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Why are New Muslims Leaving Islam? by Umm Raiyan

Why are New Muslims Leaving Islam? by Umm Raiyan

I don’t know if you can help me; I don’t even know where to start. My life is a mess. I’ve been a Muslim for 5 years and each Ramadan instead of increasing in my emaan, I question whether I can continue living as a Muslim. The loneliness I have felt over the last 5 years is one I never felt before I became Muslim. I feel it even more in Ramadan. I receive so many emails about how to complete the Qur’an in 30 days, how to attain taqwa but I just struggle trying to get through the days.

When I took my shahadah, so many sisters hugged me and gave me their phone numbers but after a few weeks, they didn’t respond to my calls or my messages. I’m so alone, it really hurts. They told me they would help me learn how to pray. I still don’t know how to pray. I’ve tried youtube and books but they don’t work. I’m really struggling. I phoned my local masjid and they laughed at me after I told them how long I was Muslim and couldn’t pray. I’m so down and alone. I wish I could be like most and look forward to Ramadan. I wish I could read the Koran. I wish I could pray taraweeh. I wish I didn’t feel so alone. I have tried; I went to the masjid to break my fast. But nobody spoke to me. They offered me food and drink but then after praying they just ate in their little circles smiling and laughing. You’re my last attempt – can you help me? I’m desperate.” Mandy

Sadly, the SOLACE team receives many emails like that of Mandy’s. There’s a sound proportion of revert sisters who receive support and they really work diligently with their SOLACE support workers to make positive change in their lives. In contrast however, there are sisters like Mandy who disappear despite our willingness to support them. It is as though they are scared to receive support only to be let down for the umpteenth time. As a team, we can only pray and make du’aa that they will meet beautiful sincere Muslims who will help them as they should have been helped during those first few fragile weeks of being a very new Muslim.

The picture for most new reverts is indeed a very positive one. One needs only to attend a shahaadah ceremony and observe the mixture of excitement and nervousness sprawled across the face of the one taking that amazing step; crossing from the fields of kufr into the vastness of tawheed. It is such a joyous moment – both for the new Muslim and for those who are present, witnessing the guidance of Allah unfold in an individual’s life. Most faces are streaming with tears as their hearts increase in faith in the One and Only Creator, Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala).

It is equally overwhelming for the new believer as she is swamped with hugs, kisses, books, hijabs and telephone numbers. There is a sense of a new immediate family, and the fear of what their own non-Muslim family will say and do is subdued by the hope that their new Muslim family will be there no matter what.

Quite tragically, the situation can at times be very different just as Mandy described in her email. More than likely, brothers and sisters that attend a shahaadah ceremony really do have a good intention to keep in touch. Certainly excuses must be made; perhaps they imagined that the new believer has a solid support network, after all, there were so many telephone numbers handed over that day. Others may be busy in their own lives and feel pressurized with the responsibility of helping a new Muslim. Passing on a few books and CDs is sufficient but what if they needed somewhere to stay?

The sad reality is that too many brothers and sisters leave the responsibility to others assuming that there is enough support when in fact, the new Muslim has absolutely no one to support her. It is at this delicate time that she definitely needs support as the onset of tests pervade her life. It is as though upon uttering the testimony of faith, the new believer is tested to see whether they truly believe as Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) says:

‘…We might test him who believes in the Hereafter from him who is in doubt concerning it: and the Lord watches over all things.’[1]

Had the new Muslim been supported, been shown how to pray, been taught the foundations of Islam and given a firm foundation, been put in touch with a good group of brothers or sisters that took them under their wings and looked after them; they would have had the tools and strength of faith to deal with the tests that face most new Muslims.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of the above at the crucial beginning of their Muslim life, the following types of issues arise which sadly often lead to someone like Mandy entering Islam with zeal and belief and leaving it weeks, months or years later with hatred and disbelief…

Rejection by family

A large number of new Muslims experience negative reactions from their non-Muslim relatives. The experiences vary from being ignored, physically removed from the family home, and we have even received cases of others who were locked up and beaten by relatives. It is at this time that support from Muslims is crucially needed. However, many new Muslims endure these tests with their family with minimal support or understanding from members of the Muslim community. Often, the rejection and abuse received at the hands of family members is too much for some and they succumb to the pressure of leaving Islam feeling that they have no other alternative because all the brothers and sisters disappeared and hence there is no other alternative.

Choosing a wrong spouse

Many brothers and sisters feel that there is a simple quick fix for the new Muslim who has been abandoned by their own relatives: To get married and get married quickly! This is the case more so with female reverts than their male counterparts. The sister is struggling to learn Surah Al Fatihah and before she knows it, she is flooded with recommendations of pious brothers who are looking to get married, brothers who could help her on her path. She is given a good breakdown of what characteristics constitute a good Muslim husband; one who wears trousers above his ankles and observes a beard. Well-meaning sisters persuade the new Muslim to marry their own recommendation with choruses of ‘Trust me, my husband has known him for years – he’s a good practicing brother!’ Regrettably, there is no mention of his character, likes and dislikes and the likelihood of compatibility. Two or three meetings are conducted by a wali (guardian) appointed at the last minute. The nikaah takes place in a small room within the masjid. Non-Muslim relatives who have not abandoned their daughters, look on in dismay as their dreams of their daughter’s wedding is shattered. Or the new Muslim takes the next most important step in her life without the knowledge of her non-Muslim relatives.

Months down the line, still struggling to learn how to pray, she is either divorced or living a very miserable married life. Years down the line, we find that she has remarried four to five times in the same manner as more brothers and sisters pity her and persuade her into thinking that marriage will solve her problems. Children are born into this situation and live with a mother who is severely depressed with only one visible sign of Islam – her hijab. It is only a matter of time before the last sign of Islam is removed and she seeks peace and tranquility in her old lifestyle or religion.

This example may seem extreme to many but shockingly this is the reality for many new Muslims.

Moving towards an extreme version of Islam

Zeal and passion for Islam is evident in many new Muslims. Like sponges, they are eager to learn, absorb and implement. There seems to be a misconstrued silent rule that upon entering Islam, a complete rejection of everything that came before is required. With an ‘all or nothing’ mentality, she severs family ties as she cannot live her life surrounded by ‘kaafirs’. Clothes are put into bin bags and phone numbers are changed. Within a few days, the new believer changes from wearing jeans to completely covering from head to toe in black. The new Muslim believes she is moving in the correct direction as she receives impressed compliments from other sisters. Shortly down the line, those initial strict immediate changes begin to show its cracks as she wonders why she feels no connection, deep faith or tranquility in her salaah. She wonders why her heart feels dead and why she now craves to go back to the life that she once led.

Confused, depressed and with only a speck of emaan left in her heart, she wonders what to do. She cannot return to her family whom she cut ties with. In addition to the strained relationships she has with other sisters and the sisterhood, the marriage she is in which is full of constant arguments and depression – with all this, she makes an all or nothing choice again and leaves Islam altogether.

There are so many other issues that could be highlighted within this article. But the purpose of this article is not to depress the readers but to portray the other side of the New Muslim’s life which often goes unheard.

Ramadan is a time where many reverts feel very alone. We know that the purpose of Ramadan is not to socialize but rather it is to attain taqwa of Allah. However, we must try to view Ramadan from the perspective of a new believer. Coming from a very non-Muslim sociable lifestyle, there are very few chances to really socialize. Ramadan is seen by many reverts as a time to be with others, to share, eat and grow together. When this is not present, stark truths are deeply felt and the new Muslim begins to realize them; the family they lost upon entering Islam, their lack of Muslim friends and as a result, the huge social void in their lives begins to emerge.

Fasting those first few times without much needed encouragement to make it until iftar is a huge mountain to climb and so many new Muslims give up and break their fasts intentionally. This results in them living the rest of Ramadan truly believing that they will never be forgiven, that Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) hates them and that they are destined for the hellfire.

Observing large extended families coming together, enjoying iftar, attending taraweeh prayer together and preparing for the equivalent of Christmas, Eid Al Fitr, is quite a depressing time as they realize yet again that they are all alone.

Eid is the most dreaded time of the year. Since they are no longer attending family functions such as weddings, birthday parties, and religious festivities, they hope that Eid would be a joyous occasion to share with others. However, some deliberately choose not to leave their homes on Eid, unable to witness everyone else’s happiness at the Eid salaah knowing that they will be returning home alone.

How can brothers and sisters make a difference this Ramadan and Eid? More importantly, how can brothers and sisters support reverts throughout the whole year so that the rate of apostasy is widely reduced? Here are some tips that we hope every reader will try to implement with at least one revert whom they know:

  • Invite a revert around for iftar. Call them and ask after them. Do not assume that they are fine or even fasting. It doesn’t matter how long they have been Muslim. Really show that you care about them.
  • Give a gift to a revert this Eid. It will build the love between you both and can have a lasting effect in their perception of Muslims at a time when they might be going through a difficult time.
  • Share a part of your Eid day with a revert; even if it is just for one hour. Really go out of your way to make it a special time for them.
  • Besides Ramadan and Eid, one of the most important ways you can help a revert is to help them build a very solid foundation in their deen. Bring them closer to Allah and help them develop a strong relationship with their Creator. This step is probably the most crucial as it marks the difference in how they deal with the various tests that will come their way.
  • Do not look at a revert in terms of how long they have been Muslim. Remember that they spent twenty, thirty or even forty years with certain thoughts, and practices that were completely alien to Islam. The psychological transition into a completely different way of life can take years.
  • Dedicate yourself to really helping at least one revert Muslim for life – help them learn how to pray, share good and difficult times together, attend lectures together – seek knowledge together. Commit yourself to helping them for life.
  • Update:

MESSAGE FROM UMM RAIYAAN assalamuu alaykum,

  • As a SOLACE team we are grateful to Allah (Swt) first and foremost for the opportunity to create awareness about the difficulties reverts face. islam21c.com has been an amazing platform to further this type of awareness and we would also like to thank islam21.com for offering us the chance to contribute towards their articles here are several organizations that support very new Muslims and try to help them during the crucial initial weeks and months. However, there is a huge number of reverts, some of whom who have been Muslim for 10+ years, who no longer seem to be labeled as a new Muslim who need just as much if not more support. For SOLACE, it is those who do not fall into the wonderful hands of organizations such as iERA and others that we tend to support. Sadly, to date we have received 80+ requests of help this year alone. If you would like to support SOLACE – you can do so through the following methods:

 

  1. By forwarding this article as much as possible. 2. By joining our mailing list at www.solaceuk.org and forwarding campaign alerts, testimonials etc in a bid to also increase awareness. 3. Volunteer your time to work with SOLACE 4. Donate – we are solely funded by the kind donations by brothers and sisters. 5. We are definitely looking to expand nationwide and internationally due to a large number of outside London cases.As we are a grassroots organisation, we are constantly working at the ‘front line’ directly with service users and so our work really does never stop.

 

  • JazakhaAllahu khairan for your help, On behalf of all of the SOLACE team, Wasalamu alaykum Umm Raiyaan Director of SOLACE

http://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/5823-why-are-new-muslims-leaving-islam/

3 Comments

  1. Bismillah Arrahman Irrahim
    Mashaallah what a well-balanced and through article. The strategies that you’ve suggested are very manageable to adopt, filled with wisdom and in fact most of them I have heard, recommended by community leaders or imams. So I asked myself: why is it that I do not see more articles written about the successful implementation at a large scale of these methods?
    One refreshing and profound take away for me from your article is the admission on your part that your team can only do so much in terms of effectively affecting a number of people immediate to them and that they continue to PRAY for the rest of the reverts that they are unable to reach due to physical limitations.
    As usual, when I hear about this common dilemma with new/or not so new reverts I return to memories of my own process as I reverted to Islam Alhamdudillah. I feel blessed because I find that the process for me was different and alhamdudillah it came with barakah and wisdom from people around me that allowed me to experience many of the same challenges that were stated in your article and which new reverts experience and have experienced throughout history without making me more vulnerable to apostasy, alhamdudillah.
    Guidance comes from Allah SWT and all comes from Him. I am reminded that with hardship comes ease, not one but two times ease. I’m reminded that we are part of a continuum of Muslims and we need to remind ourselves that our experiences are not unique in that sense. People before us reverted to Islam and faced family rejection, bad marriages to Muslims, separation from their previous holidays and traditions. In addition they faced prosecutions, hunger, war, etc.
    We are told that the best of humanity has already lived and come to pass, this is what in my view is different as far as our human-Muslim experience as well as the change in our understanding of what “ease” and “difficulty” are when it comes to championing for causes that include reversion to Islam.
    The romantic idea of people who sacrificed their lives in battle or their wealth or their affections has now become a subject of ridicule or closely associated with fanaticism and extremism. Why is this significant to me? Because I feel like the proverbial AA “ hello I am John and I am an alcoholic” AKA the admittance of what the problem is and our responsibility in it is very important to make the beautiful process you mentioned above more widespread and effective while not using the poor state of the Umah as a scapegoat or as an excuse for ourselves to move beyond where we are. I ask for forgiveness from those who might feel that I am not very empathetic and I want to clarify that it is my profound empathy for my dear beloved reverts that prompts me to give this opinion.
    Most of us would agree that the Umah has a responsibility towards the Umah, which includes reverts as well as Muslims who even when they were born into a “Muslim” home face many challenges that are associated with revert challenges. We have the responsibility to effectively provide mentorship and increase capacity in each community to maintain this effective and trained mentorship not only to reverts but to other Muslims. Most of us will also agree that the basis of Islam is the relationship between Creator and His Creation. We love for the sake of Allah, we give for the sake of Allah, we live in this world for His worship.
    When I reverted to Islam I had been part of a conversation amongst non-Muslim“intellectuals” for lack of a better word. I had been at a loss when I had been asked to give an opinion on rightness or wrongness of something relating to Muslims. I had to admit to all 6 of them that I had no opinion as I knew nothing about Islam or Muslims. Immediately after, filled with embarrassment for my ignorance I went to local coffee shop, where the owner was, I thought, Muslim. This knowledge was the most knowledge that I ever had of Islam. I knew him to be fair, extremely clean, kind and one who prepared delicious food, and Muslim. I thought he had said at some point he was Muslim, but religion was not something we talked about. Interestingly, like another Muslim owner of a Restaurant who I had known some years back. Her qualities just like his except that in addition I had seen her several times hand out food to people, food just like the one served to her customers.
    So when I went to this Muslim man I asked him if he was in fact Muslim. He said yes. I asked him to recommend a book so that I could learn about his religion, I said I would swing by the library to collect the book. He looked at me for a minute and said “sure. You should read the Quran and the Hadith” Pen and paper in hand I asked who was the author, of the Quran, he looked at me as if I saying “ are you joking?” and then he realized that I was serious, to which he answered “God”. For a moment I was confused and said “there is no author section at the library under the label ‘God’”. The story goes on but in addition to introducing me to the Amaing Quran and the Hadith, he gave me two gifts: The first gift was to listen to me as I came back with “his” book many a time asking him “ why does your books say this?… isn’t this a bit too harsh? No way it makes sense for a man to marry for women!.. etc. etc.” and patiently lay out to me the historical significance, another way to think about something, and guidance for a better understanding. The other gift he gave me after I had fallen in love with the Quran and though Islam was perfect and Muslims were just an extension of perfection, was to tell me, “follow the religion do not follow the people because people are imperfect and they will disappoint you. Always ask for guidance from Allah and Allah SWT will open a way for you”.
    I am humbled and grateful for the mercy of Allah SWT for sending me this natural mentor. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to develop my relationship with Allah in the quiet of my home, at the early hours of the morning, or in the night, away from a mosque or an umah. My umah was the one lonely restaurant owner and little by little in passing the number of other of his friends that he introduced me to if I happened to be there when they came in.
    As the years went by I started going to the masjid and found the grumpy uncle, difficulties with my family, Eids when I wnet home alone after the prayer, non-inclusive Muslims, misbehaviors, bad suitors, etc. In His Mercy Allah SWT protected me from myself by allowing my relationship with His Book to flourish for me and steal my heart, by allowing me time to grow in my practices at my own pace in an organic way. Alhamdudillah I never initially faced the multitude of people telling me to go in any direction, on the contrary, my muslim mentor/restaurant owner, would often remind me to take it easy and that a deed well done consistently was more beneficial that too many deeds that only lasted a short time. He would remind me to be patient with myself. He reminded me of the beautiful gift of having had all my sins forgiven as I took shahada, which he took for me. I would ask him to repeat a surah or an ayah and he would. We never officially had lessons, he never sat down with me and a Muslim plan of action, he and I were never romantically interests of each other. We were two human beings coming together for the sake of Allah. I took my responsibility and he took his and Allah made a way for both by giving him the wisdom, patience and knowledge that I needed at the time to prepare me for the times that came after. Allah SWT gave me enough isolation from the world to spend time in getting to know Him, and He gave me the strength to renounce to some degree to all the people and practices I had before.
    In conclusion, everyone’s reversion is different but I think there is something to say for making room for a model that includes more trained mentorship and less of an emphasis on the “necessity” of having a whole community be part of revert’s life. We need to continue to put in place sustainable programs that support the growth of every Muslim and follow the Prophetic model of matching individuals. We as reverts and individuals should be reminded that we are converting for the sake of Allah and not to look at the people but focus on seeking closeness and help only from Allah.
    All goodness comes from Allah and all mistakes are mine.

  2. Also, unlike pre media days of converts to Islam, the media has a powerful clutch on the negative voice of Islam which creates self doubt.

  3. The Holy Messenger SAW summarized the disease which the Muslims will suffer in time to come: “hubbud Dunya – love for the Dunya”. What this means is that Muslims will worry naught that there are people around them that are non-Muslim, headed for doom. The mentality engulfing the Muslim psyche will be and is “I am Muslim, Muslims go to heaven, Islam gives me the best of both worlds, so why must I worry about my neighbor who is a “kaafir”, who is headed for failure”. The greatest Sunnah of the Holy Messenger SAW was to get as many children of Adam on the right path. I am proselytizing but am probably the guiltiest party in the lack of carrying out the greatest Sunnah of the Holy Messenger SAW, namely daawa! Let us resolve that we will not allow a day to go by without inviting at least one child of Adam to salvation – Islam.

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