Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
I reverted to Islam earlier this year. My family is completely Christian. I come from a culture in which everyone is friendly with each other and everyone’s basically cousins.
How am I meant to maintain my ties with my family, specifically my male cousins and other extended family members? How can I treat my male cousins in the same way I treat the strangers on the street?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well.
MashaAllah, may Allah reward you for your sincere concern towards your family.
When it comes to maintaining family ties, try to keep these pointers to keep in mind:
1) know your limits as defined by the Shari’ah
2) use wisdom and tact
3) give gifts to soften hearts
4) make daily dua for Allah to guide your family to Islam
5) make dua for Allah to improve your character and your dealings with your family
Abu Huraira reported that a person said: “Allah’s Messenger, who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment? He said: Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order (of nearness).” [Sahih Muslim]
In terms of priority, good treatment of your mother comes first, then your father, then your close blood relations.
As with any great life change, please give yourself and your family plenty of time to adjust. I don’t recommend going ‘cold turkey’ by immediately becoming cold towards your non-mahram family members. If you meet them at family gatherings, be polite, ask them about their families, then excuse yourself. Don’t go out of your way to avoid them, nor go out of your way to be close to them. Most people resist change, even if it is better for them, because we are creatures of habit. Take small steps towards distancing yourself, and over time, it will get easier for you, inshaAllah.
Try to put yourself in your aunty’s shoes. She is probably upset that you have left the religion of your forefathers, and she may be trying to make sense of the person you are today. Concepts like mahram and non-mahram are probably confusing and upsetting to her. Try a different approach. Reassure her that you are still her niece, and that you still love her and the rest of your family. You may do some things differently now, but that doesn’t change how important she is to you, and so on. Do nice things with her e.g. go to the park, have a meal together, go on a family holiday etc. Over time, I pray that she will see how becoming Muslim has made you a better version of yourself.
Some issues are difficult to explain to non-Muslim family members. However, many challenges can be indirectly solved simply by having patience and exercising good character. Remember that Allah is the Turner of Hearts.
I pray that Allah helps you make good on your Islam, beautifies your character, and guides the rest of your family to Islam.
[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.