A Conflict of Cultures: Being Muslim in the 21st Century

Conflict of Cultures

WE all recognize that humanity lives crowded together in an increasingly small world of many cultures.  It is no longer possible for a Muslim to isolate himself completely from the influences of alien civilizations or from the impact of corrupt environments no matter where he happens to live.  


Western culture, in particular, has become attractive to many third world inhabitants due to its aura of freedom, opportunity and prosperity, and, it must be conceded, is the dominant influence in the modern world today.  The material success of that civilization, often at the expense of others, has given its people an air of superiority.  It has become a culture that worships material progress and will not tolerate any challenge to that ideology.

At the same time, an overall decline of knowledge and taqwā among Muslims has lowered the ordinary person's resistance to temptations of all kinds.  History bears witness to the fact that when Muslims feared and obeyed Allah, they ruled the world; but when the world ruled their hearts in place of Allah, they were overcome both militarily and psychologically.

Early efforts by the West to defeat Islam were based openly on religious motives, so they became Crusaders and sent missionaries.  Later on, as it was no longer wise to admit to a religious motive, offensives into the Muslim world were carried out in the name of economics and awakening third world inhabitants to modern advancements.  Their efforts shifted to the promotion of secular education with the aim of luring Muslim youth away from their religion and alienating them from the Arabic language that had linked them to it.

Western governments encouraged nationalism, regionalism, local cultural traditions and whatever loyalties could take the place of Islam in peoples' hearts, as well as the religious innovations that keep Muslims away from correct practices and social reforms.  They supported various movements advocating the concept that no faith has a monopoly on truth and that all religions are equally acceptable to God.  Secularism and globalization became the vogue worldwide.

Today however, religion is once again the issue as Islam is badly misrepresented not only by its enemies, but by some of its adherents as well.  Many Muslims, long deprived of justice under the present world order, tend to see western culture as evil and immoral.  A few are committing large scale criminal acts, erroneously assuming that the prolonged suffering of their peoples has earned them the right to take matters into their own hands.  In so doing they are not only alienating public opinion but violating the most basic principles of their own religion.

All this has led to an increasingly biased and aggressive media portrayal that targets the religion rather than its errant followers.  Today we see an observable revival of the ideological assault which was initially designed to eliminate the influence of Islam among Muslims and weaken their resistance to secular currents. With the categorization of practicing Muslims as fundamentalist extremists and promotion of sensational misinformation, Islam's opponents have additionally perfected the art of provocation, aware that there is no shortage of Muslims whose frustration and anger will lead them to forget religious ethics and react impulsively.  All that remains after that is for the media to capitalize on the regrettable errors committed.

To many in the West, Islam has become particularly distasteful and is considered more of a cult than a religion.  It is seen as something foreign, eastern, non-white, Arab, third world, adhered to by "enemies"... and is overly concerned with a life other than the life of this world.  Moreover, Muslims asserting themselves to improve their lot are viewed as an open annoyance – opposing western domination and critical of its culture. They do not accept the state of Israel.  They give contracts to non-western competitors.  And at the same time, they are invading western countries, seeking asylum, jobs and opportunities and then retaining their own ways rather than integrating into the sacred western mold.  And above all, there is "terrorism"...

Concerned Muslims have been belatedly compelled toward serious effort to correct the widespread negative impressions and to share their noble beliefs and ideals with the world, something they should have been doing all along in view of the fact that Islam is a global message for all mankind.  

The solution to ignorance and misunderstanding is education.  But merely explaining the five pillars to non-Muslims is insufficient; a structure based on those pillars will remain incomplete without its numerous bricks of wisdom, justice and mercy.  Muslims must first educate themselves – individually, as families, communities and citizens of the world, with serious study aimed at salvaging and rebuilding our ummah – correction, amendment and reform.  At the same time we must be educating others about the truth of Islam.

Every normal individual in every land wants to experience his humanity, to live in dignity and feel that there is a reason for his existence and a purpose to his life – that he is more than just another animal who exists by chance and is left to chance.  Subconsciously, he longs for an important objective for which to utilize his intelligence and exert his abilities, to feel that he is valuable and appreciated.

The Prophet's companions and their followers experienced all of this.  They worked and sacrificed to bring the truth of Islam to all peoples, even undertaking long and dangerous journeys to do so.  Early Muslims were unique examples of morality and ethics, and their societies utilized human potential to the maximum, simply as a reflection of their understanding of Islam.  And it was during that period, while the average Muslim was an outstanding role model, that Islam spread to include many new peoples in every part of the known world.  This example, based on a sound understanding of the religion, is needed today more than ever before.   

Abuse and attacks against Muslims cannot be countered except within the limits of Islam.  Peaceful demonstrations and boycotts may be in order, but should we not as well be quietly producing scientists, technologists, inventors, doctors and engineers who, for love of their religion, do not emigrate to wealthy western countries but prefer to remain back to serve Islam and Muslims?  Should not our affluent brothers invest in their own regions - even at low returns - to create employment for those would otherwise stream to the West?  Should not our industries produce inexpensive but good quality goods to reduce poverty at home and enrich the world at large?  Should not Muslim leadership set up institutions where free Islamic courses are offered to non-Muslim students?  Should not every individual Muslim become a vibrant example of Islam within his own field and according to his own capacity and ability?

"And say, 'Work,  for Allah will see your deeds, and [so will] His Messenger and the believers.'"    (Qur'an, 9:105)

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Hijrah: Why Muslim Countries Should Welcome Immigrants

Why Muslim Countries Should Welcome Immigrants

THREEhundred million Muslims – one-fifth of the Ummah's population – live as minorities today. The challenges they face in an increasingly hostile world are largely incomprehensible to those living in Muslim majority countries. To be clear, each country differs in its politics, and it would be incorrect to assume that hostility exists in every country.

Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the developing world events and the pressure they are exerting on Muslim minorities. The French ban on burqa and the American aversion to anything 'Muslim' are strong indicators of that.

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How To Be A Strong Muslim In Today's World

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THE Prophet said: “There will come a time of patience when the one who adheres steadfastly to his religion will be like one who holds a burning coal.[Al-Tirmidhi, no. 2260, authenticated by Al-Albani]

Strange, strange times we are passing through. In one part of the world, a man may grow up in a land where he has never heard of anything except Islam; while in another place, a woman may struggle and face isolation while trying to adhere to this ‘strange’ religion. The former may spend his life praying, fasting and giving charity, while the other may even die in persecution. Most of us will lie in shades of gray between these two black and white realities.

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Editorial: On Muslim Ink's Sixth Issue

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ALHAMDULILLAHWe are seeing our sixth issue being published today. It has been a journey of ups and downs but Allah has helped us go forward. We believe the slow pace at which we may seem to be progressing is beneficial as Allah is helping us build a strong foundation In sha Allah – may He guide us and accept it from us.

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The Good Life


MOST of us wake up in the morning and sleep at night with some worldly concern weighing on our minds – our careers and education, our businesses and jobs, our spouses, parents and children. We spend every waking hour in pursuit of ‘the good life’, seeking happiness in external things just to escape the emptiness within.

For Muslims, the paradigm for what constitutes the good life is very different. Aًllah says:

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Being Anti-Social With Social Media


A focused gaze, all attention captured, honed in on you – that would have been the scene if you were to have had a conversation with the Prophet Muhammad . One of the reasons he was loved so much was because he made you feel like you were the most special person to him, all eyes and ears if you had something to say, no matter what he was doing.

Fast forward to today and the scene changes drastically. Capturing and retaining the attention of this generation has become something of a task. With increasing speeds, whether it be fingers moving across the keyboard, the number of notifications piling up, or internet speeds, we have become an impatient nation, desperate to check that new ping; do away with the blinking light.

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How To Cope With Setbacks: The Uhud Action Plan


LIFE is a complex saga of happiness, sorrow, success, failure, likes and dislikes and struggles. The ones who stand up for the truth are those who are victorious. Adhering to the truth does not merely mean there is victory at every step. There are setbacks even for the followers of truth and justice. That is why defeat and success are part and parcel of our life. They exist is everyone’s life but the difference lies in our response to these situations.

Islam guides us in all states. It teaches us the appropriate approach and response to setbacks and oppression.

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Be Proud, You are a Muslim!


“Verily, we were a disgraceful people and Allah honored us with Islam, so if we seek honor from other than Islam, then Allah will humiliate us.”
– Umar ibn Al-Khattab رضي الله عنه

THE statement reads as if Umar رضي الله عنه was addressing us, the Muslims of 21st century. How saddening it is today that many Muslims when in a global environment lose confidence while 'admitting' their faith, let alone expressing it?! How terrible that a people who have Islam feel inferior to those they should be guiding!

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Saudi is Not that Bad, Believe Me!

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HAVING being in Saudi for over three years now, I have met my fair share of Western expats who have willingly come to work in the Kingdom, but have not fully and gracefully accepted their decision. They often complain, engage in the popular sport of culture bashing, and mock whatever they don’t understand or agree with.

When I worked in Riyadh for example, one of my American colleagues wasn’t just full of opinions about how the country should be run, but she was also a textbook definition of a whiner. If her coffee wasn’t hot enough, her taxi driver was late or the alarm clock didn’t go off that morning, Saudi and Saudis were to blame. It was so bad that I had to often block her complaints and distasteful remarks with my headphones while she ranted to other colleagues.

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Young Muslim Entrepreneur: What She Did the Day She Skipped School

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

MY youngest sister Hanan (aged 9) was staying over with me and didn't want to go to school (because she was crying the previous night missing our mom who was travelling). In the early afternoon she got bored and wanted to do something else after spending the morning sketching and doodling. I randomly recalled a Dennis the Menace cartoon where Dennis and Margaret sold lemonade in their neighborhood and said to her:

"Why don't you make a lemonade stall and sell lemonade?"

Now that was totally off the top of my head because:

  1. I was completely out of ideas to entertain her after almost a week of doing everything else possible AND
  2. NOBODY, ESPECIALLY not girls, sets up lemonade stalls on ANY corner of ANY neighborhood in Saudi Arabia. ESPECIALLY not in front of a mosque.


Within 3 hours, we brainstormed, set up, launched and sold out our lemonade business!

Hanan and Ahmed (my 6 year old brother-in-law) learnt some incredible lessons that school would take years to teach them.

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