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In the earliest days of the human race, Adam and Eve, who founded the first generation, had two sons, Cain and Abel. For no good reason, the elder brother, Cain, became angry and killed his younger brother, Abel. This was a very serious crime, after which God sent His guidance to the prophet of that time. This divine guidance is quoted thus in the Qur’an: That was why We laid it down for the Children of Israel that whoever killed a human being—except as a punishment for murder or for spreading corruption in the land—shall be regarded as having killed all mankind, and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as having saved all mankind. (5:32)

Why does God Almighty say that killing a person is like killing all mankind, and giving life to a person is like giving life to all mankind? This question underlines the importance of tradition. As the saying goes, ‘It requires a lot of history to make a little tradition’. This means that if you want to establish a good tradition in society, you need several precedents to make it a social norm; moreover, if you have established a wrong tradition in society, it again needs a long process of change to abolish this wrong tradition and replace it with a healthy tradition. Society does not abide by laws but by traditions. Laws have a very limited role in social reform. The same is true of the family.  Both behave strictly according to traditions and not in obedience to any kind of laws. Therefore, in the case of the family and also in the case of society—even in the case of a nation, one must be very prudent in this regard.  

One example of the lack of prudence is the fostering of the present concept of freedom. In present times, people generally take freedom as the summum bonum or the greatest good. This modern concept of freedom has broken all those traditions that have been a part of every society for the past thousands and thousands of years. For example, whereas the ancient societies were based on the concept of human duties, the present concept of freedom has wiped out the former concept of human duties, replacing it with an overemphasis on human rights. For this reason, we see that everywhere people are rights-conscious rather than duty-conscious. The entire fabric of society has been upset by this change. Be very cautious, therefore, about tampering with those traditions which relate both to the family and to society.

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