Muslimah Convert or Revert?

Alhamdulillah, I have been practising Islam for over a decade. I usually refer to myself as a convert to Islam, rather than a revert. Sometimes people express their discontent with my word choice. But I have never been asked or welcomed to explain. So here is an insight….

Two reasons why a new Muslimah might move towards the identity ‘convert’ to Islam

1. She testifies that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (may Allah grant him peace and blessings) is His messenger, which means she converts every intention and action in her life to practising those beliefs (as best she can).

2. She recognises that she is different to Muslims who were raised to followed the religion of Islam from birth, and shows this recognition in her nouns and adjectives, as well as her other chosen semantics.

Two reasons why a new Muslimah might move away from the name ‘revert’ to Islam

(… even though she understands about the natural state of worshipping God, fitra, and she knows that Islam means submission to God and His laws and a Muslim, in simple terms, is one who submits)

1. As a ‘revert’, she finds that experienced Muslims approach her as if she is an immature baby in need of cultural nurturing and compete with one another to dominate her style of dress, food choices, and primary spoken language … to shape her into their cultural sister from the outside in — so she will be just like them. She realises that ‘revert’ means ‘baby’ to these sisters, so for her own sake and for theirs, she prefers an adult identity … and she notices that, as a ‘convert’ sisters do not attempt to dominate her in the same way.

2. As a ‘revert’, sisters around her thrust themselves between her and her parents, pushing her to make changes to her family habits and to the name her parents gave her, even when there is no Islamic need to do this. She asserts the identity ‘convert’ so she can communicate to well-meaning sisters that she can stand as she is, in an adult capacity.
Also, ‘revert’ implies to her parents that she was never the daughter they knew her to be when they raised her. And she wants to honour her parents by saying she has chosen a new life path, not rejected them personally. She does not want to reject them or signal rejection to them through needless renaming or thoughtless identifying. (A new Muslimah can pray to Allah to have mercy on her parents, who raised her up when she was little, just like a ‘born Muslimah’ can, alhamdulillah.)

Five good reasons why a ‘born Muslimah’ might forcefully, and unhelpfully, ‘guide’ a new Muslimah to adopt her own ways

1. She wants to please Allah SWT by helping someone she can help to practise Islam.
2. She loves her new sister for the sake of Allah SWT and wants to be close to her.
3. She wants to teach her new sister knowledge to help her practise Islam well and please Allah SWT.
4. She wants to teach her new sister knowledge so she can earn reward from her actions, intentions, and prayers.
5. She wants her new Muslim sister to pray for her….

And, of course there are many more good intentions, masha’Allah.
And every new Muslimah has her own reasons for her choices.

Love Allah heart Aneesa Books

The thing is, do we want to be forceful and unhelpful, inadvertently?

As experienced Muslimahs, insha’Allah we can pray for our own guidance and research the example of how the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah grant him peace and blessings) interacted with people including new Muslims, and follow his sunnah … rather than being led by our impulses which can hurt our new sisters and ourselves.

By Allah’s mercy, the behaviours of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah grant him peace and blessings) were … polite… gentle… tender… kind, right?

Perhaps it is worth pondering the merits of his leniency with various people, masha’Allah….

{So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.} Al Qur’an 3:159

Perhaps it is wise to ask Allah for the gift of patience when befriending a new Muslimah.

Insha’Allah, with prayer and research, we can ask for Allah’s blessings and help to develop our good intentions, alhamdulillah.

What harm is there in allowing new Muslimahs freedom to decide whether to call ourselves converts or reverts? Let’s pause and put more thought into how we reach out to others.

We can reach out to new Muslimahs by facilitating a safe space to connect with love over being blessed to be Muslim. who is a convert, revert, born Muslim, new, old, tall, short, black, brown, white…. We can love ourselves with patience and love our sisters patiently too, insha’Allah. We can work, learn, heal… with each other rather than at each other, insha’Allah.

May Allah SWT forgive us, guide us, and accept our deeds for His sake, ameen.

Rainbow Scarf Nov 2016

Elizabeth Lymer is Author and Rhymer of children’s books including Muslim Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies and Hector Hectricity and the Missing Socks.

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