By: Natalie L. Komitsky
Whenever we, new Muslims meet one another we always have to ask, How long have you been Muslim? Are you married? If yes, Where is your spouse from? And How has your family reacted to your conversion to Islam? The answers to these questions help us understand and support each other in our common struggle.
Becoming a Muslim is not easy. There are so many things to learn, many lines to memories, Arabic terms to understand and a complete transformation of lifestyle. And if that was not enough, we often find ourselves confronted with rejection from our families, friends and sometimes even the Muslim community.
Your Lord has enjoined you to worship none but Him, and to show kindness to y our parents. If either or both of them attain old age in your dwelling, show them no sign of impatience, nor rebuke them but speak to them kind words. Treat them with humility and tenderness and say Lord, be merciful to them. They nursed me when I was an infant. [17:23-25].
While Allah, subhanahu wa taala, has blessed us by opening our hearts would like to see our conversion as a passing phase. When it does not pass some go to great lengths to challenge our eman. Many families, especially those who come from cultures where there is one dominant religion, see converting to Islam as a rejection of their entire ideology and heritage. This feeling is compounded if the convert chooses to change his or her name. They may react by threatening to disown their son or daughter, offering him or her an ultimatum to choose between renouncing Islam or being forced to leave the family. Some families also have preconceived ideas that Islam represents an archaic belief system, which condones violence and oppression of women. This obviously causes tremendous emotional pain for new Muslims, but somehow they find the strength to continue.
When they approach the subject of marriage, they sometimes experience a new level of resistance from the family. The family assumes that they will marry someone from a foreign country. They express their concerns that their prospective spouse is only looking for a road to gain citizenship, or may take their son or daughter to a far-away land where he or she will become a member of another culture and they will never hear from them again. Also in some case, families who have raised their sons or daughters as a Muslims, may not readily accept a convert as a suitable candidate for marriage. They may want to protect their cultural heritage or they may fear that the convert does not possess a solid foundation to be an optimum Muslim parent.
The good news is that most of the time, both parents in law and parents of converts eventually come to respect their sons and daughters choices. They see them living happily, with a new sense of peace and can see that this choice has also benefited them because Islam teaches us to maintain strong, respectful relations with our families. One predictor of the eventual result of the relation between a convert and his or her family would be the quality of their relationship prior to their convert had been estranged from the family, the relationship becomes better when he or she adopts an Islamic code of behavior. And, if this improvement is not enough to bring them around, and children will usually motivate even the most stubborn parent.
This positive movement in the relationship often draws the once resistant family to further explore Islam for themselves, insha Allah.
According to Prophets, (Blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) example, these new members of the Ummah should feel welcomed into our larger family. Abu Mousa al- Ashari related that the Prophet Muhammad (Blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: The bonds of brotherhood between two Muslims are like parts of a house, one part strengthens and holds the other. He crossed the fingers of one hand between those of the other, to elucidate and illustrate the point. (Bukhari and Muslim). It seems that Muslim communities are overjoyed at the moment of shahadah, but sometimes fail to provide a sufficient support system in the weeks and months that follow. We need to recognize that we have an obligation to welcome new Muslims and be responsive to their needs. When living in a non-Muslim country, everything outside the Muslim Community framework is a reminder of what life used to be. If a new Muslim is under tremendous stress, they may be tempted to return to a normal lifestyle if we do not go the extra mile to help them feel comfortable as part of the Ummah.
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