As parents, many of us go to great effort to teach our children when they’re little to share.
We do so not only because it’s nice but because we have more meaningful lives when we do things with each other.
We benefit when we give up something and give it freely to another.
We experience joy in others experiencing joy when we give up something and give to others.
But then something curious happens when we get older. We grow attached to the world. We grow attached to things. No longer do we think about sharing what we have with others but instead covet things and retreat into selfishness.
This same person will either look baffled at the world, unable to understand and recognize his or her contribution — no matter how small — in making it the way it is (what does it even mean when we say “the world*”? He or she retreats into cynicism saying,
“the world* has always been like this,”
attempting to free his or herself of any culpability as to why it is the way it is.
*Surely not the birds and the bees.
What does it mean “to be Muslim”? Is it purely and solely an individual pronouncement of la ilaha illa’Allah? What role does culture play.
وَاتلُ عَلَيهِم نَبَأَ إِبراهيمَ
إِذ قالَ لِأَبيهِ وَقَومِهِ ما تَعبُدونَ
قالوا نَعبُدُ أَصنامًا فَنَظَلُّ لَها عاكِفينَ
قالَ هَل يَسمَعونَكُم إِذ تَدعونَ
أَو يَنفَعونَكُم أَو يَضُرّونَ
قالوا بَل وَجَدنا آباءَنا كَذٰلِكَ يَفعَلونَ
قالَ أَفَرَأَيتُم ما كُنتُم تَعبُدونَ
“Recite to them the story of Ibrahim when he said to his father and his people, ‘What do you worship?’ They said, ‘We worship idols and will continue to cling to them.’ He said, ‘Do they hear you when you call? or do they help you or do you harm?’ They said, ‘No, but this is what we found our fathers doing.’ He said, ‘Have you really thought about what you worship,”
In fact, culture can be thought of all those good things we want to pass along to the next generation, not just wealth:
“Culture is the total sum of what humans want to pass from one generation to another.”1 — Sandor Ellix Katz
This is why we can say, while Islam is not culture pursue, Muslims certainly do and indeed want to have a culture.
One way to change this is by sharing.
أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ النَّبِيِّ، صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّا نَأْكُلُ وَلاَ نَشْبَعُ قَالَ فَلَعَلَّكُمْ
قَالُوا نَعَمْ قَالَ فَاجْتَمِعُوا عَلَى طَعَامِكُمْ وَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ يُبَارَكْ لَكُمْ فِيهِ
The Companions of the Prophet ﷺ said, “Messenger of Allah ﷺ we eat but we don’t feel satiated”. He said, “perhaps that’s because you eat separately?” They replied, “Yes”. He advised, “Well, then gather together for your food and mention Allah’s name over it, you will be blessed in it.” — Sunan Abu Dawud, #3764
1. Katz, Sandor Ellix. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World. White River Junction, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012.