Marriages to Muslim reverts

There is so much blessing in guiding another soul to Islam, and the best form of practical guidance is the daily implementation of the deen by way of examples and acting as role models.

During a military expedition, Imam Abu Hanifah's (RA) son took a lady as his captive, imprisoned her in his basement, and tried to force her to become Muslim. She refused no matter how much he and his family pressured her. He threatened her with by saying that when his father, the imam, returned, he would be harsh on her. When Abu Hanifah (RA) returned from his travels, his son explained the situation of how he had fallen in love with her and about his frustration at her refusal to accept Islam.

Abu Hanifah (RA) asked about her condition and the way they gave her invitation to Islam, and was displeased with what he discovered. He asked his son if this was the way that he and Rasulullah SAW taught. He asked how his son could invite someone who he has enslaved, and ordered his son to restore her freedom, dignity and free will. He also ordered his son to feed her from their own food, not to burden her with any jobs and to treat her well.

Somehow, the girl overheard this exchange. His words touched her heart and was the sign that she was waiting for. When she was given her freedom, she decided to embrace Islam, refused to return to her homeland and continue living with the family. This story has many lessons that those married to, or intending to marry, reverts can ponder upon.

Marriages with Muslim reverts present different problems and are unfortunately prone to abuse by the original Muslim. One has to bear in mind that the revert will generally be less educated about Islam, and would be looking towards the Muslim spouse for the lead. What if the Muslim spouse does not observe Islam, sets the wrong examples or is a poor role model? What if the Muslim spouse does not display the kindness, patience or generosity extolled by Islam? Now the original Muslim is causing problems to the revert spouse, who will only see the ugly side of humanity and mistake it as a fault in Islam.

There are spouses who cherry pick the aspects of Islam that suits their advantage, which creates more confusion and inconsistency. A husband expects his revert wife to stay at home but denies her due provision. A person forces the revert spouse to observe fasting, but continues drinking alcohol. There is also a danger that what is taught to the revert spouse is jumbled up with inherited cultural practices, and if the revert spouse does not do his or her own research on Islam, it would have the inevitable consequences that the wrong values are implemented within the household and to the next generation.

On the other extreme, some Muslims pressure their revert spouses for their own satisfaction, and not for the sake of Allah. The revert spouse then feels pressured, reluctant and practices Islam under compulsion. As the story above demonstrates, the whole journey of Islam should be premised on free will. Be wise when inviting your spouse to Islam, and do not overload the spouse with too much such that the spouse cannot cope. When you marry a revert, you cannot expect to have a "ready made Muslim" on your hands. It takes a long time to absorb new beliefs and eradicate a lifetime of habits. It takes time for the revert to let go of old ties, sentimentality to the previous way of life and to also adjust to the new situation. Do not repel them from Islam by your objectionable behaviour.

Exceptionally, the revert spouse might study Islam intensively, outdoes the original Muslim spouse in knowledge and then gets impatient with the original Muslim spouse for lagging behind!

In all cases, it is crucial to remember that Allah is the only one who can invite and He is the One who grants guidance. We just need to be role models for each other and emphasise on our kindness and generosity. Be patient and Allah will open, but we must have faith and connection with Allah, to continuously make du'a and cry for them.

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