NEW YORK – Despite attempts by Islamophobes to malign the faith, Americans across the country continue to convert to Islam. People choose conversion for a variety of reasons. Some leave their Christian background, while others seek a new way of life. Whatever the motivations, new Muslims embrace their religion and ideally become members of a diverse community.
Conversion brings with it many new adjustments, including the need to learn about the faith, engage immediately in crucial forms of worship like salaah [five daily prayers], and consider changes in diet and dress as well as interactions with family and friends. Vast shifts in lifestyle can be daunting for new Muslims and require a support system from Muslims in the surrounding community.
Women of the MUBK Sisters’ Wing, an auxiliary committee of the Islamic Center of Mastic-Shirley, recently launched a campaign to create Shahada Welcome kits for new Muslims entering Islam in their area. In addition to new Muslims, the committee also made Inmate Essentials kits for incarcerated Muslims.
Supporting New Muslims
Each kit contains the book Welcome to Islam: A Step-by-Step Guide for New Muslims, a prayer mat and a Qur’an with English translation. In addition, kits for new Muslim women have a khimar [hijab] and kits for new Muslim men include a kufi [cap].
MUBK Sister’s Wing chair Hanna Ali explained the committee’s motives for the Welcome Shahada kits to AboutIslam.net.
“A lot of the times the community is gathered when a new Muslim takes their shahada, but then they’re left to navigate through this journey alone. The kits are an important part of welcoming new Muslims into our community because it’s a way of assuring them that they have a community here to help them through their journey.”
“The kits provide the basics for new Muslims to get started in learning about Islam, performing acts of worship as well as an actual contact person who will be there for them.”
New Muslim Shakira described the importance of receiving a Shahada Welcome kit.
“Receiving the kit made me feel welcomed by my new community. It broke the ice and helped me open more to my fellow sisters,” she told AboutIslam.
“I no longer feel as if I’m all alone through this new life I’ve started, I know I have the support of the community. Just knowing I’m not the only one who’s went through or who’s currently going through troubles because of becoming a Muslim makes me feel 10x better. It’s as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
The committee also assembled Inmate Essential kits for Muslims incarcerated at local jails. About 11 percent of inmates in New York State identify as Muslim. In addition to new Muslims, the kits provide Muslim inmates vital materials for them to continue to observe their faith.
Chaplain Abdul-Lateef, Muslim chaplain for the Suffolk County Correctional Facilities, told AboutIslam that the Inmate Essential kits are an important part to the work he does with Muslim inmates.
“People come into the facilities without things they need for their spiritual growth and support during this challenging time of their lives. The kits afford the opportunity for them to practice their Islam in the facility and start their journey towards self-rehabilitation.”
To adhere to state guidelines, kits for inmates differ slightly from those for new shahadas.
“We needed the content in the kits to be prison friendly,” Abdul-Lateef told AboutIslam. Consequently, the committee had to make sure to only include paperback books and one-piece, pin-less khimars in the kits.
Members of the Mastic-Shirley Muslim community fully funded the Shahada Welcome and Inmate Essentials kits.
“The support of our Muslim brothers and sisters made this process easy,” project manager Najia Partap told AboutIslam.
“We were able to raise the funds in one day, Masha Allah!”
Partap further explained that the outpouring of community support enabled the MUBK Sisters’ Wing to extend their initial project to include kits for incarcerated Muslims.
“Contributions more than doubled our initial budget, which gave us the ability to include kits for Muslims in the jails. Mashallah, none of this would have been possible without our community’s backing,” he added.
Members of the MUBK Sisters’ Wing hope to expand the project to homeless Muslims in the surrounding area.