I am a teen living in the US. As I wish to embrace Islam, I would like to know what I should do to become a Muslim. Is it necessary to wait until I turn 18 for my Islam to be valid and should I sever relations with my non-Muslim relatives and friends when I become a Muslim? I am also confused about Islamic rituals like prayers, fasting etc.
Converting to Islam is a very easy matter. You need not be of a certain age to embrace Islam; indeed one can become a Muslim at any age. Many of the Prophet’s Companions embraced Islam at an early age and later became leaders of the Muslim community. For instance, Ali Ibn Abu Talib embraced Islam at the age of seven. Other examples include Zayd Ibn Haritha, the Prophet’s servant, and Ammar Ibn Yasir who was one of the leading Companions promised with paradise.
To become a Muslim, you first have to have a firm conviction to follow Islam as a religion. Then you must utter the shahadah, the proclamation of faith, by which you declare that there is no deity but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. The shahada is all that is required to become a Muslim.
Although there is no minimum age to embrace Islam, certain rituals of Islam such as prayers, fasting, etc., only become obligatory upon attaining puberty.
Since you live in the US, you must seek advice and guidance from the nearest Islamic center. There, they will issue an official certificate of your Islam, and the imams will provide you with the necessary information and guidance on the teachings and rituals of Islam.
Maintaining kinship ties
You should know that Islam is the religion of mercy and piety, placing great importance on family relationships and connections.
Islam does not command you to sever ties with your family and friends or to antagonize or hate them. On the contrary, it commands you to treat them well. The erroneous belief of harboring hatred towards non-Muslims is extraneous to Islam, the Prophet’s teachings, and Islamic civilization.
Islam does not command us Muslims to hate people but to love them because they are the creations of God Almighty. Moreover, man is the creation of God, and cursed are those who destroy him because God created him with His own hands, breathed into him of His own spirit, and made His angles prostrate to him. For this reason, respecting humanity is an angelic characteristic; consequently, God Almighty commands us to love people, maintain ties of kinship, treat others well, speak good words, give friendly smiles, and maintain good companionship with others. It is through these means that Islam spread.
You should behave with others as you normally would because Islam likes munificence and the good spirit that brings happiness, optimism, hope, and affection. Treat your family and friends with good manners, and share their happiness and celebrations provided they do not involve any religious rites or practices that contradict Islam.
And God Almighty knows best.