There are so many things that I wish you had known. It would have saved so much frustration and pain, likewise there would have been fewer people hurt along the way. That being said, the struggles you face will shape you and your future. Sometimes we need to go through the trials to come out better on the other side. With that in mind, if there are things I could advise you to be conscious of, these would be those words of wisdom…
When you become Muslim, there will be so many changes in your life and so much to learn. While you are adjusting to your life in Islam, so much of your energy will be used to show the world becoming Muslim was your choice. There will be times that every day feels like you have something to prove. You will want to prove to everyone that: Islam was your choice, that you aren’t oppressed, that you are still the fun-loving friend that you were. That you can still be “Jenny” and a Muslim. Friends will abandon you, people will criticize you, there will be great struggles with your family. Despite these trials you will keep moving forward showing the world a “happy exterior”. In the end, you will be very happy, but you will push down a deep loneliness. In many ways this loneliness will force you to find strength. You will become resourceful, and will pursue knowledge instead of depending on people. Eventually however, that loneliness will surface. There will be moments when you feel like you are all alone in the world, and have nobody to turn to. There will be hardships you wish you could confide to others about, but won’t because you fear they won’t understand, or will judge Islam. Look at these moments as an opportunity to rely on Allah. Trust that there is a wisdom in everything. At the same time, process the emotions you are feeling. Grieve over the feelings of loss, and let go of the anger. Don’t bottle it up inside and pretend it doesn’t exist. Journal, find someone you trust to communicate with… It is important to be honest with others, but don’t forget to be honest with yourself.
In all of your pursuit of knowledge you will learn a lot really fast. You will also have a fervor most new Muslims get. In the beginning, you will view things as “black and white” and be quite strict in your opinions and approach to Islam. Remember you are not a scholar. It is not your place to pass judgement. If you see others in the community doing something you think is not okay, make dua for them. Follow the wisdom of Hamdun al-Qassar, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for him. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” Make excuses for people, but don’t judge them. Be mindful of different scholarly opinions. Appreciate the diversity in Islam and that the Prophet SAW always chose the middle way and the way that brought ease to the people. You don’t have to make your opinion known, and don’t “speak big” as the Turks like to say. You will almost always be tested on the things you criticize. “Speak a good word or be silent.” (Riyadh ul Saliheen Hadith 18)
Lift up and celebrate others in the community. Other women are not your competition. Embrace the women around you and learn from them. You can do far more working together and supporting each other, than you can do being jealous or in competition with anyone. There is enough work, money, happiness, friendship etc. for everyone. Support those who ask for help. In fact, do better than that. Anticipate other’s needs and be the help someone requires before they even request it. After you have helped someone, forget you did it. That is the way you need to be willing to support others. Without expecting anything in return or needing to be thanked. Your reward is with Allah, don’t destroy a good deed by reminding others of it. (Quran 2:264) Remember this when you feel like you need validation. If you are sincere in your actions there is always goodness. This will be so important to internalize within yourself particularly when you become a mother. It will be a thankless job. You will feel beat down and unappreciated at times. Make your intention for the sake of Allah, and find pleasure in the fact that you are doing something for the sake of Him, your family and your community.
Increase in dua. Make it a habit from early on: dua and dhikr. If you establish the habit right away, it will be part of your daily routine later on. Make it a priority while you have the enthusiasm and time. Life will only get busier down the road. Set aside time every day to engage in these two actions. Make it such a foundational part of your day it is like getting dressed or brushing your teeth. Make it non-negotiable.
Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make…and there will be many. There will be times when you feel like you do more wrong than you do right. In those moments be kind to yourself. Ask for help if you need it. Know that you cannot be good at everything. There will also be hard decisions that you have to make. You won’t be able to please everyone. Remember in those moments to pray istikhara. Make sure you make decisions with a sincere intention. Always strive to make a decision based on what is most pleasing to Allah. Know that it may not always be the easiest choice.
The one common notion in every advice above is that in all of your struggles, loneliness, sadness, anger, despair, the one constant is Allah. Allah chose you. Never forget that. Cry out to Him in the depths of the night, with the sincerest of hearts. Renew your intentions when you feel you have gone off course. Don’t go to bed at night without forgiving others. Make dua about everything and remember Allah’s Mercy is greater than you sin. Repeat that to yourself over and over again.
Love, a slightly older and wiser version of yourself.
Ps- Eat more of the original After Eight mint chocolate bars, they will stop making them, and you will miss them.