It was a cool winter evening. I pulled into my driveway and saw my family all sitting around relaxing on the front porch. I was obviously brimming with happiness after taking the shahada. I was of course wearing hijab. That wasn’t new to my family though. I had covered my head to a degree as a Christian as well and my mom was fully supportive of that. However, the feeling of happiness coupled with my naive nature at my young age led me to just blurt out to them: “I just converted to islam.” At first they all just kind of looked at me like they weren’t sure what i had said. Then, finally, my younger stepbrother spoke, “you’re kidding right?”. With all eyes on me,I replied, no. At that point, I began to feel nervous. We all just sat there silent for a few minutes. Then my mother and stepfather asked me to come inside and ordered my stepbrother to stay where he was. That’s when I realized that i was in for it. So, they brought me in the house and sat me down and tried to talk me out of Islam gently. They took out the Bible and read verses to me, they even took the extra step to call the pastor and have him speak with me. When I wouldn’t budge, my mom lost it. She began crying and asking me where she had failed me and why I would do such a thing. When I tried to respond to her by letting her know that it wasn’t anything she did or didn’t do she would just get more and more irate. Finally, it came to the point that I was given a choice to either convert back to Christianity and denounce Islam or leave. I tried to reason with them but to no avail. So, I packed up my things and left.
Alhamdullilah, I had my own car. So, I was able to stay in my car for a couple of days. I knew that I could not live this way and I knew that it wasn’t smart to drop out of highschool and work full time(especially since I was so close to being finished). So, I went to visit my grandmother. Mash’Allah she asked me where I was staying and I told her. Then, she offered to allow me to live with her until I finished school. This woman did not batter me over my religion nor did she prohibit me from practicing my religion in her house.
After a year had passed, my mom and I made contact. It turned out that she had been keeping tabs on me through my grandma. 🙂 I prepared myself by going to http://www.whyislam.org and getting pamphlets to help answer her questions. So, we all sat down again. This time in a calm manner and discussed Islam. They had many questions. Most of the Questions centered around what i now believe, hijab, dietary laws, men’s rights over women, my role as a woman in Islam, How I worship Allah and the obligations imposed on me, and of course why i became a muslim. I patiently tried to answer their questions as best I could and gave them the pamphlets for later referral.
Finally, when asked, what my relationship would be with them now, I gave them the response that Allah (swt) says in the Quran:Say : O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine. (Qur’an 109: 1-6) Also, I informed them of their rights over me as parents and the good treatment enjoined on parents. I told them that I would always be their daughter and that I will always have love and respect for them. At that point, we decided to put the past behind us and move forward with our relationship.
Some points to consider when telling your non muslim family that you have accepted Islam:
For me this happened twice in a sense. The first time I was young and just sprang it on them. The second time, we all sat down and had an open discussion after putting some time between us. In my case, the second approach worked much better. So, these suggestions are simply that, suggestions. You know yourself and your family better than I do, so you can gauge what would be the best option for you.
*pick a good time (you want everyone to be relaxed and have time to process, talk, and work through the process.) I know some muslims who have been muslims for years and their families still do not know. This wasn’t possible for me as it didn’t fit into my personality. However, even if you are feeling scared, you have to know that more than likely your family will come around and treat you normally. I know many Muslims who told their family and got no reaction at all or had a very mild reaction. So, every experience will be different. Just put your trust in Allah and make plenty of dua and insh’Allah you will be fine.
*pick a good place (again make sure it is someplace where they can respond to you and not feel restricted or embarrassed such as they would in a public place)
*Be ready for the flow of questions.
*I recommend taking pamphlets or other matierial designed to teach non muslims a bit about Islam. (whyislam.org offers a variety of pamphlets in English and Spanish also there is a new book out by dr. ali shehata: Demystifying Islam which covers a variety of hot topics that come up in Islamic discussions).
*Be confident. Be firm. Be direct. Be Patient. Be calm.Be respectful.
*You could also opt to inform them by phone or letter. You know yourself and you know your family. So, whichever method you think would be best to use then you should go for it.