Islam, Culture, and Tradition – Religion should come first, always.

Salaams Everyone,

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Sometimes, it is important to start with the basics in order to understand the core fundamentals properly and practice them correctly. Our starting point is the tafsir of the Quran; here is the basic message of the Quran summarised in one sentence:

  • “to worship Allah (SWT); to please Allah (SWT) through His worship, to please the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) by following his Sunnah, and to please the maklooq (creation) by doing its khidmat.” (Shaykh Ahmed Ali)

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) as saying:

  • “The piety is here”, (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest thrice.

Here’s some food for thought… I often see that many of today’s Muslim society strive towards the Western culture. I strongly believe that upbringing somewhat determines this. However, just as one’s upbringing is extremely important, I also believe it is extremely important for the youngsters of today to have a proper understanding of the Quran. It is okay to be taught the Quran in Arabic, but taking into account that most people are taught only to read the Quran in Arabic and their first language is English. It is therefore important that they are taught the meaning of the words of the Quran in English. This will allow them to understand what Allah (SWT) has commanded in the Holy book and it would make them more God fearing. For this to occur, in my opinion- the old methods and techniques still used in many Islamic Education Centres and Mosques need to be re-evaluated and the youngsters of today need to be guided.

I will give you a real example: My mum works in a prestigious Islamic Education Centre and she has set an amazing example and has implemented more modern techniques; those which meet the needs of today’s society and are in accordance with the teachings of Islam. She has taught the entire Islamic and Quranic studies course to over a hundred young girls, this includes: Tajweed (elocution- referring to the rules governing pronunciation during recitation of the Quran), translation and interpretation of the Quran, Fiqh studies and Hadith studies. Furthermore, she teaches just as many adults and elders who want to correct their Tajweed and so many of these students have already successfully completed recitation of the Quran with full Tajweed, mashaAllah. I have given this example to illustrate the points I mentioned earlier and to show that with correct teachings and correct methods/techniques, individuals of today’s society can learn, gain a sound knowledge of and inshaAllah practice Islam; a peaceful and obedient religion properly.

Whilst in this article I have brought to your attention that many of today’s society is striving towards the Western culture, there are also other issues that today’s society is facing. Islam is very widespread all over the World and every country has its own culture and traditions. There are so many global issues to do with Education, Work, Marriage, and Attire that affect both Muslim Women and Muslim Men. One must always remember that it is not religion that is the basis of these problems, but it is culture and traditions.

The importance of Education is a none disputable matter. Education is the knowledge of putting one’s potentials to maximum use. Islam attaches great importance to knowledge and Education. When the Quran began to be revealed, the first word of its first verse was ‘Iqra’ that is, read. Allah (SWT) says, “Read! In the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.” (Quran, 96:1-5). Education is thus the starting point of every human activity. Allah (SWT) created man and provided him with the tools for acquiring knowledge, namely hearing, sight and wisdom. Allah (SWT) says, “And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks (to Allah).” (Quran, 16:78). A knowledgeable person is accorded great respect in many Prophetic narrations. Due to the importance of knowledge, Allah (SWT) commanded His Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) to seek more of it. Allah (SWT) says, “And say: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Quran, 20:114).The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) made seeking knowledge an obligation upon every Muslim. Furthermore, the Prophet (PBUH) said that seeking knowledge is a way leading to Paradise. He said, “Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make a path to Paradise easy for him.” (Hadith: Al-Bukhaari). So, these countries who do not allow for girls and women to gain an education, to work, to travel etc – on what basis do they make this decision?  You see my point.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Modesty is part of Faith, and that part of Faith must come from within the Heart.” So, those individuals who cover their hair with a Hijab, yet wear figure hugging tops and tight jeans/trousers – where is the modesty in that? Not forgetting the caked on makeup and ‘Camel Hump’ Hijab styles – is that a measure of their religiousness? What is it to other people if a woman wears a Hijab? /No Hijab? If a man has a Beard? /No Beard? I’m sorry, but why does this even matter? The fact is that Hijab is not a measure of a woman’s religiousness and piety, nor is the Beard a measure of a man’s religiousness and piety. It is our personality, our character, our piety, our actions and belief within our Heart that makes us who we are. Allah (SWT) always knows what is in your Heart. Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) mentioned, “A Woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion and character. So marry the one who is best in the religion and character, and prosper.” (Hadith: Bukhari and Muslim).  Take reservation in speech. Raising one’s voice and using disgusting language in venting anger simply shows one lacks the ability to contain it and it is exposing the ego within. A sharp tongue, just as a sharp knife, it can slice the best of relationships. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “A strong person is not the person who throws his adversaries to the ground. A strong person is the person who contains himself when he is angry.” (Hadith: Saheeh al-Bukhari).

In conclusion, to tackle such issues, it is important to go about it in the correct manner. Religion comes first. Allah (SWT) says, “Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessing upon you, and chosen Islam as Deen (religion and way of life for you).” (Quran- Al-Ma’idah, 5:3). I believe that when people within a local community start to work together with the younger generation, listen to each other and compromise (within reason); they can tackle any issue that they are faced with. It’s all about having a positive attitude and taking action towards dealing with important issues properly. But, first of all people should be willing to reach out to the society. What better place to start than the Islamic Education Centres and Mosques, for these are the places which form the foundations of a Muslim society. I respect the old, traditional methods and techniques which have been used for many years. I was taught the Quran via the traditional methods and I have a lot of respect for not only those involved in teaching me the Quran, but also for the institution (my local Mosque) that I attended. However, ten/fifteen years on, society has changed and we need to work with this rather than against it. Therefore, by Islamic Education Centres and Mosques adapting the traditional teaching methods and taking a more modern approach to the teaching methods/techniques, it will allow for a better understanding. Furthermore, in my opinion- as well as this benefiting today’s society, it will also allow us to be better prepared for future generations too.

Reminder: Always remember Education and Religion are two key fundamental things in life that go hand-in-hand and one should aim to continuously progress in both. This life is in preparation for the hereafter, the good deeds we do in this world, they bring with them bonuses in this world and the next world.