Many of us who have embraced Islam after being raised in another faith must cope with some complicated reactions from our non-Muslim loved ones. Some of them consciously or subconsciously buy into the popular misconception that Muslim women are oppressed. They presume that dressing and acting modestly and submitting to Allah's commands take away Muslim women's freedom. Sometimes non-Muslims worry that Islam will limit our lives, dampen our aspirations, and enable men to treat us badly.
For me, it was extremely important to show my womenfolk in particular how Islam actually promotes and protects a woman’s dignity and well-being. I wanted them to stop worrying about me, of course, but I also hoped (and still hope) that Allah’s guidance would eventually turn their hearts. Since I do not believe in lecturing or preaching, I strove to show them the beauty of Islam organically, though living my life with good intentions and having natural, on-topic conversations with them.
Here are three ways I attempted to show the beauty of Islam to my non-Muslim family and friends.
Let them see the amazing rewards of motherhood.
When I was in labor with my third child, my Christian sister, who is a registered nurse and lactation consultant, was by my side. She had offered to be present at the baby’s birth, and my husband and I had agreed. I had learned that the duaas of a woman in labor were very powerful because Allah always answers the supplications of a person in distress, so I had offered to pray for my Muslim friends while I was laboring. Before my due date, about a dozen Muslim sisters sent me duaa requests, and I started reading their supplications in between contractions as my husband drove me to the hospital.
As I silently read the list, tears began falling down my cheeks. I felt immense love for my sisters in faith and I was honored that they would trust me to ask Allah for His blessings on their behalf. Praying for them also distracted me from my nervousness and discomfort as we rode to the hospital. My sister was observing me, not knowing what I was doing, nor what prompted my tears. “Are you okay?” she asked in concern.
When I explained to her that I was praying for my friends during labor because this was a time of special nearness to God, she was very moved. Without me having to explain all the specifics at that moment, she could see that Islam honors women and their unique sacrifices and contributions. Later, after my daughter was born, I told my sister about the importance of breastfeeding in Islam, and about the many rewards a mother gets for fulfilling this sacred duty. As a lactation consultant, my sister particularly admired the emphasis Islam places on nursing a child for two years and supporting a mother’s well-being during this period.
Let them know what Islam requires of men.
Alhamdullilah, all praise and thanks be to Allah alone, I have been told by many non-Muslim friends and family that my son is very respectful to women. While so many teenage boys disrespect females by staring at them inappropriately, demeaning them with vulgar speech and actions, underestimating their intellect, objectifying them, and acting in a condescending manner, boys who are raised with proper Islamic guidance do not act that way. Especially if their father was a good role model, Muslim boys will be modest, respectful, gentle, and protective of women.
If your non-Muslim family member notices and comments on a positive quality in your husband or son, make sure to give the credit to Allah and His Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who taught us that truly great men are always courteous, modest, appropriate, and kind. On the flip side, if they notice a Muslim male behaving in a crude way, we must explain to them that our beautiful deen or faith condemns behavior like that.
Let them see your dedication.
It might be tempting to hide our acts of worship from our non-Muslim family and friends in order to avoid conflict or debate. However, if we keep our fasting, five daily prayers, and other acts of worship secret, non-Muslims might never learn about our faith. My Catholic mother was not thrilled when I embraced Islam 23 years ago, but nowadays she often remarks that she admires my dedication to my faith. “You pray five times a day and fast for a whole month,” she says in wonder. “You really make God a priority in your life. We should all have such a commitment to our religion!”
In a world where people of all faiths are increasingly drifting away from their religion, we Muslims should be outliers who embrace and practice ours wholeheartedly. This does not mean being sanctimonious or aggressive. I am not saying that we should try to put on a show of piety for our non-Muslim loved ones or pressure them to convert. I also don’t promote putting others’ religions down in an effort to elevate ours. Rather, we should worship God for His sake, sincerely, neither hiding nor exhibiting it. We can talk positively about Islam without disparaging other religions and find common ground whenever possible.
Allah is the guide and the Turner of Hearts. It is not our job to convert our loved ones. Allah tells us in the Quran:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:256)
Striving to be a positive, sincere Muslim who showers love and kindness upon our non-Muslim family is a wonderful way to give dawah. We can pray for them and attempt to show them the beauty of Islam through our words and actions, but the final result is up to Allah.
May He enable us to communicate our love of Islam to our family and friends in a beneficial way. May He guide them and us, and reunite us in Jannah. Ameen.
Laura El Alam is a freelance writer and editor and a first-generation American Muslim. She is the author of over 100 published articles and has written a children’s book, Made From the Same Dough, due to be released in 2023. A wife and mother of five, Laura lives with her family in Massachusetts. You can visit her online at www.seaglasswritingandediting.com
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