Across the globe people everyday are reading, blogging, searching about Islam. It's the hottest topic, even in churches now instead of preaching about Christ, they can't seem to escape bringing up the subject of my new religion, Islam. The demand for information on Muslims and Islam is growing and heaping and rolling into one of those giant snow balls, rolling down the hill and the best part is how many people it's grabbing into it's snowy fluff along the way. The excitement you feel when you come to Islam, I call it the "New Muslim High"...LOL. I wish I could bottle that stuff up and sell it, it's such an amazing feeling. It's like all the sudden someone woke you up and said "Hey how's it going, let me introduce your to yourself, that old person was just your stunt double, here's the shiny amazing (you) that you've been dying to meet all this time". Along with any drastic changes to your life, you come to expect the challenges as well. I don't wanna talk about all of them, I would just like to focus on one for now. I wanna talk about the friends you lose and the new ones you gain and lose and gain...
I remember my own life, before Islam. Sometimes I wish I could forget some things, but it makes me who I am today. I remember all the "friends" I had before. People would blow up my cell phone when the sun started to go down. They wanted to know what was going on that night, what parties were hot, what clubs was I shooting at, can I add them to this list or that list. "Friends", I called them and they were plentiful. We had dinner at amazing restaurants in Dallas, they would introduce me to amazing people and I would return the favor, "networking" ourselves to get what we wanted. We partied together, held each others hair back when one of us had too much to drink and bullied whichever girl was seeing someone's ex. Life was bliss, so I thought, and we had nothing but good times to remember together, so when I decided to walk away from this life and enter into something with a deeper purpose...these "friends" didn't quite make it through the dirty water filter. Some did, and I thank God everyday for them, but most did not.
It's a loss that we all have to deal with in our lives but what I want to mention is the gain. The gain that should always be there. When you give up something, you replace it with something new right? So what happens when you live a completely high energy free style life and you need to replace it with the lifestyle structure of Islam? I like to picture this huge "worm hole" from Star Trek explosion and walking through that mirror into another dimension and you have no idea what is going to be on the other side, but you hope it's nice and doesn't mind your still wearing last night's makeup.
I went from having a cell phone explosion each night, to slowly and slowly very few calls at all. Sometimes I would just look at my phone, check it, make sure it wasn't on silent and pretend that I didn't know why it was becoming less and less used. It was because I was becoming less and less used. I couldn't add people to that list anymore because I chose not to be part of it. I chose not to shoot at those clubs, not to have "hangover" brunch with them the next morning, not to meet for drinks for every occasion imaginable and in the end most of the people who called made a decision also, to not. "You don't need them" I would tell myself, if they didn't want to be happy for me or supportive then I guess I really didn't need them. What I did need however, were some new high energy exciting friends who would call and take their place, and also fill in that gap in my life so that I wouldn't feel the need to climb back through the mirror.
No matter how amazing and beautiful and absolutely necessary Islam is in someone's life, there is a much greater need in the first "tri-mester" of their conversion...it's the need of replacement of old with the new. I'm talking about friendship, support, healing...Open hearts and open minded people who can relate to you, who have things in common with you and hopefully who understand who you are, not as a Muslim, but you before that. This is so important because this is all you know for a while..."the old you". As a New Muslim, I can that there is nothing more important to maintaining the faith of a New Muslim, than having true and lasting new friendships that help reinforce the decisions that were made in that persons life. You have know idea how difficult that path can get and having the right people there to guide you, even 5 years later, could be the difference between a girl who stays passionate about her life for God, and another New Muslim who becomes an Ex Muslim. They didn't come to Islam for free popcorn, they came for a life focused on God, but if you can't find the common necessities of life to help keep you happy then it's very difficult to hold on to anything at all. It's so easy to turn away from a new faith simply because you just stopped feeling happy with yourself in it. How does that happen? Simple, because a lot of times New Muslims are unable to find a replaceable lifestyle to fill in the one that they left behind, so naturally they begin to turn back to the way they used to be, because they don't know where else to go. How can we as Muslims, let this happen? Simple, because people get so excited about a person converting, and congratulations and parties and then within a year that person is either still around or they are not and a lot of times it's because of a lack of lasting support and friendships.
Think about it, you remember seeing someone come to Islam right? You felt so happy, maybe even got a few tears in your eyes. You might have been a peer to that person, similar in age and hobbies, or new someone that could have been a great friend to them and you tried to hang out but got busy with your friends from your own culture, it's easier to spend time with them and their kids play with yours...This is totally understandable. In the end though, if no one is still having a lasting friendship with that New Muslim, then who is?
I wanted to talk about this mainly because I felt so thankful today. I felt thankful because I enjoyed a nice lunch with a good friend of mine, Shefaq. She would be so happy to see me finally spelling out her name right, I used to spell it Shafack, even though I knew very well it wasn't right, LOL. We didn't meet for lunch in uptown Dallas at a posh location to be seen by hot people. We met at my favorite halal spot, Noodlewave, a yummy Tai location in Richardson. You see, this is my lunch spot "replacement" as a New Muslim. Shefaq is one of the first Muslim friends I ever made, when I was first learning about Islam. I met her while attending the New Muslim class at IANT. Even before I ever converted to Islam, Shefaq was my friend, she was my friend who got to know and like the "old me" and got to know over time the "new me" and God bless her, she still liked me...LOL. She was there when I said my Shahada and was there when I first got married and I was there when she got married. Today, almost 4 years after becoming a Muslim, Shefaq still calls. When other friends had stopped calling, because I wasn't gonna meet them at the club, Shefaq was one of the "replacement" people in my life who never left and stood their next to me while I went on this powerful journey. I know lunch is not a big deal, people do it all the time, but when you make a change to your lifestyle like me and hundreds of other New Muslims like me, then being that friend, who after years after your "New Muslim High" is still showing up on your caller ID, to ask you to spend time with them...well that lunch is enough to make you sit down and write a blog...and maybe bring a tear to your eye while doing it.
If your a Muslim and your in contact with a New Muslim...give them a call...and maybe ask them to lunch, no matter how long it's been.
|Katherine, Nicole, Shefaq @ Nicole's Shahada, 2007|
|Nicole, Shefaq Jan, 2009|
|Shefaq, Nicole & Friends July, 2010|