28 January 2013
The Islamic Culture: From Yemen to the United States
We all perform rituals every day but the way in which we do these rituals defines who we are. We all have similar rituals and routines in the sense that we do the same things but in our own unique ways. The Middle Eastern culture is unique in its own sense, having its own rituals, routines, and regimens, much like any other culture abroad. A lot of people that come to the United States from overseas tend to adapt to the cultures here and leave their original culture behind, thus becoming “Americanized.” Amongst those who immigrate to the United States, there are few who retain their roots from the Middle East whilst adapting to the westernized culture, thus creating a balance between cultures.
I chose to explore the daily rituals and routines of my good friend Tarek Ahmed from Yemen. He arrived in the United States in the year 2006 and we’ve been great friends since then. Over the years I’ve realized that he’s carried his culture as well as rituals and routines that he practiced in Yemen to the United States. These daily rituals and routines are of daily importance to Tarek because as a child, he was taught to never forget his culture. “When I came from Yemen, I knew that I could not forget my hometown and that I had to carry my culture with me.” Ever since Tarek came to the United States, he’s had trouble fitting in. His culture was very different to the people around him. They didn’t accept him for who he was and where he came from. Tarek knew that he had to adapt to the cultures of the United States, but not to the extent where he’d forget his original culture. “I knew I had to change who I was around other people so that they would accept me,” said Tarek. Tarek had only changed the way which he acted around the people who did not accept him for who he was. At home, he still practiced the same rituals and routines which he practiced in Yemen.
Tarek plans his days according to the prayer times. He often spends time with his Muslim friends at night because most of the daily prayers are during the day. He also spends time with his American friends at night also so that they don’t have to see him pray and judge him. “It’s not that I’m embarrassed to perform prayer in front of my friends, I just don’t want my friends to judge me based on my religion.” What Tarek is doing is smart because it saves him from unnecessary conflict. Why do something that can possibly cause conflict when you can avoid it?
Tarek still speaks, reads and writes Arabic fluently. “Every time before I leave my home, I read three pages from the Koran,” said Tarek during the interview. In the Islamic culture, reading from the holy Koran is a must. Reading from the Koran helps to understand the religion and how to live the life of a Muslim. Also, reading from the Koran brings you closer to God which is the most important relationship in the life of a Muslim. Another ritual and routine that Tarek carried with him to the United States was the five daily prayers. Each day, Muslims are obligated to complete five daily prayers. Completing the five prayers each and every day is important but as Tarek said, “Praying these 5 daily prayers are important, but praying them on time and performing the prayer correctly is something Muslims need to focus on.” It’s only about completing the five daily prayers but completing them in the right way. Tarek also carried a lot of other rituals with him when he came to the United States.
While observing Tarek, I realized that he does everything that average people do but in his own way. For example, while Tarek eats, he uses his hands instead of using utensils because in Yemen and all the other Islamic countries, the people tend to eat with their hands and from the same plate. It may seem a little unusual and unsanitary for Americans but it’s completely normal for Tarek. One day Tarek and I went to eat...