The Influence of Western Culture and Fashion―and Today’s Struggle to Maintain Islamic Identity

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Title image: Al-Mohad Mosque was built in 1172 CE, Seville (Spain) replacing the previous mosque built in 830 CE. Shortly after Seville’s conquest by Ferdinand III in 1248 CE, the mosque was converted into the city’s cathedral. Its orientation was changed and its spaces were partitioned and adorned to suit Christian worship practices. Allāhul-mustaʿān.

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All praise is due to Allāh, Lord of the worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon his Messenger, his family, his Companions and all who truly follow him.

The Influence of Western Culture and Fashion―and Today’s Struggle to Maintain Islamic Identity

By Abu Khadeejah ʿAbdul-Wāhid Alam

Allah has sufficed the Muslims and blessed them with a complete Shareeʿah that brings to them every benefit and every goodness in their religious and worldly life. Allah connected happiness in this world and in the Hereafter to acting upon Allah’s Law (the Shareeʿah) and holding fast to its guidance just as Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) has stated:

فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّى هُدًى فَمَنِ ٱتَّبَعَ هُدَاىَ فَلَا يَضِلُّ وَلَا يَشْقَىٰ ١٢٣

“Then if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My Guidance he shall neither go astray, nor shall he encounter distress.” (Ṭāhā: 123) And He (the Mighty and Majestic) said:

فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّى هُدًى فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَاىَ فَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ٣٨

“Then whenever there comes to you Guidance from Me, and whoever follows My Guidance, there shall be no fear on them, nor shall they grieve.” (al-Baqarah: 38)

This Shareeʿah is the Straight Path (the Sirāt al-Mustaqeem). It is the Path of those upon whom Allah has bestowed His bounty and blessing—and they are the Prophets, the ardent followers of the truth, the martyrs in Allah’s cause, and the righteous believers. And whatever opposes Allah’s Law (Shareeʿah) are the paths of those whom Allah is angry with and the astray ones from the Jews and Christians. So, Allah is angry with the Jews because they knew the truth, but opposed it knowingly, they disobeyed their prophets and fought against them, their disciples, and the righteous scholars.

Those who went astray are the Christians who follow their desires in action and worship. They are ignorant of the scriptures, they do not study, instead blindly following one another in misguidance – constantly coming up with more and more innovated and outrageous practices.

Then there are those of this Ummah who resemble the Jews and Christians from the people of innovation, misguidance, and desires – and the sinners and transgressors who do not take admonition when they are admonished.

Allah has commanded the Muslims to follow the Shareeʿah revealed to Muhammad (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam)—and He has given honour to those from this Ummah who follow the Path of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) – and there is nothing except humiliation and lowliness when we turn away from that Straight Path. ʿUmar Ibn al-Khattāb (radiyallāhu ʿanhu) said: “Indeed we were the lowliest people, then Allah honoured us with Islam—so, if we seek honour from other than Islam, then Allah will make us lowly and humiliated.” (Al-Hākim 1/30 (207), see As-Saheehah 1/117) And Allah (Mighty and Majestic) stated:

وَلِلَّهِ ٱلْعِزَّةُ وَلِرَسُولِهِۦ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلْمُنَـٰفِقِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ٨

And to Allāh belongs all honour, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.” (al-Munāfiqoon 63:8)

Islam has its own Path, its own Laws that guide mankind to that which is best. Allah revealed to Muhammad (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) the various acts of worship, general manners and specific social interactions, rules of trade, dress code, and so on—and in each law, the Almighty Lord, commanded the believers to follow this final Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), and by doing so, they will be rewarded with Paradise and saved from Allah’s Anger and His punishment.

Furthermore, Allah commands the believers not to follow the ways and customs of the unbelievers, those whom Allah is angry with and those whom He (the Exalted) has sent astray. So, those traits and customs that are distinct to the unbelievers, then the Muslims should not copy them or adopt them.

The outward resemblance of a people in their specific customs shows one’s love and admiration for them which will lead them to follow their religious customs and innovated ideologies and philosophies. So, a Muslim may begin by following their fashions in clothing and hairstyles, then move on to adopting their customs and traditions such as birthdays, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s celebrations, having girlfriends, attending music concerts and so on. Then they will move on to participate in their religious festivals such as Christmas, Diwali, Easter, etc. until they abandon Islam and worshipping Allah altogether such that the Prayer, Zakāt, Fasting and Hajj are all lost to them—and they adopt the lifestyle and religion of the unbelievers among whom they live and whom they admire and adore. So, the outward resemblance of a people is a display of admiration for them otherwise why would you imitate them (unless you are compelled of course)? This leads them to follow the unbelievers in their ideologies, philosophies and religions in contradiction and opposition to the Qur’ān and Sunnah.

For this reason, we find many proofs in the Book and Sunnah that call the believers to differ from the Jews, Christians, Magians, idolators and so on. Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) stated:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا ٱدْخُلُوا فِى ٱلسِّلْمِ كَآفَّةً وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَٰتِ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ ٢٠٨

“O you who have believed, enter into Islām completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (al-Baqarah 2:208) So, entry into Islam should not be partial or half-hearted, rather it should be complete, sincere and with pleasure just as Allah (the Mighty and Exalted) said:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ ٱللَّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِۦ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ ٥٨

“Say: In the Bounty of Allāh and His Mercy, therein let them rejoice. That is better than what the wealth they amass.” (Yoonus 10:58)

So, Allah and His Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) have warned this Ummah from following the paths of the unbelievers. Abu Saʿeed al-Khudrī (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said: “You will surely follow the footsteps of those who came before you, handspan by handspan, cubit-length by cubit-length, to the extent that if one of them entered the hole of a lizard, you will follow them into it.” They said: “O Allah’s Messenger! Do you intend the Jews and Christians?” He replied: “Who else?” (al-Bukhārī, no. 3456, 7320, Muslim, no. 2669)

Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said: “The Hour will not be established until my Ummah will take the ways of those generations (nations) that preceded them, following them handspan by handspan, cubit-length by cubit-length.” They asked: “O Allah’s Messengers! Such as the Persians and Romans?” He replied: “Who else except for them.” (al-Bukhārī, no. 7319) These were the two dominant world powers of the time—and the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) warned his Ummah from following their customs and fashions (that were distinctive to their cultures)—and he warned his Ummah from following their cultural and religious festivals and celebrations. Today’s equivalent of those ancient cultures would be Europe and North America along with their liberal ideologies, religions, philosophies, music, movies, and fashion: ‘You will follow them handspan by handspan, cubit-length by cubit-length.’ 

The real question is, why would a Muslim seek practices outside of Islam and the Sunnah of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) except due to weak faith (imān), and a sense of inferiority in front of the unbelievers because he sees them to be better than himself and prosperous, so he aspires to be like them. In fact, he is inwardly ashamed of his own heritage, culture,  religion, and race. He seeks to imitate and resemble them until he becomes one of them. However, Allah will not accept any Religion or way of life besides Islam:

وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ ٱلْإِسْلَـٰمِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ وَهُوَ فِى ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ ٨٥

“And whoever desires other than Islām as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.” (Āli ʿImrān 3:85)

So, whoever imitates the unbelievers in those matters that are distinct to them—or even worse, in those matters that are harām and sinful—exposes himself to Allah’s punishment and disgrace. When Muslims (weak in imān) imitate and resemble the unbelievers, polytheists and sinners in their culture, customs and fashions, they eventually become like them! They love what they love, fear what they fear, desire what they desire, revere what they revere, honour what they honour, and they will eventually fight for what they fight for, kill for what they kill for, and worship what they worship! We ask Allah for safety, piety and steadfastness.

This is taking place before our eyes, wallāhul-mustaʿān. That is why Allah and His Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) obligated migration (hijrah) upon the Muslims from the lands of the unbelievers to the lands of Islam: to protect them from losing their Religion and Islamic heritage. The Messenger of Allāh (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said: “Hijrah will not end until repentance comes to an end, and repentance will not end until the Sun rises from the West.” (Ahmad in Al-Musnad no. 16906. See Al-Irwā no. 1208 (sahīh)). He (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) also said:

أَنَا بَرِيءٌ مِنْ كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ يُقِيمُ بَيْنَ أَظْهُرِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ‏ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ لِمَ قَالَ ‏لاَ تَرَاءَى نَارَاهُمَا ‏

“I am free of any Muslim who lives among polytheists.” They asked him: “Why, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Even their campfires should not be visible to one another.” (Abu Dāwood, no. 2645, graded saheeh by Imām Al-Albānī)

Abdullāh Ibn ʿAmr Ibn al-ʿĀs (Allah be pleased with him) said in a narration from the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) that he said: “Whoever settles in the lands of the unbelievers, he celebrates their festivals of Nayrooz and Mihrajān (of the Persians), he imitates and then dies in that state, he will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sunan al-Kubrā of al-Bayhaqī, 9/234 and graded saheeh by Ibn Taymiyyah in al-Iqtidā’, 1/147)

So, we consider it wājib (obligatory) to make hijrah (migration) to the lands of the Muslims. The proof for this is in the saying of Allāh, the Most High:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ظَالِمِي أَنفُسِهِمْ قَالُوا فِيمَ كُنتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا كُنَّا مُسْتَضْعَفِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا أَلَمْ تَكُنْ أَرْضُ اللَّهِ وَاسِعَةً فَتُهَاجِرُوا فِيهَا فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا ۝ إِلَّا الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ حِيلَةً وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ سَبِيلًا ۝ فَأُولَٰئِكَ عَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَعْفُوَ عَنْهُمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا

«Verily! As for those whom the angels take in death while they are wronging themselves, the Angels say to them: “In what condition were you?” They reply: “We were weak and oppressed on Earth.” The Angels say: “Was not the Earth of Allāh spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?” Such will find their abode in Hell, and what an evil destination! Except for the weak ones among men, women and children who cannot devise a plan, nor are they able to direct their own way. For these, there is hope that Allāh will forgive them, and Allāh is ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.» [Sūrah An-Nisā: 97-99]

We see in our times many Muslims resembling the unbelievers in their speech, their clothing, their lifestyles and interactions between men and women and in so many ways that I am not able to enumerate! From those imitations is the man shaving his beard and lengthening his moustache, fashioning his hair in order to resemble the unbelievers, while the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) forbade this imitation, and commanded the Muslim to trim the moustache and grow the beard, to honour it and let it be long—and this is to differ from the polytheists who shave their beards and grow their moustaches.

The Muslims have blindly-followed the unbelievers (over centuries) even in their worship such as imitating them in their polytheistic practices and pagan rituals by building shrines over the graves of their dead, venerating them, and worshipping at them believing that they hold special powers – and other superstitions have entered the Ummah of Islam such as astrology, fortune-telling, palm-reading and visiting soothsayers. Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) said: ‘The curse of Allah is upon the Jews and Christians—they took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.’ (Bukhārī, no. 435, Muslim, no. 531) He also informed us that when a righteous man among them would die, they would build a place of worship over his grave, and make images inside of it, and they are the worst of creation. (See al-Bukhārī, no. 427, Muslim, no. 528)

This is the age and times that we live in. So save yourselves, your families, your children and your communities by seeking knowledge of Allah, His Religion and His Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) – then you must act upon that, call your people to it and show patience at the harm you receive in that path.

All praise is due to Allāh, Lord of the worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon his Messenger, his family, his Companions and all who truly follow him.

Abu Khadeejah ʿAbdul-Wāhid Alam.

Wednesday 24th April 2024 CE / 15th Shawwāl 1445 AH

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