For mentors and masjids

It is a trust (الأمانة) that established Muslim communities make proper effort to assimilate new brethren into the community of believers. The Prophet ﷺ accomplished this by creating a temporary brotherhood between the Muhaajirs of Mecca and Ansar of Medinah. Together they would help their faith grow, relaying new teachings from the Prophet ﷺ to one another and even assist the weaker in their living. While this Prophetic example is certainly ideal, and I reference to it in the following pages, I’m aware that most communities simply do not have the ability or leap of faith to open their homes or even the masjids to new Muslims—which is understandable, since many enter the faith with mental illness or criminal record. This page is dedicated to providing suggestions for mentors and communities that are struggling on how to handle new Muslims to keep them from leaving Islam.

Essentially, on this page, I am describing the problem we are all too familiar with.

On page 2, the beginning of my proposal, I have recommendations for the first 24-48 hours after a person has walked in and made the declaration of faith.

On page 3, advice for mentors on what to do and how to help new Muslims grow in faith.

On page 4, a suggested outline for a new Muslim class, teaching them the fiqh, aqeedah and history of Islam in a structured way, along with how to read the Quran.


 

Receiving New Muslims into the Islamic Community

Most communities in America, the West, and many Islamic minorities have witnessed flocks of curious non-Muslims enter the fold of Islam after what they have observed of our beautiful religion. In the Muslim world, we hear numerous stories of scholars and du’āt that travel abroad and will say or do something a disbeliever will find so profound that faith will enter their heart and they’ll choose Islam amidst all they’ve been subjected to of anti-Islamic propaganda. This is a blessing from Allah.

But if we were to look closer into these incidences and inquire about them at the communities where they took place, we would find that just as soon as these individuals accept Islam, they quickly abandon it, ونسأل الله السلامة. Some communities witness men and women come every single Friday, take the declaration of faith, and then they are never to be seen or heard from again. Other times, we see a strong burst of enthusiasm and participation and outspokenness from a newcomer, but before a month or two passes, they are unaccounted for, not responding to phone calls or e-mails, and if we bump into them during everyday life in the store or at work, they will make their best efforts to avoid us.

Well more than half of those who take the shahaadah do not remain with Islam for 90 days. Some others leave after a year or two. Why does Islam, the greatest religion, have such an awful turnover rate? Islam is perfect, so it is not Islam’s fault, and especially when they saw that perfection of Islam for a moment. So we have to look in at ourselves.

The answer to this question is not easy, nor can we assume there to be a single answer. Even many that have stayed firm on the path of Islam for years and decades are baffled as well: why are so many others not making it to this point? And truly, every situation must be different and looked at on its own. But here are some possible reasons that people will express an interest in Islam and then, after a short period, be completely unaccounted for…

  • This, as I heard Dr. Abdullah Brown mention, a lady phoned him crying wanting to learn about Islam and accept Islam. A couple days later when he expected to get in contact with her for more formal advice and counsel, she excused herself claiming that her sicknesses were cured and that she is no longer in any need! So, we learn that people are most likely to turn to religion when they experience great problems in their lives (familial, financial, physical or mental health, etc.) and conversely, those whose lives are going well on all fronts are least likely to feel any need to change anything much less their religion. This is as Allah says,

{وَإِذَا أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَى الْإِنسَانِ أَعْرَضَ وَنَأَىٰ بِجَانِبِهِ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ فَذُو دُعَاءٍ عَرِيضٍ} ﴿٥١﴾ سورة فصلت

And when We show favor to man, he withdraws and turns away; but when evil touches him, then he has recourse to long supplications.” [Al-Fussilaat 51]

  • A Shaykh in Medina, Khalid al-`Afeefee, told us of a large group of individuals that accepted Islam. Some scholars got them together and explained to them all the commands they need to adhere to and all the prohibitions they need to avoid in one single sitting. Most of them (or all, I do not recall) chose not to continue with Islam after that sitting. Here we note that a new Muslim is like a new born baby—overwhelming him/her with all that Islam obligates them to adhere to immediately is too much for them to handle. So educating them must be taken gradually. And this is the Sunnah, as the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ sent Mu’āth to Yemen to invite the People of the Book into Islam and instructed him, “Let the first thing you call them to be the testimony that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah. If they obey you in that, then inform them that Allah has obligated upon them five prayers to be performed every day and night. If they obey you in that, inform that Allah has obligated a charity upon them, taken from their wealthy and given to their poor…” [Muslim] So here the Prophet ﷺ did not instruct the great scholar to teach the next step until his audience and students accepted and were adhering to its more important precursor. Step-by-step progression (التدرّج), even with what Allah has obligated upon us. In another (less than authentic) narration, a delegation came to the Messenger ﷺ offering to except Islam on the condition that they be allowed to pray only three times a day, and he accepted their condition. Shaykh al-Albānī, rahimahullah, who authenticated this narration, explained that this does not mean that we hide Islam from the non-Muslims when they ask about it, nor do we present Islam in a manner making halal what is haram. Rather, the lesson gained is that we are not overbearing upon them, even with the most dire and important of pillars after the shahaadah if they find a lot of difficulty in getting used to it. “وإنها لكبيرة إلا على الخاشعين”. Some du’āt in America have had success with this methodology by simply saying to those considering Islam, but hesitant or fearful due to heavy obligations or prohibitions they may be addicted to, “Accept Islam, and work on it, seek Allah’s Help and forgiveness, and it is better to accept Islam today with shortcomings than to live another day removed from the light of Islam no matter how pious you think you could become.” After all, in my own personal experience, it is struggling as a Muslim that makes Islam more fulfilling, rather than coasting along without considering one’s faults.
  • Some reverts have gotten feedback from others that they have gotten frustrated by contradicting direction from the Muslims—sit with those people—no, don’t listen them, listen to us, and don’t attend such-and-such masjid—put your hands like this and move your finger—no, that’s a bid’ah, put your hands HERE and keep your finger still—etc. This highlights the importance of keeping the convert under the direction of one single trustworthy guide or mentor until he understands the deen better. The revert should be instructed to say, whenever anyone else tries to offer advice or comment “I am being taken care of, thank you”. And this is only human nature to like one director rather than several in opposition to each other, “أأرباب متفرق خير أم الله الواحد القهار” as Yusuf said to his companions in the prison, are several contradicting masters better or Allah, the One, the Compelling. Obviously, if the rest of the community understands that new Muslims follow a specific learning process, then they will save themselves the effort to try to steer them elsewhere.
  • No doubt, just as happened during the time of the Prophet ﷺ and afterwards in the history of Islam, there have been Christians and Jews that have faked entering Islam for many reasons. Some of them have left Islam immediately the same day and this was just to give people the impression that Islam is not a religion worth remaining in so that the believer’s would be befuddled and look at their religion critically. As Allah says,

{وَقَالَت طَّائِفَةٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمِنُوا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَجْهَ النَّهَارِ وَاكْفُرُوا آخِرَهُ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ} ﴿٧٢﴾ سورة آل عمران

And a party of the people of the Scripture say: “Believe in the morning in that which is revealed to the believers (Muslims), and reject it at the end of the day, so that they may turn back.” (Aali Imran 72).

And there can be no doubt that others have entered the religion for the purpose of corrupting it, as did Abdullah ibn Saba’, although Allah will protect Islam unlike the other religions,

{وَقَدْ مَكَرُوا مَكْرَهُمْ وَعِندَ اللَّـهِ مَكْرُهُمْ وَإِن كَانَ مَكْرُهُمْ لِتَزُولَ مِنْهُ الْجِبَالُ} ﴿٤٦﴾ سورة إبراهيم

Indeed, they plotted their plot, and their plot was with Allah, though their plot was not such as to remove the mountains” [Ibrahim 46]

And still, others may accept Islam to observe or spy on the Muslims, for a government organization, or even their own personal curiosity. However, in America, most spies that infiltrate the Muslims are immigrants. The government knows that the Muslim communities, if they are terrorists, would not tell new Muslims about their plots. Other individuals have accepted Islam in outer appearance, just to record their observations. I recall in our own community a man entering Islam just to see what it was like and see if the Muslims were trustworthy, although clinging to his own philosophy and trying to justify it within Islam. When he finally left, humiliated, he wrote the community apologizing profusely and saying repeatedly how nice the Muslims treated him.

  • Also, others have apparently left Islam, but in reality, are not practicing Islam openly. Perhaps they have joined with the Nation of Islam or its offshoots if they are black-American. Thus, they may still call themselves Muslims, however, due to their own personal thoughts, or goals from conversion, not feel any need to mix with the Muslim community. There are even “ethnic Muslims” that read the Quran at home and pray at home but have never shown up to even an Eid Gathering, so it is quite likely that there are some reverts that are similar and could be ignorant of the importance of the society and masjid in Islam.
  • Still others we know of have accepted Islam, or expressed interest in doing so, and their families and church communities have made every effort within their immediate means to prevent them from being able to contact the Muslims—sometimes even locking them in their homes without computer or cell phone, but only food, if even that. After cutting off contact with the Muslims, they would then present all the worst and misleading and false information about Islam and perhaps beat and threaten the person if they do not renounce their thoughts about Islam, or treat them with excessive kindness to barter them back into their false religion.
  • Many people we know of have expressed an interest in Islam, but have actually been chased away by Muslims. This may be due to jealousy of the person’s skin color or wealth or fearful, in the case of women, that the new Muslim woman would be a conversation topic amongst their husbands, leading to considerations of taking a second wife. And especially with new Muslim women, some of them feel extremely uncomfortable, obviously, when ethnic Muslim ladies start trying to match the convert ladies up with their unmarried sons or nephews.
  • Also, we know of some people who accepted Islam while searching for greater spirituality and meaning in their lives. Instead, they have found people backbiting in the name of the Sunnah with over-attention to the outer application of Islam rather than the inner application. Many of the reverts have become so jaded by this lack of heart-fulfillment and excessive attention to the shortcomings of others that they have given up from Islam—and this we have witnessed, even after years of practicing Islam.
  • Furthermore, other new Muslims, because of their personal conditions and backgrounds (especially true of poor reverts with criminal records and the like), do not immediately garner the love and acceptance of the Muslim communities and thus do not receive the help and attention they need and deserve. What else should they do when treated coldly by the Muslims whom they thought to be their brothers? When many new Muslims enter Islam and enter the community, the Muslims are quick to deny responsibility and pass the buck to someone else. What if there is no one else? Such individuals remind me of the one who killed 99 men and wanted to complete his repentance by stepping into a righteous community. Will that be our community? This is where we need to roll up our sleeves and be like the “good Samaritan”.1)This is a reference to a famous biblical story of a destitute individual in need in the midst of a community that held biased racial views against his race. Are they all trying to take advantage of the Muslims and their resources? In cases like these, I also remind myself of the angel that Allah used to test the bald man, blind man, and one with white skin patches. You never know who Allah sent to test you.
  • Too, some reverts may be involved in practices that they have too much of a love for and experience with—like a caring husband, girlfriend, dog, or shady occupation (e.g. dealing with insurance, alcohol, singing, etc). It is possible that they have been dealt with too harshly by the Muslims because of this, or they have fallen in despair due to it, and feel that they cannot be a Muslim while living with what they see as a perpetual sin that they have a love for and have likely gained a lot from in the past–especially relationships, hobbies and occupations. “Artistic” hobbies are the greatest fitan for those who are attached to them. For many, their art, whether it is music or dancing or painting or the like, has been a vehicle that has saved them in times of emotional stress—and these things are usually extremely difficult or impossible to give up. As for the one with a sinful occupation—if they are young, then they should be pointed towards using their skills in a better manner when they have the ability to start looking for a different employer. If old and near retirement, it may be better to let them finish their work. All this is depending upon the occupation. Some communities have witnessed prostitutes, strippers and models accept Islam. Also, rappers, alcohol dealers, musicians, comedians (people who may lie for a living), and many other occupations. It seems to me and Allah knows best, as a general rule, unless the individual inquires about their job, they should be left alone. Eventually, they will understand that their occupation is sinful, and at such times, they should be directed towards other individuals that have gone through the same experiences. A friend I know of used his talent, artistry, to design signs, billboards, shirts and paintings—whenever he would draw an individual, he would draw them without a face, or with sun glasses, etc.
  • Others have left Islam because of Islam itself, and what they have failed to accept or properly understand. This being the case when a person enters Islam believing Islam to be something that it isn’t—which is why I especially warn any Muslim from defining “Islam” as peace or presenting Islam like as if it were Buddhism. It is a wonder why such people enter Islam in the first place, since the daa’ee portrayed Islam as a religion that they are already in, or is more prominent and socially accepted, politically correct. So when they hear about jihad and hudood, which may be something that they are diametrically opposed to, rather than being patient with Islam, they leave it. Of course, not every Muslim is a daa’ee, nor do they need to be or have those skills, or know how to best explain certain sensitive/controversial Islamic issues in the best words. This can become a problem when the new Muslim learns about something from Islam from one who has not been versed in how to explain it in a manner Americans can relate to and accept. While we cannot account for every caller to Islam, we should remind ourselves that the goal is not gaining converts, but the goal is presenting the message itself beautifully. If we have to twist it, then the message is still not presented yet and we instead presented something else but with a familiar name. Establishing the hujjah remains unfulfilled. If we can’t answer something well, we should refer to someone who can.
  • Similar to the previous reason, some sincere individuals have later been tested by their intellect and have tried to understand al-qadaa’ wal-qadar. Sure, it makes sense to teach new Muslims the timeless Forty Hadeeth collection by Imam al-Nawawi, but the first handful of narrations have very strong mention of qadr and al-Nawawi chose wordings of these narrations that will create improper thoughts about Allah and Qadr. I advise, if teaching this collection, to choose the opinion chosen by ibn al-‘Uthaymeen for the first hadeeth of ibn Mas’ood.
  • Lastly, no doubt, some have accepted Islam, wanted to practice it, but have been truly ignorant of how to do so. They are in a wilderness trying to find out where to learn from due to the numerous sources presented to them on the internet and no guide. I once read of a woman who accepted Islam in a town in Arkansas without any Muslims in over a 100 mile radius. Her only contact with the Muslim world was of course via the internet. So how about the many that are interested in Islam but have no internet access or experience? Or the many that contact Islamic centers but no one picks up the phone or returns the calls or e-mails? Shameful. We simply do not know that we need to teach them. Christians have curriculum. We don’t, or we argue and fight over them. It is quite possible that some have accepted Islam in our communities, but not considered asking about how to “learn Islam” nor offered to sit down in a class. And as is known, most ethnic Muslims are really unprepared to teach new Muslims about Islam, and even if they wanted to, they likely would not know how nor where to begin. This, I believe, is the biggest reason for the horrible turnover rate. After all, would you continue working for any company if they didn’t tell you what to do or offer you any training?

All the scenarios mentioned above and perhaps many others have led to people leaving Islam after accepting it. As a reminder, the guidance is from Allah and there is only so much WE can do, and Allah may withdraw His guidance from whomever He Wills—may Allah continue to protect us and increase us in guidance! Nonetheless, Allah Decrees causes and effects, and some guidance and misguidance enters the hearts because of reasons we are responsible for. But in what percentage do these separate phenomena happen worldwide and in our community? Allah Knows best. Among the concerns of du’aat in the Islamic minorities is discovering what it takes, on their part, to ensure that this “turn-over rate” is reversed—and to find out, how long does the community have to “baby sit” a new Muslim, before we can “let go” and they will educate themselves and participate with the community. The efforts taken have included setting up classes for new Muslims to learn their deen, as well as providing immediate help for them in accordance with their complex situations—especially for those who are coming out of prison, or have been turned away from their families, or are in poor financial, emotional, or physical condition.

Perhaps in the future, our community could purchase a home, or some brothers could set aside rooms of their own homes, for accepting new Muslims to live with them until they are spiritually and personally mature enough to go freely. A former American daa’ee and convert himself, Khalid Ameen, turned his basement into an apartment, and allowed non-Muslims in troubled situations to live with his family. Sometimes it would be many months or even years but they would accept Islam. So no pressure. Why do we feel like there’s a deadline to convert someone? If they aren’t ready, they’ll leave. A famous American movie, I’ve not seen, but heard of, called “The Blind Side” is based on a true story about a wealthy Caucasian family that finds a poor homeless black boy and raises him and he later goes on to become a professional football player. Many Christians are willing to do this, but are we?

While I still believe firmly that the Prophet’s example of creating brotherhood (المؤاخاة) is the only foolproof method, I’ve provided these steps, out of personal ijtihad, for when that option is excused.

What follows is my personal attempt at designing a program, a three-step plan, to curb this alarming trend, by Allah’s Permission. In brief summary, the first stage encompasses the first 12-48 hours after declaration of faith. The second stage is personal mentoring along with involvement in community activities. The final stage is an educational course.

Go to the next page for details of the “welcoming” stage, or the first 12-48 hours after accepting Islam.

References   [ + ]

1. This is a reference to a famous biblical story of a destitute individual in need in the midst of a community that held biased racial views against his race.