New Muslim Converts Experience in Embracing Islam
New Muslim converts have gone through a lot of challenging process starting from pre conversion process, the conversion process and the post conversion process.
This paper presents an overview of the different processes that new Muslims have to undergo in comparison between the western and the Malaysian contexts.
The main purpose of this paper is to seek understanding on what the new Muslims have to go through in embracing Islam.
The first research objective of this paper is to identify the new Muslims conversion processes in the western world in comparison to Malaysia. Secondly, the objective of this study is to identify the new Muslim pre and post-conversion challenges in a Muslim majority country.
This paper begins with a discussion on existing new Muslim conversion literature in section two.
The discussion then passes to methodology employed stating the ontological and epistemological foundations structuring the methodology of the study.
This paper also highlights an exposition of the exploratory findings. The present study has specific theoretical and contextual contributions towards the improvement of the new Muslim converts in Malaysia.
The literature in new Muslim conversion processes can be categorized into several research topics such as reasons for conversions, conversion authorities, the problems faced by new Muslims after conversion, lack of knowledge of the new Muslim and the status of new Muslim.
The reason for conversion is the pre-conversion phase of the new Muslim before accepting Islam as a religion of faith.
There are several Malaysian and international authors, who have discussed at length the reasons for conversion, such as marriage, psychological inner peace (finding the truth), surroundings, influences from other converts experience and sudden openness to embracing Islam (K. Ali, 1996, 1999; Jamian, 2005; Mohd Nor, 2002; Norris, 2003).
Even though, many studies have been conducted on the motives to convert as mentioned above, there is still the absence of empirical studies being conducted that might contribute to expanding the motivation theory in the context of religion conversion.
As for the studies conducted regarding the conversion authorities, there are a couple of studies in Malaysia focusing on the effort taken by the authorities in facilitating the conversion processes.
For example, Annuar (2002) stated certain weaknesses of conversion authorities during the post conversion stage were identified. Problems faced by the converts are such “as the time schedules for Islamic classes which are not convenient to those working Muslim converts, the untrained teachers or the inefficiency of the teachers to conduct Islamic classes, the disorganized syllabus or irrelevant Islamic books” (Kassim, Abdullah, & Baba, 2013).
Other than the weaknesses of the relevant authorities, there are also studies conducted on the problems faced by new Muslims after conversion (Kassim et al., 2013) such as the lack of knowledge of the new Muslim (Mohd Nor, 2002) and the status of new Muslim. Research on conversion to Islam can be divided into three different phases.
The phases are pre-conversion, conversion and post-conversion. The pre-conversion process is how individuals from other religions or an atheist decide to convert to Islam.
They can be from personal encounters or from a specific event that create the attention and attraction to learn more about Islam (e.g. the September 11, World Trade Centre Attacks). This leads to the second phase which is the conversion process in which might take place in a mosque, Muslim community centre etc. The new Muslim will say the shahādah bearing witness that God is One and the Prophet Muhammad is the last messenger of God, in front of other Muslims specifically an imām of a mosque.
After the conversion process, the new Muslim will encounter the post-conversion phase in which they can possibly go through several psychological processes such as pointed out by Roald (2012). The conversion processes examined took place in United Kingdom and the post conversion phase were identified as zealotry, disappointment, acceptance and secularization psychological phases (Roald, 2012).
The following figure shows the conversion process of a new Muslim in the United Kingdom in which the three phases of pre conversion, conversion and post conversion were laid out. Nevertheless, this study is more interested to focus on the post conversion phase.
A new Muslim was identified to be facing either all four psychological states or the first three psychological states. The duration of an individual psychological state in the different processes differ from one individual to other depending on many factors such as spouse, spouse family culture, religious orientation (ṣūfī or salafī), the realization between reality and ideally and formation of personality acceptance or the formation of own literal understanding of Islam which is different from mainstream Islam.