The faded line between Religion and Culture
Growing up in a conservative Muslim family, I always had this question running through my mind, “Why is Islam so glorified when we are not even allowed to do half the things we want?” As a little child, you are given some family rules and regulations that you have to follow to maintain the dignity of your family. For instance, a little girl is asked to wear specific type of clothes and if she won’t, well I don’t think there is a choice. I moved around in all of Pakistan throughout my childhood; I have seen all types of families ranging from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. Why is it, that one Muslim woman will call out another Muslim woman for dressing differently?
Our cultural traditions have been inherited for generations and there are a very few families who put a stop to it. Islam is beautiful. It does not demand from you anything extraordinary. All it asks from you is to fulfill your duties to mankind and to God himself. But, any act that is not culturally appropriate is considered a religious sin in the sub-continent culture. Let’s go back to the first woman of Islam, Hazrat Khadija (R.A). The first wife of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the richest businesswoman of that time. She sent her proposal of marriage to Prophet (PBUH). I believe that it is literally the definition of women empowerment and Islam stands on it. A woman is allowed to do everything a man is. Our society has developed in such a way that if a woman does something remotely bad, she is labeled for the rest of her life. Religiously, both men and women are prone to same level of punishments for any crime.
As Tamim Saidi says in his article, Islam and culture: Don’t mix them up, that people around the world often mix up Islam with culture, because how most of the cultural practices are portrayed with the name of religion. Culture can influence religion but it should not define religion. In the mentioned article, it is said that certain negative practices like honor killing, banning women from getting education, racism, and oppression of women are not a part of Islam; in fact these practices ruin the name of our religion. Why is it that people around the world are becoming Islamophobic more as the days pass? I believe that the face of any concept is what defines it. It could be either a religion, a country, or a person. People know you by what they see. The positive side of Islam is hidden behind the negative portrayal. We cannot expect from people to have a positive opinion when we ourselves are leaving loopholes.
Muslims live all around the world but they have different traditions. For instance, Islam has asked the believers to practice a nikkah, rukhsati and a walima for weddings. It does not asks you to throw huge weddings and ask for gigantic amounts of dowry. This is just culture but people abide to follow it to maintain their image in the society.
Pakistan is a male-dominated society, as mentioned in the article, 11 Key Traits of Pakistani Culture. The male is the head of the house and mostly, the sole earner too. This is not religion, this is culture. This is also pretty brutal for the man of the house too. The moment the guy is done with his education, he is thrown under the bus of responsibilities. His dreams and goals come after the responsibilities of his family. The guy who decides to follow his dreams instead of his family’s, he is declared selfish. I am not against the family system, I just do not understand the particularity related to a certain gender. Ideally, a man is supposed to earn and a woman is supposed to be a housewife. What if they do not want to? What if the man wants to stay at home and the woman wants to get a job?
I am leaving the article with plenty of questions and I hope the readers are able to reflect on their lives and experiences after reading this. I believe this is high time that the young people starts to recognize the faded line between culture and religion. You should follow your faith and beliefs, but you should not be forced to do something that you do not want to do in the name of religion. No one deserves to spend a life where they are unhappy just so people around them are happy. This is not selfish, this is self-love. We do understand that eighty percent of the times, the situations seem to be against us. But, grab your luck and beat the orthodox traditions when you can. I trust in the young minds and I believe that we at least have the power to change the future of our children. All we have to do is, Hope and Believe.