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A Traveler’s Guide

18 years of living in a Muslim country had me taking the Islamic way of life for granted and when I moved to a predominantly non-Muslim country for higher studies, my happy-go-lucky life took quite a 360° jerk.

The new-found freedom away from family, the excitement of delving into a new culture, the modified version of Hijab, the new “friends” who taught me the happy rules of free-mixing (it must mean they love me, right?), the slow realization of the unleashed dangers, the quest for halal food, the struggle to even pray, the never-ending search for righteous companions, the different sects with their hundred different beliefs, the renewed will to create my own moderately safe path despite the constant exposure to the path towards zina, eventually blurring my own fences until I loathed myself…until it drowned me.
For the first few years, I was sure I would get out of there only with a Muslim name and nothing else.

But by His infinite grace, here I am (bloated with life lessons, no doubt). And with a little guide to prep you for the trials you will most definitely face in a new place away from your parents.

 

  1. Create Your Identity

There’s nothing worse than going to a new place and drowning in self-doubt or people’s opinions on who you should be or how you should live your life.
Prior to the migration, ask yourself questions, know your likes/dislikes, follow your fitrah, grill yourself on what you approve and what you don’t (this should essentially revolve around the halal/haram already prescribed within our religion). But there will also be instances such as:
▪ To avoid snoozing in class the next morning, you set upon yourself a curfew while socializing. But a roommate is insisting on “loosening up” just for the night. Would you give in to her?
▪ People are mocking you for your modest hijab. And you’re wondering if you should just tweak it a tad bit or show your neck. Some glam won’t hurt, would it?
▪ You do not visit eateries that serve alcohol even if you yourself aren’t ordering it. But your seniors insist you to accompany them to a bar and you are in no mood to get ragged. Better play safe in this new place right?
▪ You’re invited to a New Year’s party. Yeah you don’t celebrate but hey, free food!

These are minute situations wherein you choose to succumb to the easy route of your dilemma. And yet you slip away (one oblivious step at a time) from being The You to someone you can’t even recognize.
If you hold certain values and principles dear to yourself, then be very aware of them and stand your ground. Create your identity so the new environment doesn’t mold you to its liking.

“And say, “Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do.” [At-Tawbah:105]

 

  1. Stick to Salah

This is SO SO crucial, I cannot stress enough.
When you’re in a place where:
▪ you can’t listen to the adhaan or follow the adhaan apps
▪ you don’t have anyone praying consistently around you or have family/friends that push you to pray
▪ praying 5 times a day is seen as something strange
▪ there are barely any mosques, let alone for women
▪ you dislike going out because music everywhere + shopkeepers won’t let you do a quick sujood at the back of their stores
▪ college staff don’t let you out for Jumuah prayer etc.,
it’s easy for this pillar to crumble. VERY EASY because it starts seeming like a burden.
But this is also when you realize you’re alone in this journey and how all the more important it becomes for you to stick to your salah. And when you are constantly purifying yourself for the next prayer, ain’t nobody got time to slip into wrongdoing by His Mercy.

“Verily, Salah prevents from lewdness and evils. And indeed, the remembrance of Allah (by you) is greatest. And Allah knows what you do.” [Al-`Ankabut:45]

 

  1. Righteous Company

It is better to be alone than in bad company. And better to be in good company than be alone. Needless to say, a man walks in his friend’s footsteps. And you don’t realise the effect of this until you’re on your own, making your own decision, choosing your own path of life. This calls for a definition of a “friend”:

“You shall help one another to virtuousness, and to fear God. But you shall not help one another in sin and aggression.” [Al-Ma’idah:2]

When you set standards, you create boundaries. Invite only that you need. Filter, pray, filter, pray, filter until Allah surrounds you with the best of the lot. This in NO WAY means you grow intolerant towards others. Consider this an opportunity to teach people about Islam with your excellent manners.

(Side note: there are people with a Muslim name and as much as you wish, they cannot fulfill your checklist of a righteous companion. There are also people of other Faith that are God-fearing, sincere in their worship and actually help you follow your own religion better. Choose wisely)

 

  1. Keep Yourself Busy

“An idle mind is a devil’s workshop.”

By keeping yourself busy, you’ll be able to safeguard your faith to an extent. It leaves you with barely any time to go astray or even entertain the whispers of the Shayateen.
You can:
▪ chart out a daily routine making sure you give yourself some free (although limited) time for rejuvenation
▪ use your weekends for voluntary social work, organize charities, pray in a new mosque, conduct Iftar get-togethers, look for new Muslims in the block and make them feel welcome, nurture your creative energy etc.

The transition to a non-Muslim country is undeniably a life-changing process (and daunting too) but with Allah’s Help and Mercy, use it to your advantage. Also please PLEASE acknowledge the enormity of your struggle, don’t berate yourself for a slip, be kind to your being and get back on the ride.

Meet new people, absorb new wisdom, interact with new cultures, learn new languages, dive into new cuisines…but while you allow it to be a rich, transforming experience, make sure to hold onto your roots and you will do great InshaAllah.

 

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Rasha Abdul Razack

About

Rasha Abd' ar-Razack, a third-culture kid by birth, dental surgeon by profession and a reacher by choice. Rasha has studied Qur'an and Arabic at the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY, KSA). Rasha wants to make her fellow beings fall a tad bit more in love with Islam and leave a legacy of productivity for her readers. Rasha has been a part of organizations like Young Muslimah Project, You're Precious Campaign (Riyadh) and Sisterhood of A-Deen (Bangalore).


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