The story of sprayed monkeys - A Motivational Story About Culture, Customs and Habits That Surrounds Us


As Salaamu 'alaykum and peace to all,

One question that has also bugged me since my teenage years until now is "Why do i have to practice customs and traditions i dont believe in?". Yes. I have always questioned the relevance of certain practices within my society especially the ones which does not conform to the Islamic teachings and the ones that are burdening. I definitely can attribute such thinking to my dear old dad, who he himself is a non-conformist. He is known to many as the 'first' or the 'dare' one, if you know what i mean! :)))

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I am a non-conformist in many aspects : my preferences for - fashion, food, customs, studypath, career, ideal, thinking paradigm, education, choice of friends, lifestyle etc etc .. the list goes on and on. Why must we be forced to do something that can be ridiculous, silly, wrong, against the Deen, brings no benefit whatsoever just to make the society and people around us 'happier' people? Why must we do all those things under the fear of 'What will people think of me?" or here is a good one "What will people say?"

I dont believe in cultural identity and identification. I believe that no matter which culture you were born into, you do not necessarily must adhere and follow its customs. Granted, you must at least know, understand and appreciate your culture and your root.But my point here is that, you should be given the freedom to pick and choose, or mix and match from any culture around the globe that you think you prefer. Dont you think it will be just lovely to be able to do that? Imagine the intercultural diversity and understanding that we will have in this world...

O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious - see V.2:2)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware (Surah Al-Hujuraat : Ayah [13] )

See? Allaah says He made us into different cultures to learn from one another. But then, there is NO culture that is better or superior. Allaah only identifies the pious ones as being honourable. Piousness, nothing to do with cultural practices. So, if this is the case, why are we, human, Allaah's creation,just love to criticize and frown upon the cultural non-conformist, when Allaah precisely says it doesnt matter?

I have a story for you about 5 monkeys. Read on...

It all started with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, a banana was hung on a string and a set of stairs was placed under it. Before long, a monkey went to the stairs and started to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touched the stairs, all of the other monkeys were sprayed with cold water. After a while, another monkey made an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys were sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, anytime another monkey tried to climb the stairs, the other monkeys tried to prevent it.

After a couple of days, the cold water was removed. One monkey was removed from the cage and replaced with a new one. The new monkey saw the banana and wanted to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attacked him. After another attempt and attack, he knew that if he tried to climb the stairs, he would be assaulted.

Next, another of the original five monkeys was removed and replaced it with a new one. The newcomer went to the stairs and was attacked. The previous newcomer took part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, a third original monkey was replaced with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey took to the stairs, he was attacked. Most of the monkeys that were beating him had no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they were participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approached the stairs to try for the banana.Why not?

Because as far as they know, that's the way it's always been done around here.And that, is how most of our rituals and customs began.

Maybe it is good to know why certain customs are there. If we know that, maybe we can better decide of its benefit to us (or not!)

However, always remember that we should not severe kinship even if we disagree to practise certain customs

Book 32, Number 6199: Jubair b. Mut'im reported on the authority of his father that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The severer would not enter Paradise. Ibn Umar said that Sufyan (explained it as): One who severs the tie of kinship would not enter Paradise.

If fact, we are always asked to deal with people with gentleness and good words

Surah Al-Furqan : Ayah [63]And the slaves of the Most Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.

So, my dear friends... As one of my friend has nicely put it "Welcome to the Rebel Against Unnecessary Customs of Your Culture Club"

Sis Zabrina
~ Your Source for Islamic Motivational and Inspirational Stories ~

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Sharique said…
I very well agree with your analysis of the cultural gap and why we should avoid it. But then there are certain things which are just set in our culture and to go against it would be going against our parents, which is not allowed in Islam! so my dilemma about what to choose...
Sis Zabrina said…

As Salaamu 'alaykum bro. Sharique,

That is a dilemma. But, if the cultural practices are against Islam, then you are obliged not to follow the cultural pressure. Parents...Those are two person on this earth whom we cannot hurt. I totally understand how you feel. The best way out is that you have to try to make them understand why you cannot follow the custom, ie your fear of making Allaah anger is much more than making tem angry. Do it gently, lovingly and make sure they know that despite your disagreement with them on this matter, your love and respect is always there for them. Allaahu 'alaam.

Sis Zabrina
Anonymous said…
as salamu 'alaykum

I recall hearing the story of the monkeys at some deen course. I forget which but it was defintely interesting.

I agree with you. I have been told in the past that leaving my mexican culture for an arab culture that isn't mine is ridiculous. But I can choose to be what I want, what I follow and what not to follow. It isn't even that I am trying to be Arab, it's just that I try to be Muslim. It justhappens that my Prophet came from ARab land, but he himself abandoned the arab culture when he was given the message of tawheed and basically was given a new culture to form.