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.