Humanity

Mom, I Am a Muslim Now

At the first instance of embracing Islam, the new Muslim feels a sense of overwhelming joy, pride, and zeal. He or she wants to do everything in their capacity to learn about Islam and stay firm upon this path, by Allah’s permission. Their goal is to be the best Muslim they can possibly be. Some of us, from one night to the next, give up vices, all for the sake of Allah.
I remember when I first embraced Islam, I had just started my third year of college. I declared the shahada and before I knew it, I was wearing a white kufi and Saudi kufayyah. I ripped the Eminem poster off my wall as well as other posters of the hip-hop culture. I immediately stopped socializing with female friends and began spending more time reflecting on life. I started to grow out my beard and make sure that I was on top of my prayers, like any new Muslim would and should.
I remember going home that first weekend and walking into my parents’ room. They were laying on their bed, watching a movie on a Saturday night. I said that I had something to tell them. With their eyes and ears on me, I said, “Mom, Dad, I am Muslim now!” I said it with a great sense of pride and honor. I was happy to have found a calling, especially one that was related to belief in the Creator. My mother went on to share in my joy and said, “If that is what you want to believe in, then great, as long as you found God.” My father wasn’t so understanding; he said, “That’s okay but why now?” You see, I had accepted Islam during a very controversial time in the history of the U.S. and my father’s worry and concern was genuine due to the hyper-focus on Muslims at that time. Nonetheless, my new sense of confidence due to being Muslim soared, and I was not worried one bit.
This high, this “eman rush,” was short-lived, as it is with many new Muslims. As fast as that kufi went on my head and the posters came down, I felt the world pulling me back in. With no true mentors or guidance on how to nurture one’s Islamic zeal in a correct manner, being a new Muslim often becomes difficult and frustrating. Where there was once the sound of “takbeer” and “Allahu Akbar” in the air after taking your shahada in front of a crowd, you are now left alone, feeling somewhat abandoned, with the whispers of your past trying to pull you in again. In addition to one’s inner struggles, there are often external factors that affect a new Muslim’s journey. Many Latino Muslims are left to fend for themselves, shunned by their family members and friends. I know one sister who embraced Islam and after informing her family, they expelled her from her house. Another sister was locked up in her family’s basement. These are the real struggles that we face.
But our adversities do not always start with non-Muslim family and friends. Many times, it is the Muslims themselves who impose upon a newly minted Muslim and bombard him/her with cultural baggage, opinions, and rulings that the person is not ready for. It is incredible that a new Muslim does not even know how to pray and worship their Lord properly, yet they are already fielding suggestions for marriage and trying to navigate peer and/or community pressure. For example, there was a story of a Latina sister who embraced Islam and she owned a pet dog for a very long time. Her dog meant everything to her. However, Muslim sisters began telling her that the dog was a shaytaan (devil) due to its black color, and that dogs are not allowed in the house. This new Muslimah could not cope with this and left Islam. In another instance, a brother from Chicago converted but decided to leave Islam because he could not connect with the community.
How many times do Muslims approach recent converts and before teaching them about their relationship with their Creator, and showing them how to pray, they tell them, “You need to change your name”? This occurred to a Latino brother named Jose, even though his name is the Spanish equivalent of Yusuf, our Prophet mentioned in the Quran! I understand that the intentions may be pure, but the approach is wrong and the priorities are twisted. It is important for both the seasoned and the new Muslim to take a second to step back, breathe, and consider the following points:
O, New Muslim…
Remember that Allah has chosen you to follow this path. It is the path of the greatest people ever to walk this planet. It is the path that Allah has prescribed for all of mankind. In Islam, as in other situations, empowerment comes with a great amount of responsibility and challenges. You see that before, in the life of ignorance (jahiliyyah), Shaytaan was pleased with you. But now that you have chosen to be a person who worships Allah alone, Shaytaan will do everything he can to try to bring you back. The funny thing is that he is doing the job that Allah has prescribed for him. All of this is simply to test you and to separate the believers from the disbelievers, to separate the truthful from the liars. Know that Allah says in the Quran, “Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars” (29:2-3).
Allah tests those who believe much more than those who do not. Look at the stories of the Prophets and Messengers of Allah. They were the closest to Him, yet they were tested with trials that are unimaginable. Reflect on Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, and Muhammad as examples. We cannot begin to fathom their struggles, yet they were the most beloved to Allah. Why would they be tested so severely? It was only to elevate their status in the sight of Allah. It is no different for you and me.
O, New Muslim…
Have you ever stopped to think why we ask Allah to guide us so many times a day? It’s because, even though we have been guided, life will do what it can to take us off this path. At some point in our lives we asked Allah for guidance, but that supplication never ends. We will always need His guidance and help. We must continue to profess our devotion to Allah and implore Him to keep us firm upon this way of life. Yes, many of us are going through serious difficulties. Some are worse than others, but remember that Allah did not abandon you when you were a non-Muslim; why would He abandon you when you have embraced His deen?
O, Seasoned Muslims…
Remember that Latino Muslims, and other new Muslims, are yearning to be part of the larger community (ummah) of Muslims; however, this does not mean they want to be Arabized or follow cultural traditions that are distinct from Islam. If it is not found in the Quran and the Sunnah through authentic transmission, then it does not need to be told. Understand that a new Muslim is not ready to learn and digest everything at once. He or she is like a newborn baby. They need to be nurtured, cared for, and taught how to crawl before they can walk. Focus on the most important aspects of the deen such as how to cultivate a relationship with the Creator. Teach them how to make wudu properly, how to pray, how to say some athkaar (plural of dhikr or remembrance of Allah) — these are the things that can help them to build their Islamic character and identity.
Don’t tell them about changing their names or getting married on day one. Spoon feed them, little by little. Most importantly, when they take their shahada, don’t shout, “Takbeer, Allahu Akbar,” kiss them on the left and right cheek, give them a hug, say masha’Allah — and then never speak to them again! A new Muslim is looking to be accepted and feel like they belong. Encourage them to come to the masjid, pick them up from their house and take them to the masjid, to classes, or out for dinner.
One of the most important lessons we find in the seerah of the Prophet (pbuh) is the mua’akhaah (brotherhood and sisterhood) that the Prophet (pbuh) formed between the Muhajiroon (those who emigrated from Makkah to Madinah) and the Ansar (the Muslim residents in Madinah who helped the Muslims upon arrival). He paired a Muslim from the Muhajiroon with a Muslim from the Ansar to establish a level of love and solidarity with each other. This approach was so deep and powerful that we learn about how the Ansar were willing to share everything, with no hesitation, with their new brothers and sisters in Islam. This is true mua’akhaah. This is what is missing in our time.
We lack support groups, mentors, counselors, classes, and other programs for the new Muslim to cultivate his Islam. Muslim communities should do everything in their power to establish these venues for new Muslims. In addition, born Muslims need cultural sensitivity training to understand the Latino Muslim. Not all Latinos are Mexican or Puerto Rican or eat tacos. It is extremely offensive to generalize. I will tell you that deep down inside, it hurts. It hurts when you think that Muslims all support and nurture a unified and caring community; yet the Muslims fall 100 yards away from their goal post. It’s quite sad.
You don’t know how many times Muslims have assumed that I’m Mexican or that I eat tacos. You don’t know how many times my Latino Muslim sons have been bullied by other Muslim boys and called names like “Pedro” or “Pablo.” Their names are Muhammad and Uthman, after the Prophet himself and after the great companion and khalifah. You don’t know how many times people have thought that I would be willing to work in a convenience store for minimum wage or that I know someone who could, simply because I’m Latino. You never bothered to get to know me. If you did, then you would know I am a university-educated, professional engineer, who was born and raised in America.
O, Seasoned Muslims…
When asked, what do we need to do for the new Muslim population? I say, a lot. But it starts with the mua’akhaah, the sincere desire for brotherhood and sistserhood without barriers, without discrimination, without preconditions. It starts, simply, with Islam.
O, New Muslim…
In the face of all the struggles you encounter, remember why you embraced Islam. Very few of us come into Islam because of someone; rather, we come into Islam due to our own deep reflection. When things get tough, don’t forget why you accepted Islam in the first place. This world, this life and its surroundings get the best of us. Shaytaan is working extra hard to make us sway from the blessed path. Don’t give up or give in. We will encounter trials and tribulations no matter what; the best response is to deal with it through patience and trust in our Lord. Don’t expect someone to hold you by the hand and walk you through the tunnel. You should be proactive and take the initiative to learn and increase your knowledge. This will enable you to increase your tawakkul (trust) in Allah and sabr (patience and perseverance).
O, Seasoned Muslims…
Do your best to establish opportunities for new Muslims to feel loved and part of the family. Live the example of the companions and build that fellowship. Abdullah bin Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim…” (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
This is an opportunity to earn rewards that could truly benefit you until, during, and after the Day of Judgment. Don’t blow it being judgmental, overbearing, or imposing. Remember that many of us are coming from difficult circumstances, some without homes, some who have been rejected by their families. We are looking to you to accept us. Remember to love for your brother or sister what you love for yourself, and the rest will fall into place, insha’Allah.

Hernan Abu Uthman GuadalupeAuthor Hernan Guadalupe, MEng., PMP, is a Muslim convert of Ecuadorian descent. He is a full-time engineer and a doctoral student in project management, as well as the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces educational materials in the Spanish language

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