Everybody needs that something to comfort them - something that stays constant, amidst the whirlwinds of change, the shifting moods, people, colors, current events.
Culture means change. Culture is an amalgamation of the people in a society - how the majority live, interact, adapt to their environment, according to changing times, weather, international forecasts, everything. Culture is designed to change.
Middle-aged or elderly individuals are often resistant to change. It's natural. But the majority base their lives on culture, the conditions they were raised in, their background, how their ancestors did things. They want to continue it all as it was. No change. No discussion. It's just easy to go on as is, no matter how immoral or impractical the customs may be.
But what happens as their children grow older? Their children may think other traditions are more fit for them, they make their own customs, they live in more of a globalized world so they might enjoy different types of cuisine, and *gasp* maybe even marry men/women of other countries/cultures.
It's common sense that if you're tired and need support, you wouldn't lean on something flimsy, like a long stick stuck on the ground. You can slightly hold on, but as soon as you put more weight on, it cracks, and sends you toppling down with it.
That flimsy stick is culture. It's not designed to be a firm support, like a tree is with its deep roots.
But if the stick is culture, what's strong like a tree, spreading its roots over ages and ages, giving shade, comfort, rest to those who need it?
Our Deen. Our faith.
Deen has been the same, is the same, will ALWAYS be the same (and I'm not talking about people's innovations).
Allah sent down the Quran in stages, to our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, during his lifetime, underlining exactly what we need to know, given to the person who was a walking, talking Quran, embodying all the morals, practices, and virtues to show us it's all possible.
How many years has it been? More than 1,400.
As a miracle from Allah, the Quran is still the way it was sent down. Not a letter out of place.
But why, though? If culture can change so easily, why doesn't Deen change?
Simple. Deen deals with human nature - something that obviously has always been the same, since our creation. Culture deals with the current conditions of a certain time period, of a certain place, of a certain kind of people.
So what's more reliable? Something manmade, or something Divine?
Unfortunately, whether it's here in Western countries, or in Third World countries, culture takes precedence over everything.
It's impossible to get rid of your culture completely, and Allah never told us to shun our traditions. What did he tell us, then?
This is so epic, it might blow a few minds:
The Deen, the Quran, was sent to polish culture.
There are guidelines defined for us. But how do we know about these guidelines? Open up that shiny-looking book perched high up on your bookshelf. Read it. Study it. Ask someone who is of knowledge to help you study it. Take a class.
This is so essential to our very being. Life is like a complicated machine you can't assemble/operate without a manual. Open up that beautiful Divine writing sent to us and tie it to your life.
Diversity is highly encouraged in our Deen. It's important for our sanity. If we couldn't tell each other apart, we'd be in a lot of trouble. And beyond that, there is beauty in every language, every country, every landscape, every feature of every face.
But it's just those elements of Shirk, Bida (innovations), immorality, and straying from the Sunnah, that are highly prevalent in all of our cultures in today's world that makes it dangerous.
Filter those things out. After you know right from wrong (in detail), then you'll be able to choose the best, the Halal, acceptable practices and traditions from your culture and still be able to fit in, in a way.
But what about practices that are really popular, and people are resistant to changing/getting rid of them?
That's the battle. That's the struggle.
According to a Gallup poll, Muslim Americans are the most racially diverse religious group in the U.S. What does that tell you? Deen doesn't tell us to get rid of our cultures. You are who you are, where you're from, what family you have, it's all not in your control, and it defines you.
But that's only a small part of you!
Who you really are is your character, your actions, your personality, your dealings with others. That constitutes the real core of a person. And the nourishment for that core comes from our gift, the Quran.
People on a daily basis taunt, belittle, mentally or even physically abuse others based on their culture. And that happens because of exactly what I explained above - those people who are taunting, degrading others believe that their culture/country/city/language/traditions/family is better than others! And through their sarcasm, body language, you can see it clearly.
And why does all that happen?
Because they put culture above the teachings of the Quran. They make what’s temporary, more important than what is timeless.
Culture is there to color your life, in the lines Islam provided us through the Quran. You can throw a little color here and there if you've set those boundaries for yourself, if you know what's right from wrong. But don't color everywhere and then try to draw lines on top of it, it won't work. It'll just cause headaches, pain, and disappointment.
I make those people my example - the ones whose lives were beautiful sunrises, painted so artistically, uniquely, but with utter meaning. Some were frosty landscapes of majestic mountains with snow-capped peaks, some with lush forests and vibrant foliage.
But they were all so exquisite, all proclaiming love for the Divine, all in line with the rules of human nature, different and beautiful, but with structure and meaning.
Make the lines of your life firm, confident, and immovable, like the tree, so when you need to lean on them for support, for comfort, for something familiar in the sea of change, you won't be disappointed. You won't fall.