I didn’t convert to Islam

I have not yet written about how I became a Muslim, but when I do you will recognise all the hallmarks of the classic conversion story: a time of crisis followed by deep personal reflection, and the final, glorious revelation. I swear the stars aligned and I felt myself change on a molecular level at moment I decided to convert.

Except, I didn’t convert.

When I went to the mosque to say shahada (the declaration of faith), I got speaking to an old man; one of those who you know has a deep understanding of Islam, and life in general, as soon as they start to speak. You could tell he was happy to see me there. He shook my hand vigorously, grinning broadly as he congratulated me on my reversion.


He explained that conversion meant a change to Islam, whist reversion meant a change back to Islam, the implication being that everyone is born a Muslim, but that not everyone is taught Islam. Depending on your point of view this will make complete sense, or it will insult your very being.

I still refer to myself as a convert because it is a term that is widely understood and that most non-Muslims are familiar with, but I have no problem seeing myself as a revert, in fact, I think it describes my journey into Islam very well: I have not had to change who I am; I am still the same person, with the same family, the same past experiences, the same thoughts, hopes and fears.

What has changed is what I do: I pray, and I read the Quran and I fast during Ramadan, or at least I try to. After all, being a Muslim is as much about what you do as what you believe, isn’t it?

I am interested to know what other people think about the use of “convert” and “revert”. Which do you use and why? And where do you stand on intentions vs actions? Do you think that it is possible to be good Muslim without following all the rules?