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Why Do You Want to Know How I Became Muslim?

Datum: 15 mei 2014 | Waar: OnIslam.net Reading Islam section

Everybody is unique. And as every person is unique, every story on how someone has become Muslim is unique. Their first experiences within the Islamic community are unique. The reactions they get from their non-Muslim friends and family can be completely different from case to case. But at one point almost all converts will find mutual recognition: the recurring question to tell the story on how they converted. This question is often asked by many non-Muslims, but there is also a lot of interest from within the Islamic community.

Of course, from a theological perspective, the question on why people are not Muslims is much more interesting while accepting Islam is the most obvious choice to make. Allah says in the Quran:
{...The right course has become clear from the wrong...} (2:256)

Inspirational Stories
At the same time, we cannot deny that the stories of those who have chosen to accept Islam are a source of inspiration to us. This is especially the case in the West, where accepting Islam means making a decision that might be contrary to the common opinion regarding religion in general and Islam specifically.

But also when we refer to our books for study and contemplation, we find the descriptions of the lives of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and how they have come to accept Islam.

Also online, we find many videos where people like Yusuf Estes and Joshua Evens explain how they have accepted Islam. Videos in which formal rappers Loon and Napoleon explain why they quit their lifestyle of the rich and famous and chose the lifestyle of the sincere and repenting ones. These references are well viewed and shared on social media all over the world.

In these stories, we find inspiration and encouragement to continue practicing Islam in our personal daily lives, to continue to invite others to our religion (dawah) and to continue to have our voice heard within countries where we form religious minorities. This is good.

Don't Compliment the Convert for Shahadah
While we appreciate the stories of those who have accepted our religion, we must stay aware of our own behavior towards these new brothers and sisters in Islam. Especially those who have recently entered our religion might not only learn Islam from the books, but also from the examples we give them.

As Muslims, we believe in the Words of Allah in the Quran, where He says:
{...Allah guides to His Light whom He wills...} (24:35)

We believe that as soon as Allah has chosen a specific person to become Muslim, there is nothing this person can do to discontinue this path towards Islam. It is the Will of Allah that is stronger than the will of this person. In fact, we don't even believe that we - while inviting a person to Islam - have the power to 'make somebody a Muslim'. Allah says in the Quran:
{...And whom Allah sends astray, for him there will be no guide. And whomsoever Allah guides, for him there will be no misleader...} (39:36-37)

If we believe those words, who are we to compliment the person who has accepted Islam as if it was his own personal achievement?

Don't get me wrong, we should welcome this person, greet him with warmth within our community, and show our respect for the path he took. But sometimes, we can hear people literally state compliments to the new convert as if it was something that person did all by himself. If we do this, we present this new convert with an incorrect understanding of our faith.

Yes, you can show admiration, but never ever forget to at least say 'Al-Hamdulilah' or 'Masha-Allah' first. Remember, it is Allah who brought this person to Islam. Without Allah, no one, not even that person himself, could have accepted the right guidance.

Don't Exaggerate Your Conversion Story
Since I converted to Islam - more than six years ago - the times I was asked to tell people how I converted to Islam I cannot even count. There is a risk in telling the same story, time and time again.

Every time you tell the same story, without knowing it, the story gets a bit better, bigger, more beautiful. After a few times, you know which part people like so you overemphasize that part while another part of what actually happened gets smaller and smaller. Before you know it, the story you tell doesn't really reflect the actual events anymore.

Another risk - and I have seen this happen many times - is that you start to add knowledge to the story which you gained only after your conversion. Maybe you were very impressed by the scientific miracles you've recently discovered in the Quran, so now you refer to them while talking about your first impressions of the book from way before you were a Muslim. Is this lying?

Well, let's just say that without any harmful intentions, what you are saying doesn't reflect what really happened anymore.

Stay Humble
As a convert to Islam, your new brothers and sisters in Islam will greet you with even more enthusiasm than you could ever imagine. They will put you on a stage and ask you to tell them your story. They will congratulate you, be moved by your words, and compliment you.

Always remember, it is Allah who guides to His Path whomever He wills.

I do not advise you not to tell the story on how you converted to Islam, in fact, I do advise you to tell your story. But always make sure that you talk about Islam. Make sure you don't find yourself in a position where you are using Islam to talk about yourself.

Stay humble and keep it real. Don't exaggerate. This religion is so beautiful already when we stick to the facts that it doesn't require stories that were formed over the years.

And whatever you do, stay humble.