Naysaying Loved Ones

I’m sure there are other converts who experience the Naysaying loved ones who take jabs at your religion when you’re down. Many of our families are not supportive of the struggles to wear hijab, career changes where you don’t compromise your faith, even process of getting married without the whole dating and cohabitating for years thing. Basically by becoming Muslim, they question your judgment. Even if it is not explicit, their implicit disapproval for your religion can be seen in their skeptical response to even your happiest moments. Then their doubts and concerns about your lifestyle commitments become more explicit when life gets rocky. If you are not a happy smiling Muslim, well the problem is your religion. Talking to non-Muslim friends and family members about problems can open you up for critiques about Islam. I’ve heard things from non-Muslim family members such as, “Well, your prayers aren’t working for you” or “Well, what have the Muslims done for you?” or “Maybe this religion isn’t for you.” These statements are not something you want to hear when you are looking for consolation or going through lonely times. Even though the Shaolin monks could kick some butt, you’re supposed to maintain a zen like calm under whatever threats because any human failings such as losing your temper under pressure are blown up to signs of hypocrisy. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I stick to myself, especially as I struggle to gain footing in Philadelphia, to reset my career path, try to make sense out of the ins and outs of this new life.

Those who were born into practicing Muslim families may not experience the occasional bouts of Islam bashing from their families. In general, their families will support decisions to be Muslim. Nor will their families take shots at their religiosity during those hard times. Maybe not from their practicing parents, but perhaps from their non-practicing siblings or other relatives who are not Muslim. But that critique is something that really hurts when it comes from a parent. That family disconnect is what makes the situation of converts alienating. I think that’s why we cling to the ideals of the ummah, feel even more hurt when excluded from particular communities. We have not broken family ties, but we have become the “Other” amongst the people who know us best. I’m not saying I have been persecuted for converting. However it still is an unknown factor, an oddity that they are not entirely comfortable with. I did lose a lot of friends in my spiritual journey and extended family situations can be awkward, especially in the past few years when I began practicing outwardly again. I have learned that over the years I have to tolerate ignorant comments about the Muslim world, about politics, I have to take the pot shots and the jokes in stride just to keep the peace. But on an emotional level, when you are looking for someone who has your best interest at heart, you realize that your relatives and friends are no Abu Talib, and that really hurts. There is an increased pressure to make life appear picture perfect or at least not share my ups and downs with others because my lows can be another indictment against my faith, let alone my decision to practice it with sincerity.

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13 thoughts on “Naysaying Loved Ones

  1. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I’ve had the same experience with my family and my advice is never, ever discuss such matters with non-Muslim family members (or non-Muslims generally). They will often assume that the problem is the deen and maybe it wasn’t for you after all, etc. Whether they’re Christians or not religious at all, they will think that Islam is a phase you were going through and will be waiting for the moment you come out of it. Mothers (and perhaps other female elders) can be particularly good at sowing doubt with compassionate-sounding, ‘knowing’ tones. These problems are always best discussed with other Muslims (I know it’s not always easy) since they share your commitment and aren’t seeking to drag you out of it.

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  2. It hurts to see you write this. You know of my own struggles with my brothers, whose response to Islam has ranged from cynicism to outright hostility. You know I support you in your struggle and I hope we can find support with others who are going through similar difficulties.

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  3. While I am not a convert- I have had a difficult conflict with a sibling whose mental health issues have made him hostile to decisions I have made as an adult practicing Muslimah. The state of our relationship currently is non-existent. The worse aspect is that we share so many commonalities that the absence of him in my life has caused me great pain.

    I think the reason why we yearn for our non-Muslim friends and family is that they not only give us access to fond memories but they also so often possess a language of compassion and consolation that is so lacking in many of our Muslim communities.

    When these non-Muslim family members attack us on the grounds of our spirituality-something so sacred to our being- it feels like an ultimate betrayal.

    For me-I have felt this betrayal in the harsh attitudes and coldness I have encountered among other Muslims particularly sisters. I struggle against becoming more insular and maintaining my naturally caring, friendly nature despite past unpleasant encounters. (After all my name is Samira-translation-happy companion : )

    Insha’Allah sister I hope you find the support that you need to bring you peace.

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  4. After reading this I feel very fortunate. I never had deal with any problems with my family. All my family pretty much accepted my Islam without any problems.

    In the past 18 years as Muslim I can remember only two negative comments from family members. One from a drunk uncle and another from a meth addicted cousin so I didn’t take that much offense to either comment. Consider the source, as they say.

    Though I do get “are still Islamic?” (lol) every now and again. Which always makes make laugh.

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  5. Salaams Dear:

    I can relate, too. When I told my cousin I was getting divorced, she said, “Well, does this mean you’ll go back to Shaalom now?” (was Jewish before reverting)

    My friends and family were surprised when I kept myself right after the divorce.

    On the other hand, my aunt (cousin’s mom), when I told her of my marital problems, said, “Oh, if I had him in front of me right now, I’d smack his face.” loool

    Go auntie!

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  6. As salam alikum, It’s from Allah that I read your post. I was feeling lonely and found your blog. I recently went through an incident so hurtful it took me days to shake it off. I was born Muslim, my father converted before my birth, and my sisters and I were raised in Islam in his home while raised like kafirs in the home of my mother(she’s not Muslim). My sisters, once teenagers, decided to leave the masjid/community while I remained al hamdulilah. Well, I went to see my younger sister a couple weeks ago,who I don’t see often, we live in different states, and she basically went off telling me how she dislikes being around me because I make her feel pressure and how she wishes I could just be the type of sister who (and she didn’t say this exactly but basically said) “kicked” it with her. I have always acted as mother to my younger sisters,because my mother couldn’t always do it, (for various reasons). She said there is always this line that we don’t cross. She said she felt tired of trying to be something she wasen’t around me and basically didn’t care for me to visit her. She attacked my Islam, my family, my husband, my entire life. That line she wants me to cross is that line that Allah has placed between us.

    My reasons for visiting with her were sincerely for Allah. She hasen’t been well physically and/or emotionally and I clearly see why. But honestly, I don’t care to be around her anyway because it is hard to sit with people who refuse Allah. But still, I was so hurt by her comments. I felt so betrayed and so alone. Now I know she doesn’t pray and has struggled in the deen but I never knew she felt this way. I am still baffled and wonder if she has denouced her Islam. My mother has tried in the past to place doubts in my mind about Islam,my sisterhood, even my marriage, when she witnessed difficult times in my life. But once she realized that nothing, nor anything would take me away from Allah, she gave up trying to “turn me back on my heels”. This is not to say she won’t stop but I know to never talk to her about any trial in my life because I’m sure she will try again.

    This is what we MUST remember.

    Allah tells us this in Quran.

    People without faith in Allah will never cease trying to turn us back to their ways. No matter who they are. Your parents, siblings, even other “Musims”. I know I forgot this at the time my sister attacked me and I was so distraught over her remarks. But once I gained my senses (being emotional caused me to lose them) and remembered Allah and His guidance, it’s like it never happened. I actually had to laugh at myself because I knew better. Allah makes this clear in the Quran. Allah(s)told Nuh (as) that his son was not of his family because he didn’t believe. We lose our senses with our family because our family is dear to our heart. No strangers could cause this pain. We love them and yet they don’t really love us. It’s selfish the love they have for us. We love their soul when they don’t even care for their own soul. I have gone through this so many times and have to remember what Allah tells us about them. I have allowed the fact that we were raised by a Muslim father, who we loved so much, to keep this bond between us, but it ends there. Once Allah called his soul, our relationship feel apart. I realize it was his presence that keep us together. But that’s all we shared and now that he’s gone, and may Allah have mercy on him, there is nothing left between us but blood.

    I have overlooked the fact they don’t pray, don’t fast, don’t wear hijab-holding on and wanting them to believe so that we sisters in blood can be sisters in faith. But it’s not the case. You and others like us both, we are family. We are sisters in faith which is the strongest bond in this life. So I remind you, myself, and all of us who are lonely and striving on this path that this is the reality of faith. Remeber the stories of the Prophets, peace be upon them all. So many of them were tested with the closest of family. Ibrahim
    (as) with his father, Nuh (as) with his son, and Rasululah (saw) with his uncle(there are more I just can’t remember). Every time I hear the ayat of Ibrahim speaking to his father about disassociating from his idols, I cry. How hard this must have been? It’s difficult for us. And he was Khalil Allah. When I read your post I felt sad and yet comfort in knowing that we as believers in Allah share this lonely path together in this way. And the truth is we will go through this until the end. We are on a hijrah to Allah and everyone won’t always be going that same direction with you. So you keep moving and in sha Allah you will find those seekers on the path and even when you want the company of those who you feel familar with for the sake of comfort, take the company of those who seek Allah. It’s part of our sacrafice and may Allah accept this from us. So know that you are not alone in these feelings. We go through this and we have to be patient and find the strength to give our family dawah, even when we don’t want to. I didn’t want to visit my sister, but I tell myself that maybe this time we can remember Allah together or maybe I can be a good example to her to make her want to turn towards Allah. And it’s so hard to do when I feel so belittled by my family or when I could care less to be around them. But this is the responsibility given to us by Allah. And if we really love Allah, we will try our best before it’s too late to remind them.
    I make dua for sisterhood, true sisterhood. It seems so hard to find these days. Then I understand that so many of us go through this and when we are together, we don’t want to bring eachother down by speaking of these matters. So we speak as if we are all so happy. We need to find a balance. Find time to remember Allah in the circle of sisterhood , find time to be women and enjoy the lawful, and turn to eachother when we need support.

    I thank you for this, you have given me a support, and when I am feeling like I need a fellow Muslimah like myself, I know where to turn to so that I know I’m not alone. Keep writing sister and May Allah accept this from you and give you company with the rightous ameen.

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  7. Salam Sister,

    I just happened to be looking at various different websites when I came upon yours. I, too, am a revert of 4 plus months. Grant it, I have not have direct experience as of yet on your level (only one family member knows and Mashallah, is accepting) with family members, but with Christmas coming I have told one other not to get me gifts because I no longer celebrate (haven’t told the reason why because I rather do it in person). Inshallah, hopefully the others will be accepting. But I have faced non-family members criticism and it definitely has not been easy.

    In regarding personal issues and discussing them with people who are not Muslim (both family members or not), it is hard because they don’t fully understand or for some see it as an opportunity to “save” you. But please remain strong and keep praying and inshallah, Allah will provide you with the right direction.

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  8. I hadn’t stopped by in a while, but today i came and found this post waiting. I have had the same experiences with my own family members on close non-Muslim friends.

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  9. Salaams,

    Sis, inshaAllah you are doing well. My mom and dad experience the same thing to the point were we have no contact with my dad’s folks and limited contact with my mom’s folks. It is a tough situation and definitely a challenge to our deen. Even though its not with my parents, I feel a similar pressure and alienation from non-muslim friends to the point that I don’t even mother with folks up here anymore because it’s too painful and too frustrating. There is no advice to offer…but I understand what you are saying and if you ever need to chat, you know where I am.

    I know the holidays are especially rough so be well, sis.

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  10. As salaam wa laikum

    Although I am not a convert to Islam, for very strong reasons, I relate more to converts than to born Muslims.

    I was born in a Muslim family, but my father has a domineering personality and refused to practice or teach Islam in our household. He wouldn’t outright ban Islam like some secular tyrant, but I remember picking up the English translation of the Qu’ran when I was 14, and my father trying very hard with very convincing arguments at the time not to follow any religion. My father has interrupted me during salat on purpose, he has given lectures on how Islam is false to my little brother, etc.

    He denies Allah helping him in his success. “My success is totally my achievement, and prayers are but worthless entreaties in which people whisper to the air.”

    My father still loves me however, and has supported me. But everyone of my personal failings (and recently I had an academic one which has put me in a tough situation)is pinned on religion. “Losers such as yourself embrace religion because you’re not smart enough to succeed in this life, so you focus on the next.” I’m a pretty thick-skinned person, but when you’re in a tough situation these kinds of statements ring in your ears and dent your iman.

    Inshallah, he can change and I pray for that but because of this, I have a hard time dealing with him and many of my other relatives. I have relatives who constantly spread misleading propaganda about the authenticity of the Qu’ran, who have raised their children as complete atheists. One of them even bought Hindu idols in his home just to anger the few religious people in our extended family.

    Secondly, I have come across people from Muslim backgrounds (although not practicing) who are complete moral hypocrites, that criticize Muslim suicide bombers but don’t even wince and even crack jokes about American forces bombing and killing innocent Afghanis (“Afghanis don’t even have anything, they’ll be fine if they get bombed.”) These same people will come to tears if you even state that you think its gross that a man should marry another man. The priorities of these people are twisted!

    I’m sorry to go on a rant like this. I just wanted to express myself because although becoming Muslim and losing your loved ones from your life because of that decision is harsh, sometimes I wonder if seeing people born into Islam and leaving it is not just as hard to witness. I constantly go to Youtube and type in “converts to islam” just to bring my hopes up and alhamdulillah I am never let down. The Prophet (saws) said “This affair of ours will be considered strange near the End. So give tiding to the Strangers.” It is definitely tough road ahead but it will only be tougher if Muslims failt to get over their barriers, racial, class, etc and don’t help each other, be supporters of each other.

    As salaam wa laikum

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  11. I appreciate this blog entry so much. I know that there are others who gave advice, as to what to do and what not to do, but when it comes to family and your emotional ties, each moment is different and time is sometimes the best salve. The biggest thing I realized, is to not beat up myself when things get to me.

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  12. I have come across people from Muslim backgrounds (although not practicing) who are complete moral hypocrites, that criticize Muslim suicide bombers but don’t even wince and even crack jokes about American forces bombing and killing innocent Afghanis

    I find this troubling. One, I think it is important to criticize all atrocities against civilians. There is nothing funny about that. At the same time, I find no moral, Islamic or otherwise, justification for suicide bombings.

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