As the five year anniversary of the day I took my shahada draws near, I have begun to reflect on all that has happened. Within these last five years I have accepted Islam, married, moved to Saudi Arabia and embarked on the lifelong journey that is living as a Muslim. Alhamdulillah.
The year I spent researching Islam before I took my shahada was a year to remember. Hours flew by in minutes, minutes in seconds. I chased down every Muslim I could find to interview them on their lifestyle, habits, thoughts and wishes. I attended dinners, fundraisers, halaqas and accepted every invitation to learn more that was extended to me. After wrapping that first shayla scarf around my chubby cheeks at a “World Hijab Day” event on campus, my breath was taken away when I gazed into the mirror. For the first time, I saw a reflection that was worthy of my soul, worthy of the person that I wanted to be. Immediately, my hunger for more Islamic knowledge became insatiable.
Instead of studying, I ordered hijabs online and tried them on in secret – mostly in my room with the door locked or in my car. I began writing about my experiences and people came out of the woodwork to wish me well or to answer my questions. I felt that every well-wisher, every act of unforeseen kindness that entered my life, was a stepping stone. Each step felt that it was laid out especially for me down my path for the truth.
Although I was an environmental science major, topics would arise in my classes that mirrored the same principles asserted in the Qur’an – scientific principles that had never been brought up during my previous years of study.
Every page, every video, every interview brought me closer to where I needed to be. I can’t explain to you the feeling that came over me on the day I reverted that caused me to say my shahada and I don’t know that anyone will ever be able to explain it to someone who has not been through it. On the first of Ramadhan, 2009, I woke up before Fajr prayer to eat suhoor with my roommate. I had decided that I would try fasting for Ramadhan and, if I liked it and felt good about the decision, I would accept Islam. My roommate, not wanting to push me, but bursting inside from her desire for me to revert, had suggested the idea. I am ever grateful. On that day, I woke up with the excitement of a child on the first day of school. As she prepared a meal for us, I reflected on her acts of kindness and the path that had been laid out before me leading up to this point. She told me, “You will feel different after fasting. Ramadhan changes you. You will see, insha Allah.” Shortly after finishing our meal, it was time to pray. As I prostrated in the dark that morning, I realised something. I was Muslim. There wasn’t going to be some roadmap to my life written in the sky, spelling out my decision for me. This was it. After finishing my prayer, I told my roommate I wanted to be a Muslim. Tears streaming down her face, she had me repeat the most powerful words I had ever spoken until that moment and ever since. Words that are so simple, yet so profound, “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
In the length of a sentence, my life was forever changed. The reorganisation of my life and the relationships therein was the most difficult and painful process of my reversion. I lost friends, found hatred in unforeseen places and mostly just encountered awkward moments with people who could not understand my decision to change. The silver lining was that Allah (SWT) replaced every lost relationship with a better one and every hardship with a blessing outweighing the pain. My life changed for the better, but it was quite an adjustment.
Despite all of these life changes, I would never trade my life for the one I had previously. All of the trials, hardships, losses and growing pains were absolutely worth every second. This being said, there is no reason not to learn from my experiences and for others to benefit from them. Recently, a realisation has dawned on me: the honeymoon phase is over. No longer am I a brand new, wide-eyed revert to Islam. I am a fully developed, slightly jaded, over-the-hill Muslim woman. Gone are the days that people call to congratulate me on my life choices. The almost giddy thrill of cracking open a new book about Islam is gone. Even fasting is no longer the challenge it once was. As wonderful as that phase in my life was, I am glad it is over. I made it. Islam is now integrated fully into my life. Wearing hijab doesn’t feel like a dress rehearsal any longer.
Although all of this sounds like good news, this stage is a double-edged sword. Comfort can easily turn into complacency. Routines can lead to boredom. The lack of newness and excitement can lead to apathy. Just as a marriage in which the honeymoon phase has ended, a relationship with Islam requires constant attention. It can be difficult to put in the effort once the well-wishers have exited. Once your family has become accustomed to your new life, it can be easy to stop the conversation about your choices.
One thing I have learned in life is that the times truly do wax and wane. You will have good days and bad days, hardship and ease. This is the natural order of things. However, complacency and laziness will be present wherever there are human beings. Regardless of whether a person has been Muslim for two years or twenty, the newness will not last. The honeymoon phase is a blessing, what comes after is a challenge.
Too many people are zealous new reverts and lackadaisical Muslims after a few years. The enthusiasm they once put into improving themselves and strengthening their relationship with the deen declines. Despite their once fervent efforts, doubt creeps in. The honeymoon phase did not last long, but the marriage is still very real. The commitment to be a Muslim is not one that should be taken lightly nor abandoned due to a “lack of spark”. Focus on a time in the beginning, how excited you once were to be part of the relationship and how fulfilling it was. Your relationship with your religion is like any other; there are ups and downs. In the beginning, things are easy due to the “new” phase, the haze of excitement and giddiness where it seems that nothing can go wrong. However, once this phase is over, the glaring problems can be discouraging, causing a newly developed Muslim to take a spiritual nosedive. Grasp this moment with the knowledge that this path you have chosen is long term: a marathon, not a sprint.
Some common issues that emerge after the “honeymoon phase” are due to Muslim communities themselves. Unfortunately, like all other communities, there are major gaps in resources and infrastructure. Although there are plenty of resources for brand new Muslims, the interest and support of the community for growing Muslims tends to decline as time goes on.
Beginner Arabic and tajweed classes are spread throughout all countries, Muslim-run or not. Intermediate Arabic and tajweed classes are much more difficult, if not impossible, to find. Do not accept this as a reason to fall through the cracks. There are plenty of viable options to continue your learning journey. Perhaps studying online is a convenient alternative to classes at your local mosque. Speak with the imam or mosque board members about creating an intermediate level class. Find a qualified teacher and host your own class. Do not accept no as an answer. Be the reason that someone else can learn and benefit.
Typically, the places at the iftar table for recent reverts are infinite; not-so-new Muslims can be forgotten. Are you feeling lonely? Host your own iftar. Reach out to other Muslims who could be in the same situation. Create a safe haven for other Muslims without supportive families. Be the reason that someone is not alone.
Feeling apathetic about your marriage to this deen is not a reason to leave it. It is a reason to reflect, examine and to try harder. Stagnation and routine does not lead to fulfillment and improvement; it leads to boredom and decline. Feeling lackadaisical? Do something about it. Listen to an inspiring Youtube channel or podcast, focus on memorising a new surah of Qur’an, attend a local halaqa, start an interfaith effort. Never forget that you were once lost, confused and were led to this path by the grace of Allah (SWT). Never forget that it was written for you to be exactly where you are now. The honeymoon phase has ended, but a new journey is beginning.
“Have no fear, for Allah is with us.” (At-Tawbah:40)
K.T. Lynn is a writer/editor, licensed Zumba instructor, PADI certified scuba diver, and enthusiastic traveler.