Whether you've been a convert/revert for 10 years or 10 days, at some point, you have probably dealt with the stress of explaining your beliefs to your non-Muslim family. This topic causes a lot of stress for reverts, and for good reason. Our families are immensely important to us, and feeling accepted and understood by them is essential for our mental and emotional well being.
Embracing a new belief system can be a complex and sometimes confusing process as it is, even without the added pressure of family members who are uncomfortable with our new identity. So how do you deal? This blog post offers 8 tips for any new Muslimah dealing with a disapproving family after converting to Islam.
1. Your family probably isn't interested in Islam; they are interested in you.
One of the most important things to remember when you are dealing with your family is that they aren't interested in Islam. I know this can be hard to accept when you are feeling enthusiastic about your faith and concerned for your family's well being. However, focusing on Islam when dealing with your family probably is not going to lead to progress in the beginning, because your family is only interested in one thing: YOU.
Most of the time, your family doesn't really care that you converted. They care about the fear of losing you, of you becoming someone they don't recognize, of you getting hurt, and of you distancing yourself from them beyond recognition. So your interest when it comes to your family should be to reassure them that you are still you. You still love them, you still identify with them, and you can still laugh with them.
Maybe you will dress a little differently now, maybe you will eat different foods. And while this can take time for them to get used to, ultimately they will probably learn to not care about any of these things as long as they feel like they didn't lose the closeness and love that you share.
After you convert, make an effort to visit with your family as much as possible, and when you are with them, don't talk constantly about Islam if it is something that makes them uncomfortable. Talk about things that you continue to share, like how much you love each other! With time, hopefully, your family will see that you are still you, but just a kinder, happier, more generous version of you.
2. Get used to gray areas.
When I first converted to Islam, things felt very black-and-white. I felt that I had found the truth and that things were finally clear. I wanted to hold onto clarity at all costs, but when I brought my family into the picture, things inevitably started to get messy. One of the most prominent memories for me was bringing my mom to a debate between a Muslim scholar and a Christian scholar that was held at my University. I had brought her to this with the hopes that it would convert her to Islam, but it didn't go at all as I had planned. My mom was very impressed by the Christian speaker and left feeling even more reaffirmed in her Christianity. She even wanted to buy his book on the way out. Guess what? I bought her the book, and I learned a big lesson about gray areas with the ones we love.
One of the best things you can do when you are dealing with your family, and with conversion in general, is getting comfortable with having gray areas. Chances are, despite your best efforts and best prayers, every member of your family is not going to end up converting to Islam along with you (God knows best). You are going to have people in your life that you love, that you admire, who are not Muslim, and who will not become Muslim. This can be a difficult thing to accept, and even a little scary, especially when you feel so passionately about your faith and fear for your non-Muslim family. But I believe that this is something God puts in our path on purpose, and it is something that you need to learn to grapple with in order to succeed on your journey as a Muslim. Remember, even the Prophet (saw) had to deal with this gray area when it came to his beloved uncle Abu Talib, who some claim never ended up converting to Islam. This shows that while it can be uncomfortable, this gray area is a natural and inevitable part of our lives, especially for converts.
You may not be able to put all of your feelings about this into an easy-to-close box. It may feel a little messy. It may feel a little confusing. But allow it to be simply what it is, and learn to embrace the gray area.
3. Prioritizing Family = Prioritizing Islam.
If you think that converting to Islam means you need to distance yourself from your non-Muslim family, think again. In Islam, we are taught to obey our non-Muslim parents and not to disobey them unless they tell us not to believe in God. That's it. Other than your parents trying to force you away from Islam, they still have authority over you and deserve to be respected and obeyed.
Furthermore, the Quran teaches us to not cut ties with kin. This is immensely important. One of the best ways to practice your faith is by being generous and considerate of your non-Muslim family. Give your zakat to your in-need relatives. Offer a present to your Mom for no reason (it's sunnah!). Let your faith show through acts of service to your family, and use this as a way to bridge the divide and put them more at ease.
On the same note, if your conversion has come between you and your family, you should do your absolute best to strengthen your family ties again. Of course we should never tolerate abuse or extreme behavior, but for the most part, it is our job to make our families comfortable with our conversion, not vice-versa.
4. Respect for religion goes both ways.
After you convert, it can feel like anyone who follows a different religion needs guidance. After all, you just made a drastic life change based on the fact that you believe the Quran and sunnah are the truth, and so it is understandable that it can be hard to imagine believing in anything else. However, it is important to remember that your family also has a religion (even if that religion is atheism), and if you want to be respected for your conversion, you need to respect them for theirs. When the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was alive, he showed great respect for other religions and insisted that his followers did the same. Being tolerant will ultimately show your family that Islam has taught you to be calm and reasonable, so just take it easy. It is not your job to convert your family, and if things are already tense, they might react badly if you try.
5. Don't get defensive!
This is probably the most important piece of advice when it comes to dealing with your non-Muslim family. If you become hyper-defensive when your family questions your decision to convert, or questions Islam in general, you will come off as insecure in your position. Think about it: when we are really sure about something, we don't feel the need to be defensive. We usually get defensive about things that we are unsure about or even feel guilty about.
That being said, let your family ask you questions, even if they hurt your feelings. Let them tell you that "this is just a phase" or that "you will regret it." Let them tell you that it's a bad idea. Instead of getting angry, don't argue back. Your best defense is to stay calm, tell them you understand their concerns, and that you love them very much. Over time, your actions will show them that this is a serious, committed decision, Insha'Allah.
6) Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow down, sister! Going slow is important for your family, and it is important for you as well.
Your family will probably have a lot of questions about the decisions you make regarding Islam, and you want to be informed enough to be able to answer calmly why you are making the choices that you are. As most converts (and most born Muslims too!) will tell you, your faith goes through stages and phases. Normally, after you convert, your Iman is at an all-time high. This is wonderful, and you should enjoy it, but just remember that you have a lifetime journey ahead of you, and you want to make sure that every single part of you is on board before you move to the next step, otherwise those parts of you that you left behind will catch up with you. Take your time, and pray to Allah (S) throughout the entire process. Remember that you are going through a fundamental life change, and taking time to reflect and regroup is very important.
7. Seek outside support.
Getting your family on board with your conversion can be difficult, and it means that when you are around your family, you will need to be patient for a while. The best way to deal with the pressure is to seek outside support from people who understand. This could be a group at your local masjid, an online Muslim community, YouTubers who help you understand the conversion process or even non-Muslim friends who are supportive of your choice.
If your family is having a hard time with your conversion, make sure you are filling yourself up spiritually and emotionally with supportive influences so that you don't feel alone. And of course, read the Qur'an – the best medicine for loneliness.
Lastly, your family accepting your conversion will be much easier if they see that Islam makes you HAPPY! So follow the sunnah and make sure to smile. Let the joy and peace that you feel emanate out of you. There is no better dawah than your family seeing how Islam is making you the best, happiest, kindest version of yourself.
Photo Credit: Little Mosque On The Prairie
Don't despair if you are having a hard time explaining yourself to your family. Let your actions speak for themselves, and continue to patiently show them that Islam is a good thing for you. Insha'Allah it will only be a matter of time before you hear them express how proud they are once they see the strong and humble person you have become.
Converting to Islam when your family is non-Muslim can be daunting for new Muslimahs, but Insha'Allah with time, patience and kindness you will find that it isn't so scary as it can seem.
Dana is a proud Muslim convert, Mama bear, and marketing strategist
currently living in Marseille France.
Loved this post? Share along with any new Muslim reverts you know! Are you a revert to Islam? What were some of your experiences with non-Muslim family? Do you have any advice on how to deal with difficult situations? Comment below and help new reverts out!