Before going into this question, we should like to bring forward two points: 

The first point is that most of the people who talk of progress, development and change in a situation suppose that any social change, especially if its source is in the West, is the consequence of progress and development. This is one of the most erroneous ideas entertained by the present generation. These people are under the impression that as the means of life change from day to day, and the imperfect ones are replaced by the perfect ones and as science and industry are constantly advancing, all changes in human life are a sort of progress and advancement and should be welcomed as such. Not only that, they think that such changes are inevitable and have to come with the passage of time. 

In fact, all changes are not the direct result of the advancement of science and industry, nor are they inevitable. While science is progressing, the selfish and animal nature of man is also not idle. Knowledge and wisdom carry man towards perfection and the selfish and animal human nature pushes him towards corruption and perversion. The animal nature of man always tries to utilize knowledge as a means of attaining its base desires. With the passage of time, as progress and development takes place, corruption and perversion also grow. We have to march forward with the advancement of time, but at the same time, we must fight corruption also. The reformer and the reactionary both fight against time, with the difference that the reformer fights against the perversion of time, and the reactionary fights against its progress. If we regard time and its changes as the criterion of all good and evil, then what is the criterion to judge time itself? If everything should conform to time, then what should time conform to? If man should follow time and its changes with folded hands, then what will happen to the constructive and creative role of the human will? Man is riding the vehicle of time, which is in motion. He must not be negligent of guiding and controlling his vehicle. Otherwise, he will be like a person mounted on horseback, who leaves himself to the will of the horse. 


The second point worth mentioning here is that some people have solved the difficult problem of 'Islam and the requirements of time' in a very simple and easy way. They say that Islam is an everlasting religion, and it can be adjusted to every age and every time. But when asked how this adjustment takes place and what its formula is, they at once say that when the circumstances change, the existing laws are repealed and replaced by other laws. They argue that the temporal laws of religion must be flexible and in harmony with the progress of knowledge and science and the expansion of culture and civilization. According to them, such flexibility and adjustability to the requirements of time conform to the spirit of Islam and are not against its teachings. 

They hold that, as the requirements of time are always changing, every age demands a new set of laws. They further hold that the civil and social laws of Islam are in conformity with the simple life of the pre-Islamic Arabs, and are mostly based on their customs and usages. As they are not compatible with the present age, they should be replaced by modern laws. Such people should be asked: If adjustability means capability of being repealed, which law does not have this type of flexibility? Is there any law that is not compatible with time in this sense? This interpretation of flexibility and applicability to all times is exactly like saying that books and libraries are the best means of enjoying life, because whenever one wants enjoyment, one can sell them and spend the money so obtained, on the gratification of one's desires. An Iranian writer says that the teachings of Islam are divided into three parts. The first part consists of basic doctrines, such as Divine Unity, Prophethood, and Resurrection etc. The second part is related to the acts of worship such as prayer, fasting, ablution, ritual cleaning, pilgrimage etc. The third part consists of the laws concerning the life of the people. 

According to him only the first two parts are an integral part of religion, and something to be preserved for ever. As far as the third part is concerned, it is not an integral part of religion, for religion is not concerned with the daily way of life of the people. The Holy Prophet himself did not prescribe these laws as a part of religion, for they were not related to his mission as Messenger. It was only a chance that, as the Head of the State, he had to give some laws also. Otherwise, religion has nothing to do with the worldly life of the people. It is hard to believe that a person living in a Muslim country should be so ignorant of the precepts of Islam. Has not the Qur'an described the aim of the Prophets and the Apostles? Does not the Qur'an expressly say: "We have sent Our Messengers with clear proof and We have sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that people may rise with justice".(1) The Qur'an describes social justice as the main aim of all the Prophets. 

If you like, you may not act on the teachings of the Qur'an, but why do you commit a bigger sin by bringing a calumny against Islam and the Qur'an? Most of our misfortunes are due to the fact that our morals and laws have lost their only source of strength, viz. religion. It is only during the past half a century that we have come to hear the cry that Islam is good, provided it remains confined to the places of worship, and has nothing to do with the society. This cry has burst forth from across the frontiers of the Muslim countries, and has been propagated throughout the Muslim world. To make the purpose of this cry clearer, it may be said that the idea behind it is that Islam should stay as a force to withstand the spread of communism, but when it clashes with the interests of the West, it must go. From the viewpoint of the West, the devotional rites of Islam must continue so that the Muslims, whenever need be, could be stirred up against the atheistic and godless system of communism, but the social rules of Islam which provide a philosophy of life to the Muslims must go, for these rules give the Muslims a sense of independence and separate identity, and prevent their being swallowed up by the greedy West. Unfortunately, the exponents of the thesis that Islam is not concerned with the daily practical life, have ignored certain basic facts. Firstly, Islam, 1,400 years ago, depreciated the principle of, "We believe in certain things (some of the teachings of Islam) and reject the others", and proclaimed that the rules of Islam are irreversible.

Secondly, we believe that the time has come, when the Muslims should not be misled by such deceptive slogans. The critical sense of the people has now, more or less, been awakened, and gradually they are beginning to differentiate between the manifestations of progress and advancement, which are the outcome of the blooming of the scientific and intellectual forces, and the manifestations of corruption and perversion, though their source is in the West. The people of the Muslim world have now, more than ever, become conscious of the value of the teachings of Islam, and have realized that they can lead an independent life only by following them. They are not going to give them up, at any cost. The vigilant Muslims know that the propaganda against Islamic laws is nothing but an imperialistic fraud. Thirdly, the exponents of this thesis should know that Islam, when powerful, withstands any other system, whether it is atheistic or not. Islam wants to dominate the society as a philosophy of life, and does not want to be confined to the 'Mosques' and other places of worship. The Islam which will be restricted to the places of worship, will vacate the field, not only for the Western ideas, but it will vacate it for the anti-Western ideas and doctrines as well. The penalty which the West is paying, in certain Muslim countries, is the result of its not realizing this fact. 

Extracted from the Book: “the Rights of Women in Islam” By: Martyred Morteza Motahhari

Continue in the article: ( ISLAM AND MODERN LIFE (3) )



1. (57 :25)