a japanese muslim speaks

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 ‘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 didn’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 aren’t religious at all. There is even a joke in Japan to illustrate how religion is taken so lightly – “Japanese are born Shintoists, marry as Christians, and die as Buddhists.”

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 don’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 “hikikomori”. 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? It’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 Qur’an with an open mind. All praise is due to Allah for guiding me to the Straight Path. Fi aman Allah.

17 thoughts on “a japanese muslim speaks”

  1. Well, I know nothing about either Islam or Japan’s mix of Shinto and Buddhism, but I am a bit wary of getting information from disgruntled ex-believers. If he felt his previous religion served his spiritual needs, he would not have converted in the first place.

    In my opinion, religion is fundamentally folk beliefs with superstitions, festivals, and holidays. I believe the spirituality comes from the participants, not from the religion itself.

    I’m not qualified to discuss pre- versus post-war Shinto, but a feeling that the world around you is not as religious as it should be or used to be seems to be quite common. A big example is all the handwringing about “we’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas” that happens around December.

  2. fair enough, but it shoudl be noted that his critique is not exclusive to him as a muslim, but is actually a fairly common viewpoint. I just was struck at how he tied that trend together with the Islamic belief – especially the comment about samurai obeying their masters out of duty, with muslims replacing human masters with God.

    I’d heard of the hikomori phenomenon before an dit strikes me that macabre anime like Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei also tap into that same nihilistic undercurrent.

    I guess the whole thing is an excercize in pop psychology on a mass scale, but it still is fascinating to me, not because of my faith but more because of my fascination with Japan.

  3. I fear I have probably put my foot in it. I wasn’t trying to offend, but since I was speaking unpleasant truths I probably did.

    Ah, well.

    The modern Japanese are in denial about how monstrous their culture had become by about 1920. The early 1920’s are seen almost as a golden age. They ignore the fact that by that point the nation had become a vicious police state, and by the fact that the Army was almost completely out of control, and would assassinate any civilian leader in the government who did things the Army didn’t like.

  4. Steven, your comment isnt particularly offensive, it represents one opinion of course but its not a unique one either. I think truth lies somewhere in between.

    why are you using past tense? 🙂

  5. oh, you were referring to your comment in thread at Talk Islam. ahhhh… ok. Don’t really think that was particularly offensive either…

  6. don’t worry. threads are why I started that site in the first place. There will be plenty more.

  7. I find it distasteful to do so, but I have regretfully been forced to remove the comment by JM, which did not reflect the tone of comity and calm that I insist upon for this blog.

    JM, you are welcome to this site, but you are also a guest here, and I insist that you act accordingly. This includes not insulting the other members of this community.

  8. I don’t understand why you deleted my post which I put my precious time into despite my extremely busy schedule. I didn’t insult anybody with it.

    If anything, it was those people who deeply offended me when they insulted my noble Samurai ancestors and said Islam is mere superstition. They said this even though they have no real knowledge of either Bushido or Islam. May God guide them or may He destroy them.

    I won’t be returning to this site ever again, so farewell everyone.

  9. I find it amuzing and also ironic. How could a person leave one sort of belife thinking it is the ultimate truth and at the same time feels insulted and praying for others that his God shall distroys them..? I se nothing hooly in here I rather se just another typical ego. How could a person claim to worship and love a transendental devine whiles he cant love a living manifested humanbeing. There is nothing Hooly in Wars. Namaste

  10. Dear muslim japanese im french and i want to come soon to Japan.
    I love this conutry and the culture .
    i would like to be in contact with many japanese muslim .
    im waiting for your answer

  11. Alsalamou Alikoum
    I’m Egyptian girl fond of Japan , my dream is to marry Japanese man and live either in Egypt or Japan
    I hope anyone to help me
    Salam to all

  12. assalamualaikum,

    ok first of all,saying Islam is a superstition is what drives me to say something on this page.when one’s religion is being criticised the wrong way,as a muslim is a responsibility for me to stand up for it.i’m just saying Islam is not some mere superstition someone claimed it to be.not offending anyone,but just stating Islam is real.it’s up to one’s self to believe it or not.done.

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