Praise be to Allaah Who has created in you the desire to enter Islam. We appreciate your asking about how to enter the religion of Allaah, which none will be saved on the Day of Resurrection but those who follow it. Allaah says in His Book, the Holy Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning):
“And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:85]
Entering Islam is very simple and is not complicated at all. All that you have to do is to utter the Shahaadatayn (twin declaration of faith), which is the key to Islam and the summary and foundation of the faith. So say: Ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allaah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasool-Allaah (I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah), then do ghusl (full ablution, washing your entire body) with the intention of purifying yourself for prayer, and practice all the rituals of Islam, the greatest of which is prayer, which connects a person with his Lord.
We would like to point out a number of things to you:
1 – You say, “I love her so much that I am willing to embrace Islam.” Although the motive for your entering Islam may be your desire to marry a Muslim woman at this stage, when you become Muslim, learn more about this religion and practise it sincerely in your life, then your conviction will become stronger, your intention will become pure, and you will become more sincere towards Allaah and become fully convinced of Islam’s validity, for nothing can cleanse and purify the soul but that.
2 – You say “We have always been good friends and gone to the same college”
Please note that one of the basic aims of Islamic sharee’ah is to preserve people’s honour. Islam has enjoined many regulations in order to achieve this basic aim, one of which is the prohibition on free mixing between men and women even in the noblest of places and when seeking the highest of objectives. One of the teachings of Islam is that men should be separated from women in the mosque. Muslim narrated in his Saheeh (440) from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The best rows for men are those at the front and the worst are those at the back, and the best rows for women are those at the back and the worst are those at the front.”
Al-Nawawi said in Sharh Muslim (4/159): What is meant by the worst rows for men and women are those that bring less reward, are lower in status and furthest removed from achieving the aims of sharee’ah. The best rows are the opposite of that. The best rows for women who attend prayers with men are the last rows, because they are further away from mixing with men, seeing them and becoming attracted to them when seeing their movements, hearing their words and so on. The front rows are criticized for the opposite reasons. And Allaah knows best. End quote.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Contact between two who love one another in a manner that is not Islamically acceptable is a serious problem. In this case it is not permissible for the man to contact the woman or the woman to contact the man, and say that he wants to marry her. Rather he should inform her wali (guardian) that he wants to marry her, or she should tell her wali that she wants to marry him, as ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) did when he offered his daughter Hafsah in marriage to Abu Bakr and ‘Uthmaan (may Allaah be pleased with them both).
But if the woman gets in touch directly with the man, this is a source of fitnah (temptation).
As’ilat al-Baab il-Maftoohah, question no. 868.
3 – You say: “but we do not want to elope.”
We appreciate this approach which tells us of your good attitude and sound mind.
4 – You say: “I would like to marry her as she is a wonderful person, kind, loving, intelligent and pious.”
This indicates that you are keen to marry one who is fit to be a good example to your children and will strive to be easy going with you. The good characteristics that you have mentioned are some of those which Islam has described as motives for marriage. It is narrated in al-Saheehayn and elsewhere from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Women may be married for four things: their wealth, their lineage, their beauty and their religious commitment. Choose the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may your prosper).”
This hadeeth indicates that the most important motive for marriage, which one should pay attention to, is religious commitment and good character.
5 – You say, “I know Islam welcomes people into its fold.”
This shows that you have a fair-minded view of this religion which came as a mercy to the worlds.
By the grace and mercy of Allaah, He has caused Islam to erase whatever sins came before it. If a kaafir becomes Muslim, Allaah forgives him for everything that he did when he was a kaafir, and he becomes cleansed of sin. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“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)”
Muslim (121) narrated that ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: … when Allaah put Islam in my heart I came to the Prophet (S) and said: Hold out your right hand so that I might swear allegiance to you. So he held out his right hand, but I withdrew my hand. He said: “What is the matter, O ‘Amr?” I said: I want to stipulate a condition. He said, “What do you want to stipulate?” I said: That I will be forgiven. He said: “Do you not know, O ‘Amr, that Islam destroys whatever came before it…?”
“Islam destroys whatever came before it” means it erases it and removes all trace of it. This was stated by al-Nawawi in Sharh Muslim.
Finally, we have high hopes of a happy future for you, because you are starting out well, as we see from your question, especially if we ponder the meaning of the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And whomsoever Allaah wills to guide, He opens his heart to Islam”
We ask Allaah to open your heart to this religion and to help you to enter it. Undoubtedly that will be good news for the Muslim woman whom you are going to marry, because she knows that she cannot marry you until you become Muslim, as is the law of the Lord of the Worlds. We welcome you to come and ask questions at this website and to read it, and to cooperate with us in doing good.
May Allaah send blessings and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad and all his family and companions.