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Talking About Islam to Non-Muslim Parents

Your parents are the ones who know everything about you, aren’t they? When you were a baby, they stayed up all night with you when you were crying.

They watched you grow up, misbehave, and make mistakes.

They have seen you grow into adulthood, and now that you are Muslim, you want to tell them that what they believe is wrong!

This is the dilemma faced by so many who have embraced Islam.

They want to talk to their parents about their new religion, and even try to show them that Islam is the right path, but they just don’t know how to begin. How do you tell your parents that you have chosen a different religion to the one they chose for you?

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Of all the problems faced by new Muslims, this is perhaps the most delicate of all. It is partly because the TV has told your parents that Islam is a religion of fanatics and extremism, that they are less than happy that you have become Muslim.

No parent wants his or her child to fall into the hands of the wrong kind of people. It is partly because they see your choice of Islam as a rejection of them and all that they stand for.

Prophet Abraham and His Father

One way forward for us is to go to the Quran and see what Allah Almighty says. Let us look at the example of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and see how he spoke about his new faith to his own father.

In the chapter of Maryam (19:41-50) we see the dialogue between Prophet Abraham and his father.

Now, Abraham was a prophet, and the Quran doesn’t give us the series of events before he goes to talk to his father, but, Abraham was also a man and he was a son. Imagine how he must have thought carefully about what he was going to say. Imagine if he even thought whether it was best to say anything at all.

The dialogue as we have it in the Quran is very beautiful, because it is full of tenderness.

Before we look at it, remember that Muslims are infinitely attentive to their parents. Becoming Muslim should help us to love our parents more, not less.

{Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: My Lord! Bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.} (17:23-4)

In all things, then, we need to show our parents that choosing Islam does not mean that we are rejecting them.

So what about Prophet Abraham? Remember, his father still worshipped idols. He opens the conversation with his father like this:

{O my father! Why worship that which heareth not and seeth not, and can profit thee nothing?} (19:42)

Use Logic and Kindness

The Arabic here is very beautiful. Abraham doesn’t say “Ya Abi” which means “O father”, Instead, he says “Ya Abati” Which means “O my father”.

This is the kind of addressing a young child might use when he tugs on his father’s sleeve and says to him, “Dad, Dad, listen to me.” It is a tender way of talking, asking for special concentration.

And what Abraham does, is ask a rhetorical question, a question that doesn’t require an answer. He asks, very logically, why anyone would pray to something that doesn’t hear or see or can do anything to help them?

Without being impolite or rude, he states the case very clearly. What is the point of worshipping an object that can’t hear you, he asks. He then goes on to say:

{O my father! To me hath come knowledge which hath not reached thee.} (19:43)

Again, here he is just being very logical. He is saying to his father that he has come to know about something which his father doesn’t know anything about. He respects his father, but he knows something his father doesn’t know.

He then gets more confidence and says:

{So follow me: I will guide thee to a Way that is even and straight.} (19:43)

Imagine how much prayer it must have taken for him to say those words. This is important for us, too. We need to pray very carefully before we raise such an issue with our parents.

Ask Allah to give you the words. Ask Him to give you the right way of opening up the subject.

Abraham then puts it very clearly:

{O my father! Serve not Satan: for Satan is a rebel against (Allah) Most Gracious} (19:44)

He knows that if his father continues on the path of idol worship he will be lost, because the devil will have snared him. There will come a time when we need to open up the subject of Islam with our parents because we want them to follow the right path.

We don’t want them to be of those who go astray. What we are saying to them is that what they believe is incomplete. If they are Christian or Jewish, they have a part of Allah’s message, but there is more. Islam can complete what they believe.

Abraham continues:

{O my father! I fear lest a chastisement afflict thee from (Allah) Most Gracious, so that thou become to Satan a friend.} (19:45)

We are having this conversation with our parents because we want them to know about the real Islam, not the Islam which they see on talk shows and in cartoons. We don’t want ignorance to blind them to what is true and in their best interests.

Not Always a Happy Ending

In the case of this conversation between Prophet Abraham and his father, the dialogue doesn’t go as he wants it to.

This, too, is an important lesson for us to learn. Allah Almighty asks of us no more than we tell the message of Islam how it is.

He doesn’t promise the results we want. Our reward is doing as He says. Abrham’s father replies to him, not by saying “O my son,”  but by calling him “Abraham”.

He asks if Abraham is rejecting his gods, because if he is, he will stone him. In fact, he rejects his son altogether and shuns him.

Again, be prepared that the conversation might not end up as all sweetness and light. It might end up with an argument.

But remember, too, that we must respond as Abraham did.

Whatever happens in such a conversation with our parents, we should never give up on them, never ceasing to pray for them.

Life is full of “what ifs”.

“What if I get knocked over by a car?”

“What if I lose my job next month?”

“What if I get sick?”

We have no control, though, over “what ifs”. What we do have control over are the choices we make in life. And, once made, we have to live with the consequences of those choices.

Choosing Islam, in response to Allah’s call, will bring with it consequences. “What if” is not a reason to stop us embracing Islam. Nor is it a reason not to talk about Islam with our parents.

We must show them that, contrary to what the TV shows them, we have not been abducted by terrorists or are ready to set off for the mountains of Afghanistan. No, we still love them as much as we always did.

In fact, if anything, we are obliged now to love and care for them even more. We are still citizens of our country and proud to be so. What has changed is that we have found great peace in our hearts and great happiness in our lives.

By the will of Allah, using the example of Prophet Abraham, we will find the courage to talk to our parents about the thing which has now become so important to us, the sweet and beautiful message of Islam, and our own words and good example will one day lead them, too, to the fullness of truth.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Idris Tawfiq
Idris Tawfiq was a British writer, public speaker and consultant.He became a Muslim around 15 years ago.For many years, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom.Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest.He passed away in peace in the UK in February 2016 after a period of illness.May Allah (SWT) have mercy on him, and accept his good deeds. Ameen.