From the moment a revert to Islam utters the Shahadah (declaration of faith), his/her life as a Muslim begins.
Some of the top priorities for a new Muslim are learning how to worship properly, perform other acts of worship and live a life in accordance with the Quran as well as the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
There are, however, some worldly issues that need attention as well. One of them is telling your friends and family that you have embraced the Islamic faith. For many Muslims, the uncertainty regarding how their families will react to their conversion to Islam is very stressful and causes intense anxiety. For others, keeping their Islam a “secret” is debilitating and cripples aspects of his or her daily life.
Telling your family that you are Muslim can be a difficult undertaking especially if you know that members of your family already have a negative image of Islam. There is a very real possibility that one or all of your family members may shun you as a result of your new faith.
Contrastingly, there is another reality that is much more promising in that some or all of your family members may accept that you’ve chosen the Islamic faith and continue the relationship. A new Muslim has no way of knowing how family members and friends will react. However, revealing your new state of Islam is both energizing and humbling. This is what I learned firsthand when I told my family that I had embraced the Islamic faith years ago.
I never wanted to be a Muslim.
What I had heard about Islam was not only negative, but also downright frightening. Women were supposedly treated like “dogs” in Islam and were allegedly not allowed to even set foot in a mosque. I didn’t even want to know about Islam.
Even after marrying my Muslim husband, with the stipulation that I would never become a Muslim, I still had no interest in Islam. That was until my life changed overnight with the news that my grandmother had been brutally murdered in her home. A caretaker, who had worked for her for years, strangled her to death. I did not know how to cope with the loss.
Nothing that I had learned in the Christian faith could help me as I struggled with the grief. I turned to an English translation of the Quran with a skeptic heart full of so much rage that I accidentally ripped the index page as I opened it.
As I began to read, God Almighty removed the cloak from my eyes. And as I read, my tears began to soak the pages as I tried to dab them away as quickly as they fell. I soon learned that I had been Muslim for years, unbeknownst to me. It wasn’t long before I became a full-fledged Muslim.
While I was ecstatic to be a Muslim and had an intense urge to acquire as much Islamic knowledge as I could get my hands on, something was holding me back. No one in my Christian family knew that I had become a Muslim and I was reluctant to tell anyone. Growing up, I witnessed countless instances of negative words and imagery concerning racial minorities from some members of my family. I was convinced I would be shunned by my family and, for some reason, felt that I needed their approval to be a Muslim.
Keeping the “secret” of my conversion to Islam caused me to lose sleep, have nightmares and I would often have difficulty catching my breath because I was riddled with anxiety. I would lay awake at night creating mental imagery of how my family would react and how they would ridicule or humiliate me for being a Muslim. It was almost too much to bear.
During this time period, and by the grace of God Almighty, I happened to buy a biography of the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I learned about how the new converts to Islam were forced to keep their Islam a secret in the beginning for fear of reprisals from the unbelievers. I also read how many new Muslims professed their faith, regardless of the consequences, out of sheer adoration for God Almighty and Prophet Muhammad. I was completely ashamed of myself for not proclaiming my new faith from the tallest rooftop I could find.
Spilling the Beans
My heart was overtaken and I felt an urgency in telling everyone that not only I am a Muslim, but also that Islam is the greatest religion in the world.
Given that I was living an entire ocean away, I had to tell my family that I was a new Muslim by phone. The first call I placed was to my mother who stuttered into the phone that not only I must be “joking”, but that I better be lying to her. I wasn’t. And I let her know that it is my life and, if she wanted to be in it, Islam is the new fabric of my being.
The family grapevine apparently worked faster than I could place another international call. By the time I reached my sister on the phone, everyone in my family knew. And just as I had feared, I had created a scandal of epic proportions.
The Fall Out
The best part of telling my family that I am a Muslim is that it brought inner peace and soothed my heart. Over the coming weeks and months following my announcement, my relationship with my mother became so strained that we no longer speak today. Her deplorable speech about Muslims in general and pure hatred for Islam is enough for me to stay away.
Other family members have claimed that they accept my new faith, but still send me verses from the Bible in my email and Christmas cards by post. And a few family members take great pleasure in making derogatory statements about Islam or Muslims with the cloak of it being in jest when clearly it isn’t.
Regardless of the fall out, I have not regretted my decision to tell my family about my Islam even once. What I regret immensely is that I did not have the courage to tell them on the day I took the shahadah.
If Only I Could
I wish there was a way I could turn back time and have been able to reveal my Islam to my non-Muslim family in the beginning. I’ve always felt blessed and humbled to have been shown the light of Islam. I literally have always felt that God Almighty plucked me out of a place of degradation and replaced it with a place of dignity.
However, it’s important to note that everyone’s situation is different. I was an adult and was able to reveal my new life as a Muslim from the comfort of my home. There are many new Muslims who may choose to keep their state of Islam a secret for good reason, such as being physically abused or harmed by members of their family.
When revealing your Islam to family members always make sure to weigh the consequences carefully. Envision a worst-case scenario and ask yourself if you have the means to accept that before you reveal your state of Islam.
(From Discovering Islam archive)