Question: I am a Romani Muslim, however in my culture we view religion very differently than in the mid-east or in the sub-continent. It is difficult for me to get rid of some cultural tendencies. However I can relate more to the Osmanli style. How can I adapt?
Islam, it is not defined by your culture. Islam, it is define by the Sunnat of the Prophet (asws), by his lifestyle and the lifestyle of those who follow him, and the lifestyle of those who follow those who follow him. Do you understand?
This is now a very delicate point. Because on the one hand, you have people who say, ‘this is our culture, and Islam is our religion. Our culture is not Arab, so we don’t want to wear anything Arabic. We don’t want to wear any Arabic clothes. We don’t want to wear a turban or a thawb, or do anything Arabic, because our religion is Islam. It is not Arabic.’ That extreme position is wrong.
Then there’s another position that says, ‘I’m Muslim. My religion is Islam. And the Prophet (asws), he’s an Arab, so everything Arabic is superior and it is good, and everything else that is not Arabic, it is inferior and it is bad.’ That is another extreme position belonging to sheytan.
Then there is another position that people are saying, ‘my religion is Islam, I have culture from my forefathers, culture that they took and they adapt according to Islam, and I don’t like this. And I want something that is Arabic, hundred percent pure.’ You can go that way too. But you know what you do when you do that? You are not following those who follow those, who follow those, who follow those, who follow those, who follow the Prophet. You are not following the Prophet. Cutting off all that protocol that the Prophet (asws) says, ‘those who follow my sunnat and the sunnat of my sahabis.’ Implicit in that is the sunnat of the Sahabis, the sunnat of the Tabi’in who follow the Sahabis. Because you don’t know the Tabi’in, you don’t know the Sahabis. The Tabi’ins knows the Sahabis.
You don’t know the Sahabis, you don’t know the Tabi’in because the Tabi’i Tabi’in knows the Tabi’in who knows the Prophet. You cannot claim that you know, that you are closer to the culture and to the thinking of the Prophet (asws) living in these times, without following those ones who have been holding on to that tradition for fourteen hundred years. You understand?
That being said, now we are following the sunnat of the Prophet (asws), and we are following those who are following the Sunnat of the Prophet. We are not making things up. There is, if you view religion very differently, if you are Indian sub-continent people, you view Islam differently. If you are from the Southeast Asia, you view Islam differently. If you are from Europe, you view Islam differently. So, there are different Islam now?
There’s one Islam. One Khalifah of the Prophet. One Khalifah. And if you have that Khalifah, you are able to now unite all these differences. The one who is following Islam in China, now they are following those who brought Islam to China. You understand? Those who brought Islam to China, they looked at the nature, they looked at the culture, they looked at the spirit of the people in China.
And while they took the principles of Islam and they brought it to China, they are not now imposing cultural chauvinism. They are not saying that, ‘okay, I’m Arab. I brought Islam to China. Now, everyone if you want to be Muslim, everyone has to be Arabic.’ No. he didn’t.
Now those who brought Islam to China, they teach the religion. They teach what is Sunnat. And the Sunnat, it is merciful enough now to include so many principles that is in different cultures, that is also under the umbrella. For example, the Sunnat way of tying a turban. In tying a turban, there is a sunnat way. There is an unbeliever way of tying a turban. You cannot do that. But now there is a tying a turban maybe in India, you are tying a turban, you are following Islam and you are following Tarikat specific to that area, you tie the turban a little bit different. Now if you are living in China, you tie the turban a little bit differently. If you are living in say Southeast Asia, it’s very hot, they still tie a turban but they use, maybe, cotton. In different areas, it’s cold, they still tie a turban but maybe they use a thicker fabric. I’m giving you very very simple understanding of that.
So while the principles are the same, the form may change a little bit. And the highest expression of Islamic civilisation is with the Osmanlis, is with the Ottomans. Because now, the Ottomans, they are able to preserve everyone’s cultural identity according to Islam, without saying, ‘Turks are number one, Pakistanis are number two.’ Because now, the Ottoman Empire, it is not a Turkish Empire. It is an Islamic Empire. It is an Empire of Tasawwuf, it is the empire of the Prophet. And it is through the Ahle Turk, they are the ones who are holding it high but they did not make the religion to become cultural chauvinism, again. What is the simpler word to use? Cultural Chauvinism? To say that, ‘my culture is the most superior, everyone is low class.’
They could have done that. They could have said, ‘everyone now follow the Turkish way of the religion.’ They did not. They could say, ‘everyone now learn Turkish and forget about your language.’ They did not. Because that is not what the Prophet (asws) brought.
So, Alhamdulillah, if you are relating more to the Ottoman way, it is good. Adapt to the Sunnat, InsyaAllah. There are some cultures, definitely, there are certain secrets that are given to them and they are able to hold the religion and the Sunnat of the Prophet (asws) higher than others, in some areas. There are some other cultures they are holding it higher, but not so good in different areas, so all the different cultures they come, they meet and they learn from each other. And they make their religion now to become high and they make their civilisation now to become high.
So if you follow the Osmanlis, if you want to follow, follow our Sheykh. If you don’t want to follow our Sheykh, there’s so many other Osmanlis around also, claiming that they are, it’s okay. You may follow them. Use your intelligence and find out.
Salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
Hoja Lokman Effendi Hz, Khalifah of SahibulSaif Sheykh Abd Kerim Effendi QS, Osmanli Dergahı NY
December 19, 2014