My Cultural Identity – Rimzana from Sri Lanka

Rimzana Fathima

Rimzana Fathima


There are great changes happening in the world through the developments and globalization, but our customs and practices are still remaining the same, with some slight changes. Culture Identity is a persons’ identification of many things such as culture, language, and ancestry, in other words it can be something which explains who we are and what we do in order to preserve our valuable practices which we follow throughout the years. I am from a Sri Lankan moor middle class family. My family complexion is light brown. Both of my parents are from moor families so, I was brought up as a moor Muslim. The Sri Lankan Moors practice a unique culture which differentiates them from the dominant Sinhalese and the Tamil ethnic group of Sri Lanka, but sometimes it goes along with other cultures’ practices and they make sure that those cultural involvements never affect their religious believes. The cultural values and practices of Sri Lankan Moors are still alive because, they were basically from Islam. Moors mostly follow the Islamic law, while preserving many of their ancestors’ customs and practices. They have also adopted several South Indian practices, although they originally belong to Hindus. Some people have categorized the Sri Lankan Moors as they belong to the Tamil ethnic group of Sri Lanka. However many Moors feel that this is wrong because, many Arab traders adopted the Tamil language when they settled in Sri Lanka. As I have mentioned before, the features of Sri Lankan Moors are also very different, they commonly have lighter brown skin.

Currently my family is scattered due to educational purposes. My parents and my brother are living together in a village which is named Uguressapitiya (A land full of uguressa fruits). That was the place where I was brought up. My sister had to leave home when she was 12 to continue her studies in the Islamic field. She is away from home for around 8 years and only comes home during vacations. She has to spend lots of time with people who come from different areas of the Island and having different family backgrounds. I am the oldest child in my family and I live away from home because of my higher studies. My family culture and identity has influenced me to be in this place without facing cultural problems. My family has taught me to keep faith in god and to respect the sentimental values of my ancestors. The place of birth has also made a significant change on me.

Sri Lankan moors has a different style of naming. Almost 90 percent of the males’ first name will be Muhammad and females’ first name will be Fathima. Their names will be always meaningful and basically they come from Arabic root words and it has become a tradition for us. The thing which differentiates us from other communities is our dress code. In my family all young girls wear the long black dress which is called Habaya and the boys wear the casual dress with a hat, but not always. The old women wear saree which we adopted from south Indian traditions. The language which we use is commonly known as Tamil, but it has some slight differences comparing to the original tamil language. Our language is named as Aruvi or Arabuththamizh. We still use some Arabic words with tamil in our daily conversations. From many examples I would like to highlight some of the common Arabic words which we use instead of Tamil wodings. Such as Assalamu Alaikum instead of Vanakkam and Jazakallah instead of Nandri. Also we use Sinhala as the major language in our region, because we live in Kandy where we are surrounded by Buddhists who speak the first language of Sri Lanka.

When people talk about gender equality in Islam most of the time what they think is, Islam gives priority to gens, but I do not agree with that because, in my family everybody is considered important and they are given limited freedom which could always preserve their proudness. We are not forced by men to do anything in my family. We are given the freedom to work and study while following our religion. The way which we communicate with our family members is also different comparing to others. We always slowdown our voice when we talk to the elders in our families. We are more close to our grandparents than our parents. We are allowed to talk to our close relatives, but not with boys. The reason behind that is to preserve the real Islamic culture as we have to avoid talking to Mahrams (Anyone who a Muslim is not allowed to marry is mahram).

The way we eat is also different comparing to the western culture. In my family we always sit on the floor to eat and we prefer to eat together with the family members. We use a bigger plate which is called Sahan and we sit around and eat together. We always sit when we drink water or any drinks.

We have adopted all these practices from our ancestors. We have a unique culture in eating, drinking, behaving at home, outside, and in conducting a marriage. Also we have uniqueness in our language and life events. Some of those life events’ traditional way has been changed by the time. Every individual is influenced by their culture and it makes them understand their identity. We can identify an individuals’ identity by looking at the group where they belong to. So, my cultural values has also made differences in my life. I am proud of being a Muslim and as well as a Sri Lankan Moor.

                                                            *************

#Rimsana

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