Translated and Adapted by Yusuf Rios (Abul Hussein)
Principle #16 of the Tract on the 20 Principles of Understanding:
Corrupt practices and customs which are common among people do not change the reality of terms in the Shari`ah nor their aims and meaning. Rather, we must assess and ascertain with certainty the meaning of terms in the Shar’iah and stand guard against distortions and deceptive wordplay in matters pertaining to the here and here-after. What demands careful and scrupulous consideration is not names and terms themselves but what these names stand for and indicate in the Shari`ah. The rule is: “We consider the reality of terms and not terms alone.”
Commentary of Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah al-Khatib al-Azhari and Muhammad Abdul al-Haleem Haamid (r) On Principle 16:
In this principle, Imam Hassan al-Banna (r) asserts the over-arching authority of the Shari`ah over conduct. And secondly that Shari`ah is the central reference for action and not social norms, custom, nor culture. Imam Hassan al-Banna (r) stresses here the importance of grasping the aims, indications and meanings words and terms possess in the Shari`ah. On the other hand, he cautioned against those who misuse the terms of the Shar’iah and lead people into to take up incorrect norms, customs and practices based on a faulty understanding of the Shari`ah. Unfortunately, many fall prey to corrupt custom.