biography carefully, we will know that the Prophet wore whatever was available to him. He wore shirts and robes. He also wore garments and garbs made in Yemen and Persia, which were embroidered on the sides with silk.
The Muslim scholar Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyah says:
’The best guidance is the Sunnah of the Prophet, the things he regularly practiced, ordered, and encouraged people to do. His Sunnah in dressing is that he used to wear whatever was available for him whether made of cotton, wool, or linen. He is known to have worn cloaks from the Yemen, green cloaks, jubbah, garments with full length sleeves, shirts, pants and robes, shoes and slippers… He used, sometimes, to grow a plait in the back.’ (Qtd.in Zad al-Ma`ad:134)
Family and Relatives
Some new Muslims treat their families and relatives badly. They treat them with ridicule and contempt because they are still non-Muslims. God says in the Qur’an:
Now (among the best of righteous deeds which) We have enjoined upon man (is) goodness towards his parents; yet (even so,) should they endeavor to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept (as divine), obey then, not… (Al-`Ankabut 29:8)
In another verse we read what means:
(Revere thy parents;) yet should they endeavor to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as divine], obey them not; but [even then] bear them company in this world’s life with kindness… (Luqman 31:15)
Even when some new Muslims tell their family about Islam, they act in an improper way. They make fun of their beliefs and invoke curse on them. God says what means:
Call thou (all mankind] unto thy Sustainer’s path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner- for, behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided. (An-Nahl 16:125)
In another verse we read:
And do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in the most kindly manner… (Al-`Ankabut 29:46)
Muhammad Asad, the renowned Muslim scholar, comments that: ‘this stress on kindness and tact and, hence, on the use of reason alone in all religious discussions with adherents of other creeds is fully in tune with the basic, categorical injunction’:
There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
God defines the way of treating the Prophet’s companions in the following verse:
It was by the mercy of God that you were lenient with them; had you been harsh and fierce of heart, they would have dispersed from about you. So pardon them, and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in the matter. And when you are resolved, rely on God; for God loves those who rely. (Aal `Imran 3:159)
There is a special need for understanding the Qur’an and the Sunnah properly. Good Knowledge is the key to understanding them. New Muslims should always act with moderation and should not go to extremes.
Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf. Al-Sahwah al-Islamiyyah bayna al-Jumud wa al-Tatarruf. Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, 2001)