Under Allah’s Skies: A Survival Guide
A question during a talk about globalisation and its impact on Islam and Muslims prompted me to write this.
The question went something like this: ” How do Muslims, especially those who travel to Western countries, maintain their faith since it is more difficult to practice Islam due to the lack of availability of halal food and mosques?”
The speaker who, mashaAllah, a brilliant orator replied (again, this is not verbatim but rather from what I understood),
” When Muslims (who are practicing) are forced to be in a paticular situation, they would somehow find a way to practice their deen. An example would be my family, praying at the side of the road with our shoes on road trips. Just lay down our jackets and pray. How many of us would pray outside, in the open? In Singapore? Of course not many since there are lots of mosques. If we kept on waiting for mosques to appear when we are travelling (in a place where there are hardly any mosques) then, we will never pray!”
Often, we hear horror stories (or maybe we are just fearful) of being Muslims in a foreign land where Muslims are minorities; where Islamophobia is (reported to be) rampant. A fear that we won’t get enough food since there are no ‘halal certifications’ . A fear that we will be dragged into a hedonistic culture. A fear that we will be harrassed just because we wear the hijab or have a beard. A fear that our imaan will falter because of the environment that we brought ourselves into. A fear of not fitting in. I’d say, these fears are valid. However, such fears should never deter us from exploring Allah’s earth.
Alhamdulillah, All Praises be to Allah who has supported me, provided for me, guided me, prevented me (from doing harm), protected me (from harm) while I was overseas. Frankly speaking, I felt that I was a better Muslim when I was in Canada then when I am in Singapore. I felt that my imaan was much stronger there. I don’t know why but I guess, sociologically speaking, I wanted to hold on to my identity as a Muslim in a land where I am far away from my family.
Alhamdulillah, it was much easier for me to do qiyam, do my extra fasts (well, winter hours helped!), be disciplined in my work, go ‘home’ early, still wear my hijab and at times jilbab, in a ‘Western’ environment where I did hang out with other non-Muslim students. Alhamdulillah!
Of course, the support of the very small Muslim community helped me greatly to maintain my faith. Alhamdulillah! Firstly, my too good to be true Muslim landlady (it was a miracle that we found each other as I held onto my stand that I don’t want to live on campus as I don’t want to be involved in any merrymaking), through her I get to go to the community’s dinner parties, knowing more Muslims.
By the second month, I joined their halaqah at the mosque (thanks to a Canadian sister who’s half Chinese-Singaporean and half Turkish-African) and got to know other Muslims on campus. Although my university didnt have any Muslim association, there was a huge number of Saudis learning English. There were also decent-sized musollahs and a female-only weights training class where the school specified that it would be conducted under Islamic guidelines. I also bought food from a halal grocer (who’s wife is an Indonesian Muslim). Alhamdulillah, Allah made it easy for me.
Alhamdulillah, for almost a year I felt truly blessed to have experienced as a Muslim abroad.
So, please allow me to share some tips on:
HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE WEST FOR THE MUSLIM STUDENT
1) Intention (check it over and over again that you are doing this because of Allah)
2) Read & implement this beautiful advice from Imam Hassan Al-Banna.
3) Start looking for Muslim contacts of the place you are going before you actually get there.
4) Check out for masajid in the area. Go to the masjid. Establish relations.
5) Know your limits. No compromise in matters of faith. It’s okay to hang out with non-Muslims as you do when you are in Singapore. Take the good, leave the bad.
Last but most important (!):
6) Tawakkal ‘ala Allah – (constant du’a for Allah to keep you firm in your faith, and find delight in your worship)
Verily, you may be in a different country but you are still under Allah’s skies.[divider]
Umm Amatullah is slightly Extraverted, moderately iNtuitive, highly Feeling, and somewhat Perceiving… well according to a mother-daughter team called Myers & Briggs.