How tradition overshadowed revelation

Emergence of political Islam

In the relationship of revelation to tradition, revelation holds primacy. Yet over time tradition appears to have ‘eclipsed’ revelation to the point that following tradition became as urgent as following revelation, if not more so.

Following tradition would not be a problem as long as tradition reflected revelation. It would become an issue, however, where tradition departs from revelation, as with the punishments for apostasy and adultery. The entry of both into the sharia was enabled by the view that tradition is able to  abrogate revelation.

Both punishments reflect following tradition in preference to revelation. Yet the tradition followed was not that of the prophet. The prophet never punished anyone for apostasy. The punishment for apostasy was adopted subsequently, during the “wars of apostasy,” and was due to political reasons, where apostasy became conflated with treason.

In this way, the sharia acquired a political character, where the threat of punishing apostates provided the basis for enforcing “unity.”

[Disclaimer: Readers are advised to check the veracity of the statements made in this post for themselves. If any reader finds an error in this post, kindly inform me].

Revelation and prophetic traditions

Relationship

What is the relationship between revelation and the prophetic traditions? A few jurists assert that the prophetic traditions are an integral “part of the Quran.”

Yet revelation gave rise to tradition. In other words, tradition is derivative. This is recognized by identifying tradition as the second source of the law. Moreover, Muhammad was forbidden from adding anything to the Quran (Q 69:44). So the assertion that the traditions of the prophet are an “integral part of the Quran” is problematic, to say the least.

Traditions differ from revelation in other ways. The Quran is understood to be the word of God. The prophetic traditions are reports by various persons. They should not be mixed up with one another.

The superiority of revelation over tradition was recognized by jurists when they stated that even though traditions holds the rank of revelation, this is a lesser kind of revelation than that of the Quran.

The prophetic traditions are known as “internal” revelation while the Quran is seen as “manifest” revelation. In this way jurists attempted to preserve the uniqueness and superiority of the Quran over tradition.

Yet a few jurists assert that tradition “rules” on the Quran. This sounds rather impudent. To say that tradition rules on the Quran is to reverse the authority of the two. It is to place the authority of tradition above that of revelation. This is problematic, to say the least.

[Disclaimer: Readers are advised to check the veracity of the statements made in this post for themselves. If any reader finds an error in this post, kindly inform me].