This would be my conclusive post building upon the character of tradition as portrayed in the first three entries of this series (1, 2, 3). I would very concisely highlight few important areas of thought which can be viewed from alternate perspectives by traditionalist and non traditionalist alike if they revisit their notion of the concept tradition.
Belonging to one or multiple traditions would seem totally at place if it is understood as a critical indulgence in our past in order to make our existence meaningful. I have briefly adumbrated in the last post that such a critical enterprise is necessary if we want to create and maintain different forms of knowledge in order to help us understand the world around us.
Which tradition(s) should one associate himself with?
Unless it is understood as a meaningful participation, people do not like to play their parts in keeping a conversation alive. Therefore the responsibility of keeping the tradition(s) alive solely rests upon the soulders of people who are existing in present and haven’t faded away in history themselves. The question above is generally asked when people (or a specific group of people) associate themselves with a particular tradition thereby making a statement that rest of the conversations are not worthy of their attention. Such statements set forth the foundation of a duality with groups of people on extremes deafening the atmosphere in between with noises of their respective conversations. It is very important to understand that different traditions can coexist simultaneously in a person simply because he is unable to understand the world around him in one language.
Traditions within a Tradition.
Sometimes in our effort to preserve a specific tradition we tend to confuse it with the concept of history. A living tradition is not like an event in history but an ever renewed phenomena needing fresh participants. While events in history ‘happen’ tradition has to be ‘created’ and ‘maintained’ if its character is understood as something built on eternal foundations. Such a living tradition should not be understood as a single converstion but a cluster where different conversations keep losing their signifcance and others keep gaining dominance. This nature of tradition should be understood as a normal phenomena. A valid example is of several Muslim Traditions belonging to the same Islamic Tradition and constantly keep enriching it in past as well as present.
The Art of Conversation – Education of Tradition or Traditional Education .
Active and meaningful participation in this figurative conversation cannot be attributed to human instinct. In other words its a behavior we have to learn and not something rooted in our creation. The process of this learning comprises of both formal and informal means of education. Keeping this in perspective, ‘education of tradition’ and ‘traditional education’ are two essentially different processes of learning. While former is a way to teach people how to imbibe a particular behavior, latter is way to protect the meanings of a mythical past from being contaminated by the contemporary concerns. This is based on an erroneous assumption that the organic link between the past and the present is broken and many unwanted dualities are imminent.
I have just tried to provide here a sketch how various dichotomies and conflicts are founded on a false concept of tradition. The brands of dualities within Islam are not mentioned on purpose because the debate on Tradition Vs Modernism is not necessarily an Islamic debate. Though Islam has been at the forefront in prompting that debate at first place. A lot can be built on each of these concepts if we want to shed more light with specific focus on Islam. I leave it as a ceaseless exercise for later, insha’Allah.
1. Another subtle difference highlighted by Dr. Yedullah Kazmi