In Islām the rules are clear and for new Muslims and young people, leaders must also be clear
I would not have come to Islām if Muslims had told me that everything going on in the Western world was fine and workable with Islām.
Becoming a Muslim (or for those returning to the religion after drifting away), involves a psychological and spiritual process by which you unlearn, let go of, filter and mostly reject many of the rules that were instilled in you from birth, that conflict with the rules of Allāh.
It is a bit like disentangling yourself from the clasp of a giant octopus. For some it is quick, but for others it can take years.
To do this you first have to have clarity on the key issues, and you need to know what is bad for you spiritually and psychologically. This translates seamlessly into what is known as the ‘harām’, and basically is what causes the believer psychological ‘fuzziness’ or, more scientifically put, doubt, anxiety, or sadness.
Barring those who have had real traumatic experiences, it is the harām that leads you to psychological distress (which is a sign within yourself), and if you ignore it, or follow it because others—many psychologists for example—tell you it just has to be ‘managed correctly’, you will adjust to it and it will become fair-seeming to you.
The rules therefore must be crystal clear, so you know what you need to get rid of immediately in your life, and what you need to filter out slowly with the support of good, clear people. This is needed if you are going to get yourself and your environment to the state you need to in order to please Allāh and live a life of inner peace.
This place of peace, I have learned, is what psychologists and self-help people refer to as ‘authenticity’. What they don’t tell you is that you can only be true to yourself—and I mean really true to yourself—if you are true to Allāh first.
After that He will show you your beauty and amplify your gifts.
However, without clear rules, you cannot adequately get to this place.
You cannot properly adjust your life, your choices, relationships, your outlook and long-term educational and spiritual goals.
Becoming Muslim is a lifestyle shift. It is indeed belief, but must then be followed by action. The shahāda is a serious thing, and Allāh makes it so—for after it is uttered, follows a series of choices where you must show your commitment to submit to Him, and none others.
We need help with this. If we don’t have the rules clearly set in place for us, and haven’t chartered a good course to follow them, our plan, actions, journey, our entire existence ends up being a mish-mash. In the end, we lack authenticity, beauty and peace.
Muslims who are afraid to be clear on what is permissible and what is not, do us a disservice
Without firm rules to follow, new Muslims (and young, born Muslims) can end up as fence-sitters, partly entangled in the other systems from which Allāh has so beautifully and clearly offered to free us. This can go on for years and can be very damaging to them and the people around them.
This psychological wavering means a person has not entered fully into Islām, as we are commanded to do. The result is an inner feeling of anxiety, discontent and conflict, which inevitably overflows outside and wreaks havoc.
Only now and then—when you take action to obey a law—do you experience that buoyant and blissful spiritual state that is His Pleasure.
For the rest of the time, we may seek solace in the very things that are taking us further from Him.
When I became Muslim, I had to resist a culture that advocates that I knew everything, and put me as the rule maker, the deal breaker, the change agent—that put me and my wants and ‘needs’ (most of which, I realised, have been manufactured by that culture) at the centre.
I had to remind myself and live in a way that showed submission, that I understood that He knows best. We are commanded to follow the Law, because the rules are good for us.
That is why we hear and we obey. Because we trust that He knows and loves us. The rules are there not to be debated, shaded and modernised, but because they are serving a greater purpose that only He knows.
Trust this. And be at peace.
Islām, wholly entered into and its laws obeyed (acted upon), results in a feeling of inner freedom, and peace—on top of that, we are given the promise of forgiveness.
This is why it is important the scholars and leaders are firm and clear on the key issues, and they don’t compromise on them, whatever the cost to their wealth, or social media following. If they compromise and go muddy and mulchy on the issues, they are doing us a huge disservice because we aren’t able to formulate a clear plan for our lives or act accordingly to find peace.
Worse yet, harām will become negotiable, and then fair-seeming. When it is not.
New Muslims or those returning, need to seek out and find good company – but what is that?
Calling others to Islām can only be done from a standpoint of clarity and strength, and it is why I have resisted doing so for the first six years of my life as a Muslim. I had to sort my life out first, and it is by no means a finished project.
It is true we must speak with mercy, but also with principles intact. This is a matter of utmost importance. It is actually everything, and it is why we are here. There is indeed much joy in embracing Islām, but there is also sacrifice. And we are grateful for the sacrifices, as this is the means by which we are tested and elevated.
But for it to be worth it, and to make it easier and better, there needs to be a community of Muslims around whom we as new Muslims want to be.
These are the people who warm our hearts, yes, but they also offer firmness and clarity (because from this firmness comes protection, courage, comfort and then peace).
In short, good company reminds us of the balance inherent in Islām, the balance between hope and fear, between joy and discipline.
We don’t want populists, capitulators or negotiators. We don’t want people who outwardly appear to be Muslims, and yet they go towards the West in apology and silent envy, so that their inner lives become indistinguishable from the world that we have, through great struggle, pain and eventual reward, unstuck ourselves and left behind.
We also don’t want people who are afraid, depressed, hopeless, in dark despair, or deeply cynical.
We have had enough of these people from our past, and we have experienced deep wounds from the many ways people like this who have led us astray in the name of pleasing others besides Allāh.
We lacked firmness and clarity, light and peace in our old lives. That is why we came to Islām.
Islām must be presented as an entire system to be lived and shared – for this is what it is
I became a Muslim because Allāh showed me first what was wrong with the way I had been raised through “Western values”.
He literally destroyed—and I mean, obliterated—all the ‘pillars’ constructed for me by my education, family and society: socialism; communism; vague ‘spiritualism’; feminism; secularism; Western intellectualism, liberalism, capitalism… and so on, all came tumbling apart (but this is another story entirely).
I reached a point where I was confronted with my own pain. I saw clearly the hurt and deception caused to others I loved by these ‘values’ that were at their heart empty and unendingly corruptible.
Through my work as a journalist and writer, I saw the sheer injustice all around me due to the employment of these ‘isms’ by governments, organisations and individuals who may have been well-meaning, but who had been blinded by the marketing of these ideas so that they were uncritical of them, because it was not fashionable or—in some cases—not allowed.
These personal experiences were then buffered by conversations with others who were also alive to the failures of these ‘isms’ to deliver happiness, peace and justice to society.
Most of the time, these people were Muslims.
I had no idea, before I researched Islām, that it was an entire political, economic and spiritual system. I thought it was just a religion.
Once I realised this, I was so happy.
The Muslims that Allāh used to guide me to Islām were generous, firm, modest – and just
When I acknowledged the dire need for a new system like this, and the need to move myself and my own life towards this state of Islām, Allāh put the right Muslims in my path.
I met Muslims in different countries and of many different appearances, persuasions and income brackets, who:
- Were of outstanding principle and character (most notably, they were generous with their time, they intelligently fielded my idiotic questions and arguments, and they had good manners).
- Stood firmly for justice and were at the forefront of such initiatives, whether it was exposing corruption at a primary school fundraiser, or on a grander scale.
- Told me firmly and reasonably and in an intellectual fashion, what the rules were and why they were there, and the consequences that faced me in detail, if I did not accept them and submit to them. They were not afraid to do this, even if it made them unpopular in the group we were in at the time or if it made me look at them funny and move away. These rules were consistent on the major issues and checked out with the Qur’ān when I looked.
- Were beautiful, gentle and modest in words and appearance and never wanted centre stage.
Alhumdullillah for all of them. They obeyed the Law and were happy and content in doing so.
They told me the Truth about difficult issues with soundness and the light of their faith, and in one voice—they did this even, and especially, when it was hard. This included risk. From being labelled “extreme”, to losing our friendship, or to simply ruining dinner table conversations.
After that, it was my choice to accept it or reject it.
Islām is clear, and the system has been perfected
For those coming to Islām, and those returning to it, the Truth, and the courage and reasonableness of those who are guiding them to speak it, is really crucial. So is the understanding that Islām has been perfected. There is no need for change in it, and it is forever protected—He has, in his grace assured us of that.
But this must be presented to those who are asking, challenging or exploring Islām, in a way that shows contentment with it.
Detractors cannot argue with contentment and peace.
It boils down to fear of none other than Allāh. And of living this rules-based and beautiful way of life, with joy and discipline (not just one of them). I know there are so many of you like this.
And we can take comfort in the fact that there are thousands out there who are hurting or discouraged, even outraged at the world, and they are yearning for this Truth. They are hurting because of the lies and fuzziness presented to them, which keep letting them down.
The Book is Clear. Islām is clarity – and it must, and will, always be so.
So, go out there and learn it, and speak it, and if people reject it, let them reject it.
If they accept it, then love them and meet them with the courage it has taken them to get to you.
Most of all, don’t compromise with the world. It is a deception, and there is nothing of real substance or peace to envy there.
I pray Allāh grant us all courage and firmness of words and does not test us more than we can bear. I ask that He bring those who need Islām and yearn for this peace and who are deserving of this greatest of gifts, towards us, in the most beautiful and faith-building of ways. Āmīn.
 Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness – Ash-Shura 42:30
 We will show them Our Signs in the universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur’ān) is the truth” – Fussilat 41:53
 O you who have believed, enter into Islām completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. – Baqarah 2: 208
 “The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in AllāhAllāh and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” Baqarah 2: 285
 This day are those who disbelieve in despair of (ever harming) your religion; so fear them not, fear Me! This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you – and have chosen for you as religion, al-Islām. – Maidah 5:3