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7 Things I Didn’t Expect When I Converted to Islam

Written by Theresa Corbin

Take the overwhelming desire for people to know how others live, along with the fact that I am having a hankering to talk about myself this week, and mix in the fact that lists are fun and in the world of technical writing- easy to digest.

And what results is:unexpected things about converting to islam

Let the countdown begin!

7. I didn’t expect to love dressing modestly

I thought I would have to swaddle myself in hideously, un-creative clothing in order to observe hijab. While I became interested in controlling who saw what parts of me, I didn’t want to give up my style. Now there is nothing wrong with looking bland if that is your thing, but it is not mine.

I am in LOVE with color, and I am a highly creative person with a love for fashion. I learned that I didn’t have to give up my signature style just because I wanted to be modest. See islamwich’s pinterest page if you want more examples of what I mean. Modesty doesn’t mean giving up style. I was very happy to discover that.

6. I didn’t expect there to be so many different brands of Islam

I didn’t expect that every Muslim that I would meet would want me to subscribe to their own special brand of Islam. It gets very confusing for brothers and sisters who convert. All you have to do is verify, verify, verify. Know! Your! Sources!

The great thing about Islam is that everything is documented and verified. Meticulously. I learned this the hard way. When I first converted, I thought every Muslim knew better than me. And mostly they did, but there are also Muslims out there who feel very passionately about the brand of Islam their parents blindly took from their parents, and so on.  

Muslims and non-Muslims alike, go to the source and ask your friendly neighborhood Muslims to verify the “Islamic facts” he/she is trying to sell you. If he/she becomes upset by this request, walk away, he/she has an issue with arrogance.

5. I didn’t expect to save so much time not fighting a daily battle with my hair

If you take into account that, before Islam, on a weekly basis I would spend about 5 hours in total, grooming my mane, and over the period of 12 years of wearing hijab and maybe devoting only 1 hour a week to making my hair look nice for the hubby (ok, so maybe more like 30 mins, -sorry hubby-).

Carry the 1, I have saved approximately 4,000 years just in hair care time alone. (I am good at math!). THAT! IS! AWESOME!

4. I didn’t expect to be expected to change my name

I have a perfectly fine name, thank you. Theresa. It means one who reaps what she sows. How much more “Muslim” can you get? And most people (who are not in my immediate family–b/c they call me Reesie Roo) call me “Corbin”, a name meaning raven or black bird, because I am a descendant of dark haired folks from Gaul, who were called “Corbin” or black feathered for this pigment of their hair.  

By the way, The companions of the Prophet (PBUH) didn’t change their names when they converted. Their names became Muslim names, and so did mine, and so can yours.

3. I didn’t expect attendance to be taken

I did expect to be a part of a community. As a part of the majority in my country, community was not something I was familiar with. What I did not expect was that my attendance in that community would be monitored, questioned, and scrutinized. 

Where were you last Friday Prayer? Why weren’t you at the lectures every night and morning? Why don’t you come out to the special Eid event we have planned for small children since you neither have small children nor are you a small child?  All well-meaning, but what they don’t understand is that I am a lone wolf.

However, I have learned that if you want people to like you and desire your presence, don’t go and or at the very least be indifferent to showing up.

2. I didn’t think I would be expected to be an expert on Middle Eastern Politics.

I didn’t know every Tom, Dick, and Harry would want to debate ME politics with me just because I’m a Muslim. Being a Muslim doesn’t have anything to do with knowing about the Middle East (ME). I am not and have no desire to become an expert on ME politics. 

1. I didn’t expect to be loved.

I didn’t expect that perfect strangers in every small town and big city I visit would immediately love me … Just because we share a love of Allah (SWT). And I didn’t expect to feel the same way for them. *Gush* ❤ *Barf* That’s enough of that.

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45 thoughts on “7 Things I Didn’t Expect When I Converted to Islam

  1. I hate when one of the first questions is what name have I chosen for myself… My name is fine too… thank you very much!

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  2. As for hijab, as a non-muslim I feel the need to share that the other day, when I was teaching at university, I saw a woman wearing hijab… in the school’s colors (orange and blue)! I had to comment on it and she was happy that I noticed 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your kindness to this lady. As a Muslim woman in hijab, you can get a lot of nasty comments so it means a lot to have someone actually notice/appreciate a style choice. May God’ s peace be with you, Judy. 🙂

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      1. I have noticed that many, many if not all converts to Islam became hijabis…wonder what i up with that ? What if you have short hair ? ewww…no point then right ?

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      2. That is a question I can’t answer. I know why I have become a hijabi, and so does the world because I have written about it in my blog. But I can’t answer for everyone. Maybe we want to be good Muslims and please our Lord? Just like any Muslimah who wears hijab.

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      1. Hey I am old enough to day daydream to conquer the world, okay ?

        (You know, something happens to women in their mid thirties. They become weird and start talking about their kids too much. Still too young to be called aunties, but just not chicks anymore….ohhhh no he didn’t !)

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      2. conquer the world, eh? You are showing you age. The world hasn’t beaten you down yet! In the thirties, women get over caring what others think, we know what we want and we go and get it. It is awesome. We aren’t chicks for sure, I have no problems with that.

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      3. Okay, okay…as you wish dear sister. But please listen to this lecture and see there is another side…(Bless this sister….)

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      4. I completely agree with this sister. Sometimes I think your questions are just bait. Like I should have given this answer or something. A convert woman wanting to cover is a personal choice, but yes I think most converts who wear hijab are trying to represent the truth and combat the myth about Islam oppressing women. We as convert women know this myth better that anyone. We, usually, first encounter Islam from this false perception and overcome it though knowledge and then come to love it.

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  3. Great nugget of wisdom I didn’t know about: “The Sahabah didn’t change their names when they converted.” I can use that one in the future.. Do you happen to know when the concept to accept a “Muslim” name began for converts? The main benefit I can think of is giving ‘good press’ to the faith- such as high profile converts like Cascius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam)

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    1. I don’t know when this name change thing began, good question. Something to look into. I feel ya, what better way to make headlines than for a big name celeb to change that name. But to me it seems like for the average everyday convert, keeping your name might make for better dawah. It shows people that you aren’t abandoning who you are, you are just getting back to your fitrah. Thank you for reading and sharing your perspective. It is good to hear what other people think. Hope that nugget of “wisdom” comes in handy. lol

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      1. The only reason that I think should warrant reverts to change their name is when their name has some unpleasang meaning to it…for example Zania in the Quran means an adultress woman…my dad knew a doctor whose name was Satan…should probably check with his parents and their real intention…

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  4. Very good blog today. It brings comfort to me. I am a revert of four years now. I am not a hijabi but being modest is fashionable and beautiful. I like you blog vey much and keep up the great work!

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      1. No, you don’t. I will correct you, or not, when I get an hour and a half to watch the video. I really will watch it inshaAllah, but have you read my posts on hijab? The only reason I didn’t respond more extensively is because I assumed you had. But I shouldn’t assume that you have 5 hours to comb through all the posts in my blog.

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  5. Actually I’ve got to say that a ‘Muslim’ name is NOT an Arabic name. It’s a name with a beautiful meaning, therefore eg. Vanessa (butterfly) is as much of a Muslim name as Layla or Fatima 😀

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  6. That’s probably the reality if USA, things in Muslim countries are totally done the salafist way — I’ve yet to hear a convert to Islam with his/her old name. The stupid clerics and ignorant society tells a coming person that first thing to be Muslim is to change your name to a suitable Islamic one and a lot of bull crap. I’m sorry to say I’m embarrassed to be a Muslim who can clearly see Islam’s followers be blatantly oppresive, rigid and downright radical. I won’t play down the realities, a friend of nine converted to Islam for being with a Muslim man who accepted her as wife after countless changes and complete anhilation of her previous identity and he had the gall to make a wedding speech as how he loved her as she was. Really?

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    1. You might enjoy my post about keeping your name upon converting. https://islamwich.com/2013/03/07/converts-changing-name/ I recently had someone ask me that very question. I had to bite my tongue. Did the sahahba change their names when they came to Islam? No, then why should I? As for the comment about the “wedding speech as how he loved her as she was” I am sure he heard it in a romantic comedy once and thought it would be nice to say but had not thought about what it really meant. Most people are like this, sadly. They offer “lip service” without a thought in their brain. Most converts get swept up in other cultures and find it hard to distinguish between culture and religion (mostly because their born Muslim teachers can’t distinguish either) and sadly lose their identity. But more often than not they come back to it after the dust settles and they learn more about Islam.

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      1. Yes I agree with you that most Muslims regardless of conversions or not get swept away in cultural practices under guise of Islam. As far as the husband is concerned, our opinion is that he knew very well what he was saying and he said it because he’s just a typical arrogant, chauvinistic, Pakistani Muslim man.

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  7. Point 2 is SO TRUE! The hijab makes you an ambassador for whatever they relate your image to in the media. People, people, people…

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    1. It can be difficult but also it makes you really aware of every action you do, which is a great way to remember to have good intentions. Alhamdulillah

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