Ramadan the Great Act (Arabization)

Practicing religion for others – that is the problem with Muslims today. If in Islam the actions of an individual are measured by their intentions and following the 5 pillars.  Then why is there such a compulsion to be Arab like?

Even converts in the United States adopt clothing, mannerisms, and even speak like Arabs when they accept the religion. This practice extends from the Arabization of regions during the introduction of Islam by Arabs.

Some argue that the Hadith prescribes their practices, which are recorded sayings or actions by Prophet Muhammad. This is where my philosophy comes in. As authentic as we can believe the Quran is the Hadith is merely a complimentary text. It is not a substitute for the revelation by God. Especially, since Hadiths face the same criticism that Muslims make towards the Bible, which they say has some inaccuracies and is written by man.

Today, many people have adopted more than just Islamic practices. They include Arab and/or the tribal culture of Islam. These are customs and traditions that the Quran does not prescribe. The debate can go on and on about what is true to scripture and what is really just the mimicking of Arab counterparts.

I observed this firsthand on the eve of Ramadan in Dhaka. Everyone became holier than thou.  Men flocked to the streets with their thawbs (Arab dress for men) and tupis (white caps). The use of or words like “inshallah”, “mashallah”, and my favorite “astaghfirullah”, were overused as their tusbeehs (prayer beads) hung from necks, wrists, and dangled from pockets. 

I thought the Hefazat (Islamist group) were holding another hartal. But when I saw several women in hijab and burqas I realized that there was something different floating in the air.

Bangladesh is an Islamic country. More than 85% of its population is Muslim. But people use the Arab ornamentation as a way of peacocking their beliefs.

It is that time of year to find forgiveness for your wrong doings after all. Yet, while wearing the Arab attire, the cheating, lying, and backbiting still continues. The inflation in Dhaka is painful during Ramadan, even for the basic necessities.

Since Islam was founded in Saudi Arabia, Arabs claim to hold the true essence of the religion. Non-Arabs are conditioned to believe that the Arab way is the Muslim way. It is a phenomenon known as founderism. Instead of pursuing to be fit Muslims they strive to become Arab. Here in Bangladesh, my fellow brown brothers and sisters see their Bengali identity as inferior and conform to be more Arab like.

Now I was raised Muslim and I understand the significance of some of the practices. But, when does it cross the line of fulfilling religious obligation into convincing everyone around that you are authentically practicing the faith?

It is a paradox. Everyone competes to prove his or her authenticity, but not to impress. Rather it is a fear of being disqualified as a true Muslim.

Flaunting faith becomes more important than practicing it. Instead of faith being personal it has been made into an act of public display.

Much can be learned from the religious minority in Bangladesh.

A Hindu cannot flaunt their faith publicly as they will be ostracized. Their faith remains inside of them, in their homes, with their families; that is a different type of conviction.

For a religion that is supposed to be universal, Arabization has diluted its true value.

Whether for just the month of Ramadan or the whole year, many non-Arab Muslims will dress like Arabs to give them the identity of a true Muslim.

Maybe you will wear your Muslim on your sleeve and you might think you will receive respect, but by doing that it becomes less personal, the sanctity dies, it belonging to you dies, and it is commodified.


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