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How to avoid haraam in western world

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On 1/14/2018 at 3:30 AM, Mohammad-f said:


As I was not satisfied with my education in my country, Iran, I have decided to study my Master's degree in Europe or America, but the problem is that I am not sure if I can save my beliefs and faith there, and I am not sure if I can avoid doing haraam.

My questions are:

1- If you are not sure about the effect of immigration on your faith, is it considered Ta'arob ba'ad al hijrah (تعرب بعد الهجره), and therefore the immigration itself is considered a sin?

2- I am still single. Do you suggest me to get married and then immigrate to start studying in Europe or the USA? (I personally think that getting married will become a great barrier in my educational life, and may stop me from continuing education, but may have some good effects while I live in another country, like not being alone, and getting away from haraam sexual desires)

3- One of the things I am concerned about is how to manage myself to avoid some sins that are considered normal in the western culture. For example, how can I avoid shaking hand with the opposite gender, when in many cases, it is regarded really impolite to avoid doing so, and also in many cases, you do not have enough time to speak about the reason you do not shake hand with the person expected you to do so. 

4- As people living in a non-Muslim country, what are your suggestions to keep your beliefs, avoid sins and being a real Muslim? 

Thank you, 


1 - According to Sayyid Sistani(may Allah(s.w.a) give him long life)

A believer is allowed to travel to non-Muslim countries provided that he is sure or has confidence that the journey would not have a negative impact on his faith and the faith of those who are related to him. Similarly, a believer is allowed to reside in non-Muslim countries provided that his residing there does not become a hurdle in the of fulfilling his religious obligations towards himself and his family presently as well as in future. (See the question-answer section below.) It is haram to travel to non-Muslim countries in the East or the West if that journey causes loss of the faith of a Muslim, no matter whether the purpose of that journey is tourism, business, education, or residence of a temporary or permanent nature, etc.


Whether or not it has a negative impact on one's faith depends on the person's true intention for traveling to the West and what they do once they get there. One thing is for sure, it will change your Iman, either for the positive or the negative. You have to know yourself. 

In the West, especially in the University environment, there is noone watching you to see if you pray, are fasting, doing haram, etc. You will probably not hear the athan, and most people will consider you 'weird' if you don't drink / party/ go to bars , clubs / and have a girlfriend. Some people can 'deal' with that, some can't. Again you have to know yourself. If you feel that the environment is affecting you in a negative way, as far as your faith, then you should definitely not stay. Preserving your Iman and relationship with Allah(s.w.a) is so much more valuable than any degree, that if you had to choose between keeping your Iman and losing your degree or keeping your degree and losing your Iman, it is not even close. You should keep your Iman at any cost. I think this is what Sayyid Sistani(h.a.) is trying to say. 

2 - I would highly recommend you get married before you leave for your studying. Being married will make it much more likely that you will be able to finish your education and your religion won't suffer. 

3 - Avoiding shaking hands is difficult, but there are ways around it, most of the time(there have been many threads made about this on SC, if you want to search). You may not be able to avoid it completely. I have been in business situations where I made no indication that I wanted to shake hands, but the women would just grab my hand and start shaking it. It happens. If it does, just ask Allah(s.w.a)'s forgiveness. He(s.w.a) knows your intention was not to shake hands. Also, at least in the US, people don't think of shaking hands as anything except a greeting, i.e. to acknowledge the presence of the other person. It isn't an indication that you are interested in the other person. At the same time, it is haram (I am not saying it isn't) and you should try to avoid it as much as you can. 

4- It is easy to neglect your religion in the West and live in your own little world / bubble. This can be avoided by keeping active. Become involved in your local masjid, be involved on campus with muslim organizations. Try to make contacts with practicing muslims in your area (there are at least a few in every city or area) and try to visit with them as much as possible. You have to actively try to do this, don't count on it to happen on it's own. 


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Wa Alaikum Salaam Warakhmatullahi Wabarakatuhu,

I'm a European descent revert to Islam living in a non-Islamic country and may be able to help give some advice;

It could either

  • Increase your imaan even more so living as a Muslim in a non-Islamic country, or
  • You encounter the risk of losing value in your beliefs and sins (but this happens even in Islamic countries quite frankly)

Some advice

Find a Masjid to be part of and attend - sometimes these can be the only areas you socialise with other Muslims unless you know or later gain friends, work colleagues or students etc.,

Halal meat - in my country I'm lucky Alhamdulillah a lot of the meat industry is halal here due to them wanting to export to Islamic countries. You could find yourself a halal butcher, or even enquire with brands that are halal and it's possible to purchase from general convenience stores.

Check ingredients on all food items you purchase from stores, you might be surprised that some of them contain haram ingredients. If unsure, don't be afraid to ask the brand company, I've done this many times with doubtful items before considering purchasing.

Eating out at restaurants will be very limited. Aside from the menu, you must also be careful about haram contamination and handling practices in the kitchen. For example, a cafe using a microwave for a ham dish, the moisture gets into the air of it, then you may buy for example a vegetarian dish which ends up in the same microwave. Or fish & chips are a prime example, they'll use the same oil to fry everything, so if a haram item, for example pork was cooked in it, haram contamination is definitely inevitable. There's also other things to consider as well, the oils or fats they are using for cooking, or even things like margarines can have haram animal fats in them. So when it comes to restaurants, it's definitely better to stick to halal only.

I've never been to an Islamic country (yet), so I cannot say in comparison, but I think you'll find a lot more haram activities being in an 'open' environment around you. For example, clubs, bars, alcohol, sexual related things and public display of affection in illicit relationships.

You must just stay strong in faith and not concern yourself with them. For me, I look at them in despise and it makes me more glad that Allah is guiding me in the path of Imaan.

Shaking hands with the opposite gender - since becoming Muslim there were a couple of times where I reluctantly shook hands because I felt I didn't have enough time to speak. I'm a lot more guarding now. One of my Muslimah friends gets on fine (in work situations) with explaining that she doesn't shake hands with men. She's a revert too. If she can take this step, so can others coming from Islamic countries without fear, insha'Allah. She'll then make a joke for example 'Sorry, I don't shake hands with men as my faith forbids me, but I can give you an air high five'.

There was a saying by the Prophet (S) a friend once shared with me (Sorry, I don't know the exact reference) which said 'If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand [take action], if he cannot, speak against it with his tongue, if he cannot, then know in his heart it is wrong and this is the weakest imaan'

Just do as you would do in an Islamic country and you'll be fine. The environment shouldn't change your faith, no matter where you are, so long as you are Muslim. Keep yourself inspired and keep wise people around you.

I don't know about marriage, I'll take a wife from abroad myself from an Islamic country, insha'Allah

When it comes to aspects such as Ramadan, I had asked my manager if I could begin work earlier and leave earlier for Maghreb, he was completely fine with it. I miss 1 salat on my work day unfortunately due to them not having facilities which I make up later (May Allah accept it)

I think you will find most universities will have a prayer room anyway, or you can always request one. You'll find universities want to accommodate their students.

Good luck

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Thank you all for answering my questions. It is clear you have spent a lot of time to give me advice. I appreciate it and I hope Allah help you all. 

If anyone still has some suggestions/advice, I'll be really happy to hear that. 

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5 hours ago, Mohammad-f said:

Thank you all for answering my questions. It is clear you have spent a lot of time to give me advice. I appreciate it and I hope Allah help you all. 

If anyone still has some suggestions/advice, I'll be really happy to hear that. 

Firstly have you figured out if there are any Shia masjids near where you are staying? Just use Google for that. 

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On 1/16/2018 at 7:21 AM, AmirAlmuminin Lover said:


Salaam Alaykum brother

I am Iranian student studying in US for masters degree. I know what you mean.

1. Follow your marji for exact ruling. I can't help you with this. I'm afraid to say something which is not correct.

2. DEFINITELY marry then come here. I go to Iranian mosque and see a lot of girls and guys around 30 who are still single. Don't come alone. Loneliness doesn't kill you, but give you something similar feeling. My friend who is 32 years old and single told me:" My friends in US told me to marry before coming US, but I didn't listen. Now I regret what I did". Don't come single. Wife is not a barrier for your education. She helps you a lot not only sexually, but also in your education progress. I was a perfect student back in my university, but this loneliness affected on my education here. There was an Iranian girl here in mosque, 33 years old and single. She said:" what is US? I wanna live in Iran". Her mother said she wants to live in Iran for 6 months. These are all results of loneliness and acting against your natural needs.

Advantages of having wife is not just sex, loneliness, and progress in education. It's far more than that. I'm alone in US, and I know what I mean.

3. I do not shake hand with women here, and it is not impolite. I didn't shake hand with department staff one day and she said:" That is the beauty of differences". She was OK with that. I told her that it's not personal. It's just following my religion. I didn't shake hand at two job interviews. I didn't shake hand at my internship. One time I told my CEO to take the wine out of the table. My religion doesn't let me to sit behind a table that there's a wine on it.

Brother, if you make a big deal out of these rudimentary things in your mind, they will become HUGE.

4. I do night prayers here and try to avoid sins. It's possible IF you really want it.

I just have one suggestion. When you come here, don't forget your country and where you come from. Don't forget religion. This is also important, know people first, then be friend with them. 

Thank you very much for your comprehensive answers.

1- I asked y marja, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, about it. He allows to study abroad, and even encourages if I be a good Muslim and encourage others to convert to Islam by my sayings and doings. 

2- You said "DEFINITELY marry then come here." I understand what you mean. But there are two problems:

a- I have not found a good girl to marry yet (better to say, I have not tried really hard to find yet)

b- My parents do not want me to marry yet. I have many conflicts with my parents, who are not as religious as me, but I have avoided to treating them in a bad way to avoid doing sins. I have talked to them, and could not convince them that I am ready to get married. My mother says I should definitely become older, maybe older than 25, and then get married. Fortunately, I have a job here and I can earn enough money to start a family-life, but my parents say it is not enough. 

I feel that I am wasting my time here. On the one hand, I know that studying in Iran is a waste of time and energy for me. On the other hand, I do not like to study abroad, but start neglecting my religion and doing haraams. I waste my time by having doubts and not making decision. If you were in my position, what would you do?

3- Your saying really helped me, and encouraged me to avoid it in the future. 

4- That is really great. Do you think saying night prayers has helped you to avoid sins there? 

(Another question which is not relevant, but can be helpful for me:  how old are you?)

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First of all, studying in Iran is not waste of time. Shahid Shahriary who provided government with nuclear enrichment formula, got his all degrees in Iran. Shahid Ahmady Roshan also got his degree in Iran, but he was very good at his job.

These people studied in Iran, but they were so good in science and their job that Israeli agents decided to terror them. Studying in Iran is not waste of time and energy. It depends on how you look at it.

About marriage, don't listen to your parents. Marry then come here. I think option (a) is the reason why you are still single. You need to talk with your parents so much about marriage that they finally submit to your decision(be respectful though). If I were in your position, I would marry. If you can do something for other Iranians, it's better to stay in Iran and hire them in your company or anything. If you need knowledge and degree in order to do something for Iran later on, apply to western countries. Anyway, your final goal must be serving Islamic Republic.

About night prays, I consider it Wajeb on myself. It helps a lot. I recommend it to anyone. I sleep soon at nights to wake up earlier before Fajr. Sometimes I wake up before my phone alarm. Do it. We all die at the end. I love leaving this world when I used to do Night Prays. My heart becomes a hard stone without it. I feel pleasure when I pray. Ayatollah Ghazy(Akhlaq teacher of Ayatollah Bahjat) said:" If you are looking for Dunya, do Night Prays. If you are looking for Akherah, do Night Prays". What are you looking for?

(I'm 25)

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There is a lot of Haram in the west yes, but what better an opportunity than being in a place full of sin and temptation and still doing your best to worship your Deen. Allah tests us all, and i believe it could be the greatest test of all.


Also it is their culture, and middle east has their own, we must respect their culture and be better than some westerners and not judge or look down upon them. We are all Allahs people no matter what colour skin, country of birth or religion/cultural beliefs. 

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If you are a practicing muslim in Iran, you can easily be a practicing muslim anywhere else. If you wanna commit sins, you can do that anywhere in the world aswell. After a certain age ( when you become an adult, I believe that the environment stops affecting you that much and you can practice and focus on what you want)

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