Muslims Down Under Logo

Religion and Culture – What’s the Difference?

Play Video

Share This Post

“Groom sentenced in Australian-first child bride case.” 

“The Koran verse splitting imams on domestic violence.”

“’I’m not his property’: Abused Muslim women denied right to divorce.”

Let’s be honest.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind, when we come across these headlines?

These sensationalist titles often lead to the belief that the religion of Islam is violent. That it is an abusive faith that oppresses and subjugates. 

But, are the people these headlines describe actually following Islam?

The constructs of religion and culture are always intertwined. 

But, what’s the difference between religion and culture? Several practices that exist within society today, often cause confusion and misunderstanding in terms of their origin. Often religion is blamed, directly or indirectly. Religion is scapegoated as the influencer of wrongful behaviour, customs, or practices.

So, it is important to understand the differences and correlations between religion and culture. Understanding whether what we see or hear is a cultural practice or a teaching of a religion is imperative.

What is Religion?

Religion is a divine phenomenon providing its followers with a system of beliefs, moral values, and spiritual guidance. For a morally strong and socially responsible society, religion must be able to continually look after the religious and spiritual needs of all human beings of any age.

Simply put, religion is a set of invariable teachings, which are revealed from God and are based upon principles that reflect the attributes of God. For example, all religions teach compassion and kindness. This is a fundamental attribute of God, where he forgives our mistakes and is compassionate to those who seek forgiveness.

Religion cannot be altered. Its foundations are embedded in the Holy Scriptures, the word of God. 

What is Culture?

Culture comprises the views and practices of a group of people. For people belonging to a specific culture, their attitudes towards social issues are guided by ethnicity, language, ideology, geographical location, and socioeconomic status.

Culture has no objective standards. It changes when any or a combination of the above factors diversify. The world has witnessed a vast diversity of cultures in various civilizations over the course of hundreds and thousands of years of human existence.

In many cultures, religion is a subset of that culture. Bearing that in mind, culture exists and is adopted by the constituents of a society, is man-made, and forms part of the social heritage of those people.

Religion and Culture – why the confusion?

The confusion arises when a given culture starts to influence the way people understand and practice their religion. Variations in religious teachings occur when people start applying their own interpretations due to a lack of intellect or failure to fully comprehend rational reasoning.

The religion itself does not change, interpretations and practices of it change. When we see religion being practiced differently in a certain part of the world, it is usually because the culture of that part of the world has influenced the way they interpret the religion.

Over centuries of coexistence, it is easy to conflate the innovations of culture, incorrect interpretations, and the actual teachings of religion.

Every religion – at its source is a single and distinguished set of teachings, but over time variations begin to occur when people apply their own understanding and interpretations, that’s why there are many sects of different faiths.

The religion of Islam is the only religion in which its original scripture is free from any interpolation.

No other religion can claim that its scriptures have not been changed over time.

The holy scripture of Islam, the Holy Quran, is the direct word of God. God himself promises in the Holy Quran that: “Verily, it is we who have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We are its Guardian.” (Ch.15:V.10)

The promise made by God, that the Holy Quran will be protected and preserved is so remarkable, that to this day, more than 1500 years later, not a single word of the Holy Quran has been altered.

When we see headlines like those above that conflate cultural practices with religious teachings, it is important to realise that they are often misleading or false. 

To present an example, when reading the “Groom sentenced in Australian-first child bride case” news, a reader who is unfamiliar with the teachings of Islam may assume that it is Islam which favours this practice of child marriage. This is a completely inaccurate assumption.

The Islamic teachings are very clear on this matter. Islam allows for the marriage of consenting, physically mature men, and women. For marriage, both the man and the woman must be of marriageable age and able to give their consent freely. The Holy Quran says that women must not be taken into marriage against their will (Ch.4:V.20). This is simple and very straightforward and if in some countries specific age limits are in place then those must be respected and followed.

How can we tell the difference?

In order to determine whether a practice is a religious obligation or merely a cultural custom, we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves on what is a guideline of religion and what is an innovation of culture.

Anything you see, hear, or know about that does not find root in the Holy Quran or the practices of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), may necessarily not be a teaching of Islam and must be discarded as false.

The source of the teachings of Islam is the Holy Quran (the word of God) and the practices and narrations of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). 

The teachings of the Holy Quran must also be interpreted holistically and in context. Verses should not be cherry-picked, nor should any verse contradict another. Furthermore, the narrations of the actions or sayings of the Holy Prophet  (peace be upon him) cannot contradict the Holy Quran.

At times, culture can most definitely be opposed to religion. Cultural values and customs can go against the inherent teachings of a pure religion, creating an inconsistency between the people that abide by a particular culture, and the people that follow a particular religion. But, understanding the delicate relationship between religion and culture, and knowing that culture is not always negative is also important.

Islam is a religion of peace.

Islam’s teachings guarantee peace in every sphere of human interest and aspiration. Islam presents a response to all contemporary issues of the world. Islam covers all aspects of human life and bases the culture it seeks to promote on the foundations of a firm belief in the existence of a uniquely divine singular Creator. 

This Creator revealed Islam as the synthesis and unifying philosophy of life leading its followers not only to spiritual enlightenment but also to a unique set of morals and culture. It fosters in a unique manner mutual love and affection, human togetherness, and tolerance for others who are different from oneself. 

Islam promotes freedom of conscience, speech, and religion, a right that must be given to everyone. 

In contradiction, we see various cultures that hold people of other faiths or beliefs as inferior or treat them unjustly. People from a certain culture might think that robbing the freedoms of people from a specific race is ethical, and many from that same culture would agree, but others would consider it inhumane. In this instance, culture does not provide an objective standard on how to make a proper judgment, rather it is a religion that provides a perfect, objective way to behave and maintain peace within society.

Islam also establishes equity and justice for all people, irrespective of their ethnicity, race, or the colour of their skin.

It does this by rejecting all forms of discrimination and thus demolishing all forms of cultural barriers of race, colour, and creed, which divide humanity.

The Holy Quran lays down the basis of a comprehensive and powerful brotherhood/ sisterhood of all human beings. It is addressed to and is aimed at all human beings and is not confined to the believers of the Quran. 

As a matter of fact, the whole message of the Holy Quran is for all people everywhere.

“O ye who believe! let not one people deride another people, who may be better than they, nor let women deride other women, who may be better than they. And defame not your own people, nor call one another by nicknames. Bad indeed is evil reputation after the profession of belief; and those who repent not are the wrongdoers” (Ch.49:V.12)

“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.” (Ch.49:V.14)

These verses from the Holy Qur’an teach us that Allah has made us all equal in His eyes but provided us with varying nations and races to allow us to know each other. This allows us to benefit from our differing characteristics, and thus through recognition of one another, progress as a human race. 

These verses strike at the root of false and conjectural notions of racial arrogance and superiority. It affirms that the worth of a person is not to be judged by the pigment of skin, rank, social or economic status. What a person does as a moral and social human being, discharging responsibilities and obligations to God and to His creation, is what determines any sort of rank in the eyes of God.

The universal and profound teachings of Islam are meant to create a universal human culture based on the unity of Almighty God and equality of mankind. 

The Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said:

“O People, your Lord is One, you are the progeny of the same father (who was created from dust). Hence it is not permissible for you to make any discrimination between high and low. Neither an Arab has superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab.  A white person is not superior to a black person one, nor a black is superior to a white. The most honourable among you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous.” [1]

Addressing a large gathering of people, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) vehemently stressed the same thoughts in the following words (only relevant sentences are quoted):

“You are brothers and sisters. You are all equal. No matter to which nation or tribe you belong and no matter what your status is, you are equal. Just as the fingers of both hands are alike, nobody can claim to have any distinctive right or greatness over another. The command which I give you today is not just for today but it is forever. Always remember to and keep acting upon it until you return to your true Master.”

A society that is not inclined to serve the cause of humanity and insensitive towards the suffering of other human beings, cannot be an Islamic society.

The verse below also presents a complete picture of the fundamental obligations of an individual in an Islamic Society. Firstly, justice, fairness, and benevolence (good treatment of the less fortunate) is prescribed for the economic side. Then, the second part is a stern caution against other social evils. 

“Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed.” (Ch.16:V.91)

In conclusion, religion transcends culture. religion and culture

Religion is high above any cultural ideas. 

It is different because it comes from God. God states in the Holy Quran that he has perfected for us our religion and He further states there is no compulsion in religion, whoever would like to believe in it can do so, and whoever would like to disbelieve in it can do so. 

Religion does not rely on its acceptance from people. However, culture is reliant on acceptance for it to become the norm. Cultures reflect the diversity of the human race. But it’s the religion that provides a complete philosophy and a code of life, encompassing every spiritual, moral, cultural, and social aspect of life. 

Religious practices are bound to be influenced by cultural practices over time. 

But, next time you hear or read sensationalist headlines diminishing a religion, do your own research to determine whether a religious teaching or action is genuine. Always refer to the original source of the religion to determine its authenticity.

More To Explore

How Islam teaches work life balance

How Islam Teaches Work-Life Balance

  It’s no easy task to achieve a balance in life between work and the rest of our lives, especially in today’s unpredictable and fast-paced

Privacy Policy

This privacy policy (“Policy”) describes how the Website Operator (“Website Operator”, “we”, “us” or “our”) collects, protects and uses personally identifiable information (“Personal Information”) you (“User”, “you” or “your”) may provide on the website in the course of accessing and using our services (collectively, “Website” or “Services”).

It also describes the choices available to you regarding our use of your Personal Information and how you can access and update this information. This Policy does not apply to the practices of companies/partnerships or otherwise that we do not own or control, or to individuals that we do not employ or manage. The website is directed to users in Australia only.

About the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Assocation (“the Management Association”) promotes social, moral and spiritual well-being. The Management Association is committed to the propogation of the true teachings of Islam through peace and harmony. To promote ‘Love For All and Hatred For None’ and to establish open and honest communication, the Management Association manages and oversees the Muslims Down Under platform (“Muslims Down Under”). Muslims Down Under is an online platform aimed at tackling extremist ideologies and removing misconceptions related to Islam and Muslims.

Automatic collection of information

Our top priority is user data security and, as such, we exercise the no logs policy. We process only minimal user data, only as much as is absolutely necessary to maintain the Website or Services. Information collected automatically is used only to identify potential cases of abuse and establish statistical information regarding Website usage. This statistical information is not otherwise aggregated in such a way that would identify any particular user of the system.

Collection of personal information

You can visit the Website without telling us who you are or revealing any information by which someone could identify you as a specific, identifiable individual. If, however, you wish to use some of the Website’s features, you will be asked to provide certain Personal Information (for example, but not limited to, your name and electronic mail address). We receive and store any information you knowingly provide to us, for example through a blog submission, comment or when you fill in any online forms on the Website. The information collected may include the following:

  • Personal details such as name and country of residence.
  • Contact information such as email address, residential address, and phone numbers.
  • Any other materials you willingly submit to us such as articles, blogs, images, feedback, etc.

You can refuse to provide us with your Personal Information but then you may not be able to take advantage of some of the Website’s features. Users who are uncertain about what information is mandatory are welcome to contact us.

Personal Information and User Comments

The Website offers opportunities to comment and engage in content published. These comments are any actions taken by you that are designed to be visible to other public users. Any information you disclose in comments or other like engagement, along with your screen name and electronic email address, becomes public and may be used by the Website for online or offline promotional use. Should you choose to engage in the comments of the Website you should be aware that any Personal Information you submit can be read, collected and stored by the Website.

The comments that are expressed on blog pages or otherwise, are in no way associated with, or endorsed by, the Website and are held to be the views of the user alone. We are not responsible for the Personal Information you choose to submit in a comment, or otherwise on the Website, and we have no responsibility to publish, take down, remove or edit any of the submissions.

Storing personal information

We will retain and use your Personal Information for the period necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, and enforce our agreements (“retention period”) unless a longer retention period is required or permitted by law. We may use any aggregated data derived from or incorporating your Personal Information after you update or delete it, but not in a manner that would identify you personally. Therefore, the right to access, the right to erasure, the right to rectification and the right to data portability cannot be enforced after the expiration of the retention period.

Use and processing of collected information

In order to make our Website and Services available to you, or to meet a legal obligation, we need to collect and use certain Personal Information. If you do not provide the information that we request, we may not be able to provide you with the requested services. Some of the information we collect is directly from you via our Website. Any of the information we collect from you may be used for the following purposes:

  • Send administrative information
  • Request user feedback
  • Improve user experience
  • Enforce terms and conditions and policies
  • Protect from abuse and malicious users
  • Respond to legal requests and prevent harm
  • Run and operate our Website and Services

Any information collected through webforms will be provided to the Management Association. This information is stored for the purposes as mentioned above and is used only to facilitate further correspondence between you and our platform. As a user you may object to this use but doing so may result in your webform request not being processed.

Processing your Personal Information depends on how you interact with our Website, where you are located in the world and if one of the following applies: (i) You have given your consent for one or more specific purposes; (ii) Provision of information is necessary for the performance of an agreement with you and/or for any pre-contractual obligations thereof; (iii) Processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which you are subject; (iv) Processing is related to a task that is carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in us; (v) Processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by us or by a third party.

We will not sell or rent any Personal Information provided to us. Personal Information collected through consent or otherwise will remain in data storage related to this Website only.
Note that legally there is some information we are allowed to process until you object to such processing (by opting out), without having to rely on consent or any other of the following legal bases below. In any case, we will be happy to clarify the specific legal basis that applies to the processing, and in particular whether the provision of Personal Information is a statutory or contractual requirement, or a requirement necessary to enter into a contract.

Information transfer and storage

Depending on your location, data transfers may involve transferring and storing your information in a country other than your own. You are entitled to learn about the legal basis of information transfers to a country outside your own, and about the security measures taken by us to safeguard your information. If any such transfer takes place, you can find out more by checking the relevant sections of this website or inquire with us using the information provided in the contact section.

The rights of users

You may exercise certain rights regarding your information processed by us. In particular, you have the right to do the following: (i) withdraw consent where you have previously given your consent to the processing of your information; (ii) object to the processing of your information if the processing is carried out on a legal basis other than consent; (iii) learn if information is being processed by us, obtain disclosure regarding certain aspects of the processing and obtain a copy of the information undergoing processing; (iv) verify the accuracy of your information and ask for it to be updated or corrected; (v) under certain circumstances, to restrict the processing of your information, in which case, we will not process your information for any purpose other than storing it; (vi) in certain circumstances, to obtain the erasure of your Personal Information from us; (vii) receive your information in a structured, commonly used and machine readable format and, if technically feasible, to have it transmitted to another controller without any hindrance. This provision is applicable provided that your information is processed by automated means and that the processing is based on your consent, on a contract which you are part of or on pre-contractual obligations thereof.

The right to object to processing

Where Personal Information is processed for the public interest, in the exercise of an official authority vested in us or for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by us, you may object to such processing by providing a ground related to your particular situation to justify the objection. You must know that, however, should your Personal Information be processed for direct marketing purposes, you can object to that processing at any time without providing any justification. To learn whether we are processing Personal Information for direct marketing purposes, you may refer to the relevant sections of this document.

How to exercise these rights

Any requests to exercise User rights can be directed to the Owner through the contact details provided on this website. These requests can be exercised free of charge and will be addressed by the Owner as early as possible.

Privacy of children

We do not knowingly collect any Personal Information from children under the age of 13. If you are under the age of 13, please do not submit any Personal Information through our Website or Service. We encourage parents and legal guardians to monitor their children’s Internet usage and to help enforce this Policy by instructing their children never to provide Personal Information through our Website or Service without their permission.
If you have reason to believe that a child under the age of 13 has provided Personal Information to us through our Website or Service, please contact us. You must also be at least 18 years of age to consent to the processing of your Personal Information in Australia.


We offer electronic newsletters to which you may voluntarily subscribe at any time. We are committed to keeping your electronic mail address confidential and will not disclose your electronic mail address to any third parties except as allowed in the information use and processing section or for the purposes of utilising a third-party provider to send such emails. We will maintain the information sent via electronic mail in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
You may choose to stop receiving our newsletter or marketing emails by following the unsubscribe instructions included in these emails or by contacting us.


The Website uses “cookies” to help personalise your online experience. A cookie is a text file that is placed on your hard disk by a web page server. Cookies cannot be used to run programs or deliver viruses to your computer. Cookies are uniquely assigned to you, and can only be read by a web server in the domain that issued the cookie to you.
We may use cookies to collect, store, and track information for statistical purposes to operate our Website and Services. You have the ability to accept or decline cookies. Most web browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can usually modify your browser setting to decline cookies if you prefer. To learn more about cookies and how to manage them, visit

Do Not Track signals

Some browsers incorporate a Do Not Track feature that signals to websites you visit that you do not want to have your online activity tracked. Tracking is not the same as using or collecting information in connection with a website. For these purposes, tracking refers to collecting personally identifiable information from consumers who use or visit a website or online service as they move across different websites over time. How browsers communicate the Do Not Track signal is not yet uniform. As a result, this Website is not yet set up to interpret or respond to Do Not Track signals communicated by your browser. Even so, as described in more detail throughout this Policy, we limit our use and collection of your personal information.

Links to other websites

Our Website contains links to other websites that are not owned or controlled by us. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other websites or third-parties. We encourage you to be aware when you leave our Website and to read the privacy statements of each and every website that may collect Personal Information.

Information security

We secure information you provide on computer servers in a controlled, secure environment, protected from unauthorised access, use, or disclosure. We maintain reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards in an effort to protect against unauthorised access, use, modification, and disclosure of Personal Information in its control and custody. However, no data transmission over the Internet or wireless network can be guaranteed. Therefore, while we strive to protect your Personal Information, you acknowledge that (i) there are security and privacy limitations of the Internet which are beyond our control; (ii) the security, integrity, and privacy of any and all information and data exchanged between you and our Website cannot be guaranteed; and (iii) any such information and data may be viewed or tampered with in transit by a third-party, despite best efforts.

Data breach

In the event we become aware that there has been unauthorised access to, or unauthorised disclosure of, or loss of, any Personal Information collected by the Website. We reserve the right to take reasonably appropriate measures, including, but not limited to, investigation and reporting, as well as notification to and cooperation with law enforcement authorities. In the event of a data breach, we will make reasonable efforts to notify affected individuals if we believe that the unauthorised access to, or unauthorised disclosure of, or loss of, any of the Personal Information is likely to result in serious harm to the user to whom the Personal Information relates to, or if notice is otherwise required by law. When we do, we will post a notice on the Website and send you an electronic mail.

Legal disclosure

We will disclose any information we collect, use or receive if required or permitted by law, such as to comply with a subpoena, or similar legal processes, and when we believe in good faith that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights, protect your safety or the safety of others, investigate fraud, or to respond to a government request.

Changes and amendments

It is at our discretion to update this Privacy Policy from time to time and will notify you of any material changes to the way in which we treat Personal Information. When changes are made, we will revise the updated date at the bottom of this page. We may also provide notice to you in other ways at our discretion, such as through contact information you have provided. Any updated version of this Privacy Policy will be effective immediately upon the posting of the revised Privacy Policy unless otherwise specified. Your continued use of the Website or Services after the effective date of the revised Privacy Policy (or such other act specified at that time) will constitute your consent to those changes. However, we will not, without your consent, use your Personal Data in a manner materially different than what was stated at the time your Personal Data was collected. Policy was created with WebsitePolicies.

Acceptance of this policy

You acknowledge that you have read this Policy and agree to all its terms and conditions. By using the Website or its Services you agree to be bound by this Policy. If you do not agree to abide by the terms of this Policy, you are not authorised to use or access the Website and its Services.

Contacting us

If you would like further information about this Policy or wish to contact us concerning any matter relating to individual rights and your Personal Information, you may send an email to