I am not Muslim . . . I would greatly appreciate it if you could clarify for me that in Islam does religion influence culture or does culture generate religion? And what is the relationship between faith and culture? Especially concerning religious ceremonies relating to birth, death and marriage . . .
Bismillah al-Rahmaan al-Raheem.
The Islamic religion could be considered as a set of teachings revealed for the good and guidance of mankind. Islam, which means to surrender to, and to be in harmony with the Will of Allah - the Creator – is a system that addresses every aspect of man's life - physical and mental, material and spiritual, in this world and in the hereafter. There is not a single issue that concerns man – body or soul – or even his environment that Islam does not address.
So in the case of Islamic religion and its followers, Islam does influence the culture, but culture does not generate the religion; for all the teachings of Islam are generated or inspired by none other than the divine entity. Inherently every aspect of the teachings of Islam is based on a reason and wisdom for the good of mankind - [whether or not the reason happens to be known to him.]
On the other hand if a practice or a particular aspect of culture does not contradict the system that is brought for the good of mankind, i.e. it does not contradict the teachings of Islam, or it is good for mankind, then it is accepted or endorsed by the Islamic religion, since anything which is considered good or is not considered harmful for mankind is declared permissible and therefore accepted and endorsed by Islam. And this is the kind of relationship Islam harbours for faith and culture.
Any religious "ceremonies" or practices that Islam has prescribed are for the benefit of mankind, be it from the physical, mental, or spiritual point of view. For example the marriage contract must not be performed when the moon is going through the phase of scorpion, for otherwise the bond between the parties will not be happy or prosperous. There are teachings, which indicate the day of the week, or the day of the month on which to have, or not to have sex, and in each case specify the corresponding characteristics of the child if conceived. Similarly there are teachings on certain practices to be performed when a child is born to aid the mental /spiritual well being of the child. In the case of the ceremonies of death, they are in aid of preparing the deceased for what is to come in the intermediate stage, Barzakh, before resurrection, and for his welfare until the Day of Judgement. So, any cultural practices or ceremonies, which are not considered to constitute harm to the individuals, are accepted, otherwise rejected.
The Teachings of Islam range form those concerning marriage, sex, birth and death, through social policies and strategies, to all kind of freedom, not to mention freedom of expression, to micro and macro economics, investments, politics, government, to foreign policies and international relations, etc. Some of these issues are reflected upon in some of the books we have translated into English which are available online in the Books section of our site The Teachings of Islam.
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