Random hypothetical scenario:

1. President X of not-existent Eastern European country Bieloslavatia (or the Caribbean Puerto Tobagahamas) declares that himself and his whole nation are ready to accept Islam, but he will not accept foreigners (Muslims or not, economic immigrants or refugees) from too much different cultures – not on the basis of a delusion of not-existent “ethnic purity” nor national homogeneity, rather, purely on the basis of a concern of cultural compatibility and some deeply ingrained idiosyncrasies for certain (legitimate, them too) habits, mindsets etc of some far-away cultures / nothing related to the Prophetic Sunnah nor the Sha`a’ir of Islam.

SJW / “cultural Muslim” reaction:

-“OMG!!11! It’s not important that he accepts Islam or not, because It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are a good person and your heart is clean, no one can judge you, so, yeah, forget about accepting Islam (God doesn’t look at that!!1!), but OMG, refugees welcome, stop being a cis-racist nazi!!1!”.

Actual-Muslim reaction:

-“We recognize every society, ethnicity and culture’s right to develop his own Islamic culture, tailored on the positive aspects of his originary culture, but purified from any element which is impermissible or incompatible with Islamic rules, teachings, values, ethos, and embracing the Universal Prophetic Sunnah as the common archetype on which molding each singular legitimate lawful expression of such a specific Islamic culture and civilization.
Bieloslavatian (and Puerto Tobagahamasian) people’s accepting Islam and submitting to their Creator is more important than any political agenda or of their liking or disliking this or that culture (as long as what’s under discussion are merely mubah aspects and not sunan or aspects of the Din). 
With the time, they will learn that the most far-away and culturally ethnically distant Muslim is their brother and far nearer to them then their kafir same-ethnicity family member; right now, their embracing Islam is more important and we welcome such a great decision which is paramount to their afterlife salvation”.

From this, let’s make a few considerations.

An extremely common scenario that people coming from a majority non-Muslim ethnicity/culture face upon accepting Islam, is that of being accused of being traitors of their homeland, history and culture, sell-outs who literally “turned” Arab/Pakistani/Turk/African/Uzbek/Tatar (according to what being Muslims is mostly associated with in one’s country).
On one side, where such accusation is linked to one’s renouncing the kufr and the haram of his people’s history, culture and habits, he needs not to worry about such taints, and -needless to say- he should rather be proud (nay, thankful to Allah for His guidance) of having left that behind his back, nor any compromise is possible on such aspects, so let him grow a spine and not be bothered by this.

But, other than this, there is another side – which sometimes is even stronger as objection raised than any theological-religious polemic; i.e., the accusation of losing one’s identity to embrace a completely different one, of effectively becoming a “foreigner” not in one’s beliefs, religious/sunnah/recommended practises, but even in those which are purely mubah and culturally coloured. Surely, the Islamic identity will obviously (and unapologetically) introduce an element of diversity from one’s originary status (and so will the following of Shari’ah and Sunnah), but as far as embracing those purely mubah and cultural aspects (from a different culture) is concerned, those small or big “exoticisms”; we should really ponder, are they a necessity or rather an obstacle in the conceptualization of what is Islam about? Don’t they obfuscate the universal message of Islam, bending and limitating it to a specific (legitimate!) manifestation of it, limiting its scope, creating unnecessary barriers?

I’m not talking about some coward inferiority-complexes-motivated “let’s not scare the kuffar!”, but rather about our duty in presenting Islam above our personal fascinations, likes and dislikes.

Because surely, we all have our own fascinations and idiosyncrasies (I also have mine!), we all have cultures and mentalities which we feel more attracted to, and others which we feel less inclined to. But it’s imperative to severe our own personal preferences and fascinations, to the image of Islam itself in the eyes of people. 
Sure, everyone can have his personal fascinations and find his mentality to “click” more with this or that Muslim culture (those who don’t have their own, yet), but is Islam’s cause somehow served in proving to your non-Muslim parents how every single Arab/Pakistani/Turk/African/Uzbek/Tatar is a wonderful person, how their culture is the best, and we should just only eat their food, wear their typical clothes [the topic of Sunnah dress is different and I’ll touch it on another occasion in sha’ Allah – for now, suffice to say that that is NOT what I’m discussing here, nor I’m debating the importance of avoid actual tashabbuh, but those are bigger topics for now], speak their language, and forget about developing our own Russian/Papuan/Brazilian Muslim culture (although, somehow we recognized such right for Tatars/Malays/Senegalese, the very moment we find their Muslim culture to be of our taste and we embrace it…).

Especially with the stigma associated in many countries with certain cultures (on non-religious merits, rather on cultural aspects, habits, mentality, etc), is it wise to stress upon them so much so that Islam as a whole is associated – in the minds of strangers – with such particular manifestations of (legitimate!) foreign Muslim cultures, or is it rather an unnecessary screen that takes them to dislike Islam on the basis of something that we unnecessarily made it a synonym of?

Before someone misunderstand, be it clear that what I’m discussing is NOT stuff such as covering the face (for women), or covering the head (for men), or sunnah practises, or any fiqhi ruling (let alone anything related to beliefs!), but rather, assuming an unnecessary different identity in gestures, habits, food tastes, melodies; in short, the unnecessary “orientalism” that is so commonly (and dangerously) confused with an Islam, which instead is neither Eastern nor Western.

How could such identifications be justified?

How can this focusing on being an advocate for a different (legitimate!) culture take the priority from calling to the worship of the Creator of White and Black (and all in between), of Vikings and Zulu, of Mongols and Mayas; how does convincing people how samosa/falafel/pilov must necessarily be better than gulash and taco serve Islam’s cause in any way?

PRIORITIES, people!

Is it more important that our kafir Chinese/Argentinian/Finnish friend appreciates some Punjabi melody, some Gulf litany, some Turkish song; that he learns some Moroccan slang or some Tajik greetings, or that he embraces Islam (and yeah, maybe will even feel some incompatibility with this or that specific Muslim culture [as long as it’s not a sunnah or Islamic practice), why not!)?

Hence, it’s imperative to show to English people that Islam is not equivalent to “becoming” Pakistani, to French that it’s not about “becoming Algerian”, and so on and so forth – and all this not because of some stigma towards the legitimate subcontinental or north-african (or any other) Muslim cultures [and nor accepting any dislike for any sunnah practice or any of the Sha`a’ir of Islam), but just for the sake of truth, simply because when a wrong perception solidifies and creates a screen covering the actual understanding of what Islam is about, it then becomes necessary to crush it and get back to the essential – in the same way as when a merely lawful practice starts to be seen as sunnah, wajib of fard, it becomes a bid`ah and has to be shunned!

So, especially in such contexts in which there are many prejudices and stigmas towards certain cultures and nationalities (be it for plain racism or for simple cultural differences, for example the way northern Europeans see Southerners as too lazy and emotionally expressive, and Southerners see Northerners as too much cold, inexpressive and robotic), it’s imperative that – as in the examples just given, it be made clear that a Northerner becoming Muslim will not mean that he will have to embrace the relative laziness and emotional expressivity that in his country they might associate (and dislike) with many Muslim culture; nor a Southerner (again, as for the example) embracing Islam will mean that he will have to embrace the relative coldness hypothetically associated to some hypothetical Northern Da’wah accolides.

We should be very wary of bending Islam to our own fascinations, likes or dislikes, and of replacing the essential with the contingent.

Umar al-Rumi

One Comment

  1. Beautiful! Absolutely beautifully stated!!! MashaAllah!

    May Allah swt bless you brothers – I’ve been waiting for something like this!

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