I certainly appreciate all the various efforts being made to address the needs of Deen on the multiple issues of Islam’s Converts. 2 years ago, I didn’t know there were other converts in DFW. Today, I feel my life has been greatly enhanced not only through knowing other converts, but being able to see the magnificent possibilities for our individual and collective futures.
What I’m humbly presenting for your consideration is my own visualization of convert support. This is not an attempt to coerce your acceptance of my own vision; I just hope that it may be valuable to you, and possibly useful.
The most significant event that happens during any era of this earthly life is when a human being enters into recognition of its Creator. Allah tells us in His Book: “Wa maa khalaqtul jinna wal insa illa li ya’buduun” I did not create jinn and humans except that they worship(or fully submit and serve) Me. So, the acceptance of Islam is the most significant transition that either jinn or ins can make, and is the highest-order objective of our Creator Himself. And there’s an interesting interpretation of this verse: ibn ‘Abbas said that “illa li ya’buduun” means “illa li ya’arifuun” (that they should become familiar with me).
Allah has also told us “Wa maa arsalnaka illa Rahmatan lil ‘alameen” I did not send you (Muhammad) except as Mercy to all of creation. This is a general Mercy that emanates from every application of the Guidance that Rasulullah s.a.w. came with. Then, the specific manner in which Rasulullah generates this Mercy begins with another verse, a verse that is entirely unique, having no other like it in The Qur’an. “Qul hadhihi sabeeli adu’u ilaAllahi ‘ala baseeratin ana wa man ittaba’ani” Say, this is my way. I call towards Allah with vision and conviction, me and whoever follows me. This verse summarizes the fact that the entirety of our Prophets words and actions are a call to human beings to be introduced to their Creator.
This is the evidence that Allah’s highest objective for humanity, and the entire purpose of our Prophet’s mission and methods, is to attach the human being to its Maker, which begins with the initial acceptance of Islam as our Religion. And it is further evidenced by the individual and collective actions of Rasulullah and his Companions, in both Mecca and Medina, as what began as a simple but harrowing effort to invite the Mushrikeen of Mecca to Islam, eventually developed into the Conversion Machinery that was built in Medina. The community built there was to establish the Muslims in a position of strength and unite them under the purpose of the Prophetic Mission, which is to convert the world to Islam for the salvation of humanity.
The fact that Da’wa and the Conversion Process are an inextricable obligation in Islamic Faith is further exemplified by the following Ruling that is recorded in Imam an-Nawawi’s Rawdat at-Talibeen: “If a non-Muslim asks a Muslim to be presented Islam, and that [Muslim] says ‘We’ll see’, or ‘Wait until tomorrow‘, or if this non-Muslim asks a person delivering a speech to be invited to Islam, and that person answers ‘Sit until the end of the gathering‘, he committed blasphemy (an act of apostasy)” In other words, delaying the opportunity for one to convert is an act of Disbelief.
So, the mindset and function of our masajid and our community needs to be revolutionized until they fit with Allah’s Objectives. When we operate like a well-oiled machine that presents Allah’s Message to humanity, then properly receives Converts into an environment of Growth and Security, we will have created a copy of the Prophet’s Community. Thus, the first two highest objectives of the Believer are 1) to open the Doors of Islam for humanity, and 2) to build a community that meets the objectives of Shari’a for all Muslims, especially converts.
In my conception, what we’re calling “convert support” comes in 3 critical forms and stages:
- The initial reception. Human beings being told they are leaving darkness and entering Light must be received into an enlightened environment. This critical stage must secure their commitment to Islam as their Religion throughout their lives, until the day they die and enter Allah’s Mercy. Allah says “wa la tamutunna illa wa antum Muslimun” do not die except in a state of Islam. During this phase, there must be no doubt that they have entered into Truth, Wisdom, and Mercy. They must begin an immediate ascent into Knowledge, Spirituality, and collective Humanity.
- The Life-establishment phase. Once their Faith and commitment to Law has been settled in Deen, converts must establish the Human Life of Islam. In this phase, they have to begin comprehending the structure of Islamic Knowledge, and apply it through establishing the basic life requirements. Marriage, employment that meets their material needs without jeopardizing their Faith, the establishment of a home (and eventual home-ownership), etc. This is the phase that requires the most service and financial commitment from the community. Whatever deficiency a convert has in their material state must be supplanted with a state of stability. This is NOT optional ! If a convert needs funds for job training, it has to be done. If a convert does not have transportation, it has to be provided. A proper system of assisting converts with marriage must be established. This is the phase in which the trunk of a strong tree has to be built. This phase represents MOST of the purpose of the Prophet’s migrating to Medina ! A strong community is not built of broken and impoverished individuals.
- The Fruition phase. Maslow called this the state of “self-actualization”. All the basic necessities of life are in working order. Marriage, stable earnings, and a social network are all established, leaving the individual free to ask “what do I want to give back to life”. Reaching this stage, in which the Muslim becomes a benefactor of Islam and Humanity, is the “payoff” for the investment of the community in prior stages. It was after the security had been established in Medina that some of the Companions developed into great scholars, statesmen, commanders, and public servants. It is in this state that converts will be able to rise to the demands of the Deen, or the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the age). As Allah describes: and their similitude in the Gospel is like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the Unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds, forgiveness and a great Reward.
This last stage also implies a certain degree of autonomy. If an individual is wanting to provide a good service to the community, but that service/skill does not seem to fit with any “masjid”, this could be due to the remedial nature of the masajid, not to the flaws of the individual, or the low value of his/her service. In other words, a convert could be in a high status, offering the greatest advancement of Islam, or serving a communal obligation, yet the masjid would not be the proper forum for his/her work, because the masajid generally serve the lowest common denominator in the community. However, community support needs to be provided for that individual’s program, because it’s actually pushing the cause of Islam forward in a critical way.
Without having community support for converts who reach an advanced stage, Islam will be horribly dis-serviced. Not only is it a setback for Deen, but provides no incentive for converts to work hard in their personal development, and their community work. Very destructive to both the ethos and pathos of a community.
To summarize, the highest purpose of Deen is to receive humanity into Islam and provide a successful environment. Since the “masajid” have not achieved this in the last 30 years, and it seems they are incapable, their obligation is to commit the resources for converts to do this job ourselves. We have the experience, the concern, and the organizational skills. This will alleviate the obligation from each masjid, and save their community from Allah’s Wrath for failing to meet His most important Objective. Also, this will advance the cause of Islam for all Muslims, and increase the capacity for future converts.
Although I would love for Muslims to voluntarily fulfill the obligation to assist convert Brothers and Sisters in the above matters, I think that much of it would have to be institutionalized. A Convert Marriage Program that incorporates a database list of candidates, marriage counselors, Walis, and some cash to help those who need it, would be a viable and expedient solution. Whereas relying on volunteers to “hook-up” Brothers and Sisters is leaving out a lot of people. This is just an example.
To think that Muslims will voluntarily meet the needs of converts through “Brotherly love” is Utopian naivete, in my opinion. Our Prophet did not leave Brotherly Obligation to volunteerism alone. He established the laws of al-ukhuwa to kick-start and enforce the obligations between Muhajireen and Ansaar. The needs of converts are too painful and too critical to continue leaving them to volunteers and amateurs.
And Allah is The Knower.