Culture verses Islam

Culture is defined as a people’s complete way of life. It consists of all the ideas, objects and ways of doing things created by the group. Culture includes beliefs, customs, language and traditions (World Book Encyclopaedia).

While there are numerous cultures and subcultures present in the world, of primary concern to us in this discussion are the two main opposing cultures in present-day society. One is the culture of Islam — the “complete way of life” set forth in the Qur’an and Sunnah. On the other opposing end is the Western culture. Both cultures present a “complete way of life.” However, both ways of life differ drastically.

The difference in the two cultures stems primarily from the source of the cultures. Islamic culture — the way of life of a Muslim — is defined by the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is the culture of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). It is that way of life upon which he established the Sahaaba (R.A.) after having turned them away from the culture of jahiliyyah (ignorance).

On the other hand, Western culture is fashioned by a host of people; Capitalists, atheists, people who believe in same-gender marriages and others of a similar nature. Such people determine the decadent culture of the West.


The cornerstone of Islamic culture is morality (hayaa)and simplicity. Hayaa (morality / modesty) and simplicity are both qualities of Imaan. Thus the true Islamic society upholds the highest levels of morality and maintains simplicity in every aspect. Some of the salient features of this society are:

  •     No free intermingling between non-mahram (those who are not forbidden to marry) males and females. The laws of Hijaab will be observed.

  •     Modest dressing. Clothing will truly cover the body (also loose enough to cover the shape) and have no flirtatious intent.

  •     Men and women will fulfil the separate roles that have been apportioned to them — the husband as breadwinner and the wife as mother and one who fulfils the household responsibilities, etc. This is the foundation to a stable Islamic family which together with other such families forms a stable Islamic community. 

Contrary to this, the cornerstone of Western culture is immorality and extravagance. The “live-in” culture where a couple live like man and wife but never marry — is almost the norm. While there are numerous aspects that highlight the immorality of Western culture, perhaps the most visible and marked expression of this culture is in it’s dressing. Shorter, tighter and more revealing is the rule by which the dress code keeps changing. Western clothing, instead of covering and distracting any wrongful glances, is by and large designed for flirting, attracting and arousing.

As for simplicity in Western culture, it is almost a kind of tragedy. Since the poor fellow cannot afford to indulge in anything extravagant, hence merely due to circumstances, he is forced to adopt a simple lifestyle. Fashion-slavery is part of western life. If one does not have a branded garment, it is tragic. If the real thing is not available, a fake will also do. If it is not a branded product, it is then only for the have-nots even if it is of a better quality and lesser cost.

While the above are some of the serious core differences between Islamic and Western culture, the most important aspect is the difference in the mindset of both cultures.


The mindset of the Islamic culture stems from the conviction that Allah Ta’ala is our Creator and Sustainer. Hence in this short stay on earth, we are to serve Him alone in the manner taught by His beloved Rasul (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). Thus the Islamic culture revolves around the firm belief that our mission in life is to establish complete Deen in ourselves and on the face of this earth. With this mindset, one will sacrifice one’s wealth, energies and time as much as possible for the purpose of life. Indeed one will acquire the necessities of life as well, but Deen will be the guiding light and driving force. Deen will dictate and all else will follow. The “purpose of life” will demand — and all else will submit. As a result if one does not acquire many comforts and luxuries, it will not matter. Rather, life will be regarded as a journey wherein the traveller is not too concerned about the luxuries and comforts en-route. The traveller is focused towards his destination. Yet, as a result of one’s obedience to Allah Ta’ala, one will be blessed with true peace, serenity and contentment. 


Conversely, the mindset of Western culture is that the purpose of life is worldly enjoyment. Every comfort and luxury that can be acquired must be attained at all costs. Everything centres around entertainment, chasing fun … and chasing more fun. There is no mission in life. No objective. Merely the pursuit of temporal pleasure permeates every cell of the mind. And yes indeed! The constant pursuit of greater comfort and luxury and continuously chasing fun demands loads of money. Thus life revolves around making money — from early morning till late at night — and having fun. If anything comes in the way of this fun, it must be removed. If looking after elderly parents “spoils the weekends and holidays” they should be dispatched to the old-age homes. If children come in the way of earning extra money to afford “the better quality of life,” they can be entrusted to day-care centres where they are treated almost like mechanical objects. There is no concern for proper upbringing. In order to “enhance the quality of life” (which means making more money to have more luxuries and more fun) anything can be sacrificed — parents, children and even religion. It is an extremely hollow existence without any peace or contentment — which only stops when one is placed in the hollow of the grave!

It is thus evident that Islamic culture and Western culture are worlds apart. The problem is that when people of different cultures live together in the same community, the process of enculturation takes place where people from one culture adopt traits, customs, habits and ideas from the other culture. There is no doubt that this enculturation has occurred in our communities. Many Muslims have tragically become greatly Westernised in their mindset, in adopting a very extravagant lifestyle, in their dressing, in making life revolve mainly around chasing money and fun, etc. Deen for such people has become a “side-line.”

Why has this enculturation occurred? The answer is alarming! According to social scientists, people abandon their own culture and borrow from another culture when they regard aspects of the other culture as “better” (World Book). Encyclopaedia Britannica (CD version) highlights this aspect in the following words: “To be sure, a culture trait must offer some advantage, some utility or pleasure to be sought and accepted by people.” Allah forbid! Due to the weakness of Imaan and ignorance, the Sunnah culture is being abandoned by Muslims for some Western way which they regard as “better” or as having more pleasure and advantage than the Islamic culture! This is no different to a child who gives away a priceless diamond in exchange for an insignificant shiny stone. He has no idea of the value of the gems he is abandoning and is duped by the shine on the stone.


Western culture is being glorified and vigorously promoted by the media as the culture. The media message simply is: “If you are not following the Western trend, you are old fashioned, backward and maybe dumb.” However, these slogans should not make us lose our priceless gems for worthless stones, rather, poisonous pebbles. Instead we should adopt the stance of Hazrat Huzaifa bin Yamaan (R.A.). While eating in the court of the Persians, a morsel of food fell from his hand onto the floor. In emulation of the Sunnah, he picked it up to eat it. Somebody next to him cautioned him that to pick up a fallen morsel was against the culture of the Persians. He should therefore follow their way and refrain from picking up the morsel. His spontaneous response was: “Should I leave the Sunnah (culture) of my beloved Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) for these fools?”

Adopting Western culture will bring along its severe negative consequences. Some of them are:

  •    A materialistic society with no mission in life

  •    Indulgence in drugs and immorality “for fun”

  •    Break-down of respect for parents and elders

  •    Disintegration of family structures
  •    High divorce rate, etc.

Every effort must therefore be made to preserve the culture of the Qur’an and Sunnah. This requires adopting the company of those who are sunnah conscious, learning about the various sunnats and making an effort to bring them alive in ones home, community and the Ummah at large.

If Western trends take root, besides harming ourselves, we will also lay the foundation for the destruction of future generations. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “once established, culture has a life of it’s own ... it flows down through time from one generation to another.” It is therefore imperative that we guard against this.

The only success for us in this world and the Hereafter is in upholding the way of life of the Qur’an and Sunnah. May Allah Ta’ala keep us steadfast on His Deen. Aameen.


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