Being born in a Muslim family, we sometimes forget the true essence of what we mean when we say “I am a Muslim and my religion is Islam”. We know it, but do we ever ponder upon the significance and importance of what sets us aside from other faiths? Imagine yourself to be born to another faith and you were being pulled towards converting to Islam. What will be the basic and important steps of your entrance into the fold of Islam?
If an individual sincerely wants to become a Muslim and strongly believes that the one true religion is the religion of Allah (SWT), then first and foremost, he must recite the ‘shahada’, which translates as:
"I bear witness that there is no deity worthy to be worshiped but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”
By reciting the shahadah, one testifies to the oneness of Allah (SWT) and to Prophet Muhammad as being the last messenger of Allah. You must believe, with every fiber of your being, that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah (SWT), who is Magnificent, who is All-knowing, who is the Giver and Sustainer of life and death and He is the Creator of this universe and everything contained in it. There is no entity like Him and He alone is worthy of infinite worship.
By reciting the second part of the shahadah, you testify that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the last chosen messenger of Allah (SWT) and there will be no messenger after him. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was a prime example of a perfect Muslim and believers should look up to him and implement his Sunnah and hadith in their daily lives for there was no human better than him.
It holds great significance amongst the five pillars of Islam. However, it’s important to understand that it is not just the pronunciation of these words that qualifies you as a Muslim, you must mean each and every word and sincerely believe in it with all your heart. Uttering the shahadah without truly meaning it is rendered useless in the eyes of Allah (SWT). Hence, it is unbreakable faith and conviction in your beliefs that makes you a Muslim in the eyes of Allah (SWT).
Ghusl and purification
The second step is for the new convert to take “ghusl” (a bath/total ablution). It signifies the purification of the individual in all ways possible and entering Islam as a newborn essentially. It signifies that the individual leaves behind everything they have done in the past and enters the fold of Islam with a completely blank slate; a fresh start.
Learn and understand the teachings of Islam
The individual should then dedicate his life to following the teachings and principles laid down by Islam and reject all types of polytheism. He should aim towards traveling on the path of righteousness, worshipping Allah (SWT) and living for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) and not mere mortals.
Allah says in the Quran:
"Whoever disbelieves in false deities and believes in Allah, has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that will never break..." (Quran 2:256)
Moreover, upon converting to the religion of Islam for the sake of pleasing Allah (SWT), all the previous sins of that individual are pardoned and forgiven by Allah (SWT)- another clean slate. As narrated by Sahih Muslim:
Narrated that Amr ibn al-Aas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“When Allah put Islam in my heart, I came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said: Give me your right hand so that I may swear allegiance to you. He held out his hand and I withdrew my hand. He said, What is the matter, Oh Amr? I said I want to stipulate a condition. He said, What do you want to stipulate? I said, That I will be forgiven. He said, Do you not know that Islam destroys that which came before it?” (Sahih Muslim, hadith 121)
In essence, when one becomes a Muslim, they automatically repent for the deeds and sins they may have committed in their life prior to the conversion. The deeds committed prior to the conversion are no longer a burden for the individual.
Tranquility and inner peace
And alas, upon conversion, those individuals taste the sweetness of faith. The sweetness encompasses intense levels of tranquility and inner peace that they have not previously experienced. This tranquility and calm is a gift from Allah (SWT) and is a byproduct of the closeness with Allah (SWT); a closeness that surpasses all other humanly relations in this world. It is through this sincere and endless love and devotion to Allah (SWT) that one automatically adopts the inherent goodness in humans and spreads it to those around us as well. This closeness also embeds fear in the hearts of believers for the consequential punishments that all mankind will have to face due to their disbelief and evil deeds. And it is this fear that keeps believers on the right track. According to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“Any person who combines these three qualities will certainly experience the sweetness of faith: (1) that Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anything else; (2) that his love of others is purely for Allah’s sake; and (3) that he hates to relapse into unbelief as much as he hates to be cast into the Fire.” (Sahih Bukhari: 21; Sahih Muslim: 43)