I often hear some anthropologists or "experts" and Western converted Muslims say that it is wrong to use the term "convert", and that we should instead use the neologism "revert(ed)", because "that is the way the Muslims themselves use, because they feel that way".

My question is somehow similar to this, but it isn't about the notion of fitra itself (that is, I am not asking why the word "reversion" is used or what it means). I just wanted to know if this is really the word used by a considerable number of Muslims, and possibly where it happens. I feel it's just a trend that started in the West, possibly in academic circles and among some preachers, but I am not sure. As one can ascertain from one of the answers to the other question, it seems that in Arabic, and perhaps other Muslim-majority languages (Turkish, Persian, Urdu etc.), nothing close to "reversion" is employed to mean the act of changing from one religion to Islam, thus making less credible the claim that "reversion" is a "native term" to "all Muslims" and that "non-Muslims should also use". Is that so?


2 Answers 2


Of course, this is a question that will draw opinion-based answers and anecdotal evidence, but I have not come across the word "revert" except in the West, too. Islamic literature, translated to English, does not use the word "revert"; rather, it uses the word "embrace" or "become". Also, in the Arabic language itself, the words used do not imply reversion, but conversion or submission:

إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ ۖ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

When his Lord said to him, "Submit", he said, "I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds."

Surat Al-Baqarah 2:131

Allah ﷻ in the Quran tells us that the best amongst in speech are the ones who invite to His path, do what is right, and call themselves Muslims:

وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, "Indeed, I am of the Muslims."

Surat Fussilat 41:33

When the companions embraced Islam, the word "revert" was not used by them to describe their action:

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْحَاقُ الْوَاسِطِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدٌ، عَنْ بَيَانٍ، عَنْ قَيْسٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ قَالَ جَرِيرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنه مَا حَجَبَنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مُنْذُ أَسْلَمْتُ، وَلاَ رَآنِي إِلاَّ ضَحِكَ‏.‏

Narrated Jarir bin 'Abdullah: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) has never refused to admit me since I embraced Islam, and whenever he saw me, he would smile.

Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 63, Hadith 48

In fact, the word "revert" was used in Arabic to refer to one leaving the folds of Islam and returning to whichever one's religion prior to embracing Islam:

حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ الصَّبَّاحِ، حَدَّثَنَا مَحْبُوبُ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ، حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدٌ، عَنْ حُمَيْدِ بْنِ هِلاَلٍ، عَنْ أَبِي بُرْدَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى، أَنَّ رَجُلاً، أَسْلَمَ ثُمَّ تَهَوَّدَ، فَأَتَى مُعَاذُ بْنُ جَبَلٍ وَهْوَ عِنْدَ أَبِي مُوسَى فَقَالَ مَا هَذَا قَالَ أَسْلَمَ ثُمَّ تَهَوَّدَ‏.‏ قَالَ لاَ أَجْلِسُ حَتَّى أَقْتُلَهُ، قَضَاءُ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏

Narrated Abu Musa: A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu'adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism." Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle.

Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 93, Hadith 21

The Prophet ﷺ himself did not use the word "revert" when talking about others who embraced Islam:

حَدَّثَنِي حَرْمَلَةُ بْنُ يَحْيَى، أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي يُونُسُ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي عُرْوَةُ بْنُ الزُّبَيْرِ، أَنَّ حَكِيمَ بْنَ حِزَامٍ، أَخْبَرَهُ أَنَّهُ، قَالَ لِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَرَأَيْتَ أُمُورًا كُنْتُ أَتَحَنَّثُ بِهَا فِي الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ هَلْ لِي فِيهَا مِنْ شَىْءٍ فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم: أَسْلَمْتَ عَلَى مَا أَسْلَفْتَ مِنْ خَيْرٍ.‏

Hakim ibn Hizam reported to 'Urwa ibn Zubair that he said to the Messenger of Allah: Do you think that there is anything for me (of the reward with the Lord) for the deed of religious purification that I did in the state of ignorance? Upon this, he (the Messenger of Allah) said to him: You accepted Islam with all the previous virtues that you practiced.

Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 230

When the Prophet ﷺ used the word "revert", he was referring to leaving the folds of Islam and returning to disbelief:

حَدَّثَنَا حَجَّاجُ بْنُ مِنْهَالٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، أَخْبَرَنِي وَاقِدٌ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: لاَ تَرْجِعُوا بَعْدِي كُفَّارًا، يَضْرِبُ بَعْضُكُمْ رِقَابَ بَعْضٍ.‏

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, "Do not revert to disbelief after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another."

Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 92, Hadith 28


From the perspective of the Arabic language both converts and reverts (what ever the distinction might be in English) are not used for those who accept or enter or change their religion to become Muslims.

The Qur'an and sunnah rather use the wording "Enter into -the religion of- Islam دخل -دين- الإسلام" like in:;

And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes, (110:4)

Arabic also offers the verb "aslama أسلم" which means one becomes a Muslim or means one submits or submits himself to ... (see for example in 2:112, 2:131, 3:20, 3:83, 6:14, 27:44 and 49:14). In this context the Qur'an also offers the adjective Muslim مسلم or Muslimah (feminine) مسلمة (plural Muslimoon مسلمون or Muslimeen مسلمين and feminine مسلمات) and the noun al-Muslim المسلم with the femine المسلمة ( see for example 7:126, 33:35 and 41:33)

Note that translations such as embrace Islam or accept Islam or become a Muslim or any correct synonym also would be convenient.

In German language the most common term is a convert (verb konvertieren noun: Konvertit)

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