Chemistry of Religion and Culture – Osama Fattouh

Islam is a highly diverse religion with adherents all over the world. In my case, I am the son of two Syrian immigrants who are Sunni Muslim. With Muslims being from all around the world, intersections between culture and religion create slight differences in the way Islam is practiced. For example, Muslims greet each other or say goodbye with the phrase “Asalamualaikum” which simply means “peace be upon you”; however, you will commonly hear Muslims from Pakistan or India say “Allah Hafiz” for a goodbye, which means “May God be your Guardian”. Most of the differences in Islamic practice are small like this.

Unfortunately, the intersectionality of culture and religion can create problems when Muslims conflate their country’s culture with their religion. A prime example of this is the role xenophobia has in marriage. Like other countries around the world, many Islamic countries foster xenophobia, meaning that members of one country hold unfair prejudice against members of another. You will see many Muslims telling their children that they must marry someone from their own country or from a country that is “favorable”. The parents would say that Islam justifies this, when in reality nowhere in the religion does it state you have to marry someone from your country.

This example is one of many that Muslims around the world will experience. With globalization, Muslims need to have a better understanding of their religion now more than ever—particularly in places like the United States where the Muslim population is ethnically diverse. If allowed to divide Muslims from one another, the culturally-diverse expressions of Islam endanger the Ummah.

The Muslim community, or the Ummah as the Prophet calls it, is very important to maintain. Muslims are supposed to work together and help each other rather than fight over problems that are insignificant. How is the Muslim Ummah supposed to help and support people of all religions across the world if we are not even working together?

Luckily, the new generation of Muslims in America are from all across the world and have grown up together in the Mosques, forging beautiful relationships with one another across national differences. Muslims in the new generations are friends with Muslims and non-Muslims from around the world. Embracing this diversity within the Ummah is helping it become more cohesive, interconnected, and ultimately stronger — allowing Muslims to be able to help humanity and improve the lives of everyone.

What are some intersections between culture and religion that you have observed within your own religion? Do these intersections cause any problems, if so how can they be resolved?

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