A Draft Declaration of Basic Rights of Converts to Islam
By Tarek M.T.Ezzat
Why are many new Muslims not able to continue as practicing Muslims a few months after accepting Islam?
Do they get the support they need in the early months after declaring their faith?
Or are they soon neglected in the community after the excitement of taking Shahadah has faded away?
These questions and other related issues have been discussed in many meetings, conventions, forums and articles, and the general consensus is that the vast majority of new Muslims in the West are isolated and deprived of their basic rights.
Our masjids are not friendly for them to go there on a regular basis, and many born Muslims don’t give them the care and attention they deserve.
When they search for knowledge, they find many contradicting views and approaches to learning the religion, and without proper guidance this leads to confusion, or worst still to extremism in some cases.
We have all followed in the news the cases of new Muslims in Europe, North America and Australia who have been misguided to follow extremist groups and even travel abroad to fight in foreign lands.
Are they to blame?
Or are we to blame?
Is it time that we Muslims get our act together and give new Muslims the care and support they deserve?
A Draft Declaration for Dialogue
Within this framework, the following is a draft universal declaration which has been discussed in recent months with a number of colleagues working with new Muslims, and also converts to Islam who have given their feedback and suggestions.
The purpose of this draft declaration is to open a dialogue on its content, to add to it what is missing and refine some of the issues that need to be modified or changed.
If you are a new Muslim, a born Muslim or a convert to Islam for many years, please feel free to add your comments in the comments box at the end of this article, or send your feedback and suggestions by e-mail to email@example.com
With your input and feedback, a second draft will be published we hope by the beginning of 2015, which Islamic organizations are welcomed to endorse and are invited to join this initiative to launch the final version of the declaration during the following months In-Shaa-Allah.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
May Allah (SWT) reward you and may He guide us to giving new Muslims the rights we owe them and the proper support they deserve. Amien
A Draft Declaration of Basic Rights of Converts to Islam Preamble
New Muslims who have recently accepted Islam as their faith and their path to Allah, face many challenges, especially during the first few years after declaring their faith in public (after taking Shahadah).
These challenges vary from social challenges, to sometimes financial and often emotional challenges in their transition phase till they become settled in their new faith.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave special attention to new Muslims in Makkah, where he met with them on a regular basis at the home of Al-Arqam, to guide and convey to them the teachings of Islam, and to read to them the new verses revealed from the Quran and help them on the path of self-purification and help them grow in faith.
In Madinah, he sent the new Muslims there a special teacher, Mus‘ab ibn Umair, and when he later migrated from Makkah, he continued with them his role as a teacher and guide for all members of the new Muslim community.
In order to assist today’s new Muslims in their transition phase to Islam, it is very important that they should be aware of their rights as new members of the Muslim community, and it is important for the Muslim community to ensure that they receive these rights.
This draft declaration is meant to outline the basic rights new Muslims should receive and to open dialogue among all those concerned with da’wah, and with supporting new Muslims in particular, in order to help them continue on Allah’s Straight Path in this world and in the next In-Shaa-Allah.
The following are suggestions for ten basic sets of rights and three additional rights.
A) Basic Rights
- New Muslims should have instant access to personal mentors on a one-to-one basis, whether face to face, or through electronic means (e-mail, Skype, social media). The role of a personal mentor is to support new Muslims, answer their questions about Islam, and give general advice that would help them solve problems they may face in life.
- New Muslims must have access to a basic core curriculum for their gradual learning of moderate, mainstream Islam. This free curriculum should be accessible through the Internet in their own languages, and should also be available in printed format at all Islamic centers and mosques around the world.
- Specialized counseling services for New Muslims should be made available when needed through national telephone services in each country and/or through Skype and e-mail, to assist in overcoming some of the more complicated social problems which need specialized experts.
- New Muslims have the right to become active members in the local Muslim community where they live, and it is the responsibility of the Imam of their mosque to take note of their status as new Muslims and follow-up with them to ensure they are not isolated and make new Muslim friends that care for their development and well-being.
- In cases where New Muslims face financial problems due to their loss of work or income after becoming Muslim, it is their right to be provided with financial support that would allow them to cover their basic expenses. Islamic centers around the world must allocate needed funds from their yearly Zakah collections to cater for this need.
- New Muslims have the right to attend periodic Islamic gatherings and meetings, other than the Friday prayers. They should be invited to attend weekend activities, and at least once a month invited to attend special meetings for new Muslims. Special camps for new Muslims are also encouraged during the main holidays (Christmas, Easter & summer).
- Special classes for new Muslims should be organized in the larger Islamic centers where there is a significant number of converts to Islam, and these classes should be broadcasted through live stream and recorded on the Internet for wider access.
- The right to brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam is a basic right that each new Muslim should enjoy. It is the responsibility of the local Imam, or his deputy, to ensure that each new Muslim in the local community has at least one or two close friends, other than their personal mentor.
- Support in finding housing for New Muslims without shelter.
- For marriage purposes when suitable, special marriage services should be provided for New Muslims with specialized counseling to ensure they find the right spouse that would suit them to continue together their journey to Allah. New Muslim sisters should also get the proper advice on marriage issues, and have access to an Imam to act as their wali, if needed.
B) Additional Rights
- Support in finding employment for unemployed New Muslims;
- Support in caring for the children of New Muslims who need care;
- Support in finding legal counsel if any rights of the home country are taken away from the New Muslim because of their new faith.