Challenging unfair traditions – reflections on Surat al Al-Shu’araa’

Challenging unfair traditions - reflections on Surat al Al-Shu’araa’

There are numerous lessons for us in the exchanges between people in the Quran, like Musa (peace be on him) and Firaun and between Ibrahim and his father and his people.

Lessons in the discussions

Allah Almighty presents and highlights very specific scenes from their lives as they are common scenarios which we encounter in our own lives, as human nature stays the same, shaytan continues to play us, and exploits our weakness and intensifies temptation.

In Surat al Al-Shu’araa’, Ibrahim (peace be on him) asks his father and his people what they worship and they reply:

Relate to them ˹O Prophet˺ the story of Abraham,

when he questioned his father and his people, “What is that you worship ˹besides Allah˺?”

They replied, “We worship idols, to which we are fully devoted.” (26:69-71)

Ibrahim (peace be on him) is not satisfied with their answer, so he poses another question, which is common sense:

Abraham asked, “Can they hear you when you call upon them? (26:72)

Or can they benefit or harm you?” (26:73)

They do not admit that their idols have no power or ability whatsoever, but they answer that they are doing what they have been brought up doing.

Blocking common sense

Out of stubbornness and familiarity with their traditions and customs, people tend to block their common sense and blindly follow the practices of their community. See how their answer evades the question:

They replied, “No! But we found our forefathers doing the same.” (26:74)

Doing something because you saw it being done does not mean it is the right thing to do. This is why Allah Almighty sent the revelation.

Abraham responded, “Have you ˹really˺ considered what you have been worshipping (26:75)

Ibrahim (peace be on him) asks them if their Lords have the ability to benefit or harm them or hear them and respond to them, which are the attributes of the real Lord.

Challenge the status quo when it is not right

Ibrahim (peace be on him) was the father of the prophets and we see here that how he is challenging the status quo. This is what we need to do in our communities. Don’t comply with traditions which go against justice and fairness and basic human rights.

Tradition does not validate an action

Traditions and customs do not validate an action or make it right. It is not your culture or tradition which makes something right or wrong. It is revelation which makes it right.

Be careful not to override your common sense. I have said many times that Islam is the religion of common sense, when it has not been corrupted.

I ask Allah to keep our hearts and our loved ones on the straight path. And to enable us to challenge the status quo when it’s wrong and bring a change to humanity. Ameen.

Shaykh haytham Tamim – Ramdaan Day 13

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.