The Ummah Social Support for new Muslimas

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The Ummah Social Support for new Muslimas

Imagine that you are alone and have few or no people to talk with who really understand you. You have recently made a major change in your life and this has led to disruption in your previously strong social network. Your parents and other family members are completely outraged about the changes that you have made and refuse to talk with you unless you return to your “real self.” Some may even call you “crazy” and completely disown you. Your friends call you less often because they just don’t understand what you are going through and are confused by the ideas that you have been discussing. At work or school, people look at you strangely because of your appearance and have heard rumors that you have become involved with some unconventional religious group. You are feeling very distraught, confused, and frightened by all of these recent developments in your life and are wondering where to turn. “Where do I go?” “Who can I talk to?” “Who will accept me?” Will I always feel this lonely?” “Have I made the right decision?” These are the questions that are racing through your mind.

Does this scenario seem familiar? It might, if you have recently accepted Islam. The details may not be as drastic, but there will definitely be some changes in your social network. As more and more people enter into Islam, the fastest growing religion in America and in the world, new Muslims will need special guidance. This is particularly true for women who are the largest segment of new converts and who are more likely to feel isolated and in need of a social network. The Muslim Ummah will need to be prepared to welcome them and help them adapt to their new life as a Muslim. In fact, this is a major obligation upon the community due to the strong emphasis placed upon unity and brotherhood in Islam. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another; they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil; they observe regular prayers, pay zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy, for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” [9:71] Allah also says, “And keep your soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His presence; And let not your eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this life; And pay no heed to one whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, and whose (transgressions) have gone beyond all bounds.” [18:28]

This last advice is particularly pertinent in Western society where the forces of darkness and evil are prevalent. Those who are away from the protection of their companions in Islam are susceptible to the workings of Satan. Therefore, it is necessary for new Muslimahs to join with other members of the Ummah and live within the fold of Islam. The Ummah will become their new family and will provide protection and support for them. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, said, “Surely Satan is like a wolf to man. Just as the wolf attacks the sheep that strays away from the flock, wanders and goes to a corner, Satan attacks the person who separates himself from the (Muslim) community.” (Ahmad) When a women says the Shahada she instantly becomes a part of the flock and will have refuge in that assembly as long as she remains nearby. When there is wandering, it is easier for Satan to do his work, and faith may weaken even to the point where she may renounce Islam. This warning is clear in the saying of the Prophet, sallallhu alayhe wasallam, “Whoever departs from the united body (of the Muslim Ummah) – even a hand’s length – has indeed removed the rope of Islam from his neck.” (Abu Dawud and Ahmad). Experiencing pressures from family and friends or even having ties broken, accepting a new religion and being concerned about learning the necessary requirements, being worried about how people in public places will respond to the hijab, ALL increase the vulnerability of a new Muslimah. New Muslimahs must be welcomed into the community with open arms just as a family would welcome a newborn. The welcome should be one of excitement, commitment, affection, and love. Just as a mother would take special care of her baby, so too should the Ummah look after each of its members who are celebrating a new birth. As a mother would teach and guide her child as she grows, so should the community teach and guide the new Muslimah.

These responsibilities can be accomplished in many ways: 1) arranging a “Welcome to the Ummah Party” or “Shahada Party” and introducing the new Muslimah to the community, 2) conducting a New Muslimah Halaqa or support group for new Muslimahs, 3) establishing a mentoring program where new members are paired with seasoned mentors, 4) arranging dinners, events, or outings for sisters throughout the year, being sure to invite new sisters, 5) providing new members with information about halaqas, masaajids, organizations, resources in the area, 5) telephoning on a regular basis to see how the sister is doing; the list is endless. The overall objective should be to make sure the needs of new Muslimahs are met and to help them feel that they are a part of the community from the very beginning. We would not want to abandon our newborn to the influences of Satan.

New Muslimahs also need to make an effort to establish ties with the community. This means that every effort should be made to attend halaqas and social events, become involved in the community, and develop friendships with other sisters. An important point here is that care should be taken when choosing individuals or groups to associate with. There are many people who carry the label of “Muslim”, but who either do not practice or have deviated from the straight path. The best guidance would be to rely upon Allah; He will lead her to those who are most righteous. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “Those whom Allah wishes to be given good deeds, Allah will sustain them by a pious Muslim friend. If he forgets, (to do good deeds) his friend will remind him, and when his friend reminds him, he will help his friend.” The ultimate purpose of our interdependence is to become nearer to Allah and His Glory. One of the greatest gifts that Allah can give a believer is another believing servant who will guide, encourage, and remind us how best to attain this goal. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “Let there be a community (Ummah) among you, advocating what is good, demanding what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. These are indeed the successful.” [3:10] May Allah reward each of us with a pious companion and count us amongst the community of the righteous. A special WELCOME to all of our new sisters!!!

Dr. Aisha Hamdan