About Supplication & Strengthening Faith
How can I make my iman (faith) stronger? And what else should I know about Islam (I'm a new Muslim)? And, in trials what is the best prayer or supplication?
New to Islam, Heart & Soul
Name of Counsellor
As-salamu `alaykum, Abdul Hadi.
Welcome to Islam! May Allah continue to guide you and strengthen your faith.
First you should know that all of us, no matter how long we have been Muslim, have ups and downs in our iman. So we must always strive to improve and not get discouraged when we are feeling our iman at its lowest. Some people give up trying when their iman is low, and they may end up losing it completely. Don't let that happen to you!
The first thing you should do, of course, is to learn how to perform salah (the formal prayer) properly, and then get into the habit of performing the five daily prayers at their proper times. This means learning a little bit of the Qur'an — at east Surat Al-Fatihah (Chapter 1) and at least one or two short surahs — so that you can pray.
It is better, of course, if you learn more of the Qur'an. So make as much effort as you can to learn a bit each day. Also try to learn how to read the Qur'an in Arabic. Your pronunciation will be much better if you learn Qur'an from the Arabic script rather than from a transliteration into Latin letters. This advice is a 'too much thing to do' at the beginning, I understand. At least have it in the back of your mind that it is recommended and a long-term goal. Yet, bear in mind that it is not a must.
Another important step in developing your iman is to make new friends with devout Muslims and try to spend time with them. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to totally give up the friends you had before you were Muslim. Yet, if you spent your time with your old friends drinking or gambling or doing other negative and haram (forbidden) things, you will have to avoid those activities. This may or may not mean dropping those friends also. If they are real friends, they should be willing to accept you for what you are now. You can still watch football together, for example, but substitute soft drinks for alcohol. If they're not willing to do that, they're not real friends.
You can also increase your knowledge of Islam by reading, attending lessons at the mosque or in homes, and listening to audio files on the Internet or to tapes. Try to find a knowledgeable person who can answer your questions. Beware of those who seem to be knowledgeable, while they are not. Search for scholars through Islamic centers and get close to them. Seek knowledge from them.
Also, try to get information from more than one source so that you get a more balanced view of what Islam is. The hardest thing for new Muslims is to figure out where they fit on the spectrum of Islam — are they liberal, moderate, or conservative? Some people have very strict views of what is right and wrong and always choose the more difficult of two halal (permissible) choices. Try to take the middle ground and be moderate. Usually, there is more than a black-or-white choice, with many shades of gray in between.
In learning to practice your new faith, take things slowly. Don't be overenthusiastic by plunging in and trying to do many extra acts of worship at once. It was reported by Al-Bukhari that the Prophet (peace be upon him) told us that Allah loves best the acts that are repeated regularly, even if they were little. So choose one new action at a time and become very regular in performing it before adding another one.
As for what more you should learn, I can't say without knowing what you already know. However, I can advise you to concentrate for now on learning more about the tenets of faith and`aqeedah (Islamic creed), and how to perform the salah and other pillars of Islam; paying zakah, fasting, and making Hajj (which you should try to save up your money to perform). Perhaps your local imam can suggest topics that you should learn about.
Finally, you asked for prayers that can be recommended in times of trial. The best thing to do is to pray from your heart. Ask God for what you need and expose your soul at His attendance. However, the only other prayers that are to be recommended are Prophetic supplications used by Prophet Muhammad and other great prophets (peace be upon them all) or the great companions.
Otherwise, it is never recommended to oblige oneself to use specific supplications that one doesn't feel or develop personally. Supplication is way to communicate on personal level with the Divine. We can only use the Prophetic example as a role model here, from where we start to launch a deep personal relation.
Any ways, here are some translations of some of these supplications from the book named Hisn Al-Muslim. It is available in English translation by several names. This translation is from Fortification of the Muslim Through Remembrance and Supplication From the Qur'an and the Sunnah (Jeddah: Dar Al-Khair).
Supplication for anxiety and sorrow:
O Allah, I am Your servant, son of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur'an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety. (Al-Bukhari)
Supplication for one in distress:
O Allah, it is Your mercy that I hope for, so do not leave me in charge of my affairs even for a blink of an eye and rectify for me all of my affairs. None has the right to be worshiped except You. (Muslim)
I hope this helps you. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to send us again. Thank you and stay in touch.