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I'm a revert and, due to my upbringing, I often behave in ways that I see described as imitating the kafir. I'm struggling to balance by Muslim identity with being respectful to how my parents raised me.

There's a lot of minor everyday things which non-Muslims seem to do more frequently than Muslims (in my experience, at least). Using a knife and fork was one example. Another example is stopping for a latte (coffee); I'll see a room full of non-Muslims. I also like to run, but I don't encounter many Muslim women running. I don't often see Muslim women going to the movies.

Wearing the headscarf, most non-Muslims assume I'm Muslim (and often ask me random questions about Islam).

Question: To what extent are reverts required to avoid behaving like non-Muslims?

Is it enough to just be recognized as a Muslim, or is there more to it? I'm unclear if I should be unlearning how I've grown up, and replacing it with more Muslim-typical behaviours.

  • my 2c, please don't be too hard on yourself. Avoid haraam things best to your knowledge, especially the secret ones. Fulfill all the must-dos of Islam, again best to your knowledge. And, try to be humble inside and non-judgemental outside. Keep asking both guidance and forgiveness from Allah s.w.t. for your incompleteness. HE will show you the fine line, the "siratul mustaqim" inshAllah ... – kmonsoor Dec 22 '16 at 20:13
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Avoiding behaving like non-Muslims has to be put in the right context, especially since the word "like" automatically means the prohibition is contextual (conditional), and not conceptual (under all circumstances).

In Sahih ibn Hebban and Sunnan Abi Dawood, the hadith says:

قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ, فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ

The Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) said: "He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.”

This imitation is not simply actions, but actions and beliefs. Allah says in the Qur'an 2:118:

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ لَوْلَا يُكَلِّمُنَا اللَّهُ أَوْ تَأْتِينَا آيَةٌ كَذَلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ تَشَابَهَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ

Those who do not know say, "Why does Allah not speak to us or there come to us a sign?" Thus spoke those before them like their words. Their hearts resemble each other. We have shown clearly the signs to a people who are certain [in faith].

"Those who do not know say": This is their action. It is apparent to others.

"Their hearts resemble each other": This is their belief, and the resemblance.

Suhail Hasan said in his book "Al Sunan wa Al-Athaar fi Al-Nahy an Al-Tashabbuh bi Al-Kuffaar" (roughly translated as The sunnah and the traditions in forbidding imitating the non-believers) that imitation falls under two categories:

  1. Permitted (halal)
  2. Not permitted (haram).

He further elaborated that imitation, which is permitted has to follow certain conditions:

  1. It should not be an imitation of their traditions that only non-believers do, and these traditions distinguish them from others.

  2. It should not be part of their religious beliefs, unless the Prophet has also done it (e.g., fasting on 'Ashoora or praying two raq'aas upon entering the masjid).

  3. It should not be a matter that goes against Islamic teachings or commandments, and it should not be a matter that Islam explicitly forbids.

  4. It should not be related to celebrating any of the non-believers festivals.

Apart from that, one can do as non-believers do, long as it is accroding to what is needed or required.

So, in specific, you can stop for a latte in a room full of non-believers, you can follow your family traditions or your upbringing which fulfills the above conditions, you can practice sports, etc., long as none of these actions cause you to violate any of the above conditions, or go against Islamic rulings in general.

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