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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Asian culture stuff?

A few years ago I was standing in front of an Islamic stall, outside a masjid, before me were books, perfume, posters and all manner of religious material. We have a specific interest in books and that is where I was. The owner had some books about Sira (the life story of the Prophet (May Allah send him peace and blessings)). These books had caught my eye at the time.

Then I saw two non Muslim Englishmen who were passing by at the time. One asked the other about the contents of the stall. He replied, “It's Asian culture stuff.” In a manner that suggesting that he was brushing off the question.

They passed by and I looked again at the contents of the stall, bemused. As it was religiously related, the posters contained calligraphy, the perfumes smelt fresh; to me it was all Islamic and had little to do with ‘Asian culture.’

Maybe he meant that the Muslims were all from the Indo-Pak culture; I was not sure. It was at a time that a far right party had penetrated local councils unlike ever before and maybe they were influenced by them. Or maybe that this was their limit or experience of the religion.

After some reflection I realised what they meant; he meant that our religion was our culture. He meant that the culture had a place in our lives that our religion did not. Not all Asians are Muslim some are Christians, Hindus and other traditions so his statement was false. Islam is not specifically allocated to one particular group it is for people of all races and all religions. Islam is not anyone’s property anyone can come and take their share of the religion without diminishing anyone else’s reward. Anyone claiming that it is theirs or just for their race or nationality has claimed something which they have no right to claim. This is a very dangerous game so don’t play it.

The problem with seeing Islam as a culture is that we leave that which is difficult and do whatever is easy. Islam is our religion and it transcends all negative practices of any people. At the same time positive practices of a people do have a place in Islam, as long as it does not contradict the religion.

We should try to distance ourselves from displaying a type of Islam that is only for one set of people. Our Masjids should be open for people to come and ask questions but what we find in many communities is that the masjid is for one set of people and one only. No people of different Muslim groups intermingle and these groups remain strangers. Each Nationality sticking to its own people which is really sad.

We have much work to do in order to really explain Islam to our own communities; they need this now more than ever. What I mean is people who are Muslim and those who are not because they all need help, we all need some sort of help. Who will stand now and really try to explain our religion correctly to the people we live around? If we did this correctly then when people would go past they would say, “That is Islamic stuff.”

Adherence to our culture will not allow us to enter paradise only adherence to religion will allow us to do that. So make your choice.

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