Sunday 23rd of July 2017

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Considering conversion – What might one expect?

Some people might suggest that the process of conversion is a simple and straightforward procedure but I would be reluctant to refer to it in such simplistic terms. Choosing to commit to a faith requires serious thought, extensive reading, enquiry, self analyses, exploration and ingenuity; On the other hand it may be that one has a spiritual experience which propels them straight to the heart of the matter and, initially at least, it may appear little else is required.

Whatever the circumstances it is a process which can be enormously rewarding from a variety of perspectives but, it is also highly likely that it may present some difficulties which, if not prepared for, could seriously deflate the soaring spirit. Friends and family don’t always welcome such news with the enthusiasm one may wish for and the process can often be an individual one with the prospective convert treading what seems like a lonely road. Depending on your personality it may well be that lots of opportunities to discuss your new found faith will present themselves and it is always wise to take advantage of such moments. However one should always approach with caution taking time to establish the reputation and background of the discussants and allowing yourself the time and space to reflect on the information you have acquired. ‘Balance,’ is the Islamic principle upon which we are encouraged to live our lives and it is this balanced attitude and approach that is particularly important at this transitional time.

Having spent some considerable time exploring the way of life that is Islam one eventually finds oneself wishing to make a commitment to living according to its tenants thus fulfilling the growing desire to belong to the faith community. Ideally one may make such a commitment in the heart and, since this is a personal pledge or covenant with God, it is not the concern of any other individual except between the Creator and what resides in the heart of His created servant. However since the Muslim community is a minority one here in the UK it is important to know who its adherents are so that, in times of difficulty or crises, they may respond to each individuals needs as best they can. It is with this in mind that conversion to Islam in the UK is usually conducted in the presence of a small number of Muslims who act as witnesses to the event so that each new adherent to the faith it is known and is both acknowledged and welcomed into the faith community. A written declaration of the event may also be arranged which, though it is not entirely necessary, may be helpful at a later time.

The person conducting the occasion will first wish to confirm that you are wishing to commit of your own free will and that you have not come under duress from another individual or group who may be coercing you to do so. He or she may then enquire as to how you have arrived at this decision and to what extent you have read or explored Islam so that you could be assisted by those present in your continued spiritual development. They will then wish to establish that by confirming your faith in Islam you believe in the Articles of Faith:

• The Oneness of God and the belief that nothing happens without His will
• Belief in the Angels
• Belief the Divine Revelations and sacred texts from the first of these – the Old Testament to the last of God’s revelations – the Qur’an
• Believe in all the messengers of God, starting with Adam and including Noh, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad peace and blessings be upon   them all and finally
• Belief in the Day of Judgement when all mankind will be judged according to their actions.

You will then be guided through the five pillars of Islam to which you are encouraged to adhere to the best of your ability as soon as you have the knowledge of their performance. These are:

• Your Shahadah, or declaration of faith, which you are in the process of making
• Establishing your prayers as soon as you have learned the movements, the words and their meanings
• Purifying your earnings by paying Zakah
• Fasting the month of Ramadan, or part thereof, until you are able to complete all of it
• To perform the pilgrimage of Hajj if you have the means to do so.

You should then understand that your first duty is to Allah, and to His Messenger Muhammad. This you will learn through reading and understanding the Qur’an and the Sunnah of way of the Prophet (pbuh). Your next duty is to your parents and family regardless of their faith background followed by your extended Muslim family of which you are now a part and to all mankind and all of God’s created beings.  You should strive throughout your life to encourage what is good for humanity and speak out against what is unjust and what would be considered to be unworthy behavior towards your fellow humans so that we may establish peace with justice wherever we are.

Having explained the declaration of faith you will be asked to recite it in Arabic or read your declaration in English using the following or similar wording:

I, (your name), wish to declare that I have accepted Islam of
my own free will and choice and today, in front of witnesses,
declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is
His servant and messenger.

If it is preferred that you recite it in Arabic don’t have a panic attack! if you have not memorised it or familiarised yourself with the language the person conducting your Shahadah will take you through it slowly giving you time to repeat the words in Arabic until it is completed.

Once you have recited the declaration of faith in Arabic or English, or both, you are now a Muslim. It is usual for those present to pray together thanking God for this wonderful occasion in your life and asking Him to guide and protect you and to facilitate your onward journey. At this stage everyone should welcome you into the Muslim community usually with hugs and handshakes. Coming from a society which is not very tactile this can be quite an awesome yet uplifting experience and immediately establishes that sense of belonging at this crucial time in your spiritual journey.

Those who have journeyed this well traveled road may well suggest that the way ahead may be a bumpy ride and, though life generally continues much the same as before, you are now equipped with a firm belief in and relationship with God as well as a framework to sustain that relationship through every situation, whether it be riding the crest of every wave or facing the inevitable tests life we must all endure. Know that God is with you always and with every hardship comes ease and that it is through the remembrance of God that hearts find rest so remember Him moment by moment, day by day until, one day, your journey takes you back and you enter the Garden together with the Believers – Ameen

Note: For and explanation of any words used in this passage which you do not understand please go to Glossary of Terms