Urf and the Problematic Application of Western Cultures

Ismail Kamdar


Channel: Ismail Kamdar

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Salam alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh at hamdu lillah wa salatu salam ala Rasulillah. So just a heads up that this is a bit of an advanced big discussion on matters related to assuring the principles of faith and the application to the modern world. So it may or may not interest you, you may feel it's above your level, whatever the key is, I just wanted to get my thoughts out on record. So that I could

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share with share with you a bit of what I've been thinking about recently. And some of what I'm going to share with you right now may contradict some opinions that I held when I was younger. And that's fine. As we study fake and grow in our knowledge of the principles and the application to the modern world, our opinions may change over time. And that is perfectly fine. And as long as it's done in the correct methodology, there is a lot of room for difference of opinion on many fit issues. Now the issue that I wanted to discuss today, for me, very different perspective of how I've done in the past,

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is the concept of orphan or local culture, right, as a source of fear.

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some of you may be aware of this, one of the shul or the sources of Islamic law for secondary matches is a local culture. And the idea that this is based on is our that may have come up, that the local culture is the deciding factor, meaning when there is a clash of cultures, you go with the local culture, not to foreign culture.

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And the way I've been teaching this, and applying this for the past decade or so,

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I've been saying that if you living in a Western culture, you should not be importing Eastern cultures, right. But I'm actually going to push back a bit against that today. I want to on specific issues. Because I want to dive a bit deeper, I want to dive a bit deeper into why this principle exists, how it organically evolved over time.

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And why I don't think it necessarily applies to all aspects of Western culture compared to Muslim cultures, right. So, what is Earth?

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why was this principle developed? And how was it organically obtained throughout history of means that Islam allows for cultural diversity on many secondary matters are fickle, issues related to marriage, issues related to dressing issues related to business, many other areas are fake, that are secondary, there is room for diversity, that is cultural,

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and so organically, Muslim cultures developed differently in different parts of the world. And you will find that the culture of Turkish practicing Muslims is different from that of Malay Muslims, which is different from Pakistani Muslims, which is different from Arab Muslims. But what all of these cultures have in common is that they are

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permissible not just permissible, but they are rooted in concepts derived from the Quran and Sunnah.

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What I mean by this, for example, is that

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in for example, in Malaysian culture, when a man greets a woman, he puts his hand on his heart instead of reaching out for a handshake, right? And this is rooted in the Islamic principle of being respectful to the opposite gender and not touching it. Right? That you maintain a respectful distance from the opposite gender. So this is a cultural practice that organically evolved from an Islamic principle. Likewise, if you go to other parts of the Muslim world, you may find that they are separate streets for men and woman. Right? So that

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there's there's no intermingling unnecessarily between men and women, right. Likewise, in some cultures, you have enclosed gardens, so that a woman can be in her garden without a hijab, without any normal romancing. Now, these are cultural, manifestations of Islam, all of which are permissible, all of which are acceptable. This is all this is the cultural diversity of the Muslim world. That is not just encouraged. But is it

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core part of how Islam function. This is the Sharia in practice, that the Sharia is meant to be multicultural. It wasn't meant to enforce an Arab or Indian culture upon the entire world, but rather the principles are the same wherever you go in the world, the salah is the same, very minor differences in Fick regarding so that no cultural differences, but Fick differences, you know, the five pillars are the same, the core beliefs are the same, or the Alon is the same, but they are cultural differences, right? The way that hijab is the way that women cover their aura, right? So for example,

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in some cultures, you know, there is the covering of the face. In other cultures, not as many women cover their face, but it's still just modestly with the hair, everything else covered as well. In some countries, it's only dark colors in other countries, these brighter colors.

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All of these cultural diverse practices evolved organically over a long period of time, based on Islam principles, that how can we take these principles and naturally make them part of the way people live their lives. And so you'll find that people living in these parts of the world, many times they practice Islam,

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unconsciously, they don't even realize that their cultural practices are Islamic. And you'll find even the non practicing or the or the, the second, the members of these communities will have a lot of Islamic practices in them, that are just a part of their culture, right, because Islam has become so ingrained in the culture. So if someone historically the weight of the principles of or would have worked, in fact, is that if someone migrated, for example, from Pakistan, to Malaysia, right, and certain things are done differently in these two countries, in terms of marriage, or business, or gender interactions or anything like this, then the fake ruling would be that you should adapt to

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the culture that you are moving to right that you should adapt to the culture that you are now living in.

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in the past, this was almost exclusively done within Muslim cultures. So we had the broad framework of Darul Islam, right of the Muslim about the Islamic abode, within which they were met many kingdoms and whichever Kingdom you went to, in those kingdoms in many different regions, and every region had its own culture. Sometimes every tribe had their own culture. But you as an immigrant, you could move anywhere within this Daro Islam, but you are expected to adopt to the culture not to have the culture change to suit you as as the new individual.

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So this principle is something that's very clear in our in our books of faith, it's something that's been applied many, many times over over our history

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is particularly something emphasizing both the Hanafi and the Maliki schools of thought.

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in recent times,

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there has been a push since Muslims started migrating to the west, there has been a push for Muslims to adapt to Western culture based on the principle of wealth to various degrees.

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Now, I think we all can agree that there are elements of Western culture that are haram and no sincere Muslim will ask other Muslims to adapt to the Haram aspects of Western culture. Right? So for example, dressing modestly. Oh, It's haram, right? consumption of alcohol, haram, Zina, haram, all of these things which are norms in Western culture, everyone agrees we don't go there, with the exception of some liberals, but let's let's say none of us taking people seriously right.

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I'm talking about orthodox Muslims and Muslims who claim to follow one of the former hip or at least the Quran and Sunnah, and who are serious about their Deen when they apply the principle of golf, they made it very clear that any cultural practice that is haram, we have to reject it. It's only the halal cultural practices that we can follow.

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But I want us to think a bit deeper about this, right? Because

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one of the things that's been bothering me about how we've been adapting in the West,

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is that we're not looking at the roots and the goals of the culture

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and whether that is Islamic.

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And I want to just provide one example of this. It's been a hot topic recently, and that's the topic of

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unnecessary mixing of the genders, right? Men and women

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interacting with each other freely and openly. Now Islamically there are certain aspects of this that are very clear, you cannot be alone with a non Muharram you cannot touch a non Muharram you should not interact without any genuine reason,

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you know, the proper covering of the aura should be observed, lowering of the gauge should, should be done.

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Now, all of this is very clear. But then there's a gray area, right. And it's the gray area where people often use all of to justify things that other Muslims feel uncomfortable with, right. So, for example,

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if you're coming from a more conservative Muslim culture, where you don't see members of the opposite gender, who are not related to you on a daily basis, and you move to a Western country, where most of the living as minorities, and they are interacting with the opposite gender very freely, often when you try to advise them on this topic, the response is, oh, this is our, this is our culture, we do things differently, right? And the expectation is that you need to adapt to this culture.

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to some extent, there is some truth to that, and again, understand

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how someone will arrive at a conclusion. But again, I want us to look a bit deeper. I feel there's something deeper here that people aren't thinking about. And that's the roots of the culture.

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By specifically related to this issue of men and women mixing together, what are the roots of the culture,

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you see Muslim cultures, some of which are stricter than others, some of which are more conservative than others, all of them have something in common that the cultural practices of those societies evolved organically over time around the principle of learn the caribou Xena do not approach is in order to not open the doors to fornication.

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And so each culture adapted its own measures to prevent fornication.

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Some cultures are more more harsher than others in how they approach us. But it's still coming from the same principle, right? The principle of do not go near Zina, the principle of higher of modesty, the principles

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of closing the doors of evil. And these are principles of our religion, that cultures were built upon. So when you go to a Muslim country, and for example, they have separate queues, at the takeaway for men and woman, it is a cultural manifestation of an Islamic principle. Right? If you go to a Muslim country, and they are separate streets, woman and woman, again, it's a cultural application of an Islamic principle, showing cultural diversity, but using the same principles.

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So what am I getting it? Well,

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what are the cultural roots of the

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Western cultural practices regarding the mixing of men and women?

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We said the Islamic cultures evolved from the concept of do not go near Zina.

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I will argue that modern Western culture

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evolved from the idea of facilitating,

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especially in the past 50 years, right. Over the past 50 years, a lot of new cultural practices became common amongst Westerners, all of which aimed to destroy any barriers between a person and fornication. All barriers were broken up.

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So in the past, if a Muslim moved to a

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conservative Christian country,

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and they were told to adapt to the local culture,

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and the local culture was conservative, modest christian ethics, and they just took the hell out of that. And they left the Haram of that. That wouldn't have been that big a deal, right?

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But we're not dealing with Christian culture.

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We're dealing with a culture that aims to facilitate Zina.

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And my question that I want, want us to think about if we

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just in follow the local culture, the question I want you to think about is, is a culture rooted in the facilitation of Zina is this culture, something that

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can be summarized. It is something that we can take the principle of old fancy, okay, we will accept some of it and other parts of it?

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Or is it a culture that we have to completely push aside and say, Hold on, we Muslims, we can't do any of that. Right? Because the goal of this culture is the complete opposite of our goal.

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So what we find is a lot of Muslims, they don't think this deeply about this topic, right? They

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disability, okay, the culture here is that men and women be extremely. Alright, as long as I'm, I'm covering my Alright, should be fine. Right there, as long as I don't touch him, it should be fine. And then end up doing things like meeting at coffee shops, and, you know, hanging out together. And we have asked ourselves, is this really Islamic? Is this something you can imagine? Rasulullah, sallAllahu, alayhi wasallam doing? Is this something you can imagine the Sahaba doing? The answer is no. It's not right to be justified on the basis of culture. But the culture itself is rotten to its core. The culture itself contradicts the very goals of the Sharia.

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So can we apply this culture? Now I know, some of the pushback for this will be that this makes it difficult for conference, right? Because converts need to maintain some of the culture in order to, you know, still interact with their families and to not become like complete aliens to their families. And I'm not saying that all of Western culture is wrong. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying for every practice, we have to look at its roots and its goals. Why was this practice introduced to Western culture?

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And that should make us think twice about whether we want to Islamize it or do away with it altogether. So for example, part of Western culture is environmentalism, right? Wanting to take care of the environment, right. And that's just a very recent development, the bulk of of the past 100 years, they were the opposite on this issue. Right? It's then carried on all the profits. But again, that's something in recent times it has become part of the culture. This is something Islamic, it's something you can adapt, and something can be a part of, right? Going greens, knocking on Islamic about it. So should the is, again, the goals aligned with Islam, and the practice itself can align

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with Islam. So it becomes fine, right. But

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sometimes, a cultural practice is introduced as a bridge towards a greater sense.

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And in that case, we have to be very careful about the fatawa the verdicts that our Allama put forward, related to those cultural practices.

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Because it's not just saying, Okay, this is fine. But what are the long term repercussions for the society as a whole? If we say this is fine? This is what we need to think about? What are the long term repercussions from Muslim men and women not having those boundaries that are found in every Muslim culture, right? In every Muslim culture, there are boundaries, right? You don't just meet up with somebody else's white for coffee, that's, that's unheard of in Western cultures. You lower your gaze when you're talking to a non Muslim, this is common decency in any Muslim culture. Honestly, there's some Muslim countries where if you are staring at the man's woman, he will walk up to you

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and punch you in the face, right? It's completely unacceptable. So you can't see on this couch, if I don't look at her in the eyes, then she's going to think I'm rude. You tell her as a Muslim, my culture, we don't look. Right. You need to be firm about the Islamic teachings on this. So

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the main point I want us to look back on is that, yes, to some extent, living in a culture, we are going to adapt parts of it.

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So for example, there's nothing wrong with a man wearing a shirt and pants, as long as his aura is covered properly, and he doesn't violate any of the principles of the male dress code. Right? If that is the local culture, it's fine for him to wear that. But does that mean he's he should start shaving his beard? If that's part of the local culture? No. Does that mean he should start dressing a femininity? That's part of the local culture? No. Right? So there are aspects where we're going to adapt our foods, our language, our clothing, some of it will change based on where we elevate. However, however, I strongly advise anyone involved in deriving rulings for the cultures they are

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living in specifically if you are living in a non Muslim land when you are a minority, to look at the

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roots of the culture and the goals of the culture before just looking at the practice itself, right? It's one thing when you just look at the practice itself and say, Okay, this practice isn't haram, it's fine. But hold on what's what's the purpose of the practice? What is it leading to? Why was it introduced into society? What do they aim? To accomplish through this practice, you need to look at all of that as well. You can't just say, Oh, the practice itself is acceptable. Because sometimes the harms are on a deeper level, and you can't see it straightaway. You only see 2030 or 40 years down the line. So you have to be thinking ahead because this is an Amana

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making fatawa leaving the community being role models about the deen all of this is an Amana it is a trust from Allah subhanho wa taala. We have to be very, very careful about how we do this.

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So to conclude,

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there may be statements I made in the past where I said that, oh, no, this is not the local culture. So, you know, we don't need to do that. And there may be times today we're missing the opposite. And it's not a contradiction. It's an evolution, right that I have changed my opinions on many cultural practices, that initially in my 20s, I looked at those as harmless local cultural practices. But now Immolate, that is having seen society over the past 20 years, how these practices have harmed people, how they have destroyed marriages, how they have corrupted society, I have changed my opinion, and I become a lot stricter on many of these issues. To give you an example of a fake

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opinion I held when I was younger, that I do not hold at all anymore, and this may upset some of you. Right? When I was younger,

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I held the opinion that it was permissible for a woman to travel without a mammogram as long as it was safe. And it was for a genuine need. Right.

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And it is 50 justifications for this, it was an opinion, I learned from some of my teachers that they still hold true. And they have genuine reasons for believing that this is the correct opinion, based on Hadees based on pseudo tech, and I respect your opinion, and I myself used to hold this opinion for over 10 years.

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But what I have seen over the past decade is that 90% of the time when someone took this fatawa and applied it, it was not for Halal reasons.

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Like if someone was traveling for Umrah in a group, that's understandable, right, if you don't have a Muslim, so you're going in a group that's understandable. Same with hudge.

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If someone needed to go and study in a Muslim country, and they went there was understandable, but that's not what we're seeing people using this fatwa for right people are using it to justify business trips without without the husband

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holidays on their own. Where

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unfortunately, the stories that reach us, of what people are doing on these trips is it's I only have to watch Vegas, that's not federal law. That's what I can say. stuff is just to the stories we've been hearing and they have been reaching us. So now if someone asks me about traveling without the bathroom, not only do I say It's haram for a woman to travel out the bathroom, they also say to make room for a man to travel alone. And there is evidence for this from the Hadees they are clear Hadees stating that men should travel in groups and not traveled alone. Because when you travel alone,

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it is very easy to convert sense, it is very easy to fall into sin. Because you are away from that social structure that keeps you straight. You are in a place where no one knows where you can sometimes get away with sin without any repercussions when no one's gonna even know who you are or what you did. And the temptation is very strong. So now I don't say that. Not only do I say that a woman should travel with a Muslim, but even a man shouldn't travel on his own. If he does, he's not sinful. But it's not encouraged. Right? For two reasons. One, if something happens to him and he's traveling alone, then there's no way for him to get help sometimes. So for example, if you as a man

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are traveling alone to a country, and they lock you up and put you in prison, or someone steals your passport and and your phone and everything, and you don't know anyone in your country, then you are in huge difficulty, right? But if you need to have one or two people traveling with you, you can help each other you can back each other up. You can support each other you can contact the family you can contact the embassy, you have some kind of a support there.

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to work. So even if you're traveling alone, we at least have people in the country that you are traveling to, who know you who know that you are coming there. And who can be there for you in a time of emergencies, at least that way. You're not traveling alone. Right? But rather you have people there who are going to be there with you.

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So yes, on this issue of woman traveling without a Muharram, I have changed my view, I have become much stricter about it. And in general, nowadays, if a woman asked me if she can juggle all the maximum, I will say no, with very few exceptions, very few exceptions, and most of the time, the exception would be like if she has no MACRA. Right? Like some converts have no MCRA. Some elderly widows have no luck rooms, I didn't have any children and their brothers and their parents passed away. Like they don't have a Mahara right, so those are exceptions, not the norm. The norm is you need a man to travel. Right, this is in the Hadees. It is the opinion of the majority of scholars.

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And I have seen over the years the wisdom of this ruling, and the harms that come from being too lenient on this issue.

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So yes, on fake issues related to local culture, I have become a bit stricter over the past few years. After witnessing firsthand the harm that comes from just looking at the practice and saying, okay, it's fine. Without looking deeper into, you know, why does this practice exist? What are the goals of this practice? What does it mean to facilitate?

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And now, I'm a lot more wary about saying this is permissible, or this is fine, if the practice comes specifically from the West, right, because very often cultural practices that originate in secular liberal cultures, these practices are aimed towards some kind of person, it could be a rebound, it could be Zina, it could be atheism,

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it could be

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accepting certain ideologies, but the cultural practices are pushing you in a certain direction.

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So my main point is that not all cultures are equal. And the fifth principle of Earth cannot be applied equally to every culture, but rather would Muslim cultures we can be a bit more laps in terms of accepting cultural diversity, because these cultures have their roots in the Quran and Sunnah.

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But with cultures that originate in secular liberal philosophies, and whose goals and aims are to facilitate sin, we have to be stricter. And we have to be very careful about what we say regarding these issues. Because we do not know in many cases, how harmful these practices really are. So those are my thoughts. And

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I'd like to hear your thoughts on this as well.

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Are there specific issues where you've noticed that when one switched from a Muslim culture to a Western culture, even though it seemed Halal at first, but later on, you realize it was a harmful practice? Are there any specific issues like this, please raise them in the comments because I would like to see if this principle I've taken can be applied to more issues. Or even if I'm wrong, me if I'm wrong, I'm wrong, just let me know. So let's have a discussion on this. And I'd love to hear your point of view. Work Rita Juana, new hamdulillahi rabbil Alameen.