Continuing on from the first part here I just wanted to highlight some more struggles that reverts go through. Just to reiterate: not all reverts go through these difficulties and indeed a lot of them apply to born Muslims too! But – for reverts, they go through these struggles on top of the struggles which the majority of born Muslims don’t come across.
Wearing the hijab
In western countries this is a struggle for all Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab. The difficulties with employment; with socialising with non-Muslims; the frequent backlash from non-Muslims who disagree with it as well as some Muslims who do; the fact that hijabis are often the most visible Muslims and therefore much more likely to be targets of islamophobic hate crimes. Along with all of this, revert Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab have several other issues to contend with. First of all, knowing how to wear the hijab, the khimar (headscarf) as well as the clothing worn. Finding appropriate clothes and scarves and finding yourself and feeling comfortable in these.
Another major difficulty for revert Muslim women with wearing the hijab is the reaction from family and friends. The difficulty of explaining why you want to wear it, and any explanation simply not being good enough. Dealing with remarks and changes in behaviour when you wear the hijab with your family and friends. It can feel very disheartening when you simply want to wear something different because of your beliefs and because it makes you happy; and it ends up creating major chasms in your relationships.
Difficult relationships with family
Following on from that; many reverts face extremely difficult relationships with their families and this applies to both the male and female reverts. Some reverts are fortunate enough to have very accepting and understanding families and at the other end of the scale other reverts are disowned, kicked out and treated very unfairly by their families.
What makes this even worse for reverts, is the fact that Islam so strongly teaches us that treating our families, especially parents, with love and respect and maintaining family ties holds so much importance. The ironic thing being, for the family of reverts who treat them badly because of their newfound religion; in fact it is their religion which makes reverts continue to try so hard and treat their families well no matter what they do to them.
This is one thing which can be very different for reverts compared to born Muslims. For one thing, reverts have no wali (guardian). They have no one to help them find a suitable spouse. Furthermore, it can be difficult to get someone to do this on your behalf as they have to know you very well and know what you would need and want in a spouse.
Interracial and intercultural marriages can be problematic in some Muslim communities (not in Islam) due to families being prejudiced and discriminatory towards other races and cultures. When reverts are trying to get married they can be more likely to be on the receiving end of this racial and/or cultural discrimination. Families may not want their children to marry a revert because of their ‘past’. They may want their children to marry someone from the same culture, never mind the fact that they are Muslim. Along with culture they tend to want someone who speaks their language to help with communication, bonding etc.
I think for male reverts, getting married can be even more of a struggle. Families often expect the man to be much more learned in Islam in order to better their daughter in her knowledge of Islam. Him being a revert, whether they know about his depth of knowledge or not, people often jump to the conclusion that a revert doesn’t know as much.
Something which I have come across a lot is reverts getting married to other reverts. This can be great because they will not experience any discrimination from their families for being a revert (possibly just for being Muslim) and they will completely understand each others’ struggles as reverts. Fortunately, there are many born Muslims who hold no prejudice against revert Muslims and simple take them as Muslims.
Racism and nationalism is not supposed to exist in Islam but unfortunately and inevitably it does. But that’s a whole other topic for another day!
Did you or do you know of any reverts who got married to born Muslims? What were their experiences?