Over at Talk Islam, I started a somewhat speculative discussion thread about parallels to the samurai code and islamic values. To be perfectly frank, the idea came to me from watching Samurai 7 – not exactly a divine fount of inspiration, admittedly. What surprised me however was a response in thread by a Japanese muslim, who left a lengthy and quite insightful comment about his perception of what Japanese society has lost since WWII and how Japan as a society has strayed from the ideals of Bushido and how Shintoism has become emptied of meaning. His castigation of superficial pursuits in Japanese culture which in his opinion have dislodged the traditional beliefs is quite moving. It’s worth a read, for a truly unique perspective. I share it with you, not to promote my religion but more for the insights into Japanese culture that I think it provides.
Here’s the full text of the comment:
Japanese Muslim 1:39 pm on June 18, 2008 | #
As-salaamu â€˜alaykum. I am a Japanese man who converted to Islam from Shinto & Zen Buddhism. My noble ancestors were Samurai and my family has 8 katana that have been passed down throughout the generations.
Bushido was influenced by Shinto (the aspect of beauty and spirituality), Zen Buddhism (the fleeting world and transience of life), and Confucianism (loyalty and servitude to your master). The Samurai didnâ€™t adhere to any single religion, but Zen philosophy was especially important because it allowed them to clear their mind and embrace death without fear.
I myself practiced Shinto and Zen Buddhism (many Japanese traditionally practiced both religions together) before I became a Muslim. Today Shinto is no longer a living religion – it has degenerated into a mere folk belief with superstitions, festivals, and holidays. It was destroyed after Japan was forced to surrender in WW2. Buddhism, on the other hand, is too complex and has lost much of its meaning in the modern world.
So most Japanese today arenâ€™t religious at all. There is even a joke in Japan to illustrate how religion is taken so lightly – â€œJapanese are born Shintoists, marry as Christians, and die as Buddhists.â€
Our nation, once the embodiment of spirituality and honour, has been transformed into a nation of materialism and pop culture. People think Japan is about anime, J-pop, video-games, and high technology but this is the exact opposite of the real Japan. Traditional Japanese culture was about honour, love, war, brutality, beauty, loyalty, sacrifice, and selflessness. Today all of our values and morals have either been lost or watered down. Life is modern Japan is so robotic and nihlistic without any purpose or meaning in life. That is why the suicide rate is so high in Japan. The entire life of a Japanese is study hard and work hard. For fun and entertainment we have pop culture, celebrity idol worship, alcohol, zina, and clubbing to distract us from reality. Some Japanese who donâ€™t take fit into this society (but have no other alternative such as Islam) end up staying in their houses, lock themselves in their rooms, and become totally isolated and antisocial. They are called â€œhikikomoriâ€. In the end, they either commit suicide or become serial killers. So these are the options a Japanese can choose from – studying, working, sex, alcohol, pop culture, or suicide. What kind of life is this? Itâ€™s meaningless.
I continue to uphold the philosophy of Bushido which is about honour, loyalty, and servitude to your superior. This is the only remaining link that I have between me, my ancestors, and the authentic Japanese culture. The Samurai were very spiritual and close to Islam because of their fitrah. The only difference is they served their human masters, while we Muslims serve God.
In the end, I embraced Islam after studying it and reading the Qurâ€™an with an open mind. All praise is due to Allah for guiding me to the Straight Path. Fi aman Allah.