Tradition vs Religion


Humans often confuse cultural traditions with God’s Religion. For example: in certain cultures, the head-covering for both men and women is often perceived as a religious requirement rather than a simple traditional dress. Moreover, the confusion is enhanced when the tradition of covering the head evolves and becomes an erroneously perceived religious law.

It is important to distinguish tradition from religion and not confuse the two. In this article, the usage of the word tradition will refer exclusively to all un-divine (man-made) practices not found in the Quran.

 

Traditions come in various forms such as celebrations, ceremonies, habits, stories, superstitions, beliefs, dress-codes, ethnic foods, and family and community values. All cultures throughout the world have their unique traditions and consider them as ‘identity enhancers’ of who they are and what they represent. It is important to note that, from a spiritual and religious standpoint, tradition by itself is harmless as long as it does not violate God’s laws (7:32).

 

(7:32-33) Say, “Who prohibited the nice things GOD has created for His creatures, and the good provisions?” Say, “Such provisions are to be enjoyed in this life by those who believe. Moreover, the good provisions will be exclusively theirs on the Day of Resurrection.” We thus explain the revelations for people who know. Say, “My Lord prohibits only evil deeds, be they obvious or hidden, and sins, and unjustifiable aggression, and to set up beside GOD powerless idols, and to say about GOD what you do not know.”

 

When a prophet delivers a divine message, it comes in its purest form, free of man-made interpretation or cultural baggage. This is because the message is directly from the Source (God). But once this prophet completes his mission and departs from this world, the followers of that message start to intentionally and unintentionally inject their traditions into it, thus tainting a divine system with man-made dogmas.

It is from this gradual merging of tradition into religion where the two become synonymous and confused. In fact, if tradition is mixed with religion it becomes a poisonous concoction of a newly invented religion which I call “Traligion”.

 

Traligion

 

Traligion is common in many, if not all, religions of the world. It buries God’s simple and pure message under man’s cultural or personal customs and beliefs. Traligion is the culprit of all baseless claims to God and His messengers.

 

In Quran 2:78-79, God teaches us not to behave like the gentiles who injected their man-made traditions into God’s message, thus obscuring God’ Religion with tradition. The outcome of such a crime is “traligion”:

 

(2:78-79) Among them are gentiles who do not know the scripture, except through hearsay, then assume that they know it. Therefore, woe to those who distort the scripture with their own hands, then say, “This is what GOD has revealed,” seeking a cheap material gain. Woe to them for such distortion, and woe to them for their illicit gains.

 

Similarly, in the Bible’s Mark 7:7-9 Jesus condemned the Phairesees’ for replacing God’s commandments with their traditions, thus “traligion” is born:

 

(Mark 7:7-9) [Jesus said] 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” 9And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 

 

In order to prevent the establishment of traligious practices, the Wonderful Quran purges all cultural traditions and restores God’s message of Islam to its pristine condition. Thus, Islam is the only religion approved by God (3:19) and is free of man-made traditions:

 

(3:19) The only religion approved by GOD is “Islam (Submission).” Ironically, those who have received the scripture are the ones who dispute this fact, despite the knowledge they have received, due to jealousy. For such rejectors of GOD’s revelations, GOD is most strict in reckoning.

 

The Quran’s banishment of traditions may be the very reason why the Meccan idolators asked the prophet to change the Quran (10:15) because the Quranic laws did not jive with their culture:

 

(10:15)  When our revelations are recited to them, those who do not expect to meet us say, “Bring a Quran other than this, or change it!” Say, “I cannot possibly change it on my own. I simply follow what is revealed to me. I fear, if I disobey my Lord, the retribution of an awesome day.”

 

Below are examples of Quranic verses addressing the most common traditions that may have otherwise evolved into traligious practices:

 

Man-Made (traditional) Prohibitions

 

The Quran condemns the act of man-made prohibitions attributed to God. An example of this is spelled out in 6:138-139 where it was a tradition for the men to forbid their wives from eating and riding certain kinds of livestock:

 

(6:138-139)  They said, “These are livestock and crops that are prohibited; no one shall eat them except whomever we permit,” so they claimed. They also prohibited the riding of certain livestock. Even the livestock they ate, they never pronounced GOD’s name as they sacrificed them. Such are innovations attributed to Him. He will surely requite them for their innovations.They also said, “What is in the bellies of these livestock is reserved exclusively for the males among us, and prohibited for our wives.” But if it was a stillbirth, they permitted their wives to share therein. He will certainly requite them for their innovations. He is Most Wise, Omniscient.

 

Wife Estrangement

 

Estranging a wife by declaring that she is like one’s mother was a common pre-Islamic traditional practice. Such an ideology is labeled as a blasphemy and falsehood in the Quran:

 

(58:2)  Those among you who estrange their wives (by declaring them as forbidden in sex) as their mothers know full well that they are not their mothers. Their mothers are the women who gave birth to them. Indeed, they are committing a blasphemy and a falsehood. GOD is Pardoner, Forgiver.

Female Infanticide

Some cultures commit the crime of female infanticide; this is mainly due to having offspring that cannot help during war. This primitive mind-set of killing female infants was a well-established tradition throughout the world. God forbade such cruel traditions in the Quran:

 

(43:16-18) Has He chosen from among His creations daughters for Himself, while blessing you with sons?When one of them is given news (of a daughter) as they claimed for the Most Gracious, his face is darkened with misery and anger! (They say,) “What is good about an offspring that is brought up to be beautiful, and cannot help in war?”

 

Social Pressure

 

Prophet Muhammed was fearful of marrying the divorced wife of his adopted son because this may have been an uncommon or unaccepted practice during his time (33:37). But despite the social pressures, prophet Muhammed obeyed God’s law and married the divorced wife of his adopted son. Sometimes we become so accustomed to our traditions we refuse to let go of them – even if the tradition violates God’s law.

 

 [33:37]  Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by GOD, and blessed by you, “Keep your wife and reverence GOD,” and you hid inside yourself what GOD wished to proclaim. Thus, you feared the people, when you were supposed to fear only GOD. When Zeid was completely through with his wife, we had you marry her, in order to establish the precedent that a man can marry the divorced wife of his adopted son. GOD’s commands shall be done. The prophet is not committing an error by doing anything that is made lawful by GOD. Such is GOD’s system since the early generations. GOD’s command is a sacred duty. Those who deliver GOD’s messages, and who reverence Him alone, shall never fear anyone but GOD. GOD is the most efficient reckoner.

 

In addition to the examples of God preventing tradition from spawning into traligion, other Quranic verses point to the already established traligious practices that are prevalent in many cultures. Again, the Quran purges these traligions from God’s Religion:

 

Inheriting Idolatry

 

Inheriting idol-worshiping belief-systems is a common and fatal mistake in many cultures (2:170-171) because it is an obvious form of traligion. Verse 53:19-23 points out the traligious practices of  the Meccan’s who inherited the religions of their forefathers and worshiped ‘made up’ gods. God condemned them for such practices:

 

(53:19-23)  Compare this with the female idols Allaat and Al-`Uzzah. And Manaat, the third one.  Do you have sons, while He has these as daughters?These are but names that you made up, you and your forefathers. GOD never authorized such a blasphemy. They follow conjecture, and personal desire, when the true guidance has come to them herein from their Lord.

 

Hermitism

 

Amazingly, the Quran addresses traligious practices that may appear benign and unharmful since the surface reasons appear righteous. An example of this is Hermitism (57:27); a common practice amongst Christians who believed in segregating themselves from society in order to come closer to God. Although the intentions of these Christians are to do well, they have wronged their souls by inventing a practice that was never ordained by God. Thus, hermitism is another form of traligion.

 

[57:27]  Subsequent to them, we sent our messengers. We sent Jesus the son of Mary, and we gave him the Injeel (Gospel), and we placed in the hearts of his followers kindness and mercy. But they invented hermitism which we never decreed for them. All we asked them to do was to uphold the commandments approved by GOD. But they did not uphold the message as they should have. Consequently, we gave those who believed among them their recompense, while many of them were wicked.

 

These profound Quranic lessons apply to all past, present and future generations who strive to worship and please God Alone (16:104-106, 12:111); no one is exempt from falling into traligion:

 

(16:104-106) Enlightenments have come to you from your Lord. As for those who can see, they do so for their own good, and those who turn blind, do so to their own detriment. I am not your guardian.We thus explain the revelations, to prove that you have received knowledge, and to clarify them for people who know.Follow what is revealed to you from your Lord, there is no god except He, and disregard the idol worshipers.

 

(12:111) In their history, there is a lesson for those who possess intelligence. This is not fabricated Hadith; this (Quran) confirms all previous scriptures, provides the details of everything, and is a beacon and mercy for those who believe.

 

Examples of Modern-Day Traligion

 

Below is a list of common modern-day traligious practices. Keep in mind that the intention here is not to insult or criticize other faiths, but to point out the fact that none of these beliefs or practices are supported in the Quran:

 

– Eid Celebration: originally a tradition amongst the Muslims, but eventually became confused as part of God’s religion. Thus Eid evolved from tradition to traligion.

 

– Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday: celebrating a dead person’s birthday is harmless, but when we call this celebration a “religious” holiday, then it becomes a traligious practice.

 

– Religious Superstitions: believing that black cats have jinns inside of them and they are bad luck. Wearing certain accessories that protect us from envy. Angels are not present where dogs dwell so we shouldn’t be around dogs. Holy water keeps demons away. The list is endless… There is no fundamental scriptural support for any of these beliefs.

 

– Traligious Rituals: performing certain prayers not ordained by God (i.e. Eid prayer, Taraweeh, Istikhara). Adding/omitting steps to the ablution. Dances or other rituals not mentioned in the Quran (i.e. walking under the Quran three times and spilling water on the ground to ensure safe traveling).

 

Protection From Traligion

No one (including the followers of Quran Alone) is immune from traligion if they are not consciously aware of it. Thus, it is paramount to heed the said examples and protect ourselves from mixing traditions – whether it be a community, family, or personal tradition – with God’s religion.

 

The key in distinguishing whether our practice or belief is religion-based or traligion-based is by asking ourselves two questions:

 

1) Is my belief or practice supported by the Quran?

2) Have I made this belief or practice part of God’s Religion?

 

The criterion for traligion here is answering ‘no’ to the first question and ‘yes’ to the second.

Traligion = Idolatry 

 

Finally, traligion is a form of idolatry because it assimilates man-made sources with God’s Religion. As we know, the Quran is a complete and fully detailed scripture (7:2), and God forbids us – in the strongest words – from following any other sources besides it (6:114-115). All divine religious duties, laws, and beliefs are found in the Quran Alone. All else is purely man-made.

 

(7:3) You shall all follow what is revealed to you from your Lord; do not follow any idols besides Him. Rarely do you take heed.

 

(6:114-115) Shall I seek other than GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt. The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.

 

Joseph S.

© Copyright www.progressive-muslim.org

 


Comments are closed.