Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Every day there are hundreds of people joining this religion and I am one of them. Of course, accepting the religion is a mere part of the process. What then follows is the most difficult part: Integrating your religion into your family and culture.
I put in a row some awkward but funny situations that could happen to a new Muslim in a non-Muslim family.
1. Washing before prayer
So now you are Muslim. Step by step you are learning how you should do your washing before you pray. As most of you will now, it takes some practice to wash your feet in the sink of the bathroom without turning it into an ocean. On one of my first days as Muslim, I stood up to go and wash for Fajr praying. While I was washing my feet in the sink, which required a lot of effort, my mother passed through the bathroom to go to the toilet. She looked up and was mad at me for messing up the bathroom. I just started laughing because she did not even wonder what I was doing at four in the morning with my foot in the sink. Today, we still laugh about it often. Some time later she bought a water-absorbing mat that I could use to not turn the bathroom into an ocean.
2. Shoes and your prayer mat
Almost every Muslim knows that when you enter a room with your shoes still on and there is a praying mat, you should avoid stepping on it. In a non-Muslim family it is almost impossible to explain to your family that they cannot walk on the mat with their shoes. Therefore, you make it easy for yourself and put the mat aside after finishing your prayer. But sometimes you forget or you are too lazy to put it away. One day I was sitting in my bed reading a book when my little brother entered the room, with shoes of course, and walked straight through to get himself a chair. It only took me a second to jump off my bed and tackle my little brother before he would step onto my mat that was still laying there. The expression on his face was somewhere between anger and laughter. But now he knows that when my mat is on the floor he should avoid stepping on it.
3. Part of the family
This part is mainly for hijabis, because whatever skin colour you have, with a hijab you always look ‘foreign’. My mother is a very social person and often when we go out in family she tends to talk to random people and socialise. They almost always ask if she is out with the family. When that question pops up, I already prepare myself for what’s coming. Because the second my mom says yes, they ask whether I’m a friend of the family or where I came from. You should see their face when my mom says that I’m her daughter…. Priceless.
You know you are fully integrated when your parents start using Islamic facts against you. My mother keeps reminding me that paradise is under her heels, like all the time. Or when your sister starts giving advice on combining your hijab with your clothing.
It is not always easy when you try to practice your religion when your environment is non-Muslim.
But my family has proven that it is possible to all live together and respect each other’s opinions. It goes with ups and downs, but you quickly forget the downs. After all, they are your family and that has not changed the slightest bit.