And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. (Quran 2:143)
By the Grace of Allah Almighty, our Ummah (community) is made up of a melting pot of cultures that span every corner of the globe. From the barren deserts of the Middle East to the lush landscapes in Pakistan, our faith boasts the most diverse population of any other world religion.
As Allah reveals in the Noble Quran:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (Quran 49:13)
As a new Muslim, you’ve already been making changes left, right and center. The way you worship, your diet and even shifting your daily routine to accommodate the obligatory prayers are just a few of the ways in which embracing Islam has changed your life.
Is it necessary to change even more by adopting a new culture? The answer is no.
Embrace Your Cultural Heritage
The more you learn about Islam, the more you’ll learn about the various cultures of Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was from Arabia but that doesn’t mean that all Muslims have to adopt the culture of that region.
In fact, one of the most beautiful aspects of Islam is the ethnic diversity. It is like an ornate tapestry that is woven with a multitude of colorful threads.
Whether you’re an American Muslim or a Bangladeshi Muslim, you have every right to weave your own thread into the tapestry of our Ummah.
You can do this by wearing the clothing from your own country, modest of course, or keeping up with certain traditions that align with your new faith as a Muslim. The key is striking a balance that preserves your Islamic ideals while celebrating your cultural heritage.
Create Your Own Muslim Identity
Most likely, before you even became a Muslim, you had at least one or two Muslim friends. It’s common for many new Muslims to be influenced by their peers’ cultural heritage. And, in many cases, it is a well-meaning friend that pushes their culture on you because they believe it is “better” than your own.
This is where a new Muslim needs to set boundaries to preserve their own cultural identity. With the best of manners, you can stand your ground by communicating to loved ones that you’re happy with your own cultural background and do not see anything that needs to be changed.
However, if you make a decision to adopt a certain dress or tradition from another culture, then you can create a Muslim identity of your own choice.
Beware of Innovation
When it comes to the various cultures of our Ummah, it is necessary for a new Muslim to be aware that bi’dah (or innovations) proliferate in most cultures. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Every innovation is going astray, and every going astray will be in the Fire. (Muslim)
If you stumble upon an uncertain matter, always turn back to the Noble Quran and Sunnah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) to identify innovated matters and to steer clear of them.
Pull Up a Chair!
There is a saying that goes: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, it means you’re on the menu.”
And you’ll find that some cultures are more outspoken or forthright than others.
It’s an unfortunate reality that every new Muslim should be mindful of and even embrace. You have the power to change the narrative at your own mosque by pulling up a chair and getting more involved so that your culture is represented.
Volunteer your time regularly so that the mosque leadership gets to know you and recognizes your level of commitment. You might even apply for a job as well to become a trusted team member and have a voice that is heard.
Even if you are a minority at the mosque, in terms of the cultural identities of worshipers there, you can still have an impact by taking a proactive standpoint while also being inclusive of other cultures.
Allah Almighty brought you into the fold of Islam, to be counted amongst the Muslims. Be proud of who you are, your journey to embrace the Islamic faith and the culture that defines you.