Navigating Ramadan as a Convert: Challenges and Solutions

The convert experience in Islam is tough for many. Muslim communities throughout the world get excited when someone enters their doors saying they want to accept Islam. There are hugs, laughter, and a large uproar – and then everything stops, and the convert must figure out how to move forward independently. Trying to navigate through the diversity of legal and theological opinion in Islam can be tough enough, but doing so on your own is that much tougher, as is navigating through the cultural diversity that exists in the Muslim community on your own, questioning yourself and wondering what parts of your identity you need to abandon to fit in on your own. I could keep going – but essentially, the point is we don’t do a good job of taking care of our converts

That Much Harder For Muslim Converts

I bring this up because Ramadan is just days away, and it’s that much harder for many converts during Ramadan. Every Muslim’s family is not Muslim. Every Muslim does not have a family to eat suhoor with or have iftar with. How many iftars have you hosted or attended to which a convert was invited? Or, at the end of the month, extend an invitation to an Eid celebration to someone who is a convert? Our consciousness doesn’t seem to extend to this place.
I had a young woman tell me once that Ramadan interests her because her family offers her food each year, and she tells them she can’t eat it because she’s fasting. They respond by asking, “Oh, you’re still Muslim?” It’s not an experience that her family shares with her.
Another young woman told me her experience fasting during Ramadan was hard because her family wouldn’t accept her Islam. When it came time to eat lunch, her father would put a plate of food in front of her because he refused to acknowledge that she was a Muslim. She was pretty torn in deciding what to do and not having a community, or even a few people who understood, to turn to make it that much harder.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

A young man mentioned to me that his family had been completely fine with his conversion, but no Muslims included him in anything. He expected that the local mosque would welcome him in and invite him to things, but he found that no one really asked him to come if he didn’t make a point of going on his own. No one checked in on him, asked him how he was doing, or if he ever needed anything. During past Ramadans, his mother would call him daily to wake him up for suhoor, which he proceeded to eat on his own and then waited til sunset to break his fast alone as well. He doesn’t seem to think this Ramadan will be any different.
Try to think of who might be observing the month of Ramadan alone this year, not by choice but because there isn’t any other option for them. Make a point to include them in a way that makes sense for them. That might be inviting them to a large gathering or making the time to be with them in a smaller, more intimate atmosphere. Where others have forgotten, let’s ensure we remember to do our part continuously and to the best of our abilities.

[Imam] Khalid Latif
Photo by Jim Pennucci.