Objectives: Explain what is meant by lifestyle and explain some ways in which lifestyle choices are important.
Lifestyle: A way of life. Everyone has a lifestyle. Some people make deliberate lifestyle choices in the fashion they wear, the food they eat and the activities they take part in. These, and other lifestyle choices maybe limited by opportunity, by wealth or by climate. For example, few people have the chance to live the life of a millionaire; and no one would really need Scandinavian designer winter coats in a hot sub-Saharan country. However, many lifestyle choices reflect the character and beliefs of the person making them, regardless of wealth, race or climate.
Lifestyle choices: Every Muslim must carry out their duty to Allah so the Five Pillars become an important part of their lifestyle. The lifestyle choices they have to make are guided by the teachings of Islam. For Muslims, the perfect lifestyle is one that obeys the commands of God, makes them happy and contributes in a positive way to society as a whole.
Some lifestyle choices, like the clothes, jewelry and make-up that people choose to wear, are about outward show. These, fairly or unfairly, can influence the way people think about you. Muslims want their lives to be pleasing to God, and an example to others. This is so that other people can learn about Islam from seeing the way they live. So Muslims must think carefully about the choices they make, whether their choices please Allah and set a good example for those around them.
Is there a Muslim lifestyle? All Muslim lifestyles express the beliefs and teachings of Islam. However, the way they do this must not contradict Islamic teachings. When we look at the life of an individual Muslim, it is not always easy to tell which parts of their lifestyle come from Islam. The families of many Muslims in Britain originally come from countries such as Bangladesh, India, Somalia and Pakistan. Children in these families grow up with their own family traditions. They may have their own fashion, food, manners and, in some cases, language. Non-Muslims, and younger Muslims, can find it difficult to know which of these customs come from Islam and which are simply national customs and traditions of the countries from which the families originally came.
Muslim lifestyle should be based on the Qur’an and the authentic Prophetic traditions. One cannot place national traditions and local customs before adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah in their everyday practice of Islam. Muslims also are required to interact with the society around them, and actively live within it. So how does one strike a balance if there is a clear contradiction between Islam and what people in a society do?
Let’s take the example of Christmas which is a religious festival celebrated by over a billion Christians (and many non-Christians) worldwide. A Muslim knows that this is the day the Christians believe, “God brought into the world his only begotten son, Jesus Christ as a saviour. When he was older, he was crucified on the cross by his enemies but by that, he died for the past and future sins of all mankind. Centuries later the cross itself became a symbol of the Christian faith. Three days after the crucifixion, he was resurrected from death – he spoke to and was seen by his disciples on earth. So Christians worship Jesus because they believe God exists in three forms called the ‘Holy Trinity’ which consists of the Father (in Heaven), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.”
This belief runs completely contrary to Islam, clearly. Yes, Jesus (peace be upon him) is a Prophet in Islam but Muslims do not believe that he is the Son of God; nor did he die on the cross for the sins of humanity; he was not resurrected to return back to earth after three days; Muslims believe no Prophet of being is allowed to be worshipped; and he himself did not seek to be worshipped – worship is only for God Himself. So that being the case, the Muslims are not permitted to celebrate Christmas, religiously or otherwise, and Muslims should not be tempted by practices that go against their faith.
So what can a Muslim do to make Christians (and other non-Muslims) understand their lifestyle? Well, by explaining that a Muslim can only partake in festivities and celebrations that agree with the Islamic faith and tradition. These celebrations are reported in the Prophetic tradition and include: Eidul-Fitr (after Ramadān), Eidul-Adhā (after the pilgrims have completed of the major rites of Hajj), and each Friday is a day of Eid – weddings are also celebrated; these are the celebrations of the Muslims. Muslims constantly invite each other to their homes for meals and conversation; Muslims enjoy socialising amongst themselves. Non-Muslim relatives and neighbours are regularly invited to share in the meals and gatherings of Muslims – it is way of showing them the Islamic faith and tradition. So no matter how decorative, tempting and appealing Christmas or Easter etc. is made to seem, it is not a celebration that devout Muslims indulge in, because in essence it would mean that they are showing agreement to religious beliefs that are totally contrary to Islam.
In the British context, there is no compulsion to participate in celebrations that contradict one’s Religious beliefs. Muslims are not offended if a Hindu or a Christian does not celebrate ‘Eid or attend the ‘Eid prayer. However, a Muslim should always be willing to open up dialogue with his non-Muslim relatives, neighbours and colleagues, so as to explain pure Islamic monotheism, the life and teachings of the Prophet, the Prayer, Eid festivals, Hajj, Ramadan and Islamic culture and heritage in general.
Beliefs and teachings: Much of Muslim lifestyle is based on the Sunnah (the Prophet’s way of life). For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would love to start doing things from the right whenever possible such as when making ablutions, he would begin with the right hand, and also when putting on shoes, or when entering the masjid and when combing his hair. He commanded his companions to eat with the right hand and give and take with it. He would use his left hand to clean away dirt and impurities, such as when visiting the toilet. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that a woman was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. She entered Hell because she did not give it food or water to it and she would not let it fend for itself.
Allah and His Prophet commanded both men and women to dress in a certain way that reflects their particular modesty: Men are required to cover themselves, grow their beards, raise their garments above their ankles. Women are required to wear the hijab (a large concealing outer-garment). A man is not allowed to shake the hand of a woman who is not related to him through immediate family. All of this offers challenges to Muslims living in the West, but through dialogue, discussion, explanation and understanding, Muslims can explain these matters whilst maintaining their faith and practice.
A principle: In a Muslim’s worldly (non-religious) conduct, he or she is allowed to wear, eat, drink, and drive whatever they want. They can live whatever lifestyle they choose so long as it does not contradict any Islamic law. These laws are made clear in the Quran and Sunnah.
- How would you answer a Christian or another non-Muslim who wants to know why devout Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter?
- If a non-Muslim was to follow a Muslim preacher or scholar around for a day, what do you think he might learn?
- How could practicing Muslim teenagers be good examples and role models for younger Muslims?
- Typical Asian food is rice, chapattis, curry, samosas, etc, but do all Muslims eat food like this? Is that lifestyle or religion?
I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who were working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school could also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.