Islam has the highest percentage of conversions. But because of Struggles as a revert Muslim, the percentage of reverts that leave religion are also alarmingly high. It is high time that we as a community make ourselves aware of what these individuals go through.
The struggles that reverts have to face and how we, as an ummah can work towards making things better for them.
It is time we asked ourselves, “how many of us actually make a conscious effort to make them feel welcome and accepted?” The unfortunate truth is that, while we do celebrate their blessed decision with them, we then go our own separate ways. As one revert sister sadly quoted:
Upon shahada, the born Muslim community smiles in our faces and says,“Mashallah, you chose Islam. You are so great!” Then they walk away and leave us alone in our new Muslim state. Like a child, we are entering a new life, a new way of thinking and perceiving the world. We don’t always know what to do; we don’t know whom to trust or whom to listen to. Many assume others are helping us or have become our friends when truthfully, most of us spend our Eids alone and we break our fast alone. Many of us have never even stepped foot into the house of another Muslim. Majority of reverts are alone in their walk of faith.
People undergoing this change in faith, do so for various reasons and they also come from diverse backgrounds, whether relating to nationalities or socio-economic or culture. Some have community and familial support, while the majority risk losing friends and family in the process. This experience causes a mental as well as physical strain on the individuals and they start to question the decision they made.
Lack of support and isolation
The hardest part about converting was losing some of the closest people in my life. ‘Friends’, that’s what I used to call them. But now it seems that my struggles are not enough for them. That my problems are nothing. That my choices mean nothing. I’m sorry that they couldn’t see that I was fighting to keep them close to me but, ultimately fighting a losing battle. I hope my struggles are not in vain. Because I sacrificed all my friends for my faith. I hope Allah helps me through this time. (Caroline, Swindon)
Most, if not all reverts face this dilemma at some point. An overwhelming emotional state you will see in any revert group on social media platforms or offline is neither the lifestyle nor the beliefs associated with the change, but it is one of isolation and lack of acceptance.
Stuck in between 2 Worlds
One of the Struggles as a revert Muslim is that they feel stuck between 2 worlds. It is like they are in a limbo of sorts. Swinging between two worlds and are unable to be comfortable in neither, as they no longer fit in the non-Muslim world they have left and haven’t yet found their place in the Muslim one they have entered. Some struggle as a revert Muslim to find acceptance from their surroundings as they are viewed as betrayers of their nationality.
Jeremy Henzell Thomas, a freelancer at Emel magazine explains in an interview:
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. This is one of the most horrible forms of struggles as a revert Muslim. 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.
“Coming out” in the time of Islamophobia
During a time when Islam is portrayed as a religion of violence and backwardness, the Struggles as a revert Muslim are not just learning the ways of the religion. They have to deal with the issues of confronting their families and their society as well. With all the scaremongering and misinformation about Islam that is flooding the media these days, when someone chooses to embrace Islam, it often comes as a great shock to their family.
Most often families feel that the revert is no longer the person they used to know and love. Distorted images of extremists and terrorist groups flood their minds and sometimes they go to extreme measures to make the new Muslims leave this strange new way of life and return to being their old self. When they cannot find support and see extremism around them they get scared and prefer to just go back to being non-muslims.
Harder for new Muslims
Although the challenge of dealing with the hate and insult that is fuelled by Islamophobic prejudices, is something faced by all Muslims, the struggles as revert Muslim is even more complex. This is because in a lot of the cases they are facing it from their own families. They are facing it from people they feel they relate to in terms of culture e.g. friends. And in some cases, for people, who, in the past had already faced prejudice due to their ethnicity, this can be an additional cross for them to bear.
Also, in western countries, once you have converted some changes can have people looking at you strangely. Take for example eating with the fork and knife, in western culture we are taught to do it a certain way. In Islam it is imperative to eat with your right hand, therefore the cutlery switches hands.
However, this can be a point of criticism for many revert Muslims, as it takes them time to learn to do is the Islamic way but at the same time not only will they be frowned up by non-muslims, but they will also be made to feel very uncomfortable and alienated by people that were previously their friends and family. So these struggles as a revert Muslims disheartens and changes them back to how they originally were.
Voices, which one do I listen to?
While the new Muslim is all geared up to devour all information regarding Islam, it is no doubt, sometimes confusing, with the sheer volume and variety of sources available, so many opinions, and so many Quranic verses and ahadith to back up all these opinions!
These struggles as a revert Muslim can be difficult. Especially when you are learning and are not quite sure what is an opinion and what is a fact, this can be quite overwhelming. It becomes difficult to know where to start, where to look and whom to turn to.
Add to that the highly opinionated and often highly pitched voices of the right and the left wings, i.e the “strict adherents” on one hand and the “secular and liberal” on the other. Each claiming that their version of Islam is the right one. Another new Muslim sister recalls
Often, we are told this is haram, that is haram, you need to stop doing that. Yet, the earliest Muslims focused on aqeedah before legislation, so why are we expected to become an Islamic scholar overnight?
The Other View
Then, we face the other side of the spectrum, the so-called ‘moderate’ Muslims on the extreme left. The liberals and the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic feminists’, who insist hijab is not fard, neglect their prayers and have dust-covered Qurans on their bookshelf. They tell us to loosen up and “why are you being so extreme, born Muslims are not this strict— so why are you”.
We are told on the left that we are too strict and we are told on the right that we are not strict enough. It becomes even more difficult. We are searching for where we belong, but the truth is we are strangers in this world. Strangers in our western society where we grew up and strangers in the Muslim community because we are different. Listening to the fervent pleas of this sister one can only imagine the plight of a person facing this conundrum.
These struggles as a revert Muslim leave a lot of revert Muslims baffled and confused because they don’t know which way to turn. They don’t have enough support so they are left to find their own way.
A lot of people tend to ask revert Muslims how they managed to wear the hijab and where did they get the confidence. One woman says:
The truth is, I’m not always confident in hijab. There are days that I feel insecure and self-conscious, even after wearing it for 5 years. Hijab is not easy, especially in a society that reminds us of VERY different beauty standards. For many of us, HIjab is a journey with ups and downs, and that’s ok. We are not exempt from emotions and insecurities just because we wear hijab, but rather, our struggle shows how strong and resilient we are for choosing to fulfil Allah’s duty.
Hijab is probably one of the biggest struggles as a revert Muslim. You have to constantly remember the reward is much bigger than this Dunya. Your strength and your pride are much greater than this society. Allah knows your struggle and your intentions. It is so important to surround yourself with positive people who remind you of your creator, try new styles and colours that make you feel comfortable and make lots and lots of dua. May Allah make it easy on all of us.
One revert Muslim confidently says:
When I reverted to Islam, wearing the Hijab was easy for me. Because I knew I was submitting my will and worship to Allah subhanna wa tala. Wearing hijab is not just covering my hair. Its covering all my beauty, I stopped wearing makeup outside unless my face was covered
New Muslim sisters cringe at the slew of questions that are thrown at them. The most common being that they changed their faith to get married. While this is may be true for a few, for most, especially in Western countries like North America and Europe, to say that finding a spouse, getting married and staying happily married isn’t one of the greatest challenges they face, would be untrue.
Hailing from a past devoid of Islamic belief and its practice, they are sometimes avoided warily by born-Muslim immigrant families in their area that is seeking suitors for their adult and single offspring. When they do marry someone from a born Muslim family, it is with expectations of them sharing, if not exceeding, their own passion and zeal for Islam.
But sometimes the indifference of Muslims towards the religion of their birth is a shock for the new Muslim. A lot of new Muslim sisters enter an intercultural marriage without realising the expectations of their husband or the immediate family will have. These struggles as a revert Muslims are often looked. Unfortunately, they will then feel isolated within the family.
The result of this is that many women end up leaving Islam after having terrible experiences in bad marriages where they were disrespected, controlled, or even abused. The very person (the husband) who it was assumed would protect her from the vices of her American/European upbringing actually ends up driving her away because of his own cultural vices.
Moral Police Alert!
Converting to Islam in the UK as a woman is “not for the faint-hearted” according to a report released by the University of Cambridge, which finds converts are stigmatised by the wider community, stereotyped by the media and often shunned by their family and non-Muslim friends.
Overzealous brothers and sisters often take it upon themselves to become the ‘haraam police’, with little concern for subtlety or empathy for the other. And if the new Muslim is fortunate enough, (or should we say, unfortunately) to be accepted by the pack, the leader, then tries to impose his own culture which is mistaken for Islam by the unsuspecting newbie.
Many times it leaves converts with a feeling of being ‘impure’ because of their past lives as non-Muslims. Many sisters especially feel inadequate as Muslim women because of this, which even though being completely wrong is no less existent.
Too Much Too Soon…. Many reverts forget about the golden rule of “step by step” in Islam and instead, they try to do everything at once. From starting to pray five times a day, to wear the hijab, making lifestyle changes about food and dress, getting away from music and avoiding a certain type of friends, trying to follow every single rule in Islam.
These struggles as a revert Muslim become painful. As you constantly trying to follow every rule, you’re being advised by a lot of people, some who are hypocrites! gradually you may begin to lose hope and revert back to your former self.
Enthusiasm Dies Down
Sure, it’s a good thing trying to be a good Muslim and striving to please your Lord. But without a strong foundation, even the tallest buildings can crumble to the ground. What happens is that without a solid footing in faith, very soon these same acts feel like a burden. Soon they begin to lose the enthusiasm they started with and end up giving up everything because they feel it is ‘just too much’.
Yes, reverts need to be incorporated into the wider Islamic community for integration, however, they need to take a step back and take stock of how they will incorporate their own former cultural practices into their new Islamic framework.
This will help them to not only hold onto the identity they have been living with for most of their lives but in turn, they can be a source of positive influence on the Muslim ummah as a whole. But… as they say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and not all stories are that of sadness and despair.
As one sister spiritedly puts forth:
Wallah there are so many struggles that come with being a revert. But honestly, sometimes I love it. Striving for and holding onto Allah through it all is an amazing feeling. I’m grateful for that. There was a time when I didn’t think it was possible, that I would become the stronger and better version of myself that I am today. But Alhamdulillah I’m here. Because I have all that I need. Because I have Allah swt.
Tips for Revert Muslims
1. Practice Islam as much as you can
He who loves my Sunnah has loved me, and he who loves me will be with me in Paradise. – The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Tirmidhi)
As a new Muslim, you will have trouble keeping up with prayers every day, fasting during Ramadan, and the many other practices in this religion. The struggle that we face, is difficult and will take some time. Please remember that this is all new to you, so you need time to adjust. You need to remember Awkward moments are bound to happen. Let it happen and do things at your own pace.
You don’t need to do everything at once. You don’t suddenly need to start, covering or start waking up for Tahajjud (extra prayers) in the morning. Ease yourself into it so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you have problems with certain practices, then gradually work yourself mindfully learning how to do them.
Use this article to get to know the different types of Salah’s, which ones are obligatory and which ones get you brownie points! (If you’re tired of reading, there is a handy video in the article you can just watch!) And watch/read the Salah step by step guide to learn Salah at your own pace.
Make constant prayer to Allah, take a deep breath and carry on at your own pace. You will get there In Shah Allah! Do read the Qur’an whenever possible with meaning, or just the meanings if your new to it so that you understand what is being said. It’s important to read the Quran with meaning as this is the book that is untouched. It gives you the most authentic advice, straight from Allah (SWT).
When you have just reverted everything can seem too much. We have had so many sisters tell us they struggled to cope with not celebrating Christmas. But Allah has blessed us with 2 major Eids, it will just take time to change the direction of your celebrations. Eids are joyous occasions and once you realise the true meaning of being a Muslim you will not want it any other way!
However, if you are struggling with not celebrating Christmas, this article on Reverts, Christmas and How to Cope should be able to help you. It is important to remember Struggles as a revert Muslim are real, trying to seek guidance from others can be helpful, but ultimately you should be looking towards Allah (SWT) for guidance and help.
2. Respect your parents
Heaven lies under the feet of your mother. -The Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
You’ve taken the plunge and converted to Islam, what do you do with your family, who are non-muslims?
It is important to keep a good relationship with your family, whether they are Muslim or not. You never know when someone may be inspired by you! Try to avoid bringing up or taking part in controversial subjects regarding religion if they are not happy about you converting. Instead, talk about other things that you may have in common or enjoy doing together.
If your parents are quite upset about you converting and they make it impossible to avoid talking about you converting, learn to ignore them when they are saying something. Yes, it’s easier said than done. but remember your parents will eventually accept that Islam is not going to turn you into a terrorist. the will also accept that you’re not suddenly going to start preaching to them 24/7.
If you’re able to show them compassion, love and patience they will at least start to respect you. They may even take a genuine interest in trying to understand Islam. Arguing with them, being rude, being overly defensive will just cause heartache for both of you and confirm to them that you have chosen the wrong religion. And to be honest, you are actually showing them the opposite of what Islam is really about!
Also, don’t break up with non-Muslim friends unless they are constantly partying or using the list of major sins as their weekend to-do list. You can be a light to your Christian, Agnostic, Jewish, or Atheist friends. You never know who Allah (SWT) will guide, and showing that you are living an ethical life can encourage these people to learn a little about Islam or change their mind to having a positive view of the religion.
Yes, struggles as a revert Muslim are there, but you don’t have to make things worse for yourself by assuming certain things are no longer allowed. You will only end up isolating yourself and end up depressed.
3. Don’t Be Disheartened
Being a convert to Islam, you will face a lot of trials and tests. But remember with every test comes ease. Allah (SWT) guided you towards Islam and Allah will continue to guide you. remember whatever struggles you have, never look for people to ease your struggles, your ultimate aim should always be to seek solace and guidance from Allah (SWT).
Also, keep in mind, born Muslims have their own struggles. Some of them are led down the wrong path, some don’t even know much about Islam despite being born into such a beautiful religion. Yes, struggles as a revert Muslim will be there but everyone is fighting their own battles, never assume that someone else can help you, you need to keep faith in Allah and help others. Spread love and knowledge and In Shah Allah, Allah will also provide you with guidance and support.
4. Try To Mingle With Other Muslims
Another one of the biggest struggles as a revert Muslim is facing loneliness. You have just lost some of your family and friends due to converting and you have not yet made Muslim friends. But locking yourself away and getting depressed due to this will not help.
Try to find local community groups or other people nearby that may also be going through what you’re going through. That way you can have weekly lunches, study sessions on Islam etc.
If you cannot find anyone within your community or nearby, then there are Alhumdollilah so many Facebook groups with Muslim sisters in that you can join! Just type in Revert Muslim groups and you will find ample options. You can even go and create your own group if your social media savvy. That way you may find a bunch of people not too far away from you that you could meet up with.
You can run Facebook sessions with some sisters, exchange WhatsApp numbers and have chats etc via WhatsApp. Just remember to do your due diligence and stick to groups even on WhatsApp until you get to know people really well. Don’t meet strangers or share your personal information with anyone.
5. Keep Your Own Identity
Being a Muslim is now a part of your identity. But this doesn’t mean that you have to cut off everything from your previous life. You can still keep your name unless it has a forbidden or undesirable meaning.
A lot of revert Muslims can have the mistaken belief that you have to change your name. Also, some things are just common sense. vegetables are still ok to eat, reading this may feel weird but fish, vegetables, rice etc at non-muslim barbecues are still allowed, they don’t become haram as these are permissible foods. A lot of things will still be allowed, but often new Muslims will get confused as to what is halal or haram!
Of course, if they have been laden with lard or alcohol or haram then they would not be allowed. So you can barbeque with your friends or watch football on Sundays. If there are things in your culture that do not directly contradict with basic Islamic commands, then you are welcome to keep those things in your life.
Don’t have to change what you eat. If you like Sunday roast, you can still have it as long as it is halal chicken! There are so many things that are cultural that people will try to pass off as religious, make sure to do your research for the correct information.
It is good to have a teacher who understands the subtleties of different opinion in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and can inform you of differences among the scholars on issues that are of concern. Most people in masjid will have a very limited view of the juristic possibilities inside the Islamic tradition. Islam is a vast tradition and we should not make it small. These diverse opinions are there to help us, not cause strain on ourselves.
6. Find a Good Islamic Teacher
It is good to have a teacher who understands the small nuances of different opinion in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and can inform you of differences among the scholars on issues that are of concern. Every majid has its own teacher that will follow a certain way.
Finding a teacher is important, one with as much knowledge as possible who also has an understanding of the English language and culture is important. It is difficult to listen to someone that may not know what he is talking about, especially those that have come from back home, as they mix up culture a lot!
You may have to test out a few teachers before you find a good one. Going to Islamic circles and talking to other brothers/sisters will help, as they can help guide you on teachers that are helpful and understanding and also teachers that carry a broad range of knowledge.
The best thing in your pocket will be the fact that you will probably end up with a lot more knowledge than those born into Muslim families!
7. Don’t Rush Into Marriage!
It is important to stress this. Do not rush into marriage! A lot of new Muslims will rush to get married, especially women. Please don’t do this. It’s understandable that you may be lonely and that you want companionship. But marriage is a massive decision.
We have seen so many struggles as a revert Muslim and how new Muslims rush into marriage in the hope that the person they marry will be able to guide and help them. But as a new Muslim, you are so vulnerable. Men will often marry new Muslims thinking they can take advantage of her, that she has no one around her.
Unfortunately, it is an easy way to abuse and control a woman, that’s why it is really important to ensure that you have developed yourself in Islam and that you are confident, before taking the big step of getting married.
Sometimes men do get married for the right reason but then they struggle to deal with a new Muslim and the complications that come with it. The female is not strong in her faith yet so she will struggle to know what to do and will rely heavily on the husband to guide her. When things start to go wrong, it’s easy to start holding ill feelings towards each other.
Make sure you learn about Islam and become strong within yourself before you take the step to get married. You will go equipped with the correct knowledge and know your rights, obligations and responsibilities in Islam.
However, if you are looking to get married keep these things in mind:
- Don’t be idealistic. If they do the 5 pillars this is ENOUGH. anything extra is a bonus.
- Look at the family, especially the way the father acts towards the mother of the potential husband
- The man must be able to support you
- Clearly be a Muslim as it’s forbidden for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims
- Have a friend/family member/Iman check him out if possible
When you see the guy:
- You are allowed to show the face and hands.
- You can consider as many brothers as you like at the same time. But talk to no one else once the engagement has been agreed on.
- Better to wait then marry wrong.
- Always look at how much he is practising.
Marriage Contract To Be Valid:
- Wali must be present and he must be Muslim and accountable
- 2 witnesses at least
- It must be clear who the woman is, and who the man is
- A woman can ask for as much Mahar as she wants (reasonably!)
You can put conditions in your contact such as –
- That you want to stay in certain countries
- That you don’t want to live with co-wives or parents
- Children from previous marriage stay with her in a new marriage
- Mahar upfront before consummating a marriage
- That he is not to have another wife
We hope that this has been a useful article for you. If there is anything that you want to share and comment on, please leave it in the comments below. We would love to hear from you about your revert experiences. Please also let us know if you would like us to write about anything else!