Cultural Diversity in Islam
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Islam is the religion that exhibits an amazing phenomenon of national unity and at the same time, tremendous cultural diversity all around the globe. This paper deals with the study of Islam in some of the significant countries in the world; how Islam is practiced around the world along with the cultural diversity and the understanding and impact of this understanding of the religion by other Non-Muslim countries. The bond between Islam and Australia formed long before it interacts with Europe.
During the seventeenth century, pleasing relationships existed between the anglers of Asia and endemic natives of Northern Australia. Muslims have a significant share in Australian history during world wars as well; they fought for the country in both the wars. Since then, Muslims have played a major role in establishing the economy and society of Australia. In 1990’s there were many Muslim people in Australia that migrated from Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Lebanon, Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Albania And many other Muslim countries. According to the 2006 consensus, about 1.7% percent of total Australian population is Muslim. (Said, 2003)
The history of Islam in America begins from the commencement of sixteenth century, when the first Muslim crossed the boundaries of North America. With the passage of time, the Muslim population has increased very rapidly. (Haddad, 1993) According to studies, approximately one third of the Muslims in America are the black African Americans and the rest of the population is from various Muslim countries of the globe. In addition, it is observed that Muslims enjoy the freedom of practicing their religion in United States, they have their mosques and Islamic centers, and even their colonies.
There is a majority of Shia Muslims in the United States, followed by Sunni Muslims and Wahabis. (Haddad, 1993) Muslims also have political freedom in America; many Muslim political organizations are busy in working for the cause of the Muslims, and for their civil and human rights. In the United States, there is a feeling of understanding towards the Muslims in general public and the majority of natives agree to the fact that Muslims are peaceful and they should be provided every freedom to live their lives according to their religion.
The history of Islam and India started in seventh century long before the Muslim invasion of India. The history started with the Muslim Arab traders who used to do business in Indian Territory. In addition, after that the Muslim population never stopped growing in India. Many of the Indian natives converted to Islam and at present, India is world’s second country with biggest Muslim population and the country with world’s first largest Muslim minority. Almost 13.4% of Indian population is Muslim. Muslims practice their religion in India in the same way as they do in any other Muslim country.
The advent of Muslim in Pakistan began with the start of eight century with the arrival of Mohammad bin Qasim in the province of Sindh. Pakistan and India were the part of Hindustan at that time, the followers of Islam increased with a very rapid pace in both Pakistan and India or the Hindustan. Later on, in 19th century Pakistan came into existence as world’s first Islamic Republic. The Muslim population in Pakistan is almost 96% of the total population of the country and it has the honor to be the Islamic country with the world’s second largest Muslim country after Indonesia.
In South Africa, Muslims constitute 1% of the country’s population. They have a considerable share in South African culture, social and political scenarios. The advent of Muslims occurred in the year 1962, when some political deportees and slaves came to South Africa from different Muslim countries of the world. After the mid 80’s, many Muslim people arrived in South Africa from India, Pakistan, and many other Muslim African countries like Nigeria.
Over the years, many Black natives including children and women accepted Islam refusing to be regarded as low class social group. Many Asian Muslims are settled in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria. (Bodman, 1998) The advent of Islam in this part of the globe is largely ascribed to the endeavors of Islamic Scholars and Sufis. These holy personalities provided the sound ground for development of Islam in South Africa. In the beginning, Muslims were made embarrassed by the term so-called colored but now they are released from the boundaries being low class and the term for them is now changed to colored. (Said, 2003)
Another important impact of increasingly Muslim population as the most prominent minority in South Africa is the law made by the government to respect cultural diversity and not only to encourage the development of regional languages in country but also to boost and ensure esteem for languages used for religious objectives. At a less specific perspective, Muslims enjoy their lives of successfulness and poorness, potential and state of being marginalized with the Non-Muslims natives. Except some benefits, Muslims enjoy being part of every lifestyle in South Asia. Many patriotic South Asian Muslims are establishing substantial part in the process of reconstruction of society.
Muslims holds the honor to be the second largest nation in United Kingdom. The advent of Islam in United Kingdom began during the seventeenth century. At present, there are more than 2.4 million Muslims living in United Kingdom. Most of the Muslims in United Kingdom are from India and Pakistan. Muslims enjoy their cultural independence and religious freedom here as well. There are about 1500 mosques within the boundaries of United Kingdom. (Ansari, 2004) Various Islamic ethnic groups as Deobandis, Barelwis, Sunni, and Shia etc are diversely spread all over the United Kingdom. As per today, there are about 1500 mosques in the kingdom. There are many political organizations working effectively to safeguard the rights of Muslims in the United Kingdom as well.
A small contrast between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism is as follows:
All the three of the religions share monotheistic faiths i.e. are based on the oneness of God, the holy history that God created all this universe, existence of prophets and the revelations, sacred angels of God, and Satan. (Ansari, 2004) All the three religions are based on the teachings of Ibrahim, all invites to goodness, the moral responsibilities are same, and the concept of having honor or penalty due to the god or the bad deeds on the Judgment day.
Peace, it the supreme force in all the three religions, Leaders of all the three religions were the warriors in the line of God and conquered most part of the world. Christians considers Jesus to be the son of God, Muslims consider him a prophet and not the son of God, they also believe in Mohammad; the last prophet of God and Jews considers the Christ and Prophet Mohammad nothing. They believe that they are the real inheritors of Ibrahim. Muslims and Christians believe that Christ will return however, Muslims do not believe that he died on a cross, while Jews believe that Christ never existed. (Ansari, 2004)
No matter that Muslims, all around the world share a wide cultural diversity. They have different ways of life, belonging to different countries, having different nationalities, speaking different languages, and exhibiting different culture and traditions as per their historical pasts. However, they are guided by the supreme force of religion, uniting different people under one tag, The Muslim Ummah (nation). All the Muslims around the world are synchronized with the Islamic teachings and the Islamic culture. Rituals like fasting in Ramadan, offering salah (prayers), performing hajj (pilgrimage) , sharing a common belief and Islamic traditions unifies them beyond the borders of geography, limits of races, restrictions of casts or color, and bounds of languages. (Tibi, 2007)
The understanding of Muslim culture gave rise to the compatibility between Islam and the western world. People from this school of thought are of the opinion that as the western countries now practice and promote freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience. Therefore, Muslims can observe and practice their religion in the Western world without confronting any significant hindrance in it. Moreover, they can harmonize with the western society more than any other minority do because of the peaceful nature of religion they practice. The idea that Islam itself focuses on being a good person, making friendly social terms and abiding by the rules, helps in establishing a higher compatibility rate. In societies like Europeans society, Muslim population is regarded and esteemed as the equal and adequate part of society. (Ansari, 2004)
People on the contrart side of story are of the opinion that compatibility can never be achieved because of the cultural differences between the Islamic world and the western environment. They insist on the fact that although Muslims are practicing their lives and religion in western countries; however, they can never be compatible with the prevailing culture there. In addition, sometimes, this results in the dominancy of one culture over another. The policies in western countries make sure that the minorities fully participates the social, cultural, and political life within a community or group. (Tibi, 2007)
Due to the teachings of Islam, the Muslim communities establish prosperous and suitable conditions for development of Islamic Nation in the western world. Many people see this as a social, cultural, and political closing off, considering Islamic Nationalization as a threat for western culture. There is a mixed sort of responses to the cause of Muslims in Europe and other western countries and is one of the most significant minority issues in the western civilization.
Many misunderstanding have been arisen due to improper and inappropriate knowledge about Islam. As many of the people belonging to Western world have an opinion that most of the Muslims, belong to Middle East. Another misunderstanding that arose as a big issue was the headscarves of Muslim women in schools of France. They were adopted as an impression of the Muslim men’s authority over their females instead of being understood as an Islamic ritual. In short, the public opinion varies greatly as the understanding factor of the religion changes. However, Islam is practiced in a very different but the same way all over the world, leading to the cultural diversity in Islam. Conclusively, the paper has discussed some of the significant aspects of cultural diversity of Islam. It is hoped that the paper will be beneficial for students, teachers, and professionals in better understanding of the topic.
Ansari, Humayun. (2004). the Infidel Within: The History of Muslims in Britain, 1800 to the Present. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers.
Bodman, Herbert L. (1998). Women in Muslim societies: diversity within unity. Published by Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. (1993).The Muslims of America. Oxford University Press.
Said, Abdul Aziz. (2003). Cultural Diversity and Islam. University of Virgnia.
Tibi, Bassam. (2007). Political Islam, world politics and Europe: democratic peace and Euro-Islam versus global jihad. Routledge.