Thoughts of a Migrant
The following is a text written by an Iranian national, Syed Amir Bassam, who migrated away from his own country and lived in both Australia and New Zealand before migrating back to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Is the West the paradise that we are truly seeking?
This is a piece that is written by someone who has lived 21 years in the west, in two countries – Australia and New Zealand, and 21 years living in Iran, and so what ever is written here comes from real life personal experiences.
I won’t keep you waiting and will give you the conclusion from the outset. If you are looking for this world only (Dunya) there is nothing to wait for, you should go to the West now. If you are after your Faith and looking for what is best for your hereafter, then definitely be patient and stay in Iran.
That is not to say that in the West there is no religion, nor does it mean that in Iran, there are no luxuries of this world. But there is no shadow of a doubt, that in the West, life is so much more colorful while in the East, it is the other way around.
The truth is, that while living in the West, one may feel that there is no God. Over there, there is no sounds of the Call to Prayer, nor writings on the wall, nor any narrations, nor Mosques, nor The Supplication of Kumail, nor Friday Prayers, nor ceremonies of religious events, nor the sight of two enlightened and spiritual faces…. None of these are present and if they are, they are very little and what little there is, is duller in color and very much more limited than what is available in Iran.
Some one who walks the streets of Iran during the Holy Month of Ramadhan knows that most people or the majority of people that are passing are fasting. You can almost even feel that the doors and walls and streets, and even the birds, are fasting. The working hours of shops and banks and companies all change accordingly. In fact, the whole life dynamics change. Fasting, and that spiritual feeling of it, is everywhere you look and is fully there in abundance.
But in non-Islamic countries, on the other hand, and especially in the West, with all its beauty, majesty, orderliness and its goodness, it has no air of spirituality. To the point that it is so void of spirituality that one might think that God has migrated and has left that area altogether!
Far from this air of spirituality, and not seeing nor hearing anything of faith or religion or spirituality, but rather, close to bombardment of multimedia that is full of anti-ethical content – to the point that overtime – such content becomes completely normalised. Faithful and pious families, come together and watch these programs but are unaware what calamity is befalling the families and their infallible children.
The promotion of homosexuality is consistently everywhere, and homosexuality being taught to children in schools has become the norm in such societies. That means that children must learn that it is not unusual to have families that have two fathers or two mothers, and they are taught that such families are a possibility.
The anti-ethical environment and minimal clothing is everywhere on the streets. The worst images are everywhere on the walls, billboards, buses. Worst music shows come in huge waves and are so nasty and explicit and are present and broadcasted everywhere – even in a gym where one might want to go with their children to simply spend some time to exercise!
Festivals where people parade in such a way that they are completely in the nude occurs on an annual basis in the city center and the event is broadcast showing everything on the news channel that families sit to watch in the evening.
Lewd and obscene advertising on television and in the main national and local newspapers, magazines in petrol stations, and in the usual to-go-to-places such as restaurants and basic leisurely activities such as bowling.
The merciless attack comes from any and every direction. It comes fast and furious.
All these issues and challenges in the West make it a very difficult place for the soul of the human being, and more importantly, the soul of the child. They overwhelm and replace the children’s Islamic teachings and ethics.
From experience, incidentally from one whose father built the first Shia Mosque in New Zealand, and who has seen firsthand thousands of Shia families, the upbringing of children that are pious and faithful in such countries is far from possible and difficult to contemplate. The peak efforts of the parents of these children will be at most to simply raise the children an average Muslim, to have them pray and fast! In fact one has to celebrate if they simply do not go astray. And to consider one can raise a child to reach high levels of Islamic attributes and morals in such an environment is simply too difficult to comprehend.
The subject should not just be restricted to children. This is also relevant to the older population. If one is to reach an ideology, they must be immersed within the conditions of that ideology. Such as it is unlikely for a Lionel Messi to emerge from the stadiums of New Zealand, it is also highly unlikely for the Nejabats, Behjats, and Tabatabeis to emerge from the society of New Zealand.
The Western surroundings and environment, unwillingly and without even wanting to nor understanding it, will drag you away form religious spiritual and Gnostic elevation and development, and such as the height of a child grows over time insidiously and noticeably to oneself, others from the outside looking in can see it and comprehend it clearly.
They can see the chador having changed to a manto, and the manto, day by day getting shorter, then later gets changed to a blouse that itself, day by day, gets shorter. They can see that year after year mosque attendance becomes less and less and year by year the recitation of the Supplication of Kumail on the nights of Fridays wanes over time.
They can see that no one goes to Friday congregation prayers. They can see that in your cars the sounds of rap music is played for the children rather than that of the Holy Qur’an. They can see that one recitation of the Holy Qur’an might take ten years to complete. They can see that all religious issues and activities either goes in to suspension or is half heartedly attended.
In the West, it goes with out saying that spiritual and religious people around you are less in numbers and you find yourself less in contact with them. Yet to the contrary, the pressures of the society in which you live in are constantly diluting the color of your faith and religion. After some years, you come to realise for yourself how much less religion has become part of your life, how you have regressed, how you have come to speak less of God, religion, the Prophet and the purified Household Peace Be Upon Them.
You come to realise your whole efforts have become about recreation, recreation, recreation. And sometimes, recreation and work… going to coffee shops, restaurants, shopping centres, parks, cinemas, City Centres, visiting others, buying the latest in technology, and other activities of a similar nature, has become all that your life is about and nothing else.
Alongside all these, you have this contentment that you are a Muslim, that you are praying and attending a Mosque, and yes, everything is just fine, that there is no acute problem in life. You completely adapt and assimilate, staying there for decades on end and perhaps for the rest of your life. You might even end up being buried in the Islamic Cemetery in your local area.
You may leave behind your inheritors (children) on this patch of land who may not even have what little of religion that you learned from your grandparents and country back home, growing up to be completely part of the Western character and Western thinking and a very, very faint aroma in their minds of religion, the Afterlife, God, Prophets, and valuables such as the knowledge of religion martyrdom, and resistance.
Practically, you have a serious and precarious responsibility to yourself, your spouse and your children that in your eyes have fulfilled completely yet either you are unaware, or are forced to turn a blind eye, and with the help of two tricks from Satan’s deputy, that is, “open mindedness” and “self-justification”, you become completely satisfied of the position that you are in.
And with regards to the issue that living in the west is a better place because they lie less, are less likely to be two-faced, and slander less, and accept less bribery etc… yes, I too accept this. The West has some aspects that are better than ours, but they also have their own reasoning.
It requires its own research in sociology and history, but what is apparent is that neither are we born liars and arrogant nor are they born honest and angelic. So these moral positive and negative attributes are not inherited in the blood of either.
There is no guarantee in reaching prosperity and wisdom by simply living in Iran, unless one benefits from good friends and choosing to be with in good surroundings. Choosing the right friends and families, to be living in the right city, in the right area, with good neighbors, in the right schools, good moral teachers… and to distance ourselves, “to a certain degree”, from the parts of society that are not appropriate,
In the capital of Iran, Tehran, there are two types of lives that could be lived. There are places where praying is laughed upon and fasting is ridiculed, and if you enter a restaurant with a Chador they will look at you suspiciously. Yes, these places are also less aware of God and religion. But there are also places that are very good, clean, healthy and Islamic. These places are not few in numbers either.
I any case, where Satan is able to manipulate, people without religion or God will also be around. In that there is no doubt.
So in Iran too, one must move forward with attention, effort, hardship, intellect, council, devotion, with open eyes, and with friends and families and surrounding people and recreation that is of a suitable and healthy nature. Its not like you enter Iran and you would automatically gain spiritual elevation and reach religious heights, and your children suddenly turn in to good and pious children.
Yes, some things are not able to be avoided because there is no society which is perfect until such time that the Imam, may his return be hastened, reappears. So we are not looking for the ideal utopia, nor do we say that the society in Iran is ideal.. but at least, the apparently greater number of Muslims, Shias and believers with in the society, morally, it is ahead of the Western societies.
And the “apparent” is not something to be belittled. It should not be considered to be insignificant. One takes form firstly with the outward apparent. What is seen and head by the individual has an unbelievable affect on ones self and children. So even though the apparent is “not enough”, it is a “necessity”, and is a very important issue, having a great effect on ones soul and future.
In any case, the world is like a scale that should be have its different parameters compared. For those believers who are not looking for worldly matters and creature comforts, the best place is a place that has more spirituality and more believers so that they can reach their ultimate “goal”, which is getting closer to Allahﷻ before their departure.
Where tat is, is open for discussion, however, from personal experience, that is where there is more Muslims, more Shias, and more believers. Where there are more people who fast, who have become martyred, more Behjats, Nejabats, and Tabatabeis. Where there are more people who go to “Arbaeen”, more gatherings for Imam Hussein peace be upon him. The believers that I have known in Iran I have not come across any where else in the world, and if I have you can count them on your fingers. Even those people have had their base formed back home in their Islamic countries, and then migrated out.
Finally, I hope that the Muslims, Shias, and Believers who migrate outside their own Islamic countries with good intentions and positive goals, should return to their own countries after having achieved their desired goals so that they can serve their own country and people and to minimise the spiritual and moral damage to themselves, spouses and children.