Living Halal in the West
It is perfectly possible for an individual to live an entirely Halal way of life in the Western world. All that is needed is a little bit of effort and commitment towards Allah and His religion.
“You live in the West? How can your children even know the meaning of Islam?” A common misconception which often lingers amongst those who live in Islamic countries is about the incapability of people to practice Islam in the Western world. In fact, it is not only Muslims “back home” who believe such claims, but in fact many Muslims who have migrated to the West for a “better life” for their future generations are often found thinking along the same lines. So the question is: would we really be better off as Muslims in a Muslim country?
Before we delve deeper into this topic, it is important to note that Muslim nations in comparison to those in the West might be better for the upbringing of Islamic followers and vice versa. However, it all depends on our own way of thinking, and it is not as simple as to say, “our kids would have been religious had we lived in our own country.” One of the very obvious reasons behind such conclusions is that children and future generations being raised in the West for better opportunities at the sacrifice of the parents have in fact not turned out to be so great after all. As a result of families feeling as though they have miserably failed, they tend to have a negative outlook upon society in the West and find it much easier to blame the environment for the lack of connection which their children have with Islam, rather than admitting that to some extent, it was partially their way of upbringing and the home environment of the children which has resulted in irreligious future generations.
Many people who are brought up in a Muslim society tend to think they are surrounded by religion all the time, and hence, all the conduct and activities within those societies are in fact “Islamic”, when this may not necessarily be the case. In these same Muslim nations, it may be that people tend to overlook the importance of learning the Islamic laws which relate to them and as a result fail to distinguish between their Faith and tradition. A stir between faith and culture is what those residing in Western nations usually do not have to face, or at least to not such a severe degree.
According to Islamic teachings, it is compulsory for us to know those laws and issues which directly affect our daily lives. Often times, people will say that the West is not at all capable of influencing people and particularly the youth towards a firmer religious conscience. From personal experience and analysis, however, life in the West has allowed for a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the deeper Islamic principles for many people, something often take for granted in Muslim countries. Because while we are surrounded by what seems to be Haram everywhere we look, it is the presence of such things which often allows us to positively reinforce the teachings of Islam in our daily lives.
In the majority of Muslim societies, the reality is that not many of our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters are exposed to as such concise Islamic environments as we would expect, or for some of us, which we are privileged to have while living in non-Muslim countries. Surely, living in an Islamic state has countless benefits, such as the Adhan being recited five times a day, Halal food available everywhere, and mosques around every corner. But since when has the measure of who can more easily practice Islam ever equal the measure of who can practice Islam?
With the growing number of Halal fast food restaurants, prayer rooms, MSAs and Islamic centers, we must admit, that the West is catering to the needs of Muslims better than ever before. Despite the abundance of opportunities to indulge in acts which are discouraged and against Islam, we are in fact able to do much more good deeds than we think in the West.
In fact, another plus side of living in a Western country for us Shias is to be able to fearlessly and openly practice our faith. We have great Shia scholars flying in and out of the country preaching as they will, and more importantly, we can easily commemorate the tragedy of Karbala. We can take part in Muhurram processions and hold the flag of Hadhrat Abbas (peace be upon him) high, without any fear of political repercussions. It’s the freedom of religious practice in the West which has allowed us to thrive here as Shias today.
As an increasing number of Muslims are being raised in the West and are likewise gaining complementary education and life skills, many of us and our future generations will most likely continue to remain in the West. So rather than going down the guilt path when it comes to Islamic education and our children, we should be taking a proactive role in educating and raising our children according to Islamic beliefs and practices, even if residing in an environment which doesn’t exactly have Halal written all over it. Indeed, it is perfectly possible for an individual to live an entirely Halal way of life in the Western world. All that is needed is a little bit of effort and commitment towards Allah and His religion.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) delivered the message of Islam to a society in which the circumstances were much worse than those of today. Rather than complaining that we are living in the West, are surrounded by Haram things, and that practicing Islam has become so extremely difficult, it would actually be wiser for us to continue and strive in the attempt to practice perfect Islam and, as a result, increase our Islamic understanding in an era which has promised the deterioration of our religion, irrespective of where it is practiced. With good intentions, we must look for Islam, and we will find it, even in the West.