Feeling Lost as a Convert

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world (although it is second in number of adherents). This is partly because of the growth of Muslim families, but it is also because of an increasingly large number of converts. However, what many Muslims don’t realize is that many of these new Muslims leave the faith after months or even years of being converts.

See this article, “Why Are New Muslims Leaving the Faith?” from Islam21c.

I’ve been a Muslim for three years now and I can relate to much of what is written in this article. I haven’t been tempted to leave Islam, but I’ve sometimes wondered if I have what it takes to be a Muslim. I know that all it takes to become a Muslim is the statement of faith (the Shahada). But being a Muslim (a “good” or practicing Muslim) is another thing altogether.

Here’s where I think things go wrong for many converts:

  1. Muslims are not completely honest beforehand about what is expected of the new convert.
  2. Muslims bombard the new convert with all these rules that he is suddenly supposed to live by.
  3. Many of the rules have no basis in Islam, but are cultural conventions.
  4. There are so many differing opinions about some issues, the new convert becomes confused.
  5. Born Muslims have no idea how hard it is for the convert to completely change his or her life.
  6. Most new converts are handicapped by the fact that they don’t know Arabic.
  7. Converts are often isolated from other Muslims and find it hard to break into new groups.
  8. Muslims expect too much too soon and get impatient with converts who take a long time to adjust.
  9. Muslims expect converts to just “pick up” how to be Muslims on their own.
  10. Converts are afraid to admit how much trouble they are having and don’t know where to go for help.

I was very fortunate that when I became a Muslim, I had a lot of born Muslims who befriended me and whom I saw every day. They always asked how I was doing and were ready to help in any way they could. They invited me into their homes and went with me to the masjid. It was a wonderful introduction to Islam and I will forever be grateful to Allah for bringing these people into my life.

But things change. Now most of these friends have moved away. I have no one to go to the masjid with or to ask for advice. The only consistent fellowship I have is on Facebook. I’ve begun to slip in my commitment to pray and to wear the hijab. Eids have become a lonely time for me. Ramadan seems pointless.

Much of this is my fault, I know. If I need help I should ask for it. I should do all I can to increase my iman and develop my deen. I need to pray more than ever and ask Allah to help me. I should keep in touch with all my Muslims friends and be honest with them about how I’m doing. (This is really hard!) I don’t have to do this alone.

But I think we all feel that we should be able to. That there’s something wrong with us if we can’t. However, speaking for myself, I feel so overwhelmed by all I don’t know that I just don’t know where to start. Should I learn Arabic? Memorize the Qur’an? (In English??) Force myself to go to the masjid (which, by the way, is doubly hard for a woman)? Watch YouTube videos about Islam and how to be a better Muslim? Sign up for forums and ask strangers for guidance? Bug my Muslim friends with complaints and questions?

What makes it even harder is that I live in a predominantly Christian nation. People just assume that everyone is Christian (unless told otherwise). I was raised as a Christian and most of my family and spiritual memories revolve around Christian traditions and rituals. Being a Christian comes as naturally to me as breathing. Being a Muslim does not.

It’s also hard when Muslims form groups and cliques according to their ethnicity or nationality. If you don’t belong to their group and speak their language, you’re the odd man (or woman) out.

You know what my greatest joy is? When someone says “Asalaam alaykum” to me when I’m out running errands. Those are the times when I feel like a part of the great big wonderful community of Muslims. Those are the times when I feel like I belong.

Another convert weighs in on this issue here.

Published by

Ellen

Editor and chief writer at I, Muslimah and Femagination. Ellen also contributes regularly to Elevate Difference. She is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with two cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

8 thoughts on “Feeling Lost as a Convert”

  1. Assalaamualaikum wr wb sister,
    I know I’m just a stranger but I’ll be happy to help you with this. Just ask away without hesitation and I’ll answer ASAP, inshallah. Just email me.

  2. Asalam Alaykum,

    I am a revert too, and have faced many difficulties since my conversion. I have just created a facebook page for reverts, its quite new. I’ve created this page for Reverts like yourself, who can talk about some of the issues we face and in general, just to pass on some dawah. I would love to hear more, this is a great article.

    My page is:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Am-Proud-To-Be-A-Muslim-Revert/172095116258467

    Its quite new so im still trying to build it up! Please like and share.

    Jazak-Khullah-Khair

  3. asalamu alaykum sister, I am feeling the same way. I converted to Islam in April 2012 and i feel so alone, as i don’t understand what is expected of me and i don’t have much Muslim friends around to be a guide for me. My husband tries to help but he’s busy working and he doesn’t practice his religion much. I’m considering to attend a Arabic lessons with the hope that I would understand the Quran more and to meet other born Muslim sisters.

  4. Assalamu alaikom sis,

    I’m a convert too, alhumdulilah! Many of the things that you described are too. As Muslims we are constantly learning about living our lives as Muslims. It does take time. Everything starts in steps. We must walk before we crawl. It’s a reality. We aren’t going to know what to do when we first become Muslims, and thats okay because thats apart of learning about Islam. We will learn step by step. The first thing that is important is learnign about Tawheed(belief in Allahswt and what it entails) and our obligations. Everything else is unimportant-marriage and all of this. I’ve been going to Sunnahfollowers.net for 2 years now give or take. Alhumdulilah, there are live classes everyday by Sis. Laila Nasheeba. She’s a great teacher. Muslims from all over the world come to her classes and she has Tawheed class at 4pm EASTERN TIME or 3PM central time. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOU JOIN US!! I highly encourage you to come sis. You can email me too inshaALLAH and I can tell you more.

  5. Salaam Aleikum-I am a new convert myself. It will be a year this month. I have the same problem with lonliness. I have only 1 Muslim friend, and she is busy with her family and school.My first Ramadan was mostly lonely, as my husband spent it with his family(they do not know I exist because it would hurt his Xwife and daughters feelings as he has moved on and his X has not, but I believe that is due to cultural issues) Anyways, I spent my 1st Ramadan alone,in a barn on my parents property mostly reading Islamic literature-I finished reading Quran, but it was in English. I just want to sya to the new converts to stay strong and dont give up. Allah will make a path!

  6. Asalaamu alaikum,
    I read your article and am so sorry you feel this way. There are so many of us converts hurting and noone even knows about it. I found the Islam21C article last month and posted it on my blog. The comments I read were heart breaking. I have been through a lot myself. Everything from being totally alone in a very rural area with the mosque being 2 hours away to having quarrels with my mum over trying to feed my children pork. Being Muslim is not easy for us, but I beleive that we get more rewards from Allah (swt) than those who don’t have to try as hard :) E-mail me anytime you want to chat.
    Salaams,
    Umm Sarah

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