The rise and fall of the revert

In my reading, I often come across the statistic that within three years of converting to Islam, about 75% leave the faith. I may not have the statistic exactly right – but it is along these lines. I am also not sure where this statistic comes from or how it is calculated.

But I do wonder…. even if number is only approximate, why do so many people leave? And do they really stop believing or is it that they go back into the ‘Islamic closet’ permanently.

From time to time I ask myself if this will this happen to me?

There are definitely times when I feel frustrated, sad and alone. I wonder, who would know if I changed my mind? Stopped praying. Stopped learning. Stopped searching. Called a friend to go out for a glass of wine and a plate of prosciutto.

No one would know.

But me.

And Allah (SWT).

So, what do I do when these times hit me?

I think about what I truly believe: La ilaha illa Allah wa Muhammad rasul Allah.

Then I do salah, make dua and perhaps read a bit of the Qur’an.

And I know – simply – that this is who I am. Really……its who I have always been, it just took me a while to figure it out.

So, two years and two months from now will I feel the same? In 10 years and 10 months? Insha Allah.

Why do you think some reverts stay committed for the rest of their lives and some leave after a few years?

And what can we do to change this statistic of 75% who leave within three years?

18 responses

  1. I have thought about this a lot also. I think there are a lot of reasons people leave. I think it has a lot to do with lack of support and community and also some people jump in head first and try to follow every little rule to the letter . . perhaps without taking the time to understand them and if they are even Islamic law or just cultural stuff. I think some people bend and change too much and have a hard time maintaining that and just become disillusioned and unhappy and may blame it on Islam or may simply as you said go back into the closet because of the challenges of being publicly muslim. Anyway, very nice blog :).

    • Thank you for visiting and thank you for the thoughts. I think you make a great point. I know how odd it sometimes is for me. In a way, being ‘in the closet’ has allowed me to study more and make changes in my life as I am ready, without always having to explain and justify. And though only a couple of people know about that fact I follow Islam, they have been extremely patient with me. A huge help. I hope this will ground me better as I become more ‘public’ and more importantly I hope it will help me to help other converts. Thank you so much!

  2. Hi! First, thanks for stopping at my humble blog. I really like to find new bloggers!
    Secondly, I must say I love the sincere way you speak about yourself and your faith and your doubts. I think that almost all the people have ‘crisis’ of faith along their lives –doesn’t matter in what you believe in (God, Alá, Buddha, Marx, yourself…), the doubt is something inside ourselves, it is our human nature and a consequence of living and thinking.
    Anyway, nice to meet you!

    • Nice to meet you too! and thank you for visiting and your kind words. it is interesting how we all ‘seek’ in this life… (And I really enjoy your art. Thank you!)

  3. As salaam alaykum Sister,
    While I may not be as honoured as you are in the eyes of Allah (swt) to be in your category – i.e. converted from another faith and to have accepted Islam and become a Muslim – simply because I had an easier journey of being born into a Muslim family……however, similar challenges are faced by every one of us – and for that matter every Muslim per se….the risk of leaving the realm of Islam i.e. Submission to Allah (swt) and being swayed into what the majority of the people around us do or the way they lead their lives.

    Without really going into the various reasons why one gets this feeling of insecurity, the point that I am trying to make here is based on words of advice I have received from some excellent people in my life and indeed my own experience – one has to follow the simple words of our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) to seek Knowledge from cradle to the grave. One has to continuously strive to enlighten one’s self in knowing our Creator. And how one does that is by reading the Holy Quran – reading its translations, commentary and thereafter the Hadith of our Prophet and his successors. This keeps our faith on a steady path and indeed strengthens it too.
    It is well said: If you want to talk to God: Pray Salaat. If you want God to talk to you: Recite the Holy Quran.
    Indeed having a community and like minded friends help tremendously – and I believe in most parts of the world and cities Islam certainly has its presence.

    Nevertheless..this short period of our stay in this world is all about striving and seeking His Pleasure – as we Muslims seek the eternal pleasure of the hereafter.

    May Allah (swt) keep us on our Imaan and ward off every negative thoughts.
    One for the road……
    An excellent hadith I just read – and would like to share with you:
    The Holy Prophet (saw) said:
    O Ali, no poverty is harsher than ignorance, no fortune is more useful than the mind, no loneliness is gloomier than self-esteem, no activity like moderation, no piety like abstinence, and no ancestry like good mannerism.
    The branches of knowledge are richness despite poverty, generosity despite niggardliness, dignity despite weakness, safety despite illness, closeness despite distance, shyness despite boasting, elevation despite humility, honor despite lowliness, wisdom, and high rank. These are the branches of knowledge that the intellect originates. Blessed are those who possess minds and knowledge.
    (Quoted from a book called ” Tuhaf al-uqul”. I am just about to blog a pdf version of it on my blog.

    Was salaam

    Hasnain

  4. Its not only reverts who find out who they really are and what they really believe in…”born muslims” also deal with this stuff…its hard, it was for me…I wrote a post about my journey and trust me, finding the truth, yourself, and the path you want to take, the decisions you have to make, are very difficult. btw the post is: http://herenownotforeva.com/2012/02/02/sharing-is-caring/

    And I agree with ashrubhaleeb up there… great comment

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I went to your site and read the post you recommended (and others!) I really loved it.

      It is funny, when I see / hear about people born Muslim who do not follow Islam I wonder why – having been so lucky to have been born into the faith. But it is a journey for everyone, and each person has to do the work to find themselves on this path – not easy.

      He chooses. And that in an of itself makes me feel both blessed and responsible. :-):-)

  5. I think the pressure can be too much, at least it was for me. There were too many rules, and I didn’t understand the wisdom behind the rules. I think it’s important to know our limits so that we can withdraw for a while and process everything we have learned and heard, and take baby steps rather than trying to be perfect Muslims the first days. At least that’s what I feel when it comes to me, but I know people are different. 🙂

  6. Lack of support and isolation are definitely two reasons for converts leaving the faith. But also ‘convertitis’, where converts attempt to take on too much, too quickly, go to extremes in the deen leading to inevitable burnout. There’s also the difficulty all Muslims have between balancing the inner and the outer elements of Islam. I just watched an excellent lecture by Sh.Abdul Hakim Murad about this here: http://habibali.radicalmiddleway.co.uk/

  7. just as every person’s journey into enlightenment is personal, so are their reasons for leaving. I will say this though, for those I have seen leave, sadly and permanently, it was about people. People’s treatment of others has a HUGE impact. This goes for the whole of the community. It affects our outlook on things, changes our perspectives, aids/hinders our growth, etc. Be selective in who you let super close to you. Don’t be closed off, be friendly to everyone, and genuine. Simply be selective about your close friends and possible future spouse, inshaAllah. Over a decade in, I am finding myself needing to “refind” myself inside islam. I had a wonderously supportive community when I came to islam. For years now, I have craved and yearned for that and found my cup empty. Even if you lead yourself to burnout, which I am convinced most do (even if you stay), all hope is not lost. Allah is merciful, bountiful, forgiving, and always there, closer than your jugular. Simply remember that.

    • That really seems to be a common thing that I hear – that it is about the support one gets and the kind of interactions with the community. While I am still looking for that community, I hope I can always remember this when I interact with reverts, and be as welcoming and as supportive as I can be. I hope we can collectively change the tide of so many reverts leaving.

  8. I think we need to increase and improve the support systems we have for Muslims whether they’ve converted or were born into the faith. Often people don’t have anywhere to go for advice, knowledge and some healthy banter.
    This doesn’t necessarily mean we need more mosques and Islamic institutions, often it means we need to improve all that we currently have. Many mosques in the UK do not allow women in and speak in languages other than in English, that immediately excludes females and the youth. Then are they to be blamed if they are not ‘Islamic’ enough or leave the fold of Islam?

    • Really?!?! Even in the UK some Mosques don’t allow women or exclude due to language? Wow.

      I agree we need to do more to support the community as a whole and Muslimahs in particular. Social support, continuing education in Islam, etc.

      It is certainly what I am looking for so I am sure it is a common denominator.

      Hmm….

      You have given me more to think about.

      Thank you!

  9. First time commenter..

    As another “closet” Muslim I’ve pondered and been asked this question too: why do you bother staying Muslim? I think the answer is that because it just feels right. I just feel like I am doing the right thing. Coming from the outside we can reflect and learn about Islam differently, because we don’t have our parents or friends teach us our Islam. We can pick and choose the good things and omit the bad things.

  10. I don’t know if that statistic is right or not, but I’ve come to realize some things in the many years since I converted that I had no idea about when I first converted and would have been astonished by!

    When I first converted I didn’t know very many muslims, but, I knew in my heart it was the truth, and I have never felt like I would leave Islam either then or any time since then (almost 12 years now). I can’t imagine ever doing so. I’ve had personal ups and downs, even very low downs, but the simple truth remains unalterable, it is only my actions which vary in regards to it, I feel I would be unable to ever deny it even when I can’t measure up, it would be like denying the sky looks blue and living a lie.

    While I have met some lovely individuals at times I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced community support in the way I imagine it might be somewhere, for somebody. I certainly hope you do find support and community, but more than that Islam is a personal connection between a person and Allah and anything else is just on top of that as a bonus. At least, that is how it was for me. I used to think that was the case for everyone, and I wondered when I first converted why people reacted the way they did. Most people thought I had converted for someone else (they still do, including other muslims… usually they assume I got married when I converted. I was not married then, though I did meet and marry someone years later, and divorce again.). Many people also thought I converted to be part of a community, and I have since learned that in fact people do “join” religious groups for this reason. Of course there were also those who was sure I was “brainwashed” or that I would try it for a short time as a fad and then become interested in something else. I was told, that I would never be accepted by other muslims since I was not “born” muslim, and now I would never be accepted by the rest of “American” society either by converting. I haven’t found a community that really welcomes me, but the fact is I never did belong anyway so that’s not exactly a change. I have always felt like a stranger on this world. It’s me, not Islam or any particular community. I was also surprised at the backlash from some muslims when I converted, not understanding why I would do so, or warning of dire danger if I wasn’t doing this for the right reasons. I didn’t understand that at all, and I was surprised and disappointing. Why would anyone make such a major step as declaring a religion for any reason other than the truth in their heart, I thought?

    Since then though, I’ve realized that many people do. There are a lot of people who adopt another faith (not just Islam but also other religions) as more of a ritualistic step, not because they are moved. They might do it as part and parcel of marriage without batting an eye (yes, I’ve met people like this who explain this as the reason they converted to another faith, and only that!). There are people who stick with a religion they don’t really believe in, or maybe they believe in some parts of it, or maybe this just happens to be the “custom” in their family. Or even, because they want to feel part of a community (I assume this must happen more often where there’s a sizeable community, which wasn’t the case where I lived when I converted). In Islam, and in other religions as well. There are those who do adopt a religion on a whim and drop and change to another as it suits them, religion to them means something other than it means to me. I still don’t really understand the “why” behind these behaviors, but I have now come to accept that they are widespread and they exist inside and outside of Islam equally, in both converts and those born into a faith. I expect this does account for a lot of that percentage. I still have a hard time believing that someone who truly converted out of faith would be able to turn their back on Allah, I have to simply say that I cannot fathom the behavior of most people anyway 😛 in this or other matters. Also seeing these behaviors in action and in people that I knew (or thought I knew) well, did soften my feelings towards those who reacted less than kindly when I myself converted. I expect that they have come to realize after all this time, that I am not one of those people, but now I have a better understanding why they might have been wary.

    • I am so inspired by your clarity and conviction. While I do hope to find community, I completely understand your feeling of separateness. And I imagine I will hear similar things when I begin to tell more people. Thank you for sharing so openly.

  11. Pingback: Blessed and Happy « californiahijab

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