Monday, 14 April 2014

We Should Be Ashamed of the Way We Treat Our Converts

    **Trigger warning**: confrontational language that may make you cringe. The intention of this entry is to make you feel uncomfortable. So if you are, don't stop reading.

     So, you're at a conference or some local mosque and a shy and nervous unfamiliar man or woman approaches the imam and says that he/she wants to convert to Islam. Suddenly, the crowds are whispering and on their toes thirsty and patiently awaiting to hear the words of the shahada come out of his/her mouth. As the imam addresses the man or woman and begins reciting the words, the prospective convert is anxiously trying his/her hardest to mumble them and is careful to do it as perfectly as possible. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Women are smiling and some are even holding back their tears and as soon as the shahadah is done, the crowd erupts in a loud "Allahu akbar" and begins clapping. Tissues are passed around. The men quickly roam around the new convert and exchange their warmest salaams if it's a man. Women approach the woman and give hugs, congrats and some recipes for the full conversion to really take precedent in this "naive" man or woman's "new life".

     I wonder if these people take one minute to think about what happens after this ritual?

     Absolutely nothing.

     Poor man or woman. Not because they are new to the faith or anything. Heck, they could have better akhlaq and knowledge than all of us. But because of this show we put on for them. Because of this fasad we put on to lead them to believe that they might just be included in our circles.

     I wonder if us Muslims ever once think of what the newly converted brother and sister faces after that event? Have we thought of what it's like to have to face family with this new faith? And not just any faith, a faith that is to most seen as a "cult for terrorists". A faith that is termed by some non-Muslims as "satanic" at times among other horrible associations. In these families, the convert quickly realizes that they have chosen to alienate themselves within their own families. They may have to deal with having to hide their prayers, hide their higab, hide their Quran and even conceal their Muslim friends in some cases. So, naturally what happens then? As humans, we look towards family or support elsewhere and try to replace them with people who might accept us. Perhaps not completely replace them, depending on the situation, but the convert inevitably looks for a safe space.

     Now, where do you think the convert will go?

     To that fantasy we created. He or she will indefinitely go back to that mosque. But what will they find there?


     Everyone is too busy. We might give him or her some sources, books, a Quran. But do we really believe that that is what they are looking for? We are in the age of mass communication. Information is cheap and can be found everywhere. They look for a home and help. An avenue and a place to feel needed and accepted. But instead they are met with "busy" Muslims who appear to care but are no where to be seen when real help and action is needed. All they wanted was a listening ear and a helping hand. Instead, they find themselves alienated further within this new faith, facing discrimination within and outside their communities. The Muslims are too busy coming together on the basis of race and ethnicity, they forgot the converts among them. They might have been invited to a dinner or some event, but were they really included in conversation? or did everyone speak in their foreign tongue and then proceed to providing fake apologies met with more alienation?

I have a serious problem with the word "convert". I prefer to say so and so "embraced" Islam. The word convert has connotations that are very difficult to live by. It means, "now, be like us." It does not mean, "welcome to our faith" or "let's get to know one another." As soon as the new Muslim makes that shahadah, they are told by countless other older Muslims to "make up" all of the prayers they've missed, wear higab and do multiple deeds which are probably neglected by those people themselves. I found it beautiful when a Sheikh once told a new Muslim to make dua for him. It was a sweet way of saying "we are equals and your dua is just as valid as mine".

     The saddest part is when those who embraced Islam decide to consider leaving it. And it's not because of the faith itself, but because of our treatment.

     My fellow Muslims, do not look down on each other. Do not forget who guided you and who made you born a Muslim. Teach Islam in the softest way you can. Leave the rest to Allah.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

9 Signs You Have Trust in Allah

     I'm not going to lie, this one was pretty tough to write. Trust in Allah takes a lot of iman and taqwa. We have become so familiar with the concept of having control that we just can't stand relinquishing it for something or someone else. Often, our whole lives are just a big attempt at taking control of our situations and we seek a comfort in knowing that we've got it going good. How can one be fully trusting of Allah's decree? The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that we must take whatever actions needed towards our desired goal while leaving the unknown to Allah (swt). But how many of us truly believe that if we let things go, they would turn up in our favor? The prophet's companions used to enter battles where their chances for victory on paper would have been slim to none. But they had trust in Allah and trust that this was a deed for Him and Him only, and this is what ultimately made them victorious. 

Here are my 10 signs that you may have true trust in Allah (swt):

1. You don't expect your plans to play out perfectly:

   You take plans seriously but leave some flexibility for the unexpected. You easily embrace change and take comfort in knowing that things don't have to turn out "perfectly" as planned.

2. You believe uncertainty is inevitable:
   Some things in life don't have clear and direct solutions and you are okay with that. You think it is an inevitable part of life to not know things. Uncertainty is Allah asserting his presence in your life and you respect that this is His expertise.

3. You take serious risks: 

   You are not usually fearful of matters that most people fear. Fear is usually nurtured by uncertainty and when you've accepted uncertainty, then you've laid trust in Allah. You know that He is the One to record your risks as valid efforts that deserve good deeds and recognition on the day of judgement, regardless of the outcome. I would assume this applies to risks that are taken for the sake of Allah.

4. You do not dwell on matters beyond your control:

    When your expectations are not met, you quickly choose to remember Allah and say alhamdoulillah. Even if you were initially disappointed, it doesn't take you very long to reinstate your trust in Allah and get back to your daily routine. You are not the type to ask "what if?" and "why?" too much.

5. You don't need closure to get closure:

   Your ultimate source of closure is Allah. You don't need that phone call or some magical signs to show you that you made the right choice. 

6. You truly believe that Allah will never let you down: 

  You think Allah has your best interests at heart and that even the tribulations can be sources of happiness because they remind you that He thinks of you highly enough and knows that you can handle them.

7. You believe Allah judges you fairly:

  We tend to trust people who we believe will not judge us harshly. You truly believe that Allah sees through all your layers and recognizes your good as well as your bad deeds. You believe He makes His decision because He knows you even better than you know yourself.

8. You live life for something or someone else:

   You don't live for yourself. You live for a cause, a family or some other reason that you've set for Allah's sake and for your afterlife. For that reason, when something unexpected comes your way, you know that it's not because of your ill intentions and this keeps you calm to know that it wasn't you, it was just a test.

9. You know life isn't fair:

 You know that life is naturally a roller coaster and that the truth is that it doesn't get better. This helps you accepts that ups and downs and deal with new situations better. This also helps you appreciate the good moments rather than expect life to be happy as default.