Converts: No Where to Go Except the Masjid

The discussion generated here and here by the Dispatches program Women Only Jihad has reminded of a conversation I had this weekend and on other occasions about hijab.

A sister was remarking that a new convert admitted that she did not wear hijab except when she was around the masjid and those “conservative judgmental-type Muslims”. And so her first advice or should I say command was to tell the convert to “wear hijab, it’s very important”.

When she asked me, I said hijab is important but it’s not the most important thing right now. The first thing is the aqeedah and eman and keeping good company otherwise she may backslide and fall out of Islam completely as I have seen with far too many converts.

Once the convert is secure in their relationship with Allah built upon the correct aqeedah and emaan, then we can focus on the pillars like salaah, fasting, and zakaah. Hijab and halal chicken are secondary and tertiary issues for a convert. What good is observing hijab and eating halal meat when they do not understand tawheed or how to pray?

So often in our communities, a person takes shahadah and then we expect them to become a perfect Muslim and take on the outer appearances of Islam immediately with little or no regard to the inner dimensions. As long as she’s in hijab we think everything is ok, the reality being more often than not everything is not ok just as preventing women from coming to the masjid is not ok.

Every individual that converts to Islam or returns to practicing the deen after a lapsed period has unique issues to deal with from familial pressures, peer pressure, education, economic issues, substance abuse, sexual abuse, trauma, and the more general diseases of the heart that arise from a living a life of heedlessness to the commands of our Creator. Growing a beard, getting married, or wearing hijab will not solve any of these issues.

I feel very blessed that I did not know or have much interaction with Muslims for much of the first year after my conversion. I learned textbook Islam from books, online articles, and lectures. I was easily able to discern the difference between cultural practice and Islam and this foundation of knowledge with the help of Allah kept me on the straight path and strengthened me to face the opposition and difficulties from my family, friends, and community that arose after my conversion.

Sadly, another person I was learning about Islam with has yet to accept Islam despite being very close at one point because of an inability to get past the mixing of cultural practice and ill treatment of women as exemplified by the brothers in the documentary.

This weekend after the Family Eid Bazaar, the imam gave a lecture in which he reminded us that we are commanded to advise people in the best manner. And that our advice is just that, advice and not a command nor to compel others to agree with us. Our advice should be sincerely for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta ala and not for ourselves and not to show off and embarrass the other person.

Tying this all back to the struggle of women to pray in the masjid is another quote from our imam in which he said, “The masjid is not just a community center, it’s a hospital for the souls and a place people come to make taubah.”

So don’t be one of those masjid bouncers keeping away the sincere people just because their outer appearance might not live up to your expectations and don’t think that because you have not heard or seen any issues from those who seem to be practicing that they are none.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

18 thoughts on “Converts: No Where to Go Except the Masjid”

  1. I suppose I should add that after being away from the Muslim community which was difficult especially during that first Ramadan, my first experience and interaction on Eid with a large group of Muslims was extraordinary elation.

    I learned so much in terms of social interaction just from being in that congregation and in coming to the masjid afterward that I had not learned from the books. And at the masjid, just being with other Muslims, praying together, and in listening to the khutbahs there was the positive reinforcement of my conversion to Islam and the struggles it entailed and I was able to network and become friends with other sisters and begin to attend classes.

    I don’t know why anyone would want to exclude others from also enjoying these benefits.

  2. Another thing I learned at the masjid, was tolerance for difference of opinion and to see those differences in action. There is a sister who is Hanafi that occasionally comes to the masjid usually for lectures or other special events that never prays in the congregation. She always prays after the jama’ah is over by herself. Rather than looking down upon her like she was strange, I was fascinated to know why she did this and of course the answer is that she is following strictly the Hanafi opinion, mashaAllah.

    At the masjid, if it is sufficiently diverse you can see the various valid Islamic opinions on a wide range of issues in practice.

  3. Asalaamu Alaikum Apple,

    Jazak Allah Kheir for such an observant and fabulous post. I, like you, learned initially from textbooks but attending the masjid was so important for my development. After converting to Islam and attending the masjid I was forced to break out of my anti-social shell since so much of the worship and learning is done communally. Also, I had to for the first time cultivate healthy relationships with other women. The time at the masjid was, and continues to be, invaluable.

    Again thank you for your post.

    ma’a salaamah,

    ha

  4. Well, heck, remember, he’s from Minnesota, the land of Hubert Humphrey and Garrison Keillor! (Please don’t ask me who Hubert is… just saying the name makes me feel old…)

  5. Asalamu alaykum HijabiA, you make a great point about meeting the sisters. I was genuinely shocked and delighted by how warm, nice, and generous the sisters are. They definitely helped improve and soften my character.

    Bill, history is my thing so I’ve long been the only one in class that knows who Humphrey was. I don’t know much about Keillor but anytime I hear his name or the title of his show I feel like that is something “old” people would like.

  6. I think one of the issues raised by this post is sincere belief and practice vs. going along with the crowd. That’s why I call myself a ‘Muslim Anarchist’ – it aint coz I’m some kind of liberal rebel, just someone seeking a path I know in my heart is the right one, not a path cajouled by frowns, or even by ‘scholarly authority’. So many people talk about Islam being a faith where no one stands between the believer and Allah (swt), but then speak of the Qur’an as it it were the Highway Code. “There are as many ways to Allah as there are breaths in a life” – so said the Prophet (aws). And he also said, “Defer to your heart even if others advise you, advise you, advise you.”

    Wasalaam

    TMA

  7. no that documentary exemplifies the lack of communications and a total lack of adaab on the part of MPAC people. We “asian/middle eastern” (as this is how you like to label us) muslims arent brought up to snap back at our elders. There’s a way to approach them and change things…anyways you didn’t do a favor to Islam by becoming muslims and niether is Allah azza wa jall in need of any of us. SO my sincere naseehah, which you have perfect right to discard since im a backward/misogynist/narrowminded/uncivilized/asian muslim, is that maybe you should quit acting as if you are living in an ivory tower. You don’t have a special privelege because you are white and come from so called “western” and “civilized” values and background, which we obviously lack. Right have you ever studied sociology??? Your observations would be thrown down the dustbin because they have no basis and neither are they based on a sound methodology…I wonder if you’ve ever heard of “being part of something in order to truely understand it” ????

  8. MA you have really said it in a nut shell. I always see this in the masjid. The minute someone becomes muslim they either have to change their name or wear hijaab. I mean people there are more important things to teach a convert like how to pray and proper aqeedah. subhanallah, you don’t know how many people I have seen leave Islaam because they were either talked into wearing hijab when they weren’t ready or wearing niqab….that one got me the most. we have to have patience when dealing with people and not try to scare them away from Islam which happens more than I care to say. We have to deal with people justly and wisely. And deal with people according to their ability not just with what you feel is right.

  9. Nuqtah, You said…. You don’t have a special privelege because you are white and come from so called “western” and “civilized” values and background,

    Well, MuslimApple is Nigerian, from a Nigerian background, so maybe you should educate yourself about her before you state falsehoods, and lose your Adab in the process. By the way, if you disagree w/ her so much, why not find a blog that you DO agree with? No one is making you read this one…

  10. Asalamu alaykum,

    Wow, subhanAllah I was away for one day and somehow I became white and racist, lol.

    Nuqtah: My dad founded the department of African and African American Studies at his university in order to educate and get away from the racist stereotypes he encountered in much academia and western culture.

    In our home, his kids became his students so we’ve taken all the classes on institutional racism, stereotypes, history of ethnocentrism, racist governments, racist literature, etc. ever since we were kids sitting at the dinner table. I think I could tell you a thing or to about racism but if not you should take some of my dad’s classes, read his editorials, or read his book. In sha Allah, I’ll send it to you free if you want.

  11. Assalamu Aleikum wa Rahmatulahi wa Barakatuhu.

    I had not read what the discussion looked like today.

    I am sad to see Nuqtah say:
    I wonder if you’ve ever heard of “being part of something in order to truely understand it” ????

    Well, if you are a revert, Nuqtah (I don’t know if you are a brother or sister either), you should understand those of us who have been part of something else. Islam does not come to change your whole entire culture, it accepts our differences, otherwise why would the Quran mention that Allah (SWT) made us different “so we may get to know each other”?

    Are you insinuating we are all supposed to be EXACTLY the same, with the same traditions, and cultures?

    There were many things acceptable to the Prophet (SAWS) that were cultural and were not made part of the religion. As long as they are not haram and are not made wajib on our deen, leave people to practice certain cultural differences.

    If you are a sister and feel it is shameful to go out in public or go to the masjid, then let those of us who believe that it is our Islamic duty to go to the masjid do so. It is not haram, it was allowed by our Prophet.

    I don’t understand who you believe is pulling “special privilege”. It seems to me that the problem in our community is that certain Muslims have hijacked our deen and then insult those of us who want our simple rights within it.

    Fitnah is not defined as asking for your rights. What would you say to the sister who stood up to Umar (RA) when he asked that the high dowries stop?

    I took this from another site because it compiles a thought that should be made:

    “Like men, Muslim women are entitled to freedom of expression. It is reported throughout history that women not only expressed their opinions freely, but they also participated in serious discussion with the Prophet himself and other leaders of the Islamic State. Women were accustomed to question the Prophet while men were present. They were not embarrassed to have their voices heard, nor did the Prophet prevent their inquiries. One of these cases was the case of Khowlah Bint Thaalaba. She came to the Prophet (s) and complained about her husband and Allah revealed verses of the Quran while she was sitting and He resolved her problem. And the case of Omar (ra) when he was challenged, during his sermon, by a woman regarding the dowry is an example of women voicing their opinions and correcting a male. Omar admitted that the woman was right and he was wrong. Omar said, “Everybody is more knowledgeable than Omar.” Furthermore, the Quran reflects the conversation between Sulaiman and Balqees. All of these examples support the fatwa that women are allowed to voice their opinions publicly for whatever has been prescribed for us. Allah tells us in the Quran that our speech must be just. The restriction is how we speak and that it should be a just speech. “(Fromhttp://members.iinet.net.au/~asmaazam/role_of_women.htm)

    Dear Nuqtah, I am not sure what you are arguing, or why. Also, why are you arguiing with fellow Muslimas? Is your point that we are wrong to ask to pray in the masjid?

    We love Islam and we love the Muslims. Actually, we love you by extension as well. We are not asking for “sectarian” differences, or “modernizing” Islam to fit our needs.

    At least I can say personally that I have had to fight few battles in my community, Alhamdullilah. I drew the line between cultural practice of Islam and looking for truth in our deen early on. I continue to do so.

    When you spoke of “being part of something in order to truly understand it” I think I do. Why would we say “La illaha il Allah Muhammad RasoolAllah”? We do it for conviction. Noone in this country (I live in the U.S.) made me do it. Actually, I was the first in my family to do it. So, I go from there. You begin living the deen, and you learn how to live from scratch.

    By going to the masjid, I learned, in fact how to be a ” part of something in order to truely understand it” . I think you made a correct choice of phrase.

    I hope you understand a little more of why at least I feel this way, that way, I hope to have facilitated “getting to know each other better” part.

    Jazakum Allahu Khairan for Muslim Apple that allows this dialogue to go this far when she could’ve moderated it and deleted any comments she would like.

  12. Asalamu alaykum,

    May Allah reward the commenters that contributed something sincere and beneficial. Alhamdulillah, most of the commenters tend to be polite and respectful so that I can feel free to leave the moderation options as they are although I may go to full moderation this weekend because I will not be around much and some people have tried unsuccessfully to post some inflammatory tripe but they were deleted before their comments became visible.

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