It has taken me a little while to decide what to focus on for the debut post of this blog. The blank canvas in front of me felt quite daunting, as new beginnings usually do. This took me back to the beginning of my journey as a Muslim; that daunting path stretching far and wide ahead of me, filled with so many questions, unknowns, huge change, and unfamiliar words and customs. How was I possibly going to learn everything?
Now, almost five years later, I can confirm that the same path stretches ever further, and the list of questions and unknowns seems to have grown, not shrank. One important thing I have learnt, however, is that this is something to enjoy – relish, even – and certainly not fear or run away from.
The beautiful thing about Islam, is that it is an inexhaustible subject. You could not cover all there is to learn in an entire lifetime, and it seems the more you do learn, the more doors this then opens, the more possibilities, the more questions. This isn’t to say you spend the entire time feeling lost; quite the opposite. It is more like a Narnia to explore and be enthralled by, constantly being amazed by each new discovery.
It is difficult to get to grips with this when you are brand new to Islam, and as we do in all walks of life, one of our worst habits can be to compare ourselves to others. We see the sister who is already regularly wearing a full abaya and hijab, or the brother who has already grown the traditional Muslim beard, and we berate ourselves for not yet being at that stage.
However, everyone’s experience is entirely unique. Some of us may have a harder time with our family not accepting our new faith, which makes the process of bringing our religion into our outward appearance a lot more daunting and anxiety-inducing than for say someone who has a fully accepting, supportive family, or no close ties and therefore no worries of their family’s reactions.
The same goes in terms of our practice. Some new Muslims are very quick to start memorising surahs and du’as, whereas for others this takes a little more time. Some people are naturally very good at learning and memorising, or perhaps some are fortunate in that they have access to beneficial classes that you are unable to attend. None of this means that you are failing, or that Allah hasn’t favoured you.
The fact that you believe in Allah and that He has guided you to Islam is evidence enough that He loves you and has blessed you immensely. Express your gratitude and willingness to please Him by doing everything you can to establish yourself on His path, but do this purely for His sake, seeking His pleasure and no one else’s.
When we start comparing ourselves to others, not only can this be demotivating and disheartening, but it can also distort our intentions when we strive to improve ourselves. Are we aiming to impress Allah, or are we aiming to impress people?
If our peers’ successes inspire us to work harder, then this is no bad thing. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Compete with each other in performing good deeds” (2: 148). But do so with the intention of pleasing Allah only, and you will realise then that there is no pressure, no anxiety, but only contentment and satisfaction in the knowledge that it is your effort, not your appearance or apparent achievements that truly matters.