May 23, 2011

It's ok, I'm a convert

A'salaamu alaikum ya'll. This is a post that's been a long time in the making. It's been in my mind, consciously and subconsciously, something I've grappled with off and on. This might step on some people's toes but you have to know, I don't judge you. That's for Allah. I judge myself and my actions against what I believe are Allah's rules for my life. We are all responsible for our own introspection. :-)

I'm a convert to Islam. (Yah, surprise huh? I thought I'd start out with a hook. :-D) I've been through a lot of changes and I've given up some things. (That isn't really the point of this post but I'm trying to set the stage.)

I think sometimes, as converts, we feel like it's a "get outta jail free" card. Not ready to wear hijab? That's ok, I'm a convert; I'm not ready for that step yet.

Only memorized a few surat? Oh that's ok, I'm a convert; I don't know Arabic.

Still celebrating non-Muslim holidays? Don't worry, I'm a convert; my family celebrates and it's not religious for us we just get together as a family to show our love.

Don't dress modestly? Oh I'm sorry, you see, I'm a CONVERT, I don't have any cultural baggage. Abayaat are for Arabs and besides I would stand out more dressed like that.

(Yes, there are other modest options but the Qur'an tells us we should wear an over garment so unless your cute 'n trendy Shukr outfit is covered by a trench coat, it's not really doing the job. Yes you might attract attention but it's not gonna be because you look so fly. lol)

Got male friends? Oh no, it's not like THAT. You see, I'm a convert. I grew up with mixed sex gatherings, ALL of my best friends were boys growing up/ these are my husband's friends/ insert whatever excuse you like here.

Non-nasheed music/haram instruments still making your play list? Ohhh that. Yeah, well you know, seeing as how Ima convert and all and I grew up listening to music, it's just such a part of my life. My life is a soundtrack and these songs take me back to such beautiful times. :-)

Still wearing perfume/make-up out of the house? Hello! Didn't you hear me? I am a convert. C O N V E R T.  I live in a non-Muslim majority country. Everyone wears it/I have bad skin/I have self-confidence issues blah blah blah.

OK I guess you get the point by now. Oh and before you type an angry comment sisters please remember: We are here to enjoin the GOOD and forbid the BAD. I have never ever ever said I didn't do any of the above things. I am fully able to see the wrong I do.

You know, many of those points are valid. Yes, wearing hijab and abayaat do cause you to stand out more. My family has never celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday. Allah never said some men and women weren't CAPABLE of just being friends. But still, it's not permissible.

I've had the same conversation with myself. I've done the wrong thing, made the wrong choice many times. I will also be judged for that so I have to really weigh what is important.

I think sometimes, we as Muslims, get so caught up in the haram/halal debate. We are so eager to find that loophole, to be able to say, "Ah-ha! So you CAN'T prove I'm wrong." Yes Islam is meant to be easy, it's meant to be beautiful and peaceful and loving.

However, as Muslims we need to look at our actions in a different light. Yes, Allah swt told us that the world He created, this beautiful, crazy, messed-up world, all in it is halal unless He tells us it's haram. This is a simple and beautiful way to view our existence.

But for the true Muslim, the one who strives to submit to Allah, we don't look simply to the black and white of halal and haram. We ask ourselves, before we think of anything else, we ask if this is something that will bring us closer to Allah.

There are many examples I could share here, but this is something (as it's not haram/halal) that I am not comfortable to list here. It's a more personal thing and deals directly with our commitment to living a life that is pleasing to our Rabb.

The few things in the "but Ima convert" list at the top aren't always clearly haram/halal. I've heard some sheikhs who have said it's ok to attend a family function as long as you satisfy requirements A, B, C, etc... Others say, absolutely not!

So how does this tie into my original rant introduction? Subhanallah, my sisters, I will tell you this, when this thought struck me, it immediately humbled me.

The sahaba, every last one of them, were converts. They all made that conscious choice, they chose Islam, they chose to follow the Prophet Muhammad saws, they chose to do the thing that was pleasing to Allah.

The sacrifices they made make ours pale in comparison. So we get a little teary-eyed when we think of not being there to cut the turkey on Thanksgiving? Many of the sahaba lost every family member; they were shunned, they were outcasts, they were pariahs.

Suddenly that phrase, "But Ima convert" rings kinda hollow, doesn't it? If we view the above list in that light none of them seem to be so hard to give up/to do. The sahaba, subhanallah, gave up EVERYTHING they had to be Muslim. They lost their homes, their families, their wealth, often, even, their life.

Imagine, if we could pose some of these "dilemmas" to Sumayyah, the first martyr fi sabilillah. I would be ashamed to do so, my sisters. She was a wife, a mother; don't you think she had so many things she wanted to live for? Can we for even a moment so blithely assume she was happy to be a shahid? That she wanted to be tortured and murdered, her life gone from her body?

No of course not. She wanted what most women want: to be a wife, a mother, to be alive. She wanted to worship Allah. Instead, she gave her life in defiance of those who would try to stop the message of Islam.

Would it have been haram for her to remain a hidden follower? No. But she chose to do what was most pleasing to Allah; she chose the sirat-al-mustaqeem, that straight path that insha'Allah can lead us to Jannah.

My sisters, when I think of the sacrifices made by our beloved Prophet saws, by his beautiful wives, the mothers of all believers, by the sahaba... I know that my "reasons" are nothing more than flimsy excuses dressed up in self-congratulation and victimization.

May Allah swt bless us and our families and give us the strength to hold ourselves up to the example of RasoolAllah and the sahaba. Amin.


Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

salaam alaikum!

I love this post, mashaAllah! Like you, I am also a convert and I cant tell you how many times I have heard sisters put off hijab, prayer, etc and use the excuse"Im a convert". Obviously no one expects a convert to change over night. I feel these sisters and brothers are not ready to give up their old lifestyle so make excuses as to why they cant wear hijab, or cant pray 5 times a day or why they need to still celebrate Christmas and Easter with their families. The excuse is always "since I'm a convert, there's no need to rush and others will understand". Convert or not we muslims need to hold ourselves accountable and stop making excuses! Born muslims need to also stop condoning these excuses and remind converts that the sahabah were all converts as well!

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

btw, hope you dont mind Im going to post a link to your blog so others can read this post!

♥ααℓiα♥ said...


Hmmmm I can see where you're coming from but I don't look at the examples you mentioned the same way. To be honest, I feel that many of the examples you gave are what I call "physical" aspects of the religion such as not listening to music, wearing jilbab, memorizing surahs, not being friends with men etc. So many Muslims (including reverts) are judged by raised Muslims (and even other reverts) for not "aiming high" as others choose to do. I can go and say, "ya, I don't listen to music" but saying something like that would make myself feel uncomfortable because A) I DO listen to music and I don't believe it's haraam B) maybe there are other Muslims around who are strong in their faith and actions but also listen to music and C) why would I need to claim something (whateve that may be) just in order to appear more pious?

Why can't we make announcements like, "I fed 30 poor people at the masjid this evening" or "I re-united 2 Muslims who were angry at each other"?? Why not make statements like that, are they not just as worthy and noble as not listening to music? InshaaAllah you understand what I mean about comparing the physical aspects of religion to the inner ones (such as having good manners to others or helping people in charity or even just having the intention to do good).

I think Muslims today have become so consumed with outwards appearance and actions, they totally forget the spiritual and inner actions of a Believer. I know because I used to be one of those judgmental Muslims who are like, "OMG she isn't wearing jilbab so she isn't wearing hijaab!!" but I came to know women who didn't even wear hijaab AT ALL but were the most kindest and honest Muslim women. Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me MERCY in my heart to know that not every single Muslim is the same on the outside or inside -- and I am not Allah so who am I to judge them or their hearts???

As for the Sahaba, yes they were all reverts but some of them still drunk alcohal and even some of the Sahabiyyat committed adultery even after accepting Islam BUT they still loved Allah and worshipped Him Alone and supported Rasool-ul-Allah (sallalahu 3alayi wa salam).

I value and respect people who wake up everyday, believing in Allah and His Mercy and try their best to do what they can do. I've been on both ends of the spectrum (judger and being judged) so I learned to accept Muslims for who they are and the good they do, not just because they wear abayas or don't listen to music.

InshaaAllah don't take this to mean YOU or that I am trashing your Post, like I said I can see where you're coming from. Just my P.O.V. :-)

JazakiAllahKhayr <3

HijabiMommy said...

I think every Muslim is guilty of making excuses to get out of our Islamic duty or ignoring bits and pieces of Allah's decree to suit our needs. I know I am :/

And you know, I've found the opposite to be more true. The converts I have had the pleasure of knowing/meeting are far more "religious" than the one's who grew up under Islam. The converts have had to educate themselves and gain their own knowledge while we've heard about our religion all our life and don't bother to actually study it ourselves.

Every situation is different. May Allah guide us all.

But thank you for the reminder about the sahabas and all the sacrifices they made. Ameen to the dua.

Elisa said...

Salaam sis!
This really is a wonderful post. I must admit I have used the "I'm a convert" excuse many times. My husband, who is a born Muslim, struggles with some things as well. May Allah forgive us of all our sins. Ameen.
Mentioning the followers of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) really is an eye opener. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, dear.

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam Rene. I am so glad the meaning behind my post was clear; I wasn't trying to demonize these particular acts but just trying to remind us all that it's simply not an excuse. Sometimes I'm afraid what's in my mind won't transfer to "paper". :-) Love you fi sabilillah!

Umm Aaminah said...

About the link back, no problem. My hope is that this blog, besides being fun for me, will help someone in a small way. :-)

Umm Aaminah said...

Sr. Aalia, I never mind respectful POV and jazaki Allahu khair for sharing. :-) I rarely feel I am 100% correct on anything although of course my intention is always right.

You are right, I did list the more physical aspects but to me (from my stance as a convert) I feel these are the things many of us dismiss or overlook.

I guess also because for me, the inside part has never been an issue. I am not being arrogant but I've always been kind, compassionate, etc. It was these seemingly "little" things that can trip us up.

Like you, I've met some absolutely beautiful sisters who did not cover or listened to music, whatever but truly loved Allah.

That said, they always knew what they were doing was wrong and were ashamed. We all have our weaknesses.

I just wanted to remind us all that we really have no reason to disobey Allah. As for the sahaba who sinned, of course they did, they were human also but we are told they are the BEST of examples for us and their taqwa was such that we know they sinned. This is because they admitted their sin and changed their ways. Still another way we should learn from them.

Once again, thank you so much for your comment and love you fi sabilillah!

Umm Aaminah said...

HijabiMommy, thanks for commenting. I am sure born Muslims have issues as well but I can only speak (without being preachy) about the issues converts face.

I've been there/done that for several of these issues and know a lot of my friends who have as well. It's almost as if we feel since we converted, since we chose Islam, we shouldn't be held to the same standard or should be given a reprieve from changing too much of our cultural inheritance.

Jazaki allahu khair and love you fi sabilillah. :-)

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam Sr. Elisa, nice to hear from you. I think one of my biggest issues is my lack of commitment to learning more Qur'an or learning Arabic. I know in the past, I had that feeling of "ima convert" but insha'Allah I'll continue to fight my excuses and just be the Muslim I should be. :-)

It just struck me last night (after midnight!) about how ALL the sahaba were converts. It absolutely humbled me. So much so that I got up and wrote this post until 1:30 am. :-)

Amin to your dua as well and love you fi sabilillah!

Umm Hamza said...


Super. Awesome. Post. 'Nuff Said.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

My favourite post from your blog. EVER. MashaAllah. Yeah, thinking about whining to Sister Samayiyah (allah be pleased with her) about my little hang ups makes me squirm.

Umm Aaminah said...

Umm Hamza and OPNO, thanks for the virtual "shout out". :-D Love you all fi sabilillah!

Anonymous said...

Salaam alaikum,

I completely understand where you're coming from, but for converts..sometimes I feel like it's best to let them take their time and have their excuses. Not too much time of course, but it's important to take it slow. A lot of converts just jump right in and become what they believe is the perfect Muslim right away only to later "burnout" and leave Islam or get really low in iman. It's best to avoid this and take the transition of non-Muslim to Muslim slowly. Like my Islamic teacher said...Work on Tawhid and the 5 Pillars first, then everything else. Once you have those established, it will make everything so much easier, and I believe she is right.

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam Sis Amal, and yes you are right. As a new convert, you have to take steps to learn then implement. This was geared towards towards sisters who already have the knowledge to make their practice. :-)

As you know, Islam was perfected over the span of 23 years. Subhanallah. Allah is the best of planners. However, once we have the knowledge, we ARE held accountable to implement it. Allah swt knows our hearts, our intentions, and what we are capable of.

This post was to stress the importance of striving to make those necessary changes and NEVER using the fact we are converts as an excuse to not grow in our practice or knowledge.

You are a sweet sister, I've read your blog; take it one step at a time and just as you shouldn't let someone push you too fast, also do not let others keep you from what you feel in your heart is right. :-)

Love you fi sabilillah!

Bonnie said...

This really can be a loaded bullet of a subject ;) Thank you for sharing. I have been a Muslim now for nearly nine months and in that time have watched myself change on so many levels. A year ago I wouldn't have dared step out of the house without 4 inch heels, a face full of make up and usually some sort of mini dress to 'show off' the legs that took 4 hours a day at the gym a day to achieve. I have found so much freedom in Islam in just the basic fact I don't have to dress to impress every man that walks down the street, of course it's just the opposite! However in saying that I do sometimes still wear kohl, I don't use the convert excuse I used the "well when I get married again i'll stop" as if that makes any sense at all!!

I had a terrible time letting go of music. Now I listen to only Islamic music, some people will also say that it's haraam but I don't see how something that brings you closer to Allah is wrong.

I do believe that when pushed into things too early then people will just back off. It's not a race it's a personal relationship, and in the end we as individuals will have to face Allah alone to account for our misgivings and then again only Allah knows the intention of our hearts, what people think they see doesn't always ring true. I LOVE Baba Ali's video on converts, I hope you don't mind me sharing it but I know for me it atually helped a whole whilst nearly toppling over in laughter.

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam Sr. Bonnie and thanks for commenting. :-)

You are right, our path to Islam isn't one-size-fits-all. We have to strive to change, to grow in our worship of Allah.

We all struggle with certain aspects; I just think it's best to be up-front about it and not hide behind an excuse for our bad behavior or lack of practice.

Isn't it funny, looking back, at home much we've changed? Some people don't like that or think you don't have to change who you are but subhanallah, we do.

If we go from being a typical "westernized" woman to becoming a modest muslimah there WILL be changes, both outward and inward. In my experience, the outward changes reflect our inward growth (but of course not in all cases).

BTW, I think you are a very strong woman. I know (from reading your blog) that you've been through A LOT in the 9 months since you became a Muslim but alhamdulillah you are still striving.

I know from personal experience going through hard things in the beginning of your journey (especially when being mis-used by a fellow muslim) can really affect your iman.

Keep up the good work, sis. :-) Love you fi sabilillah!

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom,

Nice discussion going on here :) Had to join in.

What I like from this post is the idea that we need to keep it real. If any of us are mindlessly coming up with the revert/convert excuse then Umm Aaminah is dispelling those with the reminder that the Sahabi (peace and blesssings upon them) were reverts/converts too.

Whatever I do in my life needs to be a conscious choice. The way I cover my body, the way I fill my body and my soul needs to be in keeping with my faith.

I'm going to address some of the "Don'ts" which you mention. I do this not to debate or confess.

I do listen to music. Quran is almost always on in our home( and I always request it in a taxi ride). Sometimes nasheeds fit the bill. Other times, I need some tunes. I have eliminated songs which carry messages I don't really endorse for my spirit. I don't listen to songs on the radio like I used to so I don't stumble upon something which goes against my beliefs. I have my cache.

I do celebrate Thanksgiving because it's thanking God and that's all good. If there are Muslims who don't want to celebrate that's okay.

I do have males in my life who know I'm Muslim and who respect the boundaries of my faith. Any man who does not very quickly leaves my life. The few men who are still in my inner circle are those whom I can trust and my husband can trust.

I do wear make-up outside of the home. It's not heavy. It's not to convince people of some kind of stunning beauty. It's so that I look professional in the world. I have done it both ways. This way works better for me in this location. I do not wear perfume outside of the home.

Again, not asking for point-by-point rebuttal of my choices. We all will be judged at the end of our days. I offer them up simply to let others on the path know that there are many choices on the spectrum. These are mine. I chose them for me. I can't chose them for anybody else. I wouldn't want anybody to blindly accept my choices as theirs.

What I would want is for every reader to realize how their choices are powerful. To negate their ability to choose because they are a revert/convert is, as you say, very limiting.

Thanks! JAK :)

Little Auntie said...

Asalamu aialikum, sis,

Just landed on your bloggy, ma'sahAllah. Tres cute :) I think we that are 'raised as Muslims" have another issue to deal with: "But my parents did this...My parents said this is okay. My parents don't mind me having guys as friends"....

As another commentator said, no matter whether we are reverts or raised Muslims, we always come up with excuses-- but unfortunately, they're against ourselves.

May Allah guide us :)


Bonnie said...

I tried so many times to respond to your question on my blog but it just wont let me grrrrr. Short answer? I'm going to Egypt so my ex husband can 'meet' his baby (he actually lives in Saudi even though he is Egyptian) I wanted to ask do you have a post about how/why you converted to Islam?

Umm Aaminah said...

Thanks Yosra and Little Auntie; love both of ya'lls blogs, btw. :-)

I've enjoyed the discussion here mostly because everyone has a slightly different point of view. It's refreshing to see Muslims who can disagree without arguing. :-)

Bonnie, my conversion story is on here. and also here:

Salaam ya'll!

Halima said...

Salamz, Sis-

I'm a revert as well, and in my experience reverts are often far more conscientious about their deen than born-and-raised Muslims.As a revert it may be the case that one feels one has to actively do something about their religion, because one isn't a Muslim by default.
Many born-and-raised Muslims are guilty of many of the "sins" you outlined-and then some!- but don't consider that to compromise their "Muslim-ness" at all.
What makes someone a Muslim? Being born in a predominantly Muslim country/culture? Having the name 'Fatima' or 'Mohammed' on your birth certificate?
Apparently, all a revert has to do is listen to music, leave of hijab, slack in their salat and they're not a Muslim anymore. But 'Fatima' and 'Mohammed' can carry on how they like and still claim that they are Muslim. Double standard?

Umm Aaminah said...

Salaam Sr. Halima and jazaki Allahu khair for your comment. :-)

For me, there is no double standard at all. The rules of Allah apply to us all; however, from my perspective as a convert Muslimah, these are some of the stumbling blocks we face.

Obviously any muslim, born or converted, can have these issues. However, as a convert, I know the above issues are often very difficult because we have been raised in a society/culture that allowed all of these things.

I was raised fairly conservatively yet was still allowed full access to boys (dating alone by age 16), wear makeup which made me attractive, listening to music, etc. So for me, I was exposed to all of the things I listed.

Some alhamdulillah I had no problem with, such as cutting off male friends. I fully believe it is difficult to maintain a friendship with no sexual overtones; whether on the man or the woman's side. :-)

Hijab/dressing modestly also came easy alhamdulillah although it took me through a few stages to reach what I feel is Islamically correct hijab. :-D

However, music and family celebrations have been my personal demon. I can say 100% that having a child I am responsible for raising as a Muslim has made me a much better Muslimah. I am always conscious of my choices now because I know they will also affect her. :-)

In the end, I chose to do a post on being a convert because many of us do/have used that as an excuse. It's something I've thought about in light of my own struggles which I've overcome alhamdulillah and I wanted to share it with my other sisters who might be working through these issues as well.

My hope with my blog is that something I say, at some point, will make another stop and think about their own relationship with Allah. I know it's given me pause, often. :-)

Love you fi sabilillah!

DD said...

I read this post yesturday and it's been on my mind since! Soemtimes i use the ol' "oh i'm a revert" excuse (astaghfirullah to me) and i found the reminder about the sacrifices some of the sahaba made very helpful in that it put me to SHAME jazakallahu khaira. aalia made some good points too!

Kaighla said...

Mmmmmhmm, girl. You know I am hearing you LOUD and clear. Astaghfirullah. May Allah forgive us all and make it easier for us, ameen.