The first week, the instructor wasn't there as she'd recently been visiting with family overseas. This week's halaqa involved a little bit of catching up, and then it was planned to be short due to some activity at the Redmond Masjid--I can't seem to figure out what it was though. But it was further cut short (and mind you, I'm not complaining about this) by a new sister wanting to take shahadah. That actually took 15-20 minutes--even though the sister had studied Islam plenty before choosing to make this decision, I guess it is the protocol here to run through a crash course in aqeedah for anyone who wants to take shahadah, so the remainder of the halaqa was spent reviewing the articles of faith and pillars of Islam.
In Raleigh, we would basically quickly articulate the primary tenets of faith and practice if the convert was new to the masjid, but not nearly so extensively as I heard tonight. So I begin to wonder how other masajid react when someone wishes to say shahadah?
But more than the aqeedah crash course, a new shahadah is always a reminder of guidance in our lives, a reminder that Allah guides whom He chooses. Maybe if we busy ourselves with da'wah we start to think we have a hand in people finding Islam, but so often people just show up at the masjid, ready to take shahadah (this happens a LOT in Ramadan.) The guidance truly is from Allah, and He leads people to Islam. While we should definitely try to be as active in da'wah as we can (as it's from the Sunnah and has the promise of a beautiful reward), it's plain that we only inite, and we cannot guide.
Watching someone say their shahadah also brings to mind the overwhelming feeling of truly embracing Islam. From a hadith qudsi we know that Allah comes closer to us as we come closer to Him, and it's been my experience that certain acts of worship, performed with sincerity, nourish the soul beyond the imagination. For me, saying shahadah was the first such experience I had being overcome with faith in this way, and I've seen that experience reflected on the face (and in the tears) of many others when they also embrace Islam. Do you wonder why so often converts cry at their shahadah?
At the very least, their sins have been forgiven. Even if they don't know it, all their bad deeds are now written as good, and the effect of that beautiful purification--as we are being purified of our sins by Allah--is not merely academic. It can be felt in the heart, and so it's extremely emotional.
Tonight, getting to see that, just reminded me of what I should be striving for.