You just got the news that someone has reverted to Islam. You may or may not know this person, but you want to help them anyway, because you're happy to have a new member in the ummah. However, there's a little problem: you don't know how to approach or how to take the first step to make this individual feel "embraced." What now? Good question! Just keep reading to find out.
#1 Be patient. I know I always say that, but not every muslim has the patience that it takes to deal with a new revert. When you're trying to help them, you MUST have in mind that THEY JUST GOT INTO ISLAM! They will NOT change overnight and it is VERY likely that THEY will need YOU or someone else to give them some pointers. Since this is literally a moment of transformation in their lives, they WILL have their ups and downs until they can take it all in. Therefore, be strong and help them through this process with patience - that's vital!
[...] Indeed, Allah is with the patient. [8:46]
#2 Do NOT drift apart. This step is PRIMORDIAL! A lot of muslims fall short here. New muslims usually tend to feel like celebrities during their first weeks into Islam. However, it all ends up being just a flash in the pan (for the most part). At first they get hundreds (if not thousands) of "I'm-so-happy-for-you" messages, but then, after just a few days in the limelight, the exact same people who made them feel so special are all gone. Yes, it's perfectly understandable that you have your own life and that you don't have enough time to "babysit" others. Fair enough, but this is not what I mean. You should try to check on them at least once or twice a week. What you want here is not to let them feel alone (especially in the holidays), because friends play an extremely important role in people's lives. If they don't have any in muslim environments, they'll probably try to get some somewhere else.
A scholar once said: To seal a friendship for Allah’s sake indicates the obligation of establishing relationships of love and trust for His sake; this is a friendship for the sake of Allah. It also indicates that simple affection is not enough here; indeed what is meant is a love based upon alliance. This entails assistance, honor, and respect. It means being with those whom you love both in word and deed.
#3 Teach them what you know. As I said above, they WILL need help. That's for sure! Remember that they're like babies here. They were NOT brought up by muslims. The stories that they heard when they were little are probably way different than the ones you did. They didn't learn anything about the companions, hadeeths or even how to pray. Instead of seeing this situation as a hassle, take it as an opportunity to share your knowledge with someone else. Come on, you don't have to be a scholar! Just teach them what YOU know.
P.S.: Some brothers and sisters do want to help, but they feel ashamed for not knowing that much about islam (despite the fact that they've been muslims for their whole lives). To get around this issue and come out as being wise, all they do is to go online, collect a bunch of websites (that they don't even know sometimes), send them out to new reverts and that's it. Some even disappear right after that. It's ok to share a webpage here and there, but don't do it only. If you live in the same city, try to meet up with them so you can have discussions about islam. If not, try at least to have a video call every once in a while. That means that you care about them and, yeah, they WILL notice that. If you don't have the answer to some of their questions, it's no big deal. Just tell them straight up. It's way better than beating around the bush and getting them even more confused. If you know someone who does, hook them up. That sure goes a long way.
#4 Introduce them to your friends. The first big challenge that most of the new muslims face is telling others about their new lifestyle. Believe me, depending on the environment, this is NOT as simple as it may seem. Maybe they'll lose their friends, their jobs or even get kicked out. That's why they'll need your full-on support. Helping them build this new "islamic network" can definitely make them feel less rejected. It's great to know that you do have a family to fall back on in case things get too ugly, isn't it?
A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He does not oppress him, nor does he leave him at the mercy of others. [Sahih Muslim]
#5 Don't judge them based on their past. This sucks! What they used to do is simply not relevant. What matters is what they're doing NOW. You have to at least give them the benefit of the doubt. Everybody makes mistakes, and that also includes you - nobody is perfect. If they fail you, just move on. It'll be their loss, not yours. Just do your part and Allah SWT will take care of all the rest.
Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief), THEIR PAST WILL BE FORGIVEN. But if they return (thereto), then the examples of those (punished) before them have already preceded (as a warning). [8:38]
#6 Try to avoid arabic terms for a while. No, I'm not kidding. I'm totally serious! This is so FRUSTATING! Most of the new reverts out there have never had ANY contact with arabic AT ALL. Don't expect them to know what Al Salam Alaykum, Astaghfirullah, Jazakallah Khair, Masha Allah, In shaa Allah, Bismillah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar, Subhana Allah, Taqwa, Tawheed and so on mean! Yeah, they'll have to pick them up with time, but try not to overwhelm them with that on day one. If you're going to use it anyway, make sure that they understand what you're saying, or else they'll feel completely lost. You have to be on the same page. After all, you want them to learn things, don't you? Remember step #1! Be patient!
P.S.: Sometimes you'll forget that they're babies and will end up using these terms automatically. It's likely that they'll ask you about their meaning. Please, do NOT get all started on the "are you really a muslim?" thing! I myself have had some experience with that, and guess what? No, it was NOT pleasant. You totally feel like a fish out of water when somebody asks you that. It's as if you were obliged to know words of a language that you don't even speak.
#7 Don't be arrogant. Although it is Allah SWT the One who guides people [6:39], it is part of the human nature to feel attracted towards that which seems to be more appealing. If muslims treat their new brothers and sisters in Islam with disregard, while people from other religions are going in the opposite direction (making them feel welcome), chances are that they will turn to a different path. After all, nobody likes to be kicked around, right? I'm sure you don't want them to turn away because of what YOU did.
He who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness. [Sahih Muslim 2592, Grade: Sahih]
#8 Take them to a mosque on a regular basis. Some people are shy, while others are more outgoing. That's life. I'm assuming that you've just met, so... You supposedly do not know that much about their personality. It's ok. I know that going to a mosque is just a customary thing to you, but don't think it's the same to a new revert. YOU've been doing that for your whole life, they haven't. It's definitely not the same. Some will just show up by themselves and others won't (unless invited). Either way, they both will feel a bit uneasy at first. It's a new environment with different people. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Once they get there, teach them what to do and STICK AROUND. You have to give them some time so they can come out of their shells.
#9 Be a good example. Helping a new muslim get started is a big responsibility! That's why you also have to get your act together (if you're not on the "deen"). Since you're the one who's showing them the ropes, it is a fact that they will look up to you when they're about to do something (at least until they're able to tell right from wrong by themselves, islamically speaking). For this reason, you can either teach them how to be great or how to be a "coconut muslim." Please, try not to mess it up, because they'll have a hard time getting rid of the wrong habits that they learned from you later on in life.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend. [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee].
#10 Learn the art of gift giving. This is not a requirement, but it certainly helps. Maybe you're a little short on money (we all have to face lean times during certain periods of our lives), but buying them a book, a chaplet, a prayer mat, a "taqiyah" or whatever floats your boat will not break the bank. It doesn't need to be expensive! It just needs to be useful for their new journey. I'm sure they'll appreciate it A LOT (regardless of the price)!
The Prophet (PBUH) said: Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another. [Al-Bukhaari]
Do you have another tip? Feel free to chime in!
Jazakallah Khair! :)