Whether you are reading this because you are interested in becoming Muslim or have recently become Muslim and are looking for ways to tell those closest to you, then please read this article until the end and do not let my story put you off.
If you are anticipating drama then you would be right, but if you read to the end you might be able to learn from my story.
I became Muslim at the tender age of 17 and still lived at home with my mother who was a single parent due to my father passing away when I was just 16.
My family had me christened as a baby but I had never really had a religious upbringing and I thought that this would go in my favor when telling my mom about my conversion to Islam.
Keeping it Secret
I converted in November 2010 and I kept it a secret for three months. I would leave the house in the morning with no hijab and then run around the corner and quickly put it on, because I knew that islamically I must wear the hijab but I also didn’t want to hurt my mom.
I would hide so many things from my mom, I told her I was vegetarian to avoid eating a non-halal (unlawful) meat, and if she poured me an alcoholic drink I would pour it down the sink when she wasn’t looking.
Of course my behavior did start to raise suspicions, I would come in after college and my hair would be flat from my hijab and she would ask why. She also kept asking about my new Muslim friends and what happened to the ones I used to party with. At the time, I came up with an elaborate excuse; I never lied to her because that would be wrong, I would just change the subject because I didn’t feel that I was ready to tell her.
However don’t use my behavior as a way of getting out or prolonging telling your family because it only makes things worse in the long run. Personally, when it comes to a new Muslim telling their family about their conversion, I think that it is phenomenally important that they feel that they are ready, but also not to prolong telling your family because you are scared of their reaction.
When I was in this situation, words of encouragement that helped me tell my mom was that Islam is for the rest of my life and it is not possible to avoid the subject for that, there are only so many excuses you can think of. Also, Islam teaches to respect and cherish your parents, and I knew that Paradise was at my mother’s feet and I owed her the respect of telling her and not keeping secrets from her.
As time went by, I found that more and more people had become aware of my conversion. Although they were supportive, it wasn’t their approval I was looking for but that of my mom’s. As February approached, my faith felt stronger, and my knowledge was greater than when I had just converted. This meant that I could tell my mom and any questions she had I would have a better chance of being able to answer them than I would have three months earlier.
I have never been good with heart the hearts or talking face to face with my mom so I chose to tell my mom through a letter.
For reverts wanting to try a similar method, I would say it is a great idea if you are similar to me and cannot handle heart to hearts, however a word of caution would be to be careful on how you word your letter.
So one evening, my mom was out with her friends and I set myself about writing this letter. The letter is something I feel is very personal between my mother and I. I would never fully disclose what was said in the letter as it is very personal. What I can say is that the way I wrote the letter was in a cowardly manner. I spoke of my adolescent and some poignant events that had shaped the person I was today, and in a way blamed my mom for not being there for me. Looking back, this was the wrong way to go about it, I was hoping that this would in some way alleviate some of my mother’s anger, but it made it worse.
My advice for writing a letter is that it is important that you are assertive in yourself and confident that you have made the right decision and let this be understood in the manner in which your letter is written.
There is no way of getting out of it or making it easier for anyone, you can only just tell your parents and pray that God makes it easy for you, and inshallah He will. If however it doesn’t become easier, understand that this is a test from God and He tests those He loves most to bring them closer to Him. After finishing my letter, I left it on the kettle where I knew my mother would find it in the morning. I went up to bed and tried to sleep pondering about her reaction in the morning.
I would highly recommend trying to sit down and talk with your family about your decision as it shows your maturity in being able to make such a life changing decision.
When I went downstairs the next day, the atmosphere felt awkward, but understand something is only awkward if you make it that way. I struggled to sit and talk face to face with my mom about Islam and would avoid bringing it up. There was much arguing for the following months mostly about stereotypes such as oppressed women, terrorism, converting for marriage, but all of this in time was erased by God’s will. When your parents may say things to you that may hurt your feelings, it is important to try and stay calm yourself as not to rile the situation and know that whatever they say to you, you know the truth and God is knower of all things.
I have been Muslim two years this November Alhamdulilah and my mother and I get on fine now. She is very understanding and accepting of my dress change, my prayers and my diet change and has even started buying halal meat for me when I eat down at her house with my husband.
Inshallah when you decide to tell your family with time things do become easier, and I hope that you can find comfort in that.
All thanks is to Allah for where I am today.
First published in May 2013.