Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
As I mentioned in a recent post, today I will be writing about some of the struggles of dealing with non-Muslim, often quite hostile, family members as a convert to Islam.
I know it is something that many of us struggle with, and often it can feel like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Firstly, though I mentioned the obligation of love and respect for one’s mother in my last post on family, there is also huge reward for maintaining family ties with all relatives, and a frightening punishment for cutting them off.
It is narrated in a hadith qudsi: “I am ar-Rahman (the Most Merciful) and I have created rahm (kinship) and derived its name from My name. Whoever takes care of it, I will take care of him, and whoever cuts it off, I will forsake him”
Secondly, I would like to mention the fact that, thank God, I had an exceptionally easy time with the people who are closest to me when I converted.
My mom was a bit scared and worried when she first found out that I was thinking about Islam. All she knew then was what you hear on the news about terrorists and going to liberate the women from the evil Muslim men. She was especially worried about that backwards “hijab thing.” She was scared I was going to lose my personality and become one of many black clad (not that there is inherently anything wrong with black!), passively submissive sheeple women.
But once she was able to see that I was not only the same old me, but actually becoming a better person and that, above all, I was happy with my decision, she supported me as well. She has always had my back through thick and thin, and this was no exception.
Like I said, I had an unnaturally easy time with my closest relatives.
My sister, cousin that lives with us, and grandpa (who is like my father) all also supported me in whatever was making me happy.
The one falling out that I did experience was with my maternal uncle and his family.
It was around Thanksgiving time, before I had actually “officially” converted. I was, however, just transitioning into wearing hijab, and I had already given up pork and alcohol and begun praying five times a day…though I think at that early stage it was more like three….
I was nervous to see them to begin with, as they never seemed to have anything nice to say about anything I was doing in my life, and I knew that this was just going to be one more thing for them to have a go at.
But they are my family, and of course I love them and I love spending time with my two little cousins. So I told myself to chill out and it would be just fine.
But the sassy comments started about as soon as they parked the car in the drive.
“Oh well Ashley can’t have a drink with us, must be so boring!” (because the only way to have fun is with booze?)
“How funny! Look how she runs to pray all the time!”
Or my aunt about the scarf wrapped loosely around my head, “Well at least I don’t have to cover myself up and hide from the world!”
I overheard her later in the kitchen asking my mom is she was OK, because her daughter had converted to such a “violent” and “political” religion.
And on and on, all day long.
Whenever I tried to explain why I was doing what I was doing, or why I had made the decision to convert, they always had some Fox News worthy answers for exactly why I was incorrect (about my own religion.).
My aunt even went so far as to tell me later in an email after I had tried to open up some dialogue instead of all the diatribe, “I don’t know anything about your religion, and I don’t want to.”
Read: I am ignorant and I like it that way, because I have no intention of supporting you like a family member should.
At any rate, for various reasons, they stopped talking to us at all after that holiday season 2014.
So how did I handle it?
Well, in the moment I tried dialogue, which obviously didn’t work.
And honestly now that they don’t talk to us anymore, the old me wants to be like “Good, see y’all later! I don’t need that negativity all up in my life!”
But I am a Muslim now, and as I mentioned earlier, one of the most important parts of our religion is upholding family ties.
So I am now trying the “kill them with kindness” method.
I still send cards and emails, though unanswered; I still send birthday and holiday wishes. I even sent them gifts for my first Eid al-Fitr, with a little card explaining what the holiday is.
I don’t know if they even opened it, but I am doing my best to do my part.
And honestly, that and prayer is about all you can do in these situations.
So that is my story with my family, and how I have tried to deal with issues that have come up.
I know many have a much more difficult time than this, and I truly hope that some time in the near future I will be able to do something more to help those in such situations.
For now, I hope this post has been inspiring/helpful in any small way, and in shaa Allah, I will see you next time.