New Converts and Their Parents

Question and answer details
Mandy Lee
As-salamu `aleikum! I just said my Shahadah yesterday, al-hamdu lillah. My parents think Islam represses women and my dad keeps telling me how they have no rights. I know it is the opposite and that Muslim women were the first to get rights and are protected by men, not controlled by them. Anyway, my parents are not religious at all, and my mom does not believe that God needs to be worshipped, even though she believes in God. How can I let them know that Islam is good? I don't want them to go to Hell. I gave my mom a book to read but she still has the same views. I have a book about the scientific miracles in the Qur'an but I don't know how to ask my dad to read it. I want to wear hijab but they see it as a sign of oppression. I wear long skirts and long-sleeved shirts and everything but no head-covering, although I really want to wear the head-cover as well. How do I let them know in a nice way that Islam is not bad?
Group of Consultants

AAI consultant Yusuf Phelps says:

Salam Mandy,

Thank you for your question, and congratulations on your excellent decision!

It seems like there are three issues at stake here: That your parents allow you to practice Islam as you like, that they understand that Islam and your conversion is generally a good thing, and that they ultimately become Muslim themselves. I have listed the three issues in order of immediate importance.

I, too, accepted Islam at a young age (14), and I can identify with your experiences and problems. Your parents may fear that you have been simply indoctrinated by a persuasive religious leader, or that you have joined a cult. These fears are only compounded by your relatively young age.

The most reassuring thing I can tell you is that the tension resulting from these misunderstandings will decrease with time. At some point in the future, your parents will most likely realize that your commitment to Islam is sincere and not simply a “phase.”

Similarly, your ability to decide how you want to practice your new religion will also increase with time in sha' Allah (God willing). At first, the people you love may react severely to what they perceive as a radical change in your life. This is a predictable response, but realize that their eventual “softening” is equally predictable.

In the meantime, you should do the best that you possible can in practicing your religion, in maintaining your love and attentiveness to your parents and siblings, and in your studies. I also urge you to consult a scholar whom you trust and respect with regard to your hijab problems. He or she can suggest an appropriate course of action.

One mistake that many converts make (myself included) is to lose their sense of humor upon accepting Islam. Your parents will most likely be scrutinizing every new change in your life, and anything they view as negative they may attribute to Islam. For this reason, it is imperative that you only increase in your excellence toward them while still maintaining the loveable personality that they have grown to love over the years.

An old friend of mine accepted Islam; he faced many difficulties with his parents at the beginning. He discovered several years later that his parents believed Islam had changed him into a stern and unsmiling fanatic and that their original son was effectively dead. He only then realized that his initial fervor had manifested itself in a very unproductive manner with regard to his parents.

On the other hand, one of the best forms of da`wah with your parents is to increase your service to them without expecting anything in return. For instance, if you were in the habit of waiting until they asked you to do such-and-such household tasks before actually doing them, you should now volunteer your services without being reminded, and you should go out of your way to help them in new chores and tasks that you never assisted in before your conversion.

Naturally, calling one’s parents to Islam is a long process, but by increasing your excellence toward them, you will at least draw their attention to the positive side of your conversion. You must have patience with them and realize that it is difficult for a parent to take advice (particularly deep, personal advice) from their children. They may be thinking, we taught this girl everything she knows in life, who does she think she is giving us religious advice!?

For a more-detailed approach to giving da`wah in general and to one’s parents in specific, please refer to the following article and the other useful links at the bottom of the page: Da`wah With a Portuguese Grandmother.

For now, let it suffice that your conduct with them, your du`aa' (supplications), and your concern for them are the three most effective ingredients in calling your parents to Islam.

With regard to pamphlets and da`wah literature, I don’t know your family’s intellectual interests, but I suggest that you try to simply educate them on the fundamental beauty of the Islamic faith. Most Americans only know the distorted image of Islam depicted on FoxNews and its like. As such, it is important to let them know that the Islamic civilization has a rich intellectual history that was (and still SHOULD be) amazingly tolerant and cosmopolitan.

There is an excellent booklet on the basic tenets and practices of Islam that contains many wonderful pictures of Muslims and Muslim civilization from around the world. The contents of the book can be found at this link: Search through IslamiCity. But, I recommend buying a copy of the booklet in order for your parents to benefit from all of the pictures. It contains only the most basic information about Islam, but my own parents still found it informative.

Please keep us in your du`aa', we are doing the same for you. May Allah accept you and use you as a means of guidance for your parents and the rest of mankind. Ameen.

Please stay in touch.

AAI consultant Marwa El-Naggar adds:

Salam Mandy,

Regarding your question on hijab, you probably should ask a scholar you trust for what to do. This is to make sure you act according to the Islamic Shari`ah, in your specific case, regarding such an important issue. In the meantime, I would like to add a few comments on the issue.

Wearing hijab can sometimes be the easiest thing in the world, especially if you have other Muslim girls around you who also wear it. At the same time, when you feel like you are the only person wearing hijab, it can be one of the toughest things to do. You end up feeling like you are the odd one out, and wondering if your friends will stop socializing with you. Your family can also add to the difficulty of the situation if they are unsupportive, which they may very well be, as you mention in your question.

Try to think of ways to allay your parents’ fears. Why would they think you would be oppressed by wearing hijab? Do you think they would feel you were oppressed if you suddenly started wearing a bandana? Probably not, because there are a lot of young people who consider wearing a tie-dye bandana, for example, as something “cool”. Maybe adding a cool scarf around the neck would solve the rest of the problem. The different reactions to the different styles say a lot about people’s culture and the way Islam is portrayed by the media.

Although I am living in a Muslim country, I have friends who had trouble with their parents when they first started wearing hijab. Their parents were unhappy with the hijab, thinking that it meant their daughters had been brainwashed. However, with a little perseverance from the girls themselves, and with the right choice of the style of hijab, most parents would eventually accept it.

My personal advice to you, dear Mandy, is to try to pick a “non-threatening” style of hijab. Choose colors that are cheerful and “pretty”. If you feel it is necessary, “ease” into wearing hijab, so your parents won’t feel like you’ve been brainwashed. Try wearing a bandana at first and make it cover as much of your hair as you can. Then with a little patience, you can start wearing larger hijabs that fulfill all the requirements. Again, even when you do start wearing the “full” hijab, make sure the colors stay cheerful. Play with the different styles of hijab (you probably can find pictures of different styles on the Internet). This will put them more at ease, when they find you “having fun” and experimenting with different styles.

Another thing, as Brother Yusuf mentioned in his answer to you, make sure that wearing the hijab does not change your personality. Be as cheerful as you were before wearing it. Don’t get defensive if their reaction is not positive. Expect that and be ready with a calm explanation of what hijab is and why you wear it. Make sure they understand that you have not been “forced” to wear it by anyone, and that it was your own choice. We will include some links at the end of this answer that may help you address their concerns. It is important that you remain calm when talking to them. Don’t let their reaction make you panic. When they see you talking calmly and intelligently about this decision, they will be more likely to accept it. You can even have your own jokes when they give you a gloomy reaction to your hijab. Be a cheerful person in your new cheerful look.

More importantly, before you do wear the hijab and before you talk to your parents about it, remember to ask Allah for His help. Open up your heart to Him, explaining all your deepest fears and aspirations. Be sincere in your du`aa' and have unwavering faith that Allah will help you overcome these problems.

I hope this helps you and answers your questions. Please do not hesitate to write back should you have any further concerns. Keep in touch.


Useful Links:

How to Call Close Family to Islam

Hijab in Summer

Several Questions about Hijab

Hijab Again!

Fashion and Hijab

Hijab… a Must, Not a Choice

The Hijab… Why??