Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What happens after converting to Islam?



          Once you convert to Islam, you not only have to adjust your own life but help others understand it as well. For a man, very little changes on the outside. Of course, he is encouraged to grow a beard and his behavior may change due to the peace of Islam taking over but these could be attributed to any number of reasons. When a woman comes into the fold of Islam, she is encouraged to don the hijab or headscarf and dress and act modestly. The sudden change in appearance will make her stand out. While many new converts are greeted with warm welcomes from the local Muslim community, there could a negative reaction from others, even family members. It is important to remain patient with those that are not as excited about your new found life. Being mean, defensive or harsh towards others will only cause people to push farther from Islam and accepting you. It is only natural for family to be confused. When you suddenly choose a religion different from what you were raised with, your family will likely wonder why. Perhaps it was something they had done wrong or maybe there is something wrong with you. Of course, we know nothing is wrong with our choice, we were simply guided by Allah. This is an opportunity for dawah or spreading the message of Islam.
            At the time of converting, you most likely have a basic knowledge of the pillars of Islam and fundamentals of belief. You can begin by simply living your life and letting your family see how Islam has not changed who you are, but only improved your life. For some, they are leaving behind lives of addiction and sin while others will only have subtle changes. If you choose to let actions speak for you and not make a big announcement of the introduction to Islam into your life, this can help ease family into asking questions. They may ask about the ‘new’ you or you may take the opportunity to bring up the changes and begin to give credit to Allah for these changes. For many, it is easier to refer to Allah as God initially to prevent unnecessary harshness, especially in the western world where Islam is vilified and the name Allah is equated with evil. It is helpful to anticipate questions people may have about Islam in order to prepare your answers. Beginning with common misconceptions can be a great starting point. It is always best to pray to Allah for guidance and strength in all endeavors.
            In some situations, one spouse may have chosen the path of Islam while the other has not. This is another situation where patience is of the virtue. There are various rulings on what a person should do when they are Muslim and their spouse is not, it is important to consult a scholar, Imam or sheikh for guidance in your particular situation. Following the same principles of showing your spouse how Islam has affected you positively will speak volumes. Be prepared for any number of reactions from total acceptance to total rejection. While we like to think our spouse will love and support us unconditionally, it is not always the case. Remember, Allah guides whom He wills in His time. Having open conversations about Islam with them will help immensely.
            When children are involved in the conversion process, it adds a greater dynamic. In a perfect situation, the entire family accepts Islam at the same time after having open dialogue and conversations. The next best scenario is where one spouse accepts Islam and the other allows the children to hear about Islam to make the choice for themselves. When introducing Islam to small children at home, it can be helpful to begin with what they know about God/Allah and begin to show comparisons to current knowledge and Islam. Many smaller children will be readily accepting of Islam as we are all born with the inherent belief that God is one. Older children, especially adult children, will likely have similar reactions and need similar treatment as other family members and spouses. You may wish to gradually ease out of previous celebrations and traditions by putting less focus on them and more focus on Islamic holidays or if you are comfortable, completely cutting out previous traditions and forging new.
            Many family members will want to know how you will celebrate holidays like Christmas or Easter. You may choose to remove yourself from these types of celebrations or agree to get together for family meals but skip gift exchanges or religious ceremonies. Whatever you decide to do, make sure family knows you are not wanting to disconnect family ties, but rather wanting to keep your faith pure and obey Allah. You can be respectful of their desire to practice their traditions while removing yourself from them, showing them how, and what you believe.
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