SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)-
By: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba’i
It is a matter of fact that Islam has failed to keep up with the times. This has rendered it incompatible with modern life. I don’t see how anyone could reasonably deny this truth.
To say that Islam is incompatible with modern life is nonsense. The passing of time does not bring about any substantial change that would necessitate a fundamental alteration of social law; night and day are the same; our planet has remained unchanged for millennia. What has changed is humankind’s increasing expectations and needs as the result of the rapid progress of technology. The pleasures that kings of the past could not dream of are being sought by today’s poor. This change in the social mood is similar to the change of mood that an individual undergoes in response to varying circumstances.
Let me illustrate this by a simple example. An impoverished person strives primarily to satisfy his hunger. Once he has enough food, he starts worrying about his clothing. And when that is solved, he makes plans to buy a house, marry, and have children. Then, he strives to increase his wealth, acquire fame, and indulge himself with as many entertainments as he can manage.
Laws of modern civilized societies are based on (or so it is claimed) the will of the majority, even when what they will is harmful to them; the majority disregards the minority will, even if it is in the interests of the entire society. Islam, however, takes a different position. In its law, Islam sets the primordial human nature as the criterion. Islamic law is based on the human being’s peculiar constitution and the various faculties embedded therein. Thus, Islam seeks to secure the real interests of humankind, irrespective of the will of the majority. It is such a law that Islam decrees as the shari‘ah.
The shari‘ah is not susceptible to change, for it is based on the human being’s immutable nature. Of course, in addition to its unchanging law, the shari‘ah, Islam allows for certain temporary regulations to accommodate the changing conditions of human society.
The relation of these temporary regulations to the shari‘ah is analogous to the relation of statutes established by a state’s parliament, which can be revoked, to its constitution, which is permanent and irrevocable. Thus Islamic law authorizes the Islamic head of state to enact, within the framework of the shari‘ah, regulations necessary for meeting the needs caused by various circumstances. But as soon as those circumstances change, the regulations decreed to accommodate them automatically expire, while the shari‘ah remains intact.
Based on the abovementioned, Islamic law has two sets of rules. One set comprises those rules that are based on the immutable human nature and is designated as the shari‘ah; the other consists of temporary regulations enacted by the Islamic head of state in response to various circumstances. An example of the latter is the body of regulations required to secure safe transportation, regulations that were unnecessary before modern means of transportation were invented.
Islam’s Agreement with the Primordial Human Nature
Wouldn’t you agree that many of the regulations that were established in the early years of Islam, over 1400 years ago, need to be modified?
In this regard see the answer to the previous question. I will once again underscore that the basis of Islamic law is human nature not the whim of the majority. God, the Exalted, says: “Set your heart on the religion as a people of pure faith, the origination of God, according to which He originated humankind. There is no alteration in God’s creation.” Surah al-Rum 30:30