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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books The Family Idolatry Of Traditions

Idolatry Of Traditions

Idolatry of Traditions

There are certain traditions that have become so widespread as to be now generally accepted as if they were God given laws whereas they do not in reality have any connection with Islam. They are in fact contradictory to the laws of God. The idolatry of customs and the prevalence of deviations is a major problem which faces almost every country. Hence, the necessity arises for visionaries and academics to undertake a courageous stand against this crippling malady and to point out its weaknesses.

These traditions at times assume a holy nature which can make the people all the more ready to believe them and put them into practice. It is not proper either from a religious or intellectual standpoint to pay attention to the compatibility of star signs of the husband or the wife, and although it is correct that a marriage taking place when the moon is in Cancer will not be joyous, even this may be eliminated through supplication, Qur'anic verses or almsgiving.

There are also certain foreign customs which have reached the Islamic world which observe that the married couple should not be related in any way. This is not correct as can be seen in the marriage of 'Ali and Fatima and certain of the Imams and their sons. It is related that the Emissary of God looked to the children of 'Ali and those of 'Aqiel saying 'Our daughters are for our sons and our sons are for our daughters'. 55 Indeed, the habit of Muslims from the beginning of Islam was to marry between cousins on the mother's and father's side.

Whatever the case may be, Islamic standards should not be mixed up with Western standards.

The Rights of the Married Couple

The husband has no right over his wife other than the conjugal right, and in the matter of her exit from the house for purposes other than in fulfilling her duties 56 since: 'No creature should be obeyed at the cost of disobedience to the Creator'. 57

These rights are brought together in the following Qur'anic verses :

'And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them according to what is equitable'. 58

'They are your garments and ye are their garments'. 59

'But men have a degree over them'. 60

There is absolutely no right for the husband to transgress with regards to his wife, especially as the marriage has taken place with her consent and with her ability to make conditions and that she has certain rights over the wealth of the man if he divorces her as well as other choices which are at her discretion. She also has the right to make the condition that the man does not marry another beside her, and that she can be the agent in divorcing herself, and that he can not divorce her - as many scholars believe - according to the report that Mansour Ibn Younis said: ' I said to Abu Al-Hasan that one of my colleagues had a wife whom he divorced so she left him. Subsequently he wished her back but the woman said " I will never marry you until you agree not to divorce me and not to marry another besides me". So Abu Al-Hasan asked whether he did so and I said Yes. He said 'He has done ill'. Then he said 'But now, tell him that the condition should stand, for the Emissary of Allah has said, "The Muslims should stand by their personal conditions". This was related by Sheikh Murtada in Al-Makasib. Further detailed study of the hadith and pronouncements of the jurists can be found in the book of Fiqh. 61

Section Three

Islam's Word on the New Born Child
The Fruit of Marriage

The goal of marriage is the maintenance of human kind so it is important that the two parents pay attention to bringing up the children after marriage or even before it, as in the saying: 'Choose well for your seed, for what is bred in the bone comes out in the flesh'. Whether it be that the man chooses a fine mother or the woman chooses a good father, the child will take after each of them. Then comes the time for impregnation, the method for which Islam makes plain. Then the period of pregnancy and suckling where it is recommended that it be undertaken by a beautiful woman for 'beauty delights'. After that comes upbringing and education and the age of studying, from kindergarten until university. Similarly, care must be taken in choosing a name for them as in the saying 'nomen est omen' and as has been proven by psychology. Hence, the Prophet of Islam used to change ugly names to good ones.

The prevalence of children born with deformities, diseases, incapacities and mental deficiencies in the Islamic world in the last half of the twentieth century is one of the unpleasant results of Western lifestyle which has overcome the Muslims with all kinds of poisons and anxieties and corrupt habits from fashions and cosmetics to foodstuffs and certain chemical medicines and so forth.

I myself do not recall, before the second world war, even one instance of any of these terrible occurrences in infants where we used to live in Karbala and Najaf when Iraq was living in a state of Islam. Today however, hardly a day passes without us hearing of a case or cases of abnormalities of this sort.

As for the cure, although it lies in the complete restoration to life of Islam, prevention gives a clear and effective result in reducing these diseases.

The Importance of Health

The married couple must place a great importance on hygiene because of the Qur'anic verse: 'save yourselves and your families from the fire' 62, and because of the saying of Al-Sajjad: 'Your body holds a right over you'. The human being has a responsibility for his body before Allah as well as for the deeds he has done and their effect on later generations. Illness is rife, particularly in this age where the rules of hygiene have been destroyed in food, drink, clothing, transport, and housing, together with travel from cold climates to hot climates and vice versa. Modern technology has destroyed a large part of health, while new modes of dealing with life have destroyed another part, and foods and drinks a third part.

Similarly it is imperative that sexual health be maintained where an excess of intercourse and bathing is one of the most detrimental things to the health as Avicenna said: 'Stay continent (of semen) as far as you can for it is the water of life to be poured into the womb'. Likewise, a paucity of sexual intercourse has its own ills proven by medical science, so the best is to opt for moderation and the middle course.

It is also important to observe the times for intercourse 63 as is found in the major works and mentioned by physicians. This particularly during times of pregnancy when many ills can be directed to the foetus which can result in its death, deformity or suffering from chronic disorders.

Hence we see a prevalence of physical and mental disorders in children. This stems from many causes including unhealthy parents and exposure of the child to ills. Children then are now being born at a time when exposure to diseases and problems is increasing, while mankind is responsible before Allah for his children, as is reported reliably.


There is no doubt that the best nourishment for the child is the mother's milk as is confirmed by the religion and by medical science 64, except when an infectious disease or the like strikes the mother. One of the reasons for the prevalence of diseases in the child and in the mother is feeding something other than the mother's milk to the child. It harms the new born because his metabolism is not prepared for anything other than his mother's milk and so causes many types of illnesses as is witnessed these days. It also harms the mother because the body after childbirth prepares for breast feeding which, if it does not take place, can cause the milk to become clotted and coagulated in the breast, in addition to the dangers of non-secretion of surpluses in the body which are intended to be discharged through their proper channels. Furthermore, the breast that does not feed tends towards sagging which can lead to a decline of its beauty which is a loss where the woman who has a partner is concerned. Beauty is beloved in religion, common sense and in customs, as in the hadith: 'God is beautiful He loves beauty' 65, and other examples. The intellect weighs up each quality of perfection and beauty is one of the parts of perfection. As for custom, it is too obvious to mention.

It is recommended that the natural mother should feed the child whilst in a state of ritual purity because the milk passes to the soul and to the body as is proven in the religion and in medicine. Hence if the father is forced to feed the child by one other than the child's natural mother, then it is recommended that he choose a woman of good qualities according to the details laid out by scholars.

Upbringing and Protection

It is necessary for the parents to protect the children from deviancy in morals and values. Protecting is incumbent religiously, as in the Qur'an: 'Protect yourselves and your families from the fire'. 66

In previous times, before modern methods, and before the colonialist networks had spread through Islamic lands, sons used to follow in the footsteps of their fathers except in a very few cases. In this age however, deviancy is the norm. The majority of youngsters today, despite their young ages and lack of experience, and with their deviant modes of thinking propagated by colonialist factions and organisations, view their parents as reactionary and superstitious, whilst they themselves have been seduced by the propaganda networks and mass media in the country which promote every forbidden thing from alcohol to gambling, licence and perversion. The immature youngster by his nature and inexperience burns with vitality, activity, desire for change, and lust and is thus quickly attracted towards deviancy.

Hence arises the necessity of a thorough concern for the children from parents, relatives, and society as a whole. For without direction, harm and corruption will not only strike the children but will become general amongst their families and entire communities.

The forces of Saddam in Iraq, and the Communist forces in Afghanistan and the like have cost these countries a lot of blood and tears. This is true of many of the other Islamic lands where many lives have been sacrificed at their hands.

When we say 'protection of children', we don't simply mean advice and guidance, but as well as that we mean making them feel part of a healthy environment and preparing for them the means of obtaining work and making a living, and forging links for them with a mosque or a school or a library or a religious community centre, and marrying them when they come of age and seeking gainful employment for them.

The Bond of Kinship

Kinship has a prominent role in safeguarding society from deviance. The married couple may not be related in any way so kinship develops through their children, among themselves and between them and the parents' relatives.

Kinship is a very important means of reaching a common understanding and of strengthening the bonds of friendship and co-operation, of solidarity and mutual regard.

The parents should sow the seeds of this in their children so that they may derive benefit from it and also give benefit. For in kinship there is benefit gained and given, rights and responsibilities, give and take. The rewards in it are unfathomable.

In the Qur'an comes the words: '... and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by whom you demand one another your rights, and to the bonds of kinship' 67.

Here the bond of kinship and guarding against breaking it are linked with piety and God-consciousness and guarding against disobeying Him.

There are many reports about this matter. The Prophet has said: ' The bond of kinship populates the houses and increases life spans even if the inhabitants are not good people' 68.

Imam Al-Baqir has said: 'The bond of kinship purifies deeds and makes wealth grow. It keeps tribulations at bay and increases longevity' 69.

Imam Al-Sadiq has said: 'The bond of kinship improves the character, cleanses the hands, perfumes the soul, increases sustenance and adds to longevity' 70.

In another report from Imam Al-Sadiq comes that a man came to the prophet and said: 'Messenger of God, I have a family and I was their head but now they bring me pain and I wish now to disown them'.

The Prophet said 'Then God will disown you all'. The man asked 'What shall I do then? 'The prophet said 'Give to he who denies you, bond with he who cuts off from you and forgive whoever wrongs you. If you do this, God will be your backer' 71.

A child disobeying and disrespecting his parents, religiously prohibited and intellectually detestable, is a form of breaking the bond of kinship. Similarly a father's disrespect to his children - which is also disrespect and is referred to in traditions - is also a kind of breaking this bond.

When a person is born he is surrounded by a plethora of rules and etiquettes, as well as by universal laws and practices. Therefore a person should prepare himself to adapt in a practical way to these rules and etiquettes and to follow those laws and traditions. Otherwise he will find himself to be the first casualty because of the clash he will experience coming up against them and in many cases he may also cause harm to others besides him.

Virtues and Non-violence

Supposing that a man had a number of wives long term, or if he became a widower or his marriage was annulled or he became divorced, he should not place the status of one wife above the other, nor should he place the children of one wife over those of another. This can cause the break-up and dispersion of the family in many cases, and can sow the seeds of enmity and hatred amongst the children. In extreme cases this can end up in injury, beating, murder and suicide.

The wives must also not be jealous of one another 72 for this also propagates enmity and all its consequences including murder, especially if one wife has children while the other does not.

These kinds of enmities and quarrels as well as being disobedience to God which warrant punishment in the afterlife also disturb the serenity of life without good reason.

Some friends of mine who have visited parts of Asia and Africa and certain Western countries have told me that the concepts held by some Muslims of hatreds and enmities and quarrels and their consequences are generally not present there.

Human nature often calls for these things but the consequences of them is obvious if a person uses his intelligence and strengthens his faith in God and desires His reward and fears His punishment.

A good upbringing and the development of an environment of tolerance and loving and non-violence are the best way in manifold areas of life. Hence the parents should school themselves and their children in noble morals and praiseworthy virtues and non-violence in marital matters so that they may find happiness in this world and the next.

Section Four

Problems and Safeguards towards Maintaining Harmony
The Happy Household

Married life can vary greatly from couple to couple. One couple can make their home heavenly and happy through morals and virtues, good habits and sympathetic behaviour.

Another couple however, can be found to be the opposite of this, one or both of them being uncouth, violent and bad mannered or with bad habits whether it be smoking in the vicinity of the other person which can cause friction, or to be indiscreet and not to say anything, or by eating pungent foods like garlic, onions, and leeks.

It is perhaps a familiar sight to see husbands fleeing from their homes to avoid their ill-mannered wives and vice versa when the wife occupies herself in a certain activity in order to avoid her husband.

The humanistic and Islamic view of society is that each of the married couple should respect and be aware of their partner's needs in their life and realise that they are also a human being with emotions, feelings and sensitivities and that any ill-mannered behaviour can cause pain and in many cases ends up in divorce and separation.

It is important that each partner wherever possible should overlook the slip-ups and mistakes of the other just as the prophet has ordered.

I myself once saw an ill-charactered man drive his wife to death and his second wife followed her.

The person of bad character is generally driven by his behaviour towards bad consequences, while good character and morals usually lead to good consequences. This is the principle involved which the prophet made clear.

There is no doubt that human natures vary in goodness and badness. However, the effect upon the person of education and self-development cannot be denied. A person should educate himself in good personal relationships with others, as is mentioned in the Qur'an in the verse: '... good fellowship' 73.

Maintaining an atmosphere in the household where no one party forces the other to work in the house or for the house can make the household peaceful and happy. Compulsion though can make the house into a hell on earth which can destroy all the occupants including any children there may be.

No to Extravagance!

The married couple should avoid in particular extravagance and profligacy.

The difference between the two is that the former is to do with excess where the necessity remains in principle, while the latter is expenditure that is not necessary in the least. In the Qur'an comes an indication that the seriousness of the second type is greater in the words: 'Spendthrifts are akin to devils' 74, whereas this kind of seriousness has not been said of extravagance.

In a hadith it is said 'Pouring out excess water and discarding a date is extravagance' 75. Certain laws relating to this subject have been highlighted in 'The Book of Food and Drink' in 'The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh' 76.

In another Hadith is said: 'God is merciful; to he who knows his capacity and does not transgress his limit' 77.

The lively society is one which makes use even of its refuse. Regarding the Qur'anic verse: 'God will revive the dead' 77, the probable meaning is that they are of no use until God revives them and they become of the living.

At times, there may be a sense of competitiveness between the partners or between two families. This causes many evils, much to the delight of Satan, including extravagance, wastage and ostentation to the level of excess.

Imam 'Ali once gave a ruling that camel meat slaughtered as a form of 'one-upmanship' between two tribal leaders was forbidden and it was left to the scavengers. Perhaps the point is that getting the message across is more important than leaving the meat for the scavengers, even though the meat was slaughtered in a lawful manner.

In any case it is important that the married couple co-operate together from the outset with a view to creating a family whose basis is love and affection and whose driving force is purposefulness and reality, not squandering and extravagance, false facade and idle boasting.

Work Within the Household

Manual work within the household is a blessing which is necessary for psychological well being and beneficial for the body because it leads to health and well being.

It is then important that the married couple should concern themselves with handiwork, and that each one choose for themselves some task or they both undertake it together.

We can still remember the days when families use to work in their houses or outside in the garden or in the fields or the farmyards when people used to live a life of self-sufficiency not being in need of outsiders.

I myself remember the problems that the world experienced after World War II and the famine that struck humanity as a result of those wars. However, Iraq and certain other Islamic countries were not as affected by the famine due to their reliance upon their own produce. At that time, all needs were satisfied internally, and we did not need to import more than white sugar and some cloth. People used to make their own clothes on simple looms and didn't need imported cloth in any great measure. Our father 78 (May the mercy of God be upon him) used to tell us to take our tea with dates or molasses whenever we needed sugar. Then, the entire imports of Iraq did not exceed 30 million Dinars, as all our needs were met from within the country.

These days however, after the flood of oil wells, these imports have reached tens of billions of Dinars but look at the state of Iraq, and the state of the people. One glance at the problems, poverty and hunger which is sweeping the country is enough to confirm the reality. 79

Therefore a gradual independence from outsiders must be worked towards, through for example making the house into a workstation for the married couple.

It is also important that charitable organisations help provide opportunities for married couples and facilitate and stimulate work for them.
55 Seas of Lights; Volume 100; Page 372. (The Qur'an provides detailed injunctions regarding those blood relations and other persons that a person may not marry. However in Islam it is permissible for a person to marry his or her cousin as was customary in Western societies until not so very long ago.(Translator's note)).

56 The following items are incumbent upon her religiously:

1. Undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage.
2. Learning the laws of the religion.
3. Maintaining the bond of kinship for example in visiting the parents.
4. All matters pertaining to preserving one's self and one's religion.

57 Seas of Lights; Volume 10; Page 227.

58 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 228.

59 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 187.

60 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 228.

61 Al-Fiqh series, 'Al-Bay'a', Volumes 111-115.

62 The Holy Qur'an: The Prohibition (66): 6.

63 The author has dealt with the times recommended and discouraged for intercourse in The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh; The Book of Wedlock; Volume 62; Pages 112-130. Likewise in the Book of Etiquette and Practices.

64 Psychological studies have shown that the child who is fed at the breast of his/her mother is usually less susceptible to psychological problems. The sense of security, warmth and affection which the baby feels at the mother's breast increase his/her attachment to her in the future. Also, as doctors would confirm, all attempts to find a synthetic substitute to mother's milk have failed. Mother's milk provides the complete requirements for the health of the infant and its physical and mental growth. (Our children, their growth, nutrition and their problems. 'Ali Hasan. p.70.). Also among the benefits of breastfeeding for the mother is the fact that it lessens the risk of her contracting breast cancer and helps to return the womb to its natural state and also works to dispel spots and blemishes from the face of the mother.

65 Shi'a Guide; Volume 3; Page 331.

66 The Holy Qur'an: The Prohibition (66): 6.

67 The Holy Qur'an: Women (4): 1.

68 Seas of Lights; Volume 74; Page 94.

69 Seas of Lights; Volume 74; Page 111.

70 Seas of Lights; Volume 74; Page 114.

71 Seas of Lights; Volume 74; Page 100.

72 There are many traditions which condemn the envy and jealousy of women. These include the sayings of Imam 'Ali: 'The jealousy of a man is faith but the jealousy of a woman is enmity' (The Pearls of Wisdom)., also ' The jealousy of a woman amounts to disbelief but the jealousy of a man is faith'(The Summit of Eloquence: Article 124). From the sayings of Imam Al-Baqir: ' The jealousy of women is envy, which is the root of unbelief. Women if they are jealous become angry and if they become angry they fall into disbelief except those who are true Muslims.(The Complete Branches of Religion; Volume 5; Page 505).

73 The Holy Qur'an: The Cow (2): 229.

74 The Holy Qur'an: The Night Journey (17): 27. The author has discussed the meaning of this verse in the sixty-second volume of The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh; Page 341.

75 The Complete Branches of Religion; Volume 6; Page 460.

76 See The Encyclopaedia of Fiqh; Volumes 76-77.

77 Seas of Lights; Volume 72; Page 66.

77 The Holy Qur'an: Livestock (6): 36.

78 Grand Ayatollah Mirza Mehdi Al-Shirazi.

79 For example, the price of meat has risen to 48,000 times its original value, milk 75 times its value, and wheat 10,000 times its original value.