By Cara Joy
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
I would like to begin this thought by noting that many efforts to help reverts comes from a really good place. May Allah (God) bring them reward for their intent, Ameen.
Throughout my few years as a Muslim revert, Alhamdulillah (all praise is due to Allah), I have noticed an interesting dichotomy of responses towards Muslim reverts from born-Muslims.
On one hand, I have heard of born-Muslims feeling a sense of superiority over reverts. They seem to feel as if they are purer (especially regarding past actions), as if they have an abundance of knowledge, and as if they have all of the correct knowledge of how to practice the religion. This tends to come along with them feeling the obligation to ‘educate’ the new Muslim in ‘all the right ways of practicing’.
On the other hand, I have also had experiences where reverts to Islam are held in an utmost high status – perhaps even borderline idolized. After taking Shahadah (the declaration of faith to become a Muslim), all the sins of the revert are wiped and they can begin with a new slate full of all prior good deeds. And, since many times a revert to Islam has done substantial research prior to making such a life-altering decision, they tend to be very knowledgeable of the religion. As such, some born-Muslims feel inferior to reverts, and put the new Muslim on a pedestal as an example of how to behave perfectly as a Muslim.
In my humble opinion, I feel that both of these approaches can create conflict within the revert Muslim. In the first case, the new Muslim is trying to navigate this religion and feels immediately disregarded, discouraged, and overwhelmed. They may feel the community is unsupportive and pushy of their own beliefs. In the second case, a new Muslim may feel a lot of pressure to implement every detail they’ve read about immediately into their lives. They may feel that all eyes are on them, and think they are failing in the unapparent areas where they haven’t yet implemented Islamic principles. For example, a Muslim revert woman may still have guy friends in her life and is working on navigating how to best engage in this circumstance. A Muslim revert man may work long hours on Fridays and be unable to attend jummah (Friday congregational prayer) with his current work schedule.
There are many, many circumstances that require time for a revert to establish harmony in his or her new lifestyle. The foundations of all of these principles have not been established throughout this person’s lifetime, and so it takes small, consistent steps to sort through these and exchange them for Islamic perspectives. This is a process, not a destination. In fact, practicing Islam is a process, not a destination, and this applies to both revert Muslims and born-Muslims.
So – you’re a born Muslim and you’ve just met a revert Muslim! This is exciting, and a real-life testament to the fact that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion! What do you do?!
- Welcome the revert Muslim, embrace them, and acknowledge them for the decision they have made. Know that it has not been a simple, sporadic choice.
- Be kind, be gentle, and just listen. Some reverts may be comfortable sharing their story, and others may not just yet.
- It’s helpful to inform them that all their previous sins have been wiped, but just speak carefully. Be mindful not to overwhelm a revert with new information and/or ‘musts’ and be mindful not to assume the revert as now being perfect.
- All in all, Allah “surely knows best what is hidden in the heart” [Quran 67:13]. Where you or I sit relative to one another, relative to our childhood religion or religion of choice as an adult, Allah knows best who is striving towards Him.
May He, glory be to Him, guide us all along the straight path and bless us with goodness in this life and the next.