Baltimore Retreat Puts Focus on New Muslims

Community News
During the week of Dec. 23-31, 2012 the New Muslim Institute of the Americas (NMIA) held its first annual vacation retreat at Masjid Fatimah in Catonsville, MD. A unique opportunity for New Muslims, the retreat afforded them the time and place they needed to learn about their Deen. Given that a significant number of new Muslims leave Islam, the NMIA was started to help curb this trend by giving new Muslims access to individuals who have been in similar circumstances as them and provide them with tangible resources to help them on a daily basis.

Started in Muharram 1432 (Dec. 2010) by Brother Samir Ismail of Baltimore, the NMIA brings the valued perspective and experiences of a Muslim who has spent the past three decades teaching new Muslims. Br. Samir states, “I established this organization because I saw too many converts coming into Islam with little to no help.” A convert himself, Br. Samir has lived in cities across the US and has repeatedly seen first-hand the ill-effects on converts that have little to no help in understanding their newfound way of life.

Converting from other religions – mainly Christianity -  converts are not used to taking such measures as watching what they eat, avoiding gambling or interest, and being careful in how they interact with women. As these changes become effective immediately upon entering Islam, Brother Ismail explained that many converts feel they cannot sustain this pressure and in fact leave Islam. He also mentioned that commonly quoted reports placing the number of converts that return back to their old faith at 50 - 75% may be a bit high, but that there are truly those that go back. He states, “The problem lies in how they are helped and taught after they enter Islam. Additionally, many books authored specifically for new Muslims leave a lot to be desired.” As other converts have explained, it is not just a matter of simplifying the subject matter to appeal to a ‘new Muslim’, but providing practical responses to problems commonly seen by converts and helping them to understand the importance of learning their Deen not only through a book but with an actual person as well. Most important, however, is that few books for new Muslims are written by those that went through their own personal trials of conversion. Thus the NMIA was born to provide solutions to local converts from someone who had ‘been through it all’ just as the new Muslims are dealing with the changes brought on by their new way of life.

The ten day retreat hosted 20 participants, each staying for various periods of time. Ranging in age from 13 to 30 and bringing converts together from around the Baltimore metro area, the retreat gave them a chance to network and share their experiences in Islam. During the event, there were live online sessions with Shaykh Bilal Phillips and Shaykh Riaz Ansari (a DC local who is a graduate of Medina University and is now completing his PhD in Sharia from the Islamic University in Malaysia). The participants also enjoyed field trips to The American Islamic Heritage Museum as well as the 1001 Inventions at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC. Both trips were sponsored by Masjid Al-Rahmah (ISB).

Brother Samir and the retreat participants were very thankful to the Masjid Fatimah community for hosting the retreat, providing refreshments and books, and helping the new Muslims feel at home. Through their graciousness this event was able to become a reality. The Masjid Fatimah community also hosts Health and Eye Care Clinics as well as a Women's Shelter.

May Allah Subhanahuwata’ala use the New Muslim Institute of the Americas and the local area mosques for the advancement of Islam in America and help them become an invaluable resource to all Muslims. Ameen.