Dear Fellow Convert,
Or, shall I say revert? It was shortly after I became semi-comfortable with identifying myself as a convert, that ‘born Muslims’ would correct me saying the word convert was offensive.
Were they actually telling me what offended me?
Yeah, I get the whole “we were born upon the deen and then it was our parents who brought us up as other than Muslim”, so technically we were returning to the faith. Although it all made sense, I had already gone through a lifestyle change, a name change, and now I’m expected to change the way I identify as a convert?
Please. I know it’s well intended, but this is a little too much.
This letter is a call out to all of us who have experienced the highs and lows (and everything in between) of taking the huge, life changing step of becoming Muslim.
I’m not going to share my story of how I became Muslim and I’m not going to ask you to share yours either. I am not going to make the assumption that you can or can’t pray and direct you to some halaqa where you can learn, because I trust that you are brave enough to ask for the help you need when the time is right. I am not going to ask you how your family took the news when you broke it to them, because I’m guessing you’ve told this story all too many times.
Yes, we have tons of support at the beginning. Sometimes up to hundreds of well-wishers present on our ‘shahada-day’ come up to us with loving hugs, tears in their eyes, and even bearing gifts. And that’s all lovely and much appreciated, but then what? The excitement usually dwindles down, and we’ll have a few aunties trying to hook us up with their cousin’s husband’s sister’s son for marriage or people asking us when we’re going to change our name to a Muslim name.
But what comes next? What about when it’s Christmas and our house feels painfully empty without all the decorations? What about when we go to an event and despite the friendly faces, we feel like a sore thumb sticking out in the crowd? What about when we want to run away when people put us on pedestals saying how amazing we are because we chose Islam not knowing that deep down inside we are struggling to keep up the five daily prayers? What about the embarrassment when we pronounce an Arabic word wrong? What about the day we have to attend our loved one’s funeral that contradicts every truth we have come to believe and we just want to disappear?
It’s been nearly fifteen years since I became Muslim. My family has grown to respect and appreciate all my lifestyle choices. I am married, I have kids, but some of the issues still linger. And I know I’m not the only one. Whether it’s been two years, or twenty, there are always going to be unique issues for us converts that only other converts can truly understand.
Just as every Pakistani or Egyptian will never be exactly alike, neither will we. But like them, we to have a common thread that ties us together, except we are just few and further in between. Nonetheless, we need to come together and address things. Things that I know are beginning to wear away at some of our sisters and brothers emaan to the point where they are leaving the deen and going back to where they came from. They’re going back to the darkness that they left behind, because the light of the ummah around them has diminished, leaving them in unexplainable isolation.
We are a part of a beautiful community. A beautiful ummah. Strangers cry tears of joy when they hear of us converting because they genuinely care, they truly want good for us. But after shahada day, they disappear into oblivion, unsure of how to help. And I don’t blame them. Just as they don’t know how to help, we don’t know how to ask.
In the beginning days of Islam, Muslims were of two types: Muhajiroon and Ansar. The former were those that left everything behind and faced the challenges of adapting. The latter were those that welcomed and supported. We are the symbolic muhajiroon, and our ‘born Muslim’ brothers and sisters are our ansaar. Neither had superiority over another. But both were and are equally needed for this ummah to flourish.
Here’s to being open about those issues that not everyone talks about. Here’s to reaching out to one another. Here’s to being courageous just as we were when we made the decision to change, but also to admitting our weaknesses and struggles as we travel our path on the deen.
InshaAllah, this letter is the first step. And from here, let’s keep talking.
With love and duas,
Aasiya… or Victoria… We’ll save the name game discussion for later.