To be honest, I am impressed by the shared stories of American youths who become Muslims. As a Muslim who is growing in a Muslim community in Indonesia, I felt a sort of spiritual jealousy toward American Muslims who become Muslims. My jealousy is positive, anyways. You know, being an American, as I perceive means being an individual with total liberty and freedom. However, after I listen and comprehend the discourses of being American, I tend to see that in the United States, life and living are not as easy as they may seem. Perhaps, I mention this statement because I was born outside the United States. This time, my writing focuses on American converts to Islam. I hope that my writing can be read by Americans who want to become Muslims. Please bear in mind, though, I am not a scholar in Islam, but I want to share bits and pieces of being a Muslim, purely Muslim, without any attached –ism within your beliefs as a Muslim.
First of all, I would like to say, “Congratulations! Welcome to Islam! Alhamdulillah! Praise be to Allah who opens your heart and guide you into a correct path in life”
I honestly tell you this because as I know, coming to Islam as a person who is not raised in Islāmic community seems to be amazing. I call it amazing because when I try to put myself like you, perhaps I would imagine that what I would know of Islam is only through media that I read or listen in a daily basis. Perhaps, the Internet helps you to find Islam as well, but the validity of information on the Internet, to me, cannot be considered as 100% true and valid. (I am a language teacher and a linguist, so I know some people try to make stuff to make them look “cool” by telling lies and hatred statements). The question is that you already become Muslims, so “What’s next?”
Hold on. Take a deep breath and sit nicely. Look at the mirror and say yourself, “I am awesome!”
Ooops, I am kidding, but yes, you are awesome!
My first suggestion for you is to take it slowly. Take your spiritual paths in Islam slowly and nicely. None forces you to change dramatically. In my understanding, coming to Islam needs a rigorous process and a strong commitment from you. This statement applies to all Muslims, already Muslims, or New Muslims. Remember, in front of Allah SWT, you are so fresh like babies. Your sins are already forgiven. If you really do consider yourself to make sins before you come to Islam and made your Shahada, Allah SWT knew that at that time you were under your ignorance. Now, once you step into Islam, your sins and merits are in your hands. You will be judged on what you do in your life. I call it, Self-Consciousness, or knowing yourself more than anyone on earth. If you know who you are and know why you have a certain condition of life, you will likely know who your Creator is. It is already embedded in each and every one of us until we are corrupted by satanic ways of life, which are physically abusive to our body and spirit as human beings.
After you took your shahadah, focus on understanding the 5 pillars of Islam. These pillars mean, if you do them, you already build the temple as well as the kingdom of your own faith – Islam. Allah SWT is the Most Knowing of what you do. So, what are they? They are Tauheed (The Oneness of Allah), Salat (Worship in the form of Obligatory Prayers), Fasting during the month of Ramadhan, Zakat (Mandatory Charity giving), and Hajj (Higher Pilgrimage). As a New Muslim, I know that all these things sound heavy for you to do all at once. That is why I inform you to take them slowly, but of course, you must have the willingness to do them. In general, all Muslims, especially those who practice their beliefs, consider the first, second, third, and fourth as essential. We can do them anywhere we are. At this point, if you have questions dealing with how to do Salat and Fasting, you could ask about all these things to Sheikh who might be available in your town. I believe that he will help you to understand more about these pillars of Islam, and especially, how to practice them. You can go to the nearest Masjid (mosque) in your town to practice your spiritual needs afterward. Well, then, is it just these things? No.
Now, I will lead you to the ideas of the 6 Articles of Faith. These articles are also crucial for your identity as a Muslim in front of Allah SWT. You do not need to shout out loud your belief because the most important thing is: Allah SWT is All-Knowing what is in the Heaven and Earth, including you, a little creäture in this big earth. What are these 6 articles? They are 1) sincere belief in Allah and monotheism; 2) belief in the Angels; 3) Belief in the Divine Books revealed from Allah – Al-Qur’an; 4) Belief in all the preceding prophets and Muhammad SAWS; 5) The Qiyamah, and 6) The belief in Divine Preordainment and Predestination. Therefore, all I can say is being a Muslim needs more than just a belief. On the surface, these 6 articles of faith might look stunning for other people who do not know anything about Islam, but once they try to build their minds within these 6 articles of faith, they will surely feel something different within themselves. These 6 articles of Faith are in need of your consent as a Muslim.
So, by now, you have two important aspects in Islam: 5 pillars of Islam and 6 articles of Faith.
As American Muslims, you need to do all these things step by step, especially if you are new to Islam.
What about your previous faith? What should you do about it?
Well, you decide. Which one is important for you, your life and soul, or your previous faith?
If you become a Muslim and you try to help other fellow Christians and Jews to Islam; why not?
Basically, Christianity and Judaism have many things similar in common, but the overall differences are seen in the way we look at the Creator, God. For other faiths, you can browse online about stories and videos of many people who come to Islam these days. In Islam, if you really learn this religion seriously, you will meet with very deep religious knowledge. The more you dig it, the more you will find something new for yourself. I myself am still learning, although I basically love to do what I know.
How about other things in social life that they talk about? News on TV? How about those things?
To be honest, all I can say is, you know, people work in Media in order to get some money. In order to get money from their works and are able to earn as much money as possible, some of them dare to twist news or reality for the viewers; so that they can be considered as truthful, although, in this day and age, everyone already understands the process of making news. Selling information to viewers is a common thing to do by Media. I had been working in Media, too, so I know pretty much the background of a studio. However, I am not saying that all media are bad. There are also good media around, though. Once news comes to you, ask it yourself, “Is it real? Evidence? Why? How? Where? When? Who? How come?” After that, do your own search. As an American, that is why it is important for you to learn other foreign languages so that you can see how other people inform news within their own communities. Sorry for being out of our topics, but, yeah, the point is, “be strong on your belief”. I pray to Allah SWT may all American Muslims are protected from any false political propaganda whispered by people who claim themselves know Islam, but they do not even believe in it. Also, I pray that all Muslims are under the guidance of Allah SWT.
For your information, Allah SWT guides whom He wills. Therefore, if you meet or encounter people who disrespect your belief and faith, that is the actual form of Tests from Allah SWT.
Hijab? LGBT? Stuffs?
Read more about Islam. Comprehend Al-Qur’an. Comprehend the Sunnah (Al-Hadeeth). The more you read, the wiser you become. And, select readings that are insightful. Books that do not represent correct information, in which opinions are presented too much personally, will not help you much in Islam. In the end, you will understand that all those things are only “pieces of stuff” that test your faith in Allah SWT, your Creator. They may say anything about your faith, but trust me, compared to those folks; you have your Creator – the Creator of Heaven and Earth. For me, that is more than enough. Life is just like a game. None influences you unless you influence yourself from what you are doing. Finally, I hope that you may grow yourself as a Muslim, and me, too. Sometimes, I felt that the tests beyond my ability, but after I pass the tests, I know that it uplifts me into a better human being. Insya Allah. Jazakillah khair. Wassalamualaikum. May peace be unto you, dear brothers and sisters.
Hatred is for those whose heart is filled with hate – as simple as that. – Syayid Sandi Sukandi
(Some information in this writing are taken from Muslim Student Association at SIUE).
P.S. For Mr. Kevin Phillips and Ms. Heather Phillips, I love you guys, more than you could imagine. I am so sorry for all my mistakes to you. I am only a human being, just like you. Please do forgive me. Thank you.