muslim

I’m Hesitating Over Becoming Muslim. Could You Clarify Some Issues?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I’m Hesitating over becoming Muslim. I need answers to these issues:

Q1: Are there some common traps in practicing in community as well as blessings?

Q2: Why do some Muslims talk with such certainty and specificity about things that are surely open to interpretation and more importantly perhaps beyond human comprehension such as the notion of heaven and hell?

Q3: Any tips on how to go about striking this balance between practicing in community and believing in quiet?

Q4: In the case of Islam, do Muslims believe it is possible for there to be multiple paths to the same God, multiple equally valid religious traditions, or does Islam necessitate believing boldly that Islam is the only truly, correct one?

Q5: While I believe Muslims certainly treat non-Muslims fairly and kindly on the whole, I fear that some Muslims can sometimes dehumanise their non-Muslim fellow humans. Do Muslims truly respect and love non-Muslims as they do their Muslim “brothers and sisters” or is it a lesser love?

Answer: Thank you for writing in to us. We appreciate you reaching out and sharing your thoughts, all of which are important for you to resolve. You should always feel welcome to ask any questions and discuss any concerns you have, and are welcome to contact us as much as you like.

How much advice and support we can offer online will always be limited, and for this reason it is always advisable to seek out reliable and able scholars in your local area to discuss the concerns you have in person, and to provide the necessary support. However, we are here for you and will do our best to offer you some advice.

Q1: Are there some common traps in practicing in community as well as blessings?

Being Muslim means believing that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad ﷺ is his Messenger. After this, it is believing in the other 4 pillars of Islam (Prayer, Alms, Fasting, and Hajj), and doing one’s most upmost to practice these pillars. This is the essence of the Islamic faith. How private or public one wants to make their religious practice is up to the individual.

The path of Islam is a middle way, and this means that in practice it is made up of a number of broad aspects which address the needs of individual believers and society. There is no hard and fast rule on how much one should engage with communities, though there is a certain ‘set’ amount of rights the religion puts in place for the benefit of all, which can include social rights, such as to one’s family and neighbours.

People are different, so some aspects of the religion maybe more emphasised in a person’s life than others. For example, one person may spend more time alone in worship, meditation, and study etc. while others may prefer more serving the community more actively. All are fine and acceptable and the religion doesn’t seek to change a person’s nature, but rather to enhance it. If you’re more introverted and like to spend time on your own, there is nothing wrong with that.

Communities have great benefits and blessings, and it is generally advisable not to isolate oneself from the local ‘group’. However, because of our human nature, challenges can be experienced in even the best communities and it is not always possible or desirable to be fully engaged in everything that happens within the community. At the same time, these same challenges are experiences which define us and help us overcome those aspects of our very selves that perhaps need to be worked on, aspects which do not often become apparent in one’s own company.

A golden rule of how to behave with others is as the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘A believer is affable and easy to approach. There is no good in those who are neither affable nor easy to approach. [Musnad Ahmad]

As such, not everyone has to be active members of the group or community, especially if it doesn’t come naturally. But they should be generally approachable with people, help them whenever they can, avoid confrontation, and not think and speak ill of others. One should also do one’s best to attend the main events and gatherings of the community, as having good company and friends is good for one’s own social needs and development. It is perhaps more necessary when beginning in any path, so as not to feel isolated.

For further guidance, I recommend reading Imam al Haddad’s book, ‘The Book of Assistance’, which contains guiding principles on individual worship and social duties. I also recommend reading Dr. Asad Tarsin’s ‘Being Muslim – A Beginner’s Guide.’ Hopefully, these will help you navigate on the right balance in religious practice.

Q2: Why do some Muslims talk with such certainty and specificity about things that are surely open to interpretation and more importantly perhaps beyond human comprehension such as the notion of heaven and hell?

Islamic eschatology, like many religions, is based on the message conveyed through revelation and is supported by the carriers of those messages, namely the Prophets. The general rulings on such matter are not open to interpretation as they have come through explicit revelation, though the finer details of events may be subject to scholarly discussion.

Certainly, we should know heaven and hell, and those clear things that lead to them, for it is through our acts in this life that we enter either one, while at the same time, we leave the final judgement of people to God.

We have to have wisdom in the way we talk about and teach religion, paying attention to who we are talking to and the individual situation. The fear of Hell may be necessary to emphasise for some people, while an emphasis on the Divine Love is needed to inspires others.

I agree with you that in todays’ society, where societies are breaking down and political strife is everywhere, people are more likely to come through the door of love and mercy than the door of fear, though, again, it is a matter of balance, and usually both are needed at different times and for different people.

Religious guidance must also be coupled with support and guidance for people, and finding solutions to the everyday issues people are facing. This again goes back to the importance of communities, and why grassroots projects are needed in them. These are certainly challenges times for the Muslims across the globe, and I invite you to help make a difference!

A further note is that matters of life and death have been the pre-occupation of man since ancient times. Understanding religious doctrine and the reasons for certain beliefs is a matter of learning what the great minds have grappled with over centuries of scholarship. One can do this by taking courses in belief, and this way one can learn systematically what belief actually entails and why we believe in certain things. It is very difficult to make a judgement on a religious belief without having some form of formal learning in it first.

Q3: Any tips on how to go about striking this balance between practicing in community and believing in quiet?

I hope the answer to Q1 has answered this for you.

Q4: In the case of Islam, do Muslims believe it is possible for there to be multiple paths to the same God, multiple equally valid religious traditions, or does Islam necessitate believing boldly that Islam is the only truly, correct one?

Muslims believe that Islam is the final religion sent to man, conveyed by the final Prophet, Muhammad ﷺ. This is borne out from the words of God, ‘And We have not sent you [O Muhammad] except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind, but most of men know not.’ [34:28], and, ‘‘If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him.’ [3:85].

As for those of other faiths who preceded Islam, or those people to whom the message never reached, then there are some details to this that can be found in books of Islamic belief.

For further reading on Islamic belief and the universality of religions, I recommend reading the following articles by Sh. Nuh Keller: On the validity of all religions.

Q5: While I believe Muslims certainly treat non-Muslims fairly and kindly on the whole, I fear that some Muslims can sometimes dehumanise their non-Muslim fellow humans. Do Muslims truly respect and love non-Muslims as they do their Muslim “brothers and sisters” or is it a lesser love?

The true believer acts in accordance to what Allah commands, and loves and detests for the sake of God alone. Faith is a gift from God that can be taken away at any time, therefore each believer must be humble and cautious in all his dealings with others, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Islam commands us to treat all people with fairness. Allah Most High exhorts, ‘Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.’ [60:8] Therefore, non-Muslims who are not openly at war with Muslims should be treated with respect and justness, and this was exemplified on countless occasions in the life of the beloved Prophet ﷺ.

It is also common to find love between Muslims and non-Muslims because we share the common brotherhood of humanity and our lives, especially in the Wets, are often intertwined. As Muslims, we may not agree with other people’s beliefs, but we should all desire in our heart the very best for each and every human being. For this reason, we should not, as you say, be distasteful or demeaning to non-Muslims. Rather, we are commanded to follow the example of the Prophet ﷺ who said, ‘I was only sent to perfect noble character.’ [al Muwatta]

At the same time, it is natural for Muslims to love other Muslims in a special way for the sake of God. ‘For the sake of God’ means we love fellow believers because they too have been guided by Allah, they too share the desire for the truth, and they too are working for a common good, a good which is ultimately for everyone.

It is usual to love those who share the same aspirations and shared struggles in worldly matters, so the bond is even greater in regards matters of the spirit and eternal truths, and this bond helps the believers to increase in faith, to do good, and to have hope.

As a final note to this, you may have noticed that Muslims may vary in their approach to aspects of the religion. Please don’t let the practice of some put you off the whole. Watching the followers of any religion can be either a good or bad experience. Try to stay focused on the message of Islam, and the light that it brings to the heart. Each time a person becomes Muslim, they bring their own unique personality and outlook to the community, and this should be welcomed. Its a blessing to feel connected to all people, and hopefully God will make that your gift to the community.

Seek out Muslims, mosques, and institutes, that you feel comfortable with, and never be afraid to ask questions. You may also find the following website useful for some interesting stories on the difficulties new Muslims faced before converting to Islam and how they overcame these challenges: www.overcome.tv/

Please feel free to stay in touch, and you are always welcome to email me with further questions.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.