Home Converts The challenges of becoming a Muslim

The challenges of becoming a Muslim

By: Bayynat editor

Islam is indeed the world’s fastest growing religion, but that is only half of the story. New converts are constantly struggling to embrace their new identity.

It is not enough to give someone the Quran, answer a few questions, stand by their side as they say the “Shahadah”, organize a small celebration and then send them back to the society; especially if it was a predominantly non-Muslim society. A new convert has to face a set of extensive challenges which touch upon all sides of his life. On a personal level, he has to acquire knowledge of the principles of Islam and acquaint himself with the pillars of the religion, in addition to the acts of worshipping. This further means that a new convert is supposed to learn the Arabic language so that he would perform prayers and read the Quran.

In a world where Islam is stigmatized as a demonic religion of violence and backwardness, the challenges are not only limited to knowledge acquisition. Muslim converts have to deal with the issues of confronting their families, and their society as well, with the truth of their new religion, change their diet into one that excludes alcohol and meat that is not Halal, alter the nature of their social relations and cross-gender relations, and so on…

As published by OnIslam.com: A new Muslim needs time to get to grips with his/her new faith. It may take a person a day to accept and act upon one Islamic principle and may take other person years. As we are all unique individuals our absorption levels are variable. All Muslims take their time in absorbing concepts and native Muslims are no strangers to this.

As Joanne McEwan, a Muslim convert, puts it: While new Muslims are struggling to grasp their new faith and identity, many people impress upon them to change their name to a ‘Muslim’ name. I have never been able to understand the need for this, particularly when the Prophet only changed the names of those whose names had bad meanings. The non-Arab companions Bilal, and Salman the Persian kept their names. Similarly, his wife, Mariya, who was a Coptic Christian before embracing Islam, did not change her name. I know countless of converts who have Muslim names now only because they were told it was a must, and if they had known that it was not, they would have not changed them. I must admit that I did actually accept an Arabic name but only for the sheer novelty and experimental value. It lasted three hours.

Some struggle to find acceptance from their surroundings as they are viewed as betrayers of their nationality. Jeremy Henzell Thomas, a freelancer at emel magazine explains: As a British Muslim convert, I sometimes feel that I am regarded as neither a true Brit nor an authentic Muslim. Well, I don’t happen to feel that in becoming a Muslim, I have, in some way betrayed my “roots”, nor do I have any sense that not being born a Muslim disqualifies me from being a “proper” Muslim.  I do not feel that I occupy a kind of no-man’s land between two tribal encampments, even if I am sometimes made to feel so. We converts can get it from both sides. From the Muslim side, I have been reminded in various ways that I am a greenhorn, a learner-Muslim, in need of basic education.

Others might have to face rejection from their own families. Christine, an American convert, explains in an interview published online that she prayed in the bathroom or in her room late at night, only put Hijab on when she was away from home, and pretended she had become a vegetarian. One day Christine’s father caught her praying in her room and went ballistic. A huge row ensued with her father hitting her and calling her all the foul names he could think of. The row ended with Christine being thrown out on the street and being told never to come back. She had nowhere to go.

 Amal Stalphy, a Life Coach for Muslim women and the founder of the SuperMuslimah Project, explains: “Most converts anticipate a rocky ride when they tell their families. There is no one way to do this; every family is unique, as are their relationships. We find the most useful way to approach this is to share with new sisters the ways that worked for others in the group, and through this the new convert may find ideas that will work for them in their situation. Some sisters like to first develop a foundation of knowledge to help them answer the questions they may face, others drop gentle hints until their families realize what has happened without having to be told, others share their journey with their families and others just try to find the right time to tell their families.”

In an interview conducted by Stalphy, published by OnIslam, with a Muslim convert, the latter discusses the issue of wearing Hijab: Adjusting to wearing the Hijab and the Islamic dress code is something that some sisters dive into quite quickly, when they are riding high on their new wave of faith. Others take longer, especially those living at home with non-accepting families. These sisters usually take small baby steps, gradually adjusting their clothing, wearing a scarf at Islamic functions initially and gradually wearing longer and looser clothing. Some sisters, especially those who were introduced to Islam by someone from a Muslim culture may choose to adopt their cultural dress to help them feel part of the community. Others adapt western style clothing to keep a sense of their own cultural identity. It takes a while for some sisters to feel comfortable following the Islamic dress code, they don’t want to stand out as being different from everyone else, and wearing Hijab is the most obvious sign that others notice. But as they grow in their faith, this transition is part of who they are becoming and it becomes more natural and eventually second nature.

The responsibility, thus, lies on the shoulders of other Muslim who ought to provide their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters with love, support, and guidance. In accordance to His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra): God says in Glorious Book: Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam. And And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers. Being a Muslim in the formal juristic sense means that you have to pronounce the two testimonies and believe in Allah's Books, Messengers and Angels, in addition to the Day of Judgment. But certain traditions of the Prophet suggest to the Imams of Ahl el-Beit that Islam is not a formal issue only. It is not enough to be a Muslim to believe in what you should believe, you have also to be committed in your relations to other Muslims, by opening up on all the in issues, and causes that are related to their living in freedom and dignity. You cannot ignore the Muslims' affairs when they, for example, are facing great challenges saying that: “I will mind my own business”.

To be a Muslim is to consider the Muslims' concerns as your personal concerns. And make every effort to improve their social economic and political conditions. It is to consider yourself part of a family, one of the organs in a body that is made of all Muslims.

The Prophet (p.) also explained in another tradition that the most pious believers and the closet among them to Allah is he who gives faithful and rise to Muslims and he who is whole heartedly with them.

The Prophet (p.) also says: that all people are God's children. The ones Allah loves the most are those who benefit His children and make them happy. When you find someone who loves them and takes care of them how would you feel about them. It is evident that you will love those who benefit your children with their knowledge wealth and power.

On the other hand, those who are not inclined to help any of Allah's children will not earn Allah's love. If this is the case, then we can deduce Allah’s, the most Exalted, position of those who harm others or make them sad.



Name: stacey
Subject: Hijab
Comment: Dear Fadlallah, Thank you for publishing this article as I am a new convert and I am also facing some difficulties. The Islamic dress is ok, I have already altered my style but I am delaying the hijab for several reasons but I am torn, Is each day that I go out without the hijab adding to my sins or will God be merciful with me and understand? I am not ready to wear it yet due to family reasons and lifestyle. I am currently making alterations to our lifestyle but I need to wait for my husband to refresh his faith as which I am working on. Also, I have many questions regarding the Imams. I believe that Ali is the true successor but I need more information to strengthen my faith and understanding regarding the 12 Imams and also their ability to see the Ghaib as I am reading the Quran at the moment and it says so many times that only Allah knows the unknown. Alhamdulilah I have married into a great, believing family and they are supporting me endlessly but I still have many more questions.. Inshallah I will hear from you soon. God bless
Answer:  Try your best to overcome these circumstances and become fully committed to the Hijab. The changes and developments you are doing in your lifestyle are good, and you will be rewarded much, Allah willing, for them. Our Imams are the guardians Allah appoints and His arguments over His creation. They are our “lifeboat” [that leads to Heaven] and the second of the two weighty things [the Prophet bequeathed to us] following the Quran. We believe that they are infallible and that they convey the Message of Allah and His Messenger. They are the true guides to religion and the protectors of the religion and the Shariah. We should follow and obey them, and they do not know the unseen (Ghaib). The Prophet (p.) too does not know the unseen, except for what Allah has told him about, for he (p.) says: “Had I known the unseen, I would have had much of good and no evil would have touched me…”. Allah says in His Glorious Book: “He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen, and He does not reveal His secrets to anyone, except to him whom he chooses namely a Messenger of His.”Please take notice that we are ready to answer any question you may have! Welcome to the Bayynat family.