I do realize there are many open letters and articles and blogs about being a new convert. And I have been in the same position of skimming over the article thinking, “well that sounds nice but that’s not how it works with me”. Or “but my situation is completely different so it doesn’t apply to me”. I don’t know about you, but for me my loneliness and fright turned into bitterness when I read about those who seemed to know all the answers. Which was wrong. It was wrong of me to turn to bitterness and mull over my loneliness when instead I could have turned to something else. The thing to turn to, I’ve learned, is gratitude.
Gratitude, in its most simple form, is being happy about the things that make you happy. It is stopping to give a little thought to the things that you take for granted, that make your life worth getting up for every morning; and being happy about it. It’s as simple as that. And yet I believe for so many of us it’s easy to take things for granted, to slip into the regularity of not noticing the small things, and to just say “Alhamdulillah” without feeling the emotions behind it.
True gratitude, in whatever way it manifests within you, should be the main driving force behind every single thing we do in our lives. And especially for those of us who are new to converting, the simple act of remembering to be grateful can save us from the pain of tears, frustration, or loneliness. It can draw out a shy smile after a night of crying, or it can make us sigh with relief instead of staying angry at a conversation or situation. True gratitude can save us from the harshness of this complicated world and instead lead us back to a lifestyle of empathy and love.
And what is there to be grateful for you ask? That I’m afraid, I don’t have the answer to. Because for every single one of us unique human beings there are an infinite number of special and unique things to be grateful for. There are things in life that I am forever grateful for, that stand like the rock bed of the sea where no matter how many storms rage over it will always hold the world together. And then there are the fleeting moments of gratitude, that happen only a few times, or twice, or once in our lives; those small moments that cradle our happiness and love in the simplest and quietest of times. Gratitude should be as enormous as the expanding universe and as small as one grain of sand that so beautifully colour our favourite beaches.
Whenever I struggle, I remember to be grateful. The thing I’ve learned about converting is that it’s not a situation where once you get over the hill it’s a level field of flowers for the rest of your life. It’s in fact quite the opposite. It’s more like once you get over the first hill of struggle you find yourself surrounded by so many hills and mountains you have no idea how to get out of it. But that’s again where we so often make our mistake. Is it really a bad thing to be surrounded by hills? At least we have these hills to climb; at least when we reach the lowest of all lows we know there is a hill somewhere that can take us to the highest of highs. We all have different paths in life. And for those of us who have chosen to embrace Islam and throw ourselves into a world previously unknown to us is a very big step. Converting in itself is akin to climbing an entire mountain in one enormous leap. We come out of it breathless and wondering where we are. And yet that’s the beauty of it. So instead of focusing on the physical pain it took to climb the hill let us instead bask in the beauty that we were able to even climb this hill of converting.
Finally in conclusion, I do realize I’ve already said I don’t have the answer to exactly what things we all simultaneously should be grateful for. However there are a few things from our religion that help me when I’m remembering to be grateful. One, that Allah is always, always with us. Always with us. In our darkest times and in our greatest times. And so remember that you are truly never alone in this world and will always be protected. Second, that some of the greatest people in Islamic history were converts. Khadija, the Prophet’s wife, was a convert. The struggles we’ve felt might have been the same struggles this powerful woman went though. Imam Ali was a convert. A convert who fought in battles both physically and mentally extraordinary we probably would have perished were it us. Every single one of the companions of the Prophet were converts. So remember, that the religion we so adoringly love was built by the love and power of the Prophet and everyone who converted with him. By converting, we are only continuing this beautiful legacy. And finally third, this ayah from the Holy Quran speaks to humankind itself and gives me hope and happiness:
“For indeed, with hardship will be ease. Indeed, with hardship will be ease.”(94:5-6)
Being a convert is extremely difficult. But without hardship there cannot be peace, without sadness there cannot be happiness, and without evil there cannot be goodness. If there’s one thing I can say now to all the converts or converts-to-be or even born Muslims, it’s that being grateful will truly change everything. Al Hamdulillah.
Jessica Aya Harn