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The Muslim Link
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Converts To Islam May Face A Lonely Ramadan PDF Print E-mail
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National News - National News
Written by Omar Sacirbey, Religion News Service,   
Tuesday, 09 July 2013 00:00

lonely Ramadan (RNS) Since converting to Islam more than five years ago, Paul K. DeMelto of Cleveland has done all he could to become a more knowledgeable Muslim, attending a new converts class and hiring Arabic tutors to help him learn to read the Quran.

But despite his efforts, DeMelto found himself alone last Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim year, when adherents fast from sunrise to sunset and eat a communal meal at night.

As he looks to another Ramadan beginning Tuesday (July 9), DeMelto wonders if this might be the year when he finally lands an invitation to a fellow Muslim’s home for the iftar, the fast-breaking meal.

“The one thing that I expected to experience more fully in turning to Islam was engagement in a community,” said DeMelto, a 40-year-old baker.

Like many American converts to Islam, DeMelto changed his lifestyle, quit drinking alcohol, scaled back social ties with his drinking buddies, but still struggles to cultivate new Muslim friends. His isolation is particularly acute during Ramadan, when he feels like a Christian alone on Christmas.

Ramadan is the most social month of the Muslim year, a period of fellowship with family and friends over sometimes lavish evening meals. But many American converts to Islam break the daily fast alone, often in front of the TV set.

There can be consequences when “born” Muslims don’t reach out to new converts.

“I see how the new Muslims are kind of ignored,” said Vaqar Sharief, a former new Muslims coordinator for the Islamic Society of Delaware. “Many of them stop coming and they leave the religion.”

To be sure, Muslims are urged to focus on reading the Quran and reflecting on God during the monthlong fast, but even the most pious Muslims acknowledge the socializing that happens nightly strengthens bonds among Muslims and contributes to social cohesion.

“The concept of being together and uniting is something very important,” said Imam Talal Eid of Quincy, Mass. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that any person who hosts an iftar for someone who has fasted will be forgiven his sins and blessed with other rewards.

Caroline Williams said her first impression of Islam was that it was a friendly and social religious faith.

“Part of what drew me in was how welcoming everybody was at the mosque,” said Williams, a 32-year-old New Orleans resident who converted in 2010.

Yet new and old converts said they lack a sense of belonging, and are left out at major holidays. The exclusion happens for many reasons. Sometimes it’s an oversight or a lack of knowledge about co-religionists who are lonely. Other times, ethnic cliques play a role.

“Being invited to private homes isn’t common, and can be the loneliest experience of all when people speak their native language, leaving us to read or stare at the ceiling,” said Nadja Adolf of Newark, Calif., who converted in 2001.

For Kelly Kaufman, the loneliness of her first Ramadan was driven home whenever she was asked by a fellow Muslim how she broke her fast the night before, and answered “Cocoa Puffs while watching ‘Seinfeld,’” or “chocolate cake and ice cream while playing with my cat.”

“It’s an incredibly lonely experience that I don’t think many people know about,” said Kaufman, who converted in 2010.

To help, she set up a website where Chicago-area converts and other Muslims can contact each other and post helpful articles about prayer, Arabic lessons, or Islamic dos and don’ts.

Some Muslims suggest that converts should go to mosques that hold communal iftar dinners and try to make friends there. In fact, many converts do attend mosque iftars, but still find it hard to form closer bonds.

“People are friendly, but I don’t feel like I’m family,” said Williams, who worships at Masjid Abu Bakr Al Siddique in New Orleans. She said she misses having the kind of close relationship that involves dinner invitations and long, deep talks.

A few mosques around the country have started to recognize the problem of convert isolation. The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in New England, holds monthly “Convert-sations” meetings.

Sharief and his wife hold classes at their Delaware mosque that teach new converts how to pray and other Islamic fundamentals. They are also conscientious enough to invite new Muslims to potlucks, volunteer and interfaith activities, and other mosque-related events. And once the couple moves into a new house, Sharief said they will hold the convert classes and other activities there.

“You have to make these people feel part of the family,” said Sharief. “Ramadan is a great opportunity. You have to make them feel special.”

Comments (7)
  • constance/rania rhachoui  - NEW CONVERT
    I REVERTED TO ISLAM IN 2001 BEEN A LONELY ROAD FOR ME EXCEPT WHEN I MARRIED BUT THAT FAILED TO AS WASNT SHOWN EVERYTHING PROPERLY. I AM THANKFUL HAMDULILAH THAT THE FINDLAY,OHIO MOSQUE WAS VERY FRIENDLY AND ARE TRYING TO HELP ME FIND SISTERS HERE THAT CAN HELP GUIDE ME. INSHALLAH I MET A NICE GUY HERE IN FINDLAY HES 18 FROM SAUDI ARABIA GOING TO MEET HIS MOM SO SHE COULD TEACH ME MORE ABOUT ISLAM INSHALLAH I PRAY ALLAH BRINGS MUSLIMS TOGETHER NOT LEAVE REVERTS OUT BECAUSE WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER WE ARE ALL MUSLIMS WHY SHOW IGNORANCE BY NOT ACCEPTING A REVERT/CONVERT ? ALLAH GAVE US KNOWLEDGE TO HELP EACH OTHER WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER WE ARE MUSLIMS WE WORSHIP ALLAH.
  • Chamroeun  - New Muslim
    Asalaam Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatu! I'm a Muslim revert from March of 2012 Alhumdullilah, I am here to help out if you need anything. May Allah bless you and give glad tidings to your families.
  • Kandy Langdon  - Convert to Islam
    I converted to Islam in 2004. I have had many ups and downs. It is still lonely especially when there are no other Muslims around. Where I live, there are no mosques, no sisters, no brothers, nothing. I learn from the net, from calling a friend, or from what books I get. Ramadan is especially hard because there is noone to help or to share iftar with. I can sympathize with new reverts because it is hard and without the togetherness many fall off the new path. Praying to Allah helps as does reading the Quran. As reverts, we need each other and we need others . Islam is a beautiful way of life but at times it can be a lonely road to walk on.
  • Deenee  - Hi, there, sister?
    Assalamu alaikum, I dont judge but actually as a born muslimah I sometimes feel alone in this 'peaceful walk' also. I live in Indonesia since born aside from my travelling I've been doing to several countries since 6 years ago due to my job desk, I feel so alone cause most people whom have been my friends sometimes think that I am too religious which in our country most muslims dont practice that much their religion rather we just 'muslims' by quantity not quality. Become religious (striving in Islam way) is hard whether you live in a muslim country or not but at least in muslim country you could find many mosques and dawah centre where you could learn and study about Islam, I am still learning Islam and just become a 'revert' too since 2012 after my sister bestfriend passed away. I determined to live more sincere for Allah SWT, aameen insya Allah. Keep yourself istiqomah in this right path as Allah SWT promises you a Jannah in the hereafter for every true believers. I pray you keep istiqomah, and may Allah SWT always guides us wherever we are, aameen yaa Rabb. Salam from Indonesia and wassalamu alaikum, Sister D.M.
  • Sister Mufiydah Khattum  - The Holidays can be lonely, just vent about it
    At the age of 15 I too was lonely, didnt really have other muslims my age to converse with and i was also dealing with depression, shyness and antisocialism. So I stayed in the dark for a couple of years until I a way to deal with my issues, of course confiding in allah through du'a, salah and just plain old talking to the almighty lord help out a lot. Sometimes now a days with a muslim family, friends, my own children and of course by the guidance of allah i made it through many trials as a young women living with depression, shyness, isolation due to split tides with family and have to want to find the true me-- who I am now successful and spiritual submissive to allah alone I can be happy during any holiday. Of course with all whom are around me now family, friends, children annoying- lol I get by much happier. --- SEEK out ALLAH, AND VENT - DONT BE WILLING TO GIVE ALL YOU PERSONAL INFO, Muslims. Vent it will make you feel better, talk to Allah first and foremost. Assalaamualaikum Ramadhan Karim.
  • Jenna  - Socializing throughout the year helps in Ramadan
    I'm a quiet person by nature, so I'm okay with breaking fast alone at home. Besides you can't miss what you've never had, right? :) I agree with the other posters, that it's really hard to make friends with "born Muslims". They tend to have their set social groups and family routines. Even the one or two other born-Muslim sisters I know that I would consider close friends, I just occasionally see. However, within this past year another sister and I have been regularly meeting a couple times a month to socialize. That's been really nice, and the consistency has given me a chance to get to know another sister better. Also, we've met once a week during Ramadan on the same day that we usually meet, to have iftar together. This recent experience of regular contact has been the welcome exception in my 8+ years of being Muslim.
  • Anonymous
    Fellow revert...hang in there. You may feel alone, but you are not alone. Some people may never quite understand, others may dismiss your feelings, but many people are experiencing the exact same thing. Let's make du'a for each other. Ask Allah for good companions and continued guidance. It may be hard to take right now, but being alone can be the space you need to really solidify your Islam...hanging with other Muslims can be a definite challenge and test at times, and knowing you can ride it out on your own makes you stronger inside when it comes time to deal with unexpected curve balls in relating with others. Another thing I've discovered is that don't belittle your experience...it may not seem ideal, but it is yours. Even if you are eating domino's pizza out of the box for iftar, if that is what you like, it is no less authentic than anyone's else's iftar. Try out new recipes. Invite someone over to your house...don't wait for an invitation. If you have no muslims around you, make something and bring it down to the local homeless shelter. Invite your non-muslim parents over for iftar or bring something over to them. Learn your Islam properly but also make it your own...have fun with it.
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