This is a thought provoking and powerful article by Shaykh Yusuf da Costa.
It's true that rituals and rites become the identity of a community. Unfortunately, the learned and sincere Shaykh forgot to mention that Muslims must improve their interaction with fellow humans in their daily lives.
Being truthful, keeping promises and appointments, being on time, being trustworthy, remaining committed to service of humanity, doing justice with our work, being honest in business and all walks of life and guarding human rights are even more important than the ritualism that is entirely personal. My "prayer" and "fasting" will not help anyone else.
Muslims should be identified by their conduct more than by their dress, appearance or prayers. Character must take the first seat. I am not saying that our rituals and rites must be disregarded. The empty rituals and rites need a new spirit of purpose i.e. help build us character.
You live in S.Africa and are concerned about Western influence on culture there. I thought S.Africa already had the Western culture all over. Please educate me.
5:48 (O Messenger) We have sent to you this Divine Writ, setting forth the truth. It confirms the remaining truth in the earlier scriptures since it is a Watcher over them. So, judge between them by what God has revealed, and do not follow their desires diverging from the truth that has come to you. For each community among you We have appointed certain rites and a traced-out way. If God had willed, He could have made you all one single community. But He decided to let you test yourselves by what (potentials) He has granted you. So, outdo one another in doing good to the society. To God you will all return, and He will then make you understand wherein you differed. [2:101, 2:148, 3:78, 21:92-93, 23:52. Muhaimin = Watcher. Shari’ah = Rites = Usual, diverse trends of a community. Minhaaj = A traced-out way = A set of laws]
2:177 Righteousness and exponential development of the ‘self’ depends not on whether you turn your faces to East or West. But righteousness is that:
One has conviction in God,
And the Last Day,
And the Angels,
And the Book,
And the Prophets.
And that he gives of his cherished wealth to:
Family and relatives,
Those left helpless in the society,
And those whose hard-earned income fails to meet their basic needs,
Those whose running businesses have stalled,
The ones who have lost their jobs,
Whose life has stalled for any reason,
The needy wayfarer, son of the street, the homeless, the one who travels to you for assistance,
Those who ask for help, and
Those whose necks are burdened with any kind of bondage, oppression, crushing debts and extreme hardship of labor.
(And righteous are) those who strive to establish the institution of Salaat, (2:3. 2:53)
And help set up the Economic System of Zakaat.
They are true to their pledge whenever they make one.
And they remain steadfast in physical or emotional distress and in times of peril.
It is those who have proven themselves to be true, and it is those who are living upright.
13:17 ...... The real existence on earth is of the one that benefits humanity.