Preparing New Muslims for Their First Ramadan
Muslim Revert - The Netherlands
With two weeks remaining till the first day of the Ramadan, the entire
worldwide Islamic community is preparing itself for the best month of the
First Ramadan as a Muslim
Even though the month of Ramadan is not the beginning or end of the Islamic
lunar calendar, for many of us it is the best time to have an annual moment of
reflection: Where am I today compared to the end of last Ramadan?
For some of us, we look back at changes in our personal life; we've switched
jobs, got married, had the joy of the birth of new life or the mourning of the
loss of our loved ones.
For most of us, we look back at our development in regards to practicing
Islam; did we read the Quran regularly, did we memorize more, did we intensify
our prayers or did we spend more time in the mosque?
But some of us don't compare this year's Ramadan with that of the previous
year. They look back at the day on which they accepted Islam by declaring the
Islamic testimony of faith. They are looking forward to their very first
Ramadan as a Muslim!
It is our duty as a faith community not only to welcome new Muslims but also
to support them to perform their acts of worship, of which the fasting during
the month Ramadan is one. However, we don't always live up to our
responsibilities to do so on a correct way, either because we fully neglect
our responsibility or because with the best intentions we don't do the right
Don't Overemphasize on 'How' We Fast
One of the easiest and most common made mistakes when it comes to preparing a
new Muslim for his or her first Ramadan is to spend a lot of time on
explaining 'how' we fast.
Don't be shocked; I'm not saying that understanding the rulings of practicing
Ramadan are not relevant! They are, without a doubt. But with the quality of
books, leaflets, instruction video's and websites such as OnIslam.net
available, any new Muslim is most likely able to get at least 95% of that
correct by himself or herself. If there are any questions left, those will
surface in a natural way and can be addressed by the person who also handles
any other question any other month of the year.
As we practice Islam, we aim to follow in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) as much as we can. We aim to always remain within the
limits set by our Islamic jurisprudence. Basically, we want to color within
the lines. But when we want to support a new Muslim, we must make sure we also
focus in our conversations on the color, and not only on the lines.
Inner Change: the Objective of Ramadan
Every time I see or hear a Muslim saying that we fast during the month of
Ramadan because this makes us feel compassion for those who have less fortune
in their lives, my heart breaks a little.
When I hear a new Muslim giving this explanation, it breaks a little more.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with feeling compassion for those who live
in hardship, but this is not the objective of Ramadan.
The reason why God makes us fast the entire month is not to motivate us to
improve the lives of others but to help us improve ourselves. It is the inner
process of purification, focus and growth that is addressed by combining the
physical fasting with the spiritual acts of worship, such as the prayer of
taraweeh, the extra supplication, the reading of the Quran and - when feasible
- staying in the Mosque for a few days in the last third of the month.
Whenever you are supporting a new Muslim who is about to perform his or her
first Ramadan, put a lot of emphasis on the inner process of purification of
the soul. Read the Quran together, especially 2: 183, 185 where God explains
that Ramadan should lead to more God consciousness and an increase of
gratitude. Have an open dialogue on self-assessment of character and personal
obstacles and how to address these challenges.
Never forget that Umar ibn Al-Khattab did not change from being a terrible
suppressive person to one of the greatest leaders of the Islamic community
simply because he started to strictly follow the rules of Islam. It was the
supplication of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asking God to soften his
heart, that made him the best person he could be. It is the inner change, not
the checklist. The rulings are the preconditions of fasting, not the
Eat Together During Ramadan
Another advice is as easy as obvious but often forgotten. Your support to new
Muslims should not be limited to theological advice, answering questions or
praying together. You have invited them to Islam and they have accepted it.
Now, it's time to invite them to the dinner table.
In my personal experience, the only thing worse than breaking your fasting all
alone some of the days is to get used to breaking your fasting all alone most
of the days.
I am aware of the fact that more and more organizations which are active in
the field of dawah are also organizing iftars in mosques and community centers
for new or single Muslims, to make sure no-one breaks their fasting alone.
This is good and these initiatives should continue and expand.
However, to sit in someone's house with his family, having personal
conversations and really getting to know one another is much better and will
make a much more profound impact in someone's life than to gather in larger
I wish each and every one who intends to perform the fasting of Ramadan this
year a blessed month.
May your worship be sincere, accepted and rewarded.