I begin with the name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
“And if the truth had been in accordance with their desires, verily, the heavens and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have been corrupted! Nay, We have brought them their reminder (Qur’an), but they turn away from their reminder.” Qur’an 23:71
Islam as a belief system is as old as the creation of man, The theme has always been the same (submitting to the will of Allaah and worshipping Him alone), though the legislative rules of various messengers were not the same, the legislative rules, codes of conducts, manual for human existence brought by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a culmination of the message of all the previous messengers. Nothing is left untouched in the Qur’an, be it for spiritual attainment or for worldly attainment, if it is not found in details then it is captured in a general statement.
Being the religion of Allaah Exalted be He, as He states: “truly, the religion with Allaah is Islam” Qur’an 3:19, there can not be any room for controversy nor irrelevance as far as the teachings of the religion are concerned. Controversies thrive when there is no adequate scholarship leading to a lopsided understanding of the religion or when human desires take control of their sense of justice and sincerity. Those of earlier generations that came before the later generations understood the provisions of the religion and made excellent use of them to the best of their abilities. Hence, they became leaders in their various fields. Islam contains science, geography, oceanography, anatomy, surgery, commerce and trade, social values, norms and many more. Qur’an has science in it but it is not a Book of science rather it is a Book of signs.
Furthermore, those of earlier generation that were proud of Islam and never felt inferior that it lacked the strength to survive the tide of their era, were empowered by Allaah Exalted be He, such that they advanced in the fields of medicine, surgery, economist, mathematics, neurology, geography, physics and even initiated the first idea of airplane as was the case of Abbas ibn Firnas. They saw the religion as the legitimate source of intellectual advancement, not a retrogressive set of rules forming a stumbling block to scientific and technological advancement. Islam has all it takes to survive all eras, it does not need any form of interpolation nor subtraction to fit in.
Conservatism in Islam must be viewed from an accurate perspective so as to have the real understanding of what it means in the true sense of the word. The dictionary meaning says: “it is the commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation”. This needs further clarification because conservatism as it relates to Islam is the commitment to traditional values and ideas brought by the Prophet of Islam with opposition to anything or anyone that seeks to change these values and ideas and equally a resistance to innovations in the acts of worship (not in science, medicine, engineering, technology, agriculture) which are clearly not in accordance with the known tenets of the Shari’ah (Islamic legislation), otherwise conservatism in Islam is synonymous to progressiveness because those traditional values and ideas are eternal never to be outlived by any value system or ideology.
Interestingly, Islam is already ahead of the modern era. So if it is seen as being archaic or having some rules that need to be adjusted in order to be consistent with the modern era, then it can safely be said that it is an effort that has failed even before it started. It took the scientific world hundreds of years after Qur’an was revealed to discover the waves in the depth of oceans whereas it has been captured in Qur’an 24:40 “Or like the darkness in a vast deep sea, overwhelmed with waves topped by waves, topped by dark clouds, (layers of) darkness) upon darkness: If man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it…”
Regarding inheritance, which covers the aspect of social justice (I stand to be corrected) the Islamic rules can never be outdated no matter how socially advanced humans claim to be because the One that legislated the formula of inheritance between the heirs; male and female is the Lord of justice and equity. Not to discuss the nitty-gritty of it, but a testimony of a non-Muslim Professor of King’s college, London will force any Muslim with a sane and balanced understanding to have a rethink whenever the thought of viewing some Islamic rules as being outlived crosses the mind. Professor Almaric Rumsey, a barrister-at-law who has authored many books on Islamic law of inheritance said: “the Muslim law of inheritance, comprises beyond question the most refined and elaborate system of rules for the devolution of properties that is known to the civilized world.”
The adherents of the true teachings of Islam do not go to the extremes in denouncing the fact that certain fatwa (rulings) do change according to times and circumstances and some do not change no matter what, except if one is forced to do certain things or is sick in which case the doctrine of waiver is adopted. This aspect of the Shari’ah is captured in the juristic principle opined by some scholars that “لا ينكر تغير الأحكام بتغير الزمان” (changing rulings according to changing times is not to be denounced) as it states in Majallat al-Ahkaam al-Adliyyah al-Maaddah.
The Fataawa (rulings) which are possibly subject to change as the time changes are those derived from the customs and traditions of the people while those not subject to change are those derived directly from the Shari’ah and not based on custom and tradition. This second type of rulings include commands and prohibitions, adultery, riba (usury), protecting people’s rights, alcohol drinking, stealing, Hijab. While the first type of rulings is accommodated in the legal maxim of the Shari’ah that states that: “ العادة محكمة” (custom is a source for rulings) as long as the custom is not contradicting the established Shar’ee rulings. Hence, Islam is dated not to be outdated.
Nothing of any civilization no matter how advanced it seems should make any Muslim suggest that Islam is lagging behind, rather we should encourage Muslims, men, women and children to exert more effort in seeking knowledge from the right sources, to be more diligent in their various legitimate endeavors and distance themselves from anything that will lead to changing the rules of Allaah. Other religions were bastardized when men thought that there was need to amend the rules to fit into the civilization. The objectives of the Qur’an are stated in clear terms and cannot be undermined by interpretations based on illusions. “And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice. None can change His Words. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” Q6:115
Twitter: @Penabdull; Instagram: @Penabdul