Answered by Shaykh Umer Mian

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I fee the best way for me to follow Islam is to dissociate myself with the Pakistani culture. Many of the character traits, cultural traits, are not Islamic. Some of my pakistani relatives have left me heartroken. When we do something that is permissile in Islam but not culture we are pubically shamed. If I follow Islam properly (not culture) it will create a rift between me and my father. What should I do?

Answer: Wa alaikum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Your question brings up several important issues.

First of all, you mentioned that you’re dealing with challenges from family, including your father. In responding to these challenges you must proceed with caution, as the rights due to one’s parents are immense. When calling our parents to Allah, we have the example of the Prophet Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) who called his father to right guidance with gentle speech. Although his father responded with harshness, Sayyidna Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) still replied with kindness. Read and reflect upon these verses from the Qur’an: Surah Maryam (chapter 19), verses 41-48. Notice how Sayyidna Ibrahim (alaihi al-salam) ends his response in verse 48 by mentioning dua. The learned and the righteous inform us that the primary and most effective means for da’wah (calling to Allah) is sincere dua done in private in the latter part of the night. These verses also teach us that respect and reverence are due to our parents, even when they are in the wrong and are transgressing against Allah’s limits. At the same time, we must not forget a fundamental principle in our religion, which is established based on numerous hadith: there can be no obedience to the created if it entails disobedience to the Creator. Therefore, it is upon us to know well what is obligatory in our religion and hold firmly to it, while at the same time calling others to Allah, including our parents, with wisdom and gentleness. This brings up the second issue: the importance of sacred knowledge.

In our times Muslims worldwide have become distant from their tradition and are suffering from a lack of sacred knowledge and weakness of iman (faith). This has led Muslims from many different lands to confuse culture and religion. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) informed about this in numerous hadith. He (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) is reported to have said: “Verily Allah does not take away knowledge by pulling it out from (the hearts) of His servants. Rather, He takes it away by the death of scholars, until no scholar remains and people follow ignorant leaders. They are asked and they issue judgments without knowledge. Thus, they go astray and lead others astray” (agreed upon by al-Bukhari and Muslim). In another hadith, we are informed that in the end of time people will follow their whims (hawa) and be amazed with their own opinions (recorded by al-Tirmidhi). The solution to this predicament is seeking of sacred knowledge from authentic sources so that we can discern the permissible from the impermissible and the praiseworthy from the blameworthy. Then we must practice upon that knowledge and convey it to others with wisdom.

Third, know that Islam did not come to eliminate culture. Reflect upon the oft-recited verse: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (Qur’an, 49:13). This verse reminds us that Allah made mankind into nations and tribes for a wisdom, and hence culture in and of itself is not blameworthy. Also consider the fact that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) was sent to the Arabian peninsula while the Arab people were in Jahiliyya (the pre-Islamic days of ignorance). They were known to bury their daughters alive, engage in tribal feuds that lasted generations, perform tawaf (circumambulation around the Ka’bah in Makkah) naked, engage in zina (fornication/adultery), indulge in intoxicants, etc. Despite all of this, the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) did not completely dissociate himself from their culture. He (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) is reported to have said: “I was only sent to complete noble character” (recorded by al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi). The scholars explain that use of the phrase “to complete” implies that the Arabs had noble character traits even in the times of Jahiliyyah. These included generosity, honoring guests, keeping up oaths and promises, etc. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) affirmed what was noble and praiseworthy of their culture and corrected what was vile and blameworthy. As Islam spread around the world in the centuries thereafter, a similar process occurred. Aspects of culture that violated the Sacred Law were rejected and those which were in agreement with the Sacred Law were accepted.

Finally, with regards to Pakistani culture in particular, there are certainly blameworthy, unIslamic practices that have crept into the culture. The same is true for many Muslim peoples today. On the other hand, the Indian subcontinent also has a centuries-long tradition of Islamic scholarship and a rich history of Urdu poetry revering the Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam). Numerous Islamic scholars from the Arab world have recognized the strong love and connection people of the Indian subcontinent have to the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam). In fact, some have even cited this as the secret for these people to have excelled in Islamic scholarship in these latter times, especially in the sciences of hadith.

In conclusion, know that Islam does not require us to dissociate ourselves from Pakistani culture or any other culture. Rather, it only requires us to dissociate from blameworthy aspects of culture that contradict the Sacred Law. A firm grounding in sacred knowledge along with a connection to qualified, God-fearing Islamic scholars is necessary to guide ourselves through these challenges. May Allah Most High grant us beneficial knowledge and righteous action upon it, and may He give us the tawfiq (divine success) to call to right guidance with wisdom and patience.

Source texts are provided below in the original Arabic.

Wassalam.

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَبِيًّا (41) إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ يَا أَبَتِ لِمَ تَعْبُدُ مَا لَا يَسْمَعُ وَلَا يُبْصِرُ وَلَا يُغْنِي عَنْكَ شَيْئًا (42) يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي قَدْ جَاءَنِي مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَمْ يَأْتِكَ فَاتَّبِعْنِي أَهْدِكَ صِرَاطًا سَوِيًّا (43) يَا أَبَتِ لَا تَعْبُدِ الشَّيْطَانَ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَنِ عَصِيًّا (44) يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ يَمَسَّكَ عَذَابٌ مِنَ الرَّحْمَنِ فَتَكُونَ لِلشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيًّا (45) قَالَ أَرَاغِبٌ أَنْتَ عَنْ آلِهَتِي يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ لَئِنْ لَمْ تَنْتَهِ لَأَرْجُمَنَّكَ وَاهْجُرْنِي مَلِيًّا (46) قَالَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكَ سَأَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكَ رَبِّي إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِي حَفِيًّا (47) وَأَعْتَزِلُكُمْ وَمَا تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَأَدْعُو رَبِّي عَسَى أَلَّا أَكُونَ بِدُعَاءِ رَبِّي شَقِيًّا (مريم 48)

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ (الحجرات 13)

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ انْتِزَاعًا يَنْتَزِعُهُ مِنْ الْعِبَادِ وَلَكِنْ يَقْبِضُ الْعِلْمَ بِقَبْضِ الْعُلَمَاءِ حَتَّى إِذَا لَمْ يُبْقِ عَالِمًا اتَّخَذَ النَّاسُ رُءُوسًا جُهَّالًا فَسُئِلُوا فَأَفْتَوْا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ فَضَلُّوا وَأَضَلُّوا (متفق عليه)

عنْ أَبِي أُمَيَّةَ الشَّعْبَانِيِّ قَالَ أَتَيْتُ أَبَا ثَعْلَبَةَ الْخُشَنِيَّ فَقُلْتُ لَهُ كَيْفَ تَصْنَعُ بِهَذِهِ الْآيَةِ قَالَ أَيَّةُ آيَةٍ قُلْتُ قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى { يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ }

قَالَ أَمَا وَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ سَأَلْتَ عَنْهَا خَبِيرًا سَأَلْتُ عَنْهَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ بَلْ ائْتَمِرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنَاهَوْا عَنْ الْمُنْكَرِ حَتَّى إِذَا رَأَيْتَ شُحًّا مُطَاعًا وَهَوًى مُتَّبَعًا وَدُنْيَا مُؤْثَرَةً وَإِعْجَابَ كُلِّ ذِي رَأْيٍ بِرَأْيِهِ فَعَلَيْكَ بِخَاصَّةِ نَفْسِكَ وَدَعْ الْعَوَامَّ فَإِنَّ مِنْ وَرَائِكُمْ أَيَّامًا الصَّبْرُ فِيهِنَّ مِثْلُ الْقَبْضِ عَلَى الْجَمْرِ لِلْعَامِلِ فِيهِنَّ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ خَمْسِينَ رَجُلًا يَعْمَلُونَ مِثْلَ عَمَلِكُمْ قَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ وَزَادَنِي غَيْرُ عُتْبَةَ قِيلَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَجْرُ خَمْسِينَ مِنَّا أَوْ مِنْهُمْ قَالَ بَلْ أَجْرُ خَمْسِينَ مِنْكُمْ (رواه الترمذي)

عَن أبي هُرَيرة ، عَن النَّبِيّ صَلَّى الله عَلَيه وَسَلَّم قال : إنما بعثت لأتمم مكارم الأخلاق. (رواه البيهقي والبزار)

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Umer Mian

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)