How do I become a Muslim?
Becoming a Muslim is a fairly simple matter. It requires that you testify before two witnesses that
1) There is no god except Allah and that
2) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
This is the first of the five pillars that define the essential elements of Islam. Once you become Muslim you should implement all these though you should be gradual and gentle in your approach.
The pillars are:
1) Witnessing (as described above) - Shahada
2) The 5 daily prayers - Salaat
3) Fasting in the month of Ramadan- Sawm
4) Giving money in charity (at least 2.5% of your surplus wealth per year) - Zakat
5) Pilgrimage to Mecca once in your life (if you can afford to) - Hajj
To complete these it is essential that you find a Muslim community near you. If you cannot then you will have the difficult task of founding one! There are various organisations which can put you into contact with local Muslims and I am quite willing to use what judgement I have to put you in contact with appropriate people. Please send me an email in any case to let me know how you get on.
One way of getting into contact with the local community is by calling this freephone number ran by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) if you are in the USA
1-800 662 ISLAM
If you are in the UK you can email the "New Muslims Project" based at the Islamic Foundation in Leicester care of Sister Batool: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also an email support group for the New Muslim Project at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/newmuslimproject/ which you can join by clicking this link:
Click to subscribe to newmuslimproject
There are a number of deviant groups of people who claim to be Muslims but follow teachings that are not correctly from Islam. The criteria is quite simple to distinguish between those who are on the path of Islam and those who deviate. The primary sources of Islam are only the Qur'an and the records of the instructions and behaviour of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). No Muslim can be obliged to follow anything else. In particular Muhammad (pbuh) is the last of the prophets and so anyone claiming to be a prophet after Muhammad's time is a false prophet. It is also important to note that there is no church in Islam who's opinion it is obligatory to follow. The only thing that can be between you and the primary sources of Islamic teaching is the practical necessity of teachers & materials such as books.