In this post, we will review a subject that causes a lot of confusion to many when researching or studying Islam and/or the cultural habits of the Muslim world. I will begin by explaining a few terms, which will provide a basic level of understanding for the rest of the post.
“Social Habit” would be defined as acts done by a group of people/society/community. It is also important to distinguish between Islam and Muslim. A Muslim is a person who declares Islam as his/her religion and he/she believes. It is not related to that person’s actions. Their actions can only be connected to Islam if they are following what Allah or His Prophet ordered
قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْكَافِرِينَ
” Say, “Obey Allah and the Messenger.” But if they turn away – then indeed, Allah does not like the disbelievers. (3:32) “.
The next point to consider is “habits”. “Habits” are generally individual to the person. People generally define “habits” as either good, bad or unwanted. What constitutes a “habit” depends on the individual. Islam considers a “habit” based on if the action is permitted or forbidden in Islam. For example, in some Muslim societies, there is a “habit” or culture of using an animal as a living target. That is considered a sin and is forbidden in Islam. But if it is a positive “habit” or cultural action, and does not undermine Islamic rules, then Islam will support it. For example, inviting an unknown guest to tea or lunch – a kind and generous action.
There is another important aspect to consider, which is the perceptions of personal “habits” or “cultural habits”, and how that is often incorrectly connected to Islam, without any evidence that the “habit” is indeed permitted in Islam. For example in some Muslim and Arab societies, it is customary for men and women to exchange kisses, as a kind of salute. That cultural “habit” is seen by many in other societies as “modern Islam” or “open-minded Islam”. On the other hand, in other Muslim societies, it is the culture to limits access to education for girls. This is viewed by other societies in a negative manner and as a “strict” interpretation and application of Islam. Both cultural habits are wrong and not following Islam.
It is therefore crucial when considering a “habit”, be it cultural and/or personal, to determine if the “habit” is supported by a source from the Quran and Sunnah.