As many converts/reverts to Islam know, coming to Thanksgiving dinner and telling your family to call you Malik or Khadijah instead of Donald & Kimberly doesn’t always go over so well! Your Black Jesus loving grandma and bible thumping auntie are sitting over in the corner with the paper fan taking turns wiping each other’s tears of disbelief when you walk in wearing your thobe or abaya! “Boy, you need Jesus” yells your uncle from the sofa, and your cousin’s and them… just sit back and watch the shenanigans unfold! I know it sounds funny, but yo, this is real life for many of us!
My husband and I are the only Muslims in our immediate families. We both grew up Christian, and became Muslim well into our adult years. In fact, one of the reasons I believe we connected so deeply so early on, was the similarity in our journey’s to Islam. He and I were former Fruit of Islam and MGT, both of which are the respective names for the men and women of the Nation of Islam. It was this journey that allowed our paths to cross. We felt strongly about our new found religion and way of life, and jumped right in to building the family that we wanted together.
To us it was a time of growth and development. We took Shahadah (the 1st of the 5 pillars of Islam), and felt brand new! Some of the changes we made early on that still are a part of our lives as Muslims were fairly easy to make. For our family and friends the adjustment to our new way of life may have been a bit confusing for them.
Through it all, we learned a few things. Making this transition isn’t always easy, especially when you are the only one in the family to ever do so. Here are my top 15 things that only a Muslim convert could understand.
1. Going from showing your Dominican blowout to wearing that “thing” on your head. Your granny is so confused. “Baby why are you covering your beautiful hair?”
2. Trying to find clothing that covers your behind and bosom at the same time without having to wrap the tablecloth around you!
3. Watching that bacon being passed around the table at your mama’s house and not being able to eat ANY!
4. Telling your family that you no longer celebrate Christmas but you still love ALL of the holiday songs and will accept gifts.
5. Going to worship on Friday instead of Sunday and realizing that there is no music or singing, and that Sister Jenkins will not be singing the solo during the praise break.
6. Remembering that prayer has scheduled times!
7. Trying to explain to the folks at the DMV that you can’t take your hijab off because you wear it for religious purposes, and they still say, “Let me check with my supervisor.”
8. Having to read the ingredients on EVERYTHING because these food companies find a way to slip pork in pretty much… everything!
9. Learning that the “Latino’s” that own the bodega are really Arab Muslims when you walk into the store wearing hijab or a kufi and they give you Salaams!
10.Trying to learn Arabic and you are amazed at just how crazy you sound.
11. Having to go through all of your social media accounts and remove pictures of you with your hair uncovered and of you in that banging bikini on your last trip to Ocho Rios.
12. Realizing that people will now view you differently because you have changed your way of life, and knowing that some relationships will come to an end.
13. Having a full understanding that most of your family will not call you by your new Muslim name, and will put extra effort into calling you by your given name.
14. Realizing that that Dominican blowout won’t last long because of ghusl. Yeah! The struggle is real!
15. Going in to work with your head covered and long overgarment, and trying to find a place to pray while your coworkers look at you confused, because yesterday you were there with shorts on.
Who can relate? I so love Islam and know that my life wouldn’t be what it is if not for my acceptance of Islam. I’ll never forget what the early months and years of my transition to Islam meant to me and all of those around me.