islamic culture

by singalodaya

Culture is defined as a people’s complete way of life. It consists of all the ideas, objects and ways of doing

things created by the group. Culture includes beliefs, customs, language and traditions (World Book Encyclopaedia).

While there are numerous cultures and subcultures present in the world, of primary concern to us in this

discussion are the two main opposing cultures in present-day society. One is the culture of Islam — the “complete way of

life” set forth in the Qur’an and Sunnah. On the other opposing end is the Western culture. Both cultures present a

“complete way of life.” However, both ways of life differ drastically.

The difference in the two cultures stems primarily from the source of the cultures. Islamic culture — the way of

life of a Muslim — is defined by the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is the culture of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). It

is that way of life upon which he established the Sahaaba (R.A.) after having turned them away from the culture of

jahiliyyah (ignorance).

On the other hand, Western culture is fashioned by a host of people; Capitalists, atheists, people who believe in

same-gender marriages and others of a similar nature. Such people determine the decadent culture of the West.


The cornerstone of Islamic culture is morality (hayaa)and simplicity. Hayaa (morality / modesty) and simplicity

are both qualities of Imaan. Thus the true Islamic society upholds the highest levels of morality and maintains simplicity

in every aspect. Some of the salient features of this society are:

*     No free intermingling between non-mahram (those who are not forbidden to marry) males and females. The laws of

Hijaab will be observed.

*     Modest dressing. Clothing will truly cover the body (also loose enough to cover the shape) and have no

flirtatious intent.

*    Men and women will fulfil the separate roles that have been apportioned to them — the husband as breadwinner and

the wife as mother and one who fulfils the household responsibilities, etc. This is the foundation to a stable

Islamic family which together with other such families forms a stable Islamic community.

Contrary to this, the cornerstone of Western culture is immorality and extravagance. The “live-in” culture where a

couple live like man and wife but never marry — is almost the norm. While there are numerous aspects that highlight the

immorality of Western culture, perhaps the most visible and marked expression of this culture is in it’s dressing.

Shorter, tighter and more revealing is the rule by which the dress code keeps changing. Western clothing, instead of

covering and distracting any wrongful glances, is by and large designed for flirting, attracting and arousing.

As for simplicity in Western culture, it is almost a kind of tragedy. Since the poor fellow cannot afford to

indulge in anything extravagant, hence merely due to circumstances, he is forced to adopt a simple lifestyle.

Fashion-slavery is part of western life. If one does not have a branded garment, it is tragic. If the real thing is not

available, a fake will also do. If it is not a branded product, it is then only for the have-nots even if it is of a

better quality and lesser cost.

While the above are some of the serious core differences between Islamic and Western culture, the most important

aspect is the difference in the mindset of both cultures.

The mindset of the Islamic culture stems from the conviction that Allah Ta’ala is our Creator and Sustainer. Hence

in this short stay on earth, we are to serve Him alone in the manner taught by His beloved Rasul (Sallallahu Alaihi

Wasallam). Thus the Islamic culture revolves around the firm belief that our mission in life is to establish complete Deen

in ourselves and on the face of this earth. With this mindset, one will sacrifice one’s wealth, energies and time as much

as possible for the purpose of life. Indeed one will acquire the necessities of life as well, but Deen will be the guiding

light and driving force. Deen will dictate and all else will follow. The “purpose of life” will demand — and all else will

submit. As a result if one does not acquire many comforts and luxuries, it will not matter. Rather, life will be regarded

as a journey wherein the traveller is not too concerned about the luxuries and comforts en-route. The traveller is focused

towards his destination. Yet, as a result of one’s obedience to Allah Ta’ala, one will be blessed with true peace,

serenity and contentment.


Conversely, the mindset of Western culture is that the purpose of life is worldly enjoyment. Every comfort and

luxury that can be acquired must be attained at all costs. Everything centres around entertainment, chasing fun … and

chasing more fun. There is no mission in life. No objective. Merely the pursuit of temporal pleasure permeates every cell

of the mind. And yes indeed! The constant pursuit of greater comfort and luxury and continuously chasing fun demands loads

of money. Thus life revolves around making money — from early morning till late at night — and having fun. If anything

comes in the way of this fun, it must be removed. If looking after elderly parents “spoils the weekends and holidays” they

should be dispatched to the old-age homes. If children come in the way of earning extra money to afford “the better

quality of life,” they can be entrusted to day-care centres where they are treated almost like mechanical objects. There

is no concern for proper upbringing. In order to “enhance the quality of life” (which means making more money to have more

luxuries and more fun) anything can be sacrificed — parents, children and even religion. It is an extremely hollow

existence without any peace or contentment — which only stops when one is placed in the hollow of the grave!

It is thus evident that Islamic culture and Western culture are worlds apart. The problem is that when people of

different cultures live together in the same community, the process of enculturation takes place where people from one

culture adopt traits, customs, habits and ideas from the other culture. There is no doubt that this enculturation has

occurred in our communities. Many Muslims have tragically become greatly Westernised in their mindset, in adopting a very

extravagant lifestyle, in their dressing, in making life revolve mainly around chasing money and fun, etc. Deen for such

people has become a “side-line.”

Why has this enculturation occurred? The answer is alarming! According to social scientists, people abandon their

own culture and borrow from another culture when they regard aspects of the other culture as “better” (World Book).

Encyclopaedia Britannica (CD version) highlights this aspect in the following words: “To be sure, a culture trait must

offer some advantage, some utility or pleasure to be sought and accepted by people.” Allah forbid! Due to the weakness of

Imaan and ignorance, the Sunnah culture is being abandoned by Muslims for some Western way which they regard as “better”

or as having more pleasure and advantage than the Islamic culture! This is no different to a child who gives away a

priceless diamond in exchange for an insignificant shiny stone. He has no idea of the value of the gems he is abandoning

and is duped by the shine on the stone.

Western culture is being glorified and vigorously promoted by the media as the culture. The media message simply

is: “If you are not following the Western trend, you are old fashioned, backward and maybe dumb.” However, these slogans

should not make us lose our priceless gems for worthless stones, rather, poisonous pebbles. Instead we should adopt the

stance of Hazrat Huzaifa bin Yamaan (R.A.). While eating in the court of the Persians, a morsel of food fell from his hand

onto the floor. In emulation of the Sunnah, he picked it up to eat it. Somebody next to him cautioned him that to pick up

a fallen morsel was against the culture of the Persians. He should therefore follow their way and refrain from picking up

the morsel. His spontaneous response was: “Should I leave the Sunnah (culture) of my beloved Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi

Wasallam) for these fools?”

Adopting Western culture will bring along its severe negative consequences. Some of them are:

*    A materialistic society with no mission in life

*    Indulgence in drugs and immorality “for fun”

*     Break-down of respect for parents and elders

*    Disintegration of family structures

*    High divorce rate, etc.

Every effort must therefore be made to preserve the culture of the Qur’an and Sunnah. This requires adopting the

company of those who are sunnah conscious, learning about the various sunnats and making an effort to bring them alive in

ones home, community and the Ummah at large.

If Western trends take root, besides harming ourselves, we will also lay the foundation for the destruction of

future generations. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “once established, culture has a life of it’s own … it flows

down through time from one generation to another.” It is therefore imperative that we guard against this.

The only success for us in this world and the Hereafter is in upholding the way of life of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

May Allah Ta’ala keep us steadfast on His Deen. Aameen.


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