Many people convert to Islam as a belief, but do not put it into practice. Why you may ask? Because most do not have good Muslims around them, to guide them through this difficult transition. Changing your whole way of life is not easy! It’s even more difficult when they are still living at home, or have family opposing them.
Luckily for me, alhumdulillah, I had a great group of people around me to help me. Truly, without them, I do not think I would be where I am now. My family was also somewhat accepting of it, which made a huge difference.
Many people see people giving their shahada (testimony of faith) at their local mosque, but how many of them reach out a helping hand? I remember the day I converted crystal clear, as if it were yesterday. It was Friday, August 1st, 2003 and I was 17 years old. I called the local mosque only to get a voice message and after the third attempt someone actually answered. I was told to come after the Friday prayer to meet the director of the mosque who would bring me to the imam to give my shahada. After the difficulty in finding the mosque I approached an old man to ask where to go, who brought me to his wife to show me the ladies section, she greeted me with a frown and a disgusted look, I assume because I was talking to her husband, even though they both were probably older than my grandparents. I then went to the ladies section on the second floor where I had many awkward stares. Then the most scary thing happened. Everyone stood up in unison to pray. So I just followed them, not knowing what the heck I was doing.
After the prayer and asking many people without success, I found the director of the mosque who brought me to the imam where I gave my shahada. I met the most wonderful lady there, Sister Omnia, who taught me how to pray. She followed up with me to see how I was, if I was managing well with the prayers and encouraged me to pray on time and to learn Islam more deeply. It was through her that I was introduced to the Shabab Centre (Canada), where I met some wonderful Saudi’s, and also a wonderful group of Egyptian ladies that taught me Quran, Hadith and Arabic privately and also introduced me to the halaqa that they lead at the local University. Without their help, I would not be where I am today. I like to call my decision to convert to Islam finding that missing puzzle piece in my life, and finally the puzzle was complete.
I know in my journey of finding Islam and also with many others, the journey is long and most often challenging, but with the right people supporting you, you can really prosper. Without a good group of people supporting you, most likely you will call yourself a Muslim, but in no way behave like one. Having belief in your heart is one thing, but when your actions do not resemble that belief, then you know there is something missing on your behalf. When I became Muslim I told myself, this is not a half-half thing, it is all or nothing.
So my point here is if you see a new Muslim, help them, direct them to halaqa’s and befriend them. Trust me it would be the greatest gift you could ever give them, because they need the moral support.