By Imam Abdullah El-Amin
â€œHe it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: in it are verses basic and fundamental (of established meaning). They are the foundation of the Book â€“ others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings â€“ but no one knows its hidden meanings except ALLAH. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: â€œwe believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lordâ€: and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.â€ Ali Imran:7
Culture is fine and sometimes beneficial to the individual – but let us not forget the basics of the religion.
Traveling through the earth can give you knowledge and perspectives that you will not get sitting at home. It is no wonder the Prophet (s) said to seek knowledge even unto China. But you donâ€™t really need to go that far. Sometimes itâ€™s right in our own backyard.
I was in a small town recently and a group of Muslims, Jews, and Christians were having lunch together at a non-Muslim and non-Jewish restaurant. The conversation shifted to different dietary laws for the various faiths. The Jewish Rabbi was Orthodox and observed Kosher. A Jewish lady in our party did not. There also was a young Muslim who had lived his entire life in a Middle Eastern country and had only been in the United States for one year.
This young brother explained that he only ate fish that he caught and killed himself. It seems he went fishing to accomplish this. Now this is fine if he chooses to kill his own fish â€“ though unnecessary. Fish is automatically halal. The strange thing occurred when he ordered his food. He ordered a roast beef sandwich at a restaurant that obviously did not sell halal meats. They also sold pork.
I asked him about this disparity and he explained that in his country it was the custom to eat only fish you slaughtered. I was simply amazed that he would be that adamant about the fish, which is automatically halal, and he could legally eat, vs. the beef which he was not supposed to eat.
It just brought home the realization that many Muslims donâ€™t have, or donâ€™t adhere to, basic knowledge about Islam. All too often, we allow culture and tradition to govern our lives and have no clue we are on the wrong path â€“ at least the path according to ALLAH. Prophet Ibrahim made this crystal clear when he chastised his father for following the ways of the elders, even though he knew they were wrong.
The first requirement for correcting this is to first know what ALLAH allows and what He does notâ€¦and then follow it. ALLAH says in Qur`an that the most important part of all He revealed is plain and basic. The way we live our lives as Muslims is laid out in Qur`an plainly for all to see.
ALLAH tells us not to fornicate, not to imbibe intoxicants, not to eat non-permissible meats, etc. Before we try to agree on culture or ethnic make-up, or even madhhab and hadith, we should concentrate on what can give us a life free from simple mistakes done unknowingly. Then if you want to kill your own fish, go for it. But first you should know you should eat halal meat as well.
As Salaam Alaikum
(Al Hajj) Abdullah Bey El-Amin