نصيحة للمسلمين الجدد
A Counsel for New Muslims
Preface and Introduction
Contained in these posts are an original book, adapted for the web, with a series of practical advices. It is all for those who have taken the step to return to the Islamic religion they were created for and are thus frequently called reverts. This content is the result of a long-held personal desire to accommodate those who’ve not only started a new page in life, but an entirely new chapter.
This was first inspired by the frequent need to give new Muslims a detailed set of advices, in answer to some questions and observations about numerous topics upon entering Islam. The idea rested in my head until I was presented a booklet with similar aim, published by a revered and respected friend, Dr. Lawrence “Abdullah” Brown. As much as I love to rest from writing and simply refer new Muslims to Dr. Brown’s booklet and save myself the effort to focus on other projects, I found some of it to be geared towards new Muslims that may be struggling with issues most reverts do not encounter except after a year or two as a Muslim. Numerous other important issues were neglected entirely. It also seemed to be addressing a Caucasian audience whilst most reverts, in America at least, are not Caucasian. Later on, I stumbled upon the work of the eminent Shaykh Jamaal Zarabozo entitled “A Guide for the New Muslim”. This work sets out to teach new Muslims the most important things about Islam so they may start on the right foot. The difference between his book and this pamphlet is that his work is actually about Islam whereas my pamphlet is primarily about the new Muslim and how to approach Islam and the world after entering Islam. Perhaps entitling his work “What New Muslims Should Know About Islam” would be more precise. Similar in aim to Zarabozo’s work, but much more compact, digestible and approachable is “The New Muslim Guide” by Fahd Salem Bahammam. Either of these two works would be an excellent read for the new Muslim so that he or she may approach the Muslim community with a good foundation in Islamic faith and practice.
I write this only with my sincere desire to offer a life preserver to others swimming in new waters for the first time.
I myself became a Muslim in October of 2001. No less than twenty others accepted Islam in my community around that time, but from among them, I do not know of even one apart from myself who remains practicing the basic pillars of Islam, or for that matter, even calling themselves a Muslim. Since then, Allah has blessed me tremendously by giving me opportunity to spend six years in the city of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to study this wonderful religion. Between my time abroad and at home I witnessed many others accept Islam and be baffled about how to continue with their lives. Many yet feel overwhelmed by Islam itself, unable to cope with lifestyle changes they believe are immediately incumbent upon them. Still others never accepted Islam to begin with, only because they had unanswered questions about how it would affect their lives—and so instead of continuing on or asking for help they turn away or are not offered the right guidance and feel turned away. Other times, because of their personal conditions, they do not receive the proper accommodation and understanding from the local Muslim community, or the Muslims are too distracted trying to convert celebrities and politicians to take care of those who sincerely do want help but come in a different package.
No one can deny that new Muslims face a great many struggles when they first enter Islam. This begins with understanding and implementing a different religion, which, as we learn, is a complete set of guidance. It does not leave any stone of our lives unturned–before turning back over. Those things that we continue doing as we’ve done before, we approach with a different mindset. This, while most reverts are coming from a faith that demands little of them, or no prior faith at all. So it may feel like being put to work overtime every day without having any prior work experience. But what I want to communicate to new and perspective Muslims, is that this is a feeling and not a reality. We overburden ourselves, unnecessarily, but with good intention because we want to start living as Muslims properly. For the vast majority, coming to Islam will only alter a small portion of their lives, adding worship and visits to the masjid.
Second, many challenges come to reverts because, in all honesty, a great many have major obstacles affecting them at the time they entered Islam—these may be abnormal family circumstances, poverty, detailed criminal past, and serious physical or mental health conditions exerting great influence over their capacity and daily activity. Most Muslim communities are ignorant of this and ill-equipped although it has been commonplace ever since the advent of Islam. The state of those most likely to accept Islam is echoed repeatedly throughout the Qur’an, as Allah says that which means:
“The chiefs who disbelieved among his people said: ‘We see you but a man like ourselves, nor do we see any follow you but the most wretched among us and they followed you without thinking. And we do not see in you any merit above us, in fact we think you are liars.’” [The Qur’an 11:27]
The famous commentator of the Quran, Ismaa’eel ibn Katheer, expounded on this verse saying, “This was the response of the disbelievers to Nuh and his followers. This is a proof of their ignorance and their deficiency in knowledge and intelligence. For verily, the truth is not to be rejected because of the [humble] status of those who follow it. Verily, the truth is correct in itself, regardless of whether its followers are of low status or nobility. Actually, the reality concerning which there is no doubt, is that the followers of the truth are the noble ones, even though they may be poor. On the other hand, those who reject the truth are the lowly wretches, even though they may be wealthy. Thus, we see that usually the weakest of people are the ones who follow the truth, while the nobility and high-class people usually are opposed to the truth.” Furthermore, Allah made His Wise choice for guidance a test for those disbelievers who had arrogance and pride within themselves, as occurs in the ayah (i.e. verse from the Quran):
“Thus We have tried some of them with others, that they might say: ‘Is it these (poor believers) whom Allah has favored among us?’ Does not Allah know best those who are grateful?” [The Qur’an 6:53]
So there is something about these individuals, in spite of what they may carry of poverty, sickness, or strange circumstance that Allah sees more worthy of favoring with guidance than many other so-called wealthy, famous, clean and educated folk. Just as Allah sees that as being special and worthy of guidance, we should see them as the greatest and most worthy of their townspeople to our good reception.
Moreover, let us not forget, when accepting Islam, although Allah is pleased with the believer, others may not be, and may do everything in their power to prevent a person from walking another step as a Muslim. They may respond with threats, accusations, worldly incentives by way of kindness and generosity, and misleading information to turn a new Muslim away from the new religion he/she accepted but initially knows little about. So all those who do not want to see their friend, flock or relative be known as a Muslim are going to muster their forces and do their utmost to prevent that person from following Islam any more. And let us not forget the challenges that come from the Arabic vocabulary that every sermon and lecture teems with. So the spiritual boost new Muslims initially wanted becomes like deciphering Morse code! Thus, for many new Muslims, taking shahaadah (declaration of faith) becomes like entering the combat zone without undergoing basic training. It is thus unfortunately rare that a person accepts Islam and takes a healthy and steady path of progress to reach spiritual maturity and become an established and respected member of the Muslim community. This path is most gracefully crossed by those who gave Islam intensive study before converting, and had frequent interaction with Muslims, as well as those who married mature conservative Muslims. However, most converts are not like this and will enter into Islam with only a very basic understanding, perhaps not even of the fundamentals. I can best identify with individuals like that and my heart goes out to them. In any case, I hope others can gain some benefit from what is contained in the words to follow.
Those who may benefit most from this booklet are:
The advices herein cover topics related to general wisdom in life, relationships, learning about and implementing Islam, and other various scenarios we frequently come upon as new Muslims. Not all of the words may relate to every reader, as some of it is specific to the reader’s gender, race, circumstances, and/or location, but I have tried to include things for everyone, based on these factors and exclusive of them. I composed it as series of “points” and not as a running work, simply because I wanted to “get to the point” in this composition. Many great books aid Muslims learning their religion from the ground up. Hence, I do not want them to spend too much time on this meager work, yet I hope that it will be an accessible reference, not necessarily for Islamic knowledge, but for living with Islam in the beginning stages when we need a different kind of experience based advice. Thus, most of the points written are from my experiences and observations as answers to frequent questions and dilemmas new Muslims encounter.
There are four sections of advices. Each one begins with a brief list of what will follow. Most topics cover one to two pages. In many examples, I assume the reader has a most basic knowledge about the Islamic concepts or rules referenced, such as the five pillars of Islam. If the reader is completely new to Islam, with no understanding or “pilot-course” of the religion’s fundamentals, I strongly suggest reading this in conjunction with the booklet of Fahd Bahammam linked to previously. The topics are divided as such:
I followed this up with two other sections I felt necessary:
To extend the benefit, I have included two appendices. The first is a list of recommended books. The second of trusted websites. Nearly every book and many sites listed has a brief commentary. This is in addition to the glossary.
I chose not to discuss proper application of Islamic injunctions, such as the prayer, fasting, zakaat, financial transactions, family affairs, commonly disregarded commands and prohibitions, etc. While these matters are important, the new Muslim should learn them gradually just as the first community of believers were taught gradually, and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ instructed his preachers to teach new Muslims in stages, never everything in one sitting. He allowed their faith to grow with the most important fundamentals, and then after the foundation was strong, the next level of the pyramid was added, and when that became strong, a third, and so on. As for the commands and prohibitions I have touched on, I only chose to do so because I feel they have a direct relation to the new Muslim’s faith, and frequently play a role in deciding whether someone remains upon Islam, or wanders astray. There are other matters that are almost universally asked about by new Muslims, like photography, masturbation, pet ownership, or relations with extended family, but I chose not to discuss anything that I did not recognize as detrimental to faith or there was a difference in scholarly opinion.
For new Muslim readers, if your local Muslim community has programs for new Muslims, you may benefit greatly by enrolling in them and have a chance to meet more new Muslims to share experiences with. If your community does not provide such assistance, or even if it does but you want to supplement your learning so nothing important slips through the cracks, consider an online course for new Muslims.
From the New Muslim Academy, you can register for a month long course complete with assignments and testing under the tutelage of some of the most renowned English-speaking scholars with decades of experience in helping new Muslims. If you live far from any known Muslim community or simply want to learn about alternative communities close to your locale, this group will also attempt to put you in contact with the nearest orthodox Muslim communities and spiritual leaders. Similarly, “New Muslims” provides a very comprehensive class with quizzes and live chat accessible from the website. While both programs are free of charge, the first one awards a certificate upon completion to its participants. Likewise, from IERA (Islamic Education & Research Academy, with headquarters in London) is Muslim Now which will send you a free “starter pack” if you accepted Islam within the last 6 months. Another initiative designed to empower new Muslims, based in Houston, Texas is Knew U, organized by a fellow Medinah graduate. The Islamic Institute of Orange County California also provides instruction for new Muslims as they work on a curriculum that masjids across the country can use, although they do not offer online classes or groups as far as I know.
How to use the content in my blog:
Scroll through the contents of each section. It may be possible to read this booklet in a couple of sittings, but that could be very overwhelming. Peruse the topics I discuss and see which ones are urgent, and begin there. Rest your mind and return when ready for more. Although the topics and spheres covered are numerous, and the advices given may seem overwhelming, if I could summarize this book in a single phrase under which any individual advice should be understood, it would be: take it slowly, but steadily, or just, go steady.
I’d also like to acknowledge those who provided valuable feedback while writing and publishing these points. Included are my confidant, IZ (you know who you are) and trusted adviser Dr. Katherine Bullock of the University of Toronto especially.
I ask Allah to make this effort sincerely for His Countenance alone, not desiring any praise from His Creation, and that He put this in my scale of good deeds, forgive with it my sins, and guide with it whomever it reaches, to a Straight Path. Ameen.
Chris “AbdulHaqq” Caras
Rough draft completed 1434/10/29 in agreement with September 5, 2013.
Second draft completed 1434/12/12, in agreement with October 17, 2013.
 His work, Bearing True Witness (Or “Now that I’ve found Islam, what do I do with it?”), is just over 100 pages and was published by Darussalam in 2005. This is available through the author’s website http://www.leveltruth.com.
 For example, the extensive discussion about understanding “madhhabs” in the Muslim world which begins assuming that you know what a madhhab is!
 This symbol is actually an Arabic phrase. It is pronounced Salla-LLaahu ‘Alayhi wa sallam. It means, from a theological perspective, “May Allah exalt his [Muhammad’s] mention and grant him peace.” Muslims are instructed to utter or write this invocation whenever they mention or even here the name of the Prophet. Allah says in the Quran what means, “Allah sends His Salaat (Graces, Honors, Blessings, Mercy) on the Prophet, and also His angels (ask Allah to bless and forgive him). O you who believe! Send your Salaat on (ask Allah to bless) him and greet him with the Islamic way of greeting.” [33:56]
 Tafsir ibn Kathir, Darussalam publications 5/51.
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