May 4, 2010

Culture and Islam

In the name of Allah, compassionate & merciful بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Peace be with you السلام عليكم

I am NOT a scholar and this is MY PERSONAL opinion.

I have come to the opinion that you can have a culture, be proud of your culture/heritage and still be an excellent, outstanding Muslim.  Islam does not BAN cultural practices unless they conflict with Islam.  In some cultures praying and excessive reverence for your (dead) ancestors with the expectation that they will help you is widely practice, and as a Muslim you wouldn't participate in this practice.  It doesn't mean you disrespect your ancestors or speak ill of the dead but rather you don't give the respect due to Allah swt to any of His creations.  In other cultures pig is WIDELY eaten and it is part of many traditional plates, as a Muslim you would substitute pig meat for something else that is permissible.

What gets me furious though is when a cultural practice is being passed of as Islamic and it fully conflicts with Islam.  Cultural practices may conform to Islam but they shouldn't be confused for Islam.  One reason I heard for a cultural practice being called Islamic is because that culture has been Muslim longer and therefore their culture is closer to Islam than that of a new convert. What?  China has a larger Muslim population and can date its Islam all the way back to the time of the Sahaba! So why don't we start following Chinese culture as well?
China has some of the oldest Muslim history, dating back to as early as 650, Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas, was sent as an official envoy to Emperor Gaozong during Caliph Uthman's era. Throughout the history of Islam in China, Chinese Muslims have influenced the course of Chinese history.
Its arrogance.  Think of the Chinese, they have a unique culture, writing, calligraphy, arts and martial arts.  Should they abandon them in order to be Muslim?  or can they USE these strengths to call more of their people to Islam and improve their condition and the condition of those around them? 

When I became Muslim I was more or less isolated from the Muslims so I had to learn on my own.  I learned to pray, learned what was halal and haraam and continued on my merry way.  It wasn't until I met and married my husband that my Islam improved (DRASTICALLY).  He had studied Islam free of cultural baggage and he would explain to me why we did certain practices and the proof behind it.  My prayers improved, my wudhu, my recitation, my cleanliness with clothing (he doesn't leave the house unless his clothes are najis* free and he can pray in them).  There hasn't been any aspect of my Islam that my hubs hasn't helped me perfect ( and I am still learning).  

Hubs told me I could still  be Latina and keep my heritage as long as my iman and Islam weren't compromised.  I am surrounded by my in laws who have managed to still keep their cultural identity and keep their Islam intact.  It is because of this that I am shocked when I hear Muslims telling new Muslims that they have to drop their cultural identity after converting.  Doesn't make any sense. Islam is so simple and beautiful why complicate it with things that aren't even prescribed?

My advice for new Muslims is to treat advice regarding Islam like you would treat medical advice dispense by people.  With a grain of salt.  If you don't take medical advice from your friend who has never been to medical school, why would you take religious advice from a layperson?  Ask a trusted scholar, do your due diligence in researching the topic and find proof. Don't panic if you are stuck and overwhelmed, keep making du'a to Allah swt to help you find the answer.  You should definitely look in to the Istikhara prayer (prayer for guidance).

Lastly, if your cultural practice does not conflict with Islam, you don't have anything to worry about it.  When in doubt pray istikhara (many, many times). 

*Najis= Impurities.


Candice said...

I agree with you! I think we can get so much from culture, as long as it doesn't go against Islam.

.::Tuttie::. said...

alhamdulillah you guys found it beneficial! I always remember that the Prophet (saw) and the sahaba didn't stop being Arabs once they came in to Islam. They kept what was compatible and got rid of the bad. I am trying to do the same. inshaAllah.

NtN said...

Excellent, excellent post, mashallah! We can learn so much from culture, but it's disastrous when it replaces religion.

AlabasterMuslim said...

I myself am very careful not to mix culture with Islam. Inshallah I am VERY careful. For instance, I do NOT celebrate valentine's day, or thanksgiving which neither are considered religious holidays. However, Valentines day has a VERY bad history, no matter how people feel about it today, and also thanksgiving day...well those native americans were slaughtered right after that nifty little feast so whats the point?? I especially don't celebrate it because there is SO much importance put into it, as if it is a religious act or something.
But, I like American clothes (inside the house lol) and I love my American Tv and I love American food. (like spaghetti and pizza because those couldn't come from anywhere but America! Lol)