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Name: FarzeenUnited Kingdom, teacher
Question: Don't think that it is necessary to maintain one's identity as a Muslim, and that in order to do so unfortunately a certain amount of isolation is required? After all, why risk compromising our values?
Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. I do believe that as Muslims, we should maintain our identity; who we are, what we do and why we do it.
So much of this subject revolves around where we are and who we are with, as undoubtedly there will be some people and places that we will just not go to.
However, taking 'isolation' as a general means of maintaining our identity, I believe, is a big mistake. As human beings seeking to spread goodness wherever we are we must learn to interact positively.
To do this requires that we have a solid relationship with Almighty Allah through our prayer, thikr, Quran and generally trying to fix ourselves. Once this foundation is laid, the outward behavior will adjust naturally and the following step, should be, to be the 'good guy' wherever you are. Maintaining an Islamic identity is not just about insisting on having a place to pray or not eating during the day in Ramadan or not mixing with people whose behavior is questionable. It is about being proactive; getting out there and having a voice and organizing things, interacting, discussing, helping out – it's about action.
If our inner self is developed and strong – as it should be – then everywhere we look we should be seeing Muslims who are involved in environmental issues, family and social issues – the whole spectrum.
You mentioned not compromising our values – I agree – and I add, that our values include reaching out to others, being the voice of the voiceless, and getting involved in life. What is the point of our values if we keep them hidden away? This is especially so in a world that is crying out for insight, wisdom and positive behavior. Islam grooms us to be such.
Name:  AslamUnited Arab Emirates, teacher
Question: Assallam alikum, I work with teenage students who are quite often weak when it comes to peer group pressure. Admittedly, I am often at a loss how to help them be stronger. What do you suggest??
Answer: Assalam alaikum, many thanks for your question.  I don't think it is just the young ones who are weak when it comes to peer group pressure. There is no age barrier on that – as we can all fall prey to this phenomenon. But with the young people as with anyone else, I believe the answer lies within us.
Very often we are told what to do and why we should do it, but how often are we told that we can do it! Succeeding in overcoming negative peer pressure requires that the individual has a strong inner self; be filled with confidence and have inner resources.
Do our young people have such things? How many of us have been taught these life skills? It is never too late to learn and grow.
When we face other people and what they want or expect from us, we are embroiled in a personal dilemma. In such situations our spirit will show. At such a time, we are making choices about whether we will follow what we know and understand to be right or whether we will give in and compromise ourselves. We should never allow ourselves to be pushed into saying or doing things that we are not comfortable with; never! So young people (all of us, I say) should learn how to say 'no' and say it gently but firmly.
It is also necessary to have the ability to walk away from a situation. This applies to many of life's situations. It might be that people want the person to get into a fight, or an argument which is fruitless. It might be that the person is tempted to go to a place where a Muslim shouldn't go – these are all situations that will test our inner resolve and the affects of our decisions will fall upon our souls -  making us feel weaker or stronger.
I suggest that with working with young people that you continually remind them how Almighty Allah loves them and how He created all things with His mercy and compassion. Let them understand that they are under His eternal compassion – Ar Rahman, Ar Raheem, and urge them to develop themselves, to seek wisdom, to do the right things and to be a positive influence on those around them. In this way, they will not feel vulnerable to others, but will instead, feel empowered and be looking for ways to give and reach out.
Name: Deena,  United Kingdom, student
Question: salam alikom, this is my first year at university and there are not many Muslims studying here. I haven't made many friends because i don't mix with the others. i must admit i'm feeling quite lonely. am i doing something wrong by being aloof?
Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. The first year doing anything is difficult, let alone university. I pray that Allah makes it easy for you.
The thing is that you won't really be able to make friends unless you are approachable and friendly. I believe that as Muslims, we should be friendly with everyone. Smile to people, greet them and help them if needed. You needn't feel lonely if you are prepared to engage with people.
At the same time, that doesn't mean you should compromise your values. And that in turn, doesn't mean you should despise others who don't follow you or who are different. If you want to have a good impact on people; help them and reach out to them, you should not be aloof, but engage with others. Learn to be comfortable with who you are and know that no one can change you or make you feel bad unless you allow them to. Also, remember that people do change and wouldn't you like to be part of someone else changing for the better?
If you look around at your university you may find that there are clubs you could join to get involved in volunteer work, or issues concerning the environment and so on. Try to muster your courage and join one of these – interact with the people, try to bring some of your Muslim friends with you and show that Islam is a way of life that benefits those who practice it as well as those who surround them.
Name: Nasreen,  South Africa, accountant
Question: Fortunately in my country there are no problems with regards to religion, and no obstacles to success. What would be the best way to fulfill my highest potential in society and still maintain my identity, without imposing on others and without being imposed upon?
Answer: Assalam alaikum, and  many thanks for your question. You are indeed fortunate to be living in a country as you describe. There are not many places in the world that give people this kind of freedom to practice their religion and have the opportunity to work their way towards success.
To fulfill your highest potential in any sphere of life, you must first look within yourself. Define what you want and understand deeply why you want to do it. Turn to Almighty Allah and pray salatul Istiqara; seeking guidance that this is the correct choice. It is also important to consult with people who love you and know you well as they will advise you on your goals and your best course of action.
Once your goal is clear and you have the tools and resources to follow the path that leads to it, what remains is commitment and determination. This determination is vital because it is what will see you through when you are confronted by people, events, or situations that may seek to steer you away from your course of action. This is the point wherein lies the dilemma of being able to maintain your identity; your goals; who you are – when people don't agree with you. Simply put, just steer your own course and stick to it. All this should be covered with taqwa (consciousness of Almighty Allah), knowing that Allah sees and hears what you do and say. A pure heart will always try to please Allah and draw closer to Him and this can be done by steering the course of our lives in the correct way.
You can never avoid people trying to impose themselves on you because that is human nature and we are prone to err and seek to dominate. But we can control how we react to this. The test is, to resist and refuse but to do so humbly, sedately and gently – without aggression or harshness. This is not easy and may well be as big a test as sticking to following your goal.
At the same time, there should be no compulsion and seeking to force people to do as we wish. We should simply be ourselves, do what we feel is right and give people the space to do the same. If the situation heats up and becomes volatile, we should have the ability to walk away with dignity and as Allah says (what means) in the Quran, to give peace to those who are ignorant.

Question: salamelaikum. Thank you sister for this opportunity.

As you know, things are different in Turkey. I try my best to be a good Muslim, but sometimes you have to pretend not to be religious. I don;t know how this situation will change. What can I do? 

Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. It think it is very sad that a person would be 'forced' to be anything other than what they are. We must be true to ourselves. That may even mean acknowledging that we are wrong but being honest is fundamental to development and growth.
I think Turkey shares many conditions and situations with other countries around the world. All over the world, we, as Muslims, are being challenged regarding who we are and what we stand for. I sincerely believe that hiding or pretending that we are something that we are not, will not get us anywhere.
Before you can be honest and open with others, you must first be so with yourself. Who are you? What are your values? What do you stand for? Who do you rely on? Do you rely on yourself and your cunning and wits, or to you rely on Allah? These are simple questions but they form the basis of who we are and on which foot we will start off on in life.
If you answer the above questions and find that you are a Muslim and have clear values that means you will not (for example); drink alcohol or take drugs, engage in premarital relationships, have anything to do with riba or corruption.. and that you will (for example); stand up for people who are being treated unjustly, be honest, sincere, punctual… Are these values so difficult to live, especially if we truly believe in them and do them for the sake of Allah?
Now, if we know who we are and what we are striving for and we know that Allah will help those who turn to Him sincerely, why should we ever pretend we are not 'religious'? Are we to be swayed by how people think (remembering people change their minds all the time!)? Are we to be changed from the course of our life by people who are themselves lost? Come on! We know who we are as Muslims and the test, the really hard test, is putting that into action among people who think differently. But do it, because you can if you are sincere and trust in Allah.
Be good, then be yourself.
Name: Ahmedu,  Ghana
Question: As salaamu Alaikum

Dear Sister, how do you think is the best way to do good work for my people, my country? I want the people to know it is important for Muslims to make things better for all the people. 

Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. May Allah give you what you have intended for it is a beautiful intention.
It is so important that as Muslims, we seek the good of all people. That doesn't mean that we compromise our values; it means that we care about others and look for opportunities to be, for example, a good neighbor, a good colleague.
It is a human inclination to split people up into groups and then to rejoice in our own. Almighty Allah mentions this in the Quran, but if we look at the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) we find that he cared about everyone and forgave and was ready to give people a helping hand. He (peace and blessings be upon him) even inquired about his neighbor who used to mistreat him badly.
We should also remember that Almighty Allah sent the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to be a mercy to all the worlds. So now, as Muslims, we have to think.
There are those who advocate harshness and disdaining others, but if we are truly following the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) we will know that he said (the meaning of which is) harshness makes anything it touches ugly, while gentleness beautifies all it touches.
Often when people think about how they will treat others, what they have in mind is how to make change and what will happen if we do such and such. The thing is that Almighty Allah will guide the outcome of events and it is our job to do the right things and to fix our own selves.
The Muslim must be the first one to take pity on the needy and oppressed. The Muslim should be the first one to race to do good and help others. The Muslim should be the first one to have compassion and mercy, keeping in mind that Allah is Ar Rahman, Ar Raheem.
Name: Irfan, India
Question: Why must we have all this problems with identity. I mean, if we all work toward a common good and have freedom to practise our religion and respect each other, then things can be so much better for societies that way. I would like your opinion.
Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. You are describing a perfect world! Just imagine what the world would be like if everyone worked toward the common good with freedom to practice our religion and respect each other….. may Allah let us see such a state of affairs!
However, this is rarely seen in the world, even though it does happen from time to time and in places here and there. The problem is that human beings have this problem with ego (nafs); and unless we can control it, indeed, it will control us. If the ego dominates, the person will feel haughty, selfish, superior, and seek to dominate others.
I firmly believe, that it is our duty as Muslims to work toward the common good with all the insight, knowledge and resources we have. The basis of this, is of course, our faith and trust in Almighty Allah and seeking to be close to Him and earn His pleasure. We must also understand what it is that pleases Him. And we will not be able to do any of this if we lock ourselves away as if we are living in isolation. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said (the meaning of which is) that the Muslim should put up with the harm of the community.
Dealing with people will inevitably result in challenges and problems but part of working toward the common good and establishing Islamic principles is being part of positive change, respecting each other and allowing each other the space to agree to disagree. Almighty Allah tells us in the Quran (what means) 'unto you your religion and unto me, my religion.
Just because people disagree with us and even confront us about our being different from them, doesn't mean we have to buckle under the pressure. We should go out into the world expecting some people to be hostile, some people to ridicule, some people to disagree and some people not to care. But that shouldn't frighten us and push us back into isolation. We have our Islam to strengthen us inwardly so we can handle all this pressure and still be ourselves and do all this with calmness, dignity, compassion and wisdom – just like the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did.
Name: DinaUnited States, student
Question:  As salamu alaykum, Dear sister

Before asking How..I would like to ask ..what

What do you mean by Identity...

Islamic identity
national identity
cultural identity
football team identity
job identity

What is the real identity that is worth fighting for?

Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. We are talking about our Islamic identity because that is the essence of who we are. On top of that, we also have a cultural identity, a national identity, even a football identity, but they are secondary. We have to use wisdom in order to ascertain what is worth sacrificing in order to uphold.
We know that people who stand up for their football team usually end up in brawls! We also know that people who stand up for their national identity often end up committing atrocities! At the same time, many people who stand up for their cultural identity often tend to impose their cultural take of things onto others. The results, if not guided by Islamic principles and ethics, are too often negative.
Islam is a way of life – it is the beliefs we cherish; our trust in Allah and seeking to please Him.  It is the code of ethics we follow that should color our lives with beauty and grace. It is the balance that steadies the other aspects of our lives, like our job, culture and so on. Our hearts should be able to tell us (if they are on the right way) that we are being aggressive, or harsh or extreme and recall us back to the middle way which is the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Ummah. Doing this, is a struggle – a continual struggle within our own selves.
When we speak about 'fighting' for our identity, what do we mean? Does it mean actual hand to hand conflict? Our identity exists in our own selves and then manifests itself in our words and actions. The dilemma comes when people oppose or confront us, telling us to not be who we are. Now resisting that is a human value, and people all over the world will agree that this is something we should not give in to.
We simply refuse to change our values and ethics and we take what comes, trusting in Allah. Not an easy thing to do.
Name: Kamaal,  India
Question: SALAAM, I am one of the head of Muslim student in Lugansk state medical university in UKRAINE. So this November we will host a fresher's conference for the newcomers for their introduction to the Ukraine and to live as a Muslim. I saw your article ‘Maybe it is for the best’  about life, that was inspiring too. So could please give me some advice for this conference so that the Muslim will live in the right way in the worldly society of the Ukraine
Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. I pray that Allah grants you and your organization success in your goals. What a great project you have!
Muslims everywhere have simple beliefs and values. The foundation of our life is our belief in Almighty Allah, seeking the means to draw closer to Him, saying and doing the things that bring about His pleasure and thus, our own growth. We also love the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and take him as our role model.
If we do this, our character will be so good, so noble, and so compassionate that people will love and trust us as they did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Remember how the enemies of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) left their valuables with him because they knew he was honest, even though they were in a state of war!
The best thing we can teach and remind each other is to love Allah, to develop our character and behavior on the model of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and to seek to be people who make a positive difference to this world. To be people who stand up for what is right  - without harshness or aggression – and who defend the rights of the oppressed.
Check up about any volunteer organizations in the Ukraine or humanitarian services and encourage the Muslims to take part and be a part of anything that works towards goodness. As Muslims we should also have our own charitable organizations so we can reach out to others and put our beliefs and values into practice. This is also another way of following the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
When things get tough as we try to live according to Islamic principles and ethics, as they inevitably do, it is important that we do not go to either one of the following extremes: Some people might just give up thinking it is just too difficult while others might be tempted to take on a more exclusive and violent stance. These extremes come about because of pressure. The test is to be able to withstand the strain and keep the flow of wisdom, compassion and forthrightness. No easy task.
I pray that your organization will manage to – with Allah's help – instill such values into the Muslims in the Ukraine. Doing so, will indeed make it shine!
Name: Anonymous
Question: I think it’s simple, there are lots of goods in the place where Muslims live in EU and evils. It’s simple to take what is in the limits of permission by Quran and Sunnah and leave aside what is forbidden. In this way you keep your Identity and you also add locally and globally to the betterment of humanity. Please comment.
Jazakumullaho khairun 

Answer: Assalam alaikum, and many thanks for your question. I agree that wherever we are, we should take the good and leave what is bad. But I'd like to go one step further and say, that we should make good happen wherever we are!
I believe that it is a problem worldwide, that we, as Muslims, are seen as 'takers', not 'givers' as we should be. There is no place we can go in the world and be free of evil, corruption or something that must be resisted and refused. The challenge is to be strong within ourselves and maintain our Islamic identity and our closeness to Almighty Allah, while interacting with the people around us and being part of positive change. Wherever we are, whether it is the EU or anywhere else, we should know the people there, understand their issues, and join in whatever good causes there are. If we don't have a voice, we shouldn't complain that we aren't heard.
Should we remain content with having maintained our identity? Or should we move to the next step and actually give back to the world? What is the purpose of having an Islamic identity if we remain isolated and apathetic? Surely, Almighty Allah gave us all the resources we have (Quran and Sunnah) so we can do and be good wherever we are. And we will not be able to do this unless we learn how to interact and engage with people, be compassionate toward them and have an inclusive view about Islam and how it should be practiced.
Name: Zara,  United Kingdom, student
Question: Hi
When I was at college and school I succumbed to peer pressure but was never happy. This led me to withdraw from others and now a few years later I really regret it as I have hardly any friends and I have messed up my education though I am trying to currently fix that but I could have gone to a better university and I am 22 and in my first year. I could have graduated by now. This makes me really sad to the point where I regret I didn’t do more bad things! At least I wouldn’t be lonely and I never had male friends and all my other female friends and sisters do. I feel like a social outcast freak and I really crave having male friends now. However, I have started to become more religious and so I know I shouldn’t have male friends but I still feel torn between the two and my friends all go out and do haram things and again I know how bad it sounds but a part of me wishes to join in. I feel like I have wasted my youth being torn between the two. If I had done well at school at least I would have had something and I would have looked back and thought being good was worth it but now when I look back I think I may as well have done bad things. It’s not as if I did well at school, at least I would have done something.
The situation now is I am too shy and hurt from past interactions to be proactive. I am not making friends and I am too shy to join the Muslim association at university. I also feel I am too old. I think about the past and what could have been every single day. I don’t know how to stop :'(

Answer: Assalam alikum, and many thanks for sending in your question. I'm very sorry to hear about the problems you have had and are still having. I drive my friends crazy sometimes, as they call me the 'eternal optimist'! I always believe there is an answer and a way out of everything. So here goes…
First of all, we all do things wrong. Everyone does. No one has the right to feel self righteous and judge others. So making mistakes is just a part of being a human being. The thing about Islam is, that it shows us how to reach out of our own sinfulness and turn it all around into something good. Because Almighty Allah promises those who repent sincerely, to turn their bad deeds into good ones. Now that is worth working toward!
Second, looking back at the past is a waste of time. It eats us up and deprives us of the pleasure and wisdom of the moment at hand. So stop living in the past. Let it go! You can't get it back and you can't change it – so let it go. Look at your present and try to look at it with different eyes. (we'll come to that in a second, insha Allah)
Third, don't limit yourself. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can or can't do things and because the human mind is so powerful, we may actually believe what we are thinking. So don't tell yourself you're too shy to join in your MSA at university – tell yourself that insha Allah, you will be able to do this and much more.
Whenever we feel we are in a dilemma, the first thing to do is turn to Almighty Allah because He alone is the source of help and guidance. Pray two rakats and repent to Him for what you have done wrong in the past and ask Him to guide you to the thoughts, words and behavior that will steer you in a good direction. Remember Him always and keep Quran near you, make Thikr often and don't miss your prayers. Allah loves you and He is ready to turn to you if you make the effort to turn to Him. Hang out with people who will make you feel better about yourself.
There is a word of warning here – if we are negative, we often get back negativity from those around us. But the opposite is also true. If we are positive and hopeful, the people around us will respond differently. Try it and see. I'm sure it will work, insha Allah.
What we tell ourselves is very important. To be more positive, it is vital that you start with being positive with yourself. Satan only whispers to us and gives us bad ideas but we have the power, insha Allah, to withstand those whispers and dictate to our minds what we will think. So make a conscious decision to be positive and hopeful, while making the necessary changes in your life.
I pray that you will draw close to Allah because in remembering Him the hearts really do find rest. I pray that you will stop looking back with regret but start looking forward with hope. And for goodness sakes, twenty-two years old is not old!!!! You have a life in front of you and many wonderful things insha Allah, but your tomorrow depends on how you think and what you do today. All the best.

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