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  1. Islam, like a number of other faiths, is supposed to be open to converts from a variety of ethnicities and races. However, I have noticed that, in practice, ethnic and/or racial groups tend to prefer converts from among their own, rather than seek to expand their base to other ethnicities and/or races. Converts from other ethnicities and/or races are often not looked upon as “real” converts and their adherence to the creed is regarded as reflecting syncretistic practices. (As the link above makes clear, cultural practices within a creed often vary wildly according to geography, so that we see “Turkic” and “Indonesian” forms of Sunni and/or Sufi Islam.) For example, Arabs, at least in part, sometimes seem as though they prefer converts from among other Arabs, while discouraging conversion of other ethnic and/or racial groups. Nor is this behaviour exclusive to Arabs and/or Muslims. In this case I am not referring to the alleged treatment of “foreign” converts as “second-class believers.” I am referring to the fact that in many cases religion is looked upon something that is exclusive to a particular family, tribe, caste, ethnicity, or race; that is inherited and handed down from father to son; and that is in some sense “private property,” meaning that conversion of outsiders is discouraged. Judaism’s attitude in this regard is well known, but many other faiths reflect this “cultural” mindset, which in turn seems to trump universalism and the supposed existence of the fitrah—a collective, innate, monotheistic consciousness. If pure monotheism is so natural, why is there so much variation even within monotheistic creeds themselves, to the extent that ethnicity and lineage seem to largely determine the form(s) of religious expression? If all men were born essentially alike, sharing a similar God-consciousness from birth, then would not there be much more uniformity than is observable within as well as between each of the three Abrahamic creeds, so that cultural practices would tend to converge rather than diverge along ethnic, racial, tribal, and related lines? Yet instead a vast variation is seen. Furthermore, given that religion is often treated as the exclusive provenance of a particular lineage, thereby discouraging the conversion of other groups, does this imply that people are born with different spiritual conceptions? In that case, would (some of) the Arabs—or any other particular group—be the only group with a “pure” fitrah? If so, I think that would not make sense, given the universalistic thrust of Islam and the fact that men are supposed to be born with free will. Any thoughts?
  2. My family is strictly against me getting gender reassignment surgery even though it's allowed according to imam Khomeini after you get diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Their reason is that it's not acceptable in our culture and they dont want their only son to become a woman. I genuinely understand their issue with it but what should I do? They're currently trying to make me ”normal” with the help of a mualana from Iran who is also completely against this and thinks that I can also change. I'm not sure what to do? Follow everything my parents say or do what I want? I'm stuck.
  3. As-salāmu ʿalaykum brothers & sisters Recently, I've seen a few posts wherein people have mentioned that there is a difference between Islam & "Islamic/Arabic culture". Namely, that there are practices and customs that people at the masjid or in the wider ummah might insist that I take up as a recent revert- but that have nothing to do with Islam or anything that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) encouraged. I understand the idea, because Christianity (especially evangelicalism) has this phenomenon as well, but I can and already know those. As I am a "baby Muslim"/new revert, I will not be able to recognize these on my own, so I want to start a discussion about what some examples of those might be so that I can more easily identify them when I am put into a situation wherein I encounter them. I appreciate your help in advance, thank you.
  4. Cultures and customs can vary widely when it comes to greeting people and 'physical' pleasantries. I'd like to ask about same sex greetings only. What are your customs? How many kisses do you give? I sometimes find myself in awkward situations where I either give one less kiss or go for an extra one haha I honesty prefer my own personal space but it seems that sometimes one feels obliged to go along. I know of: 1 kiss 2 kisses one on each side 3 kisses left right left or vice versa 3 kisses left right right or vice versa In the UAE there's the nose touch lol I also know of some older generation aunties who would give out a good bunch of consecutive and fast kisses on each side. The above I know in Arab culture, I'm sure there are other protocols and would be interested in hearing yours.
  5. Salam. I’m being forced to have a haram walima. The walima will not be partitioned or segregated and this is a obviously a big issue. I’m the groom and I’m feeling trapped. On the one hand, the right thing to do is not attend but on the other hand I will be cutting off my parents and obviously any family we’ve invited. My wife is on my side obviously but she has decided to be quiet now as she does not want anymore issues. I got into a fight with my parents over this and here I am on the night of qadr feeling like none of my amaal mean anything because I’m upset with them. I’m trying very hard to forgive them but how can I when I’m being forced into a haram situation. It would be one thing if they did something in the past but this is something they’re planning to do. The whole idea of segregating by gender is so “strange” to them since all Pakistani weddings are usually mixed. It’s also about saving face for all the guests. I feel I can’t do anything. How do I cope? Will I be liable on the day of judgment for being part of this? Do I continue to fight this or shut up so my family can have “peace”? I wish I had access to a maulana for this issue but I have to resort to this forum.
  6. Salaam Alykum Everyone; My OH & I are hoping to relocate to Doha in the next couple of months. I was wondering if anyone on here has moved there from the United Kingdom or elsewhere and if so: What is like for the Shias? Is there anything we need to be aware of? Are there any mosques that provide English lectures? If there are any other things / issues I need to be aware of please say.... Thank you
  7. For the past couple of weeks, I have heard about how Sheikh Jaffer Jaffer has said something controversial about some Pakistani cultural practices. In my community, there has been a huge uproar from the Pakistani side. Anyways context aside, does anyone know what he said and as well what are your opinions on it. (I personally think that you should not be getting so mad about it because it is culture not religion)
  8. Salams I’m inviting members to share brief travel stories along with select pics about the wonderful places they have visited and the things they experienced there. The reason for starting a new thread is that I’d like to focus on individual experience, personal observations, and examples of cultural exchange and shock etc as opposed to the more general to-do and to-see lists which, in the age of the internet, anyone can look up online about any place on Earth. Reports of pilgrimages or religious travel are welcome but this is by no means the main or exclusive focus of the thread. I was in transit at Oakland airport (OAK) when I saw this appear on a digital screen with a background of an unknown snow-covered mountaintop. “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” It struck a chord. I’ll start with some observations from my Umrah trip. Until then here's something to think about:
  9. We have festivals at our college like all other colleges a theme is to be followed which is often unconventional, the functions start off with drama and theater and ends up in dance and music over all it is a Haram gathering in every way possible but I just feel so miserable not being able to go not being able to dress a certain way because my own guilt on doing Haram will make me end up feeling even more miserable than before but I just feel so left out.It is my last year at college and I wanted to try everything but it just seems like the world isn't even a place for a practicing Muslim to have ANY sort of pleasure in life don't remind me that dunya is not the place for a momin to live etc etc I just mean that being a practicing Muslim I feel like I have stripped off the right to indulge in anything that happens in the college life because it is Haram in one way or the other.But then abstaining from sins is supposed to make you happy why am I turning into a bitter,angry individuals who hates people and herself???
  10. Assalam-O-Alaikum !! May Allah Shower his Blessings upon you All. I am not a Good English Speaker. So, Please understand my words. After doing research on Shia Books, I came to know about Black Clothing which is Makrooh. But why and how? Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon Him) wore Black if I am not wrong. Someone told me Imam Jafar Sadiq prohibited from wearing Black shoes and Black Clothes. Is it true? Jazaak Allah Khair.
  11. Hello / salam alaikum. I know that Islam is somewhat strict on marriages where husband is not a muslim (since children of such couple could potentially be raised as non-muslims and other issues).But is there any ruling on those who used to follow another religion but than converted to Islam? I am not talking about converting just for the sake of marrying a muslim but those who genuinely believe. Are they anyhow special in this case (e.g. that muslim women should still avoid them)? Another question is if such marriage between a born-muslim girl and a guy who converted during his adulthood (e.g. is from the west) can exist in real life? I am not asking for myself, I recently had a conversation about that matter with someone, but since both of us are not muslims we lack any knowledge on the subject. Thanks.
  12. Salam W Alaykum I am in a very confusing situation right now.. I have been stressing too much about it. I am originally a Shia Lebanese and live abroad with my family and have been doing it ever since I was kid. I always had in mind that I would marry a Lebanese girl since Lebanese suffer of extreme nationalism. For the past 3 months I have been dating an Iraqi girl who I adore and admire. I enjoy every second with her. When we first started talking she told me that her father is Sunni and her mother is Shia but she has very little knowledge of both, so she told me doesn't count herself as either. When we would go out, we would kiss (I know, haram) but I kissed her and then told her that what we are doing is wrong and we should do Mut'a (she was married before and I asked a Sheikh about it and he told me it is permissible). She was reacted in a negative way and didn't like the idea because in her point of view, kissing and such are not haram because we live in a different era etc. But I explained to her that that is not the way I see it and so on. After about 1.5 month I managed to convince her to do Mut'a and we are both happy. My goal with this girl is to marry her but right now she tells me she is more into Sunni because of her father (he is not even living with her) and her view on Shia is bit weird because she has only a couple of friends of Shia and they were bad people and her mother didn't teach her a lot. Right now, we are in a critical situation where I told her that if I want to marry her, I am expecting her to pray, eat halal food only and fast and I would prefer if she would be Shia and I told her that I could prove to her why Shia is wrong using Sunni and Shia hadith. But she is very upset and I know her point of view on religion is a little bit European since she grew up here. But I am willing to sacrifice a lot to change her mind and we are almost on the edge of breakup because of this. Please what are your views on this ? I am really stressing about this and in my opinion, if she is Sunni but loves Ahlul Bayt I would not have a lot of problems with it but I would still worry about my children since I prefer them to be Shia.. Please, ANY ADVICE/OPINIONS WOULD BE EXTREMELY APPRECIATED. AC
  13. Guest


    How would one begin to describe a Muslim should think of themselves? Also, but not exclusively, including aspects of culture, family, and responsibility?
  14. Salam Brothers and Sisters. I have heard from some non Arabs that within Arab culture, polygamy is generally more accepted. I would like some Arabs to confirm or deny this based on whether in their experience it is true or false. So, is Polygamy a common practice? Are the women fine with it? Do the women show signs of distress and worry when thinking of their husbands being with another man? In my opinion, all women are the same and no woman would want to be without their husband a single night unless that husband is just not nice to her. In this discussion I am only concerned about wives with loving and loved husbands, I know many women, if they hate their husbands, would push them away to be rid of them by letting them get marry again happily. Also I have discussed this topic academically with my wife, and I have learned that wives may be disgusted by thinking about their husband being with other women sexually, is this true or are some women not concerned whether another woman has been "there". Married people's advice is preferred and please! No Arabs giving their view about how Arabs are unless they have Arab in laws. [MOD NOTE: Your topic asking for polygamous Arabs to talk about their sex life is not appropriate and not approved.]
  15. Salaam alaykum everyone! I went to a Shia mosque for the first time recently and I have some questions about something in it. I have no idea what to call it, but there was an area of the mosque with multiple structures. These things each had a green cloth draped over some kind of understructure, and on top was a metal sheet with writing. I can't read Arabic calligraphy well, but I think they may have each had one of the masumeen on them. One woman went by and made some reverential gestures. Another put food in the front of this area and after the service we ate it. So...what is the name of this area with the names of the masumeen? What are the customs in relation to it? During the service I moved to sit with my legs in front of me and I was scolded for it. I didn't want to talk over the service though so I didn't ask. I had been seated facing somewhat towards the area with the names of the masumeen. I heard once for a non-Muslim culture that it was considered rude to point your feet at anyone...is this true for Shia Muslims (i.e., is there a specific rule against it?)? Or is it something that comes from certain cultures? Also when I was there they did a "ziyarah." Now, I've heard of ziyarah before (from many many YouTube lectures....my only window into the Shia community before I was able to visit the mosque), but it was always in relation to physically visiting shrines/graves. And when I try to look it up now I still can't find anything except that ziyarah is physically visiting shrines. What kind of this was this in the mosque? Lastly I'd be happy with any links any of you might have to this kind of general information of customs/practices/culture. Almost all information I find about Shia Islam is either for born-Shias who want advanced information, or young Shias who may not have a strong knowledge basis, but who are expected to at least culturally have absorbed some things. For instance, I only learned after I went to a Shia mosque for the first time on Eid al Adha about Eid al Ghadir. This is apparently one of the most important holidays? But I never once heard mention of it after studying Shia Islam alone since last October, though I had heard huge volumes about the event of Ghadir. I can only assume this lack is because it was thought to be too obvious for mention...that everyone reading would have grown up in an environment where the fact of its existence is unavoidable. So if anyone has any good resources that tells you these kinds of things...culture, practices, etc, I'd be really grateful. The mosque is too far away for me to go regularly to ask these kinds of things. Jazakallah khair in advance.
  16. Salaam, Today I would like to speak about the Elephant Camel in the Room. As we know for approximately the past two decades (especially) Islam's media image has been filled with malaise. In today's world it is ever so easy to connect to the internet and digest information, in consequence it easy to presume that you have superior knowledge in certain subjects or area, Islam I believe is one of the least spared when it comes to pseudo intellectual trolls posting oh so very much one this religion. You know what I speak of, the Rapist,Raider,Pedo etc...Moon worshipper? Before losing track on the vast creativity, ignorance and hate filled garbage, I want to focus on a new emerging class some may have already seen it rear its ugly head, do you know what I speak of? I am speaking about the "Bourgeoisie, look at these Muslim apologists will they never learn ?" class. I hope everyone can debate together to deconstruct these arguments. It is vital given the situation and its rapid growth. thanks in advance! I will play Iblis's Advocate please join the conversation "haters" included Here are two sites I suggest before starting https://sites.google.com/site/islamicthreatsimplified/islamic-muslim-apologists--who-are-they http://www.***.org/Authors/Arlandson/ten_reasons.htm the below will be the first point this one nicks at me the most at the moment (it is pulled from the second site) I hope all can provide a clear defense. 4. Muhammad aggressively attacks Meccan caravans. A year or so after Muhammad’s Hijrah from Mecca to Medina in 622, he attacks Meccan caravans six times, and sent out a punitive expedition three-days away against an Arab tribe that stole some Medinan grazing camels (or cattle), totaling seven raids. W. Montgomery Watt, a highly reputable Western Islamologist who writes in favor of Muhammad and whose two-volume history of early Islam (Muhammad at Mecca (1953) and Muhammad at Medina(1956)) has won wide acceptance, tells us why geography matters: The chief point to notice is that the Muslims took the offensive. With one exception the seven expeditions were directed against Meccan caravans. The geographical situation lent itself to this. Caravans from Mecca to Syria had to pass between Medina and the coast. Even if they kept as close to the Red Sea as possible, they had to pass within about eighty miles of Medina, and, while at this distance from the enemy base, would be twice as far from their own base. (Muhammad at Medina, emphasis added, p. 2) It must be emphatically stated that the Meccans never sent a force up to the doorstep of Medina at this time—they did later on when they were fed up with Muhammad’s aggressions. It is true that the Meccans gathered forces to protect their caravans, but when Muhammad confronted them, they were many days’ journeys away from Medina, often more than eighty miles. (Medina and Mecca are around 200-250 miles from each other, taking seven to eleven days of travel by foot, horse, or camel.) Hence, two Muslim scholar-apologists are misleading when they assert that the caravans "passed through" Medina, adding that the Muslims haphazardly sought for whatever spoils they could get, whereas the Meccans mobilized for war (Isma’il R. al-Faruqi and Lois Lamya’al Faruqi, The Cultural Atlas of Islam, New York: Macmillan, 1986, 134). Rather, it is more accurate to say that the Muslims were aggressively harassing the Meccans. To complete the picture of expeditions, raids and wars in Muhammad’s life from 622 to 632, Watt totals up the number that Muhammad either sent out or went out on: seventy-four (Muhammad at Medina, pp. 2; 339-43). They range from negotiations (only a few compared to the violent expeditions), to small assassination hit squads, to the conquest of Mecca with 10,000 jihadists, and to the confrontation of Byzantine Christians (who never showed up), with 30,000 holy warriors to Tabuk (see below). For a fuller account of these six early aggressive attacks against Meccan caravans, go to this article, which explains more thoroughly why these attacks are not defensive. Thus, aggressive military violence sits at the heart of early Islam—in Muhammad’s life and in the Quran. Islam is therefore not the religion of peace Salaam,
  17. As-Salaamu Alaykum. Do certain practices amongst the Twelvers have a more cultural aspect to it than religious? For instance, what is the basis of conforming to such practices as organising and participating in processions, matam and zanzir?
  18. What is Religion! We must know about religion, what it is, to develop to know our position to it. How can we practice Islam that is a religion-not any religion but religion to the whole creation beyond derby -, without knowing about what religion is. Sure all are good and excellent followers of Islam, but Islam is a religion so what is religion again! What specific thoughts occur in you, please let us know. If it is not cool to mention I, AGAIN I AM, than maybe we should use 'you'- hmm how logical is this sentence -. Our scholars say religion has three parts-or 3 whatever - that is: Ahklaq, Aqaed and fiqh- respectively Ethic-ethical morality, belief and jurisprudence-Islamic law -. If any religion misses one of these parts, that religion is defected, handicap,or either sick but can we say it is no religion! Why Islam is the last holy religion to humanity? You have probably confronted the above question in your life! In this topic following questions should be dealt with: What is religion? What is a defected religion? If we accept the concept of religion, than why should we accept Islamic religion and not any other Ibrahimic religion; what answer is needed here? Why Islam the final stage, what can we say about the development of religion because we read in the holy Quran, some Prophets Peace upon Them said that we are muslim! Hope this topic is successful Allah will, and this 'riter a excellent host to guests participating in this topic. Please leave your view and thoughts, this servant will be frugal in using posts to develop text in this regard.
  19. Salam All was debating whether to put this in the general discussion thread, but knowing SC, this thread will be forgotten about in a matter of days, since mutah and mahdi ism dominate discourse. What got me to writing this thread was, apart from my frustrations, the world people's conference on climate change and the rights of Mother Earth (Gaia), which was held on Bolivia. The countries attending drafted the Universal Declaration of the rights of Mother Earth. When I looked that up it led me to the Gaza foundation, and what caught my eye was, you guessed it, the clear absence of Islamic representation. So, the goal of this thread is to document the absenteeism of Islamic jurisprudence and the scholars researching fields of research working for the betterment of society and the world. Irrespective of the fiqh school you follow, I would like to expose the clear irresponsible behaviour of our religious establishment to contribute in fields we clearly could have influenced. I start with what this: there is a document produced by indegiounous people's around the world that lists the rights of Mother earth and our responsibility towards her. There are zero Muslims/Shia contribution to this document. We need to work towards a universally acceptable Islamic view on how to treat the environment as it is intended to be treated.
  20. Salams all, InshaAllah I intend to do a research topic on forced marriages. Although I haven't come up with a concrete title yet, I am doing some research to find out what is "out there" Please if anyone can direct me or if anyone can know where I can get authentic information from please help! iltemase duas sunny x
  21. (BISMILLAH) (Salam) I hope you are all in the best of health, both physically and spiritually. I created this topic so that we may share, and examine, each other's cultures and how Muharram is commemorated by people of different origins. For example, in my culture, it is seen as impolite for one to watch T.V. - as in, operas and serials, not 'serious' stuff like News - in the first 10 days of Muharram, though this often extends till Arbaeen and, for some people, till Eid az-Zahra (9 Rabi al-Awal). Does your culture have a similar custom? What other customs do you have?
  22. Salaam alaikum! I have realised a consensus on SC where many members claim that, a girl who says 'she wants to get married' is harshly criticized and is looked down upon with contempt in her society. But I want to take a different approach here and instead of starting another 'Marriage thread', and asking if Sisters would initiate their marriage I want to ask a different question. Let's say, Sisters, that you have a suitor who has made it obvious that he wants you & you believe he is the Mo'min one for you. Would any of you, Sisters, bravely confess your love for him to your parents? What would be the reactions of your parents and family back home (if you live in the West) ? Is it still taboo in your culture? I'm just curious to see if this taboo/norm has changed in our generation. Please vote and reply. *if you married, imagine before you got married? *if you're a brother, imagine confessing for a girl? Thank You & Ws
  23. It is a very great lecture. I suggest you watch the whole thing although all of it isnt lecture: It consists of Quran Recitation, Spoken Words, and other lecture related speeches. If you want, just start at: 23 min (wasalam)
  24. Salamun Alaykum brothers and sisters, In the book "Shi'ism in America", there are interesting remarks regarding how culture and ethnicity have divided Shia Muslims in the West. The book resonated with me and encouraged me to isolate key points for a post. I hope to get your opinion on the topic, since I had to rely dominantly on one source. Thank you! I look forward to your input! --- Cultural Divide of (Shia) Muslims ...bonds of common faith have been replaced by ties to common origins, ethnicity, and culture. Step into an Islamic Shia center and notice the inseparable bond of culture and religion. Culture has infused itself in such a way that you cannot intuitively separate one from the other. You may be tempted to believe Shia Muslims primarily connect via Shia Islam; but in this post, I will explain to you how this is not the case. Using the authority of Liyakat Nathani Takim, an expert in the field of Shia Islam, and his book Shi’ism in America, I hope to show that most Shia Muslims do not unite under the banner of Shia Islam; but rather under the banner of ethnicity, culture, and language. Shia Islam, the sect, will not be criticized. No statement in this post should be seen as a criticism of the sect. Instead, this post will focus on exposing the negative effects of culture on Shi’ism in the West and provide insight into the frustrations that youth and converts feel. By the end of this post, you will understand why, many Shia Muslims do not participate in their community and choose to largely practice on their own. Please keep in mind that I am using a single primary source, which may naturally include a layer of bias or misinformation. In the future, if I find more sources, I will provide a more complete analysis of the topic. Having said that, the author is an expert in the field, and his sole input is still a valuable source of information. Cultural Divide Each immigrant brings with themselves a belief and lifestyle to which they have been accustomed to. Amongst people of their own ethnicity and culture, it is easier to hold on to past beliefs, rather than adapt or assimilate. In doing so, the Islam an immigrant comes with undergoes minimal adaptation: “As [immigrants] find themselves in situations of cultural displacement and marginality, immigrants mediate Islam in a culturally conditioned form, one that is highly resistant to change” (Location 1091) “Immigration and ethnicization mean that, like other Muslim immigrants, many recent Shi’i arrivals see Islam through a cultural prism, a lens that they have been accustomed to. Hence, to practice Shi’ism in any other way is often seen as an aberration or construed as cultural heresy.” (Location 1222)Initially, a small immigrant population assimilates into their new Western environment, in order to fit in with the community. In such cases, simply being a “Muslim” is enough to unite upon. “Practicing Islam as it had been done ‘back home’ was proving to be difficult... Imam Muhammad Jawad Chirri was one of the earliest Shi’i scholars to settle in America in 1949. Marium ‘Uthman remembers that he did not force women to wear hijab. Instead, some women just wore hats in the mosque. She remembers that although Imam Chirri did not approve of this practice, he did not enforce the hijab for fear that he might alienate women. He was more concerned that they remain true to their faith than insisting on their Islamic mode of dressing.” (Location 345) “The early Shi’i immigrants arrived in the United States at about the same time the Sunnis did. Initially, the two groups ignored their sectarian differences and focused on their Islamic identity. They worshiped together, often intermarried, and met at various social functions; they also represented the Muslim community as a singular group.” (Location 962)As an immigrant population grows, less of a need to assimilate exists and more of a need to preserve culture prevails. People begin to band together on identities other than “Muslim”. One of those identities being the ethnic identity. “Why do members coalesce around mosques that are frequented by people from the same background? Ethnic institutions are important for the psychological survival of new immigrants since they perpetuate customs and rituals that resonate with the home environment. They create the physical and social spaces in which those who share the same traditions, customs, and languages can reproduce aspects of their native cultures for themselves and attempt to pass them on to their children... Due to these factors, Shi’i institutions whether in the form of mosques, Islamic schools, or centers, have tended to fragment along ethnic lines and remain loyal to customs fermented in home states.” (Location 1140) “Indeed, more than any other factor, it is the ethnic factor that seems to have kept Shi’ism from becoming a dominant and shared source of identity.” (Location 1148) “...instead of a mosque being a focal point for all Shi’is, it has brought together Shi’is from the same ethnic community.” (Location 1164)Muslim identity has paled against ethnic identity. As such, ethnicity has become a source of disunity and friction amongst Shia Muslims: “Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Detriot, Washington, and Chicago are characterized by disparate Shi’i centers established along ethnic lines... In Los Angeles, for example, Lebanese and Pakistani Shi’i centers are one mile apart, and an Iranian and Iraqi-based mosque are less than five miles from either of them... Similarly, in the Queens borough of New York, there are three Shi’i centers within a five-mile radius. In Houston, Pakistani and Arab centers are located virtually opposite each other”. (Location 1148) “The uniting factor within individual group often seems to be a common language and cultural ties rather than religious affiliation.” (Location 1164) “Shaykh Hisham Husainy of the Kerbala Center in Dearborn admitted that a cultural chasm existed between the Lebanese and Iraqi Shi’is” (Location 1156)You need to keep in mind that Islam encourages unity amongst Muslims. The Qu’ran, a Muslim’s most authoritative and authentic source of law, states: “Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only to Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do.” (Qur’an 6:159, Saheeh International) “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided...” (Qur’an 3:103, Saheeh International)Additionally, the Imams of the Shia sect have married across ethnicities. There is no evidence that the Imams favoured an ethnicity over another. Ethnic diversity is not a problem on its own though. Let us instead ask what sort of impact has the ethnic divide been having? “...the existence of variant cultural traditions means that each ethnic group imposes its own distinctive understanding of how it experiences Shi’i Islam and firmly believes it to be the most authentic expression of Shi’ism, even, at times, disparaging the experiences and praxis of other ethnic groups that share the same faith”. (Location 1173) “Due to the predominance of ethnic centers, there are few interethnic marriages, and few Shi’is have friends outside their own ethnic background.” (Location 1183) “African American converts often complain that having converted to Shi’ism, they are discriminated against by Sunnis and fellow Shi’is alike.” (Location 1183) “Many centers hold programs in languages that reflect their countries of origins (Urdu, Persian, or Arabic), thus alienating them from Shi’is originating from different cultural or linguistic background. The linguistic and cultural bias of programs held at the centers also means that identification and interaction with Shi’is from different ethnic background is rare”. (Location 1173)Here is a testimony from an Amazon member who reviewed this book: “The cultural representations and traditions in Shi'i centers are fine as such, but they do not always speak to or resonate with me and have at times accentuated my sense of being outside the community. Further, the conflicts that have at times arisen when different ethnic/cultural groups did not agree on various matters have prevented the community from achieving its full potential. No matter how much time I may spend in or with a community, it never becomes my community psychologically, and I always remain a guest at best. With some physical distance between me and the nearest center and a naturally somewhat introverted nature, the personal benefit of attendance at programs is often not compelling enough to get me to make the commute.” (Amazon Reviewer D. Beatty)Cultural practices prevent unity within common areas of worship as well: “Occasionally, there are disputes regarding which speakers to invite, what kind of food to serve, whether men and women should be seated in the same hall, whether and how to perform acts of flagellations...” (Location 1216) “Iranian and Arab Shi’is often serve tea and light refreshments during the Muharram lectures. Such acts are seen as highly disrespectful and disruptive by South Asian and Khoja Shi’is, who insist on complete silence and discipline during the lectures.” (Location 1374) “The tensions that Muharram rituals can generate can be discerned from the following anecdote that occurred in Denver, Colorado, at a multiethnic center in 2005... The conflict arose as the Arabs wanted to eat after the noon prayers whereas the South Asians sought to mourn the death of Husayn at the same time. In the same mosque and at the same time, while the South Asians were fasting, the Arabs were feasting.” (Location 1490)Youth’s Disconnection Shi’ism’s ethnic divide, following immigration, has increasingly alienated youth born or raised in their new Western country. They do not identify themselves with their parent’s culture and lack support in incorporating Islam into their Western culture. “Shi’i youth must navigate between two worlds which neither is wholly comfortable or accepting. They are removed from the traditional culture of their parents, while at the same time they live in an American secular society that does not fully accept them” (Location 1736) “...most youth want to dissociate from the sectarian and ethnic identities that are a source of divisiveness and fragmentation.” (Location 1647)The demands of Western Shia youth are different and often unaddressed: “The youth seek a global Islamic identity, replacing a local culture in favor of a transnational or universal culture.” (Location 1647) “Shi’i youth often challenge their parents’ cultural articulation of Islam especially where there is no Islamic basis for such practices” (Location 1655) “The patriarchal family structure of Iranian families is one of the traditions being challenged by the second generation.” (Location 1663) “Pakistani youth often complain that their parents want to to raise not only Shi’i children in America but also Pakistani ones. A similar complaint is heard from Iranian or Lebanese youth. Some Pakistani youth even complain that their parents send them back home in the summer to become ‘more Pakistani.’” (Location 1676) “Like other Muslim youth, Shi’i youth reject the ethnic Islam phenomenon particularly as they experience and live in a post-ethnic world”. (Location 1677) “Many youth question... matam, especially when done with iron chains (zanjir)... dharih room and some wedding practices.” (Location 1654) “The survey also suggests that youth who have been here for a longer period are more disillusioned with the community and do not feel a sense of obligation to contribute to it. They do not feel a sense of belonging to the centers.” (Location 1756)Youth’s interaction with their environment differs from their parents’: “It is the younger generation who, due to their interaction with fellow Shi’is, Muslims, and non-Muslims, are becoming homogenized. Non-American traits, whether they be cultural, ethnic, or linguistic, are gradually but surely flattened out”. (Location 1684)The next generation’s Islam is not their parent’s Islam: “The trans-ethnic form of Shi’i Islam has emerged primarily because the ethnicized version is alien and isolationist to the younger generation”. (Location 1638) “Shi’i youth are engaged in the deethnicization of ethnic Islam, an Islam that is radically different from the one known to their parents.” (Location 1683) “A good example of a post-ethnic institution is the Yaseen Educational Foundation... Yaseen was established because other Shi’i centers held their programs in their native languages... The youth were not able to identify or relate to the centers their parents attended... it was clear that [Yaseen members] felt estranged both from other Shi’i centers and the adult community.” (Location 1719) “Preferring to distance themselves from parental practices that seem more superstitious than informed, they pursue what they call the ‘real Islam,’ however that may be defined” (Location 1727) “The youth feel that the adults cling to an Islam that is culturally conditioned, one that is formed by the ‘back-home mentality’ and one with which the youth cannot identify and often reject. For many youth, the shift from the cultural to the ‘real Islam’ is a return to the ‘true’ tenets of Islam; they feel they can lead a better Islamic life in America where they are extricated from the homeland culture.” (Location 1727)You may question, do the Mosques not care about the youth? They do. “My 2006 survey indicates Shi’i centers are clearly concerned about the youth within the community...70 percent identified the transmission of Islam to the next generation as a future challenge.” (Location 1770)Unfortunately, at best, Mosques have mixed results: “Most centers within the Shi’i community do not hold events that could attract the youth on a regular basis. In addition to there being no interaction with preachers in the centers, the lectures are either delivered in languages that are alien to the youth or they are in the form of repetitive and highly polemicized discourses, quite distinct from the intellectual discourses the youth are accustomed to in the universities.” (Location 1778)‘Ali Dabaja, a member of Young Muslim Association, states: “The majalis... are too narrative and repetitive to provide for the intellect and spirit of the youth... Islam is neither cool nor attractive to the youth. ‘Islam is not about bleeding chests and black and white turbans, it is more about role models...’... ‘Our leaders are more concerned with building centers than with investing in the hearts and minds of the youth who will occupy these buildings’” (Location 1793) From personal experiences, I can add that lectures aim to be more emotional than factual, Hadiths are not cited for the audience to verify, and rarely are alternative perspectives given, such as relevant Sunni perspectives. Dialogue seldom exists. You are a passive learner in the sessions and expected to believe everything taught, irrespective of evidence being presented or not. Fortunately, some Mosques are adapting by utilizing PowerPoints for their lectures, having Q&A after lectures, creating multipurpose centers rather than Mosques, inviting young Western lecturers, etc. In this regard, no blanket statement can yet be made regarding a successful outreach to youth. Conclusion As I continue to read this book (I am not finished), I reflect on my struggle to understand the religion of Islam. Much of what is mentioned in this book, I had to learn on my own. I struggled to understand the Islamic culture surrounding me. I struggled to understand why a compatible Western Islam had not surfaced yet. I struggled to understand why other Muslims recommend to me to marry within my ethnicity and “level”, despite the numerous teachings of Islam to select based on piety alone. I struggled to understand why the Islam I read about was not the Islam I saw. Fortunately, I was not disillusioned. Deep inside, I hold an internal belief to reject an idea only when it encounters a clear contradiction. People carrying out Islam incorrectly does not tarnish the Philosophy of Islam. It creates no contradiction for me to reject. As such, I persisted in studying Islam. Eventually, I came to realize my frustrations stemmed from cultural factors, not religious ones. I began to categorize Islam properly for myself: “Real Islam”, “Persian Islam”, “Khoja Islam”, “Afghan Islam”, etc. I can now encourage myself again to seek “Real Islam”. When and if I find it, I can then finally reject or accept it, knowing that what I am rejecting or accepting is the Islam that (Prophet) Muhammad had actually taught. Please feel free to share your comments below! Citation Note: I have read this book in Kindle format. Each quote's “Location” is only an approximate. You can easily do a “Search” and find the quotes in the book, if desired.
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