By Tasneem Vali – Architect, Academic Coordinator and Freelance Writer and Umm Amal – Freelance Writer
Wikipedia defines ‘cultural Muslims’ as being religiously unobservant: “People who identify themselves with the Muslim culture, because of family background, personal experiences or the social and cultural environment in which they grew up.” They are born into a Muslim household, but do not tread the path of self-discovery. The world is alluring to them, and they think it is not worth their while to explore why they are Muslims.
“O You who believe! Enter perfectly in Islam and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan (Satan). Verily! He is to You a plain enemy.” (Al-Baqarah 2:208) Allah (swt) commands that we commit ourselves totally to the way of life that Islam preaches. It does not allow us to deliberately reject an aspect of Islam, because we think it is outdated or rigid, only to accept another part we like and think is easy to practice. Entering Islam absolutely means that we have to follow its teachings without any exceptions and without any reservations.
The culture of Islam is universal. It means if adultery is a sin in Afghanistan, it is a sin in Germany, too. If gambling is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, it is prohibited also in Las Vegas. On the Day of Judgement, all people will be judged by the same standards. There won’t be a separate code of conduct for Muslims and non-Muslims. But Allah (swt) also celebrates diversity in many ways. For example, we all look different, speak in various languages, and possess unique abilities. Muslims all across the globe fast for 29-30 days but may enjoy their Iftar with Samosas or Hareesa or pancakes, etc. All are Halal and culturally relevant to Muslims belonging to different parts of the world. Where they unite is when they all pick up dates first at the call of the Adhan to follow the Sunnah to break their fast. This is the best amalgamation of Islam’s universal culture and a Muslim’s indigenous roots.
Similarly, Allah (swt) says: “O You who believe, eat of the lawful things that we have provided you with, and be grateful to Allah, if it is indeed He Whom you worship.” (Al-Baqarah 2:172) In this verse, we receive an important guideline about our sources of income: We must ensure our source of income is Halal (permissible) and blessed and it does not come from a prohibited (Haram) source. Thus, if we think as cultural slaves that an income earned through Haram activities, which might make a person wealthy and famous, is acceptable, we need to remind ourselves that the line between Haram and Halal is clear. There is no concept of Robin Hood in Islam; the end does not justify the means.
A trendy practice for show business stars is to thank and praise Allah (swt), and hold Him responsible for their successes, glory and honourable standing in society! Experience and common sense tells us that the lifestyle of entertainment contradicts most of the Quran and the Sunnah, in terms of illicit relations, drinking, shameless talk and attire. These are the signs of the transgressors, not those of the true believers.
Nevertheless, the road to Allah (swt) remains open: “And (commanding you): ‘Seek the forgiveness of Your Lord, and turn to Him in repentance, that He may grant You good enjoyment…” (Hud 11:3).
We have been invited to move from the darkness into the light. There are numerous examples of people giving up a disbelieving lifestyle for Allah’s (swt) pleasure. We have the examples of Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) and Junaid Jamshed, the owner of a clothing line and in the process, a trendsetter in his own right. When he advertised his clothing line, he did not use models; a year later, other fashion houses emulated his concept. The latest ‘cultural Muslim’ coming of age is Shiraz Uppal, who tweeted, “There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in the way your Creator wants it to be spent.”
If we admire any celebrity or icon, we can email or send them inspirational and informative write-ups as soft Dawah. Who knows? Maybe they have never had a conducive environment or access to the truth, and we become their means to salvation. Allah (swt) always has a way out. We must recognize that we have a serious crisis of self-esteem and should use Islam to improve our understanding of the ‘approved’ way of life. It is crucial that we enshroud ourselves with Islam, step out of the cultural enslavement, and become one of those who submit to Allah (swt).
“[Our Sibghah (religion) is] the Sibghah (religion) of Allah (Islam) and which Sibghah (religion) can be better than Allah’s? And we are His worshippers.” (Al-Baqarah 2:138)