As a convert to Islam, you can easily remember the moment that you discovered that Islam was the one and only true religion. The moment of realization is an intense whirlwind of emotions such as relief, joy, gratitude and peace.
The moments leading up to the taking of the Shahadah, or Islamic declaration of faith, are equally exuberating. You wear your best clothes, travel to the mosque and pronounce the testimony of faith: “Ash hadu an la ilaha illa Allah, wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan rasoolu Allah” (I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger) in public for the very first time.
Afterwards, the Muslims at the mosque will offer their congratulations and so too will the Muslims in your community. Your new faith has lit up your heart and the sense of the Islamic nation surrounds you.
However, it is important to realize that the level of excitement you felt in taking the shahadah will likely fade away as you get back to living. It’s inevitable and it does not necessarily mean that you are a “bad” Muslim or have done anything wrong. The faith, ebbs and flows just like a babbling brook in the middle of a grassy meadow. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.” (Al-Hakim)
There are several reasons why our faith decreases. Everything from engaging in unlawful activities to committing major and minor sins takes a toll on our faith.
The good news is that there are several ways that you can maintain an optimum level of faith and enjoin the good while forbidding the evil.
Turn to God First
When you feel that your faith is weakening or that your heart is sick, turn to God in sincere du`aa’, or supplication. When a Muslim’s heart is filled with obedience, love and gratitude towards God, Satan increases his efforts to lead the faithful Muslim away from his Creator. He does so by means of waswas (insinuating whispers) that makes a Muslim question his faith, feel nervous about his choices or even causes him to forget to perform certain acts of worship such as the obligatory Prayers. You can fight off the whispers from the Shaytan by asking for Almighty’s refuge from it.
Another way is to increase your good deeds and increase other acts of worship. Perform dhikr (the remembrance of God), as often as you can and read the Qur’an on a daily basis. Spend in charity of what you are able, even if it is only a smile or a helping hand to someone who needs it. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in suffering from weak faith. It can happen to any Muslim.
Follow the Five Pillars of Islam
God has given us the perfect prescription for joy and success in this world and the next. The first part of that prescription is the gift of the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. The second part is the five pillars of Islam:
1- Shahadah – Testimony of Faith
3- Zakah – annual alms for the poor.
4- Fasting in Ramadan
5- Hajj – Pilgrimage to Makkah
In architecture, pillars are used to stabilize a building and give it strength. So too do the five pillars of Islam give a Muslim strength. By following the five pillars of Islam, you create a sound foundation for your life as a Muslim. Just like a building with weak pillars threatens to topple over, not following the five pillars of Islam will have a similar effect on your faith.
As a new Muslim, in particular, it may take you some time to learn the pillars of Islam perfectly. However, you must hasten to arm yourself with proper Islamic reading materials that teach you how to perform each pillar in the correct way.
For example, there are dozens of Islamic books that painstakingly detail how to fast properly in Ramadan. There is no excuse for not increasing your Islamic knowledge especially in our digital age. Countless Islamic websites that adhere to the Qur’an and Sunnah are only a couple of mouse clicks away.
Ponder on God’s Creation
The beauty of the rose as its petals intertwine seamlessly, the brightness of the sun as it rises each dawn, the carefree laugh of an infant for the very first time – these are just a few of the signs of God that are evident in His creation. All you really have to do is open your eyes, look and reflect. God Almighty reveals in the Qur’an:
And on the earth are signs for those who have Faith with certainty. And also in your own selves. Will you not then see? (Adh-Dhariyat 51:20-1)
Let’s use the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Years before he received his mission as the Last Messenger, he would often contemplate the creation and reflect upon it.
Learn the Attributes of God
There are ninety-nine beautiful names of God and learning them perfectly is one of the keys to Paradise according to a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad:
“Indeed, Allah has 99 names (one hundred minus one); whoever memorizes them will enter Paradise.”
Some of the names are: Ar-Razzaq (The Ever Providing), Al-Sami` (The All Hearing) and Al-Ghafur (The All Forgiving). By learning the names and attributes of our Creator, we can better get to know our Lord. Try to learn at least three names a day along with the meaning. By the end of thirty-three days, you will have learned all ninety-nine.
Obedience and Free Will
There’s nothing to stop a Muslim from listening to the latest hit song on the radio or turning on the TV to tune into the latest drama or sitcom to come out of Hollywood. That is why humans possess free will.
However, as Muslims, we know that most music and most aspects of television are unlawful. The words woven into a song or the images of haram (unlawful) activities played out on TV have a direct effect on the human heart. It is a huge misconception if you believe that engaging in these wasteful activities won’t harm you. Not only will they cause harm, but also they will blacken the heart and cause your faith to wane. By obeying what God has decreed in the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, in every aspect of life, all Muslims can reap the benefits of a faith that is unwavering and never flinches.
Enhance Your Faith
Remember that as a new Muslim you should also surround yourself with people who are going to enhance your faith and not harm it. Befriend a good Muslim, of the same gender, in your community or reach out to the Imam at your local mosque for more guidance and advice.
May God strengthen your faith and always guide you to His Straight Path. Ameen.
Taken with slight modifications from Onislam.net