Muslims in the West Between Assimilation and Isolation

Muslims in the West Between Assimilation and Isolation
by Amr Khaled

In this lecture I would like to talk about the status of Muslims in the West. Let's first analyze these Muslims. Most Muslims in the West fall under one of these 2 main extreme categories:

A. Isolation:

Religious Muslims who decided to live in total isolation from the Western society. Why? They say the Western society is full of wrong doers and are away from God, so let's seclude ourselves and our children from them. Some of those Muslims can go as far as hating this society, or wishing it would go through some kind of disaster, or feeling happy if this western society is actually going through any kind of tragedy. Some people go to an even further extreme by deviating from paying their taxes or transportation tickets with the justification of 'why pay money to a society of disbelievers.' Their mentality is: 'I'm rejecting this Western society but I'm forced to live in it since the Islamic societies are underdeveloped and have no employment.' To summarize this category we find these Muslims have either (1) isolated themselves completely, or (2) they mingle in the society a little bit but do not care about it all together.

B. Assimilation:

The other kind of Muslims go to the other extreme; they are totally fascinated by everything in the Western society. They say everything the West says and does, is the absolute correctness, while anything the Islamic societies do, is the absolute wrong. They imitate the West in every aspect of their lives. Then you find their children completely westernized, in the way they talk, think, walk, dress, etc. So we find this kind has completely assimilated in the society, not necessarily because they agree with everything the West does, but they integrated themselves in the Western materialistic life. When you look at their relationship with God, you find it very weak because they are very busy with their businesses and the materialistic life style. They stay like this until they die. Another kind may go further by obeying all their personal desires and life temptations through sexuality outside marriage and other prohibitions. To summarize this category we find these Muslims dissolved in the Western society in three ways; either (1) intellectually, or (2) materialistically, or (3) through temptations.

Why are the Two Categories Wrong?

The majority of the Muslims fall under one of the above 2 extreme categories; however there are few who fall under a third moderate category. This third group does not like the other 2 groups and sees them as completely wrong and inappropriate. Today's lecture will be about this third moderate group and how we can all become like them. Before we go into the third group, let's first analyze why the other 2 groups are wrong.

C. Analyzing the Isolated Muslims

I will start by addressing the isolated group and ask them: do you think that is what the Muslim religion asked us to do? Is isolation the right solution for Islam? Were Muslims asked to isolate themselves or integrate positively in other societies without dissolving into them? This is what I want to discuss extensively; how to be integrated positively without dissolving. In fact I will show you examples from Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) life, about how Islam asked Muslims to integrate and assimilate positively into non-Islamic societies without dissolving into them or forgetting about one's roots. First, what is the meaning of positive integration? It means helping in the development and building of a non-Islamic society without dissolving into it and forgetting that you are a Muslim.

Examples from Islam

1. Integrated Believer vs. Isolated Believer

There is a Prophetic saying with the following meaning; Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: "the believer who is integrated into a community that torments him and is patient, is better than a believer that is not integrated and is not being tormented."

What does that mean? It means the believer who deals with non-believing people will be tormented in many aspects of his life, either financial or psychological distress through what he sees or hears which is contradictory to his beliefs, but he should be patient, stick to his beliefs, and keep on dealing with these people. Why is this believer better than the other isolated believer who is not being tormented? Because the patience and loyalty of the first believer is being tested and he succeeded in the test, however the second one is neither being tested nor productive.

2. The Prophet in Makkah

Another example; look at the treatment of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his few followers to the disbelievers while in Makkah, at the beginning of the Islamic revelation. Many people now might think that since the city of Makkah refused to believe in the prophet hood of Mohammad then he must have had an angry face every time he meets one of them. But how could that be, since the whole city became Muslims afterwards? Then how was the prophet dealing with them? He was very kind, generous, fair, and honest with all of them even if they tormented him. He wanted to win their trust through actions. All of his few Muslim followers treated the non-believers in exactly the same generous, honest way.

3. The Arab Stranger and his Money

Another story; there was a man called Abu Jahl who lived in Makkah, who was a disbeliever. He was the one who tormented Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) the most. One day an Arab stranger, who is a disbeliever as well, came to Makkah claiming that he loaned Abu Jahl a sum of money, however he never got his money back. This Arab stranger saw a group of men in Makkah, who were all disbelievers as well, and narrated his story to them. The group of men wanted to laugh and mock the stranger, so they told him: "do you see this man praying over there in front of the Ka'bah, his name is Mohammad, he will get your money back for you from Abu Jahl." So the stranger believed them and went to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), while the group of men stood to watch and laugh. As the stranger narrated to the prophet his story, the prophet saw the group of men laughing behind the stranger's back, so he understood that the whole thing was a mockery.

Let's stop here for a moment and think, what will I do if I were in Prophet Mohammad's place. I will probably have done one of two things:

Say, it's none of my business, I don't care what happens to all of them, after all, the Arab stranger is a disbeliever, so is Abu Jahl, so are the group of men. I will just go back to my prayers. Or…

Ask the Arab stranger to become a Muslim first, then I would help him.

Isn't that the way that many Muslims nowadays think, unfortunately? They either help Muslims like them, or isolate themselves from any duty and say I don't care.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) however did not do any of that. Helping others should be because they are human beings in distress, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or beliefs. The Prophet told the Arab stranger come with me to the house of Abu Jahl and I'll get you your money back. When Abu Jahl opened the door, the prophet asked him: "did you take money from this man?" Abu Jahl nodded, then the prophet demanded firmly that he returns the money. So Abu Jahl went inside got the money and returned it to the man. The man thanked prophet Mohammad then left. The group of men who were standing away and waiting to laugh were in complete shock. They went to Abu Jahl and asked him why he obeyed Mohammad so quickly. Abu Jahl told them that as Mohammad was speaking he saw a huge camel behind him with his mouth wide open and that he felt the camel was going to eat him if he did not return the money. The group of men was even more shocked and told him there was no camel, we did not see anything.

Let's stop here again to contemplate. Why didn't Prophet Mohammad talk to the stranger about Islam after he helped him? Why did God send the miracle of the camel to scare Abu Jahl, however God did not send any miracles to scare him nor the disbelievers while tormenting the Prophet and his followers?

The answer is; helping others should be for the sake of wanting to help another human being, not because you want something in return or you want to force this human being into your religion. As for the miracle, God wanted to send a message that who ever decides to help another human being, then God will assist him in one way or another, however God did not block the torture of the disbelievers from the Muslims, so that later Muslim generations would appreciate their religion and know that the prophet and his followers worked very hard to keep God's last message.

4. The Muslim Fire-fighter

I just came from a trip to Austria where I met a young Syrian Muslim man about the age of 26. This Muslim was very successful in his career. Suddenly he decided to quit his job and become a fire fighter to help in his town. Unfortunately, people in the West have a very bad image about Islam. The fire-fighting department mocked him and laughed saying: "by the way we do not put out the fire of Muslim houses only." The Muslim man told them that he understands and still wants to join, so they let him join. In about six months, this man became a hero in the eyes of everyone in the town and changed their incorrect perception about Islam.

I do not blame the fire-fighting department for their comment to the young man. The actions of many Muslims made the West think that; Muslims come to our countries to consume our good life, freedom, our jobs and their children take the citizenship of our country with all its benefits, however they do not want to give anything in return or assist in the development of their communities. Some even might help to destroy it, or do not care all together. Let me ask you a few questions; does any Muslim know his non-Muslim neighbors and ask about them and their needs or are you living in isolation praying inside your homes? Do you know the language of the country you are living in well, or is that not important for the immigrants? How do you think you can earn the respect of the Western societies if you do not integrate positively into its development?

Muslims are now going through very tough times. We are very weak, underdeveloped, surrounded by many stereotypes, and the Western media is not giving us a chance to explain ourselves and that Islam is a religion of peace. The only hope for Muslims in Islamic countries is for those Muslims in the West to change such perceptions. That will only happen if every Muslim comes out of their isolation, integrate positively in the society, but without assimilating completely and forgetting their roots. The Muslim religion calls for such positive integration. I want every Muslim to become a mobile media mechanism showing how a proper Muslim should be successful in their career, help in community services, getting to know as many people, treating them all with generosity and helping in the development of the country they are in. If we give a thousand lectures about Islam, but Muslims are living a bad example, no one will believe us.

5. Muslims in Habasha

Habasha, which is currently Ethiopia, was back then a haven during the prophet's time, like the West is now to the Muslims. At the beginning of the Islamic revelation, the very few people who believed in Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) were being tortured in Makkah, unemployed and had no rights or freedom at all, which unfortunately is the case now in many Muslim countries. So Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) suggested to his followers that who ever could afford to travel all the way to Habasha is welcome to do so. The king of Habasha was treating his people very fairly regardless of their religion, and it was a very democratic country, like the West is now. So about forty Muslims traveled to Habasha. They stayed there for around ten years, and then returned to Madina, when the Muslims established their own state. How many Muslims returned? Remember forty traveled to Habasha, however one thousand Muslims traveled back to Madina.

What happened during those ten years then to make so many Habashis convert to Islam? The forty Muslims were very productive; they cultivated the land, taught the Habashis new crafts, the Muslims were very hospitable with them, invited them to their homes, got to know everyone and were friendly with all of them. So the Habashis liked those new comers who benefited their society a lot and integrated positively into it. However the Muslims did not dissolve into the new culture but stuck to their own beliefs. This made the Habashis curious and wanted to learn more about this new religion.

Do Muslims in the West now do the same? There had been immigrants to the West for the past 25 years or more; did they make such a huge impact in the Western society? Did they integrate positively in the West, or were they either isolated or completely assimilated into the new culture? What productivity did the Muslim community do, for the West to look at them with a proud eye? Why don't a group of Muslims get together and do some charity work for everyone in need, not just for Muslims? Islam taught us to care for humanity not just people who follow our religion. Why don't you do a project to help the disabled or physically challenged people in the society? Why don't Muslim women get together and make a shelter for all homeless people and children in the streets or for the orphans?

6. Prophet Noah (PBUH) and the Disbelievers

In the Holy Qur'an in chapter 11 called Hud; there is a small verse that we all read in passing, however it is very crucial and serves the meaning I'm trying to relay. Prophet Noah (PBUH) was trying very hard with the disbelievers to make them believe in God, however very few people followed the prophet. The disbelievers said to Prophet Noah (PBUH) and his followers, in verse 27 {…nor do we see in you superiority over us…} meaning what positive impact did you have on us or on our society to get affected by you and follow you?

This is a message to the Muslims now; what positive impact did you create in your western societies for them to change their perception about Islam and not view you as terrorists? When Western people change their perception, that will affect positively on their political decision makers, which will in turn affect positively on the Muslim nation. You, Muslims in the West, are our only hope for this change. Please become a positive role model and integrate positively in the society.

7. Prophet Yusuf (PBUH)

Prophet Yusuf (PBUH) was imprisoned for nine years for an accusation, which he never committed in the first place. The accusation was trying to rape the minister's wife. There was no trial, not only that, but they knew he was innocent, yet he was still imprisoned. After nine years in the prison, the king of Egypt needed him to interpret a dream. The king of Egypt was an atheist, so were the Egyptians at that time. Let's stop here for a moment to think. If you were in Yusuf's place, what would you have done? Remember he was dealing with an atheist society, who treated him unfairly, which was about to go through a severe famine disaster and no body knew about this except Yusuf (PBUH). So there was a great opportunity for revenge here and no body could have blamed him.

If you were in his place, you would do one of three actions:

You would ask to get out of prison before telling them the interpretation. You might even say the interpretation afterwards but not suggest a solution.

You would ask to get out of prison then you would tell them a wrong interpretation so as to take revenge.

You would refuse to get out of prison and refuse to say the interpretation.

Yusuf (PBUH) did not do any of that. While still in prison, he interpreted the dream, then suggested a solution of an economic reform in order to pass the famine disaster that was going to spread not only in Egypt, but the whole Middle East. It was more important for Yusuf to achieve reformation than to get out of jail. This is the real Muslim. A real Muslim wants the good to spread to all human beings, and I repeat all human beings, not all Muslims only.

Most of the achievements that Muslims in the West have done were by building a mosque or helping within their Muslim community. Why should the West respect Muslims then? Let me put Yusuf's story in a contemporary setting; if we say for example a plague has spread in Europe, and nobody has the medicine except a Muslim doctor. What would that doctor do? Would he be happy that a disaster has come to the West and say they deserve it after what they have done to us in Iraq and Palestine? Or would he help the Muslim patients only? Or would he imitate Yusuf (PBUH) by spreading the solution to everyone?

Let's look at the story of Yusuf from another angel. After he helped the Egyptians, did they start believing in God? We do not know. It is not mentioned in the Qur'an. Why is that? God wanted to give Muslims an important lesson until the Day of Judgment, and that is Muslims should always help and be productive with everyone regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Furthermore, Muslims should help for the sake of spreading the benefit to everyone without expecting a return or expecting them to convert to Islam.

8. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and Quraish

Quraish, the disbelieving tribe from Makkah, who were torturing the prophet and his followers, had decided to create some sort of a charity group dedicated to helping the wrongfully accused people of Makkah. Of course the prophet and his followers were excluded from this service. However Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said if they had invited him to join in, he would have joined immediately.

Why would the prophet want to join a charity created by disbelievers who tortured him? And even if he had joined, he would be asked to defend the wrongfully accused disbelievers (who will go to hell anyway on the Day of Judgment)? This is another lesson from Islam and the prophet to spread the good to all human beings. Unfortunately, nowadays, we might find Muslim lawyers saying they will defend Muslims only. Or if such a charity group was created by non-Muslims and a Muslim was asked to join, he would demand to hold a leading position and his name be recognized.

Concluding Message for the Isolated Muslims

Put for yourselves a goal to break this isolation and become productive in the Western society. Do not make it your goal to convert everyone to Islam. Everyone should have the freedom of choice of what religion to follow. Every Muslim should keep in mind that they are an ambassador of their religion through their actions. Your main goal should be for the West to respect Islam through these actions but not necessarily convert into it. Always keep in your mind this message: "I will integrate positively into this Western society without dissolving into it".

B. Analyzing the Assimilated Muslims

This is the group that is completely fascinated by the West and everything they do. They assimilated completely into the Western culture forgetting their Islamic beliefs and ideologies. Their life cycle has become so materialistic like the West. They wake up in the morning, go to work until 6 pm. Come back feeling very exhausted, have dinner, sit for a while with his wife and kids, then go to sleep. Then wake up in the morning to repeat the same cycle. They have been like that maybe for the past 10 years and will stay like that until they die. I would like to ask them; when was the last time you recited the Qur'an and your eyes watered from its deep meanings? When was the last time you prayed and felt your closeness to God? When was the last time you talked to God and felt warmth in such a relationship?

Working to support one's family and bringing food to the table fulfills one's physical requirements. How about your soul's requirements? The West are very tired and confused because they do not understand this part and did not make this balance. We, Muslims, have this balance in our religion. We should use it right. So when a human works only, the soul will be hungry, and vice versa.

Adam' Creation

What were the angels created out of? Light.

What was the devil and jin created out of? Fire.

What was Adam created out of? Mud and soul.

So if we observe; most of the intelligent creations were out of a single item, except human beings were created from 2 items.

The mud forms the outer part called the body; however the soul is inside the body attached to it everywhere.

The mud comes from the earth, however the soul comes from up above in the heavens.

When a human being dies, his body goes back to the earth; however the soul goes back up above to God.

The body always desires things from earth like food, water, entertainment and relationship between man and woman; however the soul always desires for spiritual fulfillment that will make it closer to God like prayers, reciting the Holy Qur'an, Pilgrimage, etc.

Feed Your Soul

My message to the assimilated Muslims is; wake up from the materialistic life style, your souls are screaming from its hunger. You were created from 2 items. Stop feeding one item and forgetting about the other. You might remember to feed your soul once a year during the Holy month of Ramadan, then the rest of the year, you go back to just feeding your body. The West does not understand this part and this balance. They think food for the soul is only through music, singing and the relationship between a man and a woman. This will not even feed the soul by 10%. The soul needs God for a full 100% satisfaction.

You know when you keep on feeding your body by entertainment, going to restaurants, traveling, etc, while forgetting about your soul, the soul then becomes very old in age, while you could be very young in your twenties. So when you listen to a Qur'an recital, it will not affect you. The recital will try to go through your ears, but will find it full of music and movies. The recital will try to go through your head but will find it full of life problems. The soul has aged and does not accept any spirituality. If you do not eat for a week, the body might die. The soul will die as well from lack of spirituality; however its death takes a longer time to occur because it came from God, not the earth, like the body.

So What Do I Want You To Do?

You have worked all day and exhausted yourselves until 6pm. When you go home pray. Recite the Qur'an for only 20 minutes a day. You have been working for 8 hours; can't you give your soul 20 minutes? When you go home, you watch television with your wife and children, which is okay, you need to rest, however instead of watching television for 2 hours, make it an hour and a half, and dedicate the last half an hour before you sleep to reciting the Qur'an as a family. This will fill the house with angels and kick out any devils. You plan your travels every summer for entertainment; why not plan one travel for pilgrimage in Makkah. You need to balance your body and soul food.

Warning from the Qur'an to Body Feeders Only

There is a whole chapter in the Qur'an warning those people who live for their bodies and ignore their souls. The warning in this chapter was very severe, more than anything else. It is chapter 102 called Al-Takathur or Multiplying. The opening verse describes how these people have only concentrated on multiplying their earthly wealth, like money, children, clothes, cars, etc. The second verse describes they will be like this until they go to the grave. The grave was mentioned here because these people only lived for their bodies, and the body was created from the earth, so the grave is where it will end up. Then the next six verses are the severe warning for those people. Here are the verses:

The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you,
Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die).
Nay! You shall come to know!
Again, Nay! You shall come to know!
Nay! If you knew with a sure knowledge (the end result of piling up, you would not have occupied yourselves in worldly things)
Verily, You shall see the blazing Fire (Hell)!
And again, you shall see it with certainty of sight!
Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delight (you indulged in, in this world)!

Fajr (Dawn) Prayer

How many of you pray Al-Fajr on time? Or did the materialistic life style take you away? Let me give you a materialistic example. If you were told every day at your doorstep between dawn and sunrise there will be 1,000 Euro. Will you wake up to collect them? Are you going to set your alarm and ensure with your wife to wake you up to collect the money? What if you and your wife missed the alarm, and woke after sunrise, how will you feel? Will you be very upset that you missed the money? You might even go to the door to check if the money is still there? How about the Fajr prayer and thanking God who gave you many blessings like the money you own now and the health you need to work to get this money? Do you know that God says who ever prays Al-Fajr on time will be under God's protection for this whole day. How could you refuse such a protection but wake up for 1,000 Euro?

Night Prayer

Night Prayer is God's favorite prayer after the compulsory 5 prayers a day. It could be prayed any time between the Isha and the Fajr prayer. I have a suggestion, why don't you wake up before the Fajr prayer by half an hour to do the night prayer while reciting from the Qur'an a quarter of a part or a couple of pages. Of course you cannot hold the Qur'an while doing the 5 compulsory prayers, but you can do that in other prayers. Or you can do the night prayer before you go to sleep. That way you would have made the balance between feeding your body and soul by prayers and Qur'an recital.

Du'aa, Prayers to God

Two examples came to my mind that I would like to share with you. I know an 18 year old young man who once told me that his favorite time of the day is in the morning when going to his college. Why? He told me while in the car he talks to God in the colloquial language and that gives him great satisfaction. You do not need to learn certain prayers in order to talk to God. Talk in any language and in any way you feel comfortable.

Another example is when I was playing a football match with a group of boys. One boy scored a goal and everyone on his team was extremely excited and laughing. In the middle of all this excitement the young boy said: "please God as you made me laugh on earth, make me laugh in heaven". I was very shocked by his comment. The earthly excitement did not make him forget God nor the ultimate excitement in the heaven.

One of God's attributes is The Forgiver. Ask for God's forgiveness, but be honest, and always continue with your prayer and conversation with God in any way or form that makes you comfortable.


Muslims in the West between assimilation and isolation. Come out of your isolation to benefit and service the West. Teach the West the story of Yusuf (PBUH) through actions not words. The West are tired of hearing endless Muslim talks and lectures. The perception in the West is that Muslims are all talk, even their books and the Qur'an is only theoretical, because when you look at their application, it is the total opposite. Think of ideas and projects to benefit the Western societies, in order for them to respect our religion. Do not let them say: Muslims came to take our blessings, and then isolate themselves then curse the West. Islam entered the West 3 times; twice militarily to Spain and to Austria. In these 2 times there were borders because of the military force, and the westerners on the other side did not want to know anything about Islam. The third time it entered in the twentieth century through the immigrants. These immigrants entered the society peacefully and became citizens, so they are more accepted than the military force; so try to change their perception about Islam. My second advice is, stop being too materialistic. It's about time to go back to God and make a balance between the body and soul needs.