Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Sparkle of Islam, A Converts Perspective

Remembering can be beautiful. Miraculous. And as I remember the first weeks and months after taking the oath of shahadah, La ilah ilalah. Muhammad al Rasululah, I remember my enthusiasm and the way every word I read from the Quran resonated with wisdom and truth. I remember the excitement of discovery and the coolness of the morning air on my face after exiting the Mosque following my shahadah. I remember my eagerness to learn and how everything about Islam was a bright, new revelation. I remember how the mornings shimmered with hope and praise after completing the pre-dawn Fajr prayer. It was a beautiful, miraculous time.

And since then, although the sparkle of my youth has dimmed a bit, the tug at my heart towards Islam has not waivered. There is a beauty in the religion that not everyone has the patience to discover but that is always there, ready to be revealed; ready to shine upon those who would seek it’s treasures. Each and every of the five daily prayers still leaves me grateful and humbled to have been guided unto Islam and each and every surah of Al Quran still speaks into every aspect of my life with deeper and deeper insight.

I realize now in retrospect that there is a type of movement that exists amongst the ummah and that a current has swept through my life and quickened my spirit. In college we would watch and listen to VHS tapes of Islamic debates and lectures featuring intellectuals like Ahmed Deedat and Hamza Yusef and would be inspired to learn more and to hold debates of our own. As a young, stay-at-home mother, the numerous Muslimah websites and online resources that had become available provided access to Islamic texts and increased numbers of Muslim women willing to impart their advice and knowledge which helped to keep me motivated and active.

For me, this movement has reminded me of my duty and responsibility to first myself and then to others and with it comes the understanding that, in addition to witnessing and experiencing the beauty and glory that is and belongs to God, I must do more than be the change I want to see in the world. I must also want for others that which I want for myself. I must live knowing that my life is not only my own but part of the collective life of mankind. And although I can rehearse this and have heard others rehearse it, it is the living it that tends to slip out of our grasp. Islam has helped me to hold fast to the ideal with a strong handhold that does not, or shall I say, has not, failed me.

As a convert to Islam, there was much that I had to learn and much that I am still learning about Islam. Two of the things that I have learned and that I consider to be extremely important are the fulfilling of salaat and reading or listening to the recitation of Al Quran regularly. And two of the things that I am still learning and that I also consider important for converts is the Arabic language and reading of hadith.

Salaat has kept me grounded in faith and I have found that striving to complete the daily prayers keeps me humble. For me, prayer is a constant reminder that I have not reached a place where I can lay back and be confident that I am going to paradise. The fact that the prayer has been enjoined upon us for the duration of our lives is a sign that we must continually strive to improve ourselves.

Reading and listening to Al Quran keeps the words of God active in my mind and life. When situations arise that could frustrate, misguide or discourage me, having verses of Al Quran quick on my lips and in my heart is a comfort and security. Now that my son is becoming a teenager, I do not know what I would do if I did not have the light of the Quran to guide me as I help my son to navigate his way through adolescence.

Learning Arabic is challenging but an effort that I believe is important. The Quran says in surah 20:113: Thus have We sent this down - an Arabic Qur'an - and explained therein in detail some of the warnings, in order that they may fear Allah, or that it may cause their remembrance (of Him). Although the English translations of the Quran are a blessing and a help hearing Al Quran recited in Arabic always fills me with peace and I have often been brought to tears by the beauty of the recitation. As a believer, I think that it is important to be able to read the Quran in the language in which it was delivered.

And my final piece of advice for converts is the importance of reading the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I have found the wealth of information and guidance contained within the volumes of hadith to be immeasurable, especially as a convert living in the United States where Islam is often regarded as foreign and different. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did indeed exhibit a beautiful pattern of conduct as we are told in Al Quran and the hadith does well in preserving many aspects it. Not only have I been able to walk tall with my practice of Islam because of the guidance contained within the hadith, but I have also been able to invite others gently to Islam and to live Islam by example.

Life Reminders

Psalm 145:8-9 The Lord is Gracious and Merciful
The Lord is Gracious and Merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His Compassion is over all that He has made.

Matthew 11:28 Gentleness and Humility
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Surah 33:21 Beautiful Pattern of Conduct
Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.

Sahih Muslim, Book Unknown: Changing an Evil Action
“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.”

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