The Line Between Culture and Islam.

One of the most prevalent problems within The Ummah today is racism and prejudice towards other Muslims, on account of their culture, colour, or country of origin. This idea is certainly not from Islam, and causes much fitnah and segregation amongst the community. How can we ever be a united Ummah, if we look down upon other Muslims? How can we solve the problems our people are facing in the world today, if we don’t even truly love one another?

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Alhamdulillah, this is becoming less common amongst the younger generations, as most of us in the west are schooled amongst people from different backgrounds. And even in countries which are less culturally integrated, youngsters are more aware of other cultures and nationalities through the medium of the internet. On the whole, the younger generations see less differences and more commonalities between humans; the world has become a smaller place.

However, even if younger Muslim minds are less tainted with these prejudices, we will often follow the ideals of our parents, especially when it comes to marriage. Very few of us, even though we know racism is wrong, will stand up to our parents, who may insist that we only marry within our own community. It’s personal preference if you do indeed want to marry within your culture, but what if you don’t? What if you have found a potential spouse that doesn’t originate from your background/country/city? Many of us would like to marry outside of our culture, but are too scared to bring the issue up with the elders of the family. And in hiding from the truth, we are only solidifying these prejudices for yet another generation to come.

Who are your role models? Your parents, or The Pious Predecessors?

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Yes, it is true that we must not disobey our parents, but we also know that this is for matters which are halal. And since when did prejudice and racism become halal? There are many narrations from The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, and verses from The Quran, which tell us about our obligation to treat all fellow Muslims with equality.

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Unfortunately, many of us just want the easy life, and therefore turn a blind eye to the truth, as we do for many matters. But great reward comes with great effort.

Without doubt, the older generation can be stuck in its ways. That doesn’t mean that they cannot learn. Obviously anything new and alien to them will initially cause outrage. But these oppositions are merely a test of your resolve. There are many topics which were unknown to my parents a few years ago, but with gentle and persistent da’wah, their hearts have softened and their minds have opened. My parents are not Muslim; they do not even have the natural predisposition to understand Islam. On this basis, it is even more likely that Muslim parents will understand, because they are already inclined to The Message, and for this, all praise is due to Allah.

We must remember the beginnings of Islam. Our religion was built upon the backbone of equality. The younger generation is perhaps more in tune with how the religion came about. We read/listen to stories of the Sahabah رضي الله عنهم, and we admire the struggles that they went through, and the fights they fought, to bring this beautiful Deen to us. We have YouTube, and lectures at the local Masaajid. We have translations of The Quran and Hadeeth at our fingertips. We are fortunate to have access to all of this knowledge. We should be using it to inspire the elders to have the same sense of wonder for our beginnings. Having pride in the roots of Islam is more important than the unfounded cultural pride we see amongst many people today. This is merely a sign of how far we have drifted from the true message of our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Perhaps they were just brought up in a time where knowledge of Islam was less available to them. But we are not, so let us be the ones who offer them the knowledge.

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Although old habits die hard, the task is not as impossible as it sounds.

The first men and women of Islam dealt with severe opposition from their families. They never disrespected their families, but they drew the line at disobeying Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. None of their families died as a result of their opposition, as we are unreasonably made to fear. How many times have I heard, “my mother will have a heart attack if I tell her…”? This is a scare tactic. My mother herself was one to tell me she would die if I became a Muslim. Yet here we are, three years on, blessed with mutual understanding. Let us be honest, death comes at a time appointed by Allah alone. In fact, leave aside death – the opposite occurred; many of these opposing family members eventually joined Islam. So essentially, by bearing with the initial difficulty of opposition, the youths of the family ended up being the very reason why their elders had a chance to be of the people of Jannah. Allahu Akbar.

The point is to have patience and faith. And to persevere. And to pray. Allah will always bless your efforts, and find a way for you, if indeed you are upon The Haqq.

So yes, you can sit there and fear your parents, by turning a blind eye and letting them continue to have these ignorant views until they leave this world. Or you can fear ALLAH, stand up for your religion, stand up for justice, and perhaps you could even end up being the very reason that Allah has mercy upon them on That Day. After all, who wants to witness their parents being questioned by Allah on That Day, about their hatred for fellow Muslims? Will you not then regret trying to bring them to the truth?

Think long-term. Think AAKHIRAH.

Remember, nothing will help you on The Day of Judgement, other than your deeds. Will you not have to answer to Allah, as to why you turned a blind eye to injustice within your own home? It is, in fact, our duty to safeguard our families and preserve The Message of our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. And what better way to do that, than to lead our nearest and dearest to the true path of Islam?

Being from a family of non-Muslims, I will always strive to bring my parents to Islam. My dream is to see them in Jannah. I despair at the thought that they will be in the fire. Many born Muslims blindly believe that just because their parents are Muslims, they have an automatic ticket to an eternity in Paradise. Reality check: parents are just slaves of Allah like us. They need to be corrected like us. They need to learn just like we do. And it is our duty to help them.

Truly, there can be no greater show of love for your parents, than to be the ones who help them reach Jannah, through piety and obedience to Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم.

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Use of the Internet and Social Networks.

The way in which we network online could well be one of the factors by which we enter Jannah or Jahannam. It is up to us to choose which path we tread on.

Having consciousness of Allah will allow us to use these tools properly. Taqwa enables us to engage our minds into the act of continuously questioning what we do. The Muslim should always be aware of his/her every action. The following are some of the questions we should be asking ourselves when we are ‘online’:

Am I disciplined with my usage of time?
Should I be looking at this?
Are these people/words/pictures/videos benefitting me?
Is what I’m looking at helping me get to Jannah?
Have I got more time for my online ‘friends’ than I have for my family and those around me?
Am I lowering my gaze?
Am I portraying an accurate picture of who I am?
Am I showing off?
Am I being influenced in any way by non-Islamic ideas?
Am I vetting the people I allow into my circles?
Am I involved in idle talk?
Am I being affected by my status/popularity?
Am I showing a good example to non-Muslims, of what it is to be a Muslim?

By asking questions such as these, and answering ourselves honestly, we are able to monitor realities which can easily become lost in the dangerous comfortability of a virtual world.

We must also be aware and fear the consequences of indiscipline in use, such as:

1. Leading ourselves to immorality
– involving ourselves in (or things that lead to) adultery, zinaa’, pornography, and other such sinful behaviour.

2. Wasting valuable time
– taking from our Islamic and worldly duties (such as prayer, being a good spouse/parent/child/friend, taking part in community activities etc.).
– squandering time which could be better spent in the way of Allah.

3. Becoming like the disbelievers
– being influenced by western culture.
– imitating them (fashion/hairstyle).
– competitiveness for worldly riches.
– desensitisation towards what is forbidden in Islam.

4. Showing off (Al-Riyaa’)
– known in Islam as ‘the hidden shirk’.
– advertising your good deeds to show ‘piety’ (eg. posting pictures of yourself at the masjid on Jummu`ah).
– competing with other Muslims regarding Islamic achievements.

5. Filling your mind with the useless
– music and other pointless media.
– debating with other Muslims.

All these things will slowly but VERY SURELY lead to a decline in imaan.

We must also be aware of the very real concern of The Evil Eye. It is said in an authentic narration:

“The evil eye is real, and if anything were to overtake the divine decree (al-Qadr) it would be the evil eye.”

[Narrated by Muslim no. 2188, from the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbaas]

So we must be extremely careful about what of ourselves, families, and possessions we make available for public viewing. We never truly know the intentions of those who are watching, and must protect ourselves from the evil of the envier when he envies (Surat al-Falaq).

This being said, if used in a correct manner, there are many examples of how the same tools of the internet could in fact improve our lives, and even bring us immense reward:

1. Acquiring knowledge
– watching beneficial lectures from trusted sources.
– reading any material regarding The Qur’an, Hadeeth, scholars, Islamic history, etc.
– following and learning from those who remind us of our religion and obligations.
– taking online classes.

2. Sharing knowledge
– through reminders in controlled social network environments.
– teaching, if one has the capacity to.
– calling to Islam.

3. Good causes
– being plugged into what causes exist, and where we can help.
– increasing awareness of the state of The Ummah.
– fundraising.

4. Good relations
– keeping in touch with family and (halal) friends.

5. Work/educational reasons
– advertising/promoting a (halal) business or service.
– learning and gaining qualifications which will benefit your career.
– revision.

REMEMBER: when online, we are not only accountable for what we lead ourselves to, but also that which we lead others to. For example, if our pictures lack modesty and cause others to have difficulty in lowering their gaze, then we are the direct cause of their sin. This will become our burden to bear on That Day. We must be careful not to lead anyone astray – there is no sin in not being able to guide others, but there is sin in causing misguidance.

So let us be exemplary Muslims; online and offline, let us be of those who spread khayr, and let us protect ourselves from the fitnah of The Shaytaan and our nafs.

Most of all, let us remember our true purpose here on the earth:

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And in the remembrance of this, let us try to make it so that even our online endeavours can be counted as an act of `ibaadah on That Day.

The Basmalah.

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Begin all things in the name of Allah.

This seemingly simple act can be the starting point of inspiring your imaan for the better. Anything begun in His name is promised to bring barakah into our lives. There are many benefits to making this a habit:

Protection:
It is our first line of defence against The Shaytaan, and the evil which exists from jinnkind and mankind.

Consciousness of Allah (Taqwa):
To remind ourselves that Allah is watching over all things. If we cannot begin the action in His name, we know we should not be doing it.

Blessing:
The thing begun in Allah’s name has barakah in it. Such as food we eat, a new project at work, or journeys we undertake.

Reward:
For the very rememberance of His beautiful name(s).