Q & A.
Q. How much of western society i.e. media, social factors affect our decisions to be more involved/practicing in our religion? And how do we start to change from these effects?
No doubt, the media have an all too easy inclination to attack and distort Islam (however politely sometimes!). The attacks can range from our ideas and beliefs such as the Existence of Allah (SWT), the notion of no separation between din and dawlah (i.e. religion and state [la fasl bayna `alaqat al-din wa al-dawlah]) or direct attacks and degradations upon our Noble Shari`ah and its rulings (ahkam) such as those regarding women and social relations (e.g. Islamic dress codes, etc.). So, one has to be aware of media machinery that produce distortions and skewed understandings of our Religion –often unfortunately accepted uncritically by Muslims. If distortions about Islam are accepted and believed, a person may find the Religion far from reasonable and not find it a basis for solutions to life’s problems.
There is also no doubt that a constant diet of media programs (i.e. TV, Satellite channels, internet sites and online programs) that only emphasize the base pleasures (e.g. sex, pop videos, pornography…), gratification (e.g. drugs, shopping…), glitters (e.g. wealth, property…) and aspirations of the dunya, is one that will bring ruin to the soul of an individual. These are all diversions or in the terminology of the `Ulama’ of the heart “barriers” (hijab) in the way of the true focus of human beings which is our Creator and Cherisher Allah (SWT). Once a person is partially/totally distracted from Allah, the instability of his/her Hereafter (akhirah) is created and hence one’s ultimate salvation is put into serious doubt.
If a society exists that only considers the dunya as the be all and end all, this has a dangerous and detrimental effect on the mindset and behavior of a Muslim. A person is always affected by his surroundings and the stronger the tide is for the distraction from Allah (SWT) the stronger the likelihood is to drown in its waves.
A person for his/her immediate sake must ideally find men or women of knowledge to help them learn and practice the basics first of the religion and the obligations that require to be fulfilled. This may be helped and facilitated by attending the gatherings and centers that hold talks and circles where these warnings of the distractions and dangers of the society are highlighted. Hence, keeping the company of good people and those who will constantly remind one of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW) must be sought. This would be a good starting point from the initial strength and as with all things after that, it is an ongoing personal struggle between the desires and pulls of one’s nafs and the commandments of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW).
And with Allah is all success.
 For more on ‘barriers’ and ‘veils’, see for example, al-Sarraj, al-Luma` fi ’l-Tasawwuf, p.352; al-Kalabadhi, al-Ta`arruf li-Madhhab Ahl al-Tasawwuf, p.19 and its Persian commentary by Mustamli, Sharh-i Ta`arruf, 1:26-27; al-Hujwiri, Kashf al-Mahjub, p.5; al-Maybudi, Kashf al-Asrar wa Udat al-Abrar, 6:440; al-Ghazzali, Kimiya-yi Sa`adat, pp.36-37 and Ibn `Arabi, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah, 2:553-554; 3:214, 276, 249 and 4:19.