Being A Muslim in A Non-Muslim Country: A Short Guideby Assia Boukrouh (The Mizaan)
Growing up in a Western country, I have encountered many Muslims struggling to keep up with their faith, feeling like they will be left out if they openly practise or simply fearful of being associated with the unfortunate misconceptions people have about our beautiful religion. This peer pressure that led some to hide part of their identity often comes with an understandable yet questionable statement: “It would have been easier if I was living in a Muslim country.” But would it really?
1. No Space for Denial
In theory, being in a place where you can hear the adhan and pray on time, where you can feel the spirit of Ramadan when it approaches, or where no one stares at you because you’re wearing hijab would make the laws of Allah easier to follow indeed… But aren’t we forgetting how globally connected our world has become and how temptation is everywhere? Sure, all the above serves as great reminders of His commands, but isn’t it naive to think that all it takes to be a good Muslim is to be in a Muslim country? And isn’t it deceptive to believe the opposite; that if you’re living in a non-Muslim country, it somehow makes disobeying the Almighty acceptable?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand how it feels. I grew up in France, mostly surrounded by non-Muslims, and although I’ve always been close to my faith alhamdulillah, I remember often telling myself: “Oh how simple life would be if I lived in a Muslim country.” But that only lasted until I met people from countries like Saudi Arabia, Morocco or Indonesia who sadly didn’t feel any sort of connection to Islam. In fact, they saw it as a burden, just like some Muslims in western countries, and were surprised about how I practised Islam. Some of them would even ask questions like, “Why do you even bother with religion? You’re lucky enough to live in a country where you’re not forced to do anything, where people won’t judge you if you smoke, drink, have sex or wear short skirts… So why?“.
That’s when it hit me: this had nothing to do with your environment and everything to do with your heart.
2. Overcoming Your Own Biases
Now you should be reflecting upon the biases you’ve let yourself be blinded by, that which has undeniably affected your faith, but also feel a sense of relief because being a Muslim in a non-Muslim country doesn’t set you up for failure in obeying Allah whatsoever! However, this can only happen if there is a genuine desire to build a strong relationship with Him and to educate yourself on what Islam is truly about.
More often than not, people tend to limit our deen to its practice, whether it be the five pillars or things that are explicitly forbidden in the Holy Quran but commonly enjoyed in modern times, such as drinking alcohol, pre-marital relationships, etc. But there’s something really sad and wrong about limiting Islam this way.
The pillars are the foundation of our faith and what makes us Muslim. Truth be told, there’s no way we can get around associating things to the Almighty or not praying. But in order to fully reconcile with these practices and not see them as a cultural tradition or a chore that doesn’t fit in the western way of life, you need to fully comprehend their meaning. Do you know why the first word of the Quran that come down to our dear Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was “Iqra!” (Read!)? Because connecting to Islam can only happen if you start searching, reading, and learning.
The more you educate yourself, the more you’ll start craving knowledge and realize something key: Allah didn’t make these laws to hinder enjoyment in our lives but to allow us to reach true contentment of the heart. Religiously speaking, these are signs of you strengthening your imaan (your faith) and slowly reaching al-Ihsan (spiritual excellency).
Finding yourself with a rejuvenated love for Him and understanding the ‘whys’ will make you proud of your values and not shy away from sharing them with non-Muslims. Some of them might even admire how steadfast you remain in your faith and start searching more about Islam!
3. How to Practise Peacefully
Living in a Non-Muslim country does mean that the majority of places to eat are not halal; some of your friends might invite you to events where alcohol is served; most girls do not dress modestly… You know how it goes, and therefore know that as much as we are wholeheartedly attached to our deen, it can still be challenging and even draining to be in situations where Allah does not bless with His Barakah.
However, you don’t have to compromise on what makes you Muslim. Objectively, you do not have to eat meat when you’re out; you have alternatives, especially with the recent rise of vegetarianism and veganism. You also don’t have to drink alcohol to fit in as people are more and more aware of the terrible effect it has on health. You also could make a conscious effort to put yourself in a Muslim friendly environment by joining a local charity or going to the mosque and avoid places where fitna is celebrated. Ultimately, Islam isn’t complicated — we’re the ones making it complicated for ourselves by worrying more about people’s judgement rather than His.
But here’s the thing: Even when you feel like you’re not doing enough or wish you could do better, He sees it. Find comfort in the fact your efforts will never go unnoticed as He knows how hard it can be to control your nafs, to resist listening to shaytan. He knows what kind of hardship He is putting you through and He has certainly hid blessings in it. Remember He is Ar-Rahman, the Most Merciful, so every time you can’t seem to forgive yourself, He does. Isn’t that the greatest source of peace?
Assia Boukrouh is a 27-year-old content creator based in Paris, France and you might know her from The Mizaan over on Instagram, a page she considers to be a safe space for Muslim women to explore their faith, embrace the Islamic lifestyle and to learn to be more mindful and sustainable everyday.
For more spiritually uplifting content, check out this 4-part video series on Being a Mindful Muslim where we collaborated with Assia on tips to become a mindful Muslim in different aspects of our lives such as relationships, wealth, health, and faith.