Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scaring away reverts, a message to muslims!


"I heard you just reverted to islam. When are you going to change your name?"
"I didnt know i needed to change my name?"
"Oh yes, your a muslim now you have to!"
"I do? I was told that my name has a good meaning and that it was up to me if i wanted to change it"
"You should change it, your muslim, by the way why aren't you wearing hijab, you know its haram for you not to wear it?"
"well, i just reverted a few weeks ago, im still getting used to it"
"You need to wear it, youll go to hell if you dont, here you can have one of my hijabs"
"Um thanks"
"Are you praying 5 times a day?
"I try to, im still learning how to pray"
"Oh, well you know if you dont pray 5 times a day youll go to hell, its a sin not to pray"
"I know, im still learning, im not used to praying that many times"
"You should pray the sunnah too, not just the fard"
"I'll try"
"I know a brother thats looking for a wife, i was thinking about telling him about you"
"Oh, i dont think im ready for marriage, I'm only 20"
"20? Omg that's so old! In our culture everyone gets married between 18-20, you better hurry up"
"Oh, well in my culture women go to college and marry later, around 25."
"25? OMG you'll never find a husband if you wait that long. Ill talk to my mom she knows a lot of brothers in the community"
"Thanks, but i dont think im ready"
"Marriage is part of the religion, you have to,...."

8 years ago, I reverted to islam..... These are some of the conversations i had with sisters....
This brings me to a current issue...In November I was introduced to a christian sister who was interested in islam. She worked with all muslims and wanted to learn more about islam. She was referred to me and we developed a relationship and I answered questions she had about islam as well as taught her more about the fundamentals of islam, taweed, or oneness of Allah.
In december i left to go on holiday with my husband and my new friend confessed that she believed in islam and wanted to go to a masjid to learn how to pray and take her shahadah. I was excited and told a close friend of mine who promised to call her and meet with her while i was gone. At the airport i called the sister and explained that i was leaving her in good hands and that a good friend of mine would be calling her later that day. Sadly, my friend got tied up with her own life and neglected to call the sister until weeks later. Unfortunately she never got ahold of the sister and could only leave a voice mail. When i returned from my trip i called and emailed the sister to apologize and to find out how she is and to see if she still wanted to meet up so that i could show her the masjid. 2 months later i finally heard back from her.... The sister had tried to commit suicide while i was gone and ended up with head trauma and is now heavily sedated. She was just released from the hospital...
I am constantly asked how muslim sisters should talk to reverts or sisters interested in islam. Often times, the muslim sisters go about it the wrong way and often push the new reverts away. When i first reverted to islam, not only did i embrace a new religion but i embraced a new lifestyle and mentality. Things that were once allowed were now haram. It takes time to retrain your thinking and mentality and give up certain pastimes that you were once accustomed to. When a muslim sister meets a new revert you need to remember that she is similar to a new born. She must take baby steps. You cant run before you learn to walk, nor can you sing before you've learned to talk. I cant tell you how many times i was asked when i was going to change my name, if i prayed 5 times a day, when was i going to wear hijab, abayah,give up music and movies etc.
I want to encourage all of our born muslims (sisters and brothers) to take dawah courses on how to make proper dawah as well as working with reverts. If you meet a revert who has just converted its not important to overwhelm them with every single haram thing in islam, or to keep asking them when they will change their name, etc.
First, focus on teaching them how to pray properly. Build rapport with the sister (or brother if you are a guy). It takes time to change. Just like you (born muslim) didnt change over night. You need to remember that you were born into households where you were taught about hijab from an early age and prayer, you didnt learn it over night. We should never expect our reverts to change overnight. The most important thing is that they reverted!! Slowly, teach them more about islam, but try not to overwhelm them because you might just scare them away. Another thing that bothers me is when a sister reverts, all the sisters at the masjid ask for her phone number and give her their number and never call.... why take her number and tell her you will call her if you wont? Nor should sisters expect the revet to call them...The sisters at the masjid should take the initiative to call the revert and make sure she feels welcome and answer questions she has about islam. They should invite her to their houses and introduce her (or him for the brothers) to other sisters. I have heard from so many reverts how they would call the muslim sisters they met at the masjid and would never hear back from them, or who were too busy to take a few minutes to talk to them.
There is a great organization that i am apart of its called WHY ISLAM and muslim sisters and brothers are paired up with reverts to help them with any questions or concerns they may have about islam. Also, its important to build rapport with the new revert. Reverts want to feel that you really care about them and want to form a friendship with them. No one wants to talk to someone who is only interested in answering questions you have and when you dont, disappears.....
Please remember that hijab, abayah, staying away from mixing with the opposite sex, not listening to music are all important, however if the new revert is still struggling with taweed and prayer, you need to prioritize, and focus on whats important. Hijab is important, but its more important that the revert learns how to pray properly and understands the fundamentals of islam. The best way to teach a revert is to be an example. There is so much to learn about islam that it would take a lifetime. Dont expect the revert to learn it all in one day. Be empathetic and understanding and supportive. Do not be judgmental or critical. Each revert is different. Some will wear hijab and niqab right away, others will take years before they put a hijab on. Some will continue to mix with the opposite sex, others will give it up instantly.
If we look at our ummah we will see that most of the born muslims are cultural and not practicing islam as it should be, therefore how can you be so judgmental and critical of a revert when it took you years, if not more to be at the stage you are now? I have heard so many stories of reverts that went back to their old religion due to lack of support from the community. My sisters and brothers in islam, we are responsible for this, we need to develop better dawah techniques, take classes on giving proper dawah and uniting as a community to support reverts. Reverts often give up family, friends and are left on their own once they revert. They need support and friendship from the community, not doors slammed in their face or discrimination from the community.
As Shaykh ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyah (Rahimahullaah) said:
“The perfection of Tawheed is found when there remains nothing in the heart except Allaah, the servant is left loving those He loves and what He loves, hating those He hates and what He hates, showing allegiance to those He has allegiance to, showing enmity to those He shows enmity towards, ordering what He ordered and prohibiting what He prohibits.”
When a revert/born muslim understands this and lives his/her life according to pleasing Allah they will stop doing things to please his creation and will have a thirst for knowledge and will strive to be the best muslim/muslima they can.

10 comments:

Candice said...

Great post! I am not Muslim yet and sometimes I'm also pretty overwhelmed. For lots of things, I don't know where I stand. With time (I've been learning about Islam for a while), my stand developped and things changed. It did take time and I think anyone who embraces a faith goes though that too. So you're totally right.

About name change, I would hate for someone to come up to me with that! It is such a small issue, if it can even be considered an issue!

Candice said...

Can I make a tiny suggestion. Maybe it's because I'm almost at my bedtime and I'm tired, but I was having a bit of trouble reading the post. Maybe adding a space between paragraphs would help me not lose my spot so often. Totally worth it though, and I think it's easier to read on your actual page, I read it on google reader so it was quite wide and the paragraphs were hard to find.

Asiya said...

Masha'Allah Sis, good post!

I remember when I first converted and worked up enough courage to go to classes at the masjid--they were supposed to be classes only for convert women, but there was sister there (a born muslim) who attended our class. She would interject comments about proper hijab and how haraam certain things were...but her clothes were totally see-through (like you knew what style and colour bra she was wearing) and her dupatta/hijab kept falling down every three seconds. I remember thinking, "What a hypocrite!"

So to add to your excellent post--Muslims don't act like hypocrites when teaching new muslims.

struggling said...

Salam
I have always wanted to comment on your blog because most everything you have written about has either happened to me personally or it's something I've witnessed happening to someone else. My hope is that every Muslim who follows your blog not only reads this article, but also passes it on. inshAllah it can teach people to be more considerate and compassionate towards new Muslims, being new to a religion leaves us (in general terms) more vunerable and in some cases easier to manipulate. I know about WHY ISLAM and a few years ago ordered pamphlets from them, it's a great organization, would be nice if it were here in Canada too (hint hint :) )
thanks so much for posting these topics!!

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Sister:

Alhamdulillah for your excellent naseehah. May Allah (swt) reward you for it!

o0UmmHasan0o said...

come and choose an award! http://o0ummhasan0o.blogspot.com/2009/02/companions-award-tag-check-in-here.html

Thirst For Knowledge said...

Salaam Alaikum,

Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions. I always enjoy reading them and I am glad that everyone is enjoying my posts! I will definately work on putting my thoughts into paragraphs so that it will be easier to read =)
I will also find out more information about starting a WHY Islam in canada, that would be wonderful, inshaAllah. In case anyone is interested in knowing more about WHY ISLAM, the link is
http://www.whyislam.org/ or 1-877-why-islam
Thanks for the award 00ummhasan00!

Melda :o) said...

Assalamu alaikum sister

mash'allah, great post!

A couple of those things happened to me, too...as soon as I mentioned I was going to become a practising muslim everyone was all over me about hijab, getting married and what not...they asked for my number and never called..they scared me saying if I prayed the wrong way my prayer wouldn't be accepted but none of them took time to show me how to do the prayers correctly :o( I had to watch videos on youtube to learn how to say Al-Fatiha...my non-muslim "friends" are busy doing their thing so I was kind of hoping that my sisters would be there for me...nope, no such thing...I wouldn't give up my faith for anything but I'm very disappointed in my so-called sisters in Islam and can totally understand why it makes some people leave the religion again! :o(

Jamaican Hijabi said...

Assalamu alaikum,

Great post and excellent advice, mashaAllah!

eyes serene said...

Assalamu alaikom,
I had some convert friends whom I met because I was interested in converting (found them online) and probably without their support, I wouldn't have stayed Muslim. It's very overwhelming at the beginning. You need some support to help you navigate!