I still live with them as I am still young (about to turn 20) and am not yet financially stable.
I practice in secret and often wear a hat to cover my hair when I go out with them in public since I cannot wear the hijab without incurring their wrath.
I will move out sooner or later (inshallah) and will be free to practice without fear, but my concern is that I may never be able to be fully open to my parents because of their Islamophobia.
I have tried educating them on the tenants of Islam, mentioning that extremist Muslim terrorist does not represent the majority of the Muslim population nor the faith, in the same way Christian terrorists do not represent Christianity, but they refuse to listen.
I am scared I will never have a completely open relationship with my parents, and that if they ever find out, they may denounce me, and I love them dearly.
In this counseling answer:
Make frequent du’aa’ for parents and yourself.
Provide Islamic knowledge to parents slowly. Do not overwhelm them.
Teach them Islam via your character and behaviors, not just your words.
Continue seeking knowledge to help you answer their questions and strengthen your faith.
Be gentle and patient when telling them you are Muslim.
Thank you for expressing your struggles and writing in for advice.
To begin with, welcome to the fold of Islam, sister. It is a blessing to be guided to this path. Alhamdulillah.
It is my understanding your parents misunderstand Islam and, therefore, you are unable to practice freely in front of them. You mention they are atheists. This will make it difficult for them to understand why someone would dedicate their life towards Allah (most revered, most honored).
Please, take comfort in knowing that your situation is common amongst reverts and in most cases it gets easier.
In my own story, I used to pray secretly in the bathroom or find a dark corner to hide in (before I was aware it was not permitted in the bathroom).
My mother who once told me not to take this “Islam thing” too far has attended my daughter’s Islamic school event. I am telling you this because I want you to know it can and does get better, inshallah.
One Step at a Time
Approaching the topic of becoming Muslim should be done slowly, one step at a time. You are doing great already by giving them small bits of information little at a time. It is best to give them some knowledge then back off and let that settle until it feels right to give more.
Don’t feel rushed. I imagine you did not become Muslim overnight; it was a process. It is no different for our parents as we show them our truth.
Make du’aa’ frequently for your parents’ hearts to be opened to Islam and seek strength and comfort within your faith.
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured”. [Quran 13:28]
While you are giving them knowledge over time, your behaviors and character will go a long way in teaching them about Islam. Ultimately, becoming Muslim should make us better daughters.
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word” [Quran 17:23]
They will notice your behavioral changes, especially when it comes to how you interact with them. If they make mention of something you have improved upon, it is a golden opportunity to mention that you were inspired by religious texts. I am sure you know the expression actions speak louder than words, this is very true when it comes to Islamic character.
Reach out to the local community. Try to make friends with other Muslims in your area. Some mosques have classes or committees aimed at helping new Muslims like yourself. Being around other Muslims will help to strengthen your resolve.
Check out this counseling video:
When the time comes to tell your family you took shahada, it will help to have other Muslims as support and a resource.
Your family may have a lot of questions that you are unable to answer. The community can offer to meet your family and provide answers for their difficult questions.
Getting involved will also help you be aware of local events. If you feel comfortable, invite your parents to attend events with you such as community iftars during Ramadan.
This enables them to not only see your own changes but witness first hand that the Muslim community is just like any other community in the US – normal people doing normal things. They may have never met a Muslim before (that they knew was Muslim). It can change their entire perspective on Islam inshallah when they see how we truly are.
As you continue your faith walk, I encourage you to maintain focus on increasing your knowledge. This prepares you for those difficult questions from parents and will inshallah strengthen your faith.
It is important for reverts (and born Muslims) to continuously seek greater knowledge in their religion. For example, don’t just memorize Quran in Arabic without understanding the English meaning and looking into tafseer.
Telling Your Parents that You are Muslim
When you decide to take that step forward and tell them you are Muslim, it should be in a gentle and kind way. Speak to them in a location that feels relaxed and avoid getting defensive.
Let them know you are still the same daughter you always were, and this will not take you away from them. Rather it could bring you closer as Islam advocates for respect and mercy towards family.
Explain what the testimony of faith is and the basic beliefs. If they are willing to go into further conversation, you can explain the 5 pillars of Islam as well as the 6 pillars of faith. This will provide them a good base understanding of what their daughter believes.
Be aware of how you are speaking and ensure it does not come off like you are giving them a lecture or trying to tell them their views are wrong.
Engage in active listening during this conversation. Don’t listen to them purely with the intention to respond. Listen to them with the intention to understand. At the core of everything, they love you and only want what is best for you.
Your parents may say some harsh words as they have a skewed view of Islam due to the current Islamophobic climate. Don’t blame your parents for this or react harshly. They are going off the only Islamic narrative they know. Respectfully let them know these perspectives are false and explain what we actually believe and do.
To summarize your practical steps moving forward:
- Make frequent du’aa’ for parents and yourself.
- Provide Islamic knowledge to parents slowly. Do not overwhelm them.
- Teach them Islam via your character and behaviors, not just your words.
- Continue seeking knowledge to help you answer their questions and strengthen your faith.
- Be gentle and patient when telling them you are Muslim.
I know it can feel isolative and difficult to hide your faith, but inshallah this will not last forever. Over time you will grow more confident in stepping out as a Muslim. Don’t rush yourself or your parents. Do your best and Allah (swt) knows your heart and intentions.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.