Emigrating to Canada? Here’s Why I Readily Gave Up the So-Called “Canadian Dream”

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


"Huh? Why?"

"She didn’t deliver her baby there? But everybody does, or tries to, if they can."

"She didn’t give that life a fair chance."

Ever since I did "it", people get these reactions when they hear about it. They can not comprehend why someone can do such a thing. They brand it as a "hasty" and "immature" decision. Or even more often, a word that goes more with my outer garb: "extremist intolerance". Or some even go so far as to brand it as "chickening out too soon". *Sigh*.

Well, these reactions are hardly ever expressed on my face. They are given to those who know me or are related to me.

Well, there were many, many factors. I am disappointed (not for the first time) to realize that I am not credited for having even a mediocre level of intelligence or wisdom, or for having the strength to not only make a decision but to stick with it with my head held high.

There are people who rely on their own intellect and logic to guide them through life, thinking that their actions, their fate and their income is a direct result of these faculties, plus their own hard work and determination. Then there are those who constantly live a life of communion with the Creator, who think that He has the Power to guide His slaves, each according to his yearning and striving for guidance. There are people whose aims and goals in life go a bit further beyond the the dream of having the perfect family in the perfect house, the perfect car(s) and the perfect social circle to move about in: the perfect standard of living that can be achieved. These desires, of the luxurious life with all material benefits, are but base human desires that everyone has. Everyone. But what I am saying is that in some people, these desires are left behind by others that are more…….transcendental.

The dilemma of immigration is a complex one. People immigrate for various reasons, but the dominant one is usually the pursuit of a "better life". Mind you, I am being relative when I say "better". Because they opt for a life that has, truly, monumental difficulties and problems, ones they were not able to see before they actually took the big leap. However, they choose to live with these difficulties, making a choice to rather have them in their life than the ones they left behind. Its all about choice really. That’s my focal point.

People make choices in life that pave the way for their "future": the future in this life, and the much more everlasting future: that of the Akhirah. Every action we make has an impact on both futures, whether we choose to believe this or not. It doesn’t make a difference what we believe, reality does not change. There is one basic reality that applies to all of mankind: every soul is born with its provision written beforehand. Provision includes: length of his or her life, the food he or she will consume, the quality of life he or she will enjoy, and the fame/fortune/respect that person will have. The provision reaches that person by one way or another. If he loses his job, he "happens" to stumble across another one that will provide for his needs.

Therefore, a girl-child is born in Africa, of poor parents infected with AIDS, lives a scrawny existence of limited food and infectious disease, among 10 other siblings, gets infected with AIDS at the age of seven, and dies by the age of eight. End of story. In some other continent, an heiress to a great fortune is born in a family of royal descent, is treated like a princess since day one, grows up in mansions and palaces, matures to be a phenomenal beauty, roams around in the best of cars, among the creme de la creme of her society, becomes famous the world over and admired by millions, marries, has four children – all beautiful and healthy – and eventually dies in her sleep at the age of sixty five. End of story.

How can there be no Akhirah, if this world is all there is? How can we then justify this disparity of provision? Is it unfair? No. Its just the will of the One who created the miniscule blood-clot in the womb. He decides what He wants, whether we can comprehend it or not.

Whether we believe it or not.

So, coming back to the dilemma of immigration. For some, its a matter of choice. For others, its a matter of necessity, as in the case of a girl of marriageable age who wants to get married for the sake of Allah, to fulfill the sunnah of His Prophet [salallaahu alayhi wasallam], to complete half of faith. In a strange turn of events, all prospective candidates for marriage are immigrants. Sad, but a reality one has to face. So, most girls nowadays do a lot of things in order to get married. One of them is agreeing to leave their home country to go live in some ice-laden no man’s land. At least they will not have to see the worry on their parents’ face. At least there will be no more awkward meetings with absolute strangers who come to propose.

Incidentally, if a foreign passport or visa is written in one’s provision, one will get it by hook or by crook, willingly or unwillingly, no matter what the world might think. Most "deprived" Asians crave it and try to acquire it even by illegal means. Others couldn’t care less what their passport color [nationality] is, because their only identity is that of being a "Slave of Allah", but they still end up getting a foreign passport. It is enough for them to be recognized as someone who wants to obey Allah to the best of his or her ability. For others though, getting a foreign passport is the best thing that ever happened to them. Forget if the people living in that foreign country never accept them as one of their own, forget if they are always considered resident "aliens", forget if they are always silently discriminated against because of the colour of their skin and their lineage, they think that by acquiring a foreign passport they have changed their background and also their future.

However, if one thinks about it, one realizes that there is no way a person can ever change (i) his lineage (the clan he was born into) and (ii) the place of his birth, or his nationality. Consequently, he or she lives with it for the rest of his life. Accept it or not, these two things, like your face and body structure, were chosen for you by Allah, and there’s no way, NO WAY, you can EVER change it.

So, the marriage takes place. And the girl migrates. Now what?

Well, as I said, its a matter of choice. Choosing your quality of life and the way you spend your time. Time is of essence to someone who wants to use it as MUCH as possible in the way of Allah.

Perhaps I want to live my life being happy rather than being lonely. Perhaps I want to spend my time doing positive things amid family members, being a positive influence on others as well as myself. I want the necessary chores of everyday living to be made easy so that I can pursue enjoyable activities of knowledge and da’wah. Contrast that to choosing to live in a place where more than half my time and energy is spent in doing household work –  no domestic help, too bad, your "standard of living" has become high, so….rejoice! Do everything yourself from now on – do work that up till now a woman had done who would support her whole family by its earnings, because Allah had not provided her with the education to acquire a better means to earn a living. So, my new "better life" requires me to wash the bathrooms, clean and scrub floors, wash dishes thrice a day, mow the lawn, dust the furniture and cook three meals a day for an expanding family. Top that with a feeling of being amid strangers who never accept you (even without the burqah) as their own, of missing parents, siblings, friends and relatives, of staying inside an air-tight (sans ventilation) accommodation (that is acquired either by a hefty monthly mortgage or rent payment) for 7 months a year unless you want to venture out into the freezer outside under a mountain of warm clothing, of driving around for basic errands even if you’re pregnant and can not afford to move around much, of eating fruit that has no sweetness, meat and vegetables that have no taste, of smelling flowers that have no fragrance. Too bad if you crave the chaat or mithai or tikka’s of your home-country, if you want to eat that delectable 5-rupee, cheaper-than-nothing, mouth-watering samosa or gulaab-jaamun of your favorite shop back in Karachi, you have no choice but to try to make it yourself at home (and of course do that by spending an extra hour of work in the kitchen that only you will have to clean up later) and be disappointed by the end-result. Top that with having to fix every appliance that goes out of order yourself, because the plumber or handy-man charges an exorbitant fee. You can boast about it to your relatives back in the polluted "Pind" (village) of yore, about how you fix your car, your leaking faucet, your baby’s stroller or your furniture scratches all by your "lucky" self. They of course are worse off than you, even though over there labor is dirt-cheap and everything needing to be fixed is taken care of by a handy man available at the doorstep. Even the lawn is watered by the maali (gardener), the groceries are fetched by the Baba at the gate and the watch-dog is walked by the driver. The laundry gets done in the washing machine or by the weekly dhobi, whereas the privileged immigrant is "proud" of another heroic athletic adventure: carrying the pile of dirty clothes in the wicker-basket to the Laundromat on the way to the low-paid job and picking it up on the way home (except for the lucky ones who have the laundry machine at home, which most starters of a "better life" do not).

But……why mope? You are outside Pakistan and you have a foreign passport! Rejoice! You are better off than those deprived desi’s living in that polluted waste-land.

Well, at least the water and air is not contaminated. So the extra housework that sometimes breaks your back should be no big deal. You are way better off.

So you are expecting a baby? Great! Look forward to importing your mother or mother-in-law from Pakistan to help you in your delivery period. Till then, your marriage to the computer and Internet will help you pass your pregnancy, since your "friends" (people-you-do-not-know-well-nor-get-along-with-but-whom-you-might-need-some-day-to-help-lift-the-biting-loneliness) here do not really have the time to spare from their household chores or run-of-the-mill jobs to come see you to lift your sagging mood. Just wait till your mother comes, then it will be better. At least your baby will be a foreign national by birth. That should give him or her an extra edge over every other Pakistani you have met uptil now. And besides, healthcare is free once you are a permanent resident. So what if the doctors lack competence and don’t offer even an iota of extra care or even a flash of human warmth once their work is done? Be grateful, you are not paying their fee. Your healthcare is free, even if your health steadily deteriorates because of loneliness, consumerism-stress and the strain of overhanging debt that never abates.

So, what name to give your baby? Well, for immigrants, the name has to be such that the other children he or she goes to school with can digest (read: approve of) easily. It has to comfortably "assimilate" into the country’s environment, and not carry the risk of causing the INS or CIA to raise an eyebrow. So it should be both Arabic and American/Canadian sounding.

Let’s stop it right here, shall we? 

I don’t want the fantastical, "better life" that the world keeps promising me. I don’t want to live under debt, nor put my future children under the pressure of assimilating into foreigners who will never accept them either way. I want to enjoy the two Eids every year as they should be enjoyed: fasting in Ramadan with the food outlets empty throughout the day, the mosques resounding with prayers and restaurants thronging at night; or alternatively, goats braying throughout the city, with a national holiday on Eid morning while the entire country rejoices and eats traditional food, dresses up and meets relatives, or cattle are slaughtered in every house. Compare that to going to work as usual on Eid day for an immigrant, with the only high point of the day being the Eid Salat in the Islamic Center. Want to slaughter a goat yourself, or have it done in your house, in a foreign country? Try it and get arrested! What to do then? Spend the two days before Eid in the kitchen preparing the huge Eid dinner you have invited your friends to. And remember to squeaky-clean polish the bathroom (usually the only common bathroom in the house that everyone uses, forget the attached baths that were a luxury in comparison back in "polluted" Pakistan) and scrub the kitchen floor after you’re done.

Thanks but no thanks.  

Sure, the water is polluted. Sure, the air is full of smog caused by the traffic. Yes, people drive like they just left the Asylum. Sure, there is lawlessness, mayhem, poverty, pollution, mobile and car theft and the load-shedding in the summers. But when your baby is born, there are also the loving family members who indulge in their first grand-child (not just look longingly at digital photographs on the computer), take the load of parenting off you when you need rest, and provide essential parenting advice. There’s the great-tasting food in the restaurants that does not dig a hole in the pocket. There’s the spirit of freedom and life not tainted by the pressure to assimilate/integrate into a culture not your own. One can lounge around every morning as the maasi does the dishes and housework, while the children run around and play with their cousins. There is no ever-present risk of being sacked by the employer, or being questioned about your last trip to Pakistan, no homesick loneliness amid freezing snow, no pressure to entertain boring Pakistani families, and no fear of being judged for your skin-color or garb by the saleswoman, bank teller or doctor.Last but not least, you can go to the beach without having to avert your gaze from tons of exposed bare skin and public demonstrations of carnal attraction.

I came back, and so did my husband. After he consulted some Pakistani and other immigrant-Muslim families who have settled there since many years, they advised him – all of them, without exception – to go back. They said they had lost a lot and gained nothing by coming to Canada from Pakistan. Most of all, they were in complete unison about the danger of moral laxity coming into one’s children when they are brought up in the West.

Someone like me has no interest in clubbing, dancing, going to bars, movie theaters or discotheques. I don’t particularly value the "freedom to wear whatever I want to without lewd Pakistani men staring at me" because alhamdulillah, Allah has saved me from that kind of dual-personality and hypocrisy: wearing what the world tells you to wear; in Pakistan, wear shalwar kameez; when going for Haj/Umrah, don the burqah/scarf; when in North America, wear jeans and sleeveless and whatever you want because "no one will disapprove or stare or touch".

May Allah accept our Hijrah back to our Muslim country. Our intention was nothing but His Pleasure, so that we can bring up our child/children without having to work twice as hard on their moral values. So that we would not have to put them in the identity crisis suffered by most immigrants. So that we can enjoy being with our close and extended families, at the weddings and other colorful get-together’s.

This piece is by no means intended to judge the Muslim immigrants settled abroad. May Allah make their lives easy for them. They will be responsible for their choices, and we for ours.

Its all a matter of choice, really. And we have made ours. With no regrets.

All praise to Allah!!! Alhamdulillah.

3 thoughts on “Emigrating to Canada? Here’s Why I Readily Gave Up the So-Called “Canadian Dream”

  1. WOW sadaf baji THATS WRITTEN SO GOOD !!! haha i especially like the part where you said " People drive like they just left the asylum" lol true..but the one good part if you lived here was that I could see you and Aishah more..I do have aunts and uncles here but we don’t see each other that much..once a year if we’re lucky..its kinda depressing (except for my one chacha that lives here)!! lol!!..maybe you should come here just so i can see aishah! ?? 😀 lol k g2g my mommy’s bringing pizza for lunch..oh and by the way I still havn’t figured out how to work this msn space :S
    ❤ sarah ( btw that is suppose to be a heart not " less than three" )

  2. I have to say, I don’t quite agree with this piece. I understand that it’s your perspective, and I respect that, but not everyone who lives in the West feels this way. I feel like you’re taking an extreme position, and a good argument could be made for opposing perspective also.

    1. You are right. 🙂

      More than 8 years on, I have no regrets about moving back, despite the fact that the place our family has chosen to live in is still suffering from some serious issues.

      Do provide me a link if you or someone else writes the opposing perspective. Alhamdulillah I enjoy reading mature and respectful rebuttals.

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