Friday, May 16, 2014

What the West Has to Offer the Muslim Migrant

Today many Muslims are beset with a host of anxieties. Those in the Islamic world are eager to migrate to the West mainly for economic and security reasons and those practicing Muslims in the West who have realized the danger to the faith they face there are eager to go to the Muslim lands. No one seems to be satisfied where they are. It is important to realize that no place on this earth is perfect – in fact this earth is not a place to take as our permanent abode. It was not created to be such a place. The wise policy for Muslims to adopt is to have high altruistic goals for the aakhirah while taking maximum advantage of the opportunities they get from wherever there are currently at. If they move, they should change their script to what best advantages the new land has to offer and strive for those set of objectives, so that they constantly build their characters, personalities, skills, values, perspective and experience set from what is not available in just one place. So what commendable opportunities does the West offer Muslims?

It is no secret that the leadership of the world is currently with Western nations. It is their espousal and practice of praiseworthy values that has caused Allah (SWT) to give them that status. Thus an average Muslim has a lot to learn from his stay in the West. These good aspects are part of our deen and thus it is incumbent upon us to adopt them. Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (SWAS) said, “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it then he has a right to it.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi). These values include honesty, love of life-long learning, truthfulness, fair dealing, protecting the rights of people, justice, work ethic, frankness, humility, rule of law, tolerance for diversity/opinion, innovation, value for time, taking advantage of opportunities, etc. These are the values that have given these countries the status that they have today.  Care must be taken to distinguish the love and respect of these values and the blind imitation and adoption of mainstream Western lifestyle – many aspects of which can be criticized. Unfortunately most Muslims have inferiority complexes, are enchanted with the latter and end up adopting crass habits while forgoing the commendable wealth of values that the West offers them. In the process they end up losing all the essential good aspects that their own civilization has provided them.

The type of education, professional training and experience opportunities that the West offers may be better than that offered anywhere else. Having said that, it is important to emphasize that one should not use the education and opportunities for the material race as so many people end up doing. It is often the pressure of paying off the riba-based mortgages for their properties, that propels Muslim migrants to strive for only the dunya.  Rather, the emphasis should be on providing a service to one’s profession, to the Muslim community and to the society at large. If one commits to this, the dunya will come to the believer and will be sufficient for him rather than someone chasing the ever elusive goal of having enough wealth.

Hakeem ibn Hizam narrated: "I asked the Prophet (SWAS) (for some money) and he gave to me; then I again asked him and he gave to me; then again I asked him and he gave to me. Then he said: This wealth is (like) green and sweet (fruit). Allah will bless it for the one who takes it without greed; but Allah will not bless it for the one who takes it with greed; he will be like the one who eats but is never satisfied. And the upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (taking) hand." (Bukhari).

Also being overwhelmed by succeeding at one’s career at the expense of other essential responsibilities is very dangerous for one’s balance in life and faith, specially in the West.

The other aspects of service to the community and society are critically important. This service should be non-monetary as a Muslim is not just a money making machine who contributes to good causes – although that is commendable too. Everyone has unique skills and abilities that they need to develop to provide a service to society. Perhaps someone is a good orator, writer, organizer, leader, teacher, reformer, strategist, etc. The rough skills that they have need to be polished and perfected by community service. Islamic volunteerism is not as promoted in the Islamic world, where there are many restrictions due to many reasons, unlike in the West. One of the foremost aims of Muslims in the West should be to use their abilities and skills to build Islamic institutions there and to spread the message of Islam. Their reason d’etre should be this. If it is not, something is seriously wrong with them that needs to be corrected. By doing so Muslims would learn to work with each other and appreciate the diversity of the Ummah that exists in the West – something not always possible in Islamic countries. The resulting expansion of perspective, development of skills, abilities and character that these activities entail, will help the Muslim progress in their professions as well.

By providing services to the society at large, Muslims will be learning the context of their existence in the West. They will learn about Western civilization, its history, its development, social problems there and their solutions from Islamic perspective. Muslims cannot live in isolation. They must understand, care and solve the problems of the larger community from the treasures of wisdom that their religion provides. The migrant will understand the complexities of the larger society he is part of first hand. Not understanding it is a major reason for their anxieties which causes them to overly focus selfishly on their own struggle for survival.

Another set of advantages that life in the West provides has to do with the education of the next generation. Most Muslims migrating for this reason want their children to be professionals in the medical sciences, engineering and technology as most high paying jobs are in these fields. This had been the easy formula for success in their countries where economic survival and achieving high social status was the main issue. Migrant parents should realize that they and their children are in a different environment. The times they will live and the challenges they will face will be different from their own. The average Westerner does not really care about your social status as much as an average Pakistani does. Their main challenge in the West will not be economic survival, in sha Allah; it will be the preservation of their faith and their children’s faith. The wise course of actions is for parents to make their children preservers of the deen in the West by encouraging them into Islamic social sciences. They will understand the West as well as their deen and will provide unique solutions to the problems of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Due to many reasons, Islamic education is not as fashionable in the Islamic world as professional education. The resources and opportunities in these fields are not catered to as they should. Also many institutions lack a global vision for change and are functioning in a mediocre manner. This is not true in the West, where preserving and establishing the deen is priority number one for the Muslim community. Thus the opportunity for balanced world class Islamic education in the West is there. For further specialization students can travel to the Islamic world, where many scholarships are on offer for Muslims from Muslim minority countries. To think that you and your children will one day return to the Islamic world is deluding yourselves. Whether you like it or not, your kids are Westerners and they will normally not like moving to the East

Most Muslim migrants adopt a variation of two main approaches – either they are fascinated by the West and swallow all the good and bad it has to offer them and end up losing the faith or they cling on to their home culture and goals blindly unaware of the new challenges and opportunities that their existence in the West provides. Both approaches are wrong. The wise Muslim family will accept what Allah (SWT) has decreed for it and take advantage of all the opportunities their situation presents to work for Allah (SWT)’s divine plan. By doing so they are promised success in this world and the next.