Report:  Narratives of Conversion to Islam, Female Perspectives

Report:  Narratives of Conversion to Islam, Female Perspectives

by Sheila Musaji

A report has just been released by Professor Yasir Suleiman of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge in Association with The New Muslims Project, Markfield.  The 135 page report, titled NARRATIVES of CONVERSION TO ISLAM Female Perspectives is available in PDF here

The researchers brought together 50 British female converts to Islam to discuss their conversion, and their post conversion experiences (positive and negative) within the Muslim community, within their own families, and within the greater society.

The women in the study came from many different faith backgrounds before converting.  There were Jews, Anglicans, Catholics, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists, and some who held no particular religious belief or were atheists.

The study is getting quite a bit of press.

Seeking Allah in the Midlands by Hasan Suroor notes that Yet, Islam appears to hold a strange fascination for white British women who are converting to it in large numbers. Of an estimated 50,000 or so white Britons who convert to Islam every year, some two-thirds are thought to be women. Most of them are independent career women — bankers, doctors, broadcasters — who know what they are doing, and often do so in the face of opposition from family and friends. High profile converts include Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, well-known journalist Yvonne Ridley and MTV presenter Kristiane Backer.

Muslim Women Converts Tell Of Hijab Dilemmas, Family Rows And Negative Portrayal Of Faith by Jessica Elgot quotes Prof. Yasir Suleiman, the project leader as saying: “Conversion is a complex phenomenon. It is often full of joy and pain for the convert and her family and friends, regardless of the faith to which she converts, but no more so than when the faith is a maligned Islam and its followers.”

Most of the articles about the study focus on whatever positive or negative experiences of women that interest them personally.  I strongly suggest that you read the actual report and take from it what is meaningful to you.

As an American Muslim convert (of more than four decades), I am well aware that the conversion experience can be difficult, and that it very different for different individuals.  On TAM we have published many articles by and about converts.  If you type convert into the TAM search engine, 134 articles will come up.  We also have a TAM article collection titled Resources for American Muslims to avoid the converts/reverts/new Muslims dispute as to the “correct” term.  This was first published in 2007, and regularly updated.

For those interested in the subject of conversion, this is the reading list from that resource.  Just scrolling through the titles should give a feel for the variety of experiences and issues.

5 Things Every Mosque Should Do for Converts

8 Things You Should Understand About Converts to Islam, Alex Arrick

9/11…The day I became a Muslim, Robert Salaam

A Growing Presence: American Converts to Islam, Uzra Zeya

A Native American Muslims Story, Lois Stands Ali
A Page From Islamic History: the ‘Other’ 1492, Aisha Brown
A Plea for Unity, Sheila Musaji

A Time for Healing, Imam Ghayth Nur (Lonnie) Kashif

Advice for New Muslims or those considering Islam, Saraji Umm Zaid

African-American Islam Reformed: “Black Muslims” and the Universal Ummah

African American Muslims Key to Bridge Building in US, Dr. Aminah Beverly McCloud
Allah Came Knocking At My Heart, Giles Whitell

American Muslims and ‘Integration’, Parvez Ahmed

American Muslims Need Not Be Blind Followers, Sheila Musaji
American Muslims Struggle for the Soul of Islam, Hasan Zillur Rahim

Answering Questions from American Muslims, Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa

Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam
ARABIC - Every day Muslim expressions - Longer glossary of Islamic terms

Basics of Islam topic on the TAM site

Becoming Muslim, Nuh Ha Meem Keller

Becoming Muslim, Michael Wolfe

— Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
— Benyamin van Hattum, Aman Ali
— Mos Def (Yasin Bey) - You’re Gonna Serve Somebody. Ali Asadullah
— Abdullah Quilliam: Forgotten champion of Islam: One man and his mosque, Michael Savage (with article collection on Quilliam)
— Hamza Yusuf Hanson
— The World of Mohamed Zakariya, Piney Kesting—and VIDEO bio

Blasphemy Before God: the Darkness of Racism in Muslim Culture, Adam Misbah al-Haqq

Gray Henry-Blakemore Wins Alexander Russell Webb Award
BOOKS: The American Muslim has a recommended book list which is quite extensive, and very useful. Here are a few of particular interest to new Muslims:

- 99 Names of Allah, Shems Friedlander
- 101 Questions and Answers on Islam, John Renard
- A Bad Beginning: the path to Islam, Charles LeGai Eaton
- African American Islam, Aminah McCloud
- American Islam: Growing Up Muslim in America, Richard Wormser
- American Jihad, Steven Barbosa
- Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley
- Becoming Muslim, Nuh Ha Mim Keller
- Believing as Ourselves, J. Lynn Jones and Jeffrey Lang
- BIOGRAPHIES OF THE PROPHET - the best are by M.H. Haykal, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Martin Lings
- Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, Richard Bulliett
- Daughters of Another Path, Carole Anway
- Essentials of the Islamic Faith, M. Fethullah Gulen
- Even Angels Ask, Jeffrey Lang
- Finding Fran, Lois Banner
- Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, Mohja Kahf
- Hadj: An American’s Pilgrimage to Mecca, Michael Wolfe
- Hajj: Reflections on Its Rituals, Ali Shariati
- Illuminated Prayer : The Five-Times Prayer of the Sufis, Coleman Barks, Michael Green
- Islam: A Search for Meaning, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
- Islam and the Blackamerican, Sherman Jackson
- Islam: Beliefs and Teachings, Ghulam Sarwar (one of the best introduction to practice, prayer, etc.)
- Islam in Focus, Hammudah Abdalati
- Islam, Our Choice, ed. Debra L. Dirks
- Islam : Religion, History, and Civilization, Seyyed Hossein Nasr
- Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, Yusuf al Qaradawi (one of the best introductions to Sharia)
- Losing My Religion, Jeffrey Lang
- Mecca to Mainstreet, Genevieve Abdo
- Road to Mecca, Muhammad Asad
- Struggling to Surrender, Jeffrey Lang
- Trialogue of the Abrahamic Faiths, Ismail al-Faruqi

Book Announcement: A Bad Beginning, the Path to Islam (Charles le Gai Eaton)

Book Announcement: Losing My Religion- a call for help (Jeffrey Lang)

Lauren Booth’s Spiritual Journey to Islam, Hasan Zillur Rahim

Born in the USA, Miriam Lambert

Brief Accounting on The Establishment of the Nation of Islam in the U.S., Ayesha K. Mustafaa
British and Muslim, Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad (Timothy Winter)

Building New Medinas In These Sceptered Isles, Jonathan Birt

Challenge is not to be perfect - it’s to be whole, Aishah Schwartz

Challenges Facing American Muslim Women, Samer Hathout

Chasm Between African Americans and Immigrant Muslims, Hasan Zillur Rahim

Christmas: Cutting Kinship Ties in the Name of Islam?, Sheikh Ali Gomaa

Lady Evelyn Cobbold’s ‘Pilgrimage to Mecca’ (Hajj) republished, Susannah Tarbush
Convertitis - or the case of the insta-scholar, Saraji Umm Zaid

Converts: Islam Now or Never?, Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa

Criticism Strengthens CommUnity, Abdul Malik Mujahid

Cultural Identity: the New Religion, Svend White

Dangers of Excess, Extremism among Muslims, Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif

Daring to be European Muslims, H. A. Hellyer

Dismantling the culture of Muslim sectarianism, Imam Luqman Ahmad

The Dynamics of Islamic Identity in North America, Yvonne Yazbeck-Haddad and John L. Esposito

EID - The Fiqh of Eid ul Adha, Shaykh Firaz Rabbani - The Social Message of ‘Id Al-Adha
Imam A. Rashied Omar

FILM ANNOUNCEMENT: A Road to Mecca [Muhammad Asad]
Finding the Creamy Center: Challenges to Youth, by Karima Omar

Finding the prophet in his people, Ingrid Mattson
From Drury Lane to Mecca: Hedley Churchward, Abdal Hakim Murad

Frustrations of a Muslim Convert, Michael Young

Good News Stories About/By/For North American Muslims in 2012— 2011

The Great Dive, the unusual life of William Williamson, Abdal-Hakim Murad
Growing Number of Germans Embracing Islam

HAJJ - Hajj Experience, Sheila Musaji - Hajj and Umrah, the Cornerstone, Dr. Faiz A. Khan - Hajj Information and Resources - Universal Lessons of Hajj, Faisal Kutty


How Does It Feel, Michael Wolfe

How I Became A Muslim: Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)
Hurdling the American Muslim Challenge, Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

—Muhammad Asad - 1900-1992 – An Intellectual Giant, Yussuf Nazeer
—Aminah Assilmi
— Charles Le Gai Eaton aka Sidi Hasan 1921-2010, Kristiane Backer and by H.A. Hellyer
—Rene Guenon (Sheikh ‘Abd al-Wahid Yahya) 1886-1951
—Tribute to Dr. Thomas Ballantyne Irving – A Canadian Muslim, Muneeb Nasir - and by Abdul Malik Mujahid - and by Ayub Khan
— Prof. Martin Lings aka Abu Bakr Siraj 1909-2005, Ibrahim N. Abusharif
—Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall 1875-1936
— Khadijah Rivera ?-2009 (founder of PIEDAD)
— Frithjof Schuon 1907-1998
— Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb 1846-1916

— Shems Friedlander: “Dust on the Path of Muhammad”, Isla Rosser-Owen
— Professor T.B. Irving, Sheila Musaji
— Michael Muhammad Knight, Richard Marcus
—— Jeffrey Lang on why he became a Muslim - 3 parts VIDEO
— Tariq Nelson on Surviving Salafism
— Imam Zaid Shakir: A Spiritual and Intellectual Journey to Islam, Asma Nemati
— Dr. Amina Wadud - Confronting Our Ignorance: As Americans, As Muslims, and As Women another interview

Islam and the African American Ethos: Malcolm X/US Muslim Legacy Abused, Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif

Islam in America and the West topic on the TAM site - and Islam in America tam article collection

Islam Is Wonderful But I Can’t Stand Muslims, Michael A. Malik

Islam Now or Never?, Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa

Islam: the Real 12 Steps, Karima Omar

Islamic Funeral Practices

Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution (the poverty of fanaticism), Abdal Hakim Murad

Ingrid Mattson, Muslim Convert takes on leadership of ISNA

Muslim Community Dialogue Issues topic on TAM site

Muslim Names?: A Rose by Any Other Name…, Sheila Musaji

Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism (fatwas, condemnations, articles, etc.)

My Conversion Was My Most Formative Religious Experience, Imam Zaid Shakir

My First Year As a Muslim, Ten Years Later: The Failure of Muslim-American Leadership , Jeremiah McAuliffe

My Hajj Experience, Sheila Musaji

National Coalition of African American Muslims Formed

New Face of Islam, Nick Compton
No longer a convert, David Coolidge

Number of Hispanic Converts Growing

On Being An American and a Muslim: Dilemmas of Politics and Culture, Ali Mazrui

On the Passing of an American Muslim Hero - Imam Samuel Ansari , Sheila Musaji
Patterns of Da’wa in America: By the Hand (Why I Am a Muslim), Dr. Robert D. Crane (Faruq Abd al Haqq)

Perfection, Karima Omar

POETRY: Malcolm, No “X” No Mo’ F’ You and Me, Imam Faruq Bilal Rasheed

Politicizing Religion as Ideology: The Case of the 10,000 Chinese Converts, Dr. Robert D. Crane

POW WOW:— The Great Pow-Wow: American Muslims Come of Age, Dr. Robert D. Crane — An Overview of The 1993 First North American Muslim Pow Wow, Sheila Musaji — Poem: The American Muslim Pow Wow, Yahya Monastra — My Experience of the 1993 North American Muslim Pow Wow, Mumina Kowalski — Glimpses of the 1993 North American Musim Pow Wow — Afterthoughts on the Pow Wow, Hakim Archuletta

PROFILE: Dar al - Islam, Abiquiu NM The Code and the Calling, William Tracy
QUR’AN - Qur’an and hadith topic on the TAM site - QURAN TRANSLATIONS - those most highly recommended are: Qur’an - Message of the Qur’an, Muhammad Asad, Qur’an - Majestic Quran, Abdal hakim Murad, Uthman Hutchinson, Qur’an - Thomas Cleary, Qur’an - Noble Qur’an, Abdal Haqq & Aisha Bewley, Qur’an - Thomas B. Irving, Qur’an - Abdullah Yusuf Ali (original version)

RAMADAN - Ramadan Resources - The Spiritual Essence of Ramadan, Louay Safi

Resources for dealing with Islamophobes (Clicking on any of the many links provided in this collection will take you to an article that provides a response or analysis of the particular claim or issue. Many of these articles have extensive collections of articles and reference materials)

Saying goodbye to Brother Imam (Imam W. D. Muhammad), Sheila Musaji

Seeing With Both Eyes, Abdal Hakim Murad

Seven out of every ten converts, leave Islam, Imam Luqman Ahmad
SHARIAH, Fiqh & Islamic Law topic on the TAM site

Robert Spencer: Gov’t Officials Conversion to Islam like “joining the Nazi Party during WW II”, Sheila Musaji
SUNNAH - The Spirit of the Sunnah, Ahmed Baki

Symbolism and Allegory in the Qur’an, Muhammad Asad

The Ta’leef Collective, Svend White

The Tale of The Two Muslim Americas (immigrants, native born), Shaykh Luqman Ahmad
There Is No One Kind of Muslim, Andrea Stone

Transformations: Why Are You a Muslim?, Aminah Huntress

Understanding Conversion: Bridging the Two Selves, Abdul Lateef Abdullah

- American Muslims
- “Bean Pie My Brother?: A Slice of American Muslim History”
- CNN Report on Converts to Islam in America
- Difference between Sunni and Shia, Abdal Hakim Murad
- History of Islam in Europe
- Inside Edition Report on Converts to Islam in the U.S.
- Interview with Jeffrey Lang on why he became Muslim (3 parts)
- Interview with Hamza Yusuf on Islam in America
- Five pillars of Islam
- Shahada
- Salat
- Hajj
- Love for Humanity, Imam Zaid Shakir
- Muslim influence on America and the West, Abdal Hakim Murad
- Muslim Like Me (converts in U.S.)
- “Sunnah, Shari’ah, Sectarianism and Ijtihad” by Abdal Hakim Murad
- Turning Muslim in Texas
- Why We Converted to Islam - part 1 - part 2 part 3 part 4

(Note: type VIDEO in the internal search engine on The American Muslim site for a long list of videos including music videos, and humor videos)

“What are the Special Issues and Needs of Converts within the Muslim Community?”, Sheila Musaji

Western converts to Islam: finding the inner Muslim prince, Eric Walberg

What Islam is to me, Faruq ‘Abd al Haqq

Where have all the American Muslims gone, Sheila Musaji

Where Is T.B. Irving, Abdul Malik Mujahid
White privilege and white converts, Yusuf Smith

Why Are You a Muslim?, Amina Huntress

Who Am I and How Did I Get Here? - Reflections From An American Muslim, Mustafa Davis

Why the British are flocking to Islam’s call, Abdal Hakim Murad

Women Friendly Mosques brochure, CAIR - Unanswered Questions of Women Friendly Mosques brochure, Shahed Amanullah

The “X” Phenomenon: Reflection on the Resurrection and Commercialization of El-Hajj Mali, James Edward Jones

Mohamed Zakariya: New Stamp Celebrates Eid, John Marlowe