Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Indian Culture vs Islamic Identity


Being a Muslim as well as an Indian, i have pondered over this question for some time now, "Can Indian Muslims draw a line between their Indian culture and Islamic identity." I have spent quite a vast amount of time with Indians in Cape Town and I have seen the role that their Indian heritage has played in their lives and in most cases it overpowers their Islamic identity. We fall into various categories, I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, an Indian and a Muslim. Although i am made up of many things the most important one of them all is the fact that I am a Muslim. The others aspects of my identity is shaped around the fact that I am a Muslim. However there are many people who knowingly and unknowingly are placing greater importance on their Indian culture. This is visible in many aspects.

In Cape Town, many Indians are classed into certain groups according to the village that their forefathers are from in India. They place a very great importance on this. Many a times i have met people who were not allowed to marry outside of their grouping. For example Kokni men would only marry Kokni girls etc. I find this really problematic for greater importance is placed on whether they are the "same Indian" as opposed to whether they are good Muslims. The Nabi (s.a.w) said "All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves."

Many Indians nowadays are visiting India more and more often, i agree that this is a part of your culture and should play a part in your life. But what about visiting Makkah, Medina, Syria? Are those countries not part of your identity, your Islamic identity? Even if one is not ready for Hajj or Umrah, one may still visit those countries and discover the birthplace of Islam.

I am a Muslim and then i am an Indian. I hold true to my Islamic beliefs before I embrace my Indian culture.

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