Short Answer: “We ought to practice empathy and compassion. We should consider just how difficult things can be as a convert... Their husband may be their main, or only, source of Islam and their only interaction with other Muslims. If they see him behaving badly, they may think that this is how all Muslims act, or even that this behavior is condoned in Islam… There needs to be a balance between spiritual aid and practical aid, and the help must be ongoing and available whenever it is needed, not just when it’s convenient.”
Salaam alaikum my brother, and thank you for your question.
An Affront to Allah
Sadly, this phenomenon of people (in this case, converts) becoming frustrated or fed up with Islam because of the behavior of Muslims is all too common.
Allah has laid out clear guidelines for believers to follow so that we may interact with people in a good manner, but so many of us are guilty of ignoring these guidelines and instead act in ways that are, frankly, appalling and an affront to Allah and Islam.
Instead of blaming and shaming these women who have chosen to leave Islam, we ought to practice empathy and compassion, following the sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
We should consider where people, like the women you mentioned, are coming from and why they may have made the decisions they did.
First, we should not judge or try to guess their intentions behind becoming Muslim in the first place.
Second, we should consider just how difficult things can be as a convert.
For many converts, it means adopting a whole new lifestyle. All of these are big changes and can be quite overwhelming.
Even with strong community and familial support, these changes can be hard; without support, or with active antagonism directed against them, it is exponentially harder.
When Their Husbands Are The Main Cause
In the case of the Russian and Ukrainian women mentioned, they are also dealing with navigating their new religion as well as the new cultures of their husbands and the societies that they live in.
They may feel as if their world has been turned upside-down, and are therefore especially vulnerable and in need of extra guidance, attention, and gentleness.
When their husbands mistreat them, it is a very serious problem.
These sisters are already dealing with so much; to have their spouse, who is supposed to be their “garment” (as Allah says in the Qur’an, 2:187), not treating them well is devastating.
Their husband may be their main, or only, source of Islam and their only interaction with other Muslims.
If they see him behaving badly, they may think that this is how all Muslims act, or even that this behavior is condoned in Islam.
What Can Be Done?
There are plenty of ways to help people in situations like the women described above.
The help offered needs to be holistic and sustainable.
This means that there needs to be a balance between spiritual aid and practical aid, and the help must be ongoing and available whenever it is needed, not just when it’s convenient.
A hadith from the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, narrated by Abu Hurairah, says:
Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Resurrection. And whoever alleviates the need of a needy person, Allah will alleviate his needs in this world and the Hereafter. (an-Nawawi, Hadith 36)
These sisters are our family, and we must do all we can to help them.
All Muslims need to have a good, strong foundation for their faith, and the only way to get that is through education.
New Muslims must know the basics of what it means to be a Muslim, what to believe, what their responsibilities are, and what their rights are.
Converts should be encouraged to take classes, read books, and ask lots of questions.
There is no such thing as a silly or insignificant question!
However they get this knowledge, it is important that it comes from reliable, balanced sources that do not promote inaccurate ideas or any kind of extremism in any direction.
Offer to accompany new Muslims to classes, help them find answers to their questions, and perform acts of worship with them (e.g. praying together, reading Qur’an together, etc.).
As important as spiritual aid is, practical aid is also essential.
People can’t think about improving their spirituality if they are lacking basic needs.
Does the person have enough food, a safe place to live, a source of income?
Do they need help with childcare, learning English (or the native language of the country they’re living in), reliable transportation?
In case they don’t have these things, it is our responsibility as fellow Muslims to assist them in whatever way we can.
When things turn sour with their spouse, offer to act as a mediator or find someone who can counsel them.
Get them the appropriate help, if they are being abused. Do not tell them to “be patient” with abuse.
It is absolutely essential for converts to receive emotional support.
They need people who will be on their side, helping them navigate the world as Muslims.
Even if they are married to a Muslim, they also need people who are not family as a support system.
Invite them to gatherings and events, especially for Ramadan and the two Eids.
Meet with them for coffee or lunch to talk about things.
Be a shoulder for them to cry on when life gets tough.
Listen to them without criticism or judgment, even if they are talking about doubts or misgivings they have with Islam.
This support is more important than people realize, and it may make the difference in a person deciding to remain in the Muslim community.
Salvation is Not Up to Us
Finally, it is important to remember that, no matter how much we do or may try to help, what people choose to do with their relationship to Allah and Islam is up to them.
Allah is the One who guides and allows to be led astray.
Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood. So whoever renounces false gods and believes in Allah has certainly grasped the firmest, unfailing hand-hold. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Qur’an, 2:256)
If they choose to remain Muslim, all praise is due to Allah.
If they choose to leave Islam, Allah has willed it, and so it is.
We can only do what we can, and the rest is up to that person, whatever Allah wills to happen.
May Allah bless these women, grant them the best in this life and the Hereafter, and keep them on the Straight Path.
May Allah keep us all on the Straight Path, and let us be among the submitters, the believers, and those who do good, Ameen!
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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