Reverting Reverts

It’s a stereotype which everyone holds, at least in Sri Lanka. If you revert to Islam, they say, you will revert back out of Islam. In some way I feel they say it so much that it becomes true, and as much as I would like to say “No, it does not happen”, it does. I have seen it numerous times. But why and how does it happen is the question people should be asking, but they never do.

Converting to any religion in Sri Lanka is controversial. The roots of it lies with respecting your ancestors and carrying on some made up family legacy. Personal choices in most cases do not exist. An example is how difficult it is to get married these days, it literally becomes a battle of who you want and who your family wants. With all that pressure when someone decides to change their religion and then try to make a life for themselves, there should be immense support from the by standers.

Usually when you convert your family outcasts you, so you end up alone. You find a spouse and think maybe I can finally be happy. Days go by, and issues crop up, differences in culture, habits, opinions on religion. Some cases it maybe abuse, you may feel trapped in a marriage because you have no one else. You go on, until the last drop of strength disappears. You talk to those who are most comforting to you, your family. They say you made a mistake, but it’s alright, come back now. So you do. Some where along the line you find Shaithan poisoning your mind. He tells you to hate the religion that belongs to your spouse. He tells you it’s not just their fault, it’s the religions fault. Then you find your self a reverted revert.

This scenario is what I have seen time and time again when it comes to reverts. I can’t say it’s anyone’s fault because it probably is everyone’s fault. Everyone involved made one or more mistakes along the way. But I will say that as a Muslim of 9 years, I have been disappointed at how judgemental and unhelpful the Ummah in Sri Lanka is. I’ve seen mistreatment of reverts far too much to ever feel welcomed in social situations. Not everyone is bad, there are people who will support you to the end, but the majority look at you with eyes of wonder as to when you will cease to be a revert. It’s like they are waiting for a coconut to drop, so sure it will but wondering when.

Whatever the case maybe, whether it was a reversion out of faith, or marriage. We should not judge. Allah has guided them and made that situation, it is His plan. They may remain in Islam, they may not. Allah sees all and knows all. How can we pass judgement on something He has planned? Maybe the one who converts for marriage will find Iman and Thaqwa far more than the one who converts with faith. We do not know, we can not know. I think as a Muslim our duty is to accept anyone who is interested in Islam with open arms. The rest is with Allah.

I can’t say people will never move out of Islam. There is a basket of various reasons which could lead to their decision. However I think we as Muslims should not be one reasons. Reverts are lonely, I know that from experience. If they only see Muslims treating them harshly they automatically let their image of Islam be tainted with that behaviour. Again, I know this out of experience. It takes a long time to understand Muslims practice Islam, but Islam is not represented by Muslims, the only representation of Islam should be Allah and his Prophets (Peace be upon them all).

No one chooses to convert for the fun of it, there is a thought process involved. We should respect that and try to support them with whatever they need. In most cases I think reverts just need someone to talk to, someone to say don’t worry, Allah is with you and I am also with you. All I ask of everyone who reads this is to be that someone. You would be surprised at how powerful and valuable a few lines in comment or a few minutes of words are to a revert. So let us help the reverts, remain reverts.

Peace.

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I Will Not Make Him Choose

I’ve always told myself I would never make my Husband choose between me and his family. Simply because that’s what they did, and it’s obvious what they did was unfair. I don’t want to be that, I don’t want to make him go through something like that again, especially knowing how hard it was on him the first time.

I keep trying to revert back to how I was three years ago when life was so good, I felt so spiritually connected and I could call myself a Muslim with out a shred of doubt. I think what I hate the most is how much all this has changed me. I am no longer nice, even when I try to be. I don’t like it but it’s like every time I try to get back to how I was and I get a glimpse of life before, I spend 3 hours with them and I lose it all.

I feel so stripped of my identity. I just go in to a house, sit like a doll with a smile. I watch for body language and sudden movements to know if I am suppose to stand, sit, eat, drink. I don’t talk. I am barely acknowledged. I feel invisible, like I am nothing. I don’t really do anything but watch my child move about but when I get home I feel so exhausted! I literally jump right in the shower because I am always so angry and then so sad and hurt, I don’t even know how to make sense of it all. In the end I end up slightly resenting my Husband for making me visit them.

It’s not his fault, he can’t control any of it no matter how much he wishes he could, but as much as my mind knows that, my heart just fails to comprehend. Since I can’t really speak to any of them I end up telling my Husband all my grievances, and naturally he gets defensive since after all he can’t do anything about it.

I want to be a supportive wife and do the right thing but it’s been one and a half years and honestly about 90% of my head is saying “there is no point to this!”. Each time I mentally prepare myself but there is always nothing for me to be happy about. I wish after all this time I could be happy that they at least responded to my Salam, but they do that to a Muslim shop keeper! Am I really not above a random shop keeper? Apparently not…

So yeah…

I will not make him choose. I will grit my teeth and keep trying, until I have to choose myself over them. I hope Allah gives me enough strength to not have make that choice, and if I do then I pray he lets my Husband understand my feelings.

Peace!

Loving a Revert…

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Loving a Revert means never doubting,

Never shouting,

Never ignoring,

And never nagging.

Loving a revert means always loving,

always being patient,

always compromising,

and always forgiving.

Loving a revert means to live with a child,

innocent and new to the world,

curious and puzzled,

wanting to see and touch all.

Loving a revert means to see the world differently,

recoloured,

refocussed,

re-evaluated,

and refreshed.

Loving a revert is difficult,

a challenge,

a struggle,

and to most a problem.

But,

Loving a revert means knowing you love Allah,

His words,

His decree,

and His Prophet (SAW).

Thank you to all those beautiful souls who love reverts. It’s not easy living with us, but we appreciate your efforts. May Allah bless you all abundantly and grant you a beautiful Akhira, Ameen!

To my Husband who goes through the struggle that is me each and every day, Jazakhallah Kahiran for being you.

Peace!

The Secret Nikkah

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While it’s true my Husband and I were friends before marriage and he did have an effect on my decision to convert, he is not the reason I am a Muslim or why I love Islam. He thought me the Shahadah when I wouldn’t stop pestering him about converting, and while he was the one who witnessed me coming to Islam, he had nothing to do with why I stayed in Islam. In fact he was the one who warned me against taking such a big life decision while being so young. He would always ask me if I was absolutely sure about what I was doing. So Islam to me was all about Allah and how with each passing day I found out how much He (swt) loved me and how all my life He had tried to guide me to this path. I still don’t really know why exactly my Husband decided to marry me, it could be that he loved me that much or it could be that he wanted to fulfil his Islamic duty as a Muslim to help a revert. He’s not a very “let’s talk about our feelings” type of guy so I might never really know. I wouldn’t mind making this in to a romantic love story but I don’t think it is. While we both love each other, all the decisions we made were carefully filtered by our understanding of Islam and we always made it a point to consult Allah.

When my Husband initially told his family he would like to marry a revert he was told it was not a good idea and that since he was young he should think about his decision more. Because we both did not want to continue to have a relationship which would be haram in the eyes of Allah we decided to do our Nikkah by ourselves. It wasn’t out of arrogance or with a motive to show up our parents, it was merely to not disobey Allah. We went to a mosque and asked to be married, the Imam made sure of our decision and we told him that this was for Allah and our souls. We planned to later on do a proper Nikkah, hopefully with our parents consent. So you might say this was a secret Nikkah.

Once done we lived apart but we did not feel guilty about talking to each other or going out with each other. In retrospect I would say this action of ours hurt both our parents and I don’t recommend it to anyone, but at the time it felt right to us, and if I think about it now it was like we were guided to do it. I say that because  it was the secret nikkah that saved us both. I think having Allah by our side was the only thing that helped us survive the chaos that followed my husbands decision to leave home. We both now feel that if we had not tried our utmost to be true to Allah back then, Allah would not have helped us the way He has.

However, if you are in a similar situation I urge you to really think about it because a Nikkah is something serious, a lot more serious than a legal marriage which can be annulled within a day. This is a binding exchange of vows with Allah as a witness, and breaking a Nikkah means a divorce which comes with it’s own set of rules. It’s also important to note that a divorce is the only halal thing that Allah does not like. Consider the consequences and make sure to pray Isthikara and obtain Allah’s guidance. If it is meant to be, it will be, because what Allah has written for us can not be changed.

This Nikkah was the beginning of everything. Once our studies were finished my Husband once more expressed his intentions to marry a revert, he was shot down again. He still doesn’t understand why his family wasn’t happy with his decision, he even asked his parents to meet me before reaching a decision but they didn’t even want to give me a chance. It’s sad that they had the idea that “Reverts are evil”, but I suppose in Allah’s plan if it was any other way, things would not have turned out this way and we all would not have learnt the lessons we have now learnt.

Funnily enough our second nikkah was also a small secret affair. Only a few close friends and my parents were present, and the planning was super top secret. This was mainly because of the threats against my husband at the time. It was simple and quick, and as always Allah was the most important guest.

Peace!

 

All That Happened

I relay the below events that took place as experiences I have personally gone through. It had been quite some time since they happened so I am comfortable in talking about them now. I haven’t really got any closure on it but I don’t think I care to either. I have merely written it off as events that helped me become stronger, and events that helped me grow closer to Allah (SWT). I do not write out of anger, hate or revenge. I am merely telling my story. I would also like to point out that an apple tree will have only few bad apples, the rest will be sweet. Through my struggles I have met many amazingly beautiful and kind Muslim brothers and sisters, unfortunately you sometimes meet some not so nice ones too. I am not saying this is how every Muslim in Sri Lanka would react, nor am I saying this is what Sri Lankan Muslims do. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happened to me and I hope it doesn’t happen to any of my fellow reverts. I pray to Allah that no one has to deal with such problems and that they find acceptance from their respective community easily, Ameen.

When my husband and I attempted to get married, we were met with a lot of objection. Now anyone would think the objection would come from my side of the family since I am the one changing (as they see it) but strangely enough it was from my husbands side of the family. They focused on labels such as “sinhalese” and blood lines rather than what we are thought in Islam. Sadly the whispers of gossip was a greater concern from them compared to the merit Allah has promised those who help spread Islam. So what happened? My husband was given no chance to explain himself or justify his desire to marry a revert. Since he was not given an option my husband reluctantly decided to leave home in order to do what he felt was right. So he left home and we got married. Obviously his family was angry, but Allah granted me my wish of having my family support me. To this day my husband repeats his motto that he would rather disobey his parents  than disobey Allah. He felt if he did what was right by Allah, all would be alright eventually, and alhamdulillah it has been.

While this event can be fitted in to one paragraph, it lasted for over 2 months. There were threats on my husband’s life and the friends who supported us.  I was called many insulting things, my family had to endure many false rumours about me and I honestly did fear about our future. But we both remained steadfast in our worship of Allah and did our best to consult Him in every decision we took. One year down the lane, here we are, by Allah’s mercy, doing fine.

Sadly this whole experience left me numb towards my Muslim community. I felt let down by my in laws. I didn’t do anything wrong to them, I didn’t ask anything of them, and I didn’t agree to my husbands decision to leave home but since he insisted, I supported him. And yet, I was called many things and every motive of mine was questioned. Why did I come to Islam? Why was I getting married? What had I done? How much did I want? so on and so forth. I was made to feel like an outsider, I was pushed aside and told I wasn’t good enough to marry someone who had been a Muslim his whole life. I was told reverts do not equal to a real Muslim, I was told I wasn’t as good as their daughters, I was treated like I wasn’t a human with feelings, parents, dreams or aspirations. I swear, I don’t think I have ever felt more disconnected from my Muslim community than I did for those 2 months. I had the support of a good few brothers and sisters who saw the ridiculousness of the situation, but my dreams of being part of an actual Muslim family had gone down the drain. I kept wondering if Allah (swt) could accept me then why couldn’t they? I kept wondering how people with daughters themselves could say things like that about another girl.

It was a difficult time but alhamdulillah with Allah’s help I got through. The scars I obtained from that experience have now been healed and I like to think I have a better life now. Allah allowed me refuge in my own parents and showed me how much they actually loved me. They over looked the fact that I had converted and wanted to marry a man who had left home. They shielded my husband and supported us to build a life together. They protected me from all the insults and were ready to fight anyone who would come to harm me. They decided that my happiness was more important to them than social status or gossip. I sometimes wish my in-laws saw life the same way and valued my husbands happiness.

All I can say is Alhamdulillah! Without Allah I don’t know where I would be today. I am so thankful for all that he has given me. I am thankful for my husband, for my parents, my family and all the people who He sent to support me through this difficult time. Alhamdulillah! I truly owe my life to Him!

Peace!

Not Enough Effort?

Today I got told that as a revert I haven’t made enough effort to be as Muslim as I can be. The moment these words were uttered the only thing that resonated in my head was “How could you possibly know how much effort I put in?!”. I know I’m not perfect and yes you are right, I could have done so much more in the years that have passed by since I reverted. I should have done a lot more. But as a Muslim who has had the blessing and privilege of being born and bred in an Islamic environment, would you have any idea what a revert goes through?

I’m not saying it’s a huge process and making it out to be a special thing, but merely pointing out that it’s not as simple as most people think. Everyone thinks, you say the Shahada, you learn to pray, you learn to recite, you learn the hadith, you learn to dress, you learn everything Islamic and you are done. Perfect! Do they stop to think about the psychological aspects of reverting? The social aspects? Do they think about losing all your friends and family? Changing all your behaviour? The fear of not being accepted by both sides? The rejection you face day in and day out by everyone (irrespective of their understanding)? The fear of choosing to dress a particular way?

Do they think about the balancing act that a person has to engage in to change everything they were thought and made to believe since they were born? Do they think about the crisis of faith you end up with? The fear that you might lose yourself and revert back? The tests Allah brings to you which make you question what you are doing over and over again? Why are these things not considered?!

These events hurt me and anger me. I don’t expect sympathy from anyone. All I ask is a little bit of understanding. I have to ask myself a 100 times about the 100 different situations that might arise if I’m caught. I don’t get the choice to wear an abaya and walk out of the house, Hijab is difficult for me, it comes with many looks, stares, arguments, and oppression. I don’t get the choice to just go to a Madarasa and learn to recite, if your a female, chances are you will be looked down upon by the other women (because you dress different, talk different, have different goals in life). I mean, Come on! I don’t even get to go to a mosque ladies prayer area without being cornered and looked at like I’m filthy! You say it’s just culture and not Islam, well then when are we planning on changing that?!

All this might just be me overeating to one sentence said by a man who doesn’t know me or my situation at all. My point is, if he didn’t know me well enough, then he shouldn’t have passed judgement on me. And if he felt that he really did need to judge me, he should have chose to help instead of make me feel bad about myself.

Almost every Muslim I meet has a 100 different things to say about me and what I lack, but no one seems to be actually able to help me. If you can’t help, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all.

Excuse the venting. I’m frustrated, hurt and tiered. Flood gates are holding in my tears but I don’t know for how long. It just (for lack of a better word) sucks  how everything I have done in these past years to get close to Allah is ignored while a few things which I haven’t done are used to judge me.

Peace!

Baffled and Caged

I chose this title because that is exactly what I am right now. Confusion has set in like it never has. My parent’s in an effort to stop my process of being a Muslim (a process which hidden to them has already happened and completed) are putting rules on what I can and cannot do. The restrictions are suffocating and some how I feel caged.

I am not allowed to wear covered clothing. I don’t understand it but apparently they want me to show more skin. Yes, everyone heard me right. I’m not allowed to wear long skirts and I’m not allowed to cover my arms. This is where, to me, things seem illogical. Aren’t parents the ones shouting at kids to cover up? I’m not allowed to wear loose clothing and I’m definitely not allowed to dress like a ‘Muslim girl’. Why? Because sadly my father is some what islamaphobic. He doesn’t hate Islam, he just doesn’t understand it, and since he has an ego the size of the universe he doesn’t think he needs to (unfortunately). Because of my actions my brother has been made to watch some crackpot video on how France is being taken over by Muslims, in order to understand the gravity of the issue and advise me to not stray in the wrong path. So many points to argue come up here, and I have so little time to type. What I don’t understand is (leaving aside all of the little details on Muslims and France) what does French Muslims have to do with Sri Lankan Muslims?? They are a whole different calibre! It’s like equalling Buddhists in Myanmar to Buddhists in Tibet (Not that I’m saying the Muslims in France are bad, just trying to show the difference of nations).

If I don’t do what they want (which I’m not by the way) I’m caged up like a bird. Only to go to work and back. Dropped and picked. Financially crippled and at the mercy of their will. If I want to continue wearing modestly I must leave the house and have nothing to do with them or the family. What gives parents the right to do this? Just because you bring us to this world doesn’t mean you own our bodies, minds and souls. We are our own individuals with different thoughts from that of theirs. What gives them the right to treat me this way just because I chose to exercise the right that they gave me (in the first place). My parents taught me to be intelligent with decisions, persevering, hard-working, a free thinker, disciplined and a spiritual person. I am doing that! Why is it so bad then?

I’m not endlessly complaining. My parents don’t have the clearest views on religion either. My father has a mixed feature of Scientology (based on the Comic Green Lantern), Buddhism, Hinduism, some other yet to be identified philosophy and feng shui. That is how he lives his life. We go along with it. I don’t believe in it but I still let him do what he wants. Actually being honest I should correct myself, I go along with everything except the strange Green Lantern theory of green magic flowing through the universe which is protected by different species from across the galaxy. That is a little too strange for me to accept, even though I am a fan of Green Lantern. End of the day he doesn’t mind me following a Comic book for guidance on the purpose of life but not an actual religion like Islam. Baffling!!

Then there is my mother, a spiritual Buddhist who at occasions ventures in to Hinduism. Her role in all this is simple. She never liked me dressing modestly, she never wanted me to work in a small organization which allowed me to be who I am and practice my religion freely. She wanted me to be a CEO at a multinational organization, wearing smart mini dress suits and driving around in a Benz. Atleast that’s what I picture she wants from the way she acts. Her ultimatum, stop dressing this way or else!

Whatever parents say, it’s all the same thing. You can do what ever you want as long as it’s what we want. Help grow the wings and clip them at the very last moment. That’s really the philosophy. Everyone associates oppression with Islam and how it does this and that. Am I not oppressed right now? Forced to hide my beliefs, force to wear and act in a way I don’t want to, forced to hide and wear and take off my hijab when ever my parents are near and accused of straying to the wrong path. Is this also not a form of oppression?

The only thing keeping me going is reflection on the jihad faced by Prophet (SAW) and his companions (May Allah be Pleased with them). If they had to go through such harsh and oppressing times, this is a cake walk (Insha’Allah). Hoping for better days and praying for Allah’s guidance.

Peace!