BEING A NEW MUSLIM IN A FAMILY OF NON-MUSLIMS
Your family are religious, practising another faith. How will they react when they hear you have chosen a different path for yourself?
If your family are religious, even if they are practicing a different faith, then this can be used to your advantage.
If your family are Christians or Jews then the first point that can be said is that you are all still worshipping the same God. In this day and age, with the many worldly temptations it is all too easy for individuals to take a path that leads them away from God, whereas you have taken the time to study religion and take a path that you feel will bring you closer to God. Although your parents may not realise this in the beginning, they have a lot to be thankful for.
If your parents are practicing Christians or Jews then we would suggest that you try and point out the many similarities between the religions. As muslims we believe that Islam was being taught right from the start so it is hardly suprising that we all do many things the same. Rather than letting your parents think that their child is now very different to them, help them realise the aspects that still join you.
Belief in the same God. Make sure they realise that Allah (swt) is Arabic for God.
Belief in the same Prophets (peace be upon them all)
Point out the similarities between the stories of the Prophets (peace be upon Them) in the Bible, Torah and Quran
Point out the fact that muslims accept the Torah and Bible as Holy books. Tell them the respect that the books are given, how muslims would not place either book on the floor for example. Explain to them that many muslim households keep copies of these books. (Of course we know that the Holy Quran is the only Holy Book that is protected and that the other Holy Scriptures have been altered to meet the needs of various groups of people. Just look at the number of versions there are! But this might be a conversation to avoid with your family as this will obviously be offensive to them).
Belief in the same moral code of life, eg treatment of neighbours, following the 10 commandments
Belief in the fact that we are all responsible for our own actions
Belief in the concept of a Day of Judgement and a reward for those who do good, and punishment for those whose bad outways their good. (Some Christians do not believe in any punishment on the Day of Judgement as they say that God would not punish us - a simple reminder of the story of Prophet Noah (peace be upon Him), which can be found in the Bible, should suffice)
Belief in Heaven and Hell. Again, some groups in Christianity do not in fact believe in Hell
Belief in Angels
Although the methods may vary, we all have a yearly fast. In Christianity this is 'lent', this is meant as a proper fast, although tends now to be a time when something enjoyed is given up.
If your parents are Christians then tell them about the high place that Islam gives to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). Tell them about how we too believe that Prophet Jesus (peace be upon Him) will return to the earth.
If your parents are Jewish then make sure that they realise that Islam holds Prophet Moses (peace be upon Him) in a very high position. As a Prophet we believe that He is totally free from sin and a perfect example to the rest of us.
Perhaps try to explain how since the time of Prophet Adam (peace be upon Him) it has only been one religion that has been taught to the people. The difference being that the previous Prophets (peace be upon Them) came for a specific group of people, and then finally Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon Him and His Family) came for the whole of mankind for all time. The Bible and Torah both testify that the previous Prophets (peace be upon Them) came for specific groups of people only.
Similarities in the teachings with regards to food and drink. In all the teachings (including Christianity) pig is forbidden. Jews also kill their meat in such a way to drain the blood.
If your parents are practising a different religion, ie not Christianity or Judaism, but a religion that does not involve the worship of Allah (swt) then unfortunately there will not be as many similarities to draw upon. However, there are still some opportunities. For example, the teachings of any religion are likely to include some rules on the treatment of fellow human beings. So perhaps you could point out that as a muslim you now have many obligations towards your fellow human beings, and that Islam provides you with an outline of how to lead a highly moral and decent life.
Whatever religion your family are practising the following two areas are definitely worth explaining to them if you can. They are 'the muslim's duty towards parents' and 'what Islam says about the treatment of non-muslims'.
Duty to Parents.
As converts to Islam we have a greater obligation towards our parents than born muslims. We need to make more of an effort to be kind to our parents, we should phone them more often and go out of our way to show them love and kindness, even if they do not show the same towards us. If disagreements occur we should not raise our voices towards them, we should always talk to them kindly and with respect, whatever the provocation might be. Remember, they may be judging Islam based on how you behave. If they see that Islam has changed you into a better person then alhumdalillah, but damage towards the religion can be easily done just by letting emotion rule your tongue. We need to show them by our good example inshaAllah.
Being kind to one's parents is the best means of attaining the pleasure of Allah (swt).
The Quran says (17.23):
"And your Lord enjoins that you should not worship but Him and be kind to the parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) 'ugh' nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word."
The Quran says (17.24):
"...and lower for them the wings of humility out of mercy, and say, 'My Lord! Have mercy on them as they had nourished me when I was an infant.'"
The Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him and His Family) said: "The pleasure of Allah (swt) lies in the pleasure of one's parents (in the case that it is right), and His wrath lies in their wrath."
Imam Sadiq (as) said: "He who glares at his parents with wrathful eyes, although they have been unjust to him, Allah (swt) will not accept his prayers (unless he repents)."
Imam Sadiq (as) said: "Do treat kindly your parents so that your children do the same to you; and be pious unto the wives of people so that your wives remain pious."
Click here for a very moving letter from a convert to her parents.
What Islam says about how Muslims should treat non-muslims.
As muslims we should always be aware that we are representing Islam. Of course we all make mistakes, but regardless of this, non-muslims will judge Islam by the actions of muslims. If a non-muslim has very little knowledge of Islam then he will assume that the behaviour of a muslim is Islamic.
We therefore need to be particularly careful as to how we conduct ourselves in front of non-muslims. The best way that we can attract new converts is by our example. We cannot, for example, abandon out neighbourly duties if our neighbour is a non-muslim. Imagine how such a neighbour would feel if the muslim took time to collect shopping for them, or bring them round some cooked food. The result is likely to be that they will have a very high opinion of the muslim, and therefore Islam.
Why not look into the ways in which our Prophet (Peace be upon Him and his Family) treated his prisoners during the battles.
Look up the story of the old Jewish lady who used to throw her rubbish out of the window of her house so that it would land on the Prophet (Peace be upon Him and His Family) as he walked past. One day the Jewish lady was not there and no rubbish landed on our Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him and His Family). Instead of feeling happy that there was no rubbish, the Prophet (peace be upon Him and His Family) knocked on the old lady's door to check that she was alright. On finding that she had fallen ill, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon Him and His Family) set about cleaning her house for her and cooking her some food.
There are many examples that we can look at to see how we should be treating non-muslims. Unfortunately many muslims today have an arrogance and total disrespect for non-muslims. In the worst cases using foul language and threatenning behaviour. If only these people could check the teachings of Islam on this matter, for surely their behaviour is not attracting new converts. This kind of attitude is not in any way something that Islam teaches, rather this is just plain ignorance and stupidity on the part of those people.
So the point here anyway is that your family may be reassured to know what Islam says about the treatment of non-muslims. They may be relieved to know that, despite the propaganda, you will be showing compassion towards your fellow human beings.