Assalamu alaikum, have started two blog posts in the past few days and then scrapped them. I’ve wanted to write, but I start out writing about one thing, and then by the end of the post, I’m writing about something else. And then I’m not happy with the result, and then I just scrap it and start over again. And that’s part of the problem with blogging, for me anyway, which is coming up with new material, and not rehashing and reblogging about the same things you blogged about last week, last month, last year, or a few years ago, things that any Google search’ll find that you’ve already said before numerous times.

That’s why when I do my “moon bits” posts every month, I sometimes have to resist the urge to comment (for the umpteenth time) why I feel, speaking for myself only, why sighting the moon every month, or for this blindling over here, following a reliable, verified sighting, is so important. However, I’ve blogged about this issue countless times already, why continue to dwell on it and rehash it?

Same with other things, many many other things, like the treatment of Muslim women, or the problems we have within our community, etc., etc. And most of the time, the reblogging/rehashing is not offering anything constructive or positive, it’s just more complaining, negativity, etc. Perhaps it’d not be so bad if I had something more positive to offer, but many times I don’t. And many times, including with blogging, it’s so much easier to complain and rehash and “vent”, than it is to either offer something positive or keep silent.

And I think this is part of why I’ve been in somewhat of a spiritual slump as of late. They say “misery loves company”, but I also think that “misery loves company” in one’s own head as well. Like if you constantly think about how bad “the Muslims” or “the Muslim community” is/are, then perhaps that’s going to have a detrimental affect on your faith, not to mention “prophecies fulfilling themselves”. Whereas perhaps if one (speaking for myself mainly) focused more time on improving oneself and letting Allah take care of /deal with/handle everyone else, perhaps then one (read I) would feel better?

Because as much as certain things within and without our community bother me, I can’t, no matter how much I want to, do much about it, unless it’s something I’m in direct control over, which the vast majority of the time, is myself only. I often say that I have so much on my own plate to worry about that I don’t have time dealing with what’s on other people’s plates, and unfortunately, many times I forget this. And while certain experiences I’ve had I’ve found to be hurtful and embarrassing, among many other unfortunate things, the only thing/person I can control in this is myself and no one else.

I think, though, that the frustrating thing for me is the feeling that I don’t have a say or a voice, that I feel like I’m viewed as someone who just likes to debate and “start trouble”. And perhaps that’s why I rehash so much, because maybe I feel I’m not being listened to, or maybe I’m not being taken seriously. Perhaps I’d not rehash so much (or feel so defensive about) things like the issue of moon sighting or tasawuf or following a madhhab, or using a dog guide say, if I didn’t feel I had to defend my choices, or if I wasn’t made to feel that I was only being incorrigible for its own sake, or “doing something wrong” as it were. And perhaps that’s what’s bothered me most about being a convert, the idea that in whatever way I choose to practice my Islam, the choices I make, were not borne out of a lot of thinking, reading, reflecting, “asking those who know”, that my choices were borne out of, well, I’m not sure what. If I can “think my way into Islam” can’t I also “think my way around it”? How can we as converts be applauded for our ability to “see the truth” but then once we get in the door, be treated like we left our brains along with our past lives? Granted, there may be a lot we need to learn, but we still have our brains intact, I’d hope. OK, OK, this is taking more of a negative tone than what I’d like.

I’ve seen the idea of offering converts (or potential converts) pre-Islam classes, and I do believe that some religions/Christian denominations do this. And I really like that idea. As well as the idea of having some kind of a mentoring program, of pairing up a new Muslim with someone who’s “been there” so to speak. Because once someone becomes a Muslim, they’re going to need support. And they’ll need it for longer than the first few weeks or months after saying Shahadah. I also think that if a convert has “special needs”, ugh I don’t like this term but it’s the best I could come up with unfortunately, but let’s say they’re a blind or deaf Muslim, or they have another disability, or let’s say they’re dealing with something like alcohol or drug addiction, instead of being pushed aside or shoved out the door, all means of support should be given them. Perhaps this might mean providing Islamic materials in accessible formats, or have a sign language interpretor at the masjid, or assisting someone in obtaining treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, or just otherwise doing anything you can to be there and support the new Muslim.

Also, don’t expect the new Muslim to learn everything, or adopt everything, in one day. Small steps are best. If it’s a woman we’re talking about, she may not be ready to put on hijab yet, but then again, if it were me teaching a new Muslim, I’d start with the bare basics and work from there. Start with the five pillars and work from there. It’s kinda like building a house, you’ve got to start with the foundation and work your way up, and hijab, or marriage for example, while important, are kinda like the roof or the windows of the house, and we all know that if you try to build a roof of a house, without building the foundation, the floor, or the walls, well, we’re going to have problems.

Once the Belief, the Prayer, the Fasting, etc., are down, then you can move on to other issues. I’ve seen other people recommend that new Muslims should not marry for at least the first two years or so after becoming a Muslim, and while I’m tempted to say this sounds good, I also think things need to be taken on a case by case basis, because some people progress faster than others. So I don’t think there should be a hard and fast rule as to how long a new Muslim should wait until they get married, but under no circumstances should they be pressured into it right after they’ve accepted Islam. Again, this goes back to learning the basics and getting them down before progressing to more complex and more involved things. And I just don’t agree with the “oh he’ll teach you” philosophy of learning Islam. Accepting an dlearning a new religion/way of life is hard enough, entering into a new marriage at the same time, and getting to know and learning a new person at the same time, I think, is just too much too fast. Again, let’s get the basics down, and then move on to other things later.

Anyway, these are just some of my (Inshallah positive) suggestions for steps that we can take to help new Muslims. And maybe Inshallah, if they have a strong foundation, if their faith is shaken, it won’t crumble and they end up leaving Islam altogether. Because when I hear of Muslims leaving Islam, it truly saddens me. I don’t feel judgmental toward them, or feel like I’m better than them (because I could have just as well left Islam myself as well), I just feel sad. I’d like to know why, I’d like to try to help somehow. But it seems that there is a bit of a problem of converts leaving Islam and if that is the case, I feel that we, collectively, as a community need to figure out why. And just saying “well they were weak in faith” or “well they never believed to start with”, isn’t gonna do it. And no, you might not “win them back into Islam”, as it were, but perhaps if we could speak to some ex-converts, to get their side of the story, to let them talk freely, we might learn something, and then be able to do better.


About Ginny

A blind Muslim woman currently living in Florida, just trying to make sense of the world around me! !
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3 Responses to Thoughts

  1. Umm Layth says:

    As salamu Alaykum Ginny

    You have a lot of good points here that I was also thinking about today. My husband and I were discussing the issue of converts (us included in this) and how some experiences (or lack of experiences) with other Muslims indeed ruin the entire journey for some and lead some to completely stop caring but still consider themselves Muslims and others to just leave the faith entirely. Not every case is the same and there are converts that may, after years of being a practicing Muslim, apostate. I feel that this leads to a deeper problem and should remind us that we must ask Allah to keep our hearts firm.

    When I became Muslim I needed to understand Monotheism on a deeper level, learn how to pray, how to wrap my scarf (which I embraced prior to my acceptance of Islam, Alhamdulillah), how to fast and learn what my fast, and all the other basics that are a necessity to begin the transition. I feel blessed because I had sisters (back in California) who helped me and made me feel like I was a part of their family. This is something that is so important. I realized that not everyone was practicing Islam in the same manner early on and although it was hard sometimes dealing with some of the Muslims who seemed indifferent to having a new sister in their community, I think I was able to make it past the early stage because Allah placed in my way these sisters who loved me sincerely and gave me what I needed and opened their doors of their home to me as well as their hearts.

    How can we emphasize relationships in our community? How do we build our community to be a real community? It’,s hard here where we have several mosques and so many Muslims spread out and a variety of differences. We have shia, sunnis, salafis. I believe there will always be some type of conflict but we have to have certain individuals who are willing to persevere through the conflict and debates (religious and political). I think those are the sincere Muslims who see the problems with not only new converts but those who are also born Muslim and just need help getting the basics they never learned well, and so on.

    My husband was helping a brother in our community put together a list of books for some converts here that will help them a lot. We have started a halaqah here on our side of the city that goes over some of the most important ahadeeth a Muslim should know (the 40 hadeeth of Imam an-Nawawi). We are beginning some new Muslim classes to teach the fundamentals of prayer (not just a quick let me show you how and you are on your own type of class) but a more in depth class based on a school of thought that teaches terminology, the pillars of ablution, the recommended acts, etc. These things are so important as well. We’re memorizing the shortest chapters of Qur’an, and trying to see what the future holds insha’Allah. But we are also getting some potlucks going every month where we come together and try to get to know each other better as well as the other sisters in the community better.

    It is hard at first as there is opposition… it should be done this way or that way but alhamdulillah in our part of the city and in this masjid we are blessed with an open minded group of brothers who just want there to be help for everyone (whether it is financial or religious) and who want to truly establish a community. And this is in winter which keeps me very hopeful for Spring.

    About the marriage… I agree that the situation is so different from one person to another. For me, marriage was the way to become a practicing Muslim I was 14/15 and my parents moved away from the community where I became Muslim and I could only use the internet or the phone to keep in touch with people. It became so hard so I got married (my own decision, however). Alhamdulillah for it… I was in search of someone who wanted to practice Islam and live Islam… breathe it. I’m now to the point that I don’t even remember being anything but Muslim. When those memories come, I feel really really strange. I’m thankful for that and I think that is what ever convert should get to experience… feeling like Islam is really their life. It’s a blessing.

    Anyhow, I think we should be more prepared to help those who may only understand through sign language or through making more things accessible for the blind. I can’t imagine how hard it has been for you.

    InshaAllah baby steps for all but intention, consistency and perseverance.

    • Ginny says:

      Assalamu alaikum, also many good points, not sure how much more I could add here. Except that as regards marriage, I think that’s why I said that a hard and fast limit shouldn’t be placed on when converts should get married. However, when I first became a Muslim, a sister who I was communicating with online seemed extremely focused on “getting me married”, to the detriment of me just trying to learn and grow in my understanding of Islam. I told her I wasn’t ready, and I wasn’t. I just felt as though I was taking on too much, and when I mentioned this to her, she said “yeah but you gotta get married because you could commit zina if you don’t.” I remember thinking something like, wow what does this person think of me? I think that’s what I’m talking about when I talk about people being pressured into marriage. I think if people feel they are ready, then by all means, get married, but don’t be pushed into it because of the idea that a convert is just going to fall into zina if they don’t.

      There is also the issue of, well in my case anyway, not at first knowing which “understanding” or methodology” of Islam one is following, and it’d not be a good thing, I’d not think anyway, if someone who followed a more “traditional” understanding of the religion ending up marrying, say, a hard core Salafi.

      And I thought about this when I spoke of starting with the basics. Obviously, it’d not be a good idea to jump into the various differences we have in our religion, but at least start with a basic book that teaches the basics of belief, prayer, fasting, etc., I don’t think it really matters which madhhab in the beginning, then when you move onto more complex things then you can introeuce madhhabs and other concepts. Also, if someone asks why someone may be doing something different then they are, if it were me, I’d just explain that there can be slight differences in the prayer and leave it at that unless the person has more questions.

      I think my thing is just starting with the basics first, not going headlong into things that may be able to wait. I also think, in general, as a community, we tend to focus a lot on “the rules”, as it were, the “do’s and don’ts”, and we forget about the love and patience and mercy part of it. I’m not saying you or me or anyone in particular, I’m just saying as a community. And I think this goes back to say helping converts (or even born Muslims for that matter) if they are suffering from things like mental illness, drug addiction, etc. For example, if you’re deal with an alcoholic, I’m sure they know that what they’re doing is haram, so no need to constantly beat that into their head hoping they’ll just stop, because addiction is so much more complex than that. Perhpas attending support group meetings withthem or therapy sessions, or just being someone they can talk to, openly and honestly, as just a friend, that can do wonders.

      Perhaps if we had enough qualified people within our own communities, we could set up our own centers to treat these sorts of things. I’m just throwing some thins out there. And I by no means have the answers. But if converts leaving Islam is a problem, and some feel that it is, then we need to figure out why it is, and try our best to do something about it.

  2. Salaam Alaikum,

    Two thoughts. Firstly, and I know this will sound unkind, in my experience, ex Muslims are rather bitter people, who are happy to spew out the usual anti Islam nonsense. They’ve left our community and I wish them no harm, but I don’t think they are of great use.

    Secondly, agency. I am tired of hearing ‘Islam made me do this’, ‘I did this because of Islam’. No. We choose our actions and we should stop using Islam as an excuse. I understand peer pressure from the community can be problematic, but we are all adults. If you choose to quit your job and go on welfare because you believe ‘working for the kuffar’ is haraam, take the consequences of that. Likewise if you choose to marry a rather sketchy brother within one meeting.

    I will not deny that converts get a lot of crap shoved their way, but painting ourselves as perpetual victims does not help. We need to encourage each other to be strong, use our brains and leave the judging up to Allah swt.

    P.S Happy birthday to Chloe! Give her a big tummy tickle from me! xxxxx

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