When I became Muslim in 2002, I lost all of my friends, except for one. No one wanted to talk to me, or spend time with me, and certainly no one knew how to relate to me. It was not as though I had been the sort of person who drank and went to parties; I only changed a few aspects of my lifestyle and personality in order to accept Islam. Still, I made most of my friends uncomfortable, and since they had never personally known any Muslims, and knew nothing about Islam, it was just easier for them to dump me.
It was expected that I would lose a fair amount of friends; I had heard stories of reverts, who upon accepting Islam, found themselves suddenly without many friends. I just never knew that I would literally be down to one. And one friend that remained, was a person with whom I had never actually met face-to-face.
Before becoming Muslim, back in my teens, I used to participate in Native American social dance, called “powwow.” Almost every weekend, from September to May, was spent going to powwows, mostly in and around Houston, Texas. I loved it, although I was never particularly any good at it, nor was I ever successful in making a lot of friends. In those days, I was a painfully shy girl, and I suffered immensely as a result (people who know me today would probably not believe that I was so shy!).
When Internet became something that average families could afford, my brothers and I talked our parents into it. In those days, you still had to dial-up with a modem, and it tied up the phone line. You didn’t sit online all day back then! What time I did spend online was amazing. I was able to meet people from not only all across America, but the world. And I was able to find other people with a passion for powwow, and the styles of dance that I did.
I made friends with a few other girls who were around my age, but there was one girl in particular that I became a really good friend. We would talk on the phone about our families, or backgrounds, our dresses that we were working on, dreams, etc. When I finally got an Internet connection that did not tie up the main phone line (after I left home and was living on my own), I started chatting online more and more with my friend, my fellow “Jingle dancer.” We became like sisters. And when I eventually gave up powwow dance (about a year before I became Muslim), I sent her my clothes and items that I had made. It was my thinking that with her, they would always be cared for.
When I became Muslim, she told me that she had nothing against it, and she was happy for me. She said that whatever made me happy was great. She even said that she had known some Muslims, and knew a little bit about Islam. I was ecstatic that I was able to keep at least one friend, especially that it was the one friend that I treasured the most. She probably knew everything there was to know about me, so it was great that I did not lose her.
The years went by, and we lost touch for about three years or so. Then, Facebook popped up, and I joined. After some time, I found her, and we were able to reconnect, very slowly at first. I was just so happy to have found her. I felt as though everything was still the same. We didn’t talk on the phone, or spend a lot of time chatting online, but that was because we were grown women with responsibilities now.
I never talked to her about Islam, or what Muslims believe, or how Islam was the best thing that ever happened to me. Since in the early days of my reversion, she told me that she already knew something of the religion, I didn’t think that I needed to explain anything to her. Plus, there were never any situations where I felt it necessary to bring up my religious beliefs. As far as I was concerned, religion played no role, positive or negative, in our friendship.
A few months ago, I was shaken to my very core to find out that this friend, this person whom I held dearly in my heart as though she were my natural sister, had harbored ill thoughts and feelings toward my becoming Muslim. For ten long years, she had kept it from me. She told me suddenly that she “tolerated” it, or “didn’t care” that I was Muslim. She elaborated, saying that I sometimes put my foot in my mouth when commenting on certain things. I was crushed. Dumbfounded. Flabbergasted. Hurt. Insulted. Wounded. Betrayed.
A thought of realization came slowly creeping into my mind. If a person who behaved as though they loved and cared for me could have such feelings about me being Muslim, how, should I suppose, would strangers feel? If my religion became something that bothered her, how must it irritate others, I wondered? And if her presumed “love” for me had kept her silent all these years, what is to keep a complete stranger from screaming insults at me? My heart sank low, and I felt cold, dark, gloomy, and more than anything else, scared.
The pain from what she did has faded, with time, and one day, I will no longer think of it at all. But for now, there are still moments (like tonight), when my mind is filled with the memories, and the confusion, and the wondering what was it, exactly, that I had said throughout the years that she had found so offensive? And how could I have not seen it? Why did it take her essentially slapping me in the face with insults to realize that we had really not been friends for all of these years?
I lost all of my friends when I became Muslim. But that’s okay. Whatever losses that I have suffered, I have gained so much more. Alhamdulilah, I am blessed with a kind, caring, and loving husband (who I think grows more and more attractive every day! Honestly!), and two of the most delightfully wonderful children in the world. My life is rich beyond measure, and I am thankful every day for what I have been given. I am happier now than I have ever been in my entire life. I can truthfully say that, and that is something.
Sometimes, people reveal their true selves in a matter of minutes, or days, or weeks. Other times, it may take decades. Either way, they show who they really are, and that they are not as they seem. It’s just important for us to not allow them to make us lose a sense of who and what we are. Their problems are their problems, and not ours.