Don’t be scared to show people who you are.
The time right after my conversion was extremely hard because I soon discovered my father, who is a computer engineer, had broken into my email account without my knowledge and discovered I had converted before I had the chance to tell him. My plan was to tell my parents in July or August, after my exams, so I would not be distracted from my exams by the reaction of my family. But, not only did he discover this on his own, he also told my mother. This may seem normal to most of you but my parents are divorced and really never talk to each other. My dad and I had always had a much stronger relationship and him telling my mother without my consent was a huge breach of trust and felt like a stab in my heart. To this day, the relationship between him and I is still suffering from that time.
However, when I look back on it, I see it as a blessing from Allah (SWT) because I know from other converts how hard it is to tell your parents you converted. Many converts don’t tell their parents for months and, the more they wait, the more courage they need to come clean. On top of that, until they tell their parents, they have to live a double life, hiding their “Muslim side.” But I know that when you convert, you really have no “Muslim side” – you feel 100% Muslim; and trying to hide what you really feel is extremely hard, especially when it involves the people closest to you. If you are in this situation, just try and think of all the benefits of telling your family about your conversion, and maybe take a good friend with you for moral support.
After months of fighting with my family EVERY TIME I visited them, I was exhausted. In order to stop them from fighting me, I started hiding anything related to Islam from them. This meant dressing as “normally” as possible, not talking about my new Muslim friends, not telling them about my trips to the mosque, or about any of the Islamic books I had read, nor the new halal recipe I had come up with. It was hard to hide so much and I felt like I was growing further and further away from them, which made me extremely sad.
This I think is a point that all Muslim converts should watch out for. Try to hide as little as possible from your family, because hiding things will only makes you move further away from them, which will make your conversion even harder on you and may drive you to go back on your decision. If this starts happening, think of all the beautiful things your newfound religion has given you and remember why you made this decision in the first place. Keep talking about Islam with your parents – eventually they will give you more and more freedom to be who you really are in front of them insh’Allah.
I recently graduated from University with a bachelor in International Business Administration and moved to London to live with T and his brother. I know that this will probably shock many of you, but I want to be 100% honest about my experiences as a new convert. The relationship between T and I may not have started in a “halal way” but it is probably what finally led me to converting so I do not see it as a bad thing. Since I converted, we have changed a lot of things about our relationship, to make it as halal as it can be, and we are planning on getting married as soon as T is able to sit down with my father and talk about this insh’Allah.
At the moment, living with two men may not seem like the best option for me, but the alternative is living by myself in the Netherlands, where 99% of my friends and 100% of my family constantly push me to explain why I converted and try to convince me that religion is a bad thing for me. My father doesn’t really look me in the eye if I wear a hijab, and my mother would not allow me in her house with a hijab on and cries at the idea of it. For her, my decision to cover up means I am less of a woman. According to her, T is the one forcing me into it, when in reality he is the one advising me to take it slow.
In London, I feel free to be who I really am, with T and his brother taking extremely good care of me. I can go to the mosque whenever I want, say what I want to say and wear whatever I want to wear. No one reacts negatively when I put on a scarf and I can peacefully work on becoming a better Muslim day by day. Converting is not about just saying:
Ashhadu ana la ilaha illa Allah, wa ashhadu ana Muhammadun Rasul Allah
it’s about working on becoming a good Muslim day after day and finding the right balance between the life you had before you found Islam and the Muslim you want to become.
I wish good luck to all converts that are facing similar situations and hope my column will help you realize that it is OK to have setbacks, as long as you keep growing in your Imaan. And, to all born Muslims, I would like to ask you to support converts as much as you can because, for many of them, other Muslims are their family at that time, as their own family may not be there for them.