The year-end holidays can be hard for Muslim converts as they try to navigate family traditions, religious practices or perhaps that uncomfortable stare by an aunt or uncle who has yet to embrace the conversion. While some new Muslims may be invited to the dinner table, others may struggle in building ties with their kin.
Stepping up to give them support during this season can bring some comfort to them, especially the ones who have just converted and may be trying to find ways to rebuild ties with their loved ones.
1. Be There For Them.
Reach out to a convert that you know and ask them what their plans are for the holidays- without imposing your opinions and judgment. If she is visiting family, ask how you can help her prepare. If she isn’t being welcomed by her family, offer to hang out and spend time.
Don’t overwhelm them with what they should or should not do. Instead, let them seek answers from scholars and find the balance that works best for their situation.
2. Encourage them to uphold ties of kinship.
Last year, my convert friend, Nadiah (not her real name), told me that she would visit her family on Christmas. Her visit was significant to her family since it was their first major family gathering since the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak.
Expectedly, Nadiah was nervous as it would be the first time that her extended family would see her in a hijab and learn of her new beliefs. So we discussed it, and concluded that bringing treats to share would help ease the situation.
As her grandmother has a tradition of recreating scenes from the Bible during the family dinner, Nadiah felt more comfortable if she visited her grandmother earlier. So she called ahead and asked if that was acceptable. To her delight, her grandmother loved having her earlier. She excused herself during religious-related family activities, and her family did not mind as they were pleased enough that she had visited them.
3. Old traditions, new ways.
What is one tradition that your convert friend relished in during this time of the year? Could it be making cookies, baking an apple pie, or getting gifts for their loved ones?
These experiences can continue even if one does not celebrate Christmas. You can invite your new Muslim friend over and have a cook-out together. Make gifts for their family as a way of spreading joy, and not necessarily because it is Yuletide season.
Decorating freshly baked cookies is a great bonding session.
During this month, recite and learn Surah Maryam together. You can use the Muslim Pro app to listen to recitations of the Quran, along with the translation. Perhaps you might also want to search for online lectures about Maryam a.s., the mother of Prophet Isa a.s.
As many of us exist in multi-faith families, we have to embrace the differences without dividing family relations. Do not be the cause of your new Muslim friends to be estranged from their families, rather, model compassion and spread peace, In Sha Allah.
This article was written by Suryani Omar, the founder of Deen Hubb, a boutique Islamic bookstore in United States.