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When the juristic ruling becomes a tradition

By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Perhaps one of the phenomena that turned to mark the behavior of Muslims as a result of misguidance is the transformation of religious binding rules in the society into traditions that the people adopt just as they adopt the regional, tribal and national traditions and they defend just as they defend the sanctity of their traditions.

As for the question that cannot but be asked is represented by the effectiveness of the juristic ruling and its ability to be perpetual: Is the transformation of juristic rulings into traditions deemed an encouraging positive step or a bothersome negative one?!

At first, we might glimpse in the transformation of a religious ruling into a tradition a useful development that enhances the accord of the individual with it more than that accord would be had that ruling remained merely religious, for overstepping traditions is a difficult task as it signifies overstepping the status and the will of the society, since as time passes by, traditions turn into a part of the society’s character and life, and any rebel against them signifies a rebel against the entity and sanctity of the nation…

However, if the issue has to do with a mere juristic ruling, then it will not be so hard, for it becomes subjugated to one’s religious awareness and internal deterrence element that prevents man from disobedience and propels him towards obedience. Actually, this protects man from crime and makes him undertake the path as destined by Allah without the need for any external deterring element. This unravels the difference between the transformation of juristic rulings into traditions and remaining as they are; mere commands and forbiddances in the religious and jurisprudential context.

Yet, there is another aspect that must be emphasized in the traditions based on juristic rulings, which is their everlasting correlation with their juristic bases so that they would not be separated from their main pillars, and consequently become something meaningless. It is noted that the way the nation practices traditions is based neither on the awareness emanating from the nation’s understanding of their need and necessity nor from the feeling that they are connected with the original principles they were based on.

Those principles might be completely forgotten and not on anyone’s mind, and they might be ridiculous in the sense that it does not honor any society to have anything to do with them. The reason is that the emergence of traditions is often subjected to certain natural factors the life of the society encounters, such as the forcefulness of the incident from which they emanated and how big their social impact is, which makes their recurrence something natural and a fait accompli, or the power of the authority that wanted this tradition or the other to be instilled and immortalized in people’s lives or other factors that result in the recurrence of a certain act in life until it becomes a tradition it miraculously and automatically practices due to its correlation with man’s growth in his life from the very beginning.

Since the issue is regarded as an unaware course of action that results from a naïve repetition in the nation’s life and history, it might face, at certain stages of social development, some shocks that try to uproot it. Perhaps, the nation might wake up on some revolutionary situations that incite emotions and feelings in an incredible manner against all that through a revolutionary or instructional method that tries to analyze the tradition and subject it to some intellectual and social standards that render its very existence and continuity unjustified… Afterwards, the operation of eradicating it from the nation’s social existence starts, either gradually or instantly, until it becomes something unfamiliar as it is driven away from its reality and its track is recurrently lost in their lives. 

Moreover, some individuals might experience, without the need of rebellion as they practice or encounter these traditions in their lives, intellectual repulsion and a feeling of naivety when they find themselves obliged to carry out certain acts they do not understand or they do not know what their uses and benefits are, just as any person larks about or finds himself larking about without being propelled by any personal motivation. Moreover, they might understand them in a negative sense as a result of not knowing the authentic sources nurturing them and justifying their existence as a part of a whole entity, since it is natural that when a part is taken away from its context as an independent entity, it will lose most of its internal characteristics.

Perhaps this, along with other elements, drives us to focus with full awareness on the legislative nature of these traditions and considering them as part of the overall general line that achieves, along with the other parts, the big goals of legislation so that it would provide man with two motivations; the social motivation which renders overstepping the traditions a violation to the traditions and sacred aspects of the nation, and the religious motivation which renders rebelling against them a revolt against the will of Allah; this is on the one hand. On the other hand, traditions ought to remain existent in people’s minds and conscience as a habit subjected to a certain philosophy and interconnected with a plan and not something abstract. Thus, practicing them would not be done in an unaware manner or according to an abstract rigid process; but rather, it would be an aware act related to work through its meaning that man comprehends as something reasonable and sacred.

It goes without saying that such concentration on traditions prevents rebelling and arousing the spirit of revolt against them, as it leaves the rebels without what could justify the revolution and makes them revolt against the will of Allah in the process, which enhances and strengthens the already strong role of opposition in destroying and impeding the movement in the toughest circumstances…

[Source: Extracted from the book “Steps on the road to Islam”, p: 309-312]

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