August 16, 2022 | Muharram 18, 1444
Sanctity of Culture
Al-Araf (The Heights) Sura 7: Verse 199
The Quran enjoined the Prophet Muhammad to adhere to people's sound customs and usages and take them as a fundamental reference in legislation. Ibn Atiyya, a renowned early Andalusian jurist and Quranic commentator, asserted that the verse not only upheld the sanctity of indigenous culture but granted sweeping validity to everything the human heart regards as sound and beneficial, as long as it is not clearly repudiated in the revealed law. For classical Islamic jurists in general, the verse was often cited as a major proof-text for the affirmation of sound cultural usage, and it was noted that what people generally deem as proper tends to be compatible with their nature and environment, serving essential needs and valid aspirations.
Much of what became the Prophet's sunna (Prophetic model) was made up of acceptable pre-Islamic Arab cultural norms, and the principle of tolerating and accommodating such practices—among Arabs and non-Arabs alike in all their diversity—may be termed a supreme, overriding Prophetic sunna. In this vein, the noted early jurist, Abu Yusuf understood the recognition of good, local cultural norms as falling under the rubric of the sunna. The fifteenth-century Granadan jurisprudent Ibn al-Mawaq articulated a similar outlook and stressed, for example, that it was not the purpose of Prophetic dress codes to impinge upon the cultural integrity of non-Arab Muslims, who were at liberty to develop or maintain their own distinctive dress within the broad parameters of the sacred law.
"Islam and the Cultural Imperative" - Umar Faruq Abd-Allah
From Issue: 954 [Read original issue]
The fear of poverty is an instrument of deception and a common cause of misguidance. A person can grieve over a plethora of concerns and problems that he or she may never have to face. These phantom concerns can be controlling. A person who has wealth is constantly worried about his estate and its potential loss. Often, wealthy people enjoy no peace of mind and their lives are rife with conflict, contention, and treachery. People who are righteous do not suffer anxiety that tears down the body and mind. They are content to do good and trust in God.
People who harbor good thoughts about their Provider deflect insidious whisperings about Him and the subtle provocations that create irrational fear. His dominion is never diminished in the least when He gives to His creation all that they need. And if someone is given more than another, one should not harbor bad thoughts toward that person. Wholesome thoughts about God express themselves in one's contentment with what he or she has, and not stretching one's eyes toward the assets of others. The Prophet said, "Contentment is a treasure that is never exhausted." [Tabarani]
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf
From Issue: 979 [Read original issue]
Acquiescence Vs. Critical-Thinking
Many Muslim parents in North America grew up in areas where colonizing rulers maintained schools for acquiescence. That is, pupils were taught to repeat exactly what the teacher told them. If the test question asked for 3 reasons why it is good to brush your teeth, the answer had to be the exact three reasons that the teacher had told them in class. The pupil is not supposed to think; he is supposed to accept everything without questioning. This is too often the way we teach our children about Islam. Do this action because Islam says you have to. Do this exactly the way I say because every other way is haram. Our children need to learn that there are two kinds of knowledge, that which is revealed and that which is humanly acquired. Knowledge revealed in the Quran and hadiths is unchanging and unarguable. Knowledge that is derived from our five senses and our own thinking is subject to error and can and should be questioned.
North American schools, including good Islamic schools, stress critical thinking. For children who grow up here, it is not sufficient to say you have to do this because I say so. You can expect your children to honour and obey you because Islam requires obedience to parents, but you must also explain and discuss why you are asking for their obedience. Your youth should be required to pray, because Allah says for them to pray, but you must also be open and willing to discuss why Allah would ask us to do that. What are the possible benefits of praying, what should you do if you feel like the prayer is empty of meaning to you, and so on. These questions don't mean your youth are turning away from Islam; they mean that your youth are thinking seriously about their religion. One of the most wonderful things about Islam is that because it is the truth, it can stand up to the most critical of questions.
Parents must also learn to acknowledge that they make mistakes, and they are ignorant of certain answers. Your child does not have the right to expect you to be able to explain every Islamic injunction. He/she does have the right to expect you to give an honest and open response to their questions. When you tell your youth, "That's an important question. I don't know the answer. Let's see if we can find out what the Quran says about it." then you have created an open, honest exchange of thoughts with your youth.
Discuss Islam with your children from the time they are young, stressing the positive, and encouraging them to speak frankly and freely to you. Be an Islamic role model for them. By the time they have emerged from their troubling, questioning adolescence, you will have children who have actively embraced Islam, and who want to be Muslim because they know that it will make their life better in this world, and in the hereafter, in sha Allah (Allah willing).
"Teaching Your Child About Islam" - Freda Shamma
From Issue: 533 [Read original issue]