Growing Into Islam

When I converted to Islam, my Muslim-born friends said they envied me. I was better than them, they said, because I chose Islam instead of being born into it.

I don’t feel better. Instead I feel hopelessly behind as a Muslim and I wonder if I’ll ever “catch up.”

From what I’ve read, many converts throw themselves wholeheartedly into Islamic culture as soon as they become Muslims. I haven’t been able to do that. Saying “Ahamdulliah” and “Insha’allah” don’t come naturally to me.  I don’t say ‘Peace be upon him” every time I mention the Prophet’s name. My prayers haven’t progressed beyond the Fatiheh and the Tashahod; I haven’t learned any du’as or surahs.  Arabic is a mystery to me and I’m afraid it always will be. I haven’t even read the Qu’ran all the way through yet. And I certainly don’t know that many ahadith.

The only thing I’ve been able to modify is the way I dress. I do wear the hijab and modest clothing and I thank Allah for that. Because otherwise I’m not sure that I’d feel like a Muslim at all.

What complicates matters is that being a Christian was such a big part of my life before my conversion to Islam. I had the creeds, prayers, commandments, rituals, traditions and doctrines down pat. It was second nature for me. And comfortable as an old shoe.

Maybe too comfortable. I took everything for granted: my relationship with God, His forgiveness and mercy, His acceptance of me, and, last but not least, my salvation. Because my salvation was a “shoe-in” once I professed my belief that Jesus Christ was my Savior, I didn’t feel that I had to worry about what kind of person I was. As a Christian, I believed that I was being remade from within by the action of the Holy Spirit. It was a very passive kind of transformation. And so subtle I hardly even noticed it. I just trusted that it was happening and then didn’t think any more about it.

Islam makes me more accountable. It expects more from me.  God requires submission and obedience; I have to repeatedly submit and obey. He also forgives and is merciful,  but I have to ask for and accept His forgiveness and mercy. I can’t take anything for granted. And through the process of meeting God’s expectations (that is, trying to meet them), I mature as a Muslim and a person.

I know that being a convert is a test. My Muslim friends warned me that it would be hard. But I’m impatient. I want to be a mature Muslim yesterday. I forget that maturity only comes from experience, from grappling with my weaknesses and building upon my strengths. It’s not a process that can be rushed. Nor is it a process that ever ends.

I can’t walk before I crawl or run before I walk. Even growth as Muslim comes in stages. I’m still at the baby stage where I’m lying on my back, helpless and staring at my hands, wondering what they’re there for. I don’t have a sense yet of myself as a separate human being who is capable of self -mastery. I’m still trying to answer the question, “Who am I?” Maybe once I figure that out, I’ll find it easier to grow.

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Ellen

Editor and chief writer at I, Muslimah and Femagination. Ellen also contributes regularly to Elevate Difference. She is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with two cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

4 thoughts on “Growing Into Islam”

  1. I can’t walk before I crawl or run before I walk. Even growth as Muslim comes in stages.

    ^ That’s so true. I work for Chat Islam Online (you’d think I’d remember the URL, but I don’t, lol), and one of the things I always advise converts is to take it easy. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you do, you’re more than likely to ‘burn out’- suddenly feel like Islam has taken away all that you know.

    You know, this motivational speaker once said that we are composed of 2 parts: the dynamic side of us and the static side of us. The dynamic side of us seeks change- it’s the side that is like “GET UP and do something, already”. The static side of us is like the little worrywart or overprotective mothers- it doesn’t like to see us ‘exerting too much effort’ and always tells us “just take it easy, hun, you’re fine the way you are..seriously, why trouble yourself?”

    The trick then to change is to slowly get the ‘static’ side used to the changes- it has to be done slowly or it will just resort back to its old habits. You don’t find it easy to say alhamdillah, inshaAllah peace and blessings be upon him? Don’t tackle all 3 at once. Try tackling one–

    How about spending the next two weeks trying to say alhamdillah a few times?

    Also, how about you reward yourself when you do something right? You’ve learned surat Al Fatiha. That’s fantastic. Pat yourself on the back- that is called the essence of prayer, right :D Don’t be too harsh on yourself, Ellen.

    At the same time, you can try reaching a prayer goal at the end of the month- by the end of this month, I should be able to …..X . You decide. Don’t try to do it on your own, though. Have a support system– talk to those Muslim born friends you have. Tell them, ‘let’s meet up and how about we pray together’? “guys, that confused me..what was I supposed to say again’?

    it can be really lonely to try to learn all of this alone. Remember, we born Muslims had our families to help us- let the ones you know, be your family and help you through it. InshaAllah, it will come easier and more naturally to you.

    :)

    1. Wow! I’m blown away by your advice. Thank you so much! Your encouragement and wise words make me feel a lot better.

      I know what you mean by “burn-out.” The only thing that keeps me from turning my back on Islam is this inner voice that keeps saying that I made the right decision, I just need to be patient. I can see so many ways that Allah has been working in my life. And you’re definitely one of the things He sent my way.

      Alhamdulillah!

  2. assalamualaikum, I know how you feel. I’m a born Muslim and I envy the new converts for their willingness to learn and most of them are better than us the born muslims. Islam encourages us to learn till death, and I’m still learning. The more you learn the more you find out nerw things, that the beauty of Islam, alhamdulillah.

    1. I love Islam’s emphasis on knowledge and I thank you for reminding me of this. I don’t think converts are better than born Muslims, though. Who would encourage us if you weren’t there?

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