Most of us grew up in Islam and so there was never any moment at which we had to make a firm declaration with regards to our Islamic beliefs and practices. We just moved into these beliefs and practices as part of the normal routine of things in our lives as Muslims. We never questioned any of these matters, and if we did such questioning it was mainly to justify religious negligence. Sometimes the negligence dominated our lives and we had to make a conscious effort to get back, especially to the practices of Islam. Of course, there are many cases of individuals who never returned to these practices or who totally left Islam; either to another religion or to disbelief. In a sense, each individual eventually plots his or her own path in Islam or outside it. There are no two individuals in Islam whose beliefs and practices are exactly the same. Each person in Islam or outside it walks a very unique path either to Allah Almighty or away from him.
With reverts the matter is different. In fact, it is very dramatically different. Reverts have to discard beliefs and practices of a previous religion or of total or partial disbelief, and which were to a large degree entrenched in their hearts and minds for long periods of time. We must understand the problems reverts face. We ask them to discard beliefs and practices, which they might have held and practised for decades. It is not an easy matter for them just to say, for example, that Jesus is not the son of God, but a Messenger of God. And so we must have considerable empathy for persons who revert to Islam. The process of reversion is in fact a long one.
What happens prior to and during these reversions? A person comes to us, let say as a Christian, and attends our congregational adhkar. He does not understand what is going on, and he sits uncomfortably amongst us. To him the Words are foreign, and the whole culture surrounding these Words is equally foreign. But he repeats the Words as everybody else is doing. These Words, filled with spiritual power, opens his heart. This is Allah (ﷻ) at work because He is the Opener of Hearts (فَتَّاحُ القُلُوْبِ). We know the activity of the Sacred Words on the heart but we do not know the Workings of our Lord on the heart. These Words slowly destroy the satanic structures of the heart. As these structures are eliminated, so Allah Almighty enables His Sacred Words to start to occupy the heart. The beginning of this occupation is also the beginning of the changing of that heart, for Allah Almighty is the Changer of Hearts (مُقَلِّبُ القُلُوْبِ). The beginning of the occupation of the heart by these Sacred Words is also the beginning of the turning of that heart towards its Lord. This is the beginning of guidance. Throughout all these processes, it is always Allah Almighty at work. Our contribution is small but also important, and, of course, a special blessing for those directly and indirectly involved in the processes mentioned. This is a very special grant our Lord gives to us; to be involved in His Work. It could so easily have been otherwise.
It is when the heart starts turning towards its Lord and receives the first Divine Lights of Guidance, that its owner informs us that he wants to become a Muslim. He does not know what it is to be a Muslim. His heart is attracted to the Light of Islam in some way. He does not understand the processes, neither do we understand. He has no knowledge of the religion: as one lady told us that when she reverted, she only knew the word Allah (ﷻ). We recite the Testimony for him. He repeats the words of the Testimony, and this repetition is the final process of his reversion. He is now a Muslim with only the Testimony on his Record. Everything else has been erased, and he is like “on the day his mother had given birth to him.”
I am telling you all of these, because I do not want any of us to have any pretence with regard to our role in the large number of reversions in the townships. We must be careful of allocating to ourselves workings which come from the Divine. When we say: “We made a person Muslim”, this is a major pretence, because it is Allah Almighty who does the making, not us. Our only tasks are to bring future reverts into our congregational adhkar and to witness their testimonies. Even this witnessing is just for our knowledge because Allah Almighty is sufficient as a Witness. Allah Almighty says about Himself:
وَ كَفَى بِاللهِ شَهِيِ ْدًا
Allah is sufficient for you as a Witness (4: 166).
The fact that others have to know about the reversion is to ensure that all the social relations that flow from the reversion are confirmed. That person is now a fully-fledged member of the Muslim community. He may change his name if he wishes, but I leave that decision to the revert. In almost all the cases of both males and females, the preference is to change. Our realization of our role in the reversion process does not mean that we in any way underestimate that role. The witnessing of the Testimony for our records is extremely important, because through that witnessing we draw the individual into the ranks of the Muslims, and all that this implies.
We can see now that we know very little of the reversion processes. One of the incidents with regard to these processes shocked me when a mute lady living in the middle of an informal settlement indicated by sign language that she wished to revert. Up to today when I think of her reversion through sign language and I realise how my Lord is at work, and all I can say is Subhanallah: All glory to Allah (ﷻ). Sometimes I say, and correctly so, that if I want to know about the existence of my Lord, I look at His Workings. It is in the Workings of our Lord that we see His existence. We are eternally grateful to our Lord for involving us in His Work. Allah (ﷻ) says about this:
كُوْنُواْ أَنْصَارَ اللهِ
Be helpers (in the Cause of) Allah.
Through this verse, both as an instruction and as an appeal, Allah Almighty involves us in His Work; enabling us to become, in the case of reversions, active participants in processes during which Allah (ﷻ) changes certain hearts to Islam. I have found this verse an ocean of understanding of how our Lord works. When it comes to Allah’s (ﷻ) Cause, He does not need any help; but He has granted us the privilege to participate in that Work, not as a form of “help”, but as an additional door through which we can go for our personal spiritual growth. What an honour! Allah (ﷻ) turns the heart of His servant towards Him and then tells us: “Listen to my servant’s Testimony,” and many of us think that it is we who have turned the heart. No, this is one of our incapabilities; but we are still honoured by being remembered by Him, and by being allowed to put the final full stop to the reversion. Again, what an immense honour! We ask Allah Almighty to grant us more of these honours, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]