INCREASINGLY, the premier voice of Muslims in the West is being filled by an unlikely group– sportsmen. It seems I cannot open my social media feed anymore without seeing a post celebrating a Muslim athlete’s success in their chosen field. Whether it’s Khabib Nurmagomedov celebrating a win by performing the prostration of gratitude (sajdat shukr), or Ousmane Dembele using his World Cup earnings to fund a masjid in Mauritania in the name of his mother; my heart swells with pride at the sight of my brothers’ success, both in this life and the life hereafter. But while these stories are frequently held up by liberals as examples of successful multiculturalism, they more often display its failures and contradictions, and the inherent tension present in being a practicing Muslim in the West. Take the example of Mesut Ozil, the Turco-German footballer who made headlines this summer after he quit the German national team, citing continued harassment from the country for which he played, as a result of a photograph between him and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a leader highly respected across the Muslim world for his fearless commitment to the cause of Islam, and his dismantling of the militant secularism that has plagued his land for a near century, and despised by the West for the same reasons. A far less publicized, but no less noteworthy incident occurred in France when player Ngolo Kante’s family was enthusiastically welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron into the Presidential Palace after France’s win at the World Cup, all of whom wore the hijab, a symbol of female hayah mandated by the Quran– and a commandment French Muslims are forbidden from exercising in public. In both situations, the message is clear: Muslims in the West are not there to contribute, they are there to serve, to plug into pre-established roles, in a pre-established society of little connection to their own, and if God wills it, eke out a small, limited existence, and pray their children remain in the faith. If their faith is tolerated, it is only out of a misplaced sense of liberal acceptance, and even then its ‘peculiarities’– from the hijab to the separation of the sexes, are greeted with jeers and legislation.
If Muslims are to survive in the West as Muslims, there are only two possible avenues: Either we begin to develop a methodology of positive contribution to Western culture, or we eschew it completely. The idea of simply abandoning society to “head for the fields” has been pioneering by the Orthodox author Rod Dreher under the term “The Benedict Option”, following the example of St. Benedict of Nursia. But far be it for us to merely copy the disbelievers, the position more importantly enjoys support in the Quranic narrative of the People of the Cave (ashab al-kahf), may Allah (swt) be pleased with them, who forsook their oppressive society completely, trusting solely in Allah (swt) to protect them. The Quran records their plight as such:
“[The youths said to one another], “And when you have withdrawn from them and that which they worship other than Allah, retreat to the cave. Your Lord will spread out for you of His mercy and will prepare for you from your affair facility.”
The Muslim community in the West is not in the position of being able to make a complete withdrawal from society. We have stayed in these lands for so long, raised children who know no other home but the West, that we have formed existences that cannot be unrooted in order to move to fictional pastures that simply do not exist in the compact lands of Western Europe, and are increasingly shrinking in urbanized America. What we instead have is something that rational-minded Western Muslim analyses of our situation tragically too often fail to mention– our faith in Allah (swt).
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’”
The Muslim intellectual may discuss for hours the pitiful condition of the ummah today, drawing from heaps of historical texts, philosophical musings, academic writings, both Eastern and Western, religious and secular; but all of it is for naught if he does not take into account the above verse. We exist for one purpose, and one purpose only: to worship the Almighty. Nothing in this world has even the tiniest speck of meaning besides Him, and it is with this purpose in mind that I shall attempt to lay out a plan for positive Muslim contribution in the West. May Allah (swt) bless all of our efforts in the matter.
What is Positive Contribution?
A positive contribution is a moral, cultural, or ethical benefaction made to the dominant culture by a non-dominant group. The Western liberal’s notion of multiculturalism only focuses on surface, aesthetic differences– different types of food, languages, clothing. The implication is clear: no Muslim could possibly have anything of substance to provide to Western culture, beyond slowly dissolving into the melting-pot. By contrast, positive contribution holds that Muslims have the potential to use our God-given guidance to bring benefit to an ailing civilisation in desperate need of it.
Why should Muslims engage in Positive Contribution?
First and foremost, the primary goal of Muslims living amongst non-Muslims should be to bring their non-Muslim neighbours to Islam. As a community, we must be honest with ourselves about how we are pursuing this goal. Dawah efforts in the West have regrettably taken a far backseat to economic interests, and after that, misguided attempts to influence the Western political sphere. What little dawah is being done is mostly in the form of handing out pamphlets, putting together websites, etc. The average non-Muslim does not care about the meaning of the shahadah, the importance of Khatam an-Nabiyyin, or the difference between Sunni and Shia. He does, on the other hand, stake a great deal of importance on what the proper ethics of drug legalization, male/female relations, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, homosexuality, transsexualism, freedom of speech, and gambling regulations are. By showing the direct applicability of Islam in resolving the ills of modernity, we reassert Islam as a holistic worldview that remains relevant no matter the age. We shall not bring the modern world to Islam, we shall bring Islam to it.
Secondly, an active assertion of our values onto the reigning culture may very well be necessary if we are to merely preserve the faith among our descendents, far from proselytizing others. One of the key reasons Muslims have survived in the West, and in some, limited cases, even flourished, are that the surviving remnants of Christian civilisation and culture in the West have provided, however weak, a commonality between our societies that we can latch on to. Christianity is currently ceding ground at a rapid rate to a new ideology, one birthed out of secularism and a sustained hostility towards religious belief and all established forms of meaning. Our children will be sent to schools where they are brainwashed into accepting perversion, the most excessive and lewd forms of dressing will become prevalent on the streets of our neighbourhoods, and the names of Allah (swt) and his Prophets (sws) will be mocked right in front of us. And if you are naive to believe that this is merely hyperbole, these things are happening now, as we speak. Unless Muslims speak out now, not tomorrow, but now, we risk becoming a cultural fifth column trapped permanently within a civilisation completely alien to our own.
How should Muslims achieve Positive Contribution?
As it currently stands, the majority of non-Muslim Westerners do not know what their Muslim neighbour believes, either religiously or politically. The most prominent figures of Islam in the political realm today are appointed and given disproportionate attention by the media, and have little vision beyond espousing their political party line– no matter how much conflicts with the tenets of Islam. Positive contribution must come directly from the community and be rooted in the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah, not a few astray individuals (may Allah (swt) guide them). We must focus on projects that impact the wider community and have direct correlation to Islamic ideals, such as the establishment of “dry counties”, or the prohibition of same-sex adoption. We will show up to city council meetings, we shall make clear the Islamic position on these matters, and we will display to the youth the superiority of Islam over the monoculture, but we will strike a clear berth between our activism and the Western political sphere and its left-right dichotomy, careful not to pollute our deen.
Our work must be conducted out of our moral obligation to our non-Muslim neighbours and a sincere desire to see them improve their well-being, but this cannot be accomplished by lying to them.
“And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers”
Positive contribution goes hand-in-hand with dawah, you cannot contribute positively to a society without bringing to it the Truth. We will engage with non-Muslims, but we will not ally ourselves politically with them. Instead, we shall peacefully show them the benefits of the Islamic lifestyle and its solutions to the dross of modernity, then we will educate them on the spiritual side of Islam as well.
We must take control of the youth; who for too long have been subjected to forced secularization in the annals of the Western public school system and teach them the essentials of Islam, and how to become proud Muslims, not in the secular sense of religion, as a private quirk that doesn’t impact one’s life, but as an all-encompassing framework that governs every aspect of our lives. Only then can we secure our youth in their deen, for a secularist Muslim is always just one step away from just being a secularist. We must develop our own schools, not merely a handful of classes at a masjid, that will educate students in the Islamic intellectual tradition so they can withstand the secular onslaught of modernity. The next generations of Muslims in the West will be, inshaAllah, visible in the public eye and unapologetic about Who they stand for, and what He commands.
Muslims in the West, with a few unfortunate outliers, have generally succeeded in resisting Western narratives on foreign policy in Muslim lands, from the Iraq War to Zionism. In this case, we have succeeded in carrying on the fight against foreign splintering and subsequent interference in native Muslim lands. Unfortunately, we have taken with it a great deal of troubling baggage, including perceptions and definitions of “imperialism” or “colonialism”, that taken literally, would also condemn much of Islamic history, as well as allying with secular figures that espouse much anti-religious sentiment. The fight against imperialist intrusion into dar al-Islam is, and always will be, an Islamic matter. We must separate from those non-Muslims to form our own organizations lobbying for and promoting the cause of Palestine, Syria, the Rohingya, the Uyghur, and Yemen. We need to cultivate more support in our powerful home nations for governments and rulers that empower and benefit the ummah, such as the AKP in Turkey, and prime minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, and place more pressure on the militantly secular and Islam-restricting regimes of Tunisia, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, as well as raise international support for the cause of the shooykh and other noble believers being oppressed by the gulf Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
No other civilisation in human history has so rapidly destroyed and desecrated it’s own institutions and culture; no other civilisation has so viciously denounced the beliefs and values that brought it to power and survived. Already, all around us we can see the what the consequences of a post-religious society are: radical individualism, social atomization, loss of community-wide trust, totalizing materialism, and an increasing lack of purpose or meaning to people’s lives. We all know the statistics for depression and suicide in the West, but far more troubling are those of the silent masses living amongst us, living rootless existences devoid of meaning. As the dominant culture edges further away from both Islam and sanity, the populace becomes more and more receptive towards the Message by sheer necessity. Within our lifetimes, Islam will dethrone Christianity as the most adhered to faith in much of Western Europe, inshaAllah. Shall we seize this opportunity and take our rightful place as the cultural forebearers of the West? Or shall we lay to waste Allah’s gifts and remain a timid and persecuted minority as the godless postmodernists and crypto-nihilists rein supreme?