In March of last year, I stumbled across Islam. It came to me when I met a Muslim whose character inspired me to want to learn more about the religion. He was patient with me, as I asked all of my questions, trying to understand the foundations of a faith that so strongly inspired him to strive for greatness. The more I learned, the more I discovered that Islam fit with all of my preexisting core values, the oneness of our creator, being grateful, giving in charity, being kind to others, equality between people regardless of gender, ethnic origin, etc. that woman had a place contrary to what mainstream society believed, that being honest and kind were expected and that backbiting was a sin. This was all a very easy fit for me, these were values that I held dear to me already, except now I saw them emulated so beautifully in other believers.
A year ago almost to the day, I took my Shahada during Jummah prayer. I was greeted by many of the sisters. I was quickly overwhelmed with all the initial love and support and just as quickly left to my own devices. The best advice I was given was to take things at my own pace. At the time, I wondered why I would do this? When you know what you know, it’s hard not to want to strive for doing it all. When I recognized things which weren’t acceptable in Islam, I knew that these were habits and behaviours that needed to change. It became difficult to give up everything at once, but it also became difficult to knowingly do things I knew were not right. This space in between, where you know better, but you’re fighting your inner self to give it all up, became the greatest challenge I have ever faced. But I found comfort in knowing that we fear Allah (swt) to the best of our ability, and only Allah (swt) knows our struggles.
After a few months of accepting Islam, I stopped listening to music, I no longer wore makeup, I covered my arms and legs, I stopped wearing nail polish, I got rid of all the alcohol in my home, I wore flat shoes. Instead of music, I listened to the stories of the prophets and lectures on line. I read anything I could find to help me understand Islam better. I learned about the pillars of the religion. I fasted during Ramadan, learned to pray five times a day, and memorizing the Surah’s I needed for prayer. I led a secret life that my family and friends did not know about, not because I was ashamed of who I was becoming, but because I knew that most would have a very difficult time accepting my choices.
Many months after my transition, I began attending a sister’s halaqa and am grateful to have met some amazing women who helped me feel like I belonged among them. Alhamdullilah. As they watched me progress in my journey of faith, they would always advise that I go at my own pace.
Honestly, that is the best advice I could have received. And it is only through time, that this advice truly began to sink in. I learned to go easy on myself as I faced some of the practices that were difficult for me to grasp. I was often in tears at the idea of not celebrating traditional celebrations with my family, not celebrating birthdays, getting rid of my Christmas decorations or the idols that were given to me by someone very dear to me, etc. Through my tears is when I realized that this advice was so truly valuable. This is the best advice I could give to someone making the transition or currently in transition. I admit that I did not truly appreciate the advice when it was given to me at first, but I now realize how precious it really is.
To this day, I am still going at my own pace and have accepted that I can’t do it all at once. I have come to the realization that we are all striving towards Allah (swt) in the best way we can, fearing Allah (swt) to the best of our ability. Not just those of us who have recently accepted Islam, but all of us. Because we’re all on this journey, headed to the same destination, hoping to triumph over all our tests.