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In The Age of Islamophobia, Why Reverts Are Leaving Islam

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People often talk, write, rant about “Islam —the fastest growing religion in the world”. This is true. Pew research statistics highlight that Islam is predicted to be the dominant religion of the world by 2060. This is not simply due to conversions. The fact that a Muslim family typically has more children than other religious families also contributes to this growth. Islam does have a high rate of reverts, with a majority of women, accepting the faith. Yet, many ignore the darkness that eclipses this beautiful fact. Many reverts become apostates. This is what we hear from imams who pastor to converts, we hear this in revert chat groups.

Based on my experience, I did not say some of them, I did not say a few of them, I said many, if not most. So why? Why are reverts leaving Islam? After all of that sacrifice and hardship which come with the territory, after being rightly guided and accepting the oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) why would they then decide to leave?

The overwhelming emotional state you will see in any revert group — online and offline— is one of isolation and lack of acceptance. It is neither the lifestyle nor their beliefs.

Upon the shahadah, the born Muslim community smiles in our faces and says,“Mashallah, you chose Islam. You are so great!”

Then they walk away and leave us alone in our newly Muslim state. Like a child we are entering a new life, a new way of thinking and perceiving the world. We don’t always know what to do; we don’t know who to trust or who to listen to. Many assume others are helping us or have become our friends when truthfully, most of us spend our Eids alone and we break fast alone. Many of us have never even stepped foot into the house of another Muslim. Majority of reverts are alone in their walk of faith.

Last Ramadan, I stopped going to community iftars. I regret it, but I did that for one reason. I didn’t want to feel like a stranger anymore. Sure, people that know me greet me with kind words and some of the sisters in my community have beautiful hearts, but I end up eating by myself. Sometimes, I even sit on the ground by the playground. Rather than looking like the unpopular girl that no one wants to sit with, it looks like I am  watching my child swing.

Alone.

Eventually, we don’t want to feel this anymore, it feels like rejection. So what do we do? We back away from the community. We isolate ourselves, even more (which is dangerous), because we don’t want to keep feeling like an outsider. We are left without any support network or other believers around us, and we try to brave the disbelieving world alone.

How many born Muslims find it hard to live in a society full of Islamophobia and traditions that go against their lifestyle. Reverts typically do this alone.

The Left and the Right

Often, we are told this is haram, that is haram, you need to stop doing that. Yet, the earliest Muslims focused on aqeedah before legislation, so why are we expected to become an Islamic scholar overnight? Then, we face the other side of the spectrum, the so called ‘moderate’ Muslims on the extreme left. The liberals and the self proclaimed ‘Islamic feminists’, who insist hijab is not fard, neglect their prayers and have dust covered Qurans on their bookshelf. They tell us to loosen up and “why are you being so extreme, born Muslims are not this strict— so why are you”. One sister told me I was like ISIS, because I stated that only sexual acts within the sanctity of a permissible marriage are considered halal forms of intimacy.

We are told on the left that we are too strict and we are told on the right that we are not strict enough. We are searching for where we belong, but the truth is we are strangers in this world. Strangers in our western society where we grew up and strangers in the Muslim community because we are different. We have to learn to embrace that strangeness and let it become part of us-we won’t escape it, so we have to cope with it.

“Abu Huraira reported, The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Islam began as something strange and it will return to being stranger, so blessed are the strangers.” Sahih Muslim 145

Lifestyle Changes

Let me explain to you what reverting to Islam means for most of us. We all have our own unique stories of what led us on this path, but after taking our shahadah, the stories become all too similar. Slowly, we lose most if not all of our friends, not necessarily because they judge Islam, but because our lifestyles are so vastly different. Some reverts are shunned by their own family. I knew a revert who is not allowed to pray in her mother’s house, they force her to pray in the backyard. Some of us are blessed and have some family that try to understand (Alhamdulillah), but all too often many lose the majority of their loved ones.

We give up our past identity and our very way of life. All we have become accustomed to is changes. The person we were prior to shahada is gone. Imagine for a second, truly sit back and imagine if you walked away from the life you have always known and changed yourself from the inside out in a massive way. Cutting yourself off from what you have always known and have always been, in order to willingly adopt a completely new lifestyle. When you adopt this change, you expect acceptance. Instead you come to realize you are an outsider on both sides, caught between two worlds.

A Hardship I Do Not Wish on Any Muslim

For those reading this that are born Muslims, have you ever thanked your family for raising you as a Muslim? You should. Take a moment to appreciate the blessing in being raised in a Muslim household, being taught how to pray and always knowing about the Final Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I want you to really feel what I am about to say because this is a heartbreaker for reverts. Imagine if your mother and father were disbelievers, and now imagine they died in a state of disbelief. Let that sink in. You know the potential implications. Imagine your aunts and uncles dying as disbelievers. The Prophet (peace be upon him) could not make duaa for his own uncle. We have to obey this example. For reverts, this is usually our entire family.

How to Cope as an Isolated Revert

As reverts, the best source of strength is going to be our iman. We have to rely upon it or we cannot make it. We must remember that the first generation of Muslims were all reverts! Looking to this example we see the first martyr Summaya , a mother and a wife, whose life was taken because of her faith. We see the countless sahaba that were tortured; we see the example of Bilal crying out ONE GOD as they mercilessly tortured him on the burning sand. (May Allah be pleased with both of them) The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was pelted with rocks from children for simply trying to do dawah.

In looking to Islamic history we see countless examples of strength during adversity. Yes, we must face anti-Muslim bigotry and yes we face feeling ostracized on both ends, but these tests are not nearly as harsh as what the sahaba endured.

“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tested?” Quran 29:2

This is where I tell you change your perspective, change your heart. These hardships are like proving grounds. This isolation and pain is our jihad, alhamdulillah. We can choose to fall apart and say it is too much, or we can choose to stand up and show gratefulness for these tests! If you are isolated, then know that you are never alone, Allah (Glorious and Exalted) sees us and knows all.

Angels are always at your side recording all that you do, every struggle is recorded and every time you say ALHAMDULILLAH during those struggles it is known.

Every time you fall to your knees crying for strength and pouring your heart into sincere duaa, it is heard.

Every tear is a blessing. Just as hot water cleans and purifies, our heated hardships can clean our hearts if we allow it.

Monique Hassan is a writer specializing in behavioral health and Islamic psychology . She also works at an inpatient behavioral health hospital. She has a bachelors of science in psychology with a biology minor and is certified in crisis prevention and intervention. She is a revert, a wife and a mother. Visit her website www.MoniqueHassan.com

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Monique Hassan is a writer specializing in behavioral health and Islamic psychology. She also works at an inpatient behavioral health hospital. She has a bachelors of science in psychology with a biology minor and is certified in crisis prevention and intervention. She is a revert, a wife and a mother. Visit her website www.MoniqueHassan.com

65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    January 11, 2018 at 7:07 AM

    May Allah bless all the reverts :'(

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 11, 2018 at 9:13 AM

      ameen.

      Thank you for your reply. This piece came from the heart.

      • Avatar

        Abu Aadilaa Abdur Razzaq

        January 11, 2018 at 9:43 AM

        As-salaamu Alaikum wa-Rahmatullahi wa-Brakatahu,

        Masha-Allaah, very good article to bring forward the issues of born Muslims and their attitude towards reverts. I am a born Muslims, and in our places where I come from (India, but now in Canada), what we do is to form a group and engage in Islamic Studies, and other social activities, or form a group in WhatsApp (not in facebook other social media), and be in touch with each others, even if we are now scattered. Alham-du-lillaah, if you want, also, as a practitioner of Salafi methodology we join groups with Scholars and students of knowledge. Let me know, how we can suggest more such steps towards bringing this isolated Muslims as ONE UMMAH, +1 416 616 6460 (WhatsApp number).

        • Avatar

          Monique Hassan

          January 11, 2018 at 3:02 PM

          Assalamu alaikum brother.

          This is a great way to keep people talking, using whatsapp and other modern features most of us have. As much as we check our phones, it should be for a good purpose.

          • Avatar

            Gretchen

            January 19, 2019 at 7:24 PM

            Assalam alleykhum! Amazing article. It just hit home too hard. Ok now let me go get a cup of tea after wiping my tears. You just outed me.
            As a newly revert, I attended a mas-icna conference, it helped a lot with the loneliness tbh. The journey continues…

  2. Avatar

    IKhan

    January 11, 2018 at 11:12 AM

    Thank You for writting this!

  3. Avatar

    Mohamed Hassan

    January 11, 2018 at 11:56 AM

    That was a very heart touching.. May Allah bless all of you and grant you the jannah Inshallah

    • Avatar

      monique hassan

      January 11, 2018 at 5:35 PM

      ameen.

      Your endless support is a blessing my husband. I love you. :-)

      May Allah (Swt) grant you success in this life and the next . ameen.

  4. Avatar

    Terence Nunis

    January 11, 2018 at 12:16 PM

    Perhaps one of the reasons is because a lot of Muslims insist on calling us “reverts”. This is a symptom of the general disrespect of our identity, our heritage and our history; as if none of that matters. We are converts. We changed our religion and our worldview. We did not return to some mythical proto-Islam of the Arabs or Pakistanis.

    • Avatar

      Abu Aadilaa Abdur Razzaq

      January 11, 2018 at 1:05 PM

      Believe me no one in so-called non-mentioned “Born Muslims world” calls any Muslims whom they see, as “Revert Muslims” or “Born Muslims”. We are Muslims. PERIOD. Its also impossible to gauge if someone is born or revert, unless the revert person mentioned that he is an revert. And to be frank, we (Born Muslims) whenever see a revert (when we have been informed that he is a revert) take pride (not Proud) of you being the part of Ummah and Insha-Allaah will be in Jannah, if Allaah subhanahu tahla wills. So the assumption that born muslims calls or brands a revert as “Revert Muslims” is no true. Allaahu Aalaam.

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 11, 2018 at 2:34 PM

      Assalamu alaikum Terence.

      I see a difference of opinion on this. Some use the term revert to signify that we returned to the state in which we were created and born, in submission to Allah (Swt). As in reverting to the state we were intended to be in.

      I can understand that others do not view it in the same and it can be harmful to create a divide.

      Thank you for your thoughts on this.

  5. Avatar

    Uncle Samir

    January 11, 2018 at 1:30 PM

    As Salaamu ‘Alaikum: This was a very good piece, one that was much needed. May Allah bless the sister & all who read & sharied etc. My name is Uncle Samir, a “convert” to Sunni Islam nearly 50 years ago & I have been involved in Dawah, youth & interfaith work for more than 40 of them. By Allah’s Grace He has allowed me to have given over 300 shahahdahs & I am the Founder/Director of The New Muslim Institute of The Americas (NMIA). Where many are starting to notice the issues with “converts/reverts” I’ve been dealing with teaching & mentoring them in many different states around the country for decades. One thing I’ve learned in my experience that these types of articles can’t quantify is the number of those who embrace Islam, leave, yet come back again. Indeed it is sad to see even one come to Islam & then go back, just like it is extremely sad to see someone raised in Islam & leave it. However I can tell you from being in the mix for as long as I have in both groups, those that are natured right in their early developement, usually come back to the deen after a few years. However that has a lot to do with how they are educated and natured in their early development.
    This of course is the main issue with “Converts/Reverts” and why they windup leaving Islam, even if it’s only for a short while, because usually no one takes care of them after shahadah. Like one sister told me & I’ve seen all too often, she said ‘before my shahadah they were all so friendly, calling & connecting, but as soon as I took my shahada they disappered like criminals when the police show up’.
    This is why I have established NMIA, I Teach, Mentor, Counsel, & in every way possible help new Muslims (m/f) starting with teaching them how to pray within just 45 mins after shahadah. NMIA is developing a curriculum tha can be used by any community anywhere. Those “raised in Islam” (at no falut of their own) don’t know how to deal with New Muslims. However they must begin to show more concern & effort.
    May Allah make easy for us all.
    If you like to connect with me do so @ NewMuslimTeacher@gmail.com

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 11, 2018 at 2:40 PM

      I did receive your email via my website, I will be in contact inshallah.

  6. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    January 11, 2018 at 2:02 PM

    Dear reverts,
    it is all a test from Allah. If you converted only and truly because you believe in Allah and His messenger a.s., you should remain muslim no matter what. Don’t think that the muslims born in a muslim family are perfect people or angels. They may have less faith than you although outwardly it seems the opposite. Don’t let Shaytan deceive you at all. Be strong, keep reminding yourself the reason you became muslim and go ahead with this. This word is just temporary. It is not worth suffering upon community exclusion or an harsh comment. You haven’t converted to make muslims happy about you. You have converted because you believe in Allah and in the truthfulness of Quran. If that is the reason, be patient and strong. Remember also that most of the muslims in the West have a different culture and this can make you feel a bit of place. But it is only due to difference of cultures, you can’t imagine who common cultures can make relationships a lot easier while different cultures can make relationship much harder, and you personally have nothing to be blame nor the other people. It is just difficult to integrate with people who have a lot of difference in culture, that’s it.
    Salamu alaikum

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 11, 2018 at 2:30 PM

      Assalamu alaikum Brother Ibrahim.
      This stood out to me, “You haven’t converted to make muslims happy about you. You have converted because you believe in Allah and in the truthfulness of Quran.”

      This is why I try to advocate for falling upon our iman, looking to the prophet (saws) and all those who were around him.

      I did not mean to insinuate that born Muslims are responsible for us, we are adults (most of us), but it is to highlight a reason which many reverts struggle.

      Psychologically humans crave acceptance on some level, some of us not as much as others, but it is part of a basic hierarchy of needs that give us stability and a sense of belonging. For some, it is very hard to walk this path alone and they need help.

      A sweet sister locally once told me just as children need help to learn their deen and grow, reverts need a guiding hand. We are not like children, but I understood her sentiment.

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

  7. Avatar

    Suzanne

    January 11, 2018 at 2:29 PM

    Assalamou alaykoum,

    I am a convert of more than 20 years, and I understand this feeling of being a stranger. I just want to say to the new converts that, with the time, this feeling go away, and a stronger feeling of being part of the Ummah will take place.

    Please be patient. Do not look at the way the other Muslims look or speak. Just close your eyes and your ears and listened to your heart. You will feel that you are part of this Ummah. You will feel that all our hearts are connected by the grace of Allah, under the surface.

    I am sure, you felt it when you converted to Islam. This feeling is still there, as long as you love your fellow brothers and sister in the oneness of Allah. This is the key. Learn tawhid. There is no other solution. This is how you will overcome this difficulty.

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 11, 2018 at 2:42 PM

      Assalamu alaikum Sister.

      You are very right, tawhid.

      I see so many struggling, inshallah speaking out about it more can help to shed light and bring us together.

  8. Avatar

    Handsome Jack

    January 11, 2018 at 6:11 PM

    Because they got smart and realized Mohammed is the false prophet

  9. Avatar

    Andrew

    January 11, 2018 at 8:45 PM

    Why would you take Muhammad as the perfect man instead of Jesus?
    Muhammad was not perfect, he was a warlord, thief and married a 6 year old girl whereas Jesus did no such things.
    Muhammad was unable to heal anyone let alone himself when he was poisoned.
    Jesus on the other hand healed the sick and even raised the dead.
    He allowed himself to be crucified so that we could live forever.
    If you love Jesus, listen to everything He says for He is Lord.
    God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in
    Jesus shall not die but live forever.
    May God open your hearts to the truth.

  10. Avatar

    Marahm

    January 11, 2018 at 11:00 PM

    I would suggest that converts who leave Islam based on their sense of alienation were already alienated when they came to Islam. One of the reasons people come to Islam is for a sense of community that they had not found in their previous lifestyle. Religion– any religion– is a matter of people, after all, more than God. Converts who are not already immersed in Islamic community before becoming Muslim suffer a double isolation– from whatever Muslim community they approach, as well as their previous lifestyle from which they may or may not have had satisfactory relationships. The weakness in this process lies in the convert not having found Islamic community, and not having adjusted his/her lifestyle to Islamic requirements BEFORE saying the shahada.

    • Avatar

      monique hassan

      January 12, 2018 at 8:56 AM

      Assalamu alaikum.

      This is often why some reverts try to become “more Arab” or attempting to fit in more. It is completely natural to desire community and acceptance.

  11. Mirza Yawar Baig

    Mirza Yawar Baig

    January 12, 2018 at 12:29 AM

    Very important article. One of the reasons for women reverts to leave Islam is because of ill treatment by their spouses. This is especially tragic because apart from the revert leaving Islam, it gives Islam a very bad name.

    Another major reason for reverts leaving is the blatant racism among Indian subcontinental and Middle Eastern Muslims, who consider themselves and their culture to be superior to anyone else. This racism is of two kinds; color and cultural. Many reverts of African origin especially, have complained to me that we (Indo-Pak-Bangla and Arab) talk about brotherhood but when it comes to embracing another Muslim and accepting him/her into our families, we draw the line based on color and culture and not Islam. I have heard complaints from school heads to say that “our” parents say openly that they don’t want their child to sit next to a black child. I asked them what they would have said if the name of the father of the child was Bilal bin Rabah (RA), whose name they will not take without saying Radhiallahu anhu? No answer but no change in attitude either. Let us not even talk about marrying a black man or woman.

    Bitter as it sounds, this is totally true. There is something seriously wrong with us and the way we have accepted hypocrisy and inculcate it in our children.

    We need to change and drastically and urgently or get prepared to be called before Allah when those who left Islam will stand before Him and point to us when they are asked why they left Islam.

    Jazakallahu khairan for addressing a difficult topic.

    • Avatar

      monique hassan

      January 12, 2018 at 9:02 AM

      Assalamu alaikum Mirza.

      You stated, “blatant racism among Indian subcontinental and Middle Eastern Muslims, who consider themselves and their culture to be superior to anyone else”

      It is saddening to hear of any racism within our ummah, we know that Islam has no tolerance for such attitudes. Your comment reminded me of something involving marriage. We see within the community people prefer to marry only from their country of origin, from their culture, no matter if the brother/sister is a practicing Muslim, kind and a good match personality wise they may say no because his family origins are from a different country or race. What is this? This is not Islamic, deep down we ALL know this.

      Alhamdulillah this is not all of the ummah and I do hope it is the minority.

  12. Avatar

    Abdul

    January 12, 2018 at 3:34 AM

    Salaams,

    Firstly congratulations on an excellent article. May Allah bless you and your family for your efforts.

    But I also wanted to add, shukr alhamdulillah that many south Asian people Bengali or Pakistani have grown up in a Muslim household with plenty of access to Muslim facilities, growing up, as a teenager or young adult, those of us wishing to practice often face obstacles, i.e. from other Muslims. For example, Salah time comes and people don’t really arrange their time around salah. People want you to “chill” in a sheesha bar, but for many reasons, you don’t want to enter such environments. And the list goes on….in the end, it becomes a challenge to find like minded people who you can be yourself around. On the one hand you have some muslims forcing you to adopt their way of thinking and others adopting extreme liberal views and using Islam to justify haram. So really, those of us wishing to practice true Islam often face a massive challenge and only our faith, perseverance and trust in Allah SWT and the love of the Rasool saws will get us through the fitna we face today.

    May Allah reward you for your efforts and grant help to our brothers and sisters who have reverted. Thank you :)

    • Avatar

      monique hassan

      January 12, 2018 at 9:08 AM

      Assalamu alaikum Brother Abdul.

      Thank you for your kind words. May Allah (Swt) reward you for this kindness. amen.

      You raise an excellent point and this is something I have thought about before. Whether a revert or a born Muslim, there exist unique challenges on both sides. For born Muslims, we would like to think all families are practicing and encourage good character and righteousness, but we know that is not the truth. Across all religions and cultures we find people that are born into a faith and claim it by title, but they do not actually practice or have any heart for it. In these situations, I have heard stories of sisters who had to struggle against their own Father to wear hijab because he told her it was extremist. I have read stories of born Muslims that call themselves reverts because they stated they were never truly believers until later in life and they had an “aha moment”.

      I do not think for a second that isolation, struggles with family and negative peer pressure are unique to reverts. We all have our own struggles unique to our situation, Allah (swt) knows what is the appropriate struggle for one compared to another.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  13. Avatar

    Maryam

    January 12, 2018 at 4:24 AM

    Assalaamu Alaikum, a great article. I can understand where you are coming from with this article. My husband is a revert & during our early years of marriage he told me that the loneliness was the single most difficult thing he had to endure. The other challenge he faced was that the majority of born Muslims he encountered were from the indo-pak subcontinent. As well intentioned as they were he would be constantly trying to work out what was from Islam & what was from their culture. The constant confusion of mixing their culture with Islam he found very confusing & off putting. But Alhamdulillah, he was able to overcome these challenges with Allah’s grace & mercy & now he is very firm in his belief and conviction in Islam.

    • Avatar

      monique hassan

      January 12, 2018 at 9:15 AM

      Assalamu alaikum Maryam.

      When I first began studying Islam, before I even took my shahada. I always kept in the back of my head this expression, “judge the deen not the people within the deen”

      We, all Muslims that is, need to be mindful what is culture and what is deen. Often people are very well intentioned, it is from a place of kindness, but they practice or say false things due to their upbringing. For example, I heard a woman say cat hair on the prayer area made it dirty and impure. She believed this. Truth be told, this has no basis in fact and my cat would take offense (hehe)

      We always need to look for the source, look to Quran, look to hadith, look to sunnah.

      “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74

  14. Avatar

    Yusuf Smith

    January 12, 2018 at 5:35 AM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I took the shahada 20 years ago this coming summer and the difficulties are well-known and I’ve experienced some of them. However, there is another reason for why people enter Islam and then leave: a lot of white people are exceedingly arrogant and are unwilling to leave behind opinions that they formed before converting. I’ve come across people on “new Muslims'” forums who scoff or express outrage when you tell them things (particularly to do with men and women, marriage and family law and such like) that are attested to by the Qur’an and (especially) hadeeth but which contradict popular western opinion or offend liberal sentiment. This is made worse by the fact that a lot of da’wah material does not emphasise tawheed but rather matters of justice and a lot of converts (black and white) come to the deen by reading material such as the Autobiography of Malcolm X and are then disillusioned when they discover that Islam itself is not as egalitarian as they had been led to believe. In particular, the fact of being required to obey their husbands is anathema to these women.

    Many of us Muslims talk about how Islam ‘liberated women’ but forget how good the deal of modern society is for women, especially the middle-class white woman. I have even heard Muslim men, both divorced because their wives wanted freedom, talk about how freedom was an ‘illusion’. It’s not; I come from a lower-middle-class white family and trust me, they have the best deal of any group of women at any time in history and in some respects the best deal, full stop. If you want an exemplar of “believers’ prison, disbelievers’ paradise”, look no further. They know which side their bread is buttered on and do not want to give any of it up. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of which converts leave the deen by ethnicity and sex, although it would be difficult as they are unlikely to come forward.

    There is a long history of this with white western converts to Islam. The same happened with the perennialists of the early 20th century who visited Sufi shaikhs (e.g. Ahmad al-Alawi in Algeria) and in some cases took bay’ah, but never relinquished their philosophy which was to posit “traditional spirituality” against “modern materialism” rather than Islam against kufr. There is a very strong tendency to regard white thought as superior to everyone else’s; they regard themselves as more rational and objective than anyone else.

    On top of this, we have people leaving Islam without realising it. There are people (converts and born Muslims) expressing opinions about things to do with sex and sexuality which are kufr, particularly on the status of homosexuality. The need to build alliances has meant that some Muslims have taken on the fashionable beliefs of their non-Muslim allies with enthusiasm and will not hear opinions to the contrary. They pay no regard to what is in the Qur’an and Sunnah about these things and will dismiss the consensus of scholars as the product of conservatism and patriarchy.

    • Avatar

      monique hassan

      January 12, 2018 at 9:36 AM

      Assalamu alaikum Brother Yusuf.

      Mashallah you raise some valid points I do agree with.

      “contradict popular western opinion or offend liberal sentiment” Did you know a feminist group exists that calls themselves FITNA ( Feminist Islamic Troublemakers of North America ) I have watched some of their discussions, they rather dislike some of the writers on MM actually (look up Daniel Haqiqatjou )

      This is an example of what you bring up, this group is focused on the western ideologies/extremely liberal perspectives and a complete disregard for hadith. I have seen them outright saying hadith is not credible and we can’t follow the examples of women that were around the prophet (Saws) because they are antiquated and oppressive. astagfurallah, these are NOT my words or sentiments.

      This is dangerous liberalism, it is damaging to the ummah and ignores many of our teachings. We see so many debates and issues within gender roles and sexuality anymore. Muslims revert and born taking on those beliefs of their new non-Muslim allies; of course liberals are willing to embrace Muslims if they give up what is taught to them from Quran and sunnah.

      This is not to say that we shouldn’t have non-Muslim allies, no we know that we should and that example is in our history. Having peace treaties does not mean adopting their way of life and supporting their sins, yet that is what we see sometimes.

      Really, so many points you bring up that need to be dug into more and discussed with open hearts.

  15. Avatar

    Ivie

    January 12, 2018 at 9:56 AM

    Masha Allah! We need more articles like this. I had 5 of my friends leave Islam due to Muslims mentioning Muslims character( mixing truth with falsehood) to change their character because they want someone to practice as they do and say it is not Islam.

    It is sad.
    There is a lack of connection here…..authentic connection coming from the heart and Justice.
    Willingness to stand up for the truth even if it means against yourself.

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 12, 2018 at 7:30 PM

      Ivie ,
      Such stories are all too common and hurtful . I once went to a dawah event that was so rigid and lacking of heart ….this push on legislation without the spirituality , these “speeches “ and this mentality is an issue .

      We all need that good and pious community , the solid brothers and sisters that make us feel strong enough to keep exploring our faith and studying. I’m speaking for all Muslims in this , not specifying revert or
      Born. Just one .

  16. Avatar

    Just a dude

    January 12, 2018 at 11:36 PM

    I must say this article is kinda misleading. Why not support it with actual numbers? I honestly believe it would be easier to understand how big this problem is. I don’t know why but the general feel I get is that an overwhelming number of Muslims are like this, which would be a travesty and an injustice to those who reach out. We have enough articles out there painting us in a bad light. This article helped tip the scale even lower. May Allah ease the pains of those you have mentioned in the article.

  17. Avatar

    S

    January 13, 2018 at 3:36 AM

    I dont mean to be offensive but many born Muslims too are isolated in Western society
    Many born Muslims also have little to no social support

  18. Avatar

    Monique Hassan

    January 13, 2018 at 10:32 AM

    I see the two recent concerns . Thank you for your input . Please know that I read and think about all feedback .

    I do agree that born Muslims also have concerns related to community and acceptance , I am not downplaying those in any way .

    I am putting the spotlight on reverts to advocate for their voice .It is a voice I share so naturally I take to it .

    You might be surprised the amount of emails, private messages, and social media discussions in groups that I I have seen because of this. Many have told me stories equating to when they try to speak up they feel “shut down “ by others so they stop talking , they stop trying , they isolate . Many feel their voice is not heard. As an advocate , this simply won’t do .

    I do hope inshallah to also write and discuss other areas with room for improvement and positive elements within the Ummah .

    Please if you have topics you feel need to be dug into , let me
    know inshallah .

    Thank you for the input about statistics /numbers . I will remember this for the future inshallah .

    Assalamu alaikum wahramatuulahi wabarakatu.

    Sincerely ,
    Monique Hassan

  19. Avatar

    Usman

    January 13, 2018 at 1:12 PM

    While the author’s viewpoint is controversial, one cannot minimize or diminish it. As I read through these comments, I could not help but add a few words of my own. A grown adult has all the resources available to them, especially in this global and connected age of technology. Coddling and handholding is not the solution to someone who waivers away from belief in One Creator irrespective of some commentators insinuating ethnocentric or racist Muslims are to blame.

    I think about the original movie Karate Kid, and how Daniel-san wanted so bad to learn karate. He would do anything to have that skill. This required him entrusting himself to Mr. Miyagi. And Mr. Miyagi made him sand floors, wash cars, and paint fences. Ultimately, his unwavering faith in Mr. Miyagi’s method earned him the skill he needed to defeat his enemies. If somebody has the sincere intention and fortitude to pursue something, then he/she will achieve or find it.

    People’s love for tribal affiliations and culture has been part of human history from the beginning and will continue to be till the end. A lot of racism stems from fearing the unknown or wanting to shun socioeconomic classes related to a subset of a demographic group. The avoidance of the behavior characteristics associated with the lower socioeconomic group may cause generalization to an entire race thus racism.

    Everything in life is a process and not necessarily an event. This includes the journey of spirituality which is so vastly diverse for each individual. I was born into a semi-practicing Muslim family that emphasized cultural tradition over the pure Islamic lifestyle. Because there is a lot of overlap between culture and religion, I have to acknowledge my family’s cultural traditions inculcated values such as respect for elder, respect for education, respect for authority, modesty in dress, no lewd male/female intermingling, no alcohol or drugs in the home, and traditional gender roles. So, in fact a lot my cultural upbringing was Islamic. However, the Fard foundations of Islam were not emphasized such as the importance of praying 5x per day, reading the Quran regularly, wearing Hijab, and other ritualistic observances.

    I left my conservative upbringing and immersed myself in the hedonistic Western secular lifestyle. A became a free-loving liberal who touted humanistic secularism but felt so anxious with uncertainty. The materialism lifestyle was unfulfilling. Ultimately, this lead to existential angst and despair which prompted me to search for “The Truth.” Part of this eclectic search included me exploring other religions and philosophies. Eventually, I circled back to Islam and delved into its study from authentic sources and traditional scholars. Alhamdullilah, now I am a practicing Muslim. The acceptance of Islam into my heart came because I wanted peace. Peace with my frame of reference, thoughts, feelings, and worldview.

    Iman, Ihsan, and Taqwa need to be implanted in the heart first before rituals or Divine Morality of haram/halal can be enforced in one’s life. Inner reflection and quiet solitude is where I found Allah SWT, and not necessarily in the company of others.

  20. Avatar

    Shibli Zaman

    January 13, 2018 at 6:22 PM

    After around the middle of the article the message was solid. But the beginning is purely anecdotal and isn’t based on any reliable statistics. You linked to Imam Luqman who himself has no sources for his claims. This “Sky is falling” shock therapy isn’t going to work and it is very harmful.

    When people play Chicken Little like this, it has a debilitating effect upon the Muslims. Dear brother, your speciality appears to be psychology. You have to know this type of scare tactic has an effect the exact opposite of what is intended. It makes people despair. The Prophet (‎ﷺ) said:

    (اذا قال الرجل هلك الناس فهو أهلكهم)
    “If a man says ‘the people are ruined!’ know that he is the most ruined of them.”

    Converts to EVERY religion return to their previous faiths. This is not a phenomena unique to Islam. And there are actual studies of Muslims converting to Christianity and how many of them return to Islam or a great many who linger in between she to their emotional (or rational) inability to shed Islam totally. This was a missionary study done with Iranian converts to Christianity (Cate, Patrick, Dwight Singer (1980)).

    So, this is nothing unique to Islam, and it is nothing new. The history of Islam is filled with Muslims, even prominent ones, even dynasties (such as the Shihab dynasty in the Levant), leaving Islam. There was a Sahabi, `Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, who left Islam when he went to Abyssinia. So this is not due to Muslims being weak or Islam being weak in the world. It’s human nature! This is why Umm Salamah said that the most oft-prayed Du`a of the Prophet (‎ﷺ) was:

    ‎(يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك)
    “O turner of the hearts! Make my heart firm upon your Dīn.”

    The heart is a capricious thing and can change at a whim. We pray that Allah save us from it turning away from the Dīn. Amin.

    So, in sum, there is absolutely no basis to say that a majority of converts to Islam are leaving Islam. Absolutely no such studies have been done. The actual studies done by Pew (which you aptly cited) display tremendous growth and projected growth. So not only is the claim that most converts leave Islam baseless but when Muslims say that, Islamophobes share it in glee. Just do a Google search and see. Yes, many people do leave Islam after accepting it, just as many people leave WHATEVER religion they convert to often for the very reasons you so excellently cited from the middle onward in your article.

    Your article is beautifully written and has some extremely sagacious points. However, I really wish you hadn’t prefaced it (and somewhat based it) upon a completely fabricated statistic and claim.

    • Avatar

      Monique Hassan

      January 16, 2018 at 11:46 AM

      Assalamu alaikum. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. First off, I am not a man (you called me brother) No worries, I understand my first name is not common.

      This not a scare tactic, it is advocacy. I am not attempting to frighten or intimidate anyone. I am involved in many revert groups, I invite you to join them and ask about this exact topic or just watch the groups and you will see it come up without prompting, yet it is not shared outside enough. This is happening whether people want to see it or not, I have seen it over and over and over…something can only break your heart so many times before you have to speak out. We know as Muslims we have to speak out, act if we can and have dislike for injustice and wrongdoing.

      “He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith.”
      Link to hadith :https://sunnah.com/muslim/1/84

      As an advocate, it is natural for me to speak up about areas with room for improvement. To not have those conversations means to enable the issue. In crisis intervention it is strongly pushed that ignoring, not speaking or just thinking something will “work itself out” only makes the issue worse. Alhamdulillah this article has caused people to email me and discussions have sprung up about support and resource services.

      I understand wanting actual numbers, the estimates are around 70-75% but it is very hard to get a reliable number on something that many would not admit. That is why these statistics were not included. We can more comfortably say “most”.

      The response I have gotten from other reverts has been overwhelming. Even ones in tears because this is our truth right now, this is the state of so many reverts whether people want to ignore it or not.

      I will quote to you what one of my comments was about this article. This is from a revert and sums all of this up. “This article is not from your heart, it is from OUR hearts”

  21. Avatar

    Miles Kheder

    January 14, 2018 at 6:33 AM

    Converts to Islam from the White background always seem to come and go, they pop up to give their shahadah and as soon as they appear, they disappear into oblivion. So much for the claims that Islam is the fastest growing religion, I have not been able to keep track of any credibility or consistency in the statistics. When I try to pinpoint a number of local converts (from white/Western backgrounds) with the help of social media, there have seems to be nothing more than spontaneous acting and attention-seeking play involved by the newly-converted party. Let me delve into detail based on my experiences with several white converts when a good part of my youth was spent living and growing up with them. Guess what? Fast forward just 2 years, none of them remained in Islam. Except that most reverted back to their old ways, hedonistic lifestyles and fantasy life of party. Some others, however, went to another extreme to the point of making takfir against almost all native Muslims and travelling for the sake of hijrah and jihad, and most of those ones no longer survives. When I started to realise that white converts run out of patience and lack the self-discipline with performing the worshipful prayers (as-salat) and in learning the Arabic language (necessary for salat), they break away and pretend to have never entered Islam in the first place. Fast forward ten years, when I asked sheikhs and so-called Islamic community leaders about this phenomena of “converts who come and go”, “where are those guys?” nothing but apathy is the response. “I see people come and go all the time, I don’t really care any more” is the pathetic answer a prominent Australian sheikh replies (and I am ashamed to call anyone a sheikh nowadays). When I asked the few remaining converts I was able to track down or the ones I used to know intimately, the best answer they would give me was “I’m too busy in my life, I am struggling to keep my job and stay ahead of my bills”. I apologise for my formal language, but it’s the only way I am able to share my sour experiences with new Muslims of white/Western backgrounds that I grew up with without letting my emotions run me down or flood this area with uncouth language. Anyhow, since I’m being somewhat technical, I find that the two main difficulties that new converts deal with I should say, and from the Western background REALLY STRUGGLE WITH, are keeping up the Islamic prayers and the sudden unapologetic separation from the opposite sex. Add on top of these burdens, the prevalent marriage crisis and the lack of interest by the native Muslims to provide any kind of economic assistance or marital connections for these converts (remembering, who are very much used to hedonistic lifestyles), and you wonder why we are seeing practising Muslims burn out and break down all around us. Food for thought for those of you who are in the business of dawah.

  22. Avatar

    Usman Siddiqui

    January 15, 2018 at 8:13 PM

    Honestly I am a born Muslim and I wouldn’t want to friend with non-muslim because they some come from bad culture like drug dealing and such. It is nothing personal.

  23. Avatar

    Aditya

    January 18, 2018 at 8:09 AM

    Masyaallah, what a great article, this is make me realize in my country there are so many islamphobia, and your article make me realize it, thank you very much, may Allah subhanawata’ala bless you

  24. Avatar

    Farid

    January 18, 2018 at 3:34 PM

    Thanks for inviting the attention of muslims to an issue that surrounds Islam and muslims.

    In my opinion, new muslims should continue dealing more factually than they used to, before converting to new faith during the process exploration of true faith. Amongst muslims themselves we have differences, some are more extreme and some more liberal. To have a right islam is not easy anymore. The complication is increasing with the passage of time. Some problems that revert face that of recognition is also a problem for muslins by birth.
    And who been a pray of mass conversation which people probably do for their fame and publicity and concentrate on quantity and not quality of outcome, face most of the time hard to get through. For me, reverts are lucky for they have excuses for thier shortcomings, if thier obligatory deeds are incomplete.
    In this age if anyone feels isolation than it is his/her fault for they don’t want to put in practice potential amount of hard work. Accepting someone to help ,even if he can, when he has already helped, to identify true faith which you should have yourself explored, for there is enough signs from Allah to endup wth truth.
    Expecting from others to get done our works is even against natural parenting. Parents purposly burden their childrens sometimes to qualify to future life lessons.

    In short, don’t blindly believe anyone with what they say for the reason they brand themselves muslims instead keep approaching things, when you are new, factually revisiting authentic sources. When you are independently searching of answers of questions you have after islam, it is in someways making you strong in faith for you bear responsibility now.

    Correct your fundamental pillars primarily ,dont take part in the act of takfeering Or identify in group, this will be dangerous.
    You will find help if you really look outside the circle like its apparent to us here.

    Let allah make muslims stronger in faith to end successfully with the only way that is true.
    Ameen..

  25. Avatar

    Dina

    January 18, 2018 at 5:25 PM

    Assalamu’alaikum dear sister Monique,
    I am truly saddened to hear your story.

    Although I may belong to the “left group” that you mentioned above (I believe that covering hair is not fard), if I were to see a Muslim sister sitting alone during Iftaar I would come and sit with her. No one should feel lonely during Iftaar! It breaks my heart that this happened to you.

    You and some commentators here use the term “pure Islam”, “true Islam”. But what IS pure Islam?

    Since Rasulullah saw passed away, there have been countless Fiqhi opinions of what constitute “the real Islam”. Today we learn about 4 major Mazdhabs, but little did we know that there used to be over a hundred of them (for example, there was a time when at-Tabari, the renowned historian, was also highly regarded for his Tafseer and for many years many Muslims were following a Mazhab called Tabari).

    What is considered haram in Maliki mazdhab might be halal in Shafii, and vice versa. Similarly, some Muslim scholars believe that hair/head is not part of women’s aurah therefore covering hair is not fard (did you know that this Fiqhi opinion is not new, in fact it was also voiced by a renowned classical Muslim scholar who was born only few years after Hijra?)

    The fact is that Islam is, and has always been, very diverse. Remember the hadith about two Sahabahs who interpreted Rasulullah saw’s instruction differently regarding Asr prayer? What did Rasulullah saw do? Did he get angry or tell one of them that he’s kufr? No… he smiled and told both of them, “you are both right”.

    I believe the biggest issue Muslims are facing now, and the biggest we have ever faced, is so much hostility between each other. Remember how many thousands Muslim scholars got killed because of the debate on whether Quran is createdness. Really? Bilal ra and many other Sahabahs probably passed away without debating that, maybe even without ever thinking about it Allahu A’lam… and that was not a cause of concern… why should it be ours? Why can’t we just support each other as brothers/sisters in Tawheed (and for non-Muslims, brothers/sisters in humanity) and stop trying to further fragment our already deeply fragmented Ummah?

    Maybe the reason many Muslims (revert or not) feel alone and isolated is because we are really obsessed to put ourselves into separate boxes. First it’s Sunni vs Shia, then if you are Sunni it might be Muslim Brotherhood vs Salafist, then inside each of these it’s Shaikh A vs. Shaikh B, each claims that their brand of Islam is the “true” Islam and everyone else is wrong.

    In Syria, Yemen, Burma and many parts of the world, millions of Muslims are dying, yet we are mostly preoccupied with endless halal-haram debates on just about everything, each group claiming that only theirs is the “pure” Islam and everyone else is wrong.

    While in reality, we never know.

    You might dislike a Muslim “liberal” who works on evolutionary biology and think that what he’s doing is haram, but maybe he discovered a medical breakthrough through his work that saved millions of lives, which counted as ever-flowing good deeds, Sadaqah Jariyya, for him. Allahu a’lam.

    Why are Muslims so good in isolating ourselves and others? It’s really to the point of obsession.

    If we want to make reverts feel more welcome and accepted, we really should deal with this problem first. We should stop thinking that only our version of Islam is the “true” Islam, and be more charitable towards others.

    Allahu a’lam.

    • Avatar

      Farid

      January 18, 2018 at 8:08 PM

      Dear sister, wearing hijab is a choice for muslim women in islam, if you want you wear if not you don’t. No one can force you to wear that like no one can’t force you to pray its totally left to your choice for in religion we have no forcing.
      Yeah, allah has made not islam one way but different so that muslims feel it easy to follow adapting certain things which becomes possible in certain circumstances, this is why we have mazhabs.
      During prophetic time, for ashabe kiran they had no mazhabs for all of them were mujtahid for this very reason prophet said “ashaabi kannujoom fabi syihim iktadaythu ihtadaythu”
      My sahaba’s are like start whoem you follow you will be in hidaya…..
      The incident of asar prayer, which some of them performed when it was time and some dint for the word of prophet. They ended doing different things from their ijtihaad, which they felt right.

      After ashabe kiran and tabees it was necessary to accumulate the teaching so that coming generation may not feel complication in following the religion for all were scattered.
      Now any one can become mujtahid the reason why scholars say it is impossible because of time gap between us and prophet. Imams of 4 mazhab have undergone serious analysis using hadees and quran to end up with ruling.
      And the differences in the mazhab is not in the fundamental teachings but furooie. Like all agree in namaz, sawm although there is some minute deferences.
      To do and not supposing it would be found in any mazhab is really stupidity.when you do something, you must be clear about it, from were you got, which iman had that opinion so on
      Despite this fact, i respect you as muslim. And without taking the differences in to account we muslims should complete each other and concentrate on progress of muslims worldwide.

  26. Avatar

    Yassar Kheder

    January 19, 2018 at 1:11 AM

    Now this is my experience. Maybe what I am saying is wrong, but nothing more than sweeping generalisations; or maybe I am too bitter, but as far as my observations and my experience applies, I am only expressing what I know. As a keep-to-myself hardcore Salafi, I saw that all the movements of Islam that has risen up and dawned upon the West, were nothing but failures from both social and economic perspectives. Up until now, I contest other Salafis who allege that Dr Yasir Qadhi went “off the track” and defend the para-Salafi scholar from the false anti-Salafi accusations… Because after all, needless to mention, Yasir Qadhi never disowned the principles of Salafiyyah but dissociated himself from the stagnant, defective and somewhat delinquent movements based on them. You know I feel this is a waste of time that Salafis cannot simply call Yasir Qadhi a “Muslim brother” in need of guidance like the rest of us when they are good for nothing except social isolation, angry talk and hot air.

    Sunni vs Shias interactions or anti-interactions drains my sanity because when I try to be as neutral as possible as a go in-between, I find this rift is beyond hope. Shias love to accuse Sunnis of being Wahhabis and in return accuse them of killing their “brothers and sisters” in various parts of the Islamic world and being solely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, not so much dissimilar to the normal propaganda of Egyptian Coptics.

    Sufis directly attack me, then disassociate themselves from me, as soon as I make clear that I won’t give up my Salafiyyah just because they slander “Wahhabis” endlessly but refuse to confront them, even as I am one of them. The Quranites are no different in this case, as they have their own “hadiths” and “interpretation of the Quran” just like the Sufistic preference of weak Hadiths over strong ones. Yes, unfortunately Quranites exist in scattered pockets of the population and they have a well-guarded, stealth-like presence in Australia. I bump into them from time to time because they think I am an easy indoctrination target. I have also found that a good chunk of liberal and/or progressive Muslims who do not perform as-salat are subscribers of the Quran-only doctrine. The deceased Rashad Khalifa is pathetically one of their immortal role-models.

    Jamaat At-Tabligh whose presence are only known from their raiding adherence to the mosques, do not connect with anyone outside of the designated Islamic zones. I consider them to be an extremely cowardly and pretty much a deliberate-by-design anti-social movement.

    The Salafis, Shias, and Sufis do not deal with their non-Muslims colleagues or co-workers with such judgemental attitudes. Why do they not apply the doctrine of “al-walaa waa’l baraa” against non-Muslims (even though some of them explicitly propagate it)? Because they cannot afford to do so.

    Here’s where I end my story in my crossing paths with political groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. If I am not able to answer controversial questions such as “Do you support Palestine and condemn the Jews?” and “Do you support the Khalifah and/or the Shariah?” You can forget being on the menu with any of those political yabbies.

    What does this consequently leave for me to fall back on a group or a body of believers I can comfortably call my “Muslim brothers”? None. Muslims are so semi-brainwashed and bent on either asserting liberality or defending dogmatism, they cannot see another adult Muslim as a “human being with his or her own mind”. I am really worn out by both Muslims and non-Muslims (in particular Christian missionaries) for calling me “brainwashed”, when I am not brainwashed by ANYBODY OR ANYONE, when I was not even raised up as a Muslim to start with, and I never entered any “sect” except that I adopt “Salafiyyah” as a title for myself but every Salafi movement I have tried to “enter” never opened the door for me. How many times have I left my mobile phone number to be enrolled on the auto-message list of the “Masjid Events” but was systematically ignored? You know, I thought we were all descendants of Adam and Eve, but I guess that’s only if some business deal or economic interests are to be sought.

    • Avatar

      Usman

      January 19, 2018 at 8:18 PM

      Bro, wow, reading your post gave me a headache! I sense sincere frustration in your writing, but I think a lot of your anxiety is self-created. Beauty is found in simplicity. Islam is meant to be simple. Sects or movements that feel the need to espouse their beliefs in loud, divisive, or judgmental ways – rationally arouses a suspicion of insincerity in my mind.

      I would caution you about “celebrity sheikhs” or any self-proclaimed individual who earns income from their Islamic discourse or propagation. Yes, I do know who they are, have read some of their writings, and even watched some of their utube khutbahs – however, I keep a boundary of healthy skepticism and don’t any of them as one of them as “the one” I should follow.

      Instead, I keep it simple. I worship One Creator. I know nothing in my life is except from Allah SWT. Full stop period! And I know that Allah SWT in his infinite Wisdom and Mercy sent Messengers and Prophets as guides. I profess that last guide was Prophet Muhammad SAW. Full stop period! And I know that I should try to emulate his manners, lifestyle, and deeds. Full stop period! The political battles and pseudo-intellectual movements have no sway over me.

      For me, it is enough of a struggle just to pray 5x per day. Then, the second challenge is even more difficult which is doing the salat on time. And fasting with pure intention and pure thoughts is even more difficult. The basics of Islam are tough enough bro, so I cannot even fathom getting involved in everything you discuss.

      Bruce Lee said something very wise. He said, “I don’t fear a man who knows 1,000 different types of kicks, but I fear the man who knows 1 kick and has practiced it 1,000 times.” Such is Islam. Bro, practice just that 1 kick….Salam.

      • Avatar

        Yassar Kheder

        January 20, 2018 at 4:12 AM

        I am also Miles (my nickname), and I made a post earlier, I cannot help but wonder if my earlier comment also gave you a headache to read as well. I was talking about my experiences with the movements, sects and groups. You are telling me that I have to focus on Allah and the fundamentals of the deen, independent of the politics or sectarian mentality. Subhan Allah, of course we all have to do that individually, pretty much no matter what happens around us, but that is an altogether different subject. This article is not about focusing on Allah and maintaining the prayers, however, but looking around us and observing what is happening to other Muslims. I am following up on my earlier comment of the article’s theme about the come-and-go phenomena of new Muslims and converts. Let me turn around and ask you, am I really self-creating an anxiety when my understanding that as a part of Islam, I could experience “belonging” and “brotherhood” with other Muslims? Of course you’re going to find, and I am going to find, and the Western converts are all going to find that Islamic fundamentals, in particular the prayers and fasting, are MORE challenging and MORE difficult when you are practising Islam ALONE, and on top of that when you find yourself practising Islam in the midst of being ALIENATED by other Muslims because of their ethnic affinities, sectarian mentalities and judgemental attitudes. Yes, my anxiety is in one sense self-created, but when I am the only blue-eyed, blond and fair-skinned Muslim in the masjid, of course I cannot help but feel anxious and alone. Whenever I hear a story of a new Muslim convert, I am left asking, “Oh really, so where are they now?”

        • Avatar

          Usman

          January 20, 2018 at 8:55 AM

          Assalam Alaikum Yassar (Miles),

          Thank you for your reply to my reply. I went back and read your original post, so was able to put the two together and analyze as a whole. Your original post’s theme is disillusionment with a specific race (white) that come to Islam but eventually leave. And you blame a lot of it on an unwelcome feeling within an ethnocentric community or lack of support (financial or through marriage). I have a few questions for you:

          1. Why are you so obsessed about race? If someone leaves Islam for social and community reasons rather than core beliefs, then I am unsure if handing them a few dollars or my sister’s hand in marriage will solve their Iman issue. And there isn’t some competition for Muslim communities to retain convert/revert/born again Muslims especially through enticing them or satiating their social needs.

          2. Do you think it is rational and reasonable to leave the worship of One Creator because a few of His creation (humans) gave a revert/convert the perception he/she doesn’t belong? Is the criterion for religious belief and conviction based upon social belonging? Put in another way, would you return to a Christian Church and start worshipping a man or a Trinitarian God just because they are all white people there who sing songs together and celebrate Christmas with holiday cheer. I was born and raised in the USA, so understand the nostalgia associated with Christmas quite well, and I was the red-nosed reindeer that wasn’t playing in their games.

          I don’t dismiss your experiences however, I have seen quite the opposite in my community in regards to making all races feel welcome. In fact, the Islamic teacher whose weekly class I chose to attend is a white (fair, light-eyed, etc just like you) who was born in Brooklyn, NY. I chose his classes over the Arab Sheikh’s (who is a PhD and Imam of our Masjid) because I related to him, enjoyed his positive energy, and gained benefit from his teaching method.

          I think the beautiful thing about the U.S.A. is that this nation forces a mixing of races which translates over to places of worship. Yes, I think there was a time when Masjids were being setup as “Arab” mosques, “Paki/Indian” mosques, “Turkish” mosques, “Black” mosques, and etc. But now, if you were to enter any one of these mosques, you will find a mix of people there. Also consider, just because someone was born into a Muslim family, does not at all mean they practice it.

          I am curious as to reverts/converts that left Islam – if they only left in outward practice and rituals or also core beliefs. Did they all of a sudden decide that God does not exist? Or feel that a polytheist belief or worship of man is the Truth? Or rather did they keep some form of Tawheed in their heart? I would conjecture the latter. So the seed is still there inshAllah to grow again one day. In my case, I was born into a cultural Muslim family, and left Islam outwardly, but always believed in One God internally. Eventually, life circumstances and suffering returned me to Islam. I choose to practice the rituals of Islam, because I need it. It quiets my mind and extinguishes my existential angst.

          And remember, and also a reminder for me too as I type this because I am guilty of this – that you reflect back what you put out. If you are putting out an air of feeling isolated or marginalized, then those sentiments will be mirrored back. The last question I have for you is, what is a viable alternative if you were to leave Islam because of social isolation or feeling unwelcome?

          • Avatar

            Yassar Kheder

            January 20, 2018 at 2:32 PM

            My answers:

            1. Why are you so obsessed about race?

            Thank you for asking me this question and I can give you many reasons, unfortunately. First, because the white/Caucasian race should be coming to Islam in droves. I am constantly being told that by numerous Islamic books (“Islam is rising on the West”), by the media and by the mosque announcements. I am constantly being told that every few weeks there is a new Muslim sister of white European or British background who embraced Islam… Yahoo! Allahu Akbar! Only to find that, when I make an inquiry about the convert, quite surprisingly all of a sudden, he has returned to homebase (where he lives outside the city or somewhere else in the country) or she’s wearing niqab and she already found “somebody else” to marry. I cannot but help believing that such evangelistic announcements are nothing short of lies and propaganda to keep the donations pouring.

            (I believe that the mosques here are only minimally interested in dawah. Well, after all, the only one who used to give talks on calling people to Islam was Khalid Yaseen, and that was ages ago. Ack, I can even quote you the names of da’is from North America who were refused invitations by the Ahlus Sunnah Wa’al Jamaah organisations of which there are two groups who lay claim to this title, one is more Salafi while the other is pro-madhaab. Despite this, I find this somewhat surprising, the only da’i that was invited by both of the Australian ASWJ groups to give talks here was Khalid Yaseen.)

            2. Do you think it is rational and reasonable to leave the worship of One Creator because a few of His creation (humans) gave a revert/convert the perception he/she doesn’t belong?

            Has anybody heard of this hadith (from Sahih Muslim Book 1, Number 276): Sa’ad narrated it on the authority of his father that he observed the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) was distributing shares of booty among his Companions. I said: “O Messenger of Allah! Give it to so and so, for verily he is a believer.” Upon this the Apostle of Allah remarked, “Or a Muslim.” I repeated it three times and he turned his back upon me and substituted the word, “Muslim,” and then observed: “I bestow this share to a man out of apprehension lest Allah should throw him prostrate into the Fire whereas in fact the other man is dearer to me than he.”

            You have to understand when the person is a new Muslim, his/her awareness that God has placed upon him/her the burdens of worship is also new. When the average Australian is used to living a life of paradise on earth (after all we have a higher living standard and welfare standard than you guys do in America, except for the upper celebrity class), then all of a sudden, he or she has to give up all of the material and social comforts to seek out the God of Islam… You need to understand how badly the convert feels when Eid comes and everybody around you is visiting their families, but you are ALONE and you start missing Christmas with your Australian family. For example, even I have no body to celebrate Eid with (since my family are not Muslim), and so after Eid prayers when everybody just goes to their respective families, I quietly mind my own business and wait for Christmas to come so I can make up for that.

            However, when converts are told that Christmas is so haraam and evil (i.e. shirk billah), but 95% of the Australian population has always celebrated it without any problems (excepting that we have more car crashes and drink driving violations during this period), what do you think the converts will be thinking one lonely Eid after Eid after the nostalgia of beautiful memories of Christmas “back home”? We don’t have an Islamic social services network to connect the converts together.

            On top of this, I must add but I wish I did not have to, please don’t forget that in the unseen spiritual world, how many devils will be trying to misguide the converts back to their original lifestyles? Not only has some converts have told me about their problem with the jinn and even sihr (which DID NOT exist before entering Islam), even I have had this problem to the point my faith in Islam was strengthened by the ironic fact that jinn really do exist and they really do work hard to keep people away from worshipping Allah alone. It’s not even a sarcastic joke to say this, the devil does not sleep when you wake up!

            3. I am curious as to reverts/converts that left Islam – if they only left in outward practice and rituals or also core beliefs.

            Most of the apostates or the deviated converts have not been honest enough to answer this question formally enough. I have asked this very question from them, especially the ones I lived with but when the devil seizes back control of his subjects, the answer is usually anything but rational or reasonable. Yes, the inherent belief of God is still there. I can tell from their reaction it’s obviously because they are fed up with the pressure of being forced to “fit in” (you know, this is haraam, that is haraam, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, so you have to act like us and imitate us, and “follow the Sahabah” in doing everything or else you’re a “BAD MUSLIM”) and the social apathy of the immigrant Muslims, as well as the judgemental attitudes like I said earlier, and the lack of social development, and zero economic/marital connections (gotta blend these two together now).

            I do wonder myself what trace of Tawheed can be found left in their hearts when there was not enough time for the plant to grow in their hearts and take root? I am still good mates with a hippie brother from the countryside who reverted back to Christianity after leaving the city, then reverted to Islam, then fell into atheism, then emerged back into Islam, and he is not practising Islam up until now but he cringes whenever he is reminded of the Trinity. He cannot give up his beer, or bacon and eggs in the morning, or stop flirting with women (well, you know, I guess we gotta give him an excuse here because the marriage crisis is everywhere now and not an exclusively Muslim problem)… So I am not sure what “Tawheed” is left in his heart even though he literally gives Christian missionaries the middle finger. There’s a saying, anyhow that when you are Aussie, you stay bloody Aussie! But for the rest of us, he is considered to be a “murtad” or just a really “bad Muslim”.

            You know, before Islam, no body ever used to tell us that we were “BAD” guys much less “BAD MUSLIMS”. You know how provocative it is for me to be dictated my Islam by an immigrant who left his pathetic country to come and live comfortably in mine, and then you pick on me for colour in my hair (which I did not dye, I was born with two colours in my hair as a white boy!) or my shorts that does not descend over my knees long enough? This judgemental, hawking and nitpicky attitude of the religious, immigrant Muslims have gotten so bad to the point that I am no longer able to hang out or socialise with them, which in turn increases my racism anxiety for which Islam was come to dissolve in the first place. After constantly putting up with random accusations or “Allah yahdeek” verbal harassments of “not lowering your gaze” or “keeping away from the opposite sex/fitnah”, but when you are living in a city like Sydney, one of the world’s busiest, diverse, most economically active cities, and not in the middle of the DESERT of course fitnah is going to be everywhere (where there is economic activity, there’s going to be fashionable women everywhere) and it’s not practical or healthy for me to keep bending down my head and breaking my neck 24/7! What do you want me to do, carry a sledgehammer and smash every single poster, billboard and bus ad of the opposite sex? Why don’t you go and do that yourselves? What, wait, why pick on me and why not verbally attack the catalogue delivery people for delivering “fitnah-filled” shop catalogues to your mailbox every week? Why pick on me for what is outside of my control? This is a very normal experience of converts and can drive them to go almost mental.

            So why do we need to help converts out by giving them a few dollars and our sisters’ hand in marriage? Of course, you have to, or else Islam will be trodded upon by the immigrants who ruin the reputation of the religion for the rest of us and especially (by making it so difficult and hostile to “fitnah-filled society” that we are used to growing up) for the natives, and the natives who apostate and who gave up on Islam so quickly (after a few months that’s pretty much the max) because there’s only so long you can restrain your nafs before you “bubble up from the inside” in response to the external stimuli of the super-sexualised environment around you. I have always asked immigrants this question, and up until now I find this fact does not make much sense to me… Why when the Prophet (SAWS) had 13 wives, you keep on dictating to us that we have to keep away from the opposite sex until we one day miraculously and magically “get married”, on top of this the immigrants, as a general rule (don’t we all know it?) do not give their daughters to other races especially the native converts with no Muslim family to back them up, promote and represent them? Don’t you think that after maybe five years or ten years, acting like an angel and keeping away from fitnah is out of the question and not even demanded by Islam itself?

            Let’s be logical and rational, which is what I wish we can all come together and be rational (rather than depending on duas and miracles) when we are a minority in the West. When Muslims are in the minority of the population, and there is no (formal or informal) social services network to connect the converts, and over this the immigrants don’t give their daughters to the natives, and over this all of the Muslims and Sheikhs add to the difficulty of finding a spouse by constantly warning us against everything/anything that leads to zina and hellfire (so there goes dating out of the window), so over all of this how do you expect ANY new Muslim to stay in Islam when you have blocked/closed the doors of halaal for him/her when they s/he needs YOUR help to open those doors? Much less, I have to even mention this, in learning how to pray and recite everything in Arabic, and changing from the lifestyle of hedonism to all of a sudden finding yourself worrying about the next prayer time… What happens when I forgot the dua for Tashahhud and I’m in the middle of prayer now? Oh come on, be realistic, and we are wondering why converts come and go.

            Islam was never ever meant to be a burden on the individual and never meant to be practised by aliens, outlaws or sociophobes; when by nature Islam is supposed to increase demographically by the day. Strangers, as the Prophet (SAWS) mentioned, are in the plural. I am sorry I have to go into somewhat gruesome details, but this is the exact struggle each and every convert who experimented with Islam faced, and I have faced, and I keep on facing every day. I trust that my long, headache of a read has answered your questions.

            The “viable alternative” for the apostates is that they simply go back to living like they were as normal Australians, pretending to be unaware of the consequences of life after death. That’s how they all live their lives in the dunia. Although in my case, feeling unwelcomed and isolated has not pushed me away from the truth, or made so bitter and feeling betrayed by other Muslims to the point that I let my emotions run down my reason and ‘aqeel. I just compensate by taking the best from both worlds; so for example, I wait for Christmas to arrive and to enjoy with my family to make up for missing out on Eid. I don’t have a Muslim family, so I don’t have a functional Eid; big deal, I am not a big baby and I can’t do anything about this. So why should I leave Islam like the rest of them and make the problem of Muslim isolation worse? Unlike those that apostate I don’t see why I have to, when I can utilise the best of both worlds (the religion of Islam and Australian culture, that is).

            Anyhow, at the end of the day, we experienced Muslims have to own up and start shouldering responsibilities, because it is upon us to provide them the solution and show them that the solution is in Islam, so it is in each and every one of us to play a role in making Islam a network for the converts what it should be and what they expect it to be: welcoming, supportive, connecting, unifying and accepting. How else can we prove to them that Islam is a better alternative to their luxury lifestyles, hedonism and temporary paradise on earth?

  27. Avatar

    Marie LaConte

    January 23, 2018 at 11:00 AM

    What strikes me as consistent in all these posts is the genuine caring of we who pay attention to this subject. Now, I must ask, “Why?” Why should we care whether a person becomes Muslim, stays Muslim, leaves Islam, goes to Christianity or Buddhism or whatever? Maybe those paths are good and proper for the stage of development that soul has reached. Maybe those changes will facilitate the spiritual growth of the person better than a difficult, anxiety-provoking effort to follow Islam. Why should we try to reel in someone who finds spiritual sustenance elsewhere? The best we should do is welcome newcomers and wish well to those who leave, without rancor or efforts to hold them. And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Usman

      January 24, 2018 at 7:29 AM

      I agree with you 100%. Each of us are on an individual spiritual journey and each of us have vast different experiences that lead us to a final destination. Spiritual enlightenment is a process and not an event as I stated in a prior post. All of us have to come to terms with the “questions” of life and our own mortality, on our own terms, and on unique timelines.

      My only exception is the blame being laid on culturally-strong Muslim communities that may have South Asian or MiddleEastern flavors that the author and commentators are identifying as ethnocentric, thus unwelcoming. And thus drawing the conclusion that this phenomenon is to blame for Muslim converts/reverts leaving. But you are correct in saying their should be no animosity towards those who leave – as free will is a gift from Allah SWT that no one has the right to usurp. And this includes through physical or intellectual bullying.

  28. Avatar

    Melissa

    February 26, 2018 at 10:05 PM

    You put my feelings and experiences into words. Thank you.

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    Sam

    March 29, 2018 at 6:09 AM

    Sister, GREAT ARTICLE and so true, you found the right points and words, heart touching. Thank you for speaking out what others don t what to hear and see.

    And thanks to the other useful comments with additional aspects aswell.

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    Maryam AbdulGhafoor

    February 28, 2019 at 10:18 AM

    The root cause of the isolation felt by converts is that they’ve “put the cart before the horse”. They’ve studied Islam, said the shahadah, and only then begin to look for community. Of course, they will be held at arm’s length. Born Muslims have experienced Islam not only as a religion but as a culture and a well-developed set of habits. It’s hard for them to understand why a Western person would burden him/herself with a religion that would call for a tremendous transformation of identity. Religion is for people, not Allah. Anyone thinking about converting should FIRST go in search of community, spend time there, and if the experience nourishes their faith, then say the shahadah.

    • Avatar

      Abuubaida

      March 2, 2019 at 8:32 AM

      Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaah wa barakaatuh

      Not every Muslim born into Islam is the same and not every revert is the same.

      Those Muslims who are jahil and do not have passion nor the understanding for the deen will think like that but those who are practising and understand the deen do not think like that.

      When a person is not fulling practsing and understanding the bennefits of Islam they may think that Fasting is a burden but as soon as you start practising sincerely for Allah and understaning the deen fasting in Ramadan becomes beautful and you dont want ramadan to end but when your not practising fully and lack understanding of the deen you want it to end quickly.

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    Bob Hannah

    February 28, 2019 at 10:19 PM

    I am not a Muslim, and have not approached Islam looking for community as you have, but through a small part of its practice and content (that is, finance), which I know something about, being a finance professional. Islamic economics is a confusing mix of positive and normative economics. I became interested in the rationale for Islamic finance and the concepts of riba and gharar. It is easy to dismiss these concepts as obsolete – which they are in modern financial markets – but of course not easy to dismiss the systemic financial failures leading to the collapse of 2007-08. But that is an aside to my point here. Reading a little further afield in Islamic economics and finance, I came across two disturbing individuals which are apparently held in high regard in parts of the Muslim world – Syed Qutb, an Egyptian-American, and the ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Abul Maududi, the ideologue of Jamaat Islami in Pakistan. Their thinking is profoundly anti-western, and their legacy is seemingly responsible for the angry and aggressive tone of much Islamic political commentary from the middle east. In Pakistan, Fazlur Rahman, a reformist academic and Islamic scholar, was apparently run out of the country by neo-revivalist Maududi-inspired conservative clergy with followers apparently numbering in the millions on charges of apostasy (you know what that means!) He is regarded as the greatest modernist Islamic scholar of the 20th century and taught for many years at the University of Chicago – a top American school. However he seems to be ignored by most of the conventional literalist “textualist” scholars.

    If I had been initially attracted to Islam as a religion, these attitudes and personalities are not those which would attract me.

  32. Avatar

    Michelle

    February 28, 2019 at 11:49 PM

    I say this because it is a struggle I am currently dealing with now. We need to look to each other for support and acceptance because a born Muslims will never truly understand what it is we’ve gone through and given up after we’ve said our Shehada. Not everything I’m expected to give up prior to reverting was bad, or unpleasant, or probably even haram, but, only another revert knows and understands my jihad. Reverts are sometimes expected to turn away from their own heritage and culture (which is something I’ll NEVER do), or to turn their backs on their families (which is not right, required, or necessary). Reverts need to support each other, worship with each other, pray with each other, laugh and cry with each other, event establish revert-centric masjids, etc., and maybe reverts would have an easier time staying the course.

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    Quratulayn

    March 1, 2019 at 9:34 AM

    Salam sister, JazakAllahu khayr for sharing. Truly heart wrenching article. I also like to add my Two cents.
    I don’t want to take away from what the reverts go through as I’m sure it must be tough for them.
    But I feel the issue is much more deeper than exclusion of new muslims in social circles. This isolation is also felt by Muslims.

    This group/clique mentality of our Muslim communities especially in the west of excluding others is something I myself have witnessed, even though I belong to a desi background.
    I like to share my experience over the years living in the midwestern suburban town for 20 years.
    Over the span of years we spent several eids, Iftars, all alone. With no friends and no neighbors willing to invite us because we didn’t socialize enough when we first moved. Now as my kids grew older I started to socalize but it was too late, the groups were made and they barely budged in making new friends.
    To the point, that my kids felt left out in community events, Ramadan, and even in Eid. We were never invited to any big potlucks, eid open houses, and rest of the socializing that was happening.

    To counter the social isolation, I started throwing dawats (dinner parties) but I never made it in clique, We are almost always left out from the happening dawats everybody else was talking about. we were reciprocated here and there but that’s it.

    This dawat culture in our community is cut throat. It’s a competition on who has the most sought after circle of “friends”, they are like a elite club that won’t just let anyone in. These social circles are usually headed by the women who are most active in the masjid, giving Quran classes, running Sunday schools etc…
    I myself had to sit alone in masjid events several times, with no one to talk to. our community needs to grow up and should break away from a clique mentality and let others join in and make them feel welcome. We are not in highschool anymore!
    This has gone so much out of hand that now we have new Muslims leaving the deen. May Allah swt guide everyone of us to the right path.

  34. Avatar

    AbuUbaida

    March 2, 2019 at 8:06 AM

    Imams and Masjids are usually at least 20 years behind in almost everything to do with dawah..

    Around 1999 I started helping a Brother with his online dawah. Within a short while of doing dawah I realised new Reverts have certain needs. So started helping them and decided to start a seperate site in 2000. Helped them via chats and voip etc. .

    i have almost 20 years of almost daily experiance helping reverts. Alhamdulillah those who reverted with me actually believed in Islam..

    Reverts are different categories. .

    People revert to Islam for various reasons. Those who revert only for marriage mostly will go back to old beliefs after that marriage is ended or the guy starts behaving badly. For a few this can be a point were they will actually make an effort to look into Islam and find its the truth..

    A major problem occurs when some Muslims seem to make everything haram into halal for reverts. This has negative side effects. many times causing problems so much that they leave Islam. Confusing what is an is not Islam and…. (I cant say everything as the other team (enemies of islam) are hoping to know)

    Geting reverts Married off within a week has serious side effects.

    and various others too long to go threw..

    I remember a revert sister who was very good, She had even very good support from a Sisters who themselves were involved in dawah..

    I knew daees in the city she lived in and the sisters gave her excellent help. But certain things happened (nothing to do with the sisters) The Sisters made a huge effort to help her. They did everything right. .

    One day i thought I would check how she was doing and she said she was thinking of leaving Islam. So I asked a few questions and formulated a reply in my mind. Within a few minutes problem was solved. The sister is reasonable and humble and a good response works..

    But when you get someone who is either unreasonable and made their mind up they will not be willing to listen. Maybe what you say to them may one day come up in their mind..

    Then there is the arogant one who thinks they know it all and are unwilling to listen. They are not going to listen , not right away at least. But maybe one day what you say to them they may actually take the time to think about it and come back

    I was told by a sister that one new revert started wearing niqab and some of the middle aged femanist reverts who have running circle for sisters for many years started mocking her whenever she came to prayer room, as they were against her wearing niqab. Saying to the poor unmarried university student, I bet your husband makes you wear that and due to this harrassment. So the poor girl just left everything because of their treatment. .

    These women would even say how there was lack of dawah..

    Then there are a lot of misunderstandings. They may here another muslim say something and misunderstand and then problems.

    Theres a lot to say about this. Some of which the sister has mentioned already but this is enough for today.

  35. Avatar

    Deirdre

    March 3, 2019 at 1:55 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

    Thank you for your article mashaAllah. Many of the experiences you describe are familiar to us as reverts/converts.

    I do agree with a previous comment questioning statistics to back of the claim of many reverts leaving Islam.

    In any case, these claims seem to sit squarely in the middle of all manner of broader sorts of claims about certain groups and even prominent members of our community not representing the true Islam, selling out, making statements of kufr, etc. A whole subsection of these recent concerns are about born-Muslim youth leaving and/or changing Islam when they hit college-age and are exposed to atheism, Marxism, feminism, etc.

    I’m a convert of 25 years alhamdulillah. A constant message of anxiety around new Muslims has persisted throughout that time: Converts are leaving en masse, trying to subvert the deen from within (white liberals), socially appropriating Islam, FBI informants, homegrown crazies, secretly really non-muslims, etc., etc.

    Converts get sucked into conflicts centered on minutiae: Is it revert or convert? Can you change your name or not? Can you wear ethnic garb or learn Arabic while maintaining what others perceive as your true Western nature?

    Let’s not forget the veritable buffet of opinions offered online, in masajid, and by little-known well-wishers along the way. These types of whip-lash-inducing opinions and “controversies” are not reserved for converts, as all inhabitants of “Fitna Book” know very well.

    This to say: There are many levels and varieties of social anxiety narratives circulating at any given time about just about every group of Muslims one can think of, and a glittering buffet of opinions on secondary and tertiary matters in our deen.

    Whatever wisdom I might have gleaned over the years, it is this: When these anxieties and controversies are projected onto new Muslims, they end up taking over their psychic space and misappropriating spiritual and intellectual energies. New Muslims get sucked into misguided pursuits like solving other people’s social and emotional anxieties about converts (people-pleasing or internalizing shame) solving insoluble religious riddles, or wading into issues best left to trained theologians.

    Leaving this anxiety aside, I’d like to say to converts: You got this. Rely on Allah, and He will guide you. Here is some of the things that has worked for me. Bismillah.

    1) Embrace the loneliness. This is the most realistic and empowering stance I have found. Assume that Muslims you meet *do not* have the emotional or spiritual reserves to help you on your path. Other people are often immersed in their own problems and feelings of insecurity and discomfort. Assume that you will perpetually be the “new kid on the block.” Dig deep within yourself and find a way to be okay with the possibility of never feeling at home in any one community. Be grateful for friends you make along the way, and for that transcendent love you *will* develop for your brothers and sisters when you stick with it inshaAllah.

    2) Your number 1 priority is to keep your faith. Get that straight. Make that commitment *to Allah and to yourself.* Basics, basics, basics.

    3) Preserve and cherish your own conversion story. Really reflect on your path, your moments of realization. Get deep into your own convert narrative. *Keep it for yourself.* Go back to that narrative when things get tough. Remember why you became a Muslim.

    4) Get Real. Look around at your real life. Get your day-to-day in order. Do you have a job? How are your finances? Are you living in a good situation? Do you have lingering “bad habits” you need to work on? Is your marriage a mess? How is your relationship with your family? Focus on helping yourself and take ownership and responsibility for things in your realm of influence.

    5) Fall down 6 times, get up 7. I don’t care if you have strayed from Islam or made sins or have doubts or whatever. Get back up, ask Allah for forgiveness and guidance, and keep pushing forward. If you stopped praying, start again now.

    6) Develop a sense of perspective. Being a new Muslim can be awkward as we fumble and adapt to a new set of norms. There can be painful and bitter experiences. But one day, inshaAllah, you will look back and laugh at the funny stuff. The more painful experiences you will learn to accept with grace and wisdom.

    7) That glass is not half-full — it’s overflowing. Know this: Allah is with you. Allah *will* fulfill your needs. As the song goes, you don’t always get what you want, you get what you need. Train yourself to ask Allah directly for help and guidance as much as you can. Look out for the good Allah is sending your way, and you will see it.

    Again: You got this! There are many of us converts/reverts who are silent witnesses to this beautiful journey of Islam. We are doing what we can to pass it onto the next generation, inshaAllah. We are making it work over the long haul, and you can too. Stick with it. I swear it is worth it.

  36. Avatar

    Tasnim

    March 5, 2019 at 4:40 AM

    Salaams to all reading this … I am a white female who reverted many moons ago and can relate to the main article publish. The interest of Islam / reverting hit me around 2002 when i was managing a Muslim owned restaurant, managed by fellow Muslim manager’s (from Morocco) etc. & they guided & explained a lot in detail / with a sense of purpose (you could feel they WANTED to assist . The owner of this restaurant (South African born Indian Muslim) didn’t seem to support my choice despite a few yrs later i had made Nikkah to a SA born Muslim : i was forced to work right through until 11pm every night in Ramadan to allow the male (Muslim) management to go for prayers etc. Eid days i was told to work as well to allow my muslim male colleagues to have this time with their families etc. I never argued as i thought maybe one day they will SEE ME as a sister in Islam … 2010 i left their employment, my husband had been diagnosed with a tumor in the bladder and i was forced to take on a better form of employment (working hrs etc) to sustain us as my husband was not able to keep his employment (worked for a Muslim owned filling / petrol station) as he was in & out of hospital for tests & operations & owner was not happy with the situation of not having a constant manager to manage the business ETC. Hubby took odd jobs tween 2010 – 2014 to try bring in additional income, but it was not helping matters as he was getting weaker from treatments ETC but Alhamdulilah he tried what he could. Hubby passed away early 2015. Just to recap … his Malay (ex wife and their kids) / Indian family were not accommodating in the least & would ridicule me for how i pronounced / expressed myself or phrases (… my niyat was there …), even to the point where husband was to attend family function without me as i felt uncomfortable around them in fear of ridicule etc. After hubby passed away / day of mayat /that same day … they said their condolences … never made contact with me again … I knew nothing of Idaat & this was when i needed them the most. I went back to work that following week, went online and got all i needed to know / do for those 4mths & 10days. BUT Alhamdulilah 4+yrs later i am still on the path of Islam, financially stable (medical bills / rent etc were left to me to sort of cause…)

    Sorry to bare a damper haha but it is what it was … :)

  37. Avatar

    Monique Hassan

    March 28, 2019 at 2:35 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum everyone, I am the author. Firstly, I am so honored and grateful this article is still being shared and commented on long after it was published. Thank you. I have received so many emails from reverts saying things like “this came from my heart” or “you told my story” as well as many asking for advice. Alhamdulilah.

    Please know, I am not all talk without action. My local mosque is developing a revert support committee which I am heading and I have gotten involved with a great organization that seeks to design teaching aides and models of assistance specifically tailored to their unique needs.

    Your support for the new Muslims (and born Muslims who just began to practice) is invaluable. Please keep sharing, keep talking and keep making duaa.

    May Allah (most honored, most revered) guide us to a higher state of iman and enable us to help others, ameen.

    Jazaka Allahu Khairan

  38. Avatar

    Maybe Tomorrow

    April 18, 2019 at 12:04 PM

    Many Muslims convert without a full understanding of what Islam is and isn’t. When reverts realizes how demanding Islam is, in terms of commitment, they have second thoughts. I have seen people convert to Islam after a 20 minute conversation. Also Islam currently has a bad reputation that is largely it’s own fault due to all the terrorism.

  39. Avatar

    Faruk

    May 26, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    “For those reading this that are born Muslims, have you ever thanked your family for raising you as a Muslim? You should. Take a moment to appreciate the blessing in being raised in a Muslim household, being taught how to pray and always knowing about the Final Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).”

    Born Muslims will never understand how much of a favour this is. All i cringe about as a revert falls back to how much i wish i had a Muslim background. Because all of what Islam is demanding feels like a burden to be honest. I never expected that i would stop shaking hands with women, music as haram and other stuff.

    Imagine not knowing the meaning of Bismillah, Salam Alaykuum Alhamdulilah, i just had to learn all of these and other common Islamic terms so that i can communicate and having to learn all these is draining, Sometimes i feel like an impostor even up till now. As a revert i still struggle to convince myself the need and effect of prayer. I have been so conscious to the point of questioning myself after praying, if indeed i have prayed and communicated with Allah or i just mumbled gibberish to myself. I still find myself questioning why we ask Allah for guidance, Even though it’s over a year since my Shahadah i still cannot supplicate properly. Then there’s the pattern of thought of a kafir still existing in my head.

    Believe me, i never expected this much, i don’t understand why we must all leave according to the sunnah, it makes me feel limited. Several times, i have found myself saying If i knew this was what was expected, i would never have reverted. That aside, we still try to forge ahead and nothing is as mortifying as praying and still feeling like an impostor. There’s no sakinah in the heart and all of these stressful situations makes me consider leaving Islam. But i wouldn’t be leaving based on a rational reason, and i wonder how i would be able to cope with myself knowing that Allah exist and Islam is the true religion but i left despite acknowledging this truths. More importantly the reality of Jahanam. But what sense would it make to only hold on to the faith because of a fear of the fire and not from actual understanding of the faith.

    I swear Monique Hassan, you literally just explained majority of my dilemma.

    Speaking with some of my friends, they fear for me going back to my kafir lifestyle, i fear for myself. But already we hear about how much ALlah doesn’t need us. So what’s the point.

    Imagine knowing that the creator of the world is Allah, and that Islam is his gift to mankind, you know he his worthy of worship in your head. But you cannot find it your heart to be sincere and carry out the necessary actions. I wish i can tell myself that i need Allah. I cannot seem to acknowledge my need for him and it irks. Before accepting Islam, i used to think prayer was wishful thinking, now i don’t even know why we constantly must ask for guidance. I wish all of these was stated clearly before i believed.

    Reading through the comments, i seem to agree with Yasser Khedre’s reply to Usman. he really understand’s the horrors of a revert.

    I am not so much bothered about being accepted by others, i just wish i knew how to feel accepted by Allah, praying to me just seems like i am begging for attention, something which i am never used to.

    I think we should also put into consideration that some of us would leave Islam not because it’s unrealistic, but because i’d rather not call myself a Muslim and paint the religion in bad light when i know that the religion is perfect. Practicing could feel like travesty. and instead of that why not just leave and stop faking. Imagine going through salah as it’s as if you’re just going through the motions. As a kafir i was bold in my ignorance, why can’t i become a bold muslim also? but there’s no assurance from ALlah himself, every prayer looks like we are taking chances. Every prayer is always in probability. It can be really tiring.

    And i do think your problem as a revert also depends on how you found the faith. Imagine me having disrespected God for some years, and now learn how to respect what i have been disrespecting.

    Anyways, thank you Monique Hassan, i’d really like to see if there are revert groups that can answer some of the questions that i have. great article, i wish i had more time to talk about most of the issues i’m facing. I believe if i know the reasons for some actions, i wouldn’t find Islam a burden. It just might make my faith stronger. If someone were to ask me why we pray, i honestly cannot give them a concrete answer because i cannot say i am connected to Allah. I feel this is why many people leave Islam and choose Christianity, because in a way Christianity is more straight forward without having to learn Arabic. perhaps if i knew why i had to learn and do somethings i would not see them as a burden. if only i understood the need for some rituals.

  40. Avatar

    Sparkle

    June 12, 2019 at 10:58 AM

    Salam aleykoum Monique and all brothers and sisters,

    I was deeply touched by the article about the feeling of loneliness and rejection felt by new Muslims. I’m a French born Muslim woman and I’ve never imagined a second that reverts would feel that exclusion from the Muslim community. I’ve known several people who became Muslims and I’ve never heard any of them has left islam or felt rejected.I wad raised in a Muslim family and I’ve always been grateful to be born a Muslim but it’s always been very hard to be a Muslim in a society where religion is viewed as a backward mentality. For many French people secularism is more an anti religious and especially an islam ideology than neutrality towards different beliefs. So I’ve grown up not having the opportunty to celebrate eids with my family ( except on weekends). At school or at work we were not allowed to take the day off until recently.
    I’ve always been aware of what new Muslims went through as far as their family relations were concerned. I heard of people who foundthemselves all alone and I also always thought about the sad feelings of having non-muslims relatives and the thought of the hereafter but I never thought that they were accepted in the different Muslim communities.
    I don’t know if things are really different in France but I think our communities here ( from North African countries, Algeria, Morroco Tunisia
    from Turkey , Bosnia, Senegal, Mali and many other countries) are much less ethnocentric because there a lot of marriages with non Muslims too.
    As far as I’m concerned I make no difference between born or revert Muslims. I’ve spent many ramadans and eids alone as a university student or even now as a high school teacher and I never felt lonely. I’ve always felt a very strong bond to the world Muslim community

    though. For me the most important thing is believing in Allah and his last prophet Mohamed (saws), fasting, praying, not commiting sins like associating someone to God( shirk), drinking alcohol, eating non halal food or worse commiting zina.
    I feel so sorry that some Muslims may feel lonely because they don’t have the chance to enjoy an iftar or a Eid celebration with other Muslims .But I don’t believe that the majority of born Muslims would be indiffrent if they knew about the hardships revert Muslims are going through. It’s not normal that some revert Muslims feel the need to gather with other reverts just to be in a community and not feel abandoned . It is very important for us to learn to know each other and to learn from each other. There are all sorts of Muslims among us and nobody should feel a stranger in his community ( our ummah ). To conclude I think reverts should discuss this matter in mosques instead of suffering all alone.

  41. Avatar

    Sparkle

    June 12, 2019 at 11:17 AM

    Sorry I made mistakes , I forgot words in my previous comment :
    Line 7: I wanted to say ” an especially an ANTI-islam ideology
    Line 12: I never thought that they were NOT accepted.

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#Society

The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions

The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

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Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.

There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.

If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.

Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.

Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.

Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.

The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.

These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.

For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.

What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?

What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.

What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?

What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?

What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?

Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?

What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?

What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?

Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?

Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.

For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.

These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.

These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.

The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.

Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.

Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?

I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.

How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?

It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)

People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them).Click To Tweet

We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.

Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.

We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.

And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.

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#Life

I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator
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It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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#Society

Are You Accidentally Supporting Corrupt Nonprofit Organizations and Charities?

Muslim Nonprofit fiefdoms
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Former Pennsylvania State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell has a compelling story.  Even the State Attorney General, who recently charged her with several crimes, alluded to the pain she experienced in her life.  It was a remarkable story of perseverance after being affected by gun violence, triumph and helping others. Yet, there she is, facing time in prison for using a charity called “MECA” for assorted alleged acts of theft, fraud, and other crimes of dishonesty.

According to the Attorney General, Johnson-Harrell has accepted responsibility for her crimes and is pleading guilty.  She has also resigned from her public office.  Johnson-Harrell has stated she may dispute some charges. She like any other defendant is innocent until the state proves her guilty.

What is also undeniable is that many of the kinds of things the Attorney General accused Johnson-Harrell of are common with nonprofits, both Muslim and non-Muslim.  Indeed, the President of the United States has also done egregious things with his “charity” in New York, undetected by law enforcement despite his public profile, until news media started asking questions. The President faces no criminal charges. 

My purpose here goes beyond Johnson-Harrell’s legal troubles. Instead, it is to help nonprofits and their leaders stay out of trouble and to give donors an essential tool in being a thoughtful donor. We often donate because of “social proof.” Someone invites you to donate online; a friend invites us to a fundraiser, we hear a good speech or testimonial, and we give.

 We often don’t particularly care about accountability. We should. Let’s dig deeper to understand how charities work so that we can be better donors with the limited funds we have to give with excellence. 

The Role of Government Oversight in Charities 

What state a nonprofit is in makes a difference.  The state attorney general typically has regulatory authority over the nonprofit sector.  Charities have tax benefits because of the social good they theoretically provide. But what happens if the charity is not keeping faith with its beneficial role?  If a CEO of an environmental charity pilfers funds for personal use, you cannot reasonably expect a family of ducks to sue. The Attorney General is there for the ducks, the trees, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, the beaches, the works of art, the future poor patients who are not yet poor or sick, and everything else charity should benefit.  At least that’s the idea 

Abuse by nonprofits is a violation of the public trust.  It is public corruption against society and not merely cheating a donor. 

Because of this role, from time to time, you see lawsuits and even criminal prosecutions by state attorneys general for corruption by nonprofit leaders. A high-profile state representative like Johnson-Harrell is an obvious target since prosecuting her lets the rest of us citizens know law enforcement is paying attention. But these lawsuits and occasional criminal prosecutions are rare compared to how rampant nonprofit corruption is. Attorneys General typically don’t put adequate resources into regulating the more than trillion-dollar nonprofit sector. 

Religious Charities Can Usually Get Away With More

In some states, for example, California, religious corporations are exempt by statute from oversight for things like breaches of fiduciary duty. The lack of accountability is remarkable since religious charities can be extremely corrupt, something known to Americans for much of its history.  Exposing religious charity corruption has long been fodder for documentaries and movies. Certain Christian preachers on TV are known to abuse nonprofit status to flaunt extreme wealth with no negative consequences.

People who run religious nonprofits, including Executive Directors and board members, can still be criminally prosecuted, but you usually would not expect it. Various taxing authorities also have authority over charities. The IRS is the primary regulator for charities nationally. For the most part, though, the IRS has been leaving nonprofits, even obviously bad ones, alone. Religious nonprofits, like those classified as “churches,” don’t need to file Form 990s, annual disclosures required for other nonprofits. Therefore much of what these groups activities are opaque to both the government and the public. 

With some notable exceptions, governments and law enforcement at all levels mostly ignore nonprofit corruption. The times they do is typically the exception that proves the rule. 

For the most part, then, sorting out the good nonprofits from the bad ones is left to donors. We all contend with hard-sell data-driven marketing tactics from social psychology.  We don’t usually don’t know how to distinguish between good organizations and bad. 

Look Beyond The Pitch

Stories of nonprofits and their leaders can be compelling. But narratives can also be used to manipulate, distract, and hide. The raw charisma of a speaker quoting Quran and Hadith can be waived up to donors to make them think they are doing good work in the path of Allah when they may sometimes be enabling criminality. Charisma and the power of stories can get us to contribute to causes better than just about anything. 

There are various red flags to look out for, but I will focus on perhaps the most obvious one, an executive of a charity acting as a member of the board. 

No Real Board Accountability

Johnson-Harrell was on her own nonprofit board while also serving as an executive.  This practice was also present at scandal-plagued Ta’leef Collective. State law does not typically forbid a CEO or other employee (like an imam) from being a board member, despite it being a glaring conflict of interest. It has never been nonprofit best practices to have employees oversee themselves since it is a horrible idea on its face.  The only possible real justification for this is when a nonprofit is new, small, all volunteer-run, and there are not enough volunteers or funds available to make accountability a priority.  While there is potential for abuse here, we tend to ignore it out of practicality. 

Now larger nonprofits can have employees, as well as others, with personal, family or business interests with the charity (like a vendor) on the board might point to a “conflict of interest policy.”  Of course every nonprofit should have one in case unexpected conflicts come up.  They are not, however, solutions to self-created problems the organization never needed to have.

Accountability is Hard 

It still begs the question:  Why engage in the reckless practice of having an executive overseeing himself or herself?  Are there no sufficiently qualified people in the Muslim community capable of helping with the board of an organization?  Unlikely. 

What we do know is the main reason Muslim leaders (non-Muslims as well) chose to police themselves is that real accountability is hard, maybe even a little messy. 

You may have heard this story before: An Imam and a Masjid Board have a conflict, resulting in the Imam leaving.  The Imam does not go quietly, though, since he is angry with the board. He tells his supporters (of which he has many in the local community) that boards are incompetent, imbecilic, don’t understand the “youth” or whatnot.  The best way to run a Masjid, you see, is for the Imam to call all the shots. He will usually adorably say all this with the earnestness of someone who feels he is the first person who ever had this insight. Plenty of Muslims believe him and are hurt by whatever petty drama took place at the Masjid last week. They will join his new storefront Masjid, sometimes across the street from the Imam’s former Masjid. 

These are often pop-up institutions born out of vainglorious temper tantrums, built on the foundation of one man and some upset donors who soon move on to chase the next shiny thing, or simply rejoin their old Masjid. Such places typically do not last over the long haul. If you have been around a Muslim community for a few decades, you have seen several come and go.

Badly Governed Respected Institutions 

More of a long-term threat for the Muslim community is when real institutions with staying power with endowments, employees, and buildings go the route of slipshod accountability-free governance where an executive gets to oversee himself.  Eventually, when you set up institutions with plain-as-day opportunities for corruption and abuse, everything can collapse. It happened in a spectacular style for Christian institutions with no real accountability for the people running it (many are still like that).  Many Muslim institutions we all respect that do good work have nonprofit governance so poor they almost seem custom-built for corruption. 

The beautiful Crystal Cathedral outside Los Angeles once boasted a massive endowment, a global TV viewership for its “hour of power” and donor memorials that would last forever.   It fell into bankruptcy because of the same kind of nonprofit governance increasingly common in the Muslim community. Inadequate or non-existent board oversight is a form of structural corruption, even if no abusive practices are currently taking place.  It should be enough of a red flag that someone can abuse authority with no real accountability. Unless we start demanding accountability from Muslim leaders, those we trust our donations to, we should reasonably expect more criminal charges as we saw with MECA, scandals like Ta’leef, and spectacular failures like the Crystal Cathedral. 

Other Board Members May Not Be Much Help

One response by self-interested board members may be to point to the existence of “independent” board members to keep insiders (like the CEO or equivalent) in check.  You should never assume this creates accountability. We cannot stereotype nonprofit boards, of course, and many operate in different ways. I have seen Muslim institutions were board members: 

  •  Have no visibility into the organization’s operations, budget, or much of anything else important. Though they do have meetings and manage to argue about things. 
  •  Never attended board meetings despite being members for many years and did not know if the charity has been having meetings all these years.
  •  Were never informed they were members of the board, despite their names being on public information filings with the state.
  • Helped start the organization as Ph.D. students and got a lifetime membership on the board, but that was decades ago when they lived in the United States.

Those who dislike accountability prefer “straw” board members who are either not present or can be “handled” by management.   A well-known example of this is Theranos, a Silicon Valley “unicorn” startup with a fake blood-testing product. Many supposedly sophisticated investors were reassured when the company stacked its board with famous octogenarians and nonagenarians. None of them knew and did not bother to ask if the entire operation they were overseeing was a fraud

These kinds of board shenanigans generally take place where there is a CEO who is also a board member and would prefer to run things without dealing with pesky difficult questions.  Board members are there for the appearance of accountability but are often little more than seat-warmers. 

It’s Not About a Leader’s “Integrity”

Some Muslim leaders will take a call for accountability as a personal insult to their integrity.  This sentiment is misguided. Instead, it is about building systems that make our institutions sustainable. I don’t know Johnson-Harrell.  However, no Muslim can honestly claim to be better than her, either in intent or commitment to the community.  Yet, without a system of accountability, the fallibility of decent men and women magnifies.

 You need to have a Shura (mutual consultation) in leadership, that is how the Quran advises us to handle our affairs.  A nonexistent or fundamentally insincere “Shura” designed to not hold anyone accountable is asking for trouble.

Muslim nonprofit leaders can find their freedom to spend charitable dollars without meaningful accountability intoxicating. Leaders who you would never think can make severe errors in judgment start to make them.  It only gets worse from there. 

Work in an Islamic charitable institution is bigger than one man or woman.  If you create a charity with no meaningful checks and balances, your work won’t be sustainable. 

Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the first Khalifah, could not determine his salary as the leader of Muslims.  He was always accountable, and as I pointed out in a previous article, he preferred it that way. Muslim leaders should welcome accountability and not think of it as a personal slight when asked about the issue from within the community.

What Board Members Should Do 

If someone entrusted you with oversight of a charity, there are helpful educational resources that can help you be excellent. Use them.  Remove board members with conflicts of interest, especially employees and vendors. 

You need to prepare for and be present at meetings.  Hold the organization and each other as board members accountable.  Don’t be on the board to win anyone’s favor, least of all the CEO or Imam. You have an Amanah (a trust), to make sure the charity is operating with excellence in everything it is doing.   Ask difficult questions that donors will rarely know to ask. Read all financial statements and reports, that is where the mischief happens.  Make sure no executive can “handle” you into submission.  If you cannot do these things, don’t be on the board. 

The common denominator in virtually all nonprofit corruption cases is executive domination. Don’t be used.

What Donors Should Do

Encourage charities you like that have weak governance to change their practices. Uncritical support can enable structural problems, which can be destructive to the organization over the long term. Sometimes, the best contribution you can make to an organization is to encourage them to reform their governance. You can do this as a small donor. Don’t expect major donors to request such changes. 

You may not know much about the organization’s finances or how good or bad the organization’s operations are. However, you do know an employee or vendor is on the board of a charity is a signal the organization is uninterested in holding its leaders accountable. There are plenty of good charities worth supporting. If the charity remains stubborn about not allowing accountability, move on to the next one. 

 

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