How will the family react? Will they disown me? Or will they stop speaking to me? Will they yell, call me names, disrespect me or my faith? How do I navigate the politics of it all? These are often just a few of the thoughts going through the new or prospective Muslim’s mind.
Jessica* was no exception. She took religious study seriously in her youth and young adulthood. Growing up around people of many different faiths sparked her interest in world religions.
After years of careful study of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Islam, she knew she wanted to become a Muslim.
“I never studied religion with the intention of finding a new religion, as it seems many people do. […] I guess my religious study was really a study of psychological motivators.
But what I learned about Islam, about what it teaches about the oneness of God, our origin, and therefore the oneness of humanity and the oneness of our destination really spoke to me. But when I thought about telling my family about my love for Islam, I stopped dead in my tracks.”
Jessica says she felt so much fear about telling her family she wanted to be a Muslim that she couldn’t bring herself to convert for years.
“Those years I delayed my conversion to Islam were the worst years of my life. I was deeply depressed. I felt a need to please my family and fit in, but I also felt a huge need that could not be filled by anyone’s approval. It couldn’t be filled by anything on this earth.
I learned how to pray the salah out of feeling a need to be nearer to my Lord. I learned the Istikharah prayer because I felt so trapped by what I thought was my family’s expectations of me.”
Jessica’s family enjoyed a position of authority in their church. And because of this she feared that her conversion would do a lot of damage to their reputation and standing in their community.
“The church my parents and all of my family went to, preached very hard against Islam and had everyone in the congregation convinced that Muslims worship the devil. This was a huge obstacle I knew I had to overcome if I ever wanted to be at peace with myself. So after praying Istikharah again for I don’t know how many times, I decided to get my younger sister to go to the masjid with me.”
Jessica brought her sister to the Friday prayer to see firsthand what went on in an Islamic service. Jessica says:
“After Friday prayer, the women of the masjid welcomed me and my sister and offered us tea and conversation.
My sister asked all the right questions and we went home that day to our parents and she told them all that she was shocked to find out about Islam.
She told them what their church taught about Islam was completely wrong, and how Muslims have much in common with Christians, and that the beliefs of Islam were very familiar and exceptionally peaceful.”
Jessica was so glad that she had exposed her sister to what she knew of Islam and the Muslims. She says:
“It was like magic. All I had to do was open my sister’s eyes to the truth and everyone in our family followed. They felt betrayed by the lies they had been told in their church, betrayed by the hate they had so blindly bought. They all wanted to see the masjid for themselves and so I planned to bring them to the next Friday prayer.”
“Allah brought so much out of this one simple experience with my sister. I converted that night, feeling it would be much safer to do so now that my family at least was curious about going to the masjid. but I felt the need to hold off telling my parents. They had already dealt with a lot of change that day.”
Over the next few months, Jessica’s family went to their church’s administration to question and try to change their erroneous teachings of Islam and hateful indoctrination.
When the administration refused to quit telling people lies about Islam and Muslims, Jessica’s family decided that they could no longer, in good conscience, support such a church and started their search for a new church.
“I was so very proud of my family for not putting up with falsehood when they saw it for what it was. They knew that their faith taught them to love all and be open to understanding. I took my mother to Friday prayer and she was shocked that she felt so much peace in the masjid. […].
After the service, I told mom that I had become a Muslim and it was in no way a rejection of what she had taught me as a Christian, but a continuation of it. I told her that I never wanted to hurt her and wished that she would not be saddened by my decision.”
“My mom began to cry after I told her that I was a Muslim. My heart sink. Mom told me that she was sad that I felt like I had to keep this from her. She said:
‘I am sorry that I ever let you have the impression that I would feel any less love for you. You are my daughter and if you have chosen a path in life, I know that it was a careful decision that I can do nothing but respect.’
Then we both cried. And I asked her if dad would feel the same. She said: ‘let me deal with your father.’”
The next time she saw her father, Jessica says:
“He wrapped me up in the biggest, warmest hug. And whispered to me that he wanted to know more about my new faith. Since then I have been going to Friday prayer with both my parents and my sister. They have not found a new church yet but they are enjoying their Islamic studies quite a lot.”
When asked if she would have done anything differently when telling her family about her conversion, Jessica said:
“I don’t think I could have done one thing differently. It could not have turned out any better. Allah put me on this path and He has certainly guided me through it in the best way. Alhamdulillah.”
*To protect the identity of herself and her family, Jessica’s name has been changed for the purposes of this article.