Why Do Women Convert to Islam?

July 16, 2007 § 54 Comments

I get a lot of emails from Americans – of various political backgrounds – with a lot to say about Islam. This happens usually after I write posts like, Making A Modern Muslim World, On Theocracy and Liberty and Is Islam Compatible with Democracy and frankly, I know what I’m getting myself into when I write these posts, so for the most part it is expected. However, I do find it curious that critics invoke the treatment of women in Islam as a means to denigrate Islam and/or Muslims, particularly Muslim men. But what is equally curious is that no one ever discusses why the number of women converting to Islam is steadily increasing at record numbers, particularly here in the United States. But in the 1990s that is exactly what Anna Mansson McGinty intended on doing. McGinty, now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, set out to study why women convert to Islam, expecting to find ‘devout Muslims, women whose religion had come from their husbands.’ [1]

McGinty, 35, interviewed women in Sweden – her native land – and the United States, for her 2006 book of short stories entitled, “Becoming Muslim: Western Women’s Conversions to Islam (Culture, Mind and Society)“. What she identified was that there were no statistically significant conditions for these women’s conversions. In fact, what she found was that there is no such thing as a ‘typical Muslim convert’ and no identifiable single act of conversion. In over a decade of research McGinty comes to the conclusion that American scholars have it wrong saying,

“The books main aim is to show that conversion is not, as many scholars have described it, a one-time event. It’s a constant process. It’s never ending.” [2]

It is very interesting to note, McGinty began with a fixed idea of what she would find in the 1990s but by the time she completed her book, in 2006, that fixed idea would be turned on its head, showing that there is nothing fixed about women converts except their devotion to God.

However, it must be noted that I disagree that conversion is “never ending” as McGinty suggests. The traditional Islamic understanding of conversion or reversion, as some like to say, is that conversion is instantaneous. All one must do to become a Muslim is perform the shahadah, which is a declaration and witnessing that there is no deity except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. Once this is done you are a Muslim. And Imam Abu Ja’far Al-Tahawi (d. 321/933), the noted Islamic scholar, in his Creed (Al-‘Aqidah Al-Tahawiyya) said that,

“We refer to the people who face our qibla as Muslim believers, as long as they acknowledge, confirm, and do not deny all that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) brought, stated, and imparted.” [3]

This is the only contingency of faith that is required of a Muslim. Perhaps what McGinty means to say is that holding fast unto faith itself, is an ongoing process, then I would find that I agree with her more fully on this matter.

In any event, her book in addition to showing the diversity of women converts to Islam also discusses how women in Islam are perceived. That being underlying reality of the rift between the Muslim World and the West according to journalist Mark Johnson, a writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

These sentiments have carried on for centuries now, and were extensively documented by Edward Said (d. 1424/2003) in his highly celebrated book “Orientalism“, but this item, concerning the West thinking, ‘We have to save Muslim women’ is being discussed by a number of women scholars today as well. This includes Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University, who teaches the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations and Leila Ahmed, Director of the School of Divinity at Harvard University.

Haddad who is very vocal on women’s issues and has criticized the West’s portrayal of Muslim women has said,

“There is a whole history of European colonialism, that justified the occupation of Muslim lands by saying, ‘We have to save Muslim women'”. [4]

Likewise, Ahmed is a very strong voice on women’s social issues in general, but particularly concerning Muslim and Arab women. And in a 2006 interview with Krista Tippett on ABC’s Speaking of Faith said,

“What we’re living through right now is so startling to me in some ways, partly because it seems to repeat history in a very disturbing way. And what I mean is it was extraordinary for me to turn on the television during the Afghan war and see women throwing off the veil, or see endless programs on CNN on the veil, see Laura Bush speaking about women in Afghanistan and liberating them. And what was disturbing was to see the replay of what the British Empire did in Egypt 100 years ago. And it was almost hard to believe.”

She continues,

“Well, what I need to invoke here is the belief at the end of the 19th century that the veil symbolized the oppression of Muslim women. It’s part of the mythology of that era in which whatever was being done in another country, the countries that they dominated, whether it was India or sub-Saharan Africa or the Muslim countries, however the women dressed there it was the wrong thing. In sub-Saharan Africa, they didn’t wear enough clothes; they didn’t dress the way European Victorian women dressed. In the Middle East, they wore too many clothes. So the veil in the West in relation to Islam became the emblem of how uncivilized Islam was and, on the other hand, how civilized Europeans were. But the other twist that we need to remember at this moment in history, you know, Victorian dress was hardly the most liberated dress.”

Ahmed goes on to make a very significant point in her comparison of Egypt, during the reign of British Controller in Egypt, Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer (whom she calls Lord Cromer) saying,

“And the worderful example there, too, is that Lord Comer, who was the governor of Egypt at the end of the 19th century, early 20th century, and he was the most vociferous advocate of how important it was that Muslim women unveil–and by the way, you can see a parallel, he was the [Paul Bremer] of that day, you know?”

Ahmed, brings this entire point home stating,

“Now, on the other hand, this same man, [Evelyn Baring] , who was making such a big fuss about liberating Muslim women, in England he was the president and founder of the Society Opposed to Women’s Suffrage. He didn’t think women ought to have the vote. He thought Victorian society was perfect as it was, with a patriarch ruling over everything, and that is a society that ought to be spread across the world. And in the name of that, Muslim women had to unveil.” [5]

McGinty never intended for her research to be a scientific survey. She wanted to develop more of a narrative, a “window” into the lives of women who converted to Islam. What she found was that with their conversion these women’s lives changed in very intricate ways each unique while the hijab (head cover) has become ‘a powerful symbol of the complexity of Islamic conversion’.

Perhaps it is a coincidence that I wrote this post but recently I came across a critic or inquirer of Islam who wrote me. In that letter our anonymous writer, a liberal American from the DailyKos web-community who we will call John, wrote the “fundamental reason for Islam’s loss”, in a historical context, was due to Islamic culture and its hostility to change. John makes a good point here, historically, however in our current times we must look beyond historical contexts without loosing sight of them. As for our contemporary problems, I suggested that in today’s socio-economic environment slower paced developments are a welcome and appreciated perspective for young people growing up in such a fast paced society. This suggests that perhaps, society itself is the reason that there are so many converts to Islam. I’ve concluded that in general, people want to start living life again and I tried to explain this saying,

“An interesting thing to note is the fact that women convert to Islam. Not women who are marrying into an Arab families, but young single and educated women are choosing Islam as a means to change the view of women in the public sphere. American Feminisms has failed to produce certain streams of consciousness in the minds of men in this country. And therefore women have found [in] Islam a way to force the world around them to see them differently.”

In closing, I must include that I do believe that women are oppressed. I believe that Muslim women are oppressed in various ways and circumstance. But I also believe that women in general are oppressed. This means that for any community to denigrate Muslims for their oppression of women are simply throwing stones in glass-houses. Women are oppressed across the board and what people need to realize is that what Muslim women themselves are empowered to create, through their religion – and this is true particularly with converts – is a “new kind of femininity”, as McGinty notes, and a heightened sense of awareness concerning their own womanhood.

Notes:

[1] Johnson, Conversion Unveiled: Appeal of Islam to Women Explored, p. 1
[2] Johnson, Conversion Unveiled: Appeal of Islam to Women Explored, p. 1
[3] Yusuf, The Creed of Imam Al-Tahawi, p. 64
[4] Johnson, Conversion Unveiled: Appeal of Islam to Women Explored, p. 1
[5] Ahmed, Muslim Women and Other Misunderstandings, 2006

Powered by ScribeFire.

About these ads

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

§ 54 Responses to Why Do Women Convert to Islam?

  • Asalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

    Brother Hakim,

    Thank you for this thought provoking post. I may add McGinty’s book to my need to read list. As a woman convert I have been asked why I converted to Islam by persons who look at me at both disbelief and pity. This shocked look comes from both non-Muslims and Muslims believe it or not. Or I’ve gotten, “Oh did your husband/boyfriend make you convert and wear that?” pointing to my hijab. I really connected with the statement that Islam brings a new kind of femininity. In my case it has been, for the most part, an empowering kind of femininity. I love reading/hearing about the beautiful way that Allah guides who He wills to Islam.

    ma’a salaamah,

    ha

    ps: I, like you, agree that conversion is instantaneous; however, I have definitely evolved as a Muslim in my 5 years. I’m not sure if that is what McGinty was alluding to with the “constant process” remark but I just thought I’d add that.

  • gess says:

    As’salamu Aleikum ,

    One of your best, Hakim.

    I want to save this passage:

    In closing, I must include that I do believe that women are oppressed. I believe that Muslim women are oppressed in various ways and circumstance. But I also believe that women in general are oppressed. This means that for any community to denigrate Muslims for their oppression of women are simply throwing stones in glass-houses. Women are oppressed across the board and what people need to realize is that what Muslim women themselves are empowered to create, through their religion – and this is true particularly with converts – is a “new kind of femininity”.

  • Saifuddin says:

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum,

    HA you said,

    “I really connected with the statement that Islam brings a new kind of femininity. In my case it has been, for the most part, an empowering kind of femininity.”

    I have been looking into American Feminism for a few months now, I finally ready to write a bit on it, and what I found is that more recently the effort has kind of worked against itself. Its really disheartening because many American Feminists are intellectuals and also atheists so I know that there is no where else for them to take American Feminism except plodding to the same old mud holes, so to speak. I think the position of women in Islam has a – natural feminism – just in the nature of the religion itself, because of the social activism that is inherent in the tradition, if a woman is practicing it just naturally becomes dynamic and feminine at the same time. Its quite remarkable. Oh and I think you are right about the “never ending” thing but it had to be said for clarity.

    Gess: you said,

    “One of your best, Hakim.”

    Thank you very much, it means a lot to hear that. I was very hesitant on writing this piece. I am not very confident writing on women’s issues. But this one rolled out well.

  • brnaeem says:

    AA- Hakim, very nice post bro!

    “However, it must be noted that I disagree that conversion is “never ending” as McGinty suggests.”

    I read that as the blossoming of Iman is a never ending process. The process of discovering and developing the relationship with Allah is never ending. And as you said ‘that holding fast unto faith itself’…

    You wrote: “…John, wrote the “fundamental reason for Islam’s loss”, in a historical context, was due to Islamic culture and its hostility to change. John makes a good point here, historically,…”

    What do you mean he makes a good point? Are you saying that the decline of Muslims was due to their hostility to change? How is that?

    Thanks,
    WA-
    Naeem

  • Sonia says:

    Yes many of these women had the choice to convert to Islam – there lies one freedom denied to those of us who were born into familes who are Muslim – and denied the right to choose for ourselves. Or risk apostasy of course.

    From that perspective – well it’s a different ballgame isn’t it? If one is allowed to choose what religion they want – that is a very different thing to being imposed with the ‘truth’..if the truth has to be imposed on someone, if it is not freely chosen, there is nothing truthful about it, but forceful.

  • Saifuddin says:

    WA,

    Naeem, John does make a good argument. Not for the reasons he suggested – in my opinion – but the statement “hostility to change” has validity. The bottom-line is that Muslims from the Umayyad period to the Abbasid/Fatimid period and the from the Abbasid to the Ottoman Empires the Muslims had toward each other, within the Muslim Ummah. One group had a problem with another group for one reason or another.

    For example, by the end of the 19th century the Arabs were sick of being under Turkish rule, and the Turks having raised the value of the Turkish language in Islamic society only exacerbated the situation. This in my opinion gave way for the staunch Nationalism that we saw with the Arabs at the beginning of the 20th century. In my opinion, this created a slower development across the Muslim world which gave the first big opportunity for the West to begin tis mayhem, Egypt. The British entering Egypt, this was disastrous because it gave the British confidence that there efforts were legitimate, as you also see Dr. Ahmed saying.

    What do you think of this?

  • Saifuddin says:

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum Sonia,

    “Yes many of these women had the choice to convert to Islam – there lies one freedom denied to those of us who were born into familes who are Muslim – and denied the right to choose for ourselves. Or risk apostasy of course.”

    Well, you have the classic argument of Muslim women after they have been “liberated” by “modernity”.

    But may I ask Sonia, would you have preferred to be in jahiliyyah, without the assurance that you would ever find Islam, in order to make that choice? I will assure you, that none of those convert women would want to go back to that life. What do you think of that?

    Update: Perhaps what you are suggesting in your complaint is more about how your family implements religion into family life. If that is the case, I would agree that we – Muslims – need some work on that front, especially with the changes that are taking place in our present society.

  • Assalamu alaykum,
    Nice post (& blog), masha’Allah

  • Saifuddin says:

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam,

    coolguymuslim said,

    “Nice post (& blog), masha’Allah”

    Thank you brother for you kind words.

  • Sonia says:

    Hi Hakim,

    my ‘complaint’ wasn’t really a complaint – and yes it is absolutely about family implementation :-) which is complicated by the male being the head of the household and authority etc. It’s very hard to go against that authority! In any case, I think if women convert to Islam, well good for them, its their choice, but they need to think if they are able – to pass on that freedom, to any children they have. That’s what interesting about so many converts having children, bringing those kids up as Muslims ( fair enough) but when those kids become adults and want to follow their own way, the parents become very angry and disown the child/call them apostate etc.

  • Saifuddin says:

    Sonia said,

    “In any case, I think if women convert to Islam, well good for them, its their choice, but they need to think if they are able – to pass on that freedom, to any children they have.”

    With all due respect sister, you must understand what it is to be parent. Do you have children? Currently you are speaking as someone’s child who feels that her freedoms have been limited. As I’ve said, I do believe that how we implement religion into family needs some assessing but – and this is a big but – the alternatives to religion are dismal.

    As the head of Muslim family I will tell you that working on the rigidity of religion from the inside – though difficult as it may be – is a billion times better than “real” apostasy or adopting secularism in place of religion. I am of the opinion that any religion – of the three I am acquainted with – despite its knowledge of details is better than raising a family with values hinged upon secularism. Having dealt with more than one religion in my own family I have learned that tolerance is best, but that was not learned until nearly everything crumbled. And that is my view, as a son, a husband, a father and now an uncle.

  • Sonia says:

    no i don’t have children and i do think that parenting is the most difficult job in the world – that’s partially why i would think very carefully about having kids. It is hugely difficult job and naturally parents are left with the difficult job of inculcating some sort of values into their kids. Sure. There is still a big difference between doing that, and then when your children are adults, having a state of mind which allows you to deal with whatever reality they are in – which may include a new religion, or no religion for example. So yes, the parents could have done ‘their best’ to bring up their kids as Muslims – (which is not really what i’m objecting to) but are prepared to deal with the reality that when the kids who are grown up say – im not interested – be able to deal with that. Which is the situation I certainly, and so many other young people brought up as Muslims- would like to be in – yes. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the family structures that most Muslims who are born Muslims – especially in Muslim majority countries – are like, and the fact that despite many people not really believing in Islam, there isn’t really much choice but to pretend that they are actually Muslims. Do you see what I mean?

    The Apostasy issue here is critical – your own family may not disown you – but they will be very very nervous about what the neighbours think, whether any Mullahs will get wind of what’s happened etc. So a lot of it is ending up in situations where you’re an adult, and you have to lie to your family to keep the peace. And yeah – that’s not ideal.

  • Sonia says:

    You guys have had much more freedom in choosing your new religion ( i’m not saying there aren’t similarly conservative families – which some people will have to deal with) but it is very different to the way Islam and apostasy work together – which has serious repercussions for those of us from Muslim countries.

  • Saifuddin says:

    Sonia,

    “You guys have had much more freedom in choosing your new religion ( i’m not saying there aren’t similarly conservative families – which some people will have to deal with) but it is very different to the way Islam and apostasy work together – which has serious repercussions for those of us from Muslim countries.”

    Now you are really getting to the nut of your criticism. As I analyze your points you seem to be covertly targeting society in particular. Your family is only the medium which the societal constructs act through. So if “repercussions” are as serious as you say, and they are I am very familiar current legal trends of many Muslim countries – where are you talking about – then I would not condemn my parents for their role as civil actors and law abiding citizens. At least not now at this stage of life, but I don’t know how I would have felt say, 10 years ago.

    At any rate, this is a serious matter. Where are you living now?

  • Thinking about the original question and the thread between Hakim and Sonia brings a few things to mind.

    First and foremost the reason women are converting to Islam is because they can. Very simple stuff here. We still have freedom of conscience in the West. The government does not interfere with our religious choices, people are free to follow whatever faith moves them.
    Not to say that family tradition and or cultural expectations don’t play a role. More than a few females are “born” into Islam. Unfortunately, because of poor parenting or poor training or other missteps Islam becomes a burden to some not a blessing. Sometimes one has to leave home to truly understand how good home is.
    It is all about free will. Each individual must come or not come to God by their own volition. Islam states that Allah alone knows why we do the things we do. He sees our hearts and knows the true purpose of our actions. So he knows if we follow the law out of love or out of habit or out of fear.

    We can not “force” people to be good Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, etc.
    History is littered with examples of what happens when one religion, sect, movement etc tried to impose it’s will on all others. Christianity alone has way too many blood soaked pages of history where countless lives were snuffed out due to “heresy” or “Apostasy.”

    The best any of us can do is offer our love and understanding. We can not see into peoples souls. We can only offer the light as we see the light. We can only leave open the door so the lost soul can come in from the darkness. The choice is their’s to step across the threshold or not.

  • mattjp says:

    Hi Hakim,

    Apologies in advance from going way off topic in what is an extremely interesting article and discussion. I want to take on the following comment :

    “…I will tell you that working on the rigidity of religion from the inside – though difficult as it may be – is a billion times better than “real” apostasy or adopting secularism in place of religion.”

    I grew up in a family where both parents were atheists. There was no sense of official religion in the home, but equally, no sense that there was anything inherently wrong with religious belief or those who held those beliefs.

    It was made clear to me from an early age that I had absolute freedom of choice in what to believe or practice in terms of religion. I was given bibles (pictoral and text) and was encouraged to read those and have an understanding of the religions and beliefs of those around me. This is not to say that my parents weren’t clear that this was a story book but I also understood that it was one that many around me took very seriously.

    There was rigidity of thought in my family but that was ethically, rather than religiously inspired. There was no need for religious morality tales to help me grow up understanding my place in the family and society. At their core, the ethics I was taught began with the primacy of not being selfish and acting with decency and respect towards those around me.

    As it turned out, I have grown up to be an atheist and am unquestionably secular in outlook insofar as I do not believe that organised religion should play a direct role in or be funded by a nation’s government. I believe it is a mistake though to extrapolate from that to the position of the likes of Richard Dawkins or Sam Brown.

    I’m am no relativist but I am a pluralist. Communities, nations and societies work best when there is a plurality of belief and position matched by a willingness of all to accept the value (if not equal value) of the beliefs and positions of the other actors around them. In the question of religion this leads me believe that conversation (not conversion), understanding (not tolerance) and debate (not dismissal) are the only sensible way for anyone to function today.

    But I’m getting off my own topic so to my first question: What exactly is the problem with a secular upbringing and family? The second is to ask why you would expect me to find your comment to be anything other than irritating. You have effectively criticized the manner in which I was brought up and in which I intend my children will be brought up. I don’t think that this is really what you meant to do but I would like to understand what your position really is.

  • gess says:

    James,

    We Muslims believe The Creator Knows better than His creations , and that is why He revealed to Mankind The Qur’an :

    This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;

    [2:2]

    And the reason why we don’t see Muslim women converting to other religion is, there is no other guidance than The Qur’an which gives them their rights, and above all peace on Mind, and again because The Creator Knows better than His creations.

    If you claim, Muslim women are prevented to convert to other religion because of fear of community or family, then one might ask, how come the first believers in the time of The Prophet (pbuh) were women or even Scholars. Or why we did not witnessed “rebel” in the last 1400 years? Or even in the time of Muslim reign in Spain, where there were alot more well versed Muslim women?

    Why we see miserable condition in Muslim women case today has nothing to do with Islam, but because these women are prevented from their rights, and not only rights, but Divine rights.

    And Allah Knows Best.

  • HijabiApprentice says:

    Hmmmm, very interesting discussion. I guess both born Muslims and converts underestimate the other’s experience of religious discovery. I think that all parents, regardless of religion, want what they think is best for their children and they raise them accordingly as far as religion goes. As a former devout Christian with a very religious family full of bishops, pastors, ministers and the like, it wasn’t as easy as some may think to convert just because I could. I personally have lost friends and family members because of my conversion. While my country does not have any formal punishments in place for converting to Islam there are certain times when one feels ostracized. I am not saying this to marginalize the experiences of my born Muslims who want the freedom to choose for themselves, but just to say it isn’t always smooth sailing for converts either. I guess all I can say is Allah guides whom he wills.

    ma’a salaamah,

    ha

  • Saifuddin says:

    Hi mattjp,

    How are you? From your comment it appears you were irritated. I do not wish to irritate you but if in fact my beliefs irritate you and you do not wish to engage me about these beliefs perhaps it is best to avoid this blog. Otherwise I would be happy to engage you about anything I write, insha’allah. So let me begin by answering some of your questions:

    “I do not believe that organised religion should play a direct role in or be funded by a nation’s government.”

    I agree, that organized religion should not be “funded” by a nation’s government. This has manifested into problems that undermined the traditional role of the ‘ulema in Islam.

    “What exactly is the problem with a secular upbringing and family?”

    Firstly, I believe in God. I believe God is One with no partner. Therefore raising a family with a temporal world view is antithetical to faith: the belief in God, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, the resurrection after death and the decree – its good and evil.

    “The second is to ask why you would expect me to find your comment to be anything other than irritating.”

    I’m not sure I am following you here. Did I invite you to this website or did you come with no invitation but of your own volition? Or perhaps it was the decree of God, masha’allah.

    “I would like to understand what your position really is.”

    My position is faith.

  • mattjp says:

    Hakim,

    I fear we’ve got off on the wrong foot. Please don’t get the impression that I’ve come here as some annoying atheist troll (though I may well be unintentionally annoying)! I would be more than happy to take the conversation to email if you are concerned about that.

    First up I should say that I do want to engage in discussion – I don’t generally go around writing long comments unless I find the correspondent engaging and likely to provide an interesting discussion !

    I would happily say that I’ve found the content on your blog including this piece very interesting and educational. That I chose to comment on this should not be taken as a reflection of my overall opinion of your blog or yourself (actually it should – I wouldn’t comment at all without having a pretty high opinion of the respondent to begin with!)

    Back the question at hand though, I think that what made me comment is the implicit judgment that a secular upbringing is ‘bad’ or worthless. Your reply does to tend to reinforce that position. This is really rather strongly dismissive of something which means an awful lot to me and I am sure many others. That is why it has become a point of debate for me.

    Does the upbringing I described not have value or is the presence of God and faith in a child’s upbringing the sole provider of value? This question is important since it goes to questions of social policy, education policy and others. I am trying to get a better understanding of how secular society can be better reconciled with religion (and vice versa of course). Getting into questions such as this (uncomfortable as it may be) is critical to gaining that understanding.

  • Hakim says:

    mattjp,

    I didn’t find you annoying,

    “I fear we’ve got off on the wrong foot. Please don’t get the impression that I’ve come here as some annoying atheist troll (though I may well be unintentionally annoying)!”

    I was merely answering you questions and commenting on what I understood of your position.

    “I would happily say that I’ve found the content on your blog including this piece very interesting and educational.”

    Thank you. And I didn’t feel you were out of line. In fact I took your comments very matter of factly and intended on responding the same, matter of factly.

    “I think that what made me comment is the implicit judgment that a secular upbringing is ‘bad’ or worthless.”

    I do not believe it is worthless. But I do believe the value in faith is worth more. Therefore I would advise those who are considering abandoning faith to believe and not to embrace atheism or secularist views.

    “I am trying to get a better understanding of how secular society can be better reconciled with religion (and vice versa of course).”

    You are right it is very important. As for this answer, I believe what Imam Zaid Shakir has said is right,

    “I think as the American Muslim community itself becomes more integrated and more mature, faith will probably trump culture. And, you have a new culture emerging. You have an American Muslim culture emerging, which is very important, because then you can get a unique understanding of the religion that would allow the American Muslim to take his or her rightful place amongst the various Muslim communities of the world.”

    And here you can say that, American culture is secularism itself.

  • Millie says:

    As a convert of 7 years, I have a feeling of liberation and freedom that I did not have before i converted. I feel within me a power and strength I did not have before hand. However, I do agree that women across the board are supressed and singling out one particular group is naive.

    I

  • ASA,

    It may be naive to single out Muslims for oppressing women, but it’s not difficult to do that. I am a convert, and while I can see how American society oppresses women (causing women to harm themselves physically and mentally in order to fit an impossible standard of beauty, general hostility towards powerful women, like Hillary Clinton or Martha Stewart), I also see things in the Muslim community that I would generally never see in American (secular) society. Like how women are absolutely, egregiously treated like second-class citizens in the VAST majority of mosques in America. We are typically hidden away from where the Imam is, often with inferior facilities where we can neither see nor hear… Some mosques don’t allow women at all. And how often do you see any sisters on a board of directors or a shura council? I think I remember seeing one who came from a masjid that was formerly the Nation of Islam, but when it comes to mainly immigrant mosques, forget about it. And what about hadiths that are often quoted that say a woman can’t leave her home without her husband’s permission?

    I realize a lot of this is culture and not religion, but it’s difficult to refute claims that Muslims are especially harsh towards women, because at the moment, they are. And it’s embarrassing.

  • [...] Abdullah schreibt in seinem Weblog  über McGinty’s Buch und hat mich mit seinem Artikel inspiriert mal einen Blick ins Buch bei Amazon zu werfen. McGinty [...]

  • Paul says:

    Hi Hakim –

    Re: discussion with mattjp –

    I am bemused by your association of atheism with secularism. I suppose secularism is similar to an atheist version of political Islam. Not all atheists are secularists. Atheism as much as Islam is diverse, and not all atheists would particularly describe themselves as secularists. The British writer Karen Armstrong, in her writings about fundamentalism, gives examples of how it is possible to be a secular fundamentalist. As mattjp makes clear, it is not necessary for one’s morality to be of religious origin. Humanism is one non-religious ideology that provides morals, and atheist ethics are often influenced by the religion they were brought up in (as I was with Catholicism), or even other religions (such as Islam and Buddism, in my case). This doesn’t necessitate believing in any god, of course.

    Indeed, I’d suggest that Muslim (personal and political) ethics have always been capable of being influenced by non-Muslim sources, in addition to influencing them. The commonality of Abraham between the peoples of the book is relevant here.

    Regarding the importance of finding common ground between those who are, in some sense, fellow travellers: to paraphrase Malcolm X, you can be an anarchist, socialist, or capitalist and still take black nationalism as your political philosophy. Yours fears about secular government would not necessarily be realised if an atheist regime were in power.

    Adios & regards to all –

    Paul

  • Jacqueline says:

    Asalaam Alaikum,

    One of the best posts that I have ever read that captures most of it for women period.

    Progressive thought? No. Common sense? Yes!

    Thank you for saying it all so well.

  • Saifuddin says:

    wa ‘alaikum as-salaam,

    “Thank you for saying it all so well.”

    Thank you for reading this post and offering such kind words.

  • What a great post and discussion this has been. Goes to prove if you’re not careful you just might learn something.

    One meandering thought is that Mohamed actually might have been one of the first feminists out there. For his time and his culture Mohamed was a radical feminist. He definitely raised the bar for the treatment of women.

    The question then becomes is this standard set by Mohamed a floor or a ceiling? Unfortunately more often than not, the best some women can expect is “true Islam.” This is not a screed against the “evils” of the Muslim faith, it just the facts on the ground. Culture often does trump faith. Cruel and violent men often hide behind religious dogma to justify their bad behavior.

    So maybe “True Islam” is liberating for women,it’s hard to say because there seems to be no real “final answer” to what “True Islam” is. Like the two other Abrahamic religions there are many different schools of thought of what the “true” faith should be. The only true test seems to be the biblical injunction that by people’s acts we will know them. Watch what people do, not what they say, that is the acid test.

    Looking at the real behavior of real people on the ground, and their justifications for that behavior, Islam gets a very bad rap. It seems there is more than enough “false Islam” going around to jade and disillusion and challenge the faith of many born into Islam.

    Having no knowledge of “true” Islam, only knowing a false Islam, a corrupt cultural corruption or analog of Islam, only knowing or being taught an unbending, irrational set of ideas falsely labeled Islam is it any wonder that some drift away?

    I was listening to an Air America Podcast of State of Belief the other day. One of the reports dealt with a man, a journalist ,whose religious faith lead him to request that he be allowed to report on religion. He felt that religion was getting a bum deal from the major media and he wanted to balance that out. It started out well, but in the end the reporter lost his religious faith. His faith did not survive the repeated blows of corruption, mendacity, and hypocrisy he witnessed on the beat.

    Faith is an odd thing. Some times it grows and flourishes, other times it fails.
    Sometimes it grows straight up like a tree, other times it wanders around like a vine. Sometimes it is found other times it is lost. Sometimes the loss is temporary other times the loss is permanent.

    So it really does not surprise me that women are converting to Islam. It does not surprise me that men are converting to Islam. It does not surprise me that sometimes conversion to Islam is looked down upon by family members. It also does not surprise me when people leave Islam. It also does not surprise me when those people who leave Islam are ostracized by friends and family who remain in the faith. This is just the natural flow belief. This is how a free people follow their bliss.

  • HASSAN says:

    I HAPPAY WITH U ABOUT TIHIS WEBSITE
    I WASH YUO ALL SUCCESS
    BEST REGARDS

  • [...] Al-Fulani (formerly known as Hakim Abdullah) presents Why Do Women Convert to Islam? posted at Hakim Abdullah. Saifuddin Al-Fulani takes on not only the question of why women convert [...]

  • Its great to see Islam being discussed so much Mashallah

  • sohbet says:

    Yes Thanks is a good cool

  • Ayfer says:

    thanks my friend

  • Nice letter thanx man.

  • Karim says:

    Assalamo aalaykum.
    I ‘m very happy about this, all woman converted to this best religion have to thanks Allah so many times. In the other hand I would like to get married with a converted woman. I would like to lake a strong marriage relationship. I’m living now in Italy Genova. Someone can help me please:
    This my email: karimmsds@yahoo.fr
    Thank you very much dears.

  • loub says:

    thanks

  • weryy good info selamun aleykum

  • alexandria says:

    asalamu alaykum :)
    I havejust found this website while doing my own bit of research into the religion. Like others, I was raised in a fmaily that wasn’t particularily religious, my mother was into the buddhist religion, but I had seen a bible, been to church, etc. Never feeling totally comfortable with either because of the questions that I felt were un-answered and whenever i tried to ask about them, I was given the standard “because god says so” that I am sure many others have heard. As time wore on I began to lose faith in something all powerful at all. Because at the many churches I had gone to there was a definite division between spirituality and “academics”. The priests, pastors, reverends, etc., stated over and over again in terms that generally spelled out “you can’t be exteremely smart, and have a belief in things that the bible says do not exist, and you muonly believe in creation or else you’re not obeying the word of God, therefore you’re a non-believer”. I heard that many times over, and I grew dispondent and discouraged. That was until I began to truly look into the Islamic religion. It is everything that I would combine together from other religions. I thought I was making my own belief system up, when, come to find out, it is already created. I have found faith, peace, and comfort in this religion that I have found no where else, that is why I have chosen to convert.
    :)

  • peynir says:

    I’m really very useful to follow a long-time see this as a blog here Thank you for your valuable information.

  • Debbie says:

    I see Muslim women are oppressed because of their laws, not because of their dress. In most non-Muslim countries, polygamy is outlawed. Women are given same right as men, if not more. While in Muslim countries, women are given less right in family regarding divorce, inheritance ……

    In my country, men and women have equal status in family, usually women are heads of households simply they pay more attentions to family, kids can follow either mother’s last name or father’s last name by law, but by practice, most kids follow their father’s, few name their daughters after mothers. Most of the divorces are initiated by wives, women can always get custody of the kids in case of divorce, if they want.

    • Seyfettin says:

      BismillaharRahmanirRahim

      Debbie, currently there is no official Caliph of Islam. This position is essential to an Islamic Government and is yet vacant. What you have observed in Muslim countries is predominantly a system of Republics run by Western educated politicians. In Islam women have their rights; Men have their rights in marriage according to Islam. Muslims both men and women are saying we accept the lifestyle and role-model of the Holy Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) as the best way of life despite our unmeasurable personal likes and dislikes.

      Simply put when comparing the ruling function of Islam to non-Muslim secular governments, we just say ‘you have your way, and I have mine’.

  • çet says:

    selamun aleyküm

  • Fa says:

    I reverted to Islam almost two years ago and never in my life have I felt so free. I feel wonderful. I can breath and I know that I have been given an enormous gift. I am not covered head to toe. But I now feel like a woman who deserves respect. And all good Muslim men treat women with tremendous kindness. Cat Stevens reverted to Islam in the 70s. Read about his life and respect for women. It’s a been an incredible journey.

  • Your own blog is so informative … keep up the actual great perform!!!!

  • Muhabbet says:

    I read the Blog Nice site I found and I bookmarked the site… Plan on coming back later to spend a little time there.

  • büyü says:

    Your own blog is so informative … keep up the actual great perform!!!!

  • L says:

    It does seem that the majority of American women convert in order to marry Muslim men. They also feel like they are part of this exotic culture, so different from their own. They lack something within their own lives, which is why they seek out Islam.

    • Seyfettin says:

      BismillaharRahmanirRahim

      L, it is not fair to say that the majority of women find a religion, lifestyle and belief system for marriage and extravagance only.

      That would be quite indulgent. It is actually an insult to the gender’s ability to reason and make decisions. So we try not to make sweeping generalizations this way.

      Besides there has got to be more to it, wouldn’t you say? A lot of American, European and Latin American women have converted to Islam.

      -Seyfettin

What’s this?

You are currently reading Why Do Women Convert to Islam? at SEYFETTİN.

meta

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers

%d bloggers like this: