Tying one’s life to certain cultural practices brings about little or no benefit except earn the acceptance of people and gain popularity. The kind of acceptance that comes from following the crowd so as not to feel left out.
And in the process cause many difficulties – financially, morally, emotionally and so on to the doer. Just because they do not want to be labelled as different or strange, find it easier to melt into the crowd rather than do what is right. They may say ‘what else can we do’ or ‘we dare not do it differently’?
The culture despite all the beauty it holds should not be our first reference point, we need to reject it sometimes. And instead cling ourselves tightly to the Qur’an and Sunnah no matter how hard or strange it may seem.
Here are some typical scenarios:
– People studying courses they don’t care about;
– Marrying people they don’t want to;
– Spending money they don’t have and incurring debts;
– Speaking in manners different to who they are;
– Feeling superior to others from a different culture,
– Boasting and showing off in gatherings;
All done in order to fit into cultural norms and practices.
There is undeniable beauty in the various cultures that span the breadth of this globe, from the dressings to the greetings and down to simple mannerisms. Experiencing part of these sights and sounds either through the media or during our travels, never fails to intrigue our senses and thoughts.
Sometimes, it makes one wonder in pure amazement or even disgust; other times it educates the mind leaving it open to newer frontiers. Such moments, we crave to capture in words, videos or pictures, so as to relive it time over time.
Similarly, the stories from different cultures are usually fascinating, so are the lifestyles found within them. From virtually naked communities to others being completely covered; To some eating only rice meals, vegetarian meals or spicy dishes; Children learning to swim from birth. The list is never ending.
Some of these customary ways infuse qualities such as bravery, shyness, honesty, integrity, boldness, cowardice, pretentiousness etc in individuals – consciously or unconsciously. Morals of simple living, unity, sharing and so on may be imbibed in other cultural practices.
Can we then separate who we are from where we are from?
We all come from a culture with its unique history, and defining mix of weaknesses and strengths along with certain behaviours & tendencies. These inner tendencies surface inevitably in our day to day dealings with others, as well as in the choices we make.
These behaviours on their own add flavour to life. But typically problems occur when negative attitudes such as discriminatory ones surface or negative pressure from cultural dictates emerge. These are all unwanted excesses.
Our aim should be for the inner and outer to sync – to have a culture and faith balance rather than a clash. So while our culture defines us to a large extent, it does not necessarily have to become our only defining way of life. We must emerge from our cultural shells and embrace our faith tightly.
The lesson here is to surround one’s life with faith, rather than try to infuse bits of our faith practices around a cultural stronghold.