Whenever someone converts to another religion, a lot of assumptions will be made on the circumstances that surrounds the conversion. Was it for love? Was it just to get married?
Don't convert for marriage
Or to be with someone you love.
I've read many comments that assumed that I converted to Islam just to marry my husband. Or that I was forced to convert.
I believe that most people (my parents included) have this perception that Islam is one of the hardest religion to practice in the world. And it's kind of true! As I learnt more about Islam, I was taken aback by the things I needed to do. It wasn't just the 5 daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadhan; it is a lot more than that. Islam isn't just a religion, it is a way of life.
Would you adopt a completely different way of life just for the sake of marrying someone if you didn't believe in it? And carry on with that way of life even when your loved one is no longer around? I don’t think most people would, so I don’t see why people would assume I would!
Let's just put this out there: Would my husband and I get married if I did not convert?
I have never thought of that before, so I asked Aizat for his thoughts. He fell silent for awhile and said, "No but I will keep waiting. I know Allah will eventually open your heart. I just know!"
I smiled and grabbed his arm, "But Alhamdulillah right? Allah made it easy for us. We didn't have to worry about that."
But I knew that if I had decided very firmly, at any point, not to convert, we would have ended our relationship.
I wouldn’t marry Aizat if I didn’t embrace Islam. It wouldn't be fair to him. This is a man who places God above himself. He is someone whose first priority is to take his wife and for Umrah right after marriage, even before a honeymoon, because it was "his duty as a husband". He is someone who dreams of being reunited with his wife in eternal paradise.
How could I possibly take that away from him? It is just heartbreaking to even imagine what his life would be, constantly praying and hoping, but knowing deep down that there might be a chance that he wouldn't see his wife in paradise again. I love him too much to do that to him.
Don't convert out of love
There is also the romantic narrative that sees their conversion as the ultimate expression and love and sacrifice:
"Wow, true love prevails, she converted to Islam for him!"
"How romantic, true love conquers all. She converted to Islam out of love!"
These statements, while well-meaning, can give the wrong idea to incoming converts.
I can't stress this enough. Never, ever, convert out of love.
I got introduced to Islam because of Aizat, but I didn't convert to Islam because of him. Converting to Islam out of love for your partner is extremely dangerous and can be potentially damaging to an individual. Depending on how things pan out, and whether the love lasts as long as we hope it would, it may cause a lot of emotional distress and dissonance to the person.
The dangers of sacrifice
When you don't convert out of your own free will and personal choice, it is likely that you will harbor the toxic idea that your conversion was a sacrifice you made for your partner.
You would think it is nice to hear things like:
"Wow, you sacrificed so much to be with him/her. That's true love."
But it really isn't. It is toxic.
As long as you carry the notion that you sacrificed a lot by converting to your partner's religion - fasting, praying, eating halal and donning the hijab for your partner - it is going to be the source of all your resentment, anger and the root cause of your quarrels. You will never be truly happy in your relationship.
When I was still struggling with embracing Islam, Aizat and I would get into quarrels several times a week about the 'sacrifices' I made. Imagine me saying this every other day, week in and week out to him:
"I stopped eating pork for you. I stopped eating non-halal with my friends and family for you. Why can't you just be more understanding and do so and so for me!"
"I feel like I'm putting more effort into this relationship. Can't you see all the sacrifices I made for you? Why can't you do more?"
Won't anyone get sick of it? What was I expecting Aizat to do? Learning more about Islam was MY choice, avoiding non-halal food was MY choice. Everything was MY choice, he never forced me into any of it. But I always made it his problem. He had to bear all of my frustrations whenever I was upset over something; using this convenient trump card of the 'noble sacrifice' I made for him to win all the argument.
What was he to say? What was he to do?
After awhile, it gets draining for your partner. Sooner or later, you'll hear the exasperated:
"If you can't convert, it's okay. You really don't have to force yourself. We can still be friends."
Then what happens? I cried of course, wailing that he wasn't a supportive partner even after all the - you guessed it - 'sacrifices' I have made for him.
It is like a never-ending cycle of misery you can never get out of. Everything seems bleak, your relationship suffers, your happiness suffers.
The turning point
From my own experience, you will never get over the phase until you fully embrace Islam. For me, it took two long years.
Once it clicked it me that my conversion was not a sacrifice but a blessing, it was like magic. Poof! We stopped quarreling and I cried a lot less.
Your conversion should never be regarded as a sacrifice, it should be a blessing. If you don't feel that way, you're probably not ready. Don't rush it. Take your time. Convert only when you're ready, when you're really sure that's what you want for yourself, and not for anyone or anything else.