Monday, 26 May 2014

How To: A Muslim Living Abroad

Salam and hi everyone :)

*** Always start the conversation with a smile, honey.

For the past nine months I spent studying abroad, I've received quite a number of questions asking about "how to practice Islam when staying abroad". That's the general question, although it was rephrased differently by different people. To those who asked me on Facebook, honestly, I never actually answered that question very well because it's complicated. There are just so many things I have in mind that I don't even know where to begin with. So, I decided to spare some times today to write about this and I hope those who are going to further their studies abroad sooner or later can benefit from this, insyaAllah. Before we begin, let me just say something real quick. I usually talk craps before getting to the main points, so you just have to bare with me for however long this post is going to take. And sometimes my writing can be a bit emotional and controversial, so I hope you take whatever's good from this blogpost and leave the negativity behind.

***Hey, calm down! I haven't even started ;)

I don't think proverbs and idioms work in all circumstances. However, the saying "when there's a will, there's a way" works pretty well under this situation. What I mean by that is that if you really want it to work, you will find a way to do it right. Which can also be translated as if you want to practice Islam, you will do it willingly. Am I making myself clear here? Basically, no one can force you to do what you do not want (Except God, of course, but that is another thing to discuss). People can scold, yell, punish or humiliate you to do what they want, but at the end of the day it is a choice that you make that determine the outcome of it. Therefore, if your heart is determined to practice the faith that you have lived with for years, you will do whatever it takes to continue doing it.

The issue here, in my humble opinion, is that many people take being away from their family as a ticket to the so-called 'freedom'. A reason? For all these years, they didn't practice the religion because they wanted to, because they understand what the religion is all about. But it is simply because they were scared of their parents or you know, the community. 
"What would Mr. A say if I didn't do this", "What would Mrs. B say if I did this" bla bla
So, being thousand miles away with the slight chance of bumping into someone they knew is the greatest freedom they ever get.

My suggestion is that you renew your intention of why you are actually going overseas. I know that you are probably bored of listening to the very same advice since you were in high school, but trust me that this is really the kick-start to everything. Well, if you come here with your mind all set to do bad things (By that, I was referring to do sinful things in Islam), then you've got a problem, man.

Secondly, hmm. Some people told me that they are so scared (and worried) that they get influenced to do bad things because apparently, Americans can easily manipulate people to do... things.
I have to apologize but I have a big frown on my forehead every time I received this question. Seriously man? Are you really that easy to be influenced? I am not being cocky here, nor am I that saint but the problem again goes back to you. You need to take some times off, go sit and really think about this. As a person, you must have some principles that you hold on to. And you can't just let someone walk over your life and destroy it. Love yourself... because ain't no one got time to love you completely. Here is the thing, you have been taught (and hopefully you've learnt too) about Islam since Standard 1 (or probably kindergarten) until you graduated high school. My brain might be a bit rusty now that I am on my semester break but I can do simple math. 17-7= 10 years. Are you really going to forget everything that you have learnt about your religion for over ten years, while studying abroad for the span of only four years? If it is, then you need to fix your heart..

Thirdly, unless you live in a very, very rural area, you should have Muslim community nearby your campus. Even if it is small. Even if there is not enough men to perform Jumu'ah prayer. Go and find them. Get to know them because eventually you might need their help some day. Let's imagine if you die in a car accident while you are here? Family members are thousands miles away to wash and clean your body for the very last time... You have to depend on these people over here. On a side note, I think I have told my parents about this, but if I die while I am still here in the States, I would not mind being buried here... There is no need to go through troubles to send my body back to Malaysia. Why? Because it's the prayer, it's the al-Fatihah and it's the Yaasin that goes to my name that matters... Having a grave with no prayers made on your name, that's truly what I am more afraid of.

Okay. Next. Attend any events/ activities that the Muslim community nearby organizes. Muslims in the States usually have this weekly gathering every Friday, after maghrib prayer. This is the perfect time because it is Friday and everyone shall be done with all their works or classes. I don't go to mosque every day... mostly because I have classes till evening. Not to mention that it takes seven minutes to walk from my campus to the mosque; and it's not safe for a girl to walk alone. But I often tell myself that I need to attend the Friday gathering, because it's important to me. You see, I live in a dorm and my roommate is not a Muslim. So the only way I can be reminded of this lovely religion is by going to the mosque... Well, it's the same reason why Buddhists go to temples and why Christians go to churches.

You should also be friends with the other Muslim students in your campus. Yeah, most of them are Arabs :) I have some really good friends here. Those who remind me to always pray, those who share the same struggles of finding halal meat to eat and.... those who wear headscarf too ;) The problem with some Malaysians living abroad is that they always have this thought of "all Malaysians need to stick together to ensure that we stay as a religious Muslim". Please note that I am not saying all Malaysian Muslims are like this, but some of them are...

Sorry, but I beg to differ. Islam is not just about some Muslim Malaysians hanging out together (where majority of the Muslims are Malays). It's about whoever that shares the same belief in this religion and want to practice it - regardless of the race or nationality. And before someone says that I am one little ungrateful Malaysian whatsoever, I am not. I agree that we need to maintain a good relationship with the Malaysians, because they are our family here. But please don't just stick with Malaysians because you are afraid that you will get culture shock etc. Be open-minded, people. FYI, I didn't make that one up, it is really happening in reality...

Last advice?
Do anything that brings you closer to Islam. Subscribe to Islamic pages on FB and inspiring speakers so that you will constantly be reminded of Islam - which is every time you check your FB newsfeed, obviously! And there are also online Islamic talks on Youtube that are really helpful. Read books too.

Again, I will say this, everything is up to you... When you graduate, there are three choices that you can take back with you to Malaysia:
Choice A: Graduate and become a better Muslim, a better person.
Choice B: Graduate and become a worse Muslim than you were before you went abroad.
Choice C: Graduate and become the same Muslim like you were before, with no progress whatsoever.

Think.

P/s: Cannot wait to experience the fasting month here! ***Welcoming Ramadan***

Miza