Being a Muslim
I want to be a Muslim, but…
by Shannon Abulnasr
Do you believe in Islam, but hesitate to take the next step to be come a Muslim? Many people fit this scenario, but hesitate for various reasons. Satan is an enemy to mankind, and he has promised that he will bring corruption to the land and cause people to turn away from God.
“[Satan] said, “Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You].”” (Qur’an 7:16-17)[i]
When one discovers truth in Islam, and decides they want to accept the faith, Satan will introduce the word but. “I want to become a Muslim, but…” Satan knows how to manipulate all mankind.
The most common reasons people say but, are actually misconceptions that Satan has whispered to you to turn you away from Islam. Do not let such things put a barrier between you and Islam.
Let’s bring clarity to some of these misconceptions that Satan whispers to people.
My friends and family will not approve of my choice.
Approval from family is not a requirement to accept Islam. In Islam, we consider everyone to be born as a Muslim. Mankind is born in a state of fitra (submission to God) naturally, and are raised into the religion held by their parents, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism etc. When a person discovers Islam later in life and accepts it as their faith, they are reverting back to their original faith.
It is advised to slowly drop hints and talk about religion in general to make the subject matter known to those around you so that they will know that you are learning about various faiths so that it won’t be too big of a shock when you do decide to tell them about your choice.
Disapproval from parents about your choice of accepting Islam, should not hold one back. If you fear that they will make your life difficult, you can always choose to keep your Islam secret from them, practicing in secret. While you are required to respect your parents and treat them with kindness, you are forbidden to follow them in anything that goes against Islam. This does not mean that you should cut all ties to your family if they disagree. It is of extreme importance to keep good relations with family in Islam.
There are no Muslims or a mosque where I live.
Having no Muslims or a Mosque around you isn’t a reason to not accept Islam. Islam is a belief, and way of life, not something that is only practiced in a particular place, or around a group of people. If you have the means and ability to move, it is encouraged to move to a Muslim populated area where you can meet and interact with other Muslims, and attend a mosque regularly.
If you are unable to move to a Muslim populated area, you can still live as a Muslim, and learn and practice Islam. The internet opens up many opportunities for new Muslims to join online Islamic communities, and many have even been developed specially to support new Muslims in particular.
I don’t know a lot about Islam, where or how to learn more about it.
It is not obligatory to have vast knowledge about Islam before becoming a Muslim. Knowing the fundamentals is sufficient – the five pillars of Islam, the six articles of faith, and believing in the oneness of God (monotheism), and that Muhammad pbuh is his final messenger. This alone is enough to get you started.
You will be able to learn more in depth after embracing Islam, and there shouldn’t be any rush, otherwise you may become overwhelmed. Don’t expect to know everything at once. You will learn more in time, as long as you make a steady effort in learning.
Prophet Muhammad pbuh said, “A believer is never satiated with listening to the good things till he reaches Paradise.” (at-Tirmidhi Hadith 78)[ii]
If you live in a Muslim community, the local mosque may have classes to help you in your first stage of learning as a new Muslim. If you do not live in a Muslim community, there are numerous websites and even Islamic Universities that offer free education about Islam.
I don’t know how to pray yet!
Don’t be hard on yourself! No one is expected to know how to pray before accepting Islam. You will learn it as part of your first studies as a new Muslim. It can take a few weeks to completely learn the prayers properly, so just be patient, you will learn it. It will take effort on your part to achieve it though. It will not happen overnight. Just do what you can as you are learning. Islam is easy, but people make it difficult, so stay positive!
I don’t know Arabic yet!
Allah created all mankind, and though mankind speaks various languages, it isn’t required to know Arabic to become a Muslim. Many people may tell you that you must pray in Arabic, but you can’t do that if you are new to Islam, and Arabic is not your native language.
“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” (Qur’an 2:286)[iii]
There are guides to learning prayer, and to teach you Arabic, and you will eventually learn to pray in Arabic. It is ideal to learn the prayer in your native language so that you fully understand what is being said, and the meanings behind it. Once you have the basics of the prayer down, and understand what is being said in the prayer, you can start to learn it in Arabic. Again, be patient, it will come in time.
Would I be abandoning Jesus?
Simple answer – Absolutely not! Muslims believe he is a prophet sent to the Israelites, believe he is the Messiah, and hold him in high honor. Muslims believe in his virgin birth, his miracles, and even attribute more miracles to him than the Christians do.
The Quran emphasizes that Jesus was a human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message. While Muslims believe that he was sent with God’s message, they reject that he is divine (being part of a trinity). The aspect of monotheism for Muslims is that God is one, without having partners associated to him. He is not begotten, nor does he beget.
Muslims do not believe he died for the sins of people, because Islam teaches that only God erases sins, and does not punish one person for the sins of another. Muslim do not believe he was crucified, but believe that Jesus pbuh was raised at the time of crucifiction to be with God until the day of Judgment begins, and that he will return as the Messiah.
Did you know that Jesus pbuh is mentioned in five times more in the the Qur’an than Muhammad pbuh? Another interesting fact is that an entire chapter is dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus! So, no, you will not be abandoning Jesus! You will actually gain even more appreciation for him.
Do I have to change my name?
No, you do not have to change your name to be a Muslim. Names can be retained as long as they are not associating to something negative or against Islamic beliefs, or represent the names of other gods in various religions. Some examples of names that would need to be changes is “Dennis”, because it is a variation of “Dionysus” who was the Greek god of wine and fertility, or “Laverne” whom was the Roman goddess of spring. Names such as “John” or “Mary” do not need to be changed, because they have pleasant meanings and do not go against Islamic beliefs.
Many new Muslims, especially women, incorrectly change their last name (family name) to be that of their husband. This is not acceptable because Islam teaches that mankind must keep their family name, being that of their father’s family. It is to secure a proper understanding of one’s lineage.
Many new Muslims keep their names, but prefer to go by the Arabic version of their name. An example would be if a woman was born as “Mary” but would choose to go by “Maryam” which is the Arabic equivalent. However, it is not required to change the names with good meanings legally, unless one desires to do so.
I have too many sins.
Mankind sins, everyone does it. The good news though, is that accepting Islam, erases ALL your prior sins! Regardless of the severity, or number of your sins, your slate will be wiped clean! God promises his forgiveness of sins in the Qur’an:
“Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them” (Qur’an 8:38)[vi]
So, by accepting Islam, you will be like a new born baby, pure without sin. Even if you fear that you will continue sinning, this should not make you hesitate. If sin in the future, you just seek forgiveness from God, and try to avoid doing it again. God is the most merciful and is the forgiver of all sins.
Do I need witnesses to say my declaration of faith (shahada).
Becoming a Muslim is a personal matter that is between you and God only. When you decide to say your declaration of faith, while it is advised to have witnesses, it is not required to do so. Witnesses will welcome you with open arms and will know you, and will make it easier to meet others and gain support. However, if you are alone when you recite your shahada, you will be a Muslim, even without witnesses. Allah is the best witness. Unlike other religions, there is no formal ceremony or traditions to follow because it is a matter of the heart, not a preformance.
Do I have to have a certificate declaring my faith?
No. It is not required to have a certificate proving you are Muslim.
However, if you ever have the opportunity to go to do the pilgrimage (Hajj-one of the five pillars of Islam), you would need to obtain one to be able to travel to Mekka. It is recommended that you obtain a certificate of your faith, as well as to draw up an Islamic will for the instance of your death. This will ensure that your religion is known, and that you will have an Islamic burial. This is important due to that fact that your family may not be Muslim, and may try to bury you according to the practices of another religion.
So, now that you have all these misconceptions about accepting answered….are you ready to become a Muslim?
To become a Muslim, all you have to do is recite the declaration of faith with full sincerity:
“I bear witness that there is no God except Allah,
and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”
then repeat this same testimony in Arabic as follows:
“Ash hadu anlla ilaha illallah,
wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan rasul ullah”
Sahih International Translation of the Qur’an
[ii] Narrated AbuSa’id al-Khudri Prophet Muhammad pbuh said, “A believer is never satiated with listening to the good things till he reaches Paradise.” at-Tirmidhi Hadith 78
[iii] Sahih International Translation of the Qur’an
[iv] The Prophet Muhammad said, “No babe is born but upon Fitra (as a Muslim). It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6426)
[v] It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘The deeds connected to the Fitrah are five (or five things are connected to the Fitrah): circumcision, shaving the pubic hairs, clipping the nails, plucking the armpit hairs and trimming the mustache.'” Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 292
[vi] Yusuf Ali Translation of the Qur’an