Today I would like to share an interview from a very interesting and honest Muslimah from Australia. She has had her ups and downs throughout the last 10 years since her conversion – from not practicing, to the converts “high”, to divorce and re-marriage.
Personally, I don’t believe there is a single revert out there who hasn’t at some point doubted their decision or faltered in some way. Thank you to the sister who shared this story; inshAllah it will remind others, both born and revert Muslims, that it is OK not to be OK with your conversion.
Q1. When you reverted what were your initial feelings and how has this changed over the last ten years?
The day I converted I felt happy, excited and calm inside but I didn’t practice Islam for the first 6 months of being Muslim. I learnt how to pray and attempted to start but it didn’t last. I would still go clubbing and do things I wasn’t supposed to and my husband and I would say that “when we are older” we would start practicing. It wasn’t until 6 months after I converted and my best friend, the person who introduced me to Islam, passed away that I snapped out of it. I realised none of us know when our time to die is and I started practicing. I became immersed in the religion. It was my everything. I lived and breathed Islam. I learnt as much as I could and was constantly listening to lectures and attending classes. I tried to implement Islam in every way I could. I was 19 and still living at home so it wasn’t without it’s challenges. But my iman was strong and I felt like I was soaring. I didn’t realise it at that time but I had a typical case of convert’s zeal and it wasn’t to last. I maintained that level of Islam for about five or so years but after some bad experiences in the community as well as some marital problems I hit rock bottom. I got to the point where I was making dua “Ya Allah if you are real please help me because I don’t want to go to hell”. I didn’t know if I wanted to be Muslim anymore. I removed my hijab and not long after I stopped praying and started doing things I never imagined I would do again. I was very “off” Muslims for a long time. I didn’t want to learn about Islam or attended lectures or anything.
After feeling that way for a couple of years I have felt the desire to come back to Allah. I am now trying to come back to Allah and implement Islam into my life again. I think about hijab from time to time. But I still struggle.
Q2. How has your embrace of Islam affected your relationship with your husband and his family?
When my first husband met me I was just a young girl at high school. He knew that I wanted to be Muslim but when I converted I really threw myself in and along the way I lost who I was in some aspects. I do think this affected our relationship because we were at such different levels with our Islam and I was almost like a different person to the girl he met. The marriage has since fallen apart but Alhamdulilah I am still very close to his family. They are very observant with Islam and taught me a lot. I am grateful to them for the solid foundation they gave me.
Q3. How did your friends and family react to your reversion and how is your relationship with them now?
Luckily Islam wasn’t something foreign to my friends because we were all friends with the girl who introduced me to Islam and there were a lot of Muslims at our school. There is a group of about 8 of us and we have been friends since early primary school, some as far back as kindergarten (4 years old).
At first they thought it was a “phase” and thought I was doing it to fit in with the “cool” Muslim kids at our school. Then when they realised it wasn’t they just let me be. We lost contact for a few years in my early days but I would still make it to important occasions like birthdays, births of babies, and parent’s funerals etc.
Nowadays while they are no longer my core group of friends I do still keep in touch with them and see them multiple times a year. They’ve always been respectfully incurious about what I believe in.
My family. My mum was good about it as she knew for some years that I was interested in Islam because we are very close and I talked to her about what I was reading etc. My dad on the other hand was not ok. He told me I broke his heart and he actually ended up moving out of our family home for some 6 months. It wasn’t purely because of me converting, he had some other issues going on but it did contribute. It has been hard over the years and at times I feel like Islam is a big barrier between us. I struggled with feeling like I disappointed them. My relationship with them now is good. They are a lot happier now that I don’t wear hijab. They buy me halal meat (always have) and allow me to pray in the home when I visit. My dad still cracks the odd “Muslim joke” but all in all they have come around to accept I am Muslim, even if they don’t understand or particularly like it. The older I get the easier I find it.
Q4. What are the aspects of Islam that you have struggled with?
I’ve struggled with LOTS of things. I’ve struggled to implement/follow things and struggle to understand/accept things. Prayer and fasting have never been something I “enjoyed” but I would fast each Ramadan and pray 5 daily prayers, rarely ever missing one, but I’ve always seen them both as a burden unfortunately. As time went on I began to struggle with both minor and major. For e.g why are interest based loans haram, why can’t I take out insurance*, why is owning a dog haram*, can I donate organs when I die*, why is listening to music haram*, do I have to be so strict with my food and read all the additives*, do i have to worry about cross contamination at my parent’s house if they haven’t washed the pans with sand and water*, is hijab compulsory, am I allowed to pluck my eyebrows.
*I have to say with each of these issues I have looked into them and realised it’s not black and white and there are differences of opinions. I have learnt very few things in Islam are black and white and most are open to interpretation.
Q5. What advice would you give to born Muslims on how to handle new reverts?
Know that it is different to be a revert. Period. If you do have a revert friend please always understand you may not understand what she is going through with her family and friends and her own identity. Just because their Mother and Father are not Muslim does not mean she loves them any less than you love yours and you may be born Muslim but your “culture” isn’t necessarily any more Islamic than her “culture”.
Q6. What advice would you give to those considering reverting to Islam?
In the words of Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) “I am glad I found Islam before I found Muslims”. Do not be disheartened by the actions of some Muslims. Islam is actually a beautiful religion when you look at through the scope of it’s teachings and of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) it is a religion for all time and places. Sadly some of the worst people I know are Muslim and some of the best people I know are Muslim too. People are people. Look at the religion not the people; unfortunately the proof isn’t always in the pudding.
If you do chose to embrace Islam be easy on yourself. Remember Allah. always Remember Allah. That’s the most important thing is your connection to your Creator. Keep that connection central to all you do.
Q7. How has your heritage impacted on your religious outlook?
Being an Aussie I wasn’t raised with any real religion. Australians are “generally” quite an irreverent people. For me, I struggle with the issue of how do I be an Aussie and a Muslimah?
Q8. How do you motivate yourself in your religion?
I like listening to lectures and reading books, especially from people with fresh perspectives or those that are living a balanced lifestyle that I admire. That really motivates and inspires me. I reflect a lot and try to make Islam “my own”.
Q9. What advice would you give to those Muslims who experience an “Islamic high” and then an “Islamic crash”?
It’s normal and you are not alone. If you read up on the human mind you will see it’s par the coarse. You embrace something new and it’s novel and wonderful and very easy to become immersed in it. Then reality sets in and it can be hard to maintain. Nothing in life is stagnant. When you find yourself experiencing the Islamic crash don’t despair. Allah is all wise in why things happen and maybe you needed to be humbled. Pick yourself up and try and slowly build a firm foundation. Remember slow and steady wins the race as they say and Allah says a small deed done frequently is more beloved than a big deed done infrequently. The crash is hard. In fact it can be horrible and scary, depending on how low you get. My only advice during this time is make dua. Continue dua. No matter how far you are. No matter how empty and dead you feel inside. When you lay down at night, no matter what you have or haven’t done that day- talk to Allah. Keep that small connection and Inshaallah in time you will feel ready to start again. Remember when you sin Shaytain tries to keep you away from Allah by making you lose hope. Don’t let yourself lose so much hope that you don’t make dua.
Q10. What do you think the biggest issue or restriction in the Ummah is?
I see a general inability to be critical of ourselves. We have had people in our Ummah commit crimes and instead of calling a spade a spade and saying “this is wrong” we tend to sweep things under the carpet. I also think there is a victim mentality among our community. I think there is a lot of fear of losing identity and this results in extremism of ideals and a lack of confidence in seeing things from an unemotional standpoint. I think often people think stricter is best when really Islam is all about the middle path.
For the previous posts in this Finding Common Ground Series, see below: