Monday, July 25, 2011

Culture, Tradition, Religion

From the start of this year several Arab regimes have been toppled with the threat of several others being toppled in the near future. During this period Saudi Arabia has witnessed several attempts of performing peaceful protests to request some basic rights. These have included the release of those imprisoned and held without charge, a little more freedoms for the Saudi public, to allow women to drive, exposure of public expenditure to the Saudi public... etc. Whenever such a threat of a peaceful protest rose, the Saudi authorities ensured public "Safety" with extreme force. In addition to this, during this period the official authorities have utilized the Islamic institute to preach the following three phrases "This is not part of our culture or traditions or religion".

As a starting point, I would like to differentiate between culture, tradition and religion. Culture defines customs in a community, the folklore and source of habits and traditions in a community. As for tradition, it defines the inherited habits, usually having the custom or religion as the main sources of the action. As for religion, it is usually an established faith. Now looking at the three items, we can see that the first two are man-made (or internal to the community) whilst the third is usually divine (or is external to the community). The first two are usually narrow in scope (as defined by a tribe or a small community) whilst the third spans out globally (for successful religions). The first two are only recognized by the community whilst the third is usually recognized by in nation who has followers of the religion.

After defining the three items, let’s consider the three in the context of protests within the Middle Eastern community. Part of our culture is to uphold against wrongdoings and fight for justice and protect the weak. Our culture is littered with stories of those who have protested against tyrants and unjust rulers especially during the Omayyad and Abbasid eras. A simple lesson in history will invalidate the first statement. As for tradition, all you need to do is think along the lines of Saudi people protesting against Israel during Friday prayers. These are usually peaceful protest describing the injustice that the Palestinians face during the Friday sermons. This is an inherited tradition that Saudis have continued since the establishment of the state of Israel. And as such the second statement is invalidated. As for the third, part of the rich Islamic tradition (Religious Values) that is practiced and is carried through is the popular saying of the prophet "He who witnesses wrongdoing, let him change it with his hands (take an action against it). If he could not, let him change it with his tongue (use his words). If he could not, let him change it in with his heart (Refuse it) and that is the weakest of faith". In his popular saying the prophet describes protesting against wrongdoings as faith. The more direct the methodology is, the stronger the faith, and that invalidates the third statement.

Looking at our culture, traditions and religion there is a clear sign to show that we, as Arabs, have performed the three types of protests that our Prophet describes. This has started from the days of the prophet (saw) in his attempt to spread the word of God across the land and ensure equality between all social classes, till the day king Abdul-Aziz united the kingdom under the rule of Islam. To protest against the ill treatment of the common public is a way to revitalize the culture that was started by the prophet and refreshed by King Abdul-Aziz. By denying the people their right to protest against the ill treatment handed down to them is a true statement against our culture, traditions and religious belief.


  1. nice post cousin. i'm guessing you wanted to say equality here and not quality.
    "land and ensure quality between all social classes" you can delete this comment later on. :)