Footprints in the Sand: On Converting to Islam and Family

Footprints in the Sand: On Converting to Islam and Family

Written by Stephanie Siam

When I reverted to Islam in March 2005, I have to admit I was afraid. Okay, perhaps nervous is a better choice of word, as I wasn’t scared or frightened. And I know I’m not alone in admitting this feeling, especially with female converts. The process of transitioning into Islam from a previous faith/belief system (because face it, even if you don’t believe in God, you believe there is no God) is daunting:

What will my friends think? How will I be received by the public? Does this mean I have to start dressing like an Arab or East Asian-er? Do I have to start my life over from the beginning, rethinking every choice I’ve ever made?

While all of those are valid concerns, and ones that I did contemplate at some point in time post-reversion, they weren’t what I was afraid of. My fear came from telling my father.

Not my family. Not my Mother.

My Father.

f and d on the beach

Now, before you start thinking my dad is this overbearing and close-minded totalitarian who lives for controlling others’ lives, he’s NOT. In fact, he’s the polar opposite. He’s one of the most open-minded individuals I’ve ever known in my life. And if there is a perfect antonym for overbearing, that describes him, too. I mean, for Heaven’s sake, the man used to sit and logically discuss with me the reasons I should pick up my toys when I was 3 years old. If there’s anything my dad is not, it’s overbearing and close-minded.

So, why was I scared of telling my dad I had become Muslim?

My father has a strong head on his shoulders (don’t confuse strong with stubborn). His choice of worship was not made based on how he was brought up (Nazarene). He didn’t look to his parents to tell him how he should worship God or practice his religion (Christianity). Instead, he went to a Christian college, studied the history and lineage of the Bible and Christianity, and majored in Bible Studies. His goal: to become a preacher.

When he became a member of the Church of Christ denomination, he did so knowing full-well that it represented the beliefs he personally held based on his extensive studying. To him, it was correct.

Now there I was, his 23-year-old daughter, midway through my graduate school program, and I’d converted to Islam. And I had to tell my Father. The same father who responded to my 16-year-old self’s idea of becoming Baptist with, “I’ve failed as a father!”

So, one day while my parents were in town for a wedding, my father and I drove over to the beach at Gulf Shores. We had lunch, talked about religion a little bit, and mostly discussed general life topics. (My father is also a severe introvert, like me, and idle conversation is not a forte of his.)

After lunch, we walked out on the beach. I’d planned my delivery. I asked him what it was exactly that he believed about life and death. He started out with the history of religion (he always starts with the history behind the pertinent question), and then he transitioned into his personal beliefs. Once he finished, I offered my part. I told him nobody had ever really asked me what I believe. It was always just assumed because I was part of a certain family or church that I shared the same beliefs. But, obviously, I didn’t.

Then came the time to deliver my blow. I told him I was thinking about becoming Muslim. (I couldn’t own up to it full-force yet; I needed time to let the idea sink in for him.) Surprisingly, he didn’t stop walking. He didn’t yell (not surprisingly). He just said one thing, and his response has stayed with me every day since. It has had my back when people were against me. It has given me conviction along my chosen path. And those words were:

As your father, it is my job to let you know that I think you’re wrong. But you’re an adult. And if you chose to believe something just because I told you so, that would be just as wrong.

It was all I needed. I didn’t need an “I support you” or a “That’s wonderful”. And I know he still doesn’t like my choice. And I know there have been many tears shed on his side on my behalf.  But I also think both he and my mom have come to conclusion that after nearly a decade, a husband and a child, I’m not going through a phase.

And as each day goes by, I never lose hope that one day my family will join me in truly understanding the history, relevance and authority of our beautiful Islam, insha’Allah. Until that day comes, I will continue to enjoy the avid discussion my father and I have about our beliefs, and I will rest easy knowing that despite our differences, we still respect each others’ beliefs … and rights to have them.

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17 thoughts on “Footprints in the Sand: On Converting to Islam and Family

  1. “I have to admit I was … nervous” – Just to reassure you, your blog is invaluable. If there’s any way to counter any fear, nervousness, panic (which I doubt you feel any more) then at least I hope these few words might be a source of encouragement, regardless. InshaAllah.

    “As your father, it is my job to let you know that I think you’re wrong. But you’re an adult. And if you chose to believe something just because I told you so, that would be just as wrong.” Your father is courageous, intelligent and noble. A credit to Christianity.

    Modernity will be/is a test for Muslims too. How would we respond if our children chose another way…? Following forefathers uncritically is certainly not the Islamic way… (Qur’an 2:170) … Easier said than done, though. And hard to navigate through – as parent or child.

    Nice post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words.

      Believe me, I think about that all the time. If I disowned my child for choosing another belief system, it would make me a hypocrite. Besides, it is not so easy for a mother to just cast aside her child.

      Therefore, I do the best I can, and I try to show her the beauty of following Islam. In the end, Allah brings to Islam who He wills…..and we must always remember, there is no compulsion in religion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heavy dope stuff especially for a preachers daughter. But a very interesting proposition you raised: what if your [our] kids go through the same process ? Do you disown or accpect ? Withdraw it Support ? As the crowd of ex Muslim continues to grow, Muslims better asking these questions ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes. It occurred to me after it was posted that I didn’t clarify. He’s not a preacher. He wanted to be one. But he didn’t become one….my mom is not a preacher’s wife. Hahaha.

      I, personally, could never disown my child. Even if she changed religions. I will do my best to teach her and explain to her everything I can about Islam. In the end, I cannot force her to believe or practice. I fully believe faith and religion is personal. If practice because compulsory, it results in apostasy eventually (see Saudi Arabia). I believe Allah wants our willing submission, hence the name Muslim.

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      1. Excellent article. Thanks for sharing. It is something I always talk about. To become.Muslim, one must actively pursue intellectual reasoning and.logic. But then we’re just supposed to shut off the ability to ask questions?

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      2. How easy it to ask questions when you live in a country that has shut it’s door on intelligence and decency in 1933 ? Please don’t be offended, but I think it’s treasonous when people, especially women leave the United States to live with their husbands in the Gulf States ?

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  3. It’s not easy for the ones from there, when they’re taught to not ask questions. But this is wrong. We are commanded to read and learn. Any attempt by outsiders to quench this desire is wrong — whether there is change or not.

    As for the second comment, is that a question or a comment?

    And, I’m not offended. I was not at my computer when I ready your response, so I had time to process a non-reactionary, knee-jerk rebuttal. 🙂

    I have to ask, where are you from? It helps to know the context of the statement/question.

    How is it “treasonous”? Treason against intelligence and decency? Treason against humanity? Treason against Islam? Treason against my native country?

    Treason is utmost betrayal (at the minimum of the definition, since I don’t think you’re accusing me of trying to overthrow a government or assassinate a ruler….). Who or what have I betrayed?

    In order to betray something, I must first take an oath of allegiance to it. Other than saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” as a child at school, I’ve never sworn allegiance to the United States of America. Being a natural-born citizen no more makes me a member of the allegiance than being born in Christianity (or Islam) makes me a Christian (or Muslim). Therefore, I couldn’t have betrayed my country.

    Furthermore, I didn’t betray intelligence and decency, as I strive to attain both of these on a regular basis. And intelligence and decency transcend borders — belonging to a person. Not a country.

    Treason against humanity? If you mean by taking up residence in a location where human rights are laughable at best, my purpose was to work in education. And education is the basis of improving humanity.

    Treason against Islam? I doubt you’re insinuating this, so I won’t elaborate.

    This only leaves treason against one possibility: myself. As I only ever swore allegiance, or “loyalty of an individual to a cause”, to myself through my morals and ethics. I want to become a better human being, one that can understand others’ and empathize with more than just those of a similar nationality. Leaving one’s country and experiencing life outside its borders is a basic requirement for accomplishing these goals. And, if I want to learn more about my religion, where better than in the country that “claims” to be the “custodian” of Islam? In fact, I’ve never been stronger in my faith since I left KSA….because I’ve seen what Islam is not, and I’ve answered my own questions about what I believe it is.

    So, while I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m merely trying to clarify the assumption (accusation?) in your post that I belong to a group of people you think are “treasonous”.

    And, finally, to make the matter even less complex: I did not follow my husband anywhere. I got a job in Saudi Arabia, and he and my daughter came with me.

    All the best!

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    1. Wow nelly slow down! I was not insinuating your moral beliefs! I think I asked sister Gracie about this well. I meant to ask why move to Saudi Arabia of all reasons ? Should not Muslims stay in America like our good ol’e Sister Corbin did.

      And besides custodians of Islam ? So you fell for the lie as well ? I think my pinky finger as more custodial responsibilities then Ibs Saud’s Arabia.

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      1. Dude…relax. I said I wasn’t trying to be argumentative. I was basically pre-answering your question while I waited for you to explain the question.

        Why move to Saudi? Because we wanted to try another country. And my husband’s cousin’s husband (yeah, yeah, follow the connect-the-dots, all Arabs are cousins, blah, blah, blah) was working at the university in Saudi where I worked. He told me they were looking for English teachers. I applied, they offered me a pretty decent package, and we tried it out.

        Should Muslims stay in America? Well, sure, if they want to. But millions of people expatriate for work purposes. Plus both Sister Corbin and her hubby are American. They may not want to live anywhere else. You’ll have to ask her about that one.

        My hubby is Palestinian, by way of Kuwait-birth and former Jordanian citizenship (he’s American now). I always wanted to travel and see other places, even before I got married. I was halfway convinced it was what I was going to do, then along came my husband.

        I don’t think people should stay in any particular country if they feel the need to move somewhere else. God created this great big, beautiful world for us to see and enjoy, in my opinion.

        And, no, I knew they weren’t “custodians of Islam” prior to going there. I knew a lot about Saudi, as my best friend/sister from another mister is Saudi and so were other friends I’d had. But I was up for trying, and I did learn a lot about culture vs. religion, which helped to shape the Muslim I’ve become.

        And, while I don’t doubt the custodial duties of your pinky finger, you circumnavigated my question and did not tell me where you’re from.

        (Oh, and by the way, we don’t live in KSA anymore. We live in Oman. Which, despite the near-Hades temperate climate and less-than-stellar healthcare quality, is a superb place to live and raise a child. I don’t have to worry about her being shot in her 1st grade classroom or spoken down to because of her mother’s choice of clothing. It’s a really multicultural, diverse country the US could stand to learn a few things from.)

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      2. I’m not so much pro-American as I am anti-Saudi. Trash bags really. But you leave in Oman which is considerably a better place, though Yemen maybe be better.
        And of course not, you may indeed travel as far and wide as you can. I just thought you went to ibn Saud’s back yard to think that is holier than thou land or something, as many Muslims tend to do that.

        Peace

        http://muslimmatters.org/2014/03/17/can-americans-be-real-muslims/

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      3. Oh, by the way, I saw somewhere you referenced the title of the post. “Footprints on the Sand” refers to my walk with my dad on the beach. 🙂

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      4. Gawaa, I feel so shy ! Everybody is looking at me !

        I’m an American by choice and Muslim by the grace of The Almighty.
        Ethnicity ? What is a few shades if brown between friends ? eh?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. You still didnt answer the sister’s question…where are you from? I am guessing USA. I’d also like to know your ethnicity, just to understand where you come from 🙂

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      2. Gawaa, I feel so shy ! Everybody is looking at me !

        I’m an American by choice and Muslim by the grace of The Almighty.
        Ethnicity ? What is a few shades if brown between friends ? eh?

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