Tariq Ramadan in his book “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam” talks about:
…taking into account the social, cultural and political realities Muslims are facing, three questions are fundamental and urgently demand precise answers if we are to build a future for ourselves in the West: Where are we? Who are we? and In what way do we want to belong?”
Traditionally; ever since I was little, I have heard that the world is divided into dar al Harb ( abode of war) and dar al Islam (abode of Islam). Where the abode of Islam are Muslim countries. However in today’s reality as stated above, the conditions for a country to be an abode of Islam is fulfilled by not a single country on earth. The conditions are:
1. A place where the Islamic legal system is applied (not in part but in its entirety) a legal opinion held by Ibn Taymiyya.
2. Where practising Muslims are in a state of safety, that they have nothing to fear by practising their religion.
This means that a place where these two conditions are not met is not an abode of Islam. Considering ground realities, we cannot in today’s environment stick to these binary definition and compartmentalization. We are living in an age of increasing complexity and diversity and this would relegate us to essentially living in an intellectual ghetto. So where are we? Very simple, we are Muslims who live in a country that is our home and there should be no question of falling into an abyss of dogma that has no foundation in ground reality. We are home and must shape our home to accept our practice of religion. We must start involving ourselves in our society by contributing positively.
Who are we? On the surface this seems to be a complicated question, but when broken down to it’s essence, it is deceptively simple – we are Muslims (faith and spiritually – controlling/balancing consumerism and materialism), learning and education is important to us, and adhering to any and all contracts we have entered into. This means oath of citizenship, visa regulations, civil laws etc… People argue that there are some clauses and conditions that are contrary to Islamic practice like participating in activities involving interest. The catch here is that Muslims are not forced to participate in activities that involve interest, they can choose to stay away, and not violate the oath/treaty. If you recall the Treaty of Hubaybiya, it seemed harsh to the Muslims, but they still abided by it.
Now, finally in what way do we belong? We are at home, we must participate and contribute. We must engage in dialogue and not sulk from the sidelines. We must own our choice of living in the West and accept that our children, though they might relate to the culture of their parents’ country of origin, are Western Muslims – striving to carve a new identity that requires re interpreting concepts and attitudes that have driven and governed Muslims so far.
Our driving force should be justice.
“If for example Muslims in the West are called upon to participate in a war that is unjust and based solely on the desire for power of control (of territory, interests, other people), they should not…take part…they should under the ‘conscience clause’ plead ‘conscientious objection’…many people have pleaded this conscientious objection throughout history…”
During the Vietnam War, people went to jail rather than obey the mandatory draft. Thus choosing to live in the West requires Muslims to “…make a genuine effort to find appropriate solutions…”