Distinguish Culture from Religion

by Tahira Rifath

Some Muslims have practices that are outside of Islam, such as adopting saints as intermediates to God, overly superstitious attitudes, using witchcraft, and female oppression.

I think the reason the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and India still have such deviant cultural practices tied to Islam is because when Muslims liberated their lands during the spread of the Muslim Empire, the residents were kind of taught Islam in a “crash course” style. It took Prophet Muḥammad (Peace be upon him) twenty three years to bring Islam to Makkah and Madinah, eliminating regressive cultural practices appropriately with timely revelations. The newer Muslim regions didn’t have that privilege when adopting the religion, thus confusing pagan practices with Islamic law later. So it’s important to note that Islam was taught in stages and if you drown people in religious rulings, they would find it hard to accept Islam.



A friend shared something beautiful regarding the issue:

This reminds me of an incident during the reign of khalifah ʿUmar ibn ʿAbdulʿaziz. When he witnessed his own Muslim people straying from their obligations, his son addressed him: “O father, the Muslims are falling short of the law; why haven’t you enforced all of shariʿah in your courts?” His father, the khalifah, replied, “O son, if I were to hold the people upon the truth all at once [i.e. Islamic rulings], they would abandon the truth all at once.”

يابنى لو حملت الناس على الحق جملة واحدة تركوه جملة واحدة

This is why scholars say it is important to distinguish culture from religion as we adopt Islam. It’s also a phenomenon I’ve noticed in 2nd generation Muslims; they want to learn Islam from scholars, not exactly from their parents.


Image source – http://whap.mrduez.com/2011/11/targets-chapter-11-islam.html