This is the second and last series in our Convert Perspectives Collection. Interviewees: Francesca and Chib
QUESTION #1: WERE YOU RAISED IN A RELIGIONS HOME PRIOR TO REVERTING TO ISLAM?
Francesca: I was raised in a Catholic household before I converted to Islam, although I didn't really practice Catholicism myself.
Chib: Salaam and hello everyone. I was raised in a Catholic home. My parents are Hispanic and Catholicism is the religion which many Hispanics tend to follow. I, however never really felt any connection to it. I attended Sunday school and did my first Communion but afterwards I didn't feel comfortable following a religion which did not seem to fit who I was as a person. So I left the Catholic Church when I was only 11.
QUESTION #2: WHAT INITIALLY DREW YOU TO ISLAM?
Francesca: My friend from school went to Saudi for Umrah(pilgrimage to hajj that is taken outside of the month of dhul hijja), and when he came back he showed me pictures of Mecca. I remember looking at them and feeling like someone had taking my breath away, SubhanAllah. Everything was just so beautiful, and I wanted to know more. My friend began telling me a few things about the pilgrimage and what it involves and he then sent me a link of the Adhan. When I listened to it, I started to tear up and I felt like something touched my heart. I'd never admired something so much before, and it felt weird. I began to research a little bit about Islam after this independently, and began to find myself agreeing with what it taught and discovered the true beauty of Islam. Within a short period of time, I'd already believed that Islam provided me with a connection with God that I had never experienced before. I was very scared though at what other people would think, so I kept my thoughts to myself. However, after a conversation with my friend, he started to ask me how I felt about Islam, and when he asked me if I believed that Allah is one and that Prophet Muhammed(PBUH) was his final messenger, and at that moment I realised that there was nothing holding me back so I decided to take my Shahadah, Alhamdulilah.
Chib: What initially drew me to Islam to begin with was always the fact that there was one God to pray to. Also that the Qur'an has not ever been rewritten. The more research I started to do the more I fell in love with Islam. How it intertwined with science and gave explanations as well as how it explained how the Qur'an is the real word of Allah SWT by giving examples scientifically as well as mathematically and logically. Also how women are viewed as the highest things in this world. That was what sealed the deal for me.
QUESTION #3: WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO CONVERT?
Francesca: See response to #2
Chib: I decided to convert because I knew this was what I was looking for. My whole life has always been a long search for something to make me feel whole. I never understood what I was trying to find so I decided to fill it with other things like relationships, parties, drinking, smoking you name it. After a while I fell into some hardships and decided to start searching for religion again. I tried to become Christian but it didn't feel right to me. I remember looking at this Youtube video that was titled “Don't Be Sad Allah SWT Knows Why”. After watching that video I just couldn't believe that everything I had been so confused about was answered in this video and right then and there I knew that Islam was for me. I felt it in my heart.
QUESTION #4:HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU FROM LEARNING ABOUT ISLAM TO ACTUALLY CONVERTING? WHY WAS IT A QUICK OR PROLONGED DECISION?
Francesca: My interest in Islam always lingered in the back of my mind but I never really took it seriously. It was just something I was aware of. Once I began to think about what Islam meant and whether I wanted to be a Muslim, it wasn't long before I converted.
Chib: It took me around 4-5 months before I actually decided to take my Shahada, I knew after finding Islam that I wanted to convert. However I wanted to make sure I took my time and did my research before I made that commitment to Allah SWT. I always told myself that Allah SWT would tell me when the time was right and on January 6th 2014 I woke up and it was the coldest day in Chicago -35 degrees and I knew today was the day.
QUESTION #5:WHAT WERE THE REACTIONS OF YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY UPON YOUR CONVERSION?
Francesca: My parents do not know that I am Muslim, I did try to tell them when I originally converted. They already knew that I was interested in Islam, as I would talk about it to my mum. My mum seemed very calm about it and would be interested to. I thought it meant that when I would tell her about my interest of being a Muslim, she would have been okay with it but I was wrong. The first thing I decided to do was give up pork, so I told my mum that I no longer wanted to eat it anymore because I wanted to take my interests in Islam seriously. My mum got very angry with me. And over the next couple of weeks, my parents and I argued constantly. Eventually, it ended up in a lot of tears from both sides. I remember my parents saying things like "Aren't you proud of us" "Do you love Islam more than us", and it broke my heart because I didn't know what to say. My parents are very ignorant about Islam and make assumptions so they weren't happy and it caused a huge amount of stress. They said a lot of hurtful things about Islam, and our relationship isn't the same anymore, but it just made me want to stick by the decision I had already made to be a Muslim. My friends however, are really supportive and are happy for me.
Chib: After converting I decided to only let 2 of my closest friends know, they were very supportive and provided me with so many sources about Islam to make sure this was what I wanted. They even took me to the masjid to take my Shahada. However not all my friends were as supportive. I lost a lot of friends after they had found out about my conversion. I even stopped talking to one of my closest girl friend because she just wasn't the type of person I wanted to surround myself with anymore. I would say a good percentage of my friends were surprised because I never looked like the type to be Muslim. But they were so happy for me because most of my friends were Muslim. As for my family they were a little uncertain on how to take the news. I had to hide it from my parents for a bit because I wasn't sure how they would react. After I told my mom she told me she was happy for me that I found something to believe in. As for my father he doesn't really discuss it with me.
QUESTION #6: DID YOU FACE ANY HARDSHIPS AFTER YOUR CONVERSION FROM YOURSELF, FAMILY, FRIENDS, ETC?
Francesca: Everyday is difficult because my parents don't know that I am Muslim. I wish that I could proudly say that I'm a practicing Muslim, but I am sadly not. I'm unable to wear the hijab, eat halal meat, fast during Ramadan and sometimes even pray without being disturbed. I cry myself to sleep because I'm so ashamed of myself because I just sin and its beyond my control. I love Islam and I trust in Allah, but there are times when I can't even bring myself to make dua because I don't know what the right thing to say is. Accepting Islam has been the happiest and saddest time of my life, but In sha Allah, things will get easier. I try my best to do what I can, hoping that Allah understands.
Chib: I still face hardships till this day after my conversion. More with my family than my friends. Allah SWT has a way of replacing bad things with things that are better for you even if that means losing friends. My family is a different story, they're not as supportive as they should be and make things hard at home such as fasting and praying. They don't support me wearing Hijab and they don't bring up Islam. It always feels like I am walking on eggshells around them when things about religion come up or we see women dressed in abayas and khimars. My family thinks its oppressive and goes on what the media says. However, every little chance I get to show them the true meaning of Islam, I make sure to share my knowledge in order to change their minds even if it takes one small step at a time.
QUESTION #7: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE NEW CONVERTS AND THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN CONVERTING TO ISLAM?
Francesca: If there is any advice that I can give, It would be to not rush anything, especially if you are young. Be aware of what you’re doing and what It will mean for you and your parents. Increase in knowledge of the deen before accepting and slowly tell your parents before you convert, instead of afterwards. May Allah help our journey to Islam easier, Ameen.
Chib: My advice to new converts or those thinking about converting is, things will get hard after you convert. Your new life starts after you take your Shahada and there will be times where you feel like you can’t do it anymore and that Islam is hard. You will question your faith, you will question Allah SWT, you will get mad and upset. There will be times where you feel like you have no one to help you. But those are the times that you need to put your trust in Allah SWT. No matter how hard or how easy or what support you have or don't have, hold on to your faith. Do not let anyone or anything take that away from you. Ask Allah for strength, you'll be surprised how you'll still be trying so hard to get this right. And for those who are interested in converting do not let my words above discourage you or scare you, explore Islam, accept the beauty of it, after all, something lead you to this and that is not a coincidence. Islam is wonderful and will change your life for the better. So if you want to convert do it when you feel the time is right.
QUESTION #8: WHAT MAIN DIFFERENCE HAVE YOU NOTICED IN YOUR LIFE SINCE YOU BECAME MUSLIM?
Francesca: There's so many things that have changed, I'm not quite sure if there's a main difference. But generally, my mindset on life has changed. I now realise that materialistic and worldy pleasures are only temporary, and I am focused on becoming a better Muslim In sha Allah, to strive for Jannah. Being a Muslim provides me with purpose that I previously didn't know and that even when my relationships with family and friends are not in a good place, I now have Allah to turn to.
Chib: Some of the big differences that I have noticed since I became Muslim are my patience and my sense of Taqwa as well as my manners. I am more humble, I treat everyone better, I think of Allah in everything I do. My patience has increased and I am more grateful for any little thing I have. Islam has changed who I am for the better. And I couldn't be anymore happier.
QUESTION #9: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US? ANY STORY OR EXPERIENCE RELATED TO YOUR LIFE AS A CONVERT THAT YOU WOULD LIKE US TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
Francesca: Islam has brought me this Ummah. It has taught me to love people I do not know and to be selfless. As hard as it is, I have no regrets in accepting Islam, and will always know that its a gift to finally open my eyes to something that is beautiful. May Allah guide others to Islam and open their eyes and hearts to the truth, Ameen.
Chib: I would like to share one thing. Having a support system is important, I myself don't have a real big one. Sure I have muslim friends but it's hard for them to be able to connect with me as a convert. It's important to surround yourself with people who want the best for you in your faith as well as your life. I know that groups or attending the masjid can be overwhelming and intimidating. This is where the internet comes into play. There are so many wonderful sites for converts as well as youtube bloggers who are converts themselves who share our struggles who understand. I have talked to so many sisters who help me with any questions I might have or who just encourage me to keep wearing hijab or to listen to me when I feel down. Never underestimate the kindness of people. Also read!! read read read! do research! keep learning about Islam watch lectures attend online livestreams! fill your Facebook with good credible Islamic pages as well as your twitter or Instagram or tumblr. I feel that cleaning out your social networking site is a huge improvement in your life. We spend so much time checking our social apps why not fill it with the remembrance of Allah? Also there are so many wonderful Islamic books you can get for free from Islamic websites who run their own programs for reverts. As well as books on amazon. Youtube will be your best friend when it comes to having daily Islamic reminders. There's also apps for that make it a habit to check them. And last but not least keep your Quran at your bedside, I think it helps to always remember to read the Quran it will be your guide it will hold the best place in your heart and it will increase your faith.
JazakAllah Khairun to those who responded. May Allah continue to guide you onto the sirat-ul-mustaqin, may He continue to provide you with hidayah.
Readers(and Interviewees): What are your thoughts on some of the concerns shared here about being a revert? What, if any, advice would you like to offer them?
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Welcome to our "Convert/Revert" section. This section of Striving For Clarity is dedicated to articles and stories geared towards those who chose to enter Islam later in life. If you would like to contribute to this section, visit our Guest Contributor page.