Written by Theresa Corbin
I recently got a very disturbing email from a 13 year old who just accepted Islam and has already been bombarded by the haram–loaders.
Haram Loader (n.)- a person who dumps a bunch of opinions of what is haram (unlawful in Islam) onto the new Muslim’s already full plate. The haram-loader is similar to the haram police, but they tend to only target the vulnerable new Muslims. They may have good intentions, but they have the wrong methodology.
I just can’t get over it. A 13-year-old had the bravery to question, the wherewithal to think about our existence, the depth to ponder the Creator. And those around him respond to his acceptance of Islam with: “This is haram! That is haram! You are haram. Breathing is haram.”
I. Just. Can’t. It’s like so much haram vomit. It’s not anything new, but haram-loading just gets my goat every time.
Sure, the small stuff can amount to a big deal, but is it really that big of a deal when someone has just accepted Islam and is trying to find his or her footing?
Many new Muslim have a ton of stuff to deal with:
How will I tell my family? … Will I be kicked out of the house? … Will I lose my job? … How will I be able to pray while at work or school? … How will I be able to learn how to say the prayers in a strange and difficult language? How many of my friends will I lose? … How will I make new Muslim friends? … Why do people make it so damn awkward at the masjid? … How am I going to get out of this “business” meeting at the pub? … How can I get out of/or cringe and bear the Christmas party at school, work, friend’s house, family’s house?
It goes on and on. New Muslims are struggling with a lot. Raised Muslims, instead of facilitating this transition as they should be doing, end up putting more on their plate. Whether their intentions are good or not, haram-loading almost always happens and it just sucks.
So what are we to do if haram-loading is insane and we really want to and know it is my duty to help the new Muslim?
1- Remember that Islam is not a list of haram and halal
This is dangerous reductionism that needs to be avoided at all costs, even in raised Muslims’ lives.
2-Put yourself in the new Muslim’s shoes
Imagine you have rejected the faith of your family. All those you love have either rejected you or your ties of kith and kin are seriously strained. Everyone you know thinks you have lost your mind and you are now the hottest topic of gossip. You may have even been fired from your job or lost your place to live.
3- Make sure the new Muslim’s basic needs are met
No one is concerned about how to pronounce the prayer when they are having a hard time feeding themselves or are homeless. There are many ways to support new Muslims until they get on their feet, but however you do it, know that it is the communal responsibility of us all.
4-Is it a pillar of Islam or Iman?
After following Islam and showing empathy and giving charity to the new Muslim, then you should ask yourself, “Is what I am teaching the new Muslim a pillar of Islam or a pillar of iman?”
If it isn’t one of these two types, it’s not important enough to shove on the new Muslims’ plate. The six pillars of iman and the five pillars of Islam are essential for the education of the new Muslim. We have to help them understand, learn, and incorporate all of these pillars into their life at their own pace.
Too much burden placed on the new Muslim is the main reason why people who convert end up leaving Islam. It’s not because Islam is hard; It’s because the Muslims surrounding them are hard on them. Or, perhaps, because the raised Muslims have the best intentions but are dangerously ignorant of what it takes to go from crawling, to walking, to running.
5-Repeat this mantra:
Repeat this to yourself when you want to haram-load the new Muslims: I will not haram-load. I will not haram-load. Islam was revealed over a period of 23 years NOT in one day, week, or even one year. I will not haram-load.
6- Be a good example and an even better listener
When the new Muslim sees you doing or abstaining from anything, the questions will come naturally. When the questions do come, listen, show compassion, be a friend, and a sister/brother.
The bottom line is that new Muslims deserve–and are in need of–our mercy. They deserve a chance to be able to grow into their new faith. The small stuff will come or not, but what is important is that they are allowed the time and space to learn how to incorporate good deeds and rid their lives of bad deeds.
If you can’t incorporate one habit or rid your life of one bad habit overnight (think about kicking nail biting or making exercise a habit) then why do we expect new Muslims to incorporate an entire religion that was revealed over 23 years?
Repeat after me: I will not haram-load. I will not haram-load. I will not haram-load ...
Important Note: All of this also applies to raised Muslim who are just now learning to live Islam as adults. Maybe they were never taught or are trying to get back to Islam little by little. Let’s have some mercy on them, too.
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