By: Carissa Mire
Congratulations! You’ve converted to Islam, you may or may not have learned to pray, you may even have adopted a new way of life and you’re already starting to practice the basics. Welcome to the fold!
Now that you’re here, have you considered the full scope of what it entails to be a Muslim in your daily life? If you have any doubts, keep reading. Having been a devout, prayerful, hijab-wearing, and modestly dressed Muslim for almost two decades, I’ve gained some valuable insights that I’d like to share with you.
Navigating family matters
It’s highly likely that when you convert to Islam, your loved ones will have their own opinions about it. However, take comfort in knowing that regardless of how your friends and family react to the news, your newfound faith can provide you with guidance on how to navigate these important relationships with those you hold dear.
Islam teaches us just how important our family is, particularly our parents. So, if they are less than thrilled about your choice to become Muslim, be sure to put Islamic values like strong ties of kinship, respect to your mother and father, kindness, modesty, good manners and gentleness on full display. Islam teaches gentleness, wisdom, patience, and kindness.
Talk calmly and lovingly with them, and explain to them that you understand their concerns. You might even offer – respectfully – to teach them about Islam and answer any questions they have. However the conversation goes, show them you are the same person as before.
Another good idea is to engage with them more often than you did before, if they’re receptive to it. If you don’t live with them, call them regularly and build a stronger relationship, and make sure to drop in for regular visits. Offer to run errands for them or to cook dinner for them some evenings. All these simple gestures go a long way toward easing their minds that Islam is not taking you away, but instead is making you a better person.
Another challenge that converts often encounter is adapting their clothing choices. I reside in a state where the temperatures remain relatively warm throughout the year, so my wardrobe before embracing Islam didn’t consist of long-sleeved shirts, knee-length sweaters, or cozy cardigans. Given this context, I had to swiftly find ways to transform my clothing selection into something more suitable for Islamic modesty, rather than just dressing according to the weather.
I was not prepared for how challenging it would be to find modest clothing. The truth is, almost all clothes marketed to women are either too short, too tight, don’t cover our bottoms, sleeveless, short sleeved, one sleeved, cropped tops and or number of other styles designed to show off our figures, i.e, the opposite of what many modest Muslim women aim for their clothes to do.
Needless to say, I’ve suffered many a breakdown in malls, shops, stores, and even online spaces just trying to curate an adequate wardrobe. And don’t even get me started on finding head coverings that not only match the outfit but fit comfortably.
Jehan Hakim, a born Muslim who has many converts in her circle of family and friends, said she’s heard how even the wearing of the hijab itself can cause hairstyle confusion.
“They ask how do you keep your hair from going flat under your hijab,” she said.
To figure it out, talk with seasoned hijabis for advice on where to shop for appropriate clothing. Your Muslim sisters are here to help.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that most converts know they must abstain from pork once they become Muslim. I’m also going to go out on a limb and assume you might not have realized how subtly pork can be concealed in some foods.
When we think of pork, most of our minds go straight to bacon, ham, pork chops, and pepperoni pizza. In other words, all the good stuff! But I digress. What you may not know is that pork is often an ingredient in gelatin, and even if you did know that, are you aware of how many foods contain gelatin? Note, that although most gelatin contains pork, there is also fish gelatin which is permissible.
Think cornbread mixes, Starburst candies, cereals like Frosted Mini-Wheats, marshmallows, anything containing marshmallows, gummy candies, Pop-Tarts, and the list goes on.
Be on the lookout, fellow Muslims!
Bonus tip: While you’re busy scanning ingredient labels, be sure to check for lard, which is also known as pork fat.
Spontaneous use of Arabic phrases – and feeling awkward when using them
For many Muslim converts, not being familiar with the Arabic language can present unique challenges. It can lead to feelings of exclusion at social gatherings or isolation in the mosque when everyone else engages in conversation. While we acknowledge that this is part of the journey we’ve embarked on, it can sometimes leave us feeling disheartened.
However, spending time around Arabic-speaking Muslims and studying the faith, we will inevitably start to become familiar with certain phrases, particularly those used most often. Here is a link with commonly used phrases.
While it’s no surprise you’ll soon come to understand what these phrases mean, you may feel a little self conscious the first few times they start to slip out in regular conversation. You may even feel like an imposter, but trust me, you’re not.
Voice that Arabic loud and proud! Using the language of the Quran is powerful.
However, if using those phrases truly makes you uncomfortable, you definitely don’t have to. After all, the Arabic language does not equal Islam, and speaking it does not make you any more or less of a Muslim because Islam is for everyone.
So, always keep in mind that, regardless of the challenges, moments of feeling out of place, or occasional confusion you may encounter as you navigate your new faith, Allah has guided you to this religion for a purpose.
Islam is meant to offer you a new perspective on life and on human nature, and I can assure you it’s beautiful. So embrace it, live with it and laugh with it, because it will surely shape your life into something better than you had before, even if you have to wade through some of the uncomfortable bits to get there. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to call 877-WhyIslam for answers to your questions.