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A Letter to the Families of Muslim Converts

A Letter to the Families of Muslim Converts
Each person that chooses Islam for his or her life has had to wade through many misconceptions and myths about the faith themselves.

So you have a new Muslim in the family, and you may be wondering where did I go wrong?

Or maybe you are thinking you have lost this person forever?

Know that your new Muslim family member is still there, still loves you and still is him or herself.

Take a deep breath. It’s all going to be OK.

When I first converted to Islam, my family had their worries and reservations. But over the years we have discussed, learned together, come to common ground and become closer because of it.

My younger sister has even written about her perspective of my conversion for my blog, which I hope can be useful to you and you navigate your own feelings.

Seeing your family member change as they grow as a Muslim can be scary, but learning a little about the faith can go a long way to quelling fears.

Islamic Teachings Are Not Alien

Before you become upset about a member of your family converting to Islam, why not understand what that really means. Islam is one of the world’s largest monotheistic religions. Muslims believe in one God, the same God that the Christians and Jews believe in, the same God that created the universe.

They believe in the Prophets from the first man Adam to Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad. And they believe that each Prophet came with the same message to worship the one and only true God and to teach us to be good, kind, compassionate and truthful people. Islam isn’t anything new or malevolent.

Forget What You Heard on the News

This info might be a surprise because of all the negative things about Islam you have heard on the news.

However, take into account that the media’s job is to make money. And nothing sells better than fear. Often this means that the media focuses on stories of the small percent of Muslims who seek to gain political goals by destructive and horrifying means.

That is not to say that these groups should be ignored or discounted. But it is to say that the groups that cause terror and destruction are a small fraction of Muslims who get all the media attention. The overwhelming majority of Muslims who want peace and speak out against these small groups are largely ignored by the media.

Don’t assume that the new Muslim in the family wants to run off and join a terrorist organization. In all likelihood they will want to stop these groups from their destructive path and giving all Muslims a bad name.

Muslim Behavior Isn’t Always Islamic Behavior

While the world tunes in to news about self-proclaimed Islamic groups, and human rights violations some majority Muslim countries commit, understand that just because some Muslims do it that does not make it Islamic.

This is a very important distinction to make. Groups like ISIS act in direct contradiction to Islam. One example of this is forcing people to convert to Islam. The Quran, the Muslims’ holy book, in chapter 2: 256 states that:

There is no compulsion in religion…

And this principle is reaffirmed in chapter 109: 6 where it state:

For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.

Islamically speaking, each person has the freedom to choose the religion they wish.

Also, when majority Muslim countries strip women of their basic rights, they are acting in direct contradiction to the rights and freedoms the Prophet Muhammad ensured for Muslim women over 1400 years ago.

One example that is often cited as evidence that women in Muslim countries aren’t free is the fact that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive. However, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, women were free to ride animals, today’s equivalent to driving. Islamically speaking, human rights, including women’s rights like the right to drive or to obtain an education, are protected in Islam.

Unfortunately, some Muslims are not good examples of what Islam is. And the new Muslim in your family likely understands the difference between Muslims’ action and Islamic teachings. If he or she didn’t, it is not likely that he or she would have converted to Islam in the first place.

It’s Not about Culture

Another widely held misconception that may make you wonder why your family member chose Islam is that Islam is about being Middle Eastern. Islam is not about any one culture nor is it specifically for any one group of people. In fact only 20% of the world’s Muslims come from the Middle East.

And just like there are Christians, Jews and Buddhists from many different cultures and countries around the world, there are Muslims from every culture and every country.

Your newly converted family member will not have to abandon their culture. Some things like drinking or dating will need to be avoided. But on the whole, the new Muslim in the family is still American and Islam doesn’t dictate that they become a part of another culture.

Not Brainwashed

As numbers of Muslim converts grow in the West, there is a lot of speculation as to why. Some say that Muslim converts are being brainwashed. This is a facile and erroneous answer to a complex question. There are as many reasons people come to Islam as there are Muslim converts. Not one of them is brainwashing.

This is because brainwashing always involves coercion or the breakdown of mental faculties. And making the testament of faith in Islam (the action that makes someone a Muslim) is like signing a legal document or giving testimony in court under oath.

The testament of faith in Islam, like the legal document or court testimony, is only considered admissible if the one testifying has not been coerced and is free from mental defect.

These two components, coercion and/or mental incapacity, are key components in brainwashing and consequently invalidate faith.

Listening

Each person that chooses Islam for his or her life has had to wade through many misconceptions and myths about the faith themselves. They have had at one point or another all the same questions you have about Islam. Ask the new Muslim in your family why he or she chose Islam for his or her life.

Let your loved one tell you why Islam.

The answer might surprise you.

(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)


About Theresa Corbin

Theresa Corbin is the author of The Islamic, Adult Coloring Book and co-author of The New Muslim’s Field Guide. Corbin is a French-creole American and Muslimah who converted in 2001. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for AboutIslam.net and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and Washington Post, among other publications. Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discusses the intersection of culture and religion.

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