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?

     Rejection.

     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.

11 comments:

  1. Subhan'Allah, so true and so sad. I think we need to get out of this mindset of 'us' and 'them' as Muslims because at the end of the day, we are all the same in the sight of Allah, and what only makes one better than another is faith, which only Allah truly knows and can judge.

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    1. True thank you for sharing. Jazak(i) Allah khair for reading.

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  2. Sadly, it's true. Married to a Pakisani, as a convert, my children are now asking me why I don't go to the masjid with them. I don't know how to tell them how it is--they have no point of reference for my reluctance/choice. They blend in easily; I certainly don't and never have and it's been more than a decade. My nine year old daughter is now saying she feels, "lonely" there with her father and brother. I can only imagine how she feels.

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    1. Hang in there sister. Allah doesn't see color. Confine in Him (swt). May Allah give us the strength to persevere and stay true to the Deen, Ameen. Jazaki Allah khair for reading.

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  3. Salaam,

    This post has so much truth in it. I can't even begin to imagine what some reverts undoubtedly have to go through - being ostracized by people who they've known their whole lives, and then by the people practicing the very religion they have come to respect. It's a shame that we make their journey even more difficult than it already is. May Allah soften our hearts and forgive us for our shortcomings, Amin.

    Rukaiya | Muslim in the Big City

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    1. Ameen Ameen. Like you, I wish this would be more of a priority in our Muslim communities though. Jazaki Allah khair for reading.

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  4. Thank you so much for this post. It's spot on. I don't think most Muslims understand the struggle that it is adjust. I don't expect them to, but it really becomes a problem for me when they expect so much after being Muslim for barely over a year or see me as less of a Muslim with no valid opinions (I didn't take my shahada without knowing anything first you know!). I'm not going to speak Arabic over night or be the perfect Muslim, no I do not need to get married right away, and no person has the right to push me to do everything their way. Let me breathe! I'm trying my best! My family is very devout Christian so I've felt the need to keep it a secret from them for now, and I've received criticism for that too. I'm sorry, why don't you go home and tell your Muslim family that you're Christian and see how that goes? -_- It was hard enough telling my non-Muslim friends. I was met with questions such as, "So now that you're Muslim, do you think it's okay to kill people?"
    Alhamdulilah I've been fortunate enough to have met some very helpful and supportive Muslim friends. It's still sort of uncomfortable to be at gatherings where I'm so out of the loop as the only person who doesn't understand their language or culture. Still, it would be a much greater struggle without them and it sure beats being alone during Ramadan and the Eids. May Allah (swt) reward them greatly.

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  5. I came to Islam when i was 19 and i am 22 now. I stopped going to the mousqe after about a year and a half after embracing islam. I even missed 2 ramadans. I used to go all the time ready to learn and pray afternooon and even at night everyday i was always the first one in the mousqe for prayer waiting for people to come. there was 1 person my age and he was the imam he was like 23 he is older by now but he ended up leaving and i did not have anyone to talk to at all. The other guys were all older men married with children and jobs and they did not really talk to me very much at all.. It just became so lonely that i could not go anymore because i started to feel empty and lonely inside.

    I ran into one of the elders of the mousqe today in walmart and i felt ashamed for him to even see me and i felt sad because he was kind of rude. He asked me how i was doing but then just walked off and i did not even know if he really cared how i was doing or not and it seemed like he did not care. i atleast thought he would ask how i was doing with islam and try to help but he just walked away.. i just wanted to cry when i got into my car..

    I am the only Muslim in my family and i do not have anyone to help or support me in my religion. it is so hard sometimes when no one wants you to be Muslim. and i do not have any Friends to help me.. The muslim guys my age only come on friday for jummah and they do not even speak to me they just speak with people they know and so i just leave as soon as the prayer is over because there is no one for me to talk to and everyone else is talking and laughing and i do not want to look stupid just sitting there doing nothing..

    I will be getting my associates this fall and then transferring to University of Houston main campus to finish my bachelors. They have an Islamic association so i am hoping that i will meet practicing Muslim men there my age that i can hang out with and that can help me..
    I still live with my parents so i cannot do anything right now. But when i graduate and get a job i really hope Allah blesses me with a pious wife so i will not have to be alone anymore and i will have someone to hang out with all the time and learn about Islam together.. but i just pray it will not be hard since i am a revert and i do not really have any family that are Muslim. So i imagine it will be more difficult to find a wife since i do not know anyone.

    i am trying but it is not easy.. i will not go back to that mosque since i am to ashamed to show my face there. so i cannot do anything but wait until i can transfer and find a different one.. Thank you for your post and i hope other reverts do not have to go threw what i am dealing with. i hope the communities can learn how to deal with reverts properly and give them the support they need and not just assume that they know everything and will be fine...

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    1. May Allah make it easy for you, and aid you in your journey of Islam.

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  6. Assalaamu aleikum :) Id like to tell shortly a positive story.. Im from Finland and Im 27 years old. I converted, or like we say in our language, I "came back" to beeing muslim, over a year ago. I went to few different mosques that time, and I felt really like I belong, as a muslim like the others. We have small circles here in Finland. We are so lucky because here at the capitol area we have one mosque having "new sisters nights" for us. Some experienced sisters, some finnish some "born-in" muslims are givin us a small lecture and after that we have time to chat with each other. I think this kind of meetings are very empowering and helpful, and not so difficult to organize. May Allah bless these sisters and all of us.. :)

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  7. Very interesting and informative blog really very interesting informative blog nice work.
    Single Muslim

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