1. A Lot of Things are Running through our Heads Right Now
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient (Quran, 2:155).
New converts to Islam have just made the biggest decision of their lives, and changed their religion to one that they are unfamiliar with in many ways.
There are a lot of stimuli around us that we are not used to, being in the mosque, hanging out with Muslims, hearing foreign languages other than Spanish, etc.
Often, new Muslims might look uncomfortable because they are not used to their surroundings. A big change has just occurred in the convert’s life, and each person will respond differently to these situations.
While we are learning the basics of Islam, either before or after our shahadah (testimony of faith), we are constantly coming across new things that we’ve never heard of before. It takes a long time to be able to have a consistent foundation that’s strong enough to feel any amount of comfort in the religion.
This process is similar to moving to a foreign country, not knowing the language, customs, or environment that surrounds us. We often have no idea about the origin of certain customs and whether they are from Islam or a person’s culture, and it takes time to be able to discern between the two.
2. Our Family Life is Uncertain
A man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him):
What is the right of parents on their offspring?
The Prophet replied:
They are your Paradise and your Hell. (Sunan Ibn Majah)
People who are born into Islam have the benefit of having a foundation with their parents and family. The Quran is on their bookshelf, Arabic words are mixed into conversation without needing definition, and there is an environment of tradition that provides a reference point for looking at the world.
A convert is experiencing the total opposite. He or she doesn’t have any sort of religious connection with their family anymore, and there is sometimes backlash from parents and extended family about the decision to become a Muslim.
Even if there’s no significant backlash, there are no blood relatives to talk to about Islam, no one to clarify things, and no family support to be offered in the entire process.
All of these things can cause an immense amount of stress and disillusionment. It’s common for converts to have moments of breakdown where they feel like nobody is on their side. For those who are lucky enough to have a close friend or mentor to help them in situations like this, it’s still not the same as having family help.
Converts need an exceptionally good amount of emotional support from individuals in their community to feel empowered as Muslims. This doesn’t require a full-time therapist, but just people to make them feel at home.
3. Our Friends are Leaving Us
A man follows the religion of his close friend, so each of you should be very careful about whom he takes as a close friend. —The Prophet Muhammad (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi)
Friends are known for being brutally honest. When a convert tells his friends that he or she just became Muslim, they are going to receive a wide range of reactions.
Even if their friends are supportive, they will still be really puzzled and they will ask a million questions that most born Muslims would have trouble answering. And while most converts don’t get a PhD in Islamic Studies before becoming Muslim, they’re going to sometimes feel pushed into a corner when tested by their friends.
Their friends might stick around for a while, but chances are their habits are not always what a new Muslim wants to be around. After you deny a few invitations to go to parties, they might stop calling all together.
Friends who seem to have abandoned you can cause a lot of depression and loneliness, and it will always take a while to replace a decent group of friends with a good group of Muslim friends.
4. We Don’t Know How to Spend Our Free Time
Whenever a Muslim is afflicted with a hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression –even a thorn’s prick, Allah expiates his sins because of it. —The Prophet Muhammad (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
After the distance is created with friends and family, it’s hard to fill free time or stay busy enough to not start feeling down sometimes.
Converts will notice a gap in their schedules that was previously filled with something else like hanging out with friends, going to concerts, or partying. This is especially hard to cope with in a smaller city where there isn’t much else to do and not enough Muslims to spend time with.
In this situation, there might be a desire to go back to old habits to feel “normal” again, or there will be an urge to stay alone and away from other people.
While Islam doesn’t allow monasticism or hedonism, this causes a problem for converts to Islam when it’s a minority religion in the society. Eventually the situation will get easier and there won’t be any problem in staying busy, but initially it can be very hard to stay positive.
5. We Don’t Know What to Learn and Who to Learn From
Make things easier, do not make things more difficult, spread the glad tidings, do not hate. —The Prophet Muhammad (Al-Bukhari)
Converts usually experience some trouble in the beginning with differences in fiqh (jurisprudence). Their background is usually from a religion with a narrower view of right or wrong.
Often converts will think: “So do I raise my hands after bowing or not? Which one is right and which one is wrong?”
The fact is there are many correct opinions regarding such issues in Islam. Converts will often find themselves in the dilemma of whether to take the easier opinion or the stronger one.
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