Monday, September 10, 2007

Culture vs. Religion

I always wonder where the line is drawn between Islam and the Arab (or general Semitic) culture. There seem to be certain elements of Islam that I can't justify as religious or moral but I pass off as influences of Muhammad's culture.

I can understand the importance of the Arabic language since that's the language of the Qu'ran. As long as people are well enough educated that they understand classical Arabic. Also, there seem to be plenty of translations and although the prayers are in Arabic, the equivalent of the sermon is in the local language (at least the one mosque I've visited operates in English.)

There are some little things where I see definite cultural differences. I was raised that you don't wear hats indoors, especially in a place of worship; it's disrespectful. However, I see many men wear the tight, woven hats to Friday prayer, some bring them specifically for the mosque and don't wear them otherwise. Additionally, I've seen a number of guys wearing baseball caps; they always turn them backwards for some reason but they continue to wear them throughout the service.

I can get over the hats; it's not a requirement and I can justify it as a cultural difference. However, the requirement to grow a fist-length beard is a little more of an issue. Obviously, it's a requirement that many Muslim men of all cultures choose to ignore. I seriously don't believe I'm capable of growing such a beard and, at this point, I don't think it's something I'll grow into. Even if I were able, it still seems like a requirement without any logical explanation. The same applies to the prohibition for men to wear gold or silk, although I find it a little easier to accept those as attempts to keep people from blurring the line between male and female.

I'm not belittling Muhammad in any way. I accept that he was a good friend, a great leader, and a humble, God-fearing man. I think it's admirable to follow and base our lives and actions on his life as well as other prophets. However, there's a huge difference between trying to live a good life and being a good person and always eating with your right hand, for instance. In that regard, left-handed people are automatically born with a deficiency, just like me and my lack of beard-growing skills. Obviously eating with your left hand or not having a beard won't keep you from Heaven. Of course, I'm sure Christianity probably has some equally illogical rules that are very culturally based that I just accept because I grew up in a Christian culture.

I'm not really sure what my point is but it's a blog so I'm allowed to ramble. Anyway, I think my next post will be on prophecy as some thoughts regarding that have been stewing in my head recently.

34 comments:

Dxbgirl said...

I have passed by your blog while researching about culture vs religion in Islam. My friend, the problem with Islam these days is that it's mixed up with culture, even some Muslims are ignorant and aren't aware of the line between culture and Islam. As long as your culture does not contradict with an Islamic practice or belief, then where’s the problem? Like for example; wearing the hat, in your culture you take off your hats out of respect, but most Muslim countries are of really sunny and hot weather where the people need to cover their heads as protection from the sun, it has nothing to do with Islam...

like wise, the beard, you don't have to grow a beard, short or long, to be a good Muslim! It’s your preference; Muslim men grow it out of love for Mohammad peace be upon him, for he had a beard..

things are pretty much simple and straight forward in Islam and don’t contradict to our human nature, that’s why I love being a Muslim =)

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Akashma News said...

You guys are completely missing the point Islam is not just religion, it is a way of life, it is culture in itself.
It is structured to rule the family, political and social life of the community that embrace it.
I'm not Muslim, I appreciate the richness of every religion.

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