To become a Muslim, one must declare the testimony of faith (the shahadah). You should accept it in your heart first, and then declare it out loud in front of witnesses. Although I have been told that you do not have to have witnesses to take your shahadah, I strongly recommend that you do, particularly at a masjid/mosque, for several reasons: 1) to make sure you say the shahadah correctly, 2) to have people to testify for you on the Day of Judgment, and 3) to be surrounded by fellow believers who will support you on this new journey, in-sha-Allah.
Once you've said your shahadah, your record is wiped clean (all your past sins are forgiven), and your new journey of living a meaningful life begins.
“Say (on My behalf), O Servants of Mine who have acted recklessly against their own selves, do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Surely, Allah will forgive all sins. Surely, He is the One who is the Most-Forgiving, the Very-Merciful.” —Surah Az-Zumar [39:53]
So, what should you do next? Here are some options:
Sign up for Classes at a Masjid/Mosque
Depending on what masjid/mosque you choose to go to, there should be a variety of free classes you can attend on a weekly basis. Here are some examples of classes that are offered at the masjid I attend:
- Beginners Class on Islam—focuses on the pillars of faith, how to pray (salah and dua), how to perform ablution (wudú and ghusl), etc.
- Intermediate Class on Islam—goes over the tasfeer of the Qur’an
- Arabic Class—teaches students the Arabic alphabet, how to read the Qur’an, Arabic grammar, how to write complete sentences in Arabic, etc.
- Hadith Session—teaches students about the life and sayings of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)
The top two classes I recommend signing up for are the introduction to Islam class and an Arabic class. You can sign up for both at the same time or one at a time depending on your schedule and learning ability.
The introduction to Islam class is more significant than the Arabic class, in the beginning, because it will go over the fundamental principles of the religion. Learning these is vital to building a solid foundation for your imaan and a strong relationship with Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
Read the Books Provided in Your New Muslim Packet
After someone says their shahadah at our masjid, they’re usually given a “new Muslim packet,” which includes a few books, a prayer mat, and a khimar (for sisters).
These books include:
- English translation of the Qur'an
- Prayer Guide
If the people at the masjid you say your shahadah at gift you these same books, then strive to set aside a few minutes every day to read one of it. I recommend starting with the prayer book since salah (the formal prayer) is a pillar & fardh act of worship.
“And be steadfast in salah, and pay zakah, and bow down with those who bow (in worship).” —Surah Al-Baqarah [2:43]
Performing salaat is a duty upon every Muslim who has reached puberty, so it’s important that you learn how to pray correctly in the early stages of this new journey. In the introduction to Islam class, they will teach you how to prepare for salah, what should be recited during salah, the different movements and standing/sitting positions throughout salah, and what to do after salah. The prayer book is a great complementary tool you can use to reinforce what you’ve learned in that class.
“Take due care of all the prayers, and the middle prayer, and stand before Allah in total devotion. But if you are in fear, then (pray) on foot or riding. And when you are in peace, recite the name of Allah as He has taught you what you did not know.” —Surah Al-Baqarah [2:238-239]
If this seems a bit overwhelming for you, I’d like to assure you that it’s not. In fact, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala has given those who do not know how to pray an alternative way for fulfilling this obligation. It’s a shorter and simpler prayer you can perform five times a day until you learn the basics of salah. You can learn more about this simple prayer here: https://islamqa.info/en/378.
“And seek help through patience and prayer.” —Surah Al-Baqarah [2:45]
Get a Mentor and/or Tutor
What's the difference? According to Sue Grunwald, a Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) project manager, “A tutor assists someone with learning a new process or concept, whereas a mentor, on the other hand, goes far beyond the role of a tutor. A mentor intentionally focuses on building quality relationships, sharing life experiences and positive views on making the most out of a person's future. Tutors focus on short term outcomes whereas mentoring improves the young person’s capabilities for lifelong learning.”
Options for tutors and mentors:
- Teacher at your local masjid
- Arabic Teacher
- Fellow Muslim (should be practicing & knowledgeable of the deen)
- Khateeb (person who gives the khutbah)
- Family Member (should be practicing & knowledgeable of the deen)
- Hafiz (person who has memorized the Qur'an)
- Student of Knowledge
- Alumnus/Alumna of an Islamic University
Note: I didn't put “should be practicing & knowledgeable of the deen” for all the options because the others will already meet that criteria (or should meet that criteria since they have a notable position).
In the beginning of this new journey, you could get a tutor to assist you with learning the fundamental principles of the religion such as tawheed (oneness of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala), the five pillars of Islam, and the six pillars of imaan (faith/belief). Then later on, you could get a tutor to help you with learning Arabic and translating the Qur'an (and so on and so forth). This is only necessary if the weekly classes are not enough for you and you need more time and help to comprehend and implement each lesson as a result. As for a mentor, they would be helpful with providing advice, eliminating doubts, sharing their wisdom, and keeping you on the straight path.
Bottom line: It's important to surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable and pious so you can have a support system that will ensure you're progressing every day and people who will be there for you during times of trials and hardship.
Attend Activities & Events at Your Masjid/Mosque
Events held at the masjid/mosque are great opportunities for you to meet and engage with other Muslims, learn more about Islam, and participate in fun and halal social activities. These activities/events may include:
Congregational prayers: Even if you don’t know how to pray, I still recommend attending one congregational prayer at a masjid nearby. That way, you can observe how the prayers are structured and gain the reward that's associated with going to the mosque for congregational prayer.
Abu Umamah reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever leaves his house in a state of purity to come to the prescribed prayer, then he will receive a reward like one who prepares for the Hajj pilgrimage. Whoever leaves to come to the forenoon prayer for no reason but this, then he will receive a reward like the Umrah pilgrimage.” —Sunan Abu Dawud
The best and most populated congregational prayer to attend is the one on Friday (known as Jummah). That's because Friday is our "holy day" (there are many virtues associated with Jumu'ah). Men, women, and children will gather on that day to listen to the prepared khutbah, pray salaat-ul-zhur together, and gain as many blessings and good deeds as they can by following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). However, you don't have to wait until Friday to attend a congregational prayer.
Masaajid are usually open every day from a few hours before sunrise to a few hours after sunset to accommodate those who go there to pray any of the five daily prayers. That means there are five congregational prayers for you to choose from [every day] to attend—just know that it won't be as populated as the ones on Friday, though. So, pick a date, check the masjid's website to see when each prayer is scheduled for that day (prayer times change throughout the year), and choose any of the prayers to attend in congregation.
Halaqah: A halaqah is a religious gathering where the Imam or a guest speaker gives a speech on a specific topic. Unlike the khutbah that is only correlated with Jummah, these gatherings & talks can occur any day of the week. Our masjid hosts a monthly potluck-styled halaqah for the sisters on Saturdays (alhamdulillah). Check your local masjid's website to see if they have any upcoming halaqahs listed on there or ask a brother/sister about it in person when you're there.
Seminars: These are a longer version of halaqahs—I attended one that lasted eight hours! There were breaks of course. Out of all the options listed here, this is the one you will most likely have to pay for in order to attend it. Prices are usually inexpensive/affordable, though, and the cost is definitely worth it. Since it's longer, you'll learn a lot more during these events and see more audience participation in the form of games and Q & A sessions.
Iftar gatherings: These are very popular during Ramadan—in and outside the masaajid. People will gather to break their fast, pray salaat-ul-maghrib & tarawih, and enjoy a sumptuous meal that's prepared by the community. I highly recommend attending one of these during Ramadan if you don't have any family members who are Muslim or any [practicing] Muslim family members nearby. That way, you won't be lonely during this blessed month and instead will be surrounded by hundreds of people working towards the same goal as you.
Eid festivities: We have three Eids: Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Jumu'ah. Yes, every Friday!
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, Allah has made this day of Friday a celebration for the Muslims. Whoever comes to Friday prayer, let him bathe himself, apply perfume if he has it, and use the tooth stick.” —Sunan Ibn Mājah
Although we do have prescribed acts of worship for Fridays, there aren't communal festivities that are held every Friday—besides the jama'ah—since it's not from the Sunnah to do so (or necessary in general). Nonetheless, there are communal festivities held on the other two Eids. The range of activities will depend on the masjid and its community members, but in general, there are usually games, food, prayer, special greetings, henna decorating, exchanging of gifts, and distribution of sadaqah/zakat to the less fortunate.
Take Action: Ask a brother or sister at your facility about upcoming events for the current month and block out time in your schedule to attend and participate in one that’s convenient for you. It's not necessary to attend every event that’s held at your facility especially if you really don’t have time for any of it, so don't feel like you have to attend all. Just choose one you think will be the most beneficial for you and make an effort to attend it.
Ask Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala for Help
Although other people or factors may have played a role in you converting to Islam or deciding to practice Islam more consistently, it is ultimately Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala who guided you to this beautiful deen. Therefore, it's wise to call on Him—the Turner of Hearts—for help with this new journey. The best way to do so is through dua. You will learn how to make dua in your introduction to Islam class as well as different adʿiyah you can say.
If you are not fluent or familiar with the Arabic language, then you can make dua in your primary language (e.g. English, Spanish, Hindi). Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala—The Wise (Al-Hakeem)—understands every language, so speak to Him in the one you're most comfortable with in a sincere and good-intentioned manner. You can make dua in Arabic later on when you're more familiar and comfortable with the language and its pronunciations.
Make an Effort Every Day
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” Thus, try to do something every day that will help to increase your knowledge of the religion and bring you closer to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.
Here's an example of a schedule you could follow:
- Sunday: Attend one class at the masjid and take notes
- Monday: Review notes from class & write down any questions/concerns you may have
- Tuesday: Read at least one page from your translation of the Qur'an book
- Wednesday: Read at least one page from your prayer guidebook
- Thursday: Read at least one page from your translation of the Qur'an book
- Friday: Attend Jummah service & observe how the prayers are structured
- Saturday: Review notes from class again to refresh your memory
- Sunday: Attend one class at the masjid, take notes, and get your questions answered
Regardless of how you choose to go about it, it's important to be consistent with building your relationship with Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, increasing and improving your knowledge & understanding of the deen, and practicing the religion to the best of your ability. After all, consistency and sincerity are the keys to success in this world & the Hereafter. And, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala knows best.