Hadiyah Muhammad is a first-year Health Behavior Health Education student at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on mental health issues in U.S. Muslim communities and identifying the intervention efforts and instructional programs best suited for mosques and Islamic centers of learning.
My parents converted to Islam as young adults in the late 1970s. Choosing to become Muslim changed my parents’ health behaviors immediately. I was born to two people who, in love with their new way of life, no longer consumed pork, alcohol, and tobacco, preferred men and women separated at gatherings, fasted during the month of Ramadan, and joined a community of like-minded converts to sustain their practice and grow religiously. Islam does not separate day-to-day action from belief; therefore the behaviors that my parents immediately accepted as a common daily practice were not simply rituals performed during certain times of the year. My parents’ conversion to Islam was their attempt to create a new and better life for themselves and my family. Interestingly, while the physical health behaviors of my parents changed almost immediately, the mental health challenges remained the same among my uniquely Muslim nuclear family and my non-Muslim extended family.