On dealing with parents:
One question I have received repeatedly over the years since I have converted to Islam is probably the most frightening topic for a revert to deal with:
“Do your parents know you’re Muslim?”
It is arguably, the hardest decision one must make after they say shahada. I remember the questions that were runnings through my mind over and over the minute I got home from the mosque. Do I tell my parents? What will they say? Are they going to hate me? How do I even tell them? What do I say?
These are the questions that weigh on the minds of most reverts. Some carry those questions with them for years, hiding their faith behind locked bedroom doors. Some choose to be up front and deal with the aftermath as it comes. Whichever choice is made, it should be made known that there are things that must first be understood and addressed. Things I know now that I wish I had known then.
1. Remember that your parents love you. Often, love can breed ignorance. In their desperate attempt to protect you, they can sometimes hurt you. Keep that in the back of your mind through everything. You are their child. They put their life into you. Their hard work, their love, their time and energy. All to raise you in the way they understand is best.
2. They don’t really know Islam. Did you really know Islam before you converted? Probably not. It takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, understanding, and most importantly, the desire to learn more. Your parents don’t have any of that.
3. Actions speak louder than words. You can probably remember that from your childhood. Human beings are fickle people. We like to believe things more when we see them. Remember that Islam teaches us how important our actions are. Use this to your advantage. Show them what Islam really is, rather than trying to tell them.
In the beginning, I fought constantly with my parents. They would say something ignorant about Islam and I would immediately become angry and rush to defend my faith. Then I came across this:
Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever does not argue when he is in the wrong will have a home built for him on the edge of Paradise. Whoever avoids it when he in the right will have a home built for him in the middle of Paradise. And whoever improves his own character, a home will be built for him in the highest part of Paradise.” [Tirmidhi]
Remember what I said about human beings being fickle? We are easy to anger. It’s a natural chemical response when we feel passionately about something. But instead of getting angry and fueling the fire, improve your own character. Take the opportunity to show your parents what Islam says about arguing. Breathe. Acknowledge what they said. Disagree. Smile. Move on. Go above and beyond that. Bring flowers home the next day. Buy your dad one of those cute #1 Dad coffee mugs. Let them watch you improve your own character.
Your parents are probably just as scared as you are. Honestly, I would go so far as to say that they’re probably even more scared than you are. At least you know what you’ve gotten yourself into. At least you know that you are following the straight path, that you are becoming what you were put on Earth to become. Your parents still don’t. (My mom, to this day, three years later, forwards me emails from a site called “jihadwatch”).
I had no idea my parents were afraid for me instead of angry with me until my mom broke down one day and admitted she was afraid I was going to hell. The thought was breaking her heart every single day. That realization shattered me. She thinks that it is her fault I’m going to hell. So I pull out my Qur’an and I show her:
"Indeed, those who believed and those who are Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] - those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness - will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve." [2:62]
I make a note to myself and pick up an “Islam for Dummies” book, and casually leave it on the kitchen counter.
I “accidentally forget” some flyers for interfaith events on the couch.
I gently correct her when she says things like “Muslims worship that Prophet guy” or “Muslims don’t believe in Jesus.”
I make dua. Constantly, consistently. Ya Allah, open their eyes. Ya Allah, ease their worries. Ya Allah, give us all patience to deal with one another in the way that best pleases You.
And I commit. Commit to Islam. Don’t falter. Show them what being Muslim means. Let your actions speak for you. Let them watch you change, watch you grow.
Put yourself in your parents shoes for a few minutes every day. Ask yourself, “why are they saying these things? What’s making them act this way?” You will be surprised what you will come to understand. And how much more patient it will make you.