There are many obstacles to be found on the path of the person who has just said his or her shahadah and some of those start right on day one.
Many converts in my country – the Netherlands – state their shahadah while still living at home with their parents.
As the new convert has made a conscious choice for Islam, the parents find themselves in a situation they neither asked for nor fully understand. The result can be a blueprint for disaster, while there are also numerous ways to deal with the situation in a positive and constructive way.
Being active in the field of dawah and support of new Muslims, I hear and see many stories of different converts and their parents. One day, as I was preparing to help a new sister to say the shahadah in a mosque in Amsterdam, she told me how her mother responded dismissively when she told her about her choice to accept Islam.
“Your mother is correct.” was my simple response.
The sister was shocked: why did the person guiding her to say the shahadah also say her mother was rightfully dismissive about her decision to become Muslim?
I explained to her how her mother only knew Islam from the TV. As far as she knows, Islam is a negative and narrow-minded, aggressive religion which oppresses the rights of women. No mother on earth would wish that for her child.
“If your mother has any love for you, she would not want you to accept what she thinks Islam is. The good news is: it looks like your mother loves you. The challenge is: make her see what you are doing and what it means to you.”
We all know how Islam calls for us to have good and respectful relationships with our parents, especially our mothers. But how do we succeed in doing so, if the mere fact that we follow Islam is the cause for a disruption of this relationship?
The most important tool is transparency! The idea that worries the loving parents most is not knowing or understanding what their child is doing or going through.
The fear of radicalization is genuine and sincere and therefore must be addressed. To my personal opinion, it’s the responsibility for the person who converts to take the first steps in that process.
Basically if one doesn’t explain to his parents what he thinks Islam is, they will explore for themselves and find what other people think of Islam. They will find websites full of negative information, books full of misconceptions and news items of all those who’ve made tragic mistakes in their lives and fear their son will do the same. And if he shut them out, they will worry even more.
The best way to counter this is for a convert to give his parents insight in the changes he is making in his life and the ideas that are going through his mind. He should try to be as transparent as possible without trying to convince them to follow his footsteps (as that will blur the conversation). He should tell his parents where he keeps his books on Islam and allow them to read them as well.
Another thing to do is introduce his new brothers in faith to his parents, so they know who he is with when he goes to the mosque. Openly discuss his ideas or interpretations on Islam and don’t hesitate to explain he doesn’t know everything yet and he is also still searching.
By letting them into this part of his life – regardless of their personal stance in relationship to Islam – they will see he is trying to live a positive life, reading positive books and meeting positive people.
The Community Should Recognize the Convert’s Parents Position
When a new Muslim comes to the mosque and declares the shahadah, everybody is more than willing to give this person support. Converts get free books and DVD’s, are invited to iftars and get some extra attention from the imam or dawah organizations. The support our community gives to new Muslims is a good thing!
However, there is also a responsibility upon the community as a whole not only to recognize the converts as a target audience of extra support, but also their parents.
In the Netherlands, we now see events being organized especially for the parents of the convert. These events consist of a basic presentation of the Islamic principles, emphasize of the position of parents in Islam, the opportunity for those parents to meet others in the same situation and a nice tour through the mosque.
I once gave a presentation on Islam to a group of 10 fathers whose daughters had become Muslim. They were very enthusiastic about this.
Not because they now all wanted to become Muslims themselves, but because they were recognized in their position as fathers and guardians and finally were able to see where their daughters went to every weekend. This doesn’t only minimize the obstacles which could damage family ties, in fact, it brought people closer together.
Dealing with Obstacles
In my opinion, every organization active in the field of dawah should have a program for the parents of Muslim converts. It should be focused on recognizing their position and making them feel welcome also as non-Muslims. The program should aim to answer any question or need brought forward by these parents.
There are so many obstacles on our way. Not all of them can be fully removed or handled, but most can. By being transparent, open and hospitable towards the parents of new Muslim converts, nearly all issues can be answered.
We should not wait for others to take the first step but do what needs to be done, being inspired to do so based on our beautiful religion.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)