Johannesburg – Ramadan is a month that brings Muslims immense joy. It is an opportunity to gain many blessings and bring oneself closer to God. For those who enter Islam as adults, the daily practices of iftar (breaking the fast) and suhoor (the pre fast meal) are spent alone leaving some reverts feeling forgotten.
It is not unusual for Muslim reverts to continue to live with their families and be a ‘secret Muslim’. For eleven months they can keep up this secret life with no fear of being caught. But when Ramadan comes knocking, sometimes advantages might be lost because worry and fear about their secret takes over.
For reverts, Ramadan can be tough. Learning how to practice suhoor, iftar and the night prayers (tarawee) by oneself is not easy. There are organisations however, trying to help Muslim reverts feel more included during this month. Muneerah Khwela, from the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCPI), is trying to help Muslim reverts understand the love that the Muslim community have for Ramadan.
Khwela was raised by her Muslim father and stepfather, who sent her to madressah (school) from the age of six. It’s here that Khwela learned about the faith and then accepted Islam. She admits that her challenges and the challenges of Muslim revert might not be the same, but she understands the need for support. While she had a Muslim family, reverts do not, and many times they count on the support of other Muslims.
For those who want to revert, Khwela first speaks with them about how their lives will change. It is not an effortless process, and she acknowledges it is challenging for her at times. One of the problems her students face is buying Halaal food. Most of her students are from the locations and are in difficult circumstances. Halaal meat is more expensive to purchase than meat supplied by a butchery which isn’t Halaal.
During Ramadan, revert Muslims deal with challenges other Muslims might not know about. Khwela, along with her co-worker, tries to be the support they need to help them enjoy this blessed month.
“We try to spend as much time with them as possible, especially our students, because most of them are coming from a family that are not Muslim. It’s hard for them to wake up for sehri. It’s hard for them to go for iftar. We try to organise some programs, camps where we keep them during the weekends like Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We keep them for the weekend. We fast with them, we wake up with them, we pray with them. We try to support them and spend as much time as we can.”
Supporting a revert is extremely important, especially during Ramadan. Just like we needed guidance growing up, so do they. It is important not to judge anyone who is learning and give them the correct support and understanding, said Khwela.
“Supporting a Muslim is not supporting them by giving them food because that’s what we think nowadays. That’s okay. Supporting them for us is to give them food, give them hampers, give them clothes and that’s not what they need. They need support by us praying with them, spending time with them, fast with them, teach them Islam. What is teaching them Islam? [It] is not judging them and [it is] trying to be with them and teaching them the basics. That’s the most important thing.”
Not all Muslim reverts have an accepting family who understands their embracing Islam. Having your family turn you away and then having the community which you thought you belonged to, judge you and turn you away can be devastating. Offering your friendship to them goes a long way to helping them and making them feel less alone. All they need is a helping hand to guide them along the right path and show them that even if their family isn’t there, there is a whole community out there who will treat them as family.