And don’t mix your bid’ah with the Sunnah.
I was tempted to add to this the hadith that talks about individual cultures being acceptable provided they do not conflict with the principles of Islam. But unfortunately I can’t find the original hadith at this time, and instead came across the following post that describes my views on this matter quite well. The post was taken from a site called masudblog.com.
Over on Facebook someone copied and pasted the hadith (or at least a paraphrased version of it) “Whomsoever emulates a nation is one of them.” (Abu Dawud) on to their status.
I saw this and noticed that the person who posted this hadith has a picture of three Muslims in trainers (called sneakers in the USA), blue jeans and t-shirts and striking a pose that is culturally specific to Western culture but more specifically to American culture, the only thing that alerts you to the fact that they are Muslims are 1. the T-shirts have “Muslim” emblazoned across them and other Muslim slogans and 2. they are wearing kufis – Muslim skullcaps. Aside from these two tell tale signs, they are dressed in an overt and ostensible classic American style, one could say emulating the culture of the USA.
I posted a comment on the brother’s status:
Hadith like this need to be explained. I mean, is wearing jeans and T-shirts emulating?
You can see what I was getting at. I then get a wall-to-wall message from the brother:
salam akhi in responce…The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) has stated very clearly: “Whomsoever emulates a nation is one of them.” (Abu Dawud) From this Hadith we deduce that emulating the Kuffar is Haraam (totally prohibited) in regards to religious and social habits which are confined to them only.
It is unfortunate that we find many Muslims openly following many customs of the Kufaar ?following the celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays and now even Valentine?s Day. In western countries, there is a growing social and religious integration between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. Muslims, today, are fusing their Islamic culture with that of the Kuffar. This absorbance of cultures has been achieved to such an extent that some Muslims have even abandoned their very own Islamic identity and Islamic culture. They are unable to differentiate between what is right and wrong. Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day
I then responded to this as follows:
Islam accepts (and indeed absorbs) the cultures and traditions of other societies on the condition that they do not violate the Shariah, I notice from your profile picture that you and the brothers in it have a culturally very American look, is that not imitating the kuffar? Also exactly what is “Islamic culture”, I do not believe that an identifiable “Islamic culture” actually exists, rather Muslims have their own culture based on where they are from (with the aforementioned caveat of not violating the Shariah), therefore we see Muslims from China exhibiting Chinese culture, so too the Indo-Paks have their own culture, the Turks very much have their own culture (and more distinctly so during the Ottoman period), various far-eastern Muslims and even the Arabs are culturally diverse too and display their own culture? I think it is far too simplistic to take a single hadith and apply it to all situations and conditions, when clearly there are certain criteria that apply.
As mentioned in my response, there is really no such thing as a specifically identifiable monolithic “Islamic culture” that the brother has alluded to above, when Islam embeds itself into a country, culture or society, the norms of that society are generally accepted with proviso that the practices do not violate a principle of the Shariah. Principially, the overwhelming things and actions in this world are HALAL (permissible) unless an evidence can be brought to the contrary. With this principle in mind we don’t just throw out culture wholesale, we evaluate, discard what is incorrect and accept what is good. We only have to look at the periods of Islamic conquests to realise that Islam, or rather Muslims (without objection from the ulama), took from the cultures they conquered and took what benefited and left that which did not, the culture then took on a new form specific to that time and place. Ottoman mosques resemble Byzantine basilicas, in many cases that’s what they once were, in other cases the Ottomans employed Byzantine artisans and craftsman. Chinese mosques look like Chinese temples, Indo-Pak mosques have borrowed from culturally “Hindu” (as opposed to religiously Hindu) art and craft, the influences are unmistakeable.
My last response on this thread was:
This hadith requires an exposition and needs the parameters defined, this is why we rely on rulings derived from hadith rather than an hadith on its own to establish a ruling. The wording of the hadith [in question] is general and on the face of it seems to suggest that *any* emulation/imitation makes you from that nation, additionally, as stated, it doesn’t suggest that it is a bad thing (being from the nation you emulate) since the Qur’an has stated “We have made you into nations so that you may know one another”, so immediately there is a problem of defining what is meant by the hadith.
The upshot here is that quoting a hadith and establishing it as a ruling is not correct, hadith are the raw materials which the jurists use to provide the rulings which we follow, essentially the fuqaha (jurists) operationalise the Sacred texts for us. May Allah make us of those who follow right guidance and understanding.