New Muslims and Family Problems

By Selma Cook

With all the scaremongering and misinformation about Islam that is flooding the media these days, when someone chooses to embrace Islam it often comes as a great shock to their family.
The family members might think the new Muslim has ‘changed’; is no longer the same person they used to know and love.Images form in the mind, urging them to take drastic measures to make the new Muslim leave off this new and strange way of life and return to their old ways; something familiar and easily understood.

Why Islam?But the new Muslim is heeding an ancient call that transcends the concerns of the day. The call is from a mortal man, thirteen centuries ago, who declared that the Creator of the universe had bidden him to carry His Message so that humans might live in harmony with the plan of their creation.The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, was ordered to remind mankind of the existence and omnipotence of Allah and to lay before humankind a blueprint of conduct. It was a simple call: ‘if you accept this reminder and this code of life, then follow me’! That is exactly what the new Muslim has responded to; the call of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.The way of life propounded by the Prophet is simplicity itself, which can only emerge from true grandeur. Through heeding this message, the new Muslim is equipped with the means to decipher good from evil and as he steps further and further into the Islamic way of life and strives for spiritual stature, he is supported, encouraged and protected.Islam reinforces human interdependence so every relationship in the person’s life has a guideline and a trust. The fundamental human relationship consistently emphasized in the Quran is that of parents and maintaining family ties. The order to treat parents with love and respect is not limited by religion, race or color.Spread Goodness

Islam places great emphasis on behaving kindly with parents and keeping family ties. In fact, Allah puts parents’ rights directly after His right to be worshipped. Allah says:{And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents…}(17: 23)Allah also says:{Worship Allah and none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor…} (4:36)Also Allah has clarified that parents deserve good treatment even if they order their children to disobey the Lord; the children must disobey them but still be good to them:{And We have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents, but if they strive to make you join with Me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not…} (29:81)These points are important to note in the context of how converts should deal with their non-Muslim families. Being dutiful entails the meaning of being kind, asking about one’s parents, calling them, giving them gifts, and being patient with them.The Prophet, peace be upon him, gave many examples of how to treat non-Muslims generally. Some of the Prophet’s neighbours were non-Muslims and he gave them gifts and was generous with them. He visited them when they were ill and asked about them. He gave regular charity to a particular Jewish family and after his death (peace and blessings be upon him) the Muslims continued to give this charity.Also, when a Christian delegation from Ethiopia came to Al-Madinah, the mosque was opened to them and the Prophet was a generous host and served them himself. If such is the case with the general population of non-Muslims what would be the case with family members?Motivated by their love for their families, new Muslims sometimes try to hasten the process of bringing their families to Islam. However, it is necessary that non-Muslims are given the freedom required for their faith. Almighty Allah command:{Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error…}(2: 256){Say, ‘The truth is from your Lord’: Let him who will, believe; and let him who will, reject it.} (18:29)One Greek-Australian convert faced huge pressure from her parents to abandon her new religion. When she first embraced Islam, her parents refused to speak to her, but after her gentle persistence her mother invited her over to visit. However, she had not given up her intention to make the transition of her daughter as difficult as possible; she took a pair of scissors and cut all her daughter’s hijabs into pieces! Being left with nothing to cover herself with, this brave, and creative, new Muslim promptly took a pillow case from the linen cupboard, tied it as gracefully as she could around her head, and went home.Her mother finally realized that her daughter was not going to give up Islam and as she calmed down and looked at the situation objectively she noticed that her daughter had indeed become more respectful, more responsible; a better daughter and a better person. Now after many years, the once new Muslim is firmly grounded in her faith and her mother and family are cheerful supporters and advocates.Smile and Be Kind
Marcela Mesto was born and raised in El Salvador as a Catholic. She and her family were very religious and very close. In fact, the early years of her life were ones of joy and safety and she enjoyed a spirit of family and community. After migrating to Australia when she was twelve years old, Marcela and her family started searching for a suitable church to attend. They finally joined the Mormon Church and Marcela became an active member. Then at the age of nineteen she met the man who would be her husband; he was a non-practicing Muslim. They married while she was still a Christian and in the early days of her marriage she was adamant that she would never ever embrace Islam.Then after twelve years of marriage Marcela had a dream that was to change her life. In her dream she was in a car that was falling and she felt out of control and very afraid. Then she heard the sound of the Adhan (call to prayer). This beautiful and powerful call gave her such an overwhelming feeling of tranquillity and stillness that she awoke crying.With her heart touched and softened, she began searching for information about Islam. Her husband also became aware of the significance of Islam and started to practice even though she used to think Islam was an Arab tradition. Her growing awareness was becoming so acute and so sensitive to the truth that she was able to make sense of what she had believed as a Christian, what she had been told about Islam and the shining truth emanating from the Quran that made all else pale in significance.Her mother’s reaction to her conversion was severe: “Why? How could you betray Jesus?” Marcela’s calm answer was: “I haven’t betrayed him. I love him as a prophet of God.” Gently, patiently – ignoring the comments, insults and laments – she continued to explain Islam to her mother and family. Marcela recalls: “I had to be patient because she was also misguided – like I used to be.”Finally, her mother said: “OK. It’s OK as long as you don’t wear that thing on your head!” However, despite her mother’s insistence, two weeks after making Shahadah, Marcela wore hijab.She and her brother had always been very close but when Marcela embraced Islam he stopped talking to her and only talks to her now to offer insults. But her patience is paying off in other ways; her mother admits: “Marcela is an even better daughter now!” So while her brother blames her for tearing the family apart, Marcela’s mother is finding a deeper closeness with her elder daughter.Marcela said: “When I pray at my parents' home I call them to pray with me. Sometimes my mum will pray with us and I tell her to remember we are praying to the same God and you’ll get more blessings. My mum and sister often pray with us now.”Marcela has learned to make a clear stance with her family: “I still love them, and if they respect me I will support them, but if they disrespect me then I’ll have to back off.” Marcela left it to them to decide how they will respond to her changes. Her stance seems to be working well because her younger sister embraced Islam a few weeks ago!Marcela offers some advice to new Muslims who are struggling with family problems: “Show good character to your family. That’s number one!Don’t swear, insult or get angry. Smile and be kind no matter what. Don’t make becoming a good Muslim make you an arrogant human being.”