- Are you married yet/ when are you getting married/ oh, so you converted for your husband? Reason: This is a ton of pressure on a new convert, and the last question, insinuating that you only converted because of a man, can be a serious blow to your self esteem and worth as a Muslim. Also, marriage is not the be all and end all of your identity! You have to be a complete person yourself in order to create a healthy, happy pair when you do find your spouse. Alternative question: How is your family doing? Is everything going ok?
- What is your new/Islamic/Muslim name? Reason: I touched on (more like ranted about) this one in my post Ashley is my Muslim Name. It is not necessary to change your name when you convert to Islam unless your name means or connotes something negative or Islamically forbidden in your language. And quite honestly this puts a lot of needless pressure on someone who is probably already feeling very overwhelmed with the actual obligatory aspects of Islam such as five daily prayers, the idea of fasting for a whole month, trying to read Qur’an, and thinking about the hijab. Alternative: Well, it would be best if when someone gives you their name it is just left at that, but I guess a decent alternative could be something like, Are you thinking about taking an Arabic name, or are you going to stick with your birth name?
- Do you wear hijab full-time yet/ when are you going to put on the hijab/ why don’t you wear an abaya, jilbaab, etc.with your scarf? Reason: the hijab is a journey, for converts and born Muslims alike. Sometimes someone converts in the heat of the moment, but it takes time for real faith to enter the heart. Sometimes they want to wear it but are terrified of their families and communities. Sometimes they have put it on but they just don’t have the budget to overhaul their entire wardrobe, so they have to make do with the skinny jeans and summer dresses that they have always had. There is no way to know where someone is on their journey, and oftentimes these kinds of questions can lead to even more pressure and distress about something that is already difficult, even feelings of “it’s not worth it, I will never do it right so I should just take it off all together.” Alternative: The way you wrapped your scarf today frames your face very nicely/ that print is gorgeous with your eyes/ that is a beautiful skirt you have got on today! Highlight and compliment the aspects that are “correct” or beautiful about their outfit, and God willing, it will encourage them to add/do more of those things!
- Oh my goodness, so how did you find Islam/ why did you convert? Reason: I know for me, this is actually a highly personal story, and I suspect it may be for others as well. Also, there is no easy and straightforward answer; that is a huge question! Whenever I get asked this (more times a day than I can count), I find myself reciting the same old rehearsed, superficial story again and again. I don’t have the time or the emotional capacity to tell such an in depth and deeply personal story to every random person on the bus or in the supermarket. So really it is not good for either of us-you are getting the rehearsed crap that I know you want to hear, and I am left feeling like all people care about is the story and not the person behind it. Alternative: Hey, I would love to have tea/lunch sometime and hear about what made you convert (if you are comfortable with that)! This way there is the chance to foster real connection and sister/brotherhood, and with the extra time, you will most likely be getting a much more authentic story.
- So do you know X, Y, and Z? Reason: Like I have said before, aaagh the pressure! If I didn’t know whatever rules or concepts you are asking me about I feel stupid and inadequate. If I did know them I will say that and then (usually) still have to listen to someone explain them anyhow to make sure that I really know what they are talking about. These kinds of questions just tend to assume that all converts are perpetually at square one and that they will always need to be taught something, which is often not the case at all. Alternative: Is there anything that you are struggling with that I could help you with/explain to you?