As I sit at my kitchen table writing this, Eid al Adha is just a few days away. I am mindful how blessed we are and what this Eid means to me and to Muslim’s around the world. As I reflect of the sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was willing to make, I am reminded of the sacrifices I made when I became Muslim. Evidently, my sacrifice is nowhere near that of Prophet Ibrahim. I am reminded of my first year as a revert and how I celebrated Eid by myself. I was fortunate to have a Muslim friend more than six hours away spending time with me through Google Hangouts. I am very aware how reverts spend their Islamic celebrations alone.
As reverts, the holidays are never truly the same for us. This is not meant to be negative but rather cognizant that our celebrations don’t include our own families as many or most are non-Muslim. Many reverts have shared similar stories of how their non-Muslim families have not accepted that they reverted to Islam and therefore, are not open to sharing or acknowledging Muslim holidays. Alhamdulillah, despite the fact that the holidays are very different for us, we are thankful that Allah, subhana wa ta’ala, chose to guide us to Islam. In time, we create new traditions with the friends and family we have gained as Muslims. But the holidays as we knew them no longer exist.
I have memories of Christmas celebrations preparing traditional French Canadian foods, having dinner with the entire family, staying up really late playing games, singing songs and opening presents. My family now gathers for these celebrations without me. They tell me it does not feel the same, as I am family and no longer there during family gatherings. I reassure them that I am the same person before and after I chose Islam but I am reminded that I may be the same person but many things have changed. I know that they are right. I now have intentions to behave in such a way that is pleasing to Allah, subhanna wa ta’ala.
Many reverts are not as fortunate as I am to have a family to celebrate Eid. Shortly after I took the shahada, I married. Many will recommend that reverts do not marry in the first two years of taking the shahada for various reasons. The first weeks after taking the shahada you are immediately surrounded by people congratulating you and people who want to know why you reverted to Islam. The months following can be very lonely, as those same people are often nowhere to be found. The previous friendships as a non-Muslim have also changed. You likely no longer engage in behaviours that were once believed to be acceptable. More often than not, things do get better and the loneliness that once existed fades as you create new traditions and friendships.
It is important to build a support system around you to ensure you are not alone for the holidays. It is equally important to engage yourself in various Islamic community activities to build your social circle. Take this time to keep yourself busy and create new traditions for yourself. What traditions have you created for yourself?