I recently came across Malak’s excellent blog Hejab-Rehab where she recounts the difficulty her family has had with accepting her conversion to Islam. It brought to mind all of the convert/revert brothers and sisters I have met over the last few years and the issues each has faced.
Islam has often been called the fastest-growing religion on earth; I am not sure how far this is the case for Britain as the statistics are unclear. Although the anecdotal evidence hints that the number of conversions are growing.
I have met converts to Islam through work, friends and family and through my local mosque.
There was the Jewish gentleman I worked with, who became Muslim because loved the peacefulness and gentleness of Islam. When his father (an Orthodox Jew) died, he was heartbroken because he did not know if he could attend and participate in the funeral. Some good brothers advised him to go and involve himself and everyone rallied round to support him. When his becoming Muslim became more apparent (beard, kufi, prayers, sometimes salwar-kameez), it did lead to some grumbling among staff – but this is London, people get used to all of the differences. Another issue he faced was marriage, he would have like to marry, but felt that at 45 he was too old and didn’t really know where to start with finding a Muslim wife. I have lost touch, but I hope he did find someone.
Then there was the British-Jamaican brother at work who was one of six brothers who all converted to Islam alhamdulillah. His beloved old granny went ballistic and told them all six would be going to hell for rejecting their true faith. He too had problems with marriage, he met a Bangladeshi girl who was interested, her family went nuts. Much negotiating and family disapproval that one of their girls could marry a black person ensued. I recently asked another brother if they ever did marry. He told me they were expecting their third child mash’Allah.
Through a local sister’s circle I met two sisters who used to be Sikh. One wore nijqab mash’Allah and still lived in the area she originated from but had to avoid some of her relatives for fear of abuse. The other recently took shahada and married, but was in hiding from her family who had tried to kidnap her back on a number of occasions. She has had to run from her house in what she was wearing and stay with friends. I have seen her sit on her prayer mat and cry and cry because she missed her little brother and didn’t think she could ever see him again. I see her now and again and she looks more at peace and has started a circle in her own home Mash’Allah. (This story is in contrast to the infuriating article printed here).
There is a very funny Korean Muslim sister who has not had too much opposition from her family. Her Bangladeshi husband though cannot tell his widowed mother in Bangladesh for fear of the upset it would cause her, so she can never be the daughter-in-law that she would like to be.
Kooky Little Sis has a sweetheart of a friend who converted to Islam from Hinduism two years ago and only told two people for fear it would get back to her family. She would love to wear Hijab but cannot at this time. Surely Allah must really love her sweetness and gentleness to bring her into this Ummah.
Then there is a Mauritian family in our neighbourhood who we love to bits. The daughter-in-law of the house is funny, moody, feisty and cool. She too is a former Sikh and hid her faith from her parents at first and wore hijab in secret. Eventually she owned up and married her Muslim neighbour despite threats and sulks. After many years her father finally began speaking to her and her mother even became Muslim (woo-hoo - sorry Subhan’Allah) and her husbands’ family members have married half-a dozen converts of all nationalities and colours.
Alongside all of this there are the issue’s of identity, losing it and finding it again, missing some of the rituals of your former faith, finding that your idealized picture of Ummah doesn’t always live up to the reality, not always fitting in with the new community you want to align yourself with. But despite all of that, the one lesson that always stays with me is that Allah tests us. He brings us to the path he loves and then he helps us to grow and gain wisdom and experience through what he ordains for us. Even amongst people from Muslim families, when we have become closer to our faith we have faced opposition (“Oh God, take that thing off, you’re still young!!”, “Isn’t this a bit much, you still have to balance the din with the dunya y’know”). What I also know though is that after every difficulty there is the promise of ease, that people come round in the end, sometimes in weeks, sometimes it takes years.