I am currently living with a recent American Muslim revert who masha’Allah, is very enthusiastic about learning Islam. Sometimes I feel I am overwhelming her with the limited Islamic knowledge I do have and am a bit confused as to where to start. I have decided to initially focus on teaching her sala’h. However, I realize it is important to follow Sunnah. Could you enlighten me about the methods of the Prophet (SAWS) in teaching and guiding Muslim reverts?
Jazak Allah Khair
The method of teaching and the subject matter to be taught would actually depend on the present level of knowledge of the person concerned. You have mentioned that the person concerned is a “revert” to Islam. Does this imply that she already possesses a certain degree of knowledge of Islam? If the answer is “yes”, then it would be necessary to know the level of knowledge that she already possesses, to give any meaningful guidance. On the other hand, if she does not possess any knowledge of Islam then it would be better that we refer to her as a “convert”, rather than a “revert” to Islam.
In any case, for a person who does not possess any knowledge of Islam, the first thing that needs to be taught relates to the basic purpose and object of all Islamic teachings, which is the purification and cleansing of the mind, body and soul – Tazkiyah e Nafs – for success in the permanent life of the Hereafter. Subsequently, the beliefs of Islam – i.e. Tawheed (belief in one God), Risala’h (belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God), and Aakhirat (belief in the Day of Judgment) – and the basis of these beliefs should be taught. Once the basic purpose and object of the teachings of Islam and the basic beliefs Islam is understood, then it would be beneficial to teach the person the detailed directives of the Shari`ah. In this phase, it would benefit if the person be taught these directives with their significance in achieving the basic object and purpose of these teachings – i.e. Tazkiyah e Nafs. In explaining the directives of the Shari`ah, the exact sequence of the teachings may vary from one pupil to another, yet the basic principle would be to help the pupil in developing a living relationship with his/her Creator, on the one hand and to help the pupil be a good human being on the other. Sala’h and Zaka’h may thus be good starting points for the pupil in becoming a practicing Muslim. Sala’h, when offered with good understanding develops a living relationship between man and his creator, while Zaka’h is the minimum and the mandatory level of financial contribution that an individual must make toward his/her society.
I do acknowledge the fact that to follow the above method of teaching, you would yourself require an in-depth knowledge of Islam. I would therefore advise that besides regularly offering Sala’h (with a basic understanding of the words uttered and the actions performed in it), you may guide your friend to regularly read the Qur’an. The Prophet (pbuh) invariably used only the Qur’an to teach people about Islam. However, it is unfortunate that most of the Muslims population now is not well versed with the language of the Qur’an and therefore has to depend on translations of the Qur’an. These translations, however, are works of fallible humans like us, and therefore they may not always be accurate. In any case, the starting point should always be the understanding of the Qur’an with the sole target of understanding God’s directives. Thus, besides regularity in Sala’h, your friend should make a routine of reading the Qur’an. I am certain that for every honest seeker of the truth, the Qur’an suffices as a guide. All obligatory practices as well as the necessary elements of beliefs shall be taught by the Qur’an in due course of time.
However, if your friend faces any problems in understanding the Qur’an or any part thereof, I shall always be delighted to explain and help her understand the related parts.
4th September 1999