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How to Tell Your Parents About Your Conversion

Whenever someone accepts Islam, his or her first concern after wanting to learn how to live as a Muslim is usually:

“How can I tell my parents I have become a Muslim?”

Most people are really wary about starting this particular conversation, because they anticipate that it won’t go smoothly or they are just scared that they won’t handle it well.

It’s easy to understand why new Muslims might be worried. They have just taken a massive step in making a lifelong commitment to Islam and they did it because they have complete trust that their decision is the correct one for them. They now have a precious gift that they treasure; one which they would ideally like to share with everyone they know, but they also want to protect it.

Understanding Parent’s World View

Having been raised in a non-Muslim world, new Muslims are fully aware of how their non-Muslim family and friends view Islam and Muslims. They too will have been battered with the negative images and biased reporting from the media, whose reports interpret the world through their own cultural and political world view.

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They themselves may have even accepted what they were told as the truth, until God opened their hearts to look behind those stories to seek for the truth. So they understand how others might view them now they have converted; with curiosity, suspicion, fear and maybe even hate.

Or it may be that they have been raised in a typically segregated culture, with people who have little or no personal contact with Muslims; with people who view Muslims as ‘the others’ and ‘different from us’ and to be treated with caution.

It may have been through the rebel in them, their curiosity or just life opportunities that God led them to have contact with Muslims and through them they were able to learn about Islam. And depending on how open they have been about their new friends to their family, they may have already had a foretaste of their family’s possible reaction to their conversion from their reactions to their friends. So it’s no wonder that they feel nervous about breaking the news to their family.

Some Worries

Many new Muslims anticipate that their parents will ask lots of questions, and although they have sound faith in Islam, they also realize that it is a fledgling faith and that their knowledge is limited. They worry that, if they are questioned, they may not be able to defend Islam in the way they would like to.

They worry that their family may try to make them change their mind or ridicule them and they won’t know how to answer them. And they worry that it may cause a rift in their relationship with their parents, because they won’t be able to join in with the usual family meals or activities and they aren’t sure how they’ll cope with that.

They worry that their parents may reject them, as they have rejected their friends or other Muslims or that there may be a physical reaction or violence in response to the news. And on top of all that, they are usually aware of God’s commandments to be good to parents and so they want to please Him in the best way they can:

{And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment.} (Quran 46: 15)

Ideas to Fall Back On

It would be wonderful if there was one answer that could be given to that question: “How can I tell my parents that I have become a Muslim?”, but the truth is that there isn’t a single answer. There are as many possible ways that it could be done as there are different family relationships, and an outsider cannot possibly know which way would be best for that particular family.

A lot will depend on the circumstances too, whether the new Muslim still lives in their parents’ home or whether they are independent of them, but both situations can require careful handling. The simple answer is that the new Muslim knows their family best and is best placed to know what they can and can’t say to their parents, and how they may possibly react, but as there are often some surprises, it’s useful to have some ideas to fall back on.

In the Sheffield New Muslim Project, when this question arises, we try to share stories of what worked for us when we told our parents, in the hope that some of our ideas may be useful and to show the different possible ways.

Here are some of the ways our sisters approached their discussions: Some sisters have been able to share their journey with their families; telling them about the things they have been discovering and discussing their thoughts along their journey.

Other sisters found that when they felt it was time to tell their family that although they may not have said anything about their journey directly, their parents weren’t surprised as they had been noticing the changes in them. Some other sisters delayed telling their parents until they had studied more about Islam and worked out some answers to anticipated questions.

Other sisters deliberately left books and pamphlets or dropped subtle comments into conversations to stimulate questions and conversation. Some did it alone and others brought someone (a friend or a husband) along with them for moral support.

Telling My Parents

I was fortunate in that I was living overseas in Malaysia when I said my Shahadah. So I was able to prepare myself for the conversation before my next visit home. After I had been home for a while and we had got over the initial excitement of the visit and the catching up conversations, I told my parents that I had something I wanted to tell them.

The mere fact of that statement caused them to draw breath in anticipation of some important news. As I began to tell them that I had accepted Islam and become a Muslim, I could see their faces change and a level of shock setting in. It was clearly not anticipated news. So I tried my best to tell them in a gentle way, explaining as best as I could my reasons for doing it, remembering the verse below:

{And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best} (Quran 29: 46)

They came out with some sharp comments initially, such as “Why have you decided to join those poor and ignorant people?” (Sadly that was their impression of Muslims at that time, 20 years ago, and would probably have been replaced by “those terrorists” today!)

Later on in my visit, after the news had had time to sink in and they had seen me disappear off to pray a few times, the questions and comments became deeper and more thoughtful. They showed their concern as to the implications that my decision might have on my life, in terms of possible marriage and how I might be treated by being an outsider from the community, and also how it would impact on my relationship with them.

One comment that came from past dealings with ‘religious people’ was to tell me ‘not to think that I was better than them’ and also that I wasn’t to try to convert them.

{Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination. But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance].} (Quran 31: 14-5)

I’d like to say that my parents fully accepted my decision. They accepted the fact of my conversion and my choice and are willing to make certain accommodations, but there still appears to be a constant regret. Regret that I have chosen another path and rejected many of the things that they hold dear or part of ‘normal life’.

So I try to hold onto the verse below and pray that one day God will open my family’s hearts to Islam, but even if He doesn’t, I will do my best to maintain the best relationships with them that I can, so I have done my part:

{And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].} (Quran 20: 44)

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Amal Stapley
Amal Stapley After accepting Islam in 1992, Amal graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with a degree in Psychology and Islamic studies. She then went on to work with several Islamic organizations in the USA, Egypt and more recently in her home country, the UK.