Written by Cathy Jane [@tulipsandturnips]
Questions by My Salah Mat
- Tell us about the day that you decided that you wanted to become a Muslim.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the day that I decided to become a Muslim. It was a slow process, but I remember that my (now) husband said to me one day as we were talking about Islam and what I had learned, if you believe all this you’re basically Muslim. This was in 2013, Alhamdullilah!
Very quickly after I started learning about Islam and how our prophet SAW, was the final messenger, I immediately believed Islam was the right path. I thought of the Quran as the Bible 2.0, if this came after the Bible, and was the word of God I had to follow it, there was really no question.
Of course adapting to this new religion, learning what it meant to be Muslim, all took longer, but I accepted the message of Islam soon after I received it.
- What inspired you to become a Muslim?
I was always aware of Islam as a religion of course, but I thought about it along the lines of Judaism, you just are what you are, you are born Christian, Jew or Muslim. I never paid too much attention to what the differences were between the religions, I did know we all prayed to the same God. I knew about Ramadan and Eid because I had Muslim friends growing up, but I never went deeper than that.
Until 2012 when I moved to Bangladesh for 6 months and suddenly found myself in a Muslim majority country. I made Muslim friends, started learning more about the religion and as I said before, as a Christian and a believer, for me it was as simple as; if this Quran is the word of God, if it came after the Bible, who am I to not follow it?
Interestingly though, before moving to Bangladesh, I wasn’t practicing or very religious, I prayed, but I also drank, partied and did what every 20 year old in the West does really, without being to caught up in my faith.
After learning about Islam and seeing the happiness and peace it brought to my friends, something clicked. I did not change overnight, I did not stop drinking or eating pork right away, I did not start wearing the hijab or dressing modestly until a few years later but something shifted during those months, a seed was planted.
- What did you find helpful during this period?
A lot of what we see about Islam is culture, so I really focused on the two most important things in Islam, the Quran and the life of the Prophet SAW. I wanted to know the true religion and not what society had painted it to be. Just like Christianity, Islam is coloured by the people who practice it, cutting through what’s religion and what’s culture really helped during this time I was getting to know more about Islam.
- What was your experience during the initial few weeks and months after converting to Islam?
My transition into Islam was pretty gradual, I didn’t change my appearance or my actions overnight. I gradually adapted different pieces of the religion as my own.
The first weeks and months the biggest thing was probably telling my friends and family. Telling my parents was a little nerve-racking and I probably could’ve been a little more gentle about it. However, showing them that I was still the same person and the fact that changes were gradual, made it easier for them to accept.
People around me have always been very accepting and openminded about many things and I’m very blessed to say that I haven’t lost any friends or family through my conversion.
- What feelings and emotions did you experience when you took your shahada?
So, I never went to the mosque to officially take my shahada, I started practicing gradually and had professed my faith on many occasions, but I don’t have an actual Shahada-versiry or a moment in time where I can pinpoint; now I’m Muslim. I started praying, going to the mosque on Fridays and that was that.
- If you were to compare your life before and after Islam, what reflections would you have to share?
I want to say my life both changed drastically after accepting Islam, and it didn’t change at all.
Looking back at the person I was in 2012, yes, I dress different, my priorities have changed, I’m more spiritual, I pray 5 times a day, don’t drink, don’t eat pork, fast, yes, a lot changes. But, I’m also a decade older, married and have two kids now 😊
I know my friends and family would say I’m still the same me, I still love to travel and explore the world, I love to eat good food, I work hard and care deeply for the people around me, and Islam didn’t magically cure the fact that I’m the biggest klutz around.
- What challenges did you encounter when you were learning how to perform salah?
Oh boy, learning how to pray, memorizing surahs and reading Arabic have been my biggest struggles. It took me 3 years to memorize the prayers and a few surahs, I still can’t read Arabic, one thing that I really wish I would spend more time on.
I know it’s important for converts to give themselves grace, especially living in the West, we don’t always have the resources at our disposal to learn Arabic or how to pray. I’m blessed with amazing in-laws that have helped me so much and continue to push me to be a better Muslim.
- What ideas do you have to teach your children to develop a love for salah?
My children are young, 20 months and 3 weeks 😊 I’m so excited to see my toddler joining us in prayer and grabbing my scarf when she knows it’s time. I can’t wait for them to be a bit older and incorporate My Salah Mat in our prayer routines.
Looking back at my childhood and how my parents approached prayer, it was woven throughout our days, waking up, eating, going to bed, whenever you needed a conversation with God he was there. I want to instil that relationship with God in my children as well and I think a tool like My Salah Mat is the perfect way to do so.
- What emotions and feelings did you experience when you were praying to Allah?
One of the biggest shifts in my conversations with God and prayer, is that Islam teaches you to ask God for anything, ask God for your hearts’ desire, your biggest dreams and then leave it up to him. A dua was something completely foreign to me.
My relationship with God was, and still is, one of gratitude, you’d thank God for what you have and you’d pray for others. Asking God for things for myself was something I just didn’t do, I always thought God had better things to do and there are people more deserving of his help than me. Islam thought me that nobody is too small to ask for help or sustenance from their Creator. We should ask God and then leave it in His hands, because He is the one that gives and provides.
- What advice do you have for anyone that has recently converted to Islam?
Take is slow! One of the most valuable pieces of advice I received was: things will make sense when you are ready for it. If something you learn about Islam seems difficult or is hard to grasp, it might not be the time for you to adapt that practice.
Wearing hijab, giving up things that are haram, learning how to pray, it will all fall into place the moment you are ready. Islam gives us a complete blueprint on life and how to be a good person, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take it one step at a time and try not to change everything about your life all in one day.
There is so much pressure I feel on converts to immediately be a “perfect” Muslim and know all the things. The “perfect” Muslim doesn’t exist and even born Muslims don’t know everything. If you put too much pressure on yourself you might start to resent the religion for what “it’s making you do” but Islam can’t make you do anything only you can. So, go easy on yourself and know that God knows your heart and your intentions.
To purchase the My Salah Mat sister Cathy was referring too please click on the image below.