Understanding Tradition
Nazim Baksh
Guyana born Nazim Baksh is an award-winning investigative journalist and producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and has worked extensively in Afghanistan, Pakistan and most recently reported from Guantanamo Bay. 
By Nazim Baksh
Published on 09/28/2007

Tradition can mean many things to many people, but to the mainstream community of believers its meaning is both understood and agreed upon

When Muslims in the West describe themselves as traditional, it might seem as if they are adding yet another label to a dizzying array of social and religious typologies that already exist in their communities. The concern with defining tradition is not a vain attempt to reframe the Enlightenment debate of reason versus revelation, or tradition versus modernity. Rather, tradition, albeit the Islamic Tradition, is the gladiator's arena where the most bitter conflict for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims is taking place.

The word tradition comes from the Latin traditio, meaning to hand down or to pass on knowledge or truths embodied in ritual practices, culture and beliefs from a past authority to subsequent generations within a religious community. The central purpose of a tradition is to act as a bridge between then and now, between a sacred moment in history and the profane present. Tradition is much more than just a word or a concept; it is a paradigm.

In the Islamic context, Tradition is the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. It is the way of the Prophet when he walked on Earth.