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retread| If you’re going to do this Islam thing 2 May 2008

Posted by EDITOR in ABD, Culture, Spirituality.
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Retreads are quality posts from yesterweeks that are given a second run on Fridays. This piece was originally posted by ABD on 4 May 2006.

Welcome to the community. Now grab a bottle of water (or maybe a voice recorder), because ten seconds into any conversation with a Muslim you’ll have to repeat your conversion story. And a pen and notepad, because you’ll have to take down a lot of advice. (One of the things you’ll need in your expanded wardrobe is a thicker skin.) If you thought this was going to be a private affair, think again.

Chances are that you’ve already met a few Muslims, and were drawn by something different about them. Perhaps it was their etiquette or their modesty, their calm conviction or their piety. These are beautiful qualities, and good Muslims are blessed to have them. So stay close and benefit from their company. By your very difference, you will be a reminder of what they have in common. In borrowed words: it’s not the the color of their skin but the content of their character.

Do not make the mistake, however, of confusing Muslims for Islam. For every example of a good Muslim you will run into counterexamples. To a believing Muslim, only Islam is free of counterexamples.

If you have already learned this the hard way, then focus your interaction on the Muslims who will benefit you the most. Find one or two people you trust, not only for their knowledge but also for their humanity. Your faith is a precious thing, so guard it jealously. The first Muslim you know may not be the best person for the job, whether it’s a friend who doesn’t understand the religion or a teacher who doesn’t understand you. Both are capable of harm.

Every time someone new comes to Islam, it is also a reminder to old Muslims. Sometimes it’s a gentle reassurance and sometimes it’s a rude awakening. This is a learning process, and we’re all students here.

Keep in mind that Muslims have a long and rich historical tradition. As we negotiate our own relationship with modernity, there will inevitably be different voices with different answers in the community. You have taken the definitive step for any believer—i.e., to submit to God and follow His messenger, but it is only the beginning of a life of choices about how good a Muslim and what kind of a Muslim you want to be. Welcome to the party: you’ll find that we hug each other a lot, but we don’t necessarily agree.

If you’ve felt the force of Islam, you should know better than to compare it with any private creed, spirituality fling or social custom. It is a way of life, and the beginning of a relationship with your Creator. You will have to readjust your expectations accordingly, just as both your new and old friends will have to readjust their expectations of you.

Take your time, and take it easy. Why rush a good thing?

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Comments»

1. Anna - 3 May 2008

As-salaamu alaikum.

I appreciated this post muchly, masha’Allah. The bit about having to recount your conversion story at the drop of a hat is funny/painful because it’s true. Converts: the most satisfying and gracious way I have found to respond to this is to ask your inquisitor when he or she accepted Islam. if both of you can engage in a conversation about spiritual development, then perhaps you will feel less “put on the spot.”

There was one bit in this post that didn’t quite sit easily with me, though. The “It is a way of life, and the beginning of a relationship with your Creator.” sentence gave me pause.

I don’t think that it is true that Muslims have the market cornered on relationships with the Creator. Indeed, I think the main thing which helped me to find Islam was that I already had a relationship with Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala), and was seeking a purer way to worship.

If we accept that all of the People of the Book worship the same God, then it is reasonable to expect that converts may have already found Allah, before they accept Islam. (The signs of Divine Mercy are everywhere around us; I think that sensitive people of all creeds have the potential to notice and respond to them.)

My two cents.

2. meghan rose - 4 May 2008

Assalaamu aleykum wa ramatullahi wa barakatuh,
Jazakallahkhair. Beautiful reminders.

3. ABD - 4 May 2008

wa alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

Anna: that’s an important corrective. i had other purposes in mind with the line “it is … the beginning of a relationship with your Creator”—i.e., that one doesn’t have to have everything figured out just yet, and that it is a dynamic, deeply personal process that can’t be reduced to a set of propositions or actions. i hadn’t anticipated your reading of the line, so thank you for bringing it to light.

meghan: wa iyyak. welcome to other|matters, and may God continue to shower you with blessings in your own journey.

4. People Power Granny - 4 May 2008

Tonight I saw the most magnificent sunset here in Asheville. And of course, I thought of the Maker of Creation and of Beauty….what some folks would call god or God. Peoplepowergranny laments how we often thumb our noses at the Creator when we constantly devour and destroy many of its most beautiful creations, such as mountains and rivers. Vote in my poll, letting me know what makes you believe in a Higher Being than just us.


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