It has almost been 18 years since I took my Shahadah on a hot July evening surrounded by peole who I no longer have any contact with. I often wonder to myself if the disconnect comes from me or the community at large. In reality I think it is a mix of both. So today I am going to try to explore a topic that is complex and very personal. Statistics show that a vast majority of those that convert to Islam will leave the religion in the first year. If you then ask those who have left if it was a matter of belief, they will say, "no". So what is it that drives people away from this amazing beautiful religion? For many I have spoke to, it is the lack of support within the community or the lack of knowledge of how to access any support that is available. What wears on me is that we have become so disconnected from the Prophetic tradition. So much of our understanding of our deen is based on our undestanding of the seerah of the Prophet (saws) and what was happening historically in the Arab world at the time of the revelation. Islam has an incredible legacy of converts. Their stories are incredible. They are full of strength, sacrafice, and unending devotion to this blessed deen. We read their stories and become motivated and empowered. However, we sometimes forget that they had a support system. Even when they were in Mecca and were secretive about their faith or in the time of persecution, they had a network they created that supported them. Today's scenarios are not as encouraging. Now a majority of converts sit in a masjid and take their shahadah, while aunties and uncles look on shouting takbir. Both the convert and the congregation leave the masjid feeling inspired. However, months later the convert is left to atrophe spiritually, while the congregants continue to feel uplifted by all the recent converts they have seen taking shadahah in the masjid. I guess what I am saying is there is a disconnect.
I have wrestled with this for years as I have seen organizations try to establish programs for converts. I am absolutely not laying all the responsibility at the feet of the Muslim community. I think we as converts also must take charge of our faith and make our voices heard. Starting in March, I will begin exploring this topic. Each month I will post about Convert Care to bring awareness and begin my own journey of helping others who are entering Islam.
Time is a strange thing. When you start a journey, it seems like you can never see the destination. Then it happens. You wake up one morning and years have passed by. I am absolutely not the same person I was 17 years ago. I am not the wide-eyed optimistic girl I once was. It has been replaced by a more cynical version of myself. The one thing I am still optimistic about is my marriage and family. There is of course a dash of reality I add to the equation, but I am blessed beyond measure Alhamdulillah.
Today I woke up to 17 years of marriage. My husband is patient, kind, and did I mention patient? Really, I know I am a handful to deal with on any given day.