It’s 1:00 a.m. on the day of Eid al-Fitr and I’ve been reduced to tears in my car. The feeling of depression and sad thoughts loom over my head around this time every year, ever since I converted to Islam.
I converted to Islam over seven years ago on this day, alhamdulillah. It was seven years ago that I was invited to a barbecue at my local masjid in Atlanta. The people there were so nice, so welcoming. I honestly thought I had found a community I could feel at home with; one where it’s members would stick with one another through the end, whom I could foster an intimate, friendly relationship with, and most importantly, one that would guide me towards being a better Muslim. Instead what I got was a community that would shun me away and alienate me because I didn’t fit the majority race and ethnicity of the masjid and leave me feeling this lonely the minute I said those faithful words, “Lah ilaha ilala wa ashhadu ana Muhammadan abduhu wa rasulluhu”.
I know I’m not the only one too. Through countless forums and blog posts, I read of one too many converts that no longer felt like they were apart of the ummah they sacrificed the relationships with their families and friends to be apart of. Verse 39:13 of the Holy Quran says:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
So why are we treating our convert brothers and sisters as if they don’t deserve the same friendship and company that we give to Ahmad to Leila down the street?
I’ve held my tongue on this subject for so long, because I honestly did not want to feel like Muslims should give pity to me or other converts/reverts. Worse, I didn’t want to put down my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. However, this Ramadan took a toll on me. This entire month, I spent with Muslims that wouldn’t even speak English in my presence, even though they were capable of doing so. I felt like was annoying them by being in their presence, or even asking for their company. Breaking fasts by myself and eating suhoor at Waffle House with only employees and the occasional stranger to talk to. A reality that I’ve grown accustomed to, I tried my hardest to make Ramadan and Eid plans with some sisters, only to realized that I wouldn’t be invited to any of their gatherings. Being a convert woman is even worse; hearing of Eid pool parties and public dinners planned in your area, but only for men to join in on. Over and over, I’m left feeling like I’m not acknowledged, and if I am, as just an afterthought. I honestly believe that I had more support and a sense of community back when I was Christian versus now as a Muslim, and that is truly sad to live to terms with.
I don’t want anyone reading this to connect my experience with a hate for Islam. In fact, there are many instances in our faith that preaches against what is currently unfolding in this day and age to our converts. Surah Al-Imran, verse 13 states:
”…And hold fast all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you) and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love so that by His grace ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make his signs clear to you: that ye may be guided”.
The only thing that has gotten me through all these seven Ramadans, is the constant reminder that Allah (SWT) is with me and He is the One I can always tell my problems and insecurities to at any hour of the day. I have no hope for this Ummah, unfortunately. Throughout all of Islam’s extensive history, it seems people are now more in love with their culture, their family name and reputation, than with the Islam that was revealed to ALL of mankind.
With all this bad, comes something good and of sustenance. Had I not been guided to Islam, my depression most likely would have actually overcame me. I would have tortured myself, thinking that I actually needed friends to be someone. I would have lost myself--tied to a life of bad decisions and no true goal in life. I’ve come a long way in my 21 years of life, gaining self-acceptance and confidence. I’m proud to say that regardless of whether my family is Muslim or what the color of my skin is and whether I speak fluent Arabic of Urdu, or even whether or not I get to truly experience this “sisterhood” everyone talks so highly of, I am and will always be a Muslim. I will cry in my car every Eid or throughout every Ramadan, knowing that something better will lie for me in my future or in my next life. Through these trials, I am able to see the blessings Allah (SWT) has given me.
On behalf of all converts, I’m asking all Muslims to truly take a look at themselves and get out of your usual niche or bubble. Recognize how blessed and privileged you are to have been raised in a Muslim household, with Muslim friends and a community that would do anything for you…and then seek to give that same experience to someone who needs it the most right now.
To a great seven years of being Muslim,