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Islamic Society ( 20 March 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Qur'an Does Not Impose Arab Culture on the Muslims of the World

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

21 March 2022

Religion And Culture Can Exist Together In A Muslim Society

Main Points:

1.    Islam recognises culture and cultural values.

2.    God has created cultural groups or races.

3.    God created languages and tribes.

4.    The hadiths recognise cultural values.

5.    The holy prophet pbuh allowed women to sing.


In the Muslim society culture means Islamic culture and Islamic culture is often misunderstood for Arab culture. Most Muslims try to emulate Arabs in dress, language and other social behaviour and mannerisms thinking that by doing so they closely adhere to the Islamic culture. But from the Qur'an and Hadiths, we get a different idea of culture. The holy Quran distinguishes religion from culture. To discuss what the Qur'an and Hadith say on culture, we should see the modern definitions of culture.

T. S. Eliot thinks that culture is an organic shared system of beliefs that cannot be planned or artificially induced. Its chief means of transmission is family

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, culture means all aspects of human life in so far as they are determined or conditioned by membership in a society. The fact that people eat or drink is not in itself cultural; it is a biological necessity for the preservation of life. That they eat particular foods, and refrain from eating other substances though they may be perfectly edible and nourishing and that they eat and drink at particular times of day and in certain places are matters of culture.

According to Meriam Webster dictionary, the customary belief, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious or social group form culture.

Another definition of culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a peculiar group of people encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.

Therefore, culture means the collective social behaviour of a people or a race living in a particular geographical region of the world. Language, food habits, dress, arts, music and local festivals together form a culture. Though religion also becomes a part of culture but is not a quintessential part of culture. The pagans of Arab were so strongly opposed to Islam because their religious beliefs were very deeply entrenched in their culture and so they thought that the opposition to idol worship was an onslaught on their culture.

Culture has a deep roots in the family and the family is the chief means of transmission of culture. Therefore, people have deeper attachment to their culture than to their religion.

After the advent of Islam the Arab culture went through some changes. In other words, Islam did not out rightly reject pre-existing Arab culture but only reformed and regulated it. It only purified the Arab culture and drew a Lakshman Rekha round it. For example, Islam did not oppose poetry but only condemned and opposed vulgar or derogatory poetry that was in vogue during that period. It gave birth to the genre of Naat and religious poetry. Islam did not oppose music or singing on festivals or on marriage ceremonies but only opposed it as a profession and as a means of earning livelihood.

The Qur'an recognises culture as a distinct way of life. Religion only regulates and keeps culture under discipline. The Qur'an allows individuals to adhere to one's cultural values to the extent the cultural values do not clash with or override religious values. In fact the Qur'an says that God created cultural groups, that is, races and tribes, who have different dress codes, different languages, and different style of architecture, different music and ways of celebrating special events in personal and collective life. Thus existence of cultural groups and cultures was in fact in God's scheme of things.

"O Mankind, We have created you from male and a female and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely, the no lest of you in Allah's sight is the one who is most pious "(Al Hujurat: 13)

"O human kind! Be pious towards your Lord and beware of a day when no parent will be of any benefit to their child, nor will a child be of any benefit to their parent "(Luqman: 33)

"And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and diversity in your languages and complexion. There are signs in them for those who reflect."(Ar Rum: 26)

According to the above-quoted verses, God did not plan a homogenous human society because the earth had different geographical regions and people inhabiting different geographical regions had different dress, food habits, languages and arts and architecture. Their temperament is also different. Therefore, obviously, people belonging to different races and tribes will have different culture despite accepting Islam as their religion.

But over the centuries, the Arab culture was presented to be the Islamic culture and so there was a conscious effort to impose it on Muslims belonging to different geographical regions though during even the prophet’s life, the culture of different parts of Arab was different despite the fact that Islam was the common religion of the religion.

For example, the women of Madina were more assertive and liberal than their Makkan counterparts. The women of Madina were fond of singing. Men also sang and danced on festivals or other happy occasions. There is a hadith in Sahih Bukhari: Once Hadhrat Ayesha r.a. accompanied a bride with other women to her in-laws on her Rukhsati. After Hadhrat Ayesha r.a. returned, the holy Prophet pbuh asked her why she went to the bride's in-laws silently without any singing as women of Madina were fond of singing.

Singing on weddings was a part of the marriage ceremony in the culture of Madina and the holy prophet pbuh recognised this. Obviously it was not a part of the Muslim society of Makkah and so Hadhrat Ayesha r.a. went with the bride silently.

There is another hadith in the Sahih Bukhari:

"Hadhrat Ayesha r.a. narrated that Hadhrat Abu Bakr visited her during Mina where two girls were playing on the Duff (while singing) and the holy prophet pbuh lay covering himself with a sheet of cloth. Hadhrat Abu Bakr r.a. chided them. The holy prophet phub uncovered his face and said, "Abu Bakr, let them play, these are the days of Eid and that too in Mina." And Hadhrat Ayesha r a. said, I saw the holy prophet pbuh was hiding me behind him as I was watching the Negros play with their weapons in the mosque. Hadhrat Umar r a. scolded them. The holy prophet pbuh said, 'Let them play." and said to them,' O Bani Arfidah, go on.'(Kitab Eidayn, Sahih Bukhari No 935)

These important points from the Qur'an and Hadiths are ignored and the common Muslims are believed that Islam does not recognise cultural values and that Islam prescribes a dry way of life devoid of even legitimate means of entertainment and celebrations. In the name of promoting Islamic culture, the Arab culture and Arab social behaviour is being promoted. The Arab Abaya replaced Indian Dupatta in the name of Islamic culture; Allah Hafiz has replaced Khuda Hafiz and Arabic words and phrases are increasingly becoming the part of the language of Muslims of the sub-continent, particularly of Pakistan. Singing and music is a taboo. In Sindh, extremist Muslims roam with machetes or swords in hand threatening to kill anyone who sings in weddings. Therefore, in the name of promoting Arab culture, Islam is being presented as a religion that does not allow any kind of cultural liberty granted by the Qur'an and Hadith.


S. Arshad is a columnist with


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