Becoming Muslim is kind of like being the new kid at school. While I never actually became Muslim (I was born into Islam), I have given many people shahadah and have taught many new Muslims the basics of Islam. I understand how different and amazing things can be when you first step into Islam.
When someone first becomes Muslim, they’re excited yet intimidated. They know there’s so much to learn and so many things to get used in this new Muslim culture.
But too often, these new Muslims make a few crucial mistakes. These mistakes can be expected from anyone joining a new group or job or community. But as a Muslim, let’s hope the newbies can figure things out without rubbing people the wrong way.
So here’s a list of the top 10 mistakes I’ve seen new Muslims make.
1. Not Try To Learn More
Islam is easy. That’s what this entire website is about. Islamic Learning Materials is meant to help people understand just how easy Islam can be.
Despite the ease, there’s a lot to learn in Islam. A new Muslim has to learn:
- How to make wudu and clean himself.
- How to make Salaah.
- The importance and essence of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism).
- And a whole lot more.
New Muslims should immediately try to find a basic Islam or New Muslim class at a local Masjid and start learning about this religion. It’s no play thing.
It’s impossible to be a practicing Muslim without learning a few basic fundamentals about Islam.
2. Get Overwhelmed
Now I’m going to contradict myself.
I just got finish telling you how important it is to learn in Islam, didn’t I?
Well, it is important. But you should still take your time.
There’s a lot to learn in Islam. A whole lot. And the more you’re around Muslims, the more you’ll discover how valuable Islamic knowledge can be.
But you’ve got to be careful not to take too much too soon.
IMHO, a new Muslim shouldn’t be trying to figure out Qadr and Qadaa. That is a complicated subject that even a lot of learned Muslims get caught up on.
So don’t let all the big and fancy gold-trimmed books in your local Masjid library overwhelm you. Take your time and learn things little by little. In time, it will all come together, Insha-Allah.
3. Try To Please Everyone
As a new Muslim, you’re kind of the new kid on the block.
The other kids don’t really know you. You might find yourself eating alone at the lunch table. Everyone might not greet you (though they should).
And to counteract this isolation, you might find yourself volunteering for every bake sale, charitable event, and Masjid committee possible.
This is a surefire way to get burned out. If you try to please everyone, you’ll wind up pleasing no one, least of all yourself.
Find a few things that are going on at your local Masjid or Islamic center that you’re really passionate about. Focus on those things and excel at them. This will be the best thing you can do to meet new people and become more familiar with your new community.
4. Try To Get Married Too Soon
This one is actually kind of funny in a creepy sort of way.
One of the biggest surprises new Muslims face is discovering they can’t have relationships outside of marriage.
That’s right boys and girls. No girlfriends and boyfriends in Islam. No going steady. No dating. None of that stuff.
When a new Muslim finds out there’s no more random frolicking with the opposite sex, they almost always set their sites on marriage. For many new Muslims (especially men), it’s a race against time and self-discipline.
My advise is…slow down. Take a chill pill. You won’t explode. There will still be more eligible Muslims available.
Except for rare circumstances, it’s usually best if new Muslims take their time before jumping into the marriage pool. And there are different reasons for this based on your gender.
New Muslim women are almost always at the mercy of their husband’s knowledge who is usually someone who’s been Muslim for a long time.
Of course, we hope for the best. But I’ve seen far too much of the worst.
Too often, a new Muslim woman will marry a Muslim man and he’ll use her ignorance of Islam against her. I’ve seen this manipulation be used to keep women away from their families, isolated from their communities, and ignorant of basic Islamic concepts.
Please sisters, take your time when choosing a husband. Spend a year (or two) studying Islam so that you know what your rights are.
For men, the problem is not necessarily abuse, but ineptness.
The Muslim man, as the head of the family, should be the one to set the pattern for his wife and children. One of his primary jobs is to create a pious and righteous household.
But this might be difficult for a new Muslim man; especially if he’s married to a woman who’s been Muslim for some time.
What I often see is a woman who’s frustrated that her husband can’t keep up with her. He’s struggling to recite Al-Fatihah while she’s busy memorizing her tenth juz.*
She fasting Mondays and Thursdays and three days in the middle of the month while he’s passed out on the living room floor after the first few days of Ramadan.
So brothers, I would suggest you also wait a couple of years and focus on studying your new faith and building your moral character. Despite your intense desire to get married, it might be best to put it off for a little while.
5. Thinking You Know Everything
This is actually an issue of pride more than anything else.
A person becomes Muslim, he starts wearing the thawbs and the sandals and he reads Kitab-at-tawheed by Muhammad Abdul-Wahhab and he thinks he’s got this whole Islam thing down pat.
Pretty soon, he’s debating with the local Sheikh, correcting everyone in sight, handing out fatwas left and right, and basically being an obnoxious jerk.
Don’t do that.
Yes, there are some new Muslims who jump into Islam and hit the ground running. They study and learn and next thing you know, they’ve been accepted at the University of Medina, and they’re speaking Arabic in about two years.
But that’s rare. Most new Muslims will require several years just to catch up to the average Muslim child properly educated and raised in Islam.
Like I said above, there’s a lot to learn in this religion.
So don’t annoy people by trying to be Sheikh Newbie. Be humble and patiently learn this faith.
6. Become Too Attached To One Community Or Leader
Your Islam should not be dependent on your leader or your community.
Some people accept Islam and become too dedicated to a charismatic Imam or the community that welcomed them in the first place. They begin to associate Islam with their leader or community. And sometimes, they get to the point that they will shun anything that isn’t part of that world.
Islam is big. It is way bigger than your Imam or your community.
It is definitely understandable that a new Muslim will love his Sheikh or teacher or the community around him. But that love is secondary to his love for Allah and His Messenger and His Book.
All Muslims are your family. Not just the ones you see on a regular basis.
7. Brag About Your Life Before Islam
A lot of people like to relive their glory days. They love to share stories of their youth and how much fun they had and how much better things were way back in the 80’s (well…things really were better back then).
And for new Muslims, a lot of this storytelling involves talking about some of the evil they used to do before they accepted Islam.
Look, no one benefits from hearing about how much money you made selling drugs, or how many girls you had, or what skanky clothes you used to wear back in the day. Instead of fondly reminiscing about those days, you should try to hide them from everyone and thank Allah daily for guiding you out of that craziness.
Keep your college drinking and wild frat parties to yourself. No one needs to hear them.
8. Focus Too Much On Technical Stuff
I know. Sometimes it seems that Islam is just so….technical.
- Cats are good, dogs are not.
- Beef is cool, pork is not.
- Men can’t wear gold but they can wear silver.
- Women can wear gold and men can’t wear silk.
- Neither men nor women can eat with gold or silver.
Some new Muslims focus a little too much on the details of Islam.
Of course, these details are important. Pork really is haraam. Men really can’t wear gold.
But a new Muslim should understand that Islam is not source code. It isn’t HTML. It isn’t a computer program.
You don’t perform a certain set of functions in order to get into Paradise. There’s a lot more behind those technical functions and some of these things will take time to learn.
It’s best for any new Muslim to remember that Islam is a balance.
And speaking of balances, another mistake new Muslims often make is…
9. Focus Too Much On Spiritual Stuff
Even though I discourage new Muslims from getting too wrapped up in what the nuts and bolts of Islam, there is another extreme.
Some new Muslims completely forget about the technical stuff and instead all they can talk about is their “spirit.”
These are the guys who say things like “Islam is in their heart” but never manifest it in their actions.
Another way they may get too spiritual is by trying to understand things that are just beyond their understanding. They want to discuss the nature of the Jinn and whether they can marry humans and if they can have children and if they like ice cream.
This is knowledge, that while interesting, has very little benefit. Rather than spending hours talking about the number of wings Angel Jibreel had, it might be best if you talked about the importance of prayer and charity.
10. Abandon Everything That Was In Their Life Before Islam
You really gotta be careful with this one.
Islam is not a cult. You’re not required to give up everything about your life that made you unique. Of course, those things that were haraam need to be left alone. But chances are there are many other parts of your non-Muslim life that you enjoy and that are beneficial.
However, some Muslim newbies want to get rid of everything from their past that is not part of their idea of Islam.
- They want to quit their well-paying job.
- They want to throw away all of their video games and comic books.
- They want to stop eating the permissible food they grew up on and adopt foods from other cultures.
- And in the worst case scenarios, some Muslim newbies even discard their non-Muslim families.
That’s a big no-no.
Family is very important in Islam. Even if that family is not actually Muslim. You should maintain ties with your family and try to be just as nice to them as you were before you took the Shahada. In fact, you should be even better considering the commandments from Allah to be kind to parents.
Instead of kicking your family to the curb and possible turning them against Islam for good, talk to them about Islam, and explain what little bit you do know. Invite them to the Masjid and explain how important family life is for Muslims.
I’ve seen quite a few cases where parents followed their adult children into Islam. My grandfather accepted Islam in his early 80’s almost 40 years after his daughter – my mother – did. So I know first hand that it can happen.
* A juz is 1/30 of the Quran.