Saturday, November 24, 2012

Becoming Something New


Everyone has a different story of how they accepted Islam and how their life has changed after doing so. Instead of telling the story of how I reverted I am going to share with you some of the thoughts and difficulties I have faced and continue to face after embracing this beautiful religion.

The biggest step isn't the act of starting to feel the faith and belief of the Quran, Allah and the Prophet(pbuh) in your mind and heart because those things come naturally as you learn, the biggest step is facing fear. Not fear of Islam itself but fear of society, friends, family and even a fear of other Muslims  So you keep all of your thoughts, feelings and questions bottled up inside you. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months and as the months go by you start to feel a happiness and peace within you that you've never felt before. People start looking more beautiful and you feel an urge to tell the people in your life how much you love them and that you feel they are a blessing from God... but you can't because then you would risk telling them your deep secret that you have joined a new faith and you would risk losing them so you keep your mouth shut and go on like everything is normal and nothing has changed.

I kept my decision hidden for months, I never told anyone for fear of losing them and the possibility of rejection. When I finally did have a breakdown and let it out to a person I cared very deeply for I immediately felt the wall of rejection and guilt suffocating me. Yes, guilt. Admitting my truth made me feel so guilty, as if I had done something terribly wrong.

I would read stories about how reverts were readily accepted with open arms and immediately found their place within the ummah and pretty much lived happily ever after. Why wasn't this happening to me? My first experiences were people freaking out and telling me I was doing it all wrong, that there was a system I needed to follow. I still to this day do not know what system they were talking about because no one ever offered any assistance to help me learn about a system even when I asked for their help.

In the beginning I always made the mistake of asking other Muslims questions and mostly got the answer 'Go Google it.'. Thankfully I eventually found a few people that would answer my questions and not treat me like I'm a burden on them. I will forever be thankful for them and appreciate them more than they will ever know. I was discouraged everyday, even now I still have moments where I am surprised I have not given up.

The biggest hurdle for me as a revert is loneliness and isolation. Every time I think I can jump over this hurdle I'm not quite high enough and end up slapping myself into it face first. I fully understand now why a revert is considered an orphan under Islam. My parents are aging, both have health problems and I fear everyday that one or both of them will pass away. Then where will I be? I'll be stuck in an area where you have to drive for miles to see another Muslim  and even then that Muslim is probably going to treat you like an outsider because you do not come from the same culture as them or for various other reasons. The cultural divides are a big problem, sure you'll meet Muslims from all over the world and some will be very kind and treat you like a brother or sister in every way possible but the majority for me has been that they see me as an American first and then a Muslim second. When I reverted I willingly gave up whatever man made traditions or ideas I had followed in the past to try my best to fully embrace the sunnah and Quran the best that I can. When Aisha was asked about the culture of the Prophet(pbuh) she would reply by saying his culture was the Quran, to me that's all I needed to hear to try my best to break free from the cultural womb that I had grown in to develop myself into a better person and live my life the way Allah meant for me to live. You will meet alot of people that are their nationality and culture first and then Muslim second, it's best not to get into discussions with these people because it will only leave you feeling even more isolated and wondering if you made a mistake by choosing this way of life because they make you feel as if you will never fit in because you   were not born a Muslim or born a certain nationality. It isn't necessarily people who may be living in a different country either, I have repeatedly tried contacting mosques and Islamic learning centers within my state for various things such as to meet other ladies I could talk to and for counseling but I am repeatedly brushed off or ignored which makes the Outsider feeling set in even deeper.

For years I thought that I loved Muslims, now I see that was not the case. All those years I was really loving Islam and the values that it held within it, the beauty in its words and the peacefulness that it will put within you. I know now that I have to view the Muslims and Islam as two different aspects because the behavior and actions of some Muslims have no place or justification in the way of the Sunnah and Quran. Some will look down on you for being a revert as if you are a novelty they can watch for a while until they see you break and go back to your old ways. Prepare yourself for questions like 'What man are you trying to impress?', 'Are you doing this so someone will marry you?' and comments like 'Just go back to being a christian and live your life, this is not for you.'. At times I feel like I am being persecuted as if I am a witch just for being a single white woman who accepted Islam. Should I be put in a museum or a circus sideshow?

The fear is still there everyday. You have to be careful at home thanks to the media, don't leave your books or magazines laying around where everyone can see them. Especially if they have the words the media like to misuse like 'Jihad' written on them anywhere. Although my parents are more accepting, my aunts and cousins are not. They are devout Christians that follow Baptist like ideas and they view Muslims as terrorists that wake up every morning just to cause civil unrest and war. It's because of these things that I have to hide when I pray. Those born to Muslim families have probably never experienced this and don't know how emotionally sad and hurt it makes you feel when you have to wait till everyone is gone, working or asleep just so you can grab your prayer mat, lock your door and hope that no one knocks or yells for you to do something while you're in the middle of a prayer. Many days and nights I have spent on my mat after a prayer crying because I don't want to be hidden anymore, I want to live my life openly spiritually and physically as a Muslim everyday.

I have to be careful where I go, what I say and especially what I wear. My first year as a revert I was verbally attacked and harassed by a family friend so badly that I had to get my Father involved just so they would leave me alone. My first Ramadan I was harassed by people who lived in a neighboring county that would tell me to 'Go back where I came from' because they did not believe that someone born and raised in this area could actually become a Muslim. After explaining to them that I am a born American the harassment didn't stop, I was told to go back to where my grandparents or great great parents originally came from because there is no place for people like me in America because I am not a "real" American. Going back to where my ancestors came from in Sicily actually doesn't sound like a bad idea when it means it will get me away from this type of hatred. I also had threats of being beaten and threats of having pigs blood dumped on me, thank God these were only threats. This year the worst I have had is people yelling things at me in restaurants while I sat eating with my parents just because I was wearing hijab, and one clever little kid that took one look at my black hijab and abaya, pointed and repeatedly yelled 'Look mom, she looks like Darth Vader!!!' Although the latter was quite embarrassing at the time I can have a laugh about it now cause in the end Darth Vader is actually pretty cool, some people probably live their whole lives wishing they could be compared to him.

It's because of these things that I can only wear hijab at certain times and certain places. I'm lucky enough to have a Father that never lets me go anywhere alone if I am wearing hijab and/or abaya so that has kept conflict at a minimum. I do get a lot of stares, people that make sure their kids don't walk anywhere near me and adults that will stay far away from me even if I hold the door open for them out of courtesy and respect for elders. Some tell me to just give up wearing them but I feel it is important for me to try to wear hijab as much as possible and abayas or jilbabs are much easier to wear than piling on layers of clothes and then double checking to make sure nothing is too tight, nothing is showing that shouldn't be etc..

I've probably put half of those reading this to sleep by now so I will stop and give you all a chance to ask questions, leave comments or make suggestions of things that you think may help me get through my struggles. Everyday I still feel like it's an uphill battle but in the future enshallah it will get better.


P.S.

I had to take this post down for a while due to family difficulties over my decision. Here are the comments that were left the first time I posted it:



Salam Alaikum dear sis.
This was very well written and as a revert myself really touched my heart. I too have found myself extremely isolated and lonely. I have grown well accustomed to it now and actually don't mind, I always feel closer to Allah in my solitude, aH.
I had a bit more support then you, but I see how very strong and blessed you are MSA, that you are able to hold on to your faith. I found myself making dua for you and know you are very blessed, MSA. In our isloation we are close to Allah (swt) through our continual, non-stop connection, interaction with Him. Keep making dua to Him to help your grow in strength, and rise above peoples ignorant based, biases. I face many of the same issues. I always remind myself, that I am the one who is guided, and they are the ones lost, aH. They don't know they are sleeping and I have to try and wake them up. Allah takes as much as we give Him, aH. I am so proud of you and you really touched my heart, MSA. I wish we lived closer, I'm in MI. May Allah (swt) make what is hard, easy for you and may He place much comfort, ease and love into your heart, IA. I'm always here, I'll always support you the best that I can. You are an inspiration and truly, very, very blessed, MSA. Much love to you always, you are in my dua. :) <3

As Salamu Alaikum sister fear Allah and put your trust in Allah this is a trial and a test of faith you just have to show how sincere you are to Allah from what I have read you seem to be very sincere Alhamdulillah don't worry about those that dislike the fact that you are Muslim because those are the ones that know nothing about Islam and worry less about the ones that are of other cultures that are Muslim that won't accept you I have the same issue too because I'm African American I remember one time a brother that didnt really like me yelled at me so arrogantly that he made me shed tears while I was making salah Astagfirullah we can only make Du'a and ask Allah to increase our Imaan and to keep us away from the evil doers.

Im kinda speechless right now.My beautiful strong sister You are a special soul and im ashamed that you felt that muslims saw you and treated you in the ways you experienced..as a born muslim its quite sad to hear some ppl would ever feel such arrogance when in the eyes of the Most Merciful we are the same.Remember ignorance is due to lack of knowledge and we pray that Allah swt heals those who feel such ways.Remember also shaytan has a role to play in making some act negative and in making us feel certain ways about their actions and we seek refuge from his whispers.

I too wish i knew you and that you were in London where from what im reading has a far more tolerant attitude to muslims than where you are.But sister stay patient and know that Allah swt tests those he loves and if possible try to move or relocate to somewhere you can practice your religion easier and please do not despair for verily the Quran tell us that after every hardship comes ease.I love you for the sake of Allah swt my sister and i feel humbled by your story.xxx

Salam alaykoem,

May Allah make it easy for you. Read the following beneficial article:

http://www.bakkah.net/articles/LifeIsAFitnah.htm

My beloved sister, I just want to tell you that you are not quiet right about this behavior towards you only. It is that I am born in a Muslim family and raised among Muslims, although when I started practicing Islam in the west i was labelled as an extremist by my own. After severe boycott from everyone in the environment and their constant claims me being extreme terrorist etc.. I moved to an Islamic country leaving everything behind. Arriving in the gulf countries, the Muslims seemed welcoming until they took all my money, and means, I have come to know that it was even worse when they knew what I was escaping from, they were friendly just to gain trust then they have done so much evil we even can not imagine. My advise to me and you, if you want the true path of the prophets, the righteous inheritors of the paradise, then this is what we will face. Know that sometimes we dislike a thing and its actually good for us, and sometimes we like a thing and its bad for us, we can take an example of a child getting an injection, the child will see it as an evil being done to him, though in the long run it will prevent him from a certain disease.

  1. As someone who was raised a Muslim...I feel very proud and touched by new reverts, who put most of us to shame with your sincerity, dedication and consideration to the basis of faith: something most Muslims nowadays seem to forget.

    It's worth pointing out that you are not strangers to this religion. You are the true bearers of the message, the true practitioners, the true believers by choice. You have used your mind and heart to embrace this religion so dearly, that you have sacrificed literally everything for it. You continue to use your gifted heart to survive through the storms of an unjust and temporary world, and InSha'Allah will reap the benefits of your patience and trust in God's wisdom, in this life and the hereafter. I feel humbled towards you and all great brothers and sisters who truly represent islam's ethics, Belief, and practice, far better than most Muslims who know more about tabloids than basic Islamic teachings. Thank you for carrying Islam the way it deserves. May Allah reward you for your patience, and guide us all through the right path. Amen

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