Cultural Islam And Islamic Civilization

Cultural Islam And Islamic Civilization

A though the West recognizes Islam as the only civilization capable of opposing its dominance, the Muslim world today is incapable of meeting the challenge. Western civilization has succeeded in completely dominating the Muslim world and what little opposition that exists is systematically being stamped out. Consequently, Islamic civilization is not being presented to the world as an alternative to Western civilization. The important role that Allah ascribed to the Muslim Nation is not being fulfilled. Allah states in the Qur’an: “You are the best nation extracted from among humankind because you command good, prohibit evil and you believe in Allaah.”[1] The main reason for the current failure of Muslims to meet the challenge is due to the adulteration of Islamic teachings throughout the Muslim world today. Islamic practices have become so mixed with a variety of local customs and traditions that the average Muslim is unable to distinguish between what is Islam and what is, in fact, local culture.

The Islam being practiced in much of the Muslim world today may be referred to as Cultural Islam or Folk Islam (as Christian missionaries like to refer to it). The main feature of this version of Islaam is the blind following of local traditions. The existing cultures are generally a product of practices handed down from earlier generations. Some cultural practices are based on authentic Islamic traditions, while many are not. However, the cultural Muslim is unable to distinguish between the two. All traditions are identified as Islamic and any attempt to exclude any aspect of the cultural traditions is met with stiff resistance.

Although it is well known to all Muslims that Islam is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah,[2] when cultural Muslims are advised to follow instructions from the Qur’an or the Sunnah they immediately make excuses why they cannot. The excuses usually consist of statements to the effect that Islaam was not practiced that way in their village or country. Cultural Muslims are brainwashed with this response. Whenever they questioned a practice while growing up, their parents would scold them for questioning their traditions saying, “If it was good enough for our forefathers, it is good enough for you.” Or, “Do you think our forefathers were all wrong?” This response is very similar to that of the Makkan pagans when a similar invitation was given to them. God states in the Qur’an:

“If you tell them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” they will reply, “What we found our parents doing is sufficient for us.” Even though their parents knew nothing, nor were they rightly guided.” [Qur’an 5:104]

In order for Muslims to re-establish Islamic civilization and promote its ideals to the world as an alternative to Western culture, the inherited excess baggage of cultural Islam must be eliminated. Only pure unadulterated Islam can stand in the face of Western civilization’s cultural onslaught.

[The Moral Foundations of Islamic Culture by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, p. 21-22]


[1] Qur’an 3:110.

[2] The recorded life-style of Prophet Muhammad consisting of his verbal instructions, his actions and actions of others approved by him. 

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