It’s been two years.
I didn’t think that I could step into the house without tearing off my hijab in the elevator or at the staircase landing beforehand, but I can now.
I didn’t think that my mum would bring me out for breakfast in public, me in hijab and all, but she does now.
I didn’t think that I’d ever get to plan for my wedding with my mum, but it seems like it is possible now.
I didn’t know when my father would speak to me again, but his occasional sentences are good enough for now.
After two years, this is what I learned:
As a revert to Islam, the advice I received the most from my muslim sisters and teachers was to ALWAYS respect my parents, and never to be rude to them. Never shout, never be arrogant no matter whatever they say, for the very reason that they hold the greatest right over us.
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.
However, in most Asian households, the parents ‘are always right, so don’t argue with them’. Converting to Islam essentially gives the impression that our parents have been wrong in the way they brought us up- and that is disrespect in their eyes. Answering them with an opinion different from theirs is similar to answering back and showing arrogance. No matter how much we try to not shout or answer back or do things that are pleasing to them, it won’t be enough.
As a result, amongst my revert friends, few were blessed with parents who could immediately accept their conversion. Many, like me, had gone through (or are still going through) years of heated arguments, threats, guilt tripping, even hostile silence or disownment.
And we can go on and on about how much we are in charge of our own happiness and not let it get to us, but when it goes on for months on end, it can really start to take a toll on both our psychological and physical health. (My ‘bad child syndrome’ was also multiplied because I had not one, but two issues of ‘defiance’ which were blurred to the point they could be counted as a cause and effect of each other- my reversion to Islam + my relationship with a Muslim who wasn’t even Singaporean.)
…And Have Sabr.
At this point of time, the only thing that can keep you going is this:
Indeed Allah is with those who patiently endure.
— (Quran, 8:46)
Patience and perseverance, or sabr. This was another piece of advice which was given to me countless times. It might take a few months, or many years. It will be difficult, no one said it was going to be easy. Find a way to compromise what you can without giving up on your duties and beliefs. Some examples are:
- Keep yourself busy, but don’t overwork. Especially if you’re the type who has a really active imagination and tend to think really deeply into things, keeping busy helps to keep you from becoming depressed. Just make sure you don’t pile up too much on yourself or you’ll burn out.
- Find a (muslim) confidante. Muslims sometimes do not really notice what happens to a revert after the shahada is taken- they all think that everything is happy and fine. Find someone to continuously remind you of Allah when the going gets tough, and is there for you whenever you need someone to confide in.
- Keep learning about Islam. Not only will it make you more grounded in your faith, it will also help you cope with your problems when you see things from the Islamic perspective. Plus, it’s an obligation to continuously seek knowledge in Islam anyway.
- Be your old self (and nicer) to your parents. This can be really hard to do, especially if it’s already been implanted in their mind that you’re the one who has changed, and also if your family is the quiet, non-affectionate type. Just keep trying and trying. At the very least, don’t ignore them.
Sabr is when it still hurts inside and you’re still struggling. Redha is peace internally- the highest level of response to Allah’s test.