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Approaching Family: Life Post-Shahadah

Approaching Family: Life Post-Shahadah

To all the new Muslims out there, welcome to Islam and may Allah reward you, guide you, and strengthen you in His Deen as you continue your journey beyond the Shahadah.

One of the most common issues for new Muslims is how to approach family members with the news that they’ve accepted Islam. This is always a difficult issue and everyone’s situation is different. There’s no one right way to go about it. However, I would like to offer a few things to keep in mind that may help you as you begin the conversation.

Tell Them When You Feel Ready

Some people want to tell their families right away and others feel the need to wait. Both are ok. Even among the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) some people announced their Islam to their families right away while others kept their faith private until they felt the time was right. Which path you should take depends on your unique situation.

For example, some new Muslims wait to tell their families until they feel firmer and more knowledgeable in their faith so that when the time comes they’ll be better able to respond to their questions and concerns. Others knowing that their family has negative views of Islam, will try to dismantle some negative stereotypes and soften their understanding of the religion before telling them about their conversion. On the other hand, some people choose to be completely open with their families throughout their transition to Islam and feel no need to postpone telling them.

You know yourself and your family so think about which approach will work best for you and tell them when you’re ready.

Try Not to Overwhelm Them

Remember that while you may have been considering the Shahadah for some time, chances are this is all going to be quite unexpected for your family. So, while you may be very excited and happy about embracing Islam, try not to come on too strong when you break the news to them. The way you handle this situation will have a tremendous influence on the way your family perceives you and your Islam going forward. So, approach it with care and consideration.

Here are some possible approaches you might consider:

  • If you’re not sure how they feel about Islam in general you can try casually bringing it up in conversation in order to test the waters. This can help you determine whether they’re ready for the news and it can also provide an opportunity to clarify in advance some misconceptions that they may have about the religion.
  • When you finally feel ready remember that you don’t have to tell everyone at once. You can start with one family member someone you’re close with who might be more understanding and willing to listen.
  • Explain your situation to them and see how they respond. If the conversation doesn’t go as well as you hoped you can try a different approach in the future. If the conversation goes well you may even have a supporter as you tell the rest of your family
  • When you do talk to your family about your Islam try not to drop too much on them at once.

Here’s an example of what not to say:

“Mom and Dad, I want you to know that I’ve decided to become a Muslim. I also want you to know that from now on you have to buy me all Halal meat and please remove all bacon from the household. I also want you to know that my new name is Asadullah Hamza Abdul Khaliq and I will only respond to that name from now on. I also want you to know that I will be growing my beard to fist length. I also want you to know about these scientific miracles in the Quran the undeniably prove that this is the word of Allah. I also want you to know that I will be getting married two weeks from today, here is your invitation. I also want you to know..”

Don’t do that! Don’t do that! Don’t do that!

Just you becoming Muslim is going to be shock enough for them and a lot for them to adjust to. Make this as easy as you can for them without compromising your Islam. As far as Dawah, you may be very excited to share this beautiful way of life with your family, but this may not be the best time. Besides the fact that you’re still learning yourself, they might not be very receptive to that right now as they’re still processing your conversion. If you try to push Islam on them, it can actually have the opposite effect, turning them off to the religion completely and doing damage to your relationship with them which can take a long time to repair. Of course, if they ask you questions about Islam and they want to learn, that’s great, by all means answer them. But, don’t take a simple question as a request for a 30-minute lecture.

At this point, honestly, the best way to teach them about Islam is through your own example. Be patient, loving, and understanding. Allah tells us in the Noble Quran:

“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.” [Noble Quran 17:23]

When talking to your families about your Islam, it’s important to avoid getting into arguments. This can be difficult as you may feel your beliefs are being challenged, your judgment is being questioned, and your point of view is being ignored. You have to keep in mind though, that this is not a debate and it’s not about proving that you’re right. This is an opportunity to put Islam into practice.

Be Patient

Talk with them and try to respond to their questions. But if they start getting frustrated and argumentative, do not allow yourself to follow them down that road. Maintain a calm attitude and if emotions get too high respectfully take a break.

Be Loving

Show them the mercy and compassion that Islam teaches. Remind them that you are family and you love them. Be kind and respectful at all times and give lots of hugs.

Be Understanding

Try your best to see things from their point of view even if they don’t afford you the same courtesy. Recognize that, for the moment at least, they don’t see Islam the same way that you do and they may be genuinely concerned about this change. So, try your best to ease them through this process.

Be Muslim But Be Yourself

Try to help them see that becoming a Muslim does not mean that you’re going to become a totally different person. While you may be making certain changes in your life, most things about you will remain the same. So, help them see that. Make sure you don’t allow discussion of Islam to dominate all of your family interactions. You may not feel like it comes up a lot, but they might feel differently. Spend time with your family talking about things and doing things that you normally would do without bringing up religion. At the same time though, if your family is making unreasonable demands, if they’re asking you to do things that you’re not comfortable doing, don’t compromise your Islam to please them. As Allah says in the Quran:

“And We have enjoined upon man goodness to parents. But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them.” [Noble Quran 29:8]

So, if your family asks you to do something that conflicts with your fundamental beliefs as a Muslim, such as committing idolatry, or abandoning prayer, respectfully explain that this is not a compromise you can make. They may argue over certain things, they may tell you that you’re being unfair, unreasonable, inflexible, they may try to make you feel guilty for making them upset. Show them that you understand their feelings but stay true to your faith. Hopefully, with time, they’ll become more accepting.

Give Them Time

At the very beginning it may seem like they’ll never accept you as a Muslim, but time can change a lot. It may take your parents a while, maybe a few years, just to accept that you are really a Muslim and that this isn’t just some phase you are going through. It might take even longer than that for them to see your Islam as something normal and for them to recognize that Islam was actually good for you and that it made you a better person.

So, remember that you’re not alone. There are a lot of reverts out there going through the same struggles as you and many who have already been through it and seen how despite the difficult beginnings, things got so much better with time. So, again be patient. Don’t expect this to all blow over in a day or two, but trust that things can and will get better. May Allah bless you and make things easy for you. May He bless your families with guidance and may He guide the families of all reverts, Ameen.

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