Islam and The Culture of Muslims

Islam and The Culture of Muslims
Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

In this series of talks delivered at the Rasooli Centre, located in Centurion, South Africa, in advance of the Jum`ah (Friday) communal prayer, Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri explores the link between Islam as a religion (or din) and the various cultures to which Muslims around the world belong.

The central point Shaykh Fadhlalla under examination in this talk is the discord or dissonance between the din and culture which is increasingly influenced by Western countries where Muslims find themselves questioning the perceived difference between the din and the culture that determines daily interaction of their lives.

Shaykh Fadhlalla goes on to delineate those differences such as language, tribal, cultural (to name a few) in this talk and how these factors connect with the din. The din itself is a “culmination of hundreds of years that have filtered down for several thousand years.”

The Prophet Ibrahim (AS) formalized the “god-centric” religious model which was followed by a great number of prophets who expounded it across the ages until the Prophet Isa (AS) who brought about reform while following in the footsteps of the Prophet Musa (AS).

The final prophet, Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him), completed that chain of transmission of the din, and thus Muslims enjoy the “pristine blueprint” that Allah is at the center of everything.

With the revelation of the Qur'an and the prophetic way (Sunnah), Muslims have “inherited a re-clarification” of the Abrahamic tradition of tawhid or god-centric model, along with a set of laws built on haqiqah (the Quranic prescriptions) and shari`ah (the example of the Prophet translated into a set of organizing principles for society).

The purpose of these laws and traditions is to lead Muslims to the ultimate truth, which is the understanding that Allah (SWT) is represented through His divine attributes that all human beings inherently love. The divine attributes are the gateway for entering a state of a higher consciousness while leaving behind the “mind consciousness,” as Shaykh Fadhlalla explains.

The din, therefore, offers a prescription to leave enter a world of spiritual consciousness through prayer and meditation to prioritize the inner world over the outer of the daily demands of life.

Shaykh Fadhlalla goes on to underscore the essential “map” of the din which demonstrates the nature of humanity as worldly and unworldly; that is human experience is comprised of the tangible, seen world and the intangible and unseen world of the spiritual which is primarily explored through religious practices.

In summary, culture is defined as “the aspiration of a people to live in a manner that has in it, continuity and coherence and understanding which brings about a glue that holds people together.”

The Prophet (SAW) allowed aspects of inherited culture to enter Islam while precluding others. Differences in culture are inevitable and have proliferated throughout the Muslim world, but the ultimate reference is the inner accountability offered by haqiqah balanced with outer conduct offered by the guidance found in shari`ah.

Key Terms: islam; din; culture; Qur’an; prophetic way