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When your child wants to convert to Islam

Iran, Hijab
Unsplash/Aliata Karbaschi

As a formerly devout Muslim, I am often approached at church and online to help parents whose children have become Muslim or are contemplating conversion to Islam. It is so heartbreaking to hear the distress in a mom’s voice whose daughter leaves Christianity so she can marry a Muslim boy. We pray that the Lord will return the prodigal to the fold, but that can be a long, hard road. Many are frantic to get advice on what they can say to convince their child that Jesus is the only true way. Instead, we should ask ourselves how can we, the parents and elders in a church, prevent this from happening in the first place.

As of data collected in 2019, almost two-thirds of American young adults between the ages of 18–29 have withdrawn from church involvement after being active as a child or teen. Many of us have read studies about why this happens — issues like lack of relevance in everyday life, it doesn’t correspond to their worldly values, or church folks being too judgmental.

In addition to my anecdotal experience with many families, I learned a lot from this YouTube channel, where many Christian girls testified about why they turned to Islam. Though I have not done a scientific study on this trend, several patterns emerge from listening to their stories. These first-hand accounts give us insight into how we can nurture our children to hold on to their faith in Christ.

One of the most common reasons is unexplained biblical doctrines. Many of these girls are proselytized by young Muslim men who spend quality time educating the young ladies about the “authentic” nature of Islam. Simultaneously, the men instill doubt in the authenticity of the Bible, the seemingly “strange” notion of the Triune God, or Jesus being God incarnate. They say, “How can you believe the Bible is the word of God when there were so many inconsistencies, or why would God need to come in the form of a man to save humanity?”

Unfortunately, when young women present these questions to their parents or Bible teachers, they are often brushed aside and told, “we believe these things by faith.” It is a wholly inappropriate response to earnest questions about doctrine for which we have perfectly sound answers.

As the Bible commands us, “Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The problem is that people either do not know how to respond or patronize the young as if they don’t deserve a response. Both positions will leave a person susceptible to false doctrine.

The second issue I heard many times when I was still a Muslim is that Christian kids leave the faith because of their parents' hypocrisy and/or immorality. Their parents' drunkenness, drug abuse, and severe behavioral problems made them assume the faith was ineffectual compared to the imposed discipline found in Islam. Once they see themselves also out of control from addiction or promiscuity, they do not believe Christianity offers a solution. In other words, they never personally witnessed the transformative power of a true believer who walks in holiness and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a tragedy and consequence of many who turned the Church into a social and cultural gathering rather than making disciples who model the character of Jesus.

Finally, and probably most significantly, these young adults have no personal relationship with the Risen Savior. When you ask them why they no longer believe in Jesus, they answer with something about how they were ostracized in church or the Pastor insulted them. Almost all of them went to Sunday school, grew up in youth ministry, and had Christian parents. However,  they have no indications that they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or can communicate with God in their prayer life. It reminds me of the parable of the Sower. The Word was choked out of their life before they could grow and mature.

Jesus promised all believers that our Heavenly Father would not allow any of his sons or daughters to be “snatched from His hand.” Therefore, what is our role in protecting the hearts and minds of our young people from falling into false religions? Step one, we must study enough to defend the Gospel against the most common “controversies.” Whether it's the authenticity of the Bible texts or prophecy that proves Jesus is the Messiah, we should not dismiss the curiosity of our young people who challenge us. 

Second, we need to take a serious inventory of our behavior and habits to be sure we are modeling the righteousness we are called to by the Lord. Our children pay far more attention to our actions than our words. I started a conversation with a woman in the coffee shop last week who told me she refused to go to church because her parents dragged her there when they were drug addicts. I tried to talk with her about encountering Jesus, but she couldn’t get past the trauma of her upbringing. 

We have a relatively short period of time with our kids before the world takes over and our influence wanes. Sending them off to youth ministry, which all these girls claimed to have done, is excellent, but more is needed. Ultimately, they must have a personal relationship with Jesus to have a faith that endures. My teenager is struggling with issues of faith, so I constantly remind her that the Holy Spirit dwells inside her and that she can communicate directly with God. I tell her faith doesn’t have to look like mine and that He wants to meet her where she is. If they pursue that personal encounter with God, He will fulfill His promises to them, and we have set them up for success. As He says in Scripture, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Research data also supports this notion. In interviews with young adults who stayed faithful into adulthood, whom they call “resilient disciples,” nearly 90% profess a personal relationship with Jesus.

Once a child does decide to convert, all hope is not lost. Life as an American convert to Islam is tough. If you listen to their testimonies, the girls talk of social alienation, loneliness, and failure to adapt. They no longer “fit” in any culture because Arab and South Asian Muslims do not readily accept converts into their family. If we remain open to loving them like Christ does and welcoming them home rather than ridiculing them, that familiarity and comfort could win them back. Engage in discussions about their new beliefs and see it as an opportunity to compare their new faith with the freedom in Christ. Fervent prayer, compassion, and kindness can go a long way. Leave the door wide open for them to enter back easily.

So whether it’s “church hurt,” parents not “modeling Christ,” or some other justification in their own lives, these kids gravitate to Islam for structure and discipline. It may seem counterintuitive, but when they realize debauchery is miserable, they seek rules and boundaries. Yet, why do they have to look outside the Church to find obedience? That’s not what Scripture teaches us. Jesus said, “If you love me, follow my commands” (John 14:15). Let’s not distill the essence of Christianity to a set of rituals with no power to restore and transform. Otherwise, we will lose many more sons and daughters to false religions.

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast

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