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OnIslam.net

The Role of Our Mosques in Caring for Reverts

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A Muslim Activist’s Experience
By Maan Khalife
Onislam.net Staff
beautiful_mosque
Many beautiful mosques have been established. Are they really friendly to new Muslims?
Beautiful Masjid in America

The mosques in the West are on the increase, so is the number of reverts to Islam.

In many cases, building new mosques and establishing new Islamic centers are not necessarily helping new Muslims since many mosques are labeled to belong to a particular group of Muslims.

For example, we often hear this is a Bosnian mosque, a Somali mosque, or a Pakistani mosque, just to name a few.

In a certain locality, you might find lots of mosques, but only few are welcoming to new Muslims; this is not to say that the so called labeled mosques are totally not welcoming, but we have to agree that they have been tailored to their specific community so a new Muslim does not usually feel comfortable. 

In addition, the few mosques that could be friendlier towards new Muslims do not offer all the ingredients new Muslims are looking for. Mosques should be made comfortable for anyone regardless of their cultural background or ethnicity; whether they are well established in Islam or new to Islam.

How Should Mosques Be?

Islam is the most beautiful religion because of its universality.

God has made His religion adaptable to all times, all people, and to every location on earth. This was done by what is known to us as standardization; it came naturally in Islam by worshipping one God (Allah), adopting a single prayer direction (qibla), a uniform prayer (salat), and one complete way of life shown to us by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). All Muslims should walk in any mosque around the world and feel no different than their mosque in their own locality; consistent in conformity and universality.

Each community should have at least one mosque that may fully accommodate the needs of new Muslims.

Inconsistencies usually confuse new Muslims and they start asking questions and getting inconsistent answers that does not help them grow in their faith in anyway. It would be ideal if all mosques in one country adopt the same way of performing the Friday sermons; however, this might be unrealistic. So I will start with what is more realistic.

Each community should have at least one mosque that may fully accommodate the needs of new Muslims. So what are the characteristics of these mosques?

Characteristics of New Muslim-Friendly Mosques

Each mosque should have at least the following:

  • A revert to Islam package, handed immediately after pronouncing the testimony of faith (shahadah).
  • A brotherhood/sisterhood match, so new Muslims are matched with well-established Muslims to help them grow in their faith.
  • Provide transport for new Muslims who live far from the community mosque, and do not have any means of transportation.
  • Weekly Islamic lessons should be established that are specific to reverts so they are easily able to express themselves and explain their needs, other than consistently learning about their new faith.
  • Monthly outings to local parks for example; this could be done with the rest of the community in order to expand their scope of friends.
  • Quarterly trips or camps to nearby attractions.
  • Yearly gatherings with other localities in a larger geographic region to share experiences of both successes and failures.
  • Create a database to track progress and status of new Muslims; the purpose is to also find them jobs and suitable life partners, if need be.
  • Launch a scholarship fund to help new Muslims who are interested in learning Islam in depth.
  • Set up a 24 hour hotline for reverts where both male and female counselors are ready to answer questions; this could be established at the national level if there are no available resources in local communities.
  • On a larger scale, establish shelters for those new Muslims who have been rejected by their families. This gives them confidence and security, without fearing of losing their faith due to social or family pressure.

Set up a 24 hour hotline for reverts where both male and female counselors are ready to answer questions.

Suggestions for a Revert Package

Revert package should include at least the following:

  • A reliable translation of the meaning of the Quran
  • Set of basic Islamic books talking about the Muslim creed and how to understand Islam.
  • Media containing how to perform ablution (wudu), Islamic prayer (salat), pronunciation of the opening chapter, Al-Fatihah; and links to well known Islamic sites with a brief explanation of each site.
  • A prayer mat and a hijab for sisters.

Suggestions for Lessons Tailored for Reverts

Weekly lessons should have beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. The minimum period for completion of all levels should be no less than two years. This article is not intended to detail the contents of all lessons, however these lessons should include at least:

  • Proper learning and understanding of the five pillars of Islam and the six articles of faith.
  • Lessons about the lives of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions.
  • Learning basic Arabic and memorizing selected chapters from the Quran.
  • Understand Islamic manners and ethics.
  • How to increase in faith and spirituality.

What's Next?

What has been suggested is only a foundation; each locality may tailor to accommodate the needs of its local revert community. What is important is to start and not procrastinate.

If you need any help in establishing your local new Muslim chapter, have suggestions, feedbacks or questions, or would like to share your success story, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our email address is [email protected].

According to an official statistics 75% of reverts to Islam leave the religion.

I tend to have a different opinion and would confidently say that only a small percentage leaves Islam while the majority becomes non-practicing Muslims just like born Muslims who believe in God and his Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) yet do not practice the 5 pillars of Islam.

I have been in the Islamic Community of Tempe, Arizona since 1983 and have experienced the ups and downs of the community. I was always interested in taking care and looking after reverts in order to eliminate any misconceptions that they had.

The Meeting Point

One day Manuel walked into the Mosque, unknowingly he goes to the ladies side, kneels and weeps his heart out. I noticed him and waited for him to complete his emotional prayer. As he starts to walk out I asked him if he is ok and we started talking. He said that he was just walking by and felt at peace to enter and offer a prayer. He asked many questions but was mainly astonished that Muslims do not drink Alcohol and do not take drugs. That seems trivial to a Muslim but Manuel was a drug addict and his prayers were dedicated that God relieves him from this addiction.

Manuel remained with the community for few years but started drifting when he was not able to control his addiction. The Muslims around him were intolerant of his behavior so it gave him an excuse to give up.

Jose was a good Muslim for over 5 years until one day he came to me and said that Islam is too difficult for him to practice. I asked what has changed over the years.  To my surprise, I learned that some Muslims asked him some personal questions to conclude that most of the things that his doing were unlawful according to Islam; they even mentioned to him that he should get rid of his car insurance which is mandatory by state law. Jose insisted that he needs to get away so I did not pressure him but emphasized that he should keep the main Islamic creed: “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is his final messenger”.  Jose promised that he will.

I pray that both Manuel and Jose have found their way back to Islam by Allah’s will and mercy. There are many more examples to mention; however from experience, I have concluded that whoever enters Islam full-heartedly does not leave it that easily.  Even when drifted away the foundation of Islam still remains in the heart and many times a return even after many years.

A Muslim who is not knowledgeable in the ways of Dawah should refrain from talking about Halal and Haram to new Muslims.

On the flip side of the coin, Muslims tend to overwhelm reverts. Just couple days after accepting Islam, I asked Zachary what he thinks. He frankly replied that there were too many rules. Excited about their new Muslim brother, Muslims tend to over teach and many times confuse reverts; expecting them to practice all aspects of Islam overnight.

We Can Be Better Than That…

God in his Book told his prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him):

{Say this is my way; I call to Allah upon certain knowledge, I and those who follow me} (Yusuf 12: 108)

A Muslim who is not knowledgeable in the ways of Dawah should refrain from talking about Halal and Haram to new Muslims. His Dawah should be portrayed in kindness and hospitality.

To keep reverts in the Muslim community there need to be at least a weekly program to gradually teach them about Islam. Reverts should be adopted by a Muslim family and need to be invited weekly to different Muslim homes to feel they are part of a big family who loves them and care for them. Finally Islamic Centers should have shelters to lodge some reverts who were rejected by their non-Muslim families and have nowhere to go and end-up leaving Islam when we don’t embrace them and take them in.

The first two propositions are very simple to implement and does not require any budget; all it takes is dedicating time and a little effort. For couple hours on the weekend, knowledgeable brothers and sisters can arrange for classes. The second is a coordination effort; families fill their names on a calendar and the program coordinator assigns reverts for visitations on weekly basis. This is obviously trivial; the main challenge is keeping it up. Many times families give up because it becomes a burden after sometime; forgetting about the tremendous reward from God.

As for shelters, many have been founded in North America and proven extremely successful especially for female reverts since they are the most vulnerable. A simple Google search can lead to many Muslim shelters that can be used as a foundation to start one in your community.

There are many other things that can be done to keep reverts in the family. Just to mention few; offer them jobs at Muslim businesses and for those who are single, find them a life partner. As for the latter, I found that this has become a taboo and no one likes to get involved in this issue. Match making is definitely a challenging task but we can always try. I remember during a youth talk at the Mosque, a revert stood up and asked what is the procedure to find a Muslim wife since he no longer has a girlfriend. This is definitely an important issue that needs to be addressed.

Another important yet ignored issue is counseling. This task has been mainly the Imam’s job around most communities. I think this is overwhelming for an Imam.  There should be many counselors, both males and females to discuss social pressures reverts are facing. Sometimes all it takes is someone to listen to.

In the past Muslim communities were enclosed and those who came to Islam came on their own by God’s will. At the present time, there are many Dawah programs and reverts are coming to Islam from many directions. Their number is considerably increasing. According to NBC news report, there are more than 20,000 reverts to Islam yearly in the United States alone. Our goal is to keep every single one of them inside the circle of the Muslim community.

We should use all means to accommodate them. I have only suggested and addressed few issues and solutions. This might or might not work in your community. Spend sometime to brainstorm about resolving your own community’s issues regarding reverts and dedicate a prayer in order for God to help you serve Islam and the Muslims better.

After all our lives are wasted if we ignore our duties and may Allah help us all in pleasing Him.

Related Links:
Culture Shock: New Muslims in Muslim Countries Sarah Joseph on Countering Muslim Stereotypes Answering Secular Feminism: Defining Justice All Power and Strength is From God Alone From Darkness, I Can See the Light

Maan Khalife established the first Muslim cemetery in the state of Arizona and has been active in the field of Dawah for the past 30 years.

Related Links:
Challenges Facing a New Muslim
Tips for New Muslims to Overcome Isolation
5 Ways for New Muslims to Strengthen their Faith
In Pursuit of Knowledge: Tips for New Muslims
Twelve Tips for New Muslims

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