Are Qur-aanic Teachings Currently Applicable?

Q Are Qur-aanic Teachings practical after 1400 hundred years when so much has changed? Considering the current circumstances, how can they all be practiced or implemented without abandoning some of them or without taking a gradual approach?

A Let us be clear on the first point first: The Islamic teachings and Allaah’s commandments are permanent for all human beings for all times to come until the Day of Judgment. None of the commandments of Allaah are of temporary nature. If Ŝalaah is good for people, there is no doubt it always was and always will be good for people. The same is true for Zakaah, charity, truthfulness, fairness, justice, honesty, etc. If alcohol is not good for human beings to consume, it never was a good idea and it never will be.

The same is true for zina (fornication), riba (interest), gambling, lying, cheating, killing, etc. This is because Islamic laws are based on the perfect knowledge of Allaah SWT about human nature, and the human nature, psyche, motives or desires do not change with time. What changes with the passage of time are the tools, technology and means that people use to fulfill their desires. For example, swords may be replaced with guns or rifles, and stones with neutron bombs, but the human motives, reasons, psychology, etc. behind the war still remain the same. Propaganda may change from word-of-mouth to sophisticated TV clips, but the goals, mentality, reasons, etc. behind it remain the same. Since human nature is constant, the laws of Allaah will remain the same until the end of the world.

For the second question, we need to tackle it separately for individual Muslims and Muslim societies as well as for new Muslim individuals.

When a society has moved away from Islam completely and considerably, or when a new society is coming to Islam, one cannot expect that as soon as they decide to live by Islam, the next day the whole Islamic system will instantly fall in place. There has been no technology invented, and there will never be one, that will revolutionize all the systems working in society of people in seconds, minutes, hours or even days. Systems of societies change gradually, though the timing may have to be fast paced and accelerated. That is why there was a certain amount of prioritization and graduation in the implementation of Islam at the time of Prophet ŜA‘WS in Arabia. There are a few verses of the Qur-aan that indicate gradual implementation of Allaah’s laws. Those verses are well known. For example, prohibition of alcohol occurred in three stages. However, this point should not be misunderstood. Wherever there was a series of graduated commands, the current law for the Muslims is the last commandment of Allaah, not the interim gradual steps. For example, a Muslim cannot use the two interim verses about alcohol to justify any of his actions. Every Muslim will be judged on the basis of the final commandment of Allaah about complete abstinence from alcohol.

While keeping in mind the point that the current Islamic law is the final commandment of Allaah on any topic, the implementation of complete Islam in a society will still have to happen in rapidly-occurring successive stages. In this rapid step-by-step implementation, the guide for setting priorities and the order of implementation will be the Qur-aan itself. Allaah SWT has put the verses and Soorahs of the Qur-aan in a certain order of sequence for our benefit. The part of the Qur-aan from Soorah Al-Baqarah to Soorah Al-Maaidah provides a complete map of how Islam should be re-implemented in a society. The implementation should start with the commands and topics covered in Al-Baqarah, then those covered in Aali ‘Imraan and then those in An-Nisaa, in such a way that the whole Islamic system is implemented by the time the topics and commands mentioned in Soorah Maaidah are implemented, wherein the completion of Deen has been announced.

Muslim individuals, as mentioned earlier, must continue to practice all Islamic teachings in their individual capacities according to all current and final laws of Islam. They remain accountable to Allaah SWT on the basis of all of the final commandments of Allaah SWT, not on the basis of any of the interim commands. However, you cannot expect a convert to Islam on the very first day of his/her accepting Islam to completely abide by every teaching of Islam. Initially, you might just work with them to strengthen their faith. Then one by one, day by day, you will keep changing him to Islamic ideas, thoughts, actions and practices. After a short transitional period, the new Muslim also has to abide by all Islamic teachings as other Muslims.

November 10, 1999

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