Family Matters

I did it. I told my family – at least some of them – that I am Muslim.

I can’t tell you how scary it was. I did it because some of my family were coming to visit me at Christmas, and I thought that even if I don’t wear hijab or pray in front of them they will likely see the books in my house and the prayer rugs kept under my bed. (My apartment is not that big.) As well as the fact I don’t drink alcohol anymore, which would be quite noticeable by them on New Year’s Eve.

But mostly I just wanted them to know. I have felt so detached from them for so long. I am very close to them and I hated them not knowing about such a big thing in my life. And at the same time I really feared that by telling them I could lose them.

It really impacted the rest of my life and relationships too. I mean, if I could not tell my sisters – my best friends – who could I tell?

So — what happened? I decided to call my sisters first prior to my brother and his family arriving here to visit.

My first sister was shocked and upset, but was careful to stay calm and assure me that she loved me and would accept my choice. She became more upset as time went on, but mostly because she was afraid for me based on everything she sees in the news. She was open that it was her hang up and prejudice, but it did not stop her from being upset. But the key here is that she accepted it.

My second sister was a bit surprised, but seemed fine with it. She was quite funny in fact. She has a work friend who is Muslim so knows that Ramadan is right in the middle of summer for the next few years, and she told me I better not cheat during Ramadan. She was even fine with the fact she might one day see me wearing hijab.

Finally, I told my brother when he was here. I waited until after Christmas in case things went badly. However, while he said he did not understand it, he also said that he did not care as it was my decision. I think it upset him more than he said as he was a bit distant for the rest of the day and he did not want to talk about. But things seemed to go back to normal after a day or two.

A few days later I told my sister-in-law. She was actually happy for me. She said she was glad I found something. There are many things she does not understand about Islam or my choice, but was ultimately very accepting.

Interestingly, all of them were adamant that I should not tell my parents, noting that they think my parents would never accept it or ever get over it.

Even though I had the same thought, it was a very tough message to hear. I certainly won’t tell them anytime in the near future. But can I really not ever tell them? On the one hand if it will upset them so, I should be careful not to hurt them as they are my parents. On the other hand, shouldn’t they know who I am? What if there was a circumstance such that it would be inevitable that they know. Wouldn’t they be more upset that I waited to tell them?

Ultimately, now that my siblings know, I am sure my parents will find out. And knowing I won’t lose my brother and sisters – and that they will support me even – I am okay with whatever happens.

It is really life-changing that they know. I know not all of my old friends will be as understanding as my family. And I know that my family will not understand everything. But having faced this fear it gives me more courage to continue this journey.

And I feel even closer to those in my life who already know and who have been supportive all this time. I feel incredibly blessed. Alhamdulilah.

What was your experience telling your family and friends?

18 responses

  1. Phenomenal. This is an incredibly inspiring post! MashaAllah you are so strong! Well done, I cannot begin to fathom this challenge that reverts face. Alhamdulilah I was born a Muslim, but I guess to try and understand this the equivalent would be that I’d one day tell my family that I follow something else (God ever forbid- it’s a just a comparison I’m making). To say that it is incredibly difficult would be an understatement! InshaAllah, Islam will only serve to enhance all the wonderful characteristics and etiquette you have already and hopefully your family will see this and will become even more welcoming of it- who knows maybe even embrace it. 🙂 Keep strong my precious sister… InshaAllah God will ease the sistuation with your parents and they will support you too.

    Peace,
    Leila xo.

  2. You’re very brave. It’s got to take a huge weight off. I haven’t worked up the courage to tell my family yet. Mashallah. ❤

    • Salam. It is a huge weight off. All I can say is what others told me – pray to Allah (swt) for guidance. I could not have done it before I was ready. And while it was very scary to do – it was not as bad as I imagined.

      I will pray for you. 🙂

  3. MashAllah, so many congratulations California! I can’t image how much bravery it took to tell your siblings and to also stay strong while they reacted. I want to give you a big hug! InshaAllah their perceptions and feelings about your reversion/conversion will only become more open and accepting from now on, I feel like you got the worst of it over already 🙂

    I’m sorry that they said not to tell your parents though, that is tough. I will make dua for you and your family, InshaAllah everything will turn out well 🙂 You never know what can happen in this life, maybe they will be more accepting than expected!

    Again, big hugs and big-time congrats, will be thinking of you,

    Salam,
    xoxo

    • Wa Salam. Big hugs accepted! 🙂 Any courage I have comes from Allah (swt).

      And I also pray that my parents will accept it. But for now I am just so happy to have told my siblings. Whew!

      xoxo,
      Cali

  4. well done! its not an easy task i know, i have met many new muslims where i live and they share the same story. you have to be really patient in dealing with family members who might not understand, the important thing is to show them that you are still the same person underneath it all, yes, you may not be able to share certain values and way of life with them but if you focus on what you can still share and do for/with them…that would be a great start. hope that helps, please know that you are not alone. many new muslim women in england have been through this…i have several personal close friends who’s been in the same boat. take care, my doas are with you.

    • Thank you for your doas. One of the reasons I waited a while to tell them was exactly the point you made – that I am still the same person they knew. And I think it was particularly important for my family that came to visit. Of course this is what I hope my parents will also come to realise – in shaa Allah.

  5. Congratulations 🙂 I’m sure this was a big and terrifying step! It’s strange how following one’s convictions can be so fearful, even though you know you are doing the right thing, we are so conditioned to do things for other reasons than simply what is in your heart, even though it seems like that should be the most natural thing in the world. I keep meaning to comment on all your posts but then I think of so many things to say and then I delay it! So I will go ahead and share my experience in the hopes that it helps you.

    Before I converted I talked to a number of other muslims online (in the days when chatting was rampant and not quite so filled with creeps, it seems), and after listening to their experiences I decided that I had to tell my family before I converted. One sister in particular inspired me to do this. She lived in Texas, and I have long since lost touch with her and honestly I don’t even remember her name. She still lived at home with her parents, who were christian, and she had converted without telling them, and was absolutely terrified of it, she was afraid they would disown her and also that they would cut off her school funding (they were paying for college). I believe some discussions of Islam had already come up negatively, as she kept hijab hidden around the house and so forth. You might wonder why this story made me want to tell my family first, well, I guess I decided that I couldn’t embark on the truth with something that was not the truth, and I didn’t want to live in that aura of fear that she unfortunately found herself in. I was sure that my revelation would not be met positively, but I guess I wanted to do it with conviction. One of my favorite quotes at the time, attributed to Confucius, was “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” I understood why my online friend was afraid (also she was in immediate conflict since she lived at home), but decided I must make a different path.

    When I converted, I was attending college and living near the university, so I was far away from my family. However, some of them came to visit me, and as I had already decided I was going to convert, I decided to tell them while they were there and then convert. Actually, I had been reading up on Islam for some time already including while I was at home over the summer (and before that) and had already pretty much decided I was going to convert, but I did not decide about telling them until I’d gone back to school. They were shocked for the most part, except for my sister who pretty much took it in stride. For my family it wasn’t just Islam, which was bad enough, it was religion at all, as they are for the most part atheists. So even believing in God was a factor of ridicule. My parents were worried for me and thought I had been brainwashed. After the visit where I told some in person, I sent out a brief email to all of my relatives and friends “back home” telling them that I had decided to convert to Islam. Part of the reason I did this was I wanted people to hear it from me rather than “through the grapevine.” Another reason that I’m glad I did this, was that my parent’s and I think the rest of the family to a lesser extent, kept hoping for a long time that this was merely a phase that was going to blow over, and thus would have preferred that I not make it public (as in, easier to move on from). I think the fact that I did tell everybody, adopted hijab, etc, made people give up on this idea faster. It may be what your siblings are hoping for too, but honestly, I think the sooner your parents find out about it, the sooner they will be able to get past it. It was a very rocky road with my parents, especially when I had to move back home again on breaks and after graduating and argue about it! Luckily, you will probably not have to deal with that factor. However, in the passage of time they saw that my conviction did not waiver and it was not some overnight fad, and the arguing and expecting this to go away faded. I’m not saying they understand or agree with me, but we don’t discuss it that much now, and when we do it’s in a matter of fact way vs. a trying to talk me out of it way. It was definitely a struggle in the beginning, but it was worth it to get past that phase. Some of their worries for me were justified, others have not been issues at all. Insha’allah I hope you will tell your parents in spite of what your siblings say, I think it’s better to find out these things from you, and it’s better to not be “the last ones to know” or find out through the grapevine like a weird rumor, because nobody likes that. Also it makes it more likely that if they have something to say they will say it to you instead of just talk about you behind your back. Finally I’ll add that I do have some muslim friends who converted and other members of their family also decided in time to convert, alhamdulillah (though I think this is extremely unlikely in my own family, but only Allah knows what is in people’s hearts).

    Incidentally, my christian friends reacted considerably better to the news, any step towards God was a step in the right direction from their perspective (they weren’t of the proselytizing type since those people never got along with me anyway). I did not tell any of my friends at school beforehand (except my roommate) 😛 lol I just walked up the next day in hijab, and was like, oh, by the way, I converted to Islam. They took it in stride. The acquaintances who didn’t quickly removed themselves from my life.

    The saddest reaction for me was from a friend I had known before, who was muslim, and whom I hoped would be a help and bridge into Islam. Unfortunately, that was not to be, although I did receive a fairly negative letter warning me of the dangers of converting to Islam especially if I was doing so for the “wrong reasons.” Our friendship has since regenerated to some extent, in the intervening years, but that wasn’t a good time and it’s never really been addressed between us. I understood it more later after encountering some shockingly ‘temporary’ conversions myself, but at the time it was a terrible blow to me for my friend to think such a thing.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Very helpful and inspiring. You really have a lot of courage. There are still so many people in my life who I have not told. But I do feel so much more comfortable in my skin these days – especially now that my siblings know. And I really do just want to be open. Though I am still not sure how and when to start wearing hijab at work. But I keep praying – who knows, it may happen sooner than I expect.

      I am so surprised at the reaction from your Muslim friend. As I have said, there are so many people I haven’t told. But one friend I told who I thought would understand as she was a devout Christian and I thought would appreciate my pursuit of a relationship with God – well she did not appreciate it and was quite negative and upset. Two other friends who I have not told but have expressed quite negative sentiments about Muslims – especially Muslim women who cover.

      But I also ask myself why I want to hold onto people who won’t accept who I am. Its a funny thing isn’t it….

      Stories like yours really do give me courage. And make me see that I still have so far to go on this journey.

  6. You’re an amazing inspiration and bring me back to the good ol’ days. Ask Allah for the best time. I’m sure you will find it. 😀 Keep close to faith, goodness, and what is easiest, the middle way. 😀

    • Thank you! I think sometimes Allah (swt) provides opportunities for ease and we don’t even recognise it. I hope to embrace the good times and be more grateful this Gregorian year. InSha Allah. Take care. 🙂

      • Absolutely! a great reminder, love it!! Hope you keep on writing! Your voice is inspiring, soft and so dedicated. A real inspiration in softening my heart again. Jazakullah khairun 😀

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