Keeping Muslim Identity in a Non-Muslim Environment
Living in a country where the majority of the population is not Muslim raises a series of questions and concerns: to what extent can the outside world corrupt our Muslim identity? How can we adhere to it while confronted with other beliefs and practices? Need we even try?
Islam is a ‘pliable’ religion. It can ensure that the constraints placed on Allah’s believers do not make the load unbearable. It can ‘make concessions’ so long as the central rules are observed and the central commandments are kept in a way that a clear distinction can be drawn between the core things and the superficial things concerning Muslim identity.
One reservation must be made, though. Strictly speaking, there are no such things as ‘superficial’ when it comes to faith. Yes, indeed, in ideal circumstances they all matter. However, when it comes to a less friendly environment, there are things that can directly corrupt your faith as a believer in Allah and those that can be pardoned with due dua.
The cardinal and most important things are those that form the pillars of the faith. The list includes the ABC of any Muslim: observe your namaz, go to the mosque on Friday, fast in the month of Ramadan, perform the Hajj if you have means to, do your zakat, honour your parents and abstain from major sins. Remember, these things do not have to be flaunted in front of the outside world. They can be observed quietly. Yet these are the things that form a Muslim’s identity. This is the ideal formula of being in agreement with a hostile world outside: observe the cardinal rules quietly and give thanks to Allah for supporting you in this.
Allah’s support is indeed needed for there is always danger of succumbing to the ways of the outside world and compromising the prescriptions of your faith, thus losing the Muslim identity which is your firm pillar bolstering your life. Let not the glitter and confetti fool you. They are make-believe, they are only good for a brief moment but when the time comes they will not hold out against the criteria of the hereafter.
As for the rest of the worldly matters, they fit in perfectly well once the cardinal things are being taken care of. They can give you enjoyment and fulfilment, they can make your life shine in brighter colours and leave you satisfied with not missing out on what the culture you live in has to offer. There will be no harm in them. They will not corrupt or compromise your Muslim identity.
The things which form part of the Muslim identity but which can be adjusted provided the core of your faith is kept intact include wearing European clothes, taking in Western culture, going to the pictures, watching movies and theatre performances, attending public events and parties with non-Muslim friends. All this is perfectly fine but remember, in this busy schedule, time must be allocated for the Muslim duties which cannot be ignored. This is the path of keeping the Muslim identity, your reward in the hereafter.