On The Matter of Not Muslim Enough

On The Matter of Not Muslim Enough

Written by Theresa Corbin

Not Muslim enoughIslam is not meant for a specific nation, a specific race, or a specific place. Islam is meant for all mankind for all time.

It can be amazing to see young and old, rich and poor, people from all corners of the world praying together as one, breaking fast together as one big, happy family, and sharing thoughts and knowledge with one another as beloved companions.

It is truly beautiful, and I look forward to this kinship in the masjid (mosque), no matter what city I happen to be living in. And I feel like my home town has a very blessed community with brothers and sisters of great humility and sincerity.

However, I have, in the past seen and heard terrible tales of astounding acts of ugliness that come with the pride of culture or nationalism.

I am referring to any person born into a Muslim family who feels the need to treat converts as if their faith is less valid, always eyeing them as if they cannot be trusted and will apostate at any moment, always excluding them as if they are not “Muslim enough” because they don’t have a certain last name or skin tone (and unfortunately this kind of ugliness is not only dished out to converts).

As many converts have before me, I came to Islam loving the example of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions (RadiAllahu Anhum: May Allah be pleased with them) and hoped to meet their present day heirs, the Muslims.

I am sad to say that sometimes I and other converts cannot find them. While, I advise new Muslims to be patient and gracious as they navigate the politics and culture of raised Muslims, I do not excuse this kind of behavior.

It must be easy for those who are born into Muslim families to practice, while we converts have to struggle against what feels like the entire world just so we can be practicing Muslims.

Don’t be arrogant, you had no choice in where you were born and to what family. Had you been born in the West to a non-Muslim family, would you have made an effort to look for the truth? Would you have been open to the truth of Islam in the face of all the lies your culture and community have told you about it? Would you have the courage to stand up and say you are a Muslim, even if you were the only Muslim in your school, in your town, in your state?

Perhaps it is the convert that should question the faith of those who claim Islam through their parents and have never had to fight for it. Perhaps it is the convert who should question the faith of those who call themselves Muslims, but only practice what their culture dictates, and then only when it is convenient for them.

No, perhaps not, it is not for anyone to question anyone else’s faith, whether convert or otherwise. Let us leave this to Allah, and we can only know each other through our actions. We will never be able to see what is in each others’ hearts.

BUT Don’t be confused. You may be an Arab, but that doesn’t make you the owner of Islam.

Don’t get it twisted. You may be Asian, but that doesn’t make you the keeper of the faith.

All too often converts come to the masjid to find that it is nothing more than a cultural center. Arabs going to the Arab masajid and Asians going to the Asian masajid

Brothers and sisters take it upon themselves to become the “haram” police with no manner of tact or gentleness. And for the few fortunate converts that are accepted into an almost tribal clique, the leaders try to impose their own culture (which all too often is confused for Islam) upon the newly converted.

There is nothing wrong with having a cultural community center, but don’t call it a masjid if you are not open to all Muslims. Do not call it a masjid if you are not there to help the Muslims in the community. Do not call it a masjid if you are not there to create a multi-ethnic/cultural, Muslim community.

And please:

  • Stop asking converts if they know how to cook some dish from your country or dessert your mother made back home. This doesn’t make anyone more or less Muslim. This is your culture.
  • Stop telling newly converted Muslims that they must wear the thobe, abaya, or a shalwar khameez, because “this is how Muslims dress”. This is your culture. As long as men and women dress modestly, they can wear the clothes from their own culture.
  • Stop grilling converts about their stance on all aspects of politics in the Middle East and “back home”. They didn’t come to Islam as if it were the Democratic Convention. Teach them the religion. Then discuss politics as a separate matter.

While it is true that if you are Arab, you are from the same general area, ethnicity, and you speak the same language (kind of) as the Prophet (PBUH), but did you forget that it was also the same people from that same ethnicity that tried to kill the Prophet (PBUH)?

While it is true that the Asian persuasion boasts the biggest percentage of the Muslims in the ummah. It is also true that in the Prophet’s (PBUH) last sermon he urged his followers to understand that:

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.

Say “Salam” to a new Muslim. Even if they aren’t from your tribe, they are still your brother or sister. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t be exclusionary. Don’t be racist. And the fact that I feel the need to even say this reflects the seriously sad state of the ummah.

Have you forgotten that ALL the companions of The Prophet (PBUH) were converts?

And you are supposed to be the Ansar (the helpers).

Truly think about that. If you have had the occasion to meet a convert, have you tried to help them? I mean truly help them by offering protection, financial assistance if needed (many converts lose everything when converting), your time, and effort to teach them how to pray? Or have you spat out a list of haram and halal, and then just lectured them about how they aren’t “doing” Islam right?

Just like those who make dawah (invite to Islam) and give the message of Islam to the people will be rewarded for their efforts, so too will the people who push folks away and out of Islam be rewarded with a punishment from their Lord for their evil actions.

Arrogance, national/cultural pride, haughtiness, etc. have NO place in Islam. We are all Muslims however we came to our faith, in whatever part of the world we originate from, we are all one community, one ummah (nation of Muslims).

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32 thoughts on “On The Matter of Not Muslim Enough

  1. Mash’allah… yet another good blog. It is sad, for sure,.that this even has to be a topic…

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  2. Only if people can keep their culture outside the masjid like their shoes. If you want to join the secular bandwagon, do it on the streets, campuses or inside your house.

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  3. Masha’Allah, you’re absolutely right. Alhamdulillah I haven’t faced any of these problems yet
    since I converted to Islam in 2010, but I’ve definitely heard other converts telling me their brothers and sisters say they aren’t “muslim enough” and never could be. Muslims should leave the judging part to Allah swt. Especially since converts really have to fight for their religion and keep strong, as it’s very hard. But when my husband tells me about prophet Muhammad saw and his companions, I do feel blessed Allah swt gave me the opportunity to convert, just like the very first muslims. Allah yehdina.

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    1. Alhamdulillah, I am glad to hear you haven’t experience this. And there are plenty of wonderful and welcoming brothers and sisters, MashaAllah. I don’t want people to get the idea that there aren’t. I am with you sister, I feel so blessed that Allah allowed me to convert to Islam. Thanks for reading and commenting. Asalamu alaikum

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  4. All very valid points, but let’s not pretend converts don’t drag their culture along with them and sometimes try to force it on others (hello, white privilege. Also, let’s discuss maddening convert habits, like believing that the Islam they learned about is the ONLY correct way to practice and anyone who disagrees must be some backwards villager. Or the habit of convert women of becoming instant expert/activists on all the issues of their husband’s home country?
    Muslims born to Muslim families do often act like jerks to converts, but let’s stop pretending it’s a one-way street.

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    1. Yes that is an issue as well. For example some of the liberal fruit cakes when they come to Islam, they bring the dessert with them ! In the “reform the mosque” trailer I saw a women comparing separate entrances for men and women to ole’ Jim Crow laws!! 😦
      I mean really ?!? Should we hold hands and pray ? “everybody go get their partners, it is time for salaat ?”

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      1. Haha, Hyde. I hate this brand of Muslim convert. They mix their opinion up with the commandments of Allah. And which is better? Do we even have to wonder. I personally like having a separate entrance, place to pray, and listen to lecture. It keeps the creepers away and gives me a chance to relax and not worry about anyone eyeing me, not that I really have worry about that, brothers generally leave women in their mid 30s alone, Allahuakbar!!

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    2. Alia, I don’t pretend that converts don’t have their own problems. For SURE we do! After all those who are newly converted are just coming out of Jehaliyah. And it takes a lot to fix the damage jehaliyah causes. But as far as bringing their culture into Islam and calling it Islam, I have never heard of this. I have no problem with ppl having a culture, of course not. But I do have a problem with ppl calling their culture Islam. It is a bold move and needs to be corrected in converts the same way it needs to be in Arabs and Asians. I think one thing that is good about being a convert is that you can def distinguish between your culture and your religion. Pretty much everything we have learned as Westerners has to be examined under the light of Islam and kept or disregarded based on halal or haram, but we rarely confuse a cultural practice (one that has nothing to do with Islam) for an religious duty.
      BUT what I a really talking about in this post is when people who are born Muslims act exclusionary toward new converts, and how detrimental this can be to the converts new and fragile iman. Yes converts can be jerks too, but the difference is that converts are excluded from their families, their old friends, AND then they sometimes get this exclusionary treatment at the masjid, or are taught a culture instead of Islam. THAT is not ok. The point was not to insult or to claim converts are the best. No, the point was to remind that we are all brothers and sisters and we to allow our faith in Allah to bring us together no mater where we are from and we need to stop mixing our culture up with Islam.

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      1. Fair enough. Convert outreach is key and I hope converts know that, unless they’ve been forced by their family or old friends, they don’t need to leave those people behind.
        Also, it isn’t necessarily converts who are progressive. I was born to a Muslim family and I find sex segregation-and many other practices common in North american masjids- baffling and unIslamic (our beloved Prophet’s khutbas were never segregated). I find it’s actually converts who have the most rigid interpretation of Islam, partly due to enthusiasm, partly due to the expectation of non-converts that you all have to “prove” you’re Muslim by being as puritanical and extreme as possible, and finally, because one of the greatest misfortunes of converts is that the only people really reaching out to them are those with the harshest interpretation of Islam, rather than the moderate and progressive Muslims. In this respect, we really have failed converts.
        And to the previous poster, “Western” does not equal “haram,” and neither does “liberal.” Prophet Muhammad and the early scholars of Islam were far more liberal than the average American of today.

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  5. OMGoodness!! Thank you so much for this!! I cannot tell you how often I have been treated like this. When I first converted, some catty comments by a clique of Arab sisters who cornered me in the masjid, because I was new there and told me, why am I wearing hijab? I don’t have to wear hijab; it was only for women from their country. She said this as the women were all gathered around her, smirking at me and it made me feel so hurt and small. I really had to go home and think about leaving Islam or not. I was so blown away. Lucky, I had a sister who confronted them and I don’t know what she said to them in Arabic, but they never approached me again. Sadly, it is not the first time. I have gone to “cultural masjids” and sat alone and lonely, while the particular culture of the mosque, sat as far away from me and kept eyeballing me as if I was a distasteful bug somebody needed to kill with a shoe. Even in prayer, they kept stepping away from me as if I had some kind of infectious disease. Afterward, they never said a word to me and acted as if I was not there. I don’t get that. It still haunts me to this day, I don’t ever go to the masjids anymore.

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    1. Sister you must not sway away from not going to the masjids at all. This is your test! Try going to “open to community” college centers or halqas. You may feel more welcome there.

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    2. I am sorry to hear about your story. It makes me sick how petty and small some people can be to each other. And especially to new converts who’s iman is so fragile. I am glad you stuck with your faith despite your experiences. Please ignore these people and know for sure that superiority complexes are rooted in insecurities. Perhaps it is that seeing someone leave everything and come to Islam played on their insecurities about their level of iman. I would recommend that you still go to the Masjid, but listen to lectures, pray and leave. And if anyone bothers you, tell them that the Prophet (PBUH) said that none of you truly believes until he (or she) loves for his (or her) brother (or sister) what he (or she) loves for himself (or herself). ! Have a wonderful Ramadan, Asalamu Alaikum

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  6. Wonderful article. Personally, I would add to stop asking the convert to recite the Fatiha or any other Surah he/she may know. I HATE when I am asked this. My pronunciation is BAD,but in my head it sounds just how its supposed to be. I hate being put on the spot like this, it feels like I am an animal in the zoo and everyone just wants to stare at me.

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    1. Well you can tell to recite the whole Quran with perfect tajweed then. What ? They been Muslims all their lives and they don’t know how to recite the Quran ?!?

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    2. Haha, ppl make you recite Fatiha to them!? I think that most of these people are well meaning. They want to take on the role of parent and make sure their child, the new Muslim, knows the basics. But you are right it can make you feel like specimen to be examined or as you said an animal in the zoo. Don’t we get that enough from the non-Muslims? Your zoo reference made me recall a time I was out to eat with 3 sisters, two of whom wore niqab. The restaurant was empty so the niqabis took off their veil to eat when all of the sudden this dude come out of the bathroom, takes one look at us and starts snapping pics on his phone. We told him to delete them. He refused and ran off to sit at the bar. Long story short we got his ignorant self kicked out of the restaurant. This is just one of our trials as converts, and even though born Muslims get this kind of treatment in public in the West they can go home to their families and friends and be comforted, but converts rarely have that support, and are treated that way in the community as well. We need to find comfort in the stories of the Sahaba (RA) and the Prophet (PBUH). That has helped me, anyway. Thanks for reading and then reading my too long response, lol. Glad tidings to the strangers! Asalamu Alaikum

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      1. (Is abbreviating people to ppl really necessary \:~:/ ?

        And if dude had been a Muslim, he should have his behind whopped. The Niqab has become an exotic element in a society that does not wear clothes anymore. There is a “naked” cowboy in times square, but guess who everybody stares at if a niqabi shows around town ?

        I know you are suppose to judge externally, but wahllai I think God is sending all these niqabis to to tell people that there was a time not too long ago that people use to wear clothes !

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      2. It nec to abbrev b/c i lazy. You are so true. EVERYONE will be looking at the naqabi. Oh, I didn’t notice the earthquake. I was busy staring at the naqabi… We have indeed gone way off the path when the more clothes you wear the more strange you are. My motto for the month: Glad tidings to the strangers.

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  7. Great reflections in this month of Ramadan. If only a few of the target audience would be reading this blog. I sense that those who think less of converts might not read this but if they do- may Allah guide them back to the straight path.

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    1. Ameen, Usually people who have a hard line point of view are not going to read anything that disagrees with them or tells them something different. In my pursuit of worldy education I learned that this is what is called an unethical reader, they are usually as unethical in life as in there readership. Really I am just glad anyone at all is reading. And maybe people can share with the people they know who treat converts badly. I just have to get it out there in the world on the web and Allah will do with it as he wills. Thanks for reading, Yousef. Have an awesome Ramadan! Asalamu Alaikum

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  8. Excellent point. Not all muslims are going to be arab. If being different means I cannot be part of your Islam, then it is you who is the loser
    .

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  9. “brothers generally leave women in their mid 30s alone…” I thought it was anybody over 23 ? 🙂

    But really you be surprised how many sisters get hit on despite their age. In fact I will theorize that there is no such thing as an ugly women, since I have heard of stories of uncles and aunties getting in trouble. The nafs is the enemy for each it has it’s own.

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  10. @Alia…okay I don’t know where you are coming from calling the Beloved “liberal”. Yes I understand that Islam is neither liberal or conservative, but I disagree with you when it comes that most converts try to become puritanical. Asides from the nutjobs, most are not “progressive”.

    And for get the majids, even Muslim houses were built to separate the genders. Being an American, I know what the word separation arouses in the conscience, but haya and modesty are the hallmarks of our deen. Women and men praying together, really ? How many niqbais will feel good when bowing down knowing a man is behind them looking at their behinds?

    A woman’s body is not like a man’s body, which for the most part is ugly.
    Is it there not a hadith which states the best of men pray in the front of the lines and and best of women pray in the last of the lines ? Again removing post-modern definitions of what gender is and what is it purpose, our religion is traditional, not “modern” in the modern definition of the word.

    On the level, a woman or even a homosexual could lead the prayer, but the nuances, especially in this day and age would reverberate and be exacerbated ten fold down the path. We are the only traditional umma left on Earth; how can we keep our faith we if just go with the flow ?

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  11. Your nasty, arrogant I-have-the-one-and-only-correct-understanding-of-Islam attitude (vulgarly displayed when you call those who don’t share your grim interpretation of religion “nutjobs”) is actually quite typical of converts. Whether you are a convert or not, you’ve certainly nailed the insufferable attitude.
    Are you kidding? Masjids were never, ever gender segregated until recently. Women have always prayed behind men, but this sick custom of relegating women to a separate room (or more often, closet) where they can’t see or properly hear is entirely new and made-up, absolutely nothing to do with Islam. Are there separate accommodations at Mecca? No indeed. Do men and women work and interact together in daily life? Certainly. Yet, when we’re in the house of our Creator, women must suddenly be hidden because men, for some strange reason, lose all sense of control. Yet another sick Wahhabi invention that too many Muslims, particularly American converts, have embraced.

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    1. I do not want to pollute Sister’s Corbin’s blog with back and forth arguments, but please let’s keep your modern westernised feminized version of Islam to yourself.

      I don’t have my version of Islam. A personalized, edited out version of Islam was not handed down to me. And by nutjobs I meant the religious nutjobs who convert online in two days and then think they go join the war in Afghanistan and become taliban supporters.

      I find it funny how you accuse me of being vulgar and nasty, while you are the one attacking me. You don’t know notthin’ about me girl 🙂

      In classical Muslim societies women did not interact with men on a daily basis unless it was required. The world was not invented in 1965. We have our traditions and far being a demented wahabi/salafi moran, I for one would like to stick by that.

      What I do agree with you is the cramped places of the women’s quarters. Generally speaking, muslim women tend be more in numbers when it comes to gatherings and whatnot, so accommodations should be made. And when this old generation moves aside, I think the new generations would make amends anyway. I grew up with women going to the majids, so to be it is natural and common sense. But this stupid idea of how men can’t control themselves is an excuse. Muslim men are not animals. Gender segregation is our tradition. At the time of the Beloved, polygyny was also fairly common as well.

      And Mecca really ? How many masjids are like Mecca ? How many people are in the state at Jumma like the state they are in Mecca ? Seriously…why are girls at MSA going belly up, eh ? Why are hijbais showing up for abortions when they are not married ? Why are Muslims having children out of wedlock ? Why do Muslim men bring their girlfriends to the masjid and make them wait outside for them ? What is the difference between Muslim and non-muslim if Muslim and non-muslim become all the same.

      Come to the local college center that I go to for ifatr and you’ll see that the barrier is non-existent. People hugging each other, chilling with each other and having a good time. The so called working professionals, I think have never heard of lowering your gaze.

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      1. Hyde, I don’t think Alia meant men and women praying side by side, but yes there was never a barrier or separate room for women in the masajid in the time of the prophet (PBUH- and Allah knows best). But the women prayed behind the brothers, for obvious sexual attraction reasons not being optimal situation during prayer (b/c only fools think this is not a problem). And the women would leave immediately after the salat as to not mingle. To me, I prefer having a separate room to just chill w/o creepers. We must take the middle course. This is my piece and I hope we can try to understand each other without ugliness.

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  12. @Sister Corbin I agree…but the imaan of those men and women is not to that of people today. But you are quite correct, we ought to negate offensive comments, especially in this Ramadan. If Lady Alia is seeing this, I ask for apologies.

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  13. Blood is boiling too much because I’m so angry at this nonsense of Muslims to act like owners and judges for new converts. This is appallingly true everywhere.. Sadly we forget judgement is not our job, for Allah’s sake let Allah do its job.
    Now coming to this white privilege issue, not all white muslim converts force their cultures or uses on Muslims, we again forget that unlike us they converted at some later stage in life and are probably grappling with their new identities and understanding of religion and hey presto– in a second that starts threatening our Islam so we become start acting jihadi type and use religion to justify our evil natures. Shame on us really, let’s address these issues within us.
    Why the heck you will wear Pakistani traditional shalwar kameez when your American?! Typical Pakistani menralities growing beard, fixing the hijab on head, using rosary in public and hardly few actions of kindness to creations of Allah, other fellow Muslims or non Muslims… I’m really really upset at this unfairness. Can we reblog this post with sister Corbin’s up coming interview at my blog?

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    1. Absolutely you can reblog this post. It can be infuriating. And leads a lot of people who recently came to Islam right back out of Islam. As Muslim we need to stop being so small minded. It is only natural to want to see people who reaffirm your own beliefs by doing the things you do and looking the way you do. But most people take it too far, whether it is the redneck who wants to lynch anything that is different or the Pakistani, or Arab, or whatever kind of Muslim who wants all converts to participate in their culture. Thank you for standing with the converts on these issues. You see the bigger picture and that speaks volumes about the kind of person you are 🙂

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