This time of year can be a very difficult time for reverts, regardless of whether they have been Muslim for 1 week or 15 years!
We at Solace acknowledge and understand that at this time of the year, many sisters feel lonely and experience a deep sense of loss and exclusion from what used to be an important time for bonding, fun and family . This is a natural human response, and even while you may hate the Shirk and pagan associations of the actual celebration, it is quite normal to grieve for the loss of the human and emotional connection with friends and family that you may have experienced at this time.
You don’t have to feel guilty or ashamed for feeling this way, nor be sucked into moping around or eating mince pies for old times’ sake!
We have sought the advice of a few revert sisters and would like to share some tips for surviving the Xmas and New Year season.
PREPARATION IS KEY
Remember you have been on a spiritual journey which your friends and family haven’t shared, and they may not have noticed all the gradual changes that have been taking place in your life. Therefore changes which come from the heart for the revert, such as no longer celebrating non-Muslim festivals, can be shocking to a family who may not even see Christmas as a “religious” festival, but just a cultural one. It’s important to be sensitive to the family and as open as possible.If there are some harsh words exchanged, step back and look beyond the words to the hurt and emotion behind them- your family might be in a “grieving” process for having “lost” you, and sometimes these feelings come out in the wrong way as an attack on the person, when what they are really feeling is “I’m hurt and I miss you”. Share with them your reasons for the changes in your approach, and perhaps warn them before these changes happen, so they don’t feel sprung by your surprise revelations! Explain your reasons to them patiently, and let them feel heard by acknowledging their feelings- it doesn’t mean you have to agree with their sentiments, but showing you are still the same caring human being who can understand and empathise with what can be a difficult time for them, too, can go a long way towards a smooth journey.
Giving gifts is part of the Sunnah, and can be an important part of our da’wah to family and friends due to the heart-softening effect it engenders. Give gifts to your relatives at both Eids, just as they want to give your family gifts at both birthdays and Christmas. In this way all the family, especially the children, don’t miss out and everyone can learn from each other. You can always save the gifts for Eid if you prefer, just as they may save your gifts for Christmas! Alternatively, you may ask them to buy the children winter presents at the beginning or middle of December but not near the day itself, if they are open to that; but if Christmas is a sore point, it may be worth steering clear of making any special requests, and just accept graciously any presents they give as a token of their love.
Remember to call them on the days around Christmas – they’ll be missing you, and by spending time asking them about their day, you are showing an interest in their lives, just as you want them to show an interest in yours. Be open to chatting about their preparations and plans so they don’t feel you’ve changed beyond all recognition, but just be gentle and firm in your own beliefs. At the end of the day, you can’t just pretend its not happening.
MAKE A SPECIAL EFFORT TO VISIT AND LOOK GOOD
If you don’t want to be with family over Christmas, try to visit them at some point earlier or later on in December. If you want to visit on the day, don’t participate in the Christmas lunch and giving of presents, but make it in the evening after everything is over. This may keep both yourselves and your family happy, whilst standing clear of the ritual Christmas activities. And during the time you do spend with them inside the house, try to look good! They need to see that although their daughter covers herself fully, she can still take pride in her appearance. Take pretty clothes when you go to visit, wear a coloured scarf if you normally wear black, etc. It can really make a difference to them. Be sensitive to their cultural norms- to wear black which is usually associated with funerals at a time when the family are celebrating could be seen, unintentionally, to be giving off some kind of signal that you did not intend.
TAKE CONTROL AND MAKE YOUR OWN PLANS
If you’re struggling yourself with feelings of emptiness and being apart on the day when all the family used to be together, make alternative plans. Keep busy during these times. Utilise the events that often go on in the mosques such as special talks at this time of year. Have a day out, as the roads are generally clear, and parking is free. Just make sure that parks etc are open, otherwise the children may end up disappointed. Visit a large mosque in a city some distance away that you wouldn’t usually get to visit, or go natural – beaches and forests are always open!
If you decide to stay at home, have a family Halaqa or invite other sisters round, especially the revert sisters you know – and take time together to study about Prophet Isa (a.s) in detail, developing a love and renewed understanding of his life as a Prophet. Go back to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and teach the children that Islam stands out as the One true religion, and is something to be proud of.
SEND A PRAYER FOR YOURSELF
Difficult times are the times when we can use that opportunity to connect to Allaah even more. Remember and thank Allah for the blessing of being guided, without which you would still be wandering blindly in the dark, looking for guidance and meaning in your life. Reflect on the magnanimity of what you have been blessed with- knowing your Creator, knowing and having access to His Speech, knowing the Perfect example of our Prophet Muhammad (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam), knowing the path to happiness and contentment in this world, and being saved from everlasting punishment in the Hereafter…
It would be so easy for Shaytaan to prey on your human feelings at this time, and make you remember and dwell on all the “good times” you are missing out on, all the things you have given up in order to be on this path of submission to your Creator. Keep reminding yourself of the hadeeth:
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah Almighty but that Allah will replace it with something better.” Source: Musnad Aḥmad 22565, Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albaani
Whatever you have given up, will be recompensed by the One who made Himself known to us as Ash-Shakoor, the Most Appreciative; the One who Knows what our souls whisper to us; Who is closer to us than our jugular vein...your sacrifices have not and will not be in vain.
SEND A PRAYER FOR THEM
Spend more time on your prayer mat, praying for your non-Muslim family to come to Islam too. Remember, if you’re still a part of their family time in some small way, without celebrating Christmas itself, then maybe your family will feel more interested in joining you on one of your Eid days, thereby opening up Islam in a new way to them. So without overstepping the boundaries of Islam, aim to see your gentle and generous approach at their time of year as a means of Daw’ah, and remember that even Musa was instructed to speak to Fir’awn ( Pharoah ), the lowest and worst of human beings, with gentleness when he gave da’wah to him, so how much more do our families deserve gentleness and kindness?!
Such great tips here and such an important topic to discuss. I think it’s important for sisters to know that 1) their feelings are valid and 2) they can kind of navigate their own boundaries. There are certain things that should clearly be avoided, but that doesn’t meant it’s all or nothing. It’s a balancing act for sure and not everyone’s journey is going to look the same.
Maa shaa Allah! May Allah bless Solace for putting together these amazing tips. This is so helpful to me as a revert for sure and I love that it balances things out maa shaa Allah! May Allah make it easy for us and our families Ameen!