By: Martyred Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari
In the introduction to “Man and his Future” in which I investigated the subject of the greatness and then decay of the Muslims, I recognized that the causes of the decline of the Muslims could be examined under three headings: Islam, the Muslims, and external influences. In that introduction, one of the twenty seven topics which I thought required to be studied and examined with this very topic, and I promised to publish a short book with the title: ‘Islam and the Demands of the Age’, and I had already collected a good deal of notes for it.
In this series of articles, it is not possible to put all the subject matter that should be get forth in a book. I shall, however, explain matters to the extent that I may enlighten the minds of the respected readers on this matter.
The subject of religion and progress is one of those subjects which has been brought up in other religions much more than
It has been for us Muslim. Many of the world’s intellectuals have abandoned religion on because they thought that religion and progress were incompatable. They entertained the idea that having a religion entailed the discontinuance and stopping of, and struggling against, movement and change. In other words they considered religion to be a fixedness, a monotony and solidification of existent forms and patterns.
Nehru, the late Prime minister of India, had anti-religious beliefs, and adhered to no tradition or religion. From his writings it transpires that the thing that he abhorred in religion was its dogmatic aspect and its quality of seeing everything in only one perspective.
In his later years, Nehru felt that something was missing and wanting both in his own self and in the universe, and that this vacuum or gap could not be bridged except by a spiritual force. Despite that feeling, he was afraid of being attached to religion, because of that very stagnancy and uni-perspectivenes which, according, to him, was there in every religion.
An Indian journalist, a Mr. Karanjia (?), had an interview with Nehru towards the end of his life, and that was apparently the last occasion when Nehru gave expression to his view on general universal topics.
During that interview, Karanjia questioned him about Gandhi, and remarked that some intellectuals and progressivists believed that Gandhi, by his perceptive solutions and idealistic and spiritual methods, had weakened and shaken Nehru’s original beliefs in scientific socialism.
In his reply, Nehru told him that it was necessary and good to benefit from spiritual and idealistic methods also, and that he had always believed in them as Gandhi had, and that at the time of speaking it was of great importance and all the more necessary to count on those means. The reason was that in the face of the spiritual vacuum of modern civilization it was necessary, more than before to look for spiritual and ideological answers.
Karanjia, afterwards, put some questions about Marxism and Nehru pointed out some of the shortcomings Marxism and again reverted to the way of spiritual solutions to problems. It was then that Karanjia asked Nehru whether the statements he had just made, with their references to moral and spiritual concepts, did not display a difference from the Jawaharlal Nehru of yesterday. All his statements pointed to the idea that Nehru in the ripening of his age, was in search of God.
Nehru agreed, and said that he had indeed changed and his insistence on the spiritual and moral values had not been without case and consideration. He pointed out that another matter was their created up, and that was how morality and idealism could be raised to a higher level. He again remarked that clearly religion existed for that purpose, but that religion had unfortunately degenerated because of its shortsightedness and its blind adherence to certain lifeless rites and rituals and to the performances of unchanging ceremonies. The outward form and the external shell of religion continued to exist while its spirit and real meaning had been lost.
Islam and the demands of the age:
Amongst all the traditions and religions, none has produced so much influence or as deep an impact on the different aspects of human life as Islam has done. In its procedures Islam is not content only with a series of acts of worship, recitings and incantations and a collection of moral exhortations, but it also deals with the fundamental directions that relationships between human beings should take, and the rights and duties of individuals in respect of each other in various situations, in the same way as it has explained the relations of men with God. So it is only natural that the question of suitability and harmony with the times should he given more attention with regard to Islam.
Incidentally many non-Muslims scholars’ and writers have studied the social and the civil law of Islam and have spoken highly of Islamic laws as a progressive series of laws, and they have draw attention to and commended the living character and enduring nature of this religion and its ability to adapt its laws to the advance of time.
Bernard Shaw, the great English liberal writer said: “I have always had the greatest respect for the religion of Muhammad on account of its extraordinary quality of staying lively. In my opinion, Islam is the only religion which has the ability to harmonize and exert its control over differing circumstances and changing ways of life, and to confront the diversities of the centuries.”
“Thus I predict, and already the signs can be seen, that tomorrow the Faith of Muhammad will become quite accepted in Europe.”
“The theologians of the Middle Ages drew a dark picture of the religion of Muhammad, as a result of their ignorance and prejudices. Because of their malice and fanaticism, he seemed, in their eyes, to be against Christianity. I have read extensively about this man, this extraordinary man, and I have come to the conclusion not only that was he not against Chiristianity, but that he should he called the saviour of mankind. I believe that if such a man as he was to be in charge of the present day world, he would manage to solve the problems and difficulties of the world in such a way that he would ensure the ideal peace and happiness of humanity.”
Dr. Shibli Shumayyil, a Lebanese Arab, professes materialism. He translated the Origin of the Species of Darwin into Arabic for the first time together with the commentary of the German, Buchner, as an appendix, to serve as a weapon against religious beliefs, and he brought it within the reach of Arabic speaking people.
In spite of his being a materialist, he could not restrain himself from admiring and praising Islam and had no reservation about acknowledging its greatness. He always spoke highly of it as a living religion and of its ability to adapt to the times.
In the second volume of his ‘Philosophy of Evolution and Progress” (Falsafatu’n-nushu’ wa’l-irtiqa’), which he published in Arabic, he wrote an article under the title “The Qur’an and Prosperity. (al-Qur’an wa’1- umran) in refutation of an article by a non-Muslim who had travelled in Islamic countries and had put the blame of the decline of the Muslim’s onto Islam.
Dr. Shibli Shumayyil diligently showed in this article that the cause of the decline of Muslims was their deviation from the social teachings of Islam and not Islam itself. He expressed his view that that section of westerners, who attack Islam, either do not understand Islam or else have malicious motives and want to make people in the east cynical towards the laws and prescriptions which, anyway, have disappeared from among them, and thus fix the yoke of subservience around their necks.
In our own times, his question of whether Islam can adapt to the demands of the age, is very commonly asked. I myself have come into contact with different classes of people and especially with those who are educated and well-travelled. I have found no other matter involved to such a degree in controversy.
They sometimes give their questions a philosophic tinge and say that everything in this world is subject to change. Nothing is immutable and fixed. Human society is not an exception to that rule, so how is it possible that a series of social laws can remain always unchanged.
If we attend only to the philosophic aspect of the question, the answer is evident. A thing which is always changing is at one time new and then becomes old. It grows and then decays. It progress and develops, just as the things of this world and its material composites. But the laws of nature are constant. The living organism, for example, has developed and is developing according to a, particular law and scientists have described this law of evolution: living organisms are themselves continually undergoing change and evolving. But what about the laws of change and evolution? Of course, the laws of change and evolution do not change and do not evolve, and we mean the laws themselves. It makes no difference whether the law in question is a natural law, or a derived or man-made law, because it is entirely possible for a derived or man-made law to be derived from nature and the order of things and for that which determines the direction evolution takes to be individuals or human social groups.
However, the questions that are put in connection with the adaptability or non-adaptability of Islam to the demands of the times do not only have a general or philosophic aspect. The question which is repeated more often than any other is that since laws are made according to needs and since a human being’s social needs are not fixed and unchanging, social laws cannot be fixed and unchanging.
This one is a very good and valuable question. Incidentally one of the miraculous aspects of the sure religion of Islam, on account of which every intelligent and sagacious Muslim has a sense of pride and honour, is the fact that Islam will regard to unchanging needs of the individual or society envisages unchanging laws, but that in the case of temporary and changing needs it conceives of a changing attitude. We shall, with the help of Allah, comment on this to the extend that this series of articles permits.
What does time itself conform to?
However, we think it necessary to mention two things before we start discussing this matter. One of them is that most of those people who talk of progress, evolution and change in the present circumstances think that every change that takes place in social conditions, especially when it originates in the west should be counted as evolution and progress; and this is the most misleading idea that has taken hold of people today.
According to these people, because the amenities and conveniences of life change day by day, because the more perfect replaces the more defective and because knowledge and technology is in a state of advancement, all the changes that take place in the life of men are a kind of progress and development, and should be welcomed. For it is the momentum of time and, like it or not, it is bound to have its way.
As a matter of fact, neither are all changes the direct result of knowledge and technology, nor is there any necessity or momentum at work. Although knowledge is in a state of progress, the capricious, rapacious nature of man is not idle. Knowledge and the intellect guide man towards perfection, and the capricious, racious nature of man tries to drag him towards decomposition and deviance. His capricious and rapacious nature is continually trying to turn knowledge into a tool for itself, and to make use of it for the attainment of its carnal and animal appetites. Time has within it decomposition and deviance in the tune way as it has within it progress and evolution. One should advance with the progress of time, but also struggle against decomposition and deviance of time. Both reform and reaction rise up against of time, with the difference that reform takes a stand against the corruption of time and reaction stands in the way if the progress of time. If we consider time and its changes as the final criteria of good and evil, then with what standard can we measure time itself and its changes? If everything has to adapt to time, to what is time to adapt? If man is helplessly dependent on time and its changes, what is the role of the activity, creativeness, and constructiveness of man’s will?
Man steps aboard the vehicle of time while the vehicle is in motion. He should not neglect the stearing and control of that vehicle even for a moment. Those who talk much about the changes of time and neglect to steer and control it have forgotten the role of the effectiveness of man, and are like the rider of a horse who has put himself under the control of the horse.
Adaptation or abrogation?
The second point which has to be mentioned here is that some people have solved the difficulty of Islam and the demands of the times by means of a very simple and easy formula. They say that Islam is an eternal religion and is adaptable to any age and any time. But we want to know how that adaptation is to be brought about and what that formula is. They reply: “Once we see that the temporal circumstances have changed, we forth with abolish the existing laws and establish other laws in their place.”
The writer of the forty proposals has solved this difficulty in the same manner. He says that the worldly laws of religion should be supple and flexible and should be in harmony and conformity with the progress of knowledge, learning and the spread of civilization. And such mildness, flexibility and adaptability with the demands of time is not only not against the lofty teachings of Islam, but is exactly in conformity with its spirit. (Zan-e ruz, no.90, p.75)
The said author writes before and after the above sentences that because the demands of the times undergo change, because every age demands new laws, and because the civil and social laws of Islam are in accord with the simple life of the Arabs of the jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic times), and are frequently the actual customs and traditions of pre-Islamic Arabs and do not conform with the present age, it is necessary that other laws should be passed today in place of these laws.
People with such views should be asked how it is that if the meaning of the conformability of a law with the exigencies of a particular age is its capacity for abrogation, this law does not have that suppleness and flexibility; why is this law not conformable to a particular age.
This justification of the suppleness and adaptability of Islam to the times can be compared to a man who says that books and a library are the best source of pleasures in life. When he is asked to explain himself he says because any time he wants to enjoy himself a man can immediately sell the books and spend the money, thus acquired, on having a good time.
This author says that the teachings of Islam are of three kinds. The first kind are the principles of belief, such as belief in, tawhid (the Oneness of God), the Resurrection, etc The second kind consists of worship such as the preparation and performance of prayer, fasting, purification, cleanliness and the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), etc, and the third kind consists of the laws which are relevant to people’s lives.
The first and the second kinds are a part of religion, and the things which the people should always observe are these very matters. But the third kind is not a part of religion.
Because religion does not have anything to do with people’s lives, and the Prophet did not bring these laws on the grounds that they were a part of religion and related to the obligations of the Message. But, since the Prophet was, the incidentally, the man in charge, he had to deal with these matters also. Otherwise, the function of religion is only to lead people to worship, prayer and fasting. What has religion go to do with the life of this world?
I cannot imagine that someone can live in an Islamic country and be so ignorant of the rationale of Islam?
Has the Qur’an not stated the purpose of sending the Prophets and Messengers? Has the Qur’an not most explicitly stated: “Indeed, we sent our messengers with the clear signs, and we sent down with them the Book and the Balance so that men might uphold justice….” (57:25)
The Qur’an mentions social justice as a fundamental aim of all Prophets.
If someone does not wish to act according to the Qur’an, why should he commit a bigger sin and denigrate Islam and the Qur’an? Most of the misfortunes that have befallen men these days are for this very reason that men have given up the unique support and backing of the very ethics and laws which are religion.
For about fifty years, we have been listening to the song that Islam is quite alright provided it is limited to the mosques and places of worship and does not concern itself with social matters. This song was composed beyond the borders of the Islamic countries, but has been broadcast in all of them. Let me explain this sentence in an easier language so that I can point out the real purpose of the original composers.
The real meaning, briefly, is that as long as Islam stands in the way of and holds back communism it should exist, but when it has an effect on and clashes with the interests of the west it should cease to exist. The prescribed worship of Islam, the view of westerners, should remain, so that when necessity arises people may be aroused against communism on the excuse of its being a atheistic, ungodly system.
However, the social laws must go, because they are the philosophy of life of Muslim people, and because of them Muslims have a feeling of independence and individuality in face of the people of the west, and become difficult to digest in the west’s voracious appetite.
Unfortunately those who originated this idea are victims to a great misunderstanding.
Firstly, it is now fourteen centuries since the Qur’an discredited those who said: (..we believe in some of it and disbelieve in some.. Qur’an) It has announced that dividing up the prescriptions of Islam is unacceptable.
Secondly I think that the time has now come for Muslims to refuse to be taken in by these deceptions. The critical sense of the people has been more or less awakened, and gradually they will begin to discriminate between the appearance of progress and development which is the product of the power of human knowledge and thought on the one hand, and, and the appearance of corruption and decay on the other, irrespective of whether it originates in the west or not.
The people of Islamic countries have more than before realized the value of Islamic teachings and have appreciated what a unique, self-sufficient philosophy of life Islam and its prescriptions represent, and they will at no cost abandon it.
Muslims have realized that the propaganda campaign against Islamic laws is nothing but a colonial ruse.
Thirdly, those who initiated this idea should know that Islam, when in power, can confront any atheistic or non atheistic system and is able to govern a society with a philosophy of life, and it does not need confine itself to mosques and places of worship. If they wish Islam to be imprisoned in places of worship and thus clear the ground for western ways of thought, there is every likelihood of the ground being cleared for other ideologies that are against the western way of thinking.
The fact that the West is today being attacked in some Islamic countries is the fruit of this very mistake.
Man is not the only living creature who lives a gregarious life. Many animals, especially insects, have a social life. They follow series of fixed rule and a wise, disciplined mode of life. The principles of mutual help, division of labour, production and distribution, command and obedience, order and compliance are in force in their social groups.
Bees and some ants and termites have been favoured with a civilization, discipline and organization which human beings, who consider themselves the noblest of creatures, would take years if not centuries to catch up with.
Their civilization, unlike human civilization, did not pass through eras such as the primitive jungle period, the Stone Age, the Iron Age and the nuclear age. They attained the same civilization and organization that they at present have on the day they were brought into existence on this earth, and no change has occurred in their condition. It is only the human being, whose life, according to the Qur’an: (..and the man was created weak… Qur’an 4:28) begins from zero and moves forward without stop.
For animals, the exigencies of the times are always the same, and do not further disturb their lives. For them the desire for modernization and a love for what is new has no meaning. The new world and the old world do not exist. Science does not make new discoveries for them every day, and does not upset the pattern of their lives. Light and heavy technologies do not invade their market every day with new and better products. Why? Because they live by instinct and not by instinct.
Man on the other hand, is different. His social life is always subject to change and transformation. Every century the world changes for man. The secret of man’s being the noblest of creatures also lies in this. Man is a fully-grown and mature son of nature. He is created with the state and the capacity of not having to stand in need of the direct guidance and protection of nature, nor of that mysterious power called instinct. He lives by intellect and not by instinct.
Nature has acknowledged human beings as being mature in mind and has left them as independent beings and withdrawn its direct control from them. All that an animal can do according to instinct and under the influence of untransgressable natural laws, must be done by a human being with the power of the intellect, through knowledge and according to positive laws and the shari’ah which it is possible to disobey. The root-cause of all the corruption and waywardness perpetrated by human beings in the course of progress and development, of decline, degeneration, collapse and destruction also lies here.
Just as the roads of progress and development are open for human beings, so also are the roads of corruptions and deterioration not closed for them.
Human beings have been given the status of carrying upon their shoulders, in the words of the Qur’an, the burden of trust which the skies, the earth, and the mountains could not bear. In other words, human beings consented to live an independent life and accepted the responsibility of duty and laws. By that very account they cannot be immune from transgression, ignorance, self-aggrandizement and wrong doings.
In the same place where the Qur’an mentions the unique ability of human beings to bear the burden of trust and responsibility, it goes on, without a pause, to ascribe to them their tendency to be transgressors, and ignorant also.
These two possibilities in a human being, namely the possibility for development and the possibility for decline, cannot be separated from each other. A human being is not like an animal who, within his collective life, does not move a step forwards nor a step backwards, neither moving to the right nor to the left. There is in human life sometimes a move forwards and sometimes a move backwards, and if there is movement and speed, there is also stopping and slowing-down. If there is progress and development, there is also decay. If there is justice and virtue there is also injustice, vice and degeneration. If there are manifestations of knowledge and the intellect, there are indications of ignorance and sensuality also.
There is always the possibility that the changes and new ideas and values that spring up in a particular period may be disadvantageous and injurious for mankind.
Rigid people and ignorant people:
One of the characteristics of human beings is their tendency to go to extremes. If a man has moderate views, he tries to separate changes of the first kind from changes of the second kind. He tries to move forward in time with the power of knowledge, initiative, endeavour and hard work. He tries to adapt himself to manifestations of progress and advance in his age, and simultaneously tries to cheek the mistaken directions taken in his times and refuses to conform to them.
However, it is unfortunately not always like this. There are two dangerous diseases that always threaten man in this connection. These are: the disease of inflexibility and conventionalism, and the disease of naivity and instability. The consequence of the former disease is stagnation, stopping, and keeping back from advance and development, while the consequence of the latter disease is backsliding and taking the wrong direction.
A conventional, inflexible person hates everything that is new and accept nothing but the old, while the naive, unstable person counts every newly manifested thing as permissible in the name of a “necessity of the times” or modernity and progress. An inflexible person considers every new thing to be a corruption and a deviation, and the naive person counts each and every new thing as ‘civilization’ and an extension of knowledge and learning.
An inflexible person does not distinguish between the kernel and the shell, the means and the end. To him, religion has the responsibility of protecting ancient traditions. In his view, the Qur’an was revealed for the purpose of stopping the flow of time and nailing down the situation of the world exactly as it is.
In his view, the recitation of the last part of the Qur’an, writing with a red pen, using a traditional box, taking ones bath in a traditional bath house, eating with the hand, using oil-lamps for lighting, staying unlettered and uneducated should all be preserved as religious observances. A naïve progressivist on the other hand, wants to know even new fashion, and new idea that has started in the west, and promptly follows them and calls them modernization and requirements of the times.
Both the conventionalist and the naive progressivist agree in supposing that any situation obtaining in times gone by was a part of religious commandments and rites. The difference lies in this: the conventional person deduces the conclusion that those rites ought to be maintained and preserved, and the progressivist that religion is inextricably connected to the worship of the past, love of fixedness and stagnation.
In the recent past the problem of incompatibility between science and religion has been a subject of keen discussion and controversy among the people of the west. The idea of incompatibility between science and religion arose basically because of two reasons. One of them was that the church maintained that certain matters of old science and philosophy were religious matters, and should, from the religious point of view, be accepted as dogma and then scientific advances showed these ideas to be wrong. Besides that, it was also due to the fact that the sciences altogether altered and reformed the pattern of life.
Religious conservatives wanted to bring the outward material form of life under the rule of religion, just as they had done with philosophical matters, giving them a religious tinge. The naive and the ignorant also thought that this was the case, and imagined that religion viewed the material life of people as a having a particular form and pattern. And when the material form of life had to be changed according to the judgement of science, science proclaimed that religion had been abrogated.
The inflexibility of the first group together with the ignorance of the second brought about the illusory idea that science and religion were incompatible.
The story in the Qur’an
Islam is a religion which moves forward and carries forward. So as to remind Muslims that they should always be in a state of growth, development and evolution, but within the framework of Islam, the Qur’an compares the followers of Muhammad (s.a.w.a) to a seed that is sown in the ground. That seed grows forth in the form of a tiny tender leaf, and afterwards strengthens itself and stands erect on its stem. It passes through stages with such speed and strength that farmers are surprised and joyful over it.
This is an example for that society towards which the Qur’an points. Development is one of those goals towards which the Qur’an directs. The Qur’an lays the foundation of a society which is continuously in a state of growth, extension, dilation and expansion.
Will Durant said that no religion has called its followers with such strength as Islam has done. The history of the advent of Islam shows how vigorous and strong Islam was in establishing society anew and making it progress.
It is against both inflexible conservatism and ignorant naivity. The danger which threatens Islam comes both from the region of the first group and from the region of the latter group The conservatives, the inflexibly minded, and those who like to show that every old thing belongs to Islam, when, in fact, it may have no connection with the pure religion of Islam, have given the naive progressivists an excuse to count Islam against development in its true sense. On the other hand, the imitation, fashion-worshipping, and aping of the west, and the belief that the prosperity of eastern people lies in their being physically and spiritually, outwardly and inwardly, westernized, gives the naive people the idea that they should take on all of the customs, manners and traditions of the west, that the civil and social laws should all be made to conform to western laws. They make the conservative group look pessimistically at every thing new and consider it a danger for their religion, their independence and their national and social status.
In the middle of all this, it is Islam that can amend the mistake of both groups.
The attitude of the conservatives gives good cause for the assaults and attacks of the progressivists, and the stupidities of the progressivists make the conservatives all the more adamant. It is strange that the apparently civilized progressivists suppose that time cannot produce mistakes and errors. Do they think that the changes of time are brought about not by man but by some other being? Since when and from what date has mankind become entirely infallible and thus made the changes of time free from any error or mistake?
Just as man makes new discoveries in every age for the benefit of humanity under the influence of his scientific, moral, aesthetic and religious inclinations, so he is also under the influence of his egotism, ambition, sensuality and greed for wealth and exploitation. Just as man is successful in making new inventions and finding out better ways and means of living, he is also, from time to time liable to make errors and mistakes. Any how, the self-centered progessivist does not understand these words. He always repeats his cliche that the world today is what it is.
What is even stranger is that these people think of the fundamentals of life in the same way they think of their shoes, hats and clothes. Just as shoes and hats are once new and then become worn out and have value when new and just out of the factory and must be purchased then, but must be caste away when they are old, so all the realities of the universe are like this. The idea of these naive progressivists in respect of the good and bad of a thing is nothing except its being new or old. According of them feudalism, that is to say, some powerful man unlawfully and forcibly calling himself a master, establishing himself comfortably while hundreds of hands work in order to feed that mouth, is bad, not in itself, but because it has now become out-dated and the world today does not accept it. Its time is no more, and now it is considered as obsolete. Naturally, at the beginning, when such a thing first appeared and was brand-new on the world market, it was good.
According to them, it is bad to exploit women because the world today no longer approves of it and does not tolerate it but yesterday, when the world did not acknowledge the right of inheritance for women did not accept their right of ownership and did not pay any heed to their opinion and views, that too was once new, and had then come newly into the market.
According to people like them, because this age is the space age and it is therefore impossible to abandon the aeroplane and ride a mule, to ignore electricity and light an oil lamp, to disregard large spinning mills and use a hand spinning wheel, to torn, a blind eye on giant printing machine and write by hand, so also it is impossible to avoid dances, not to take part in bathing and picnic parties, not to get drunk and cavort around, not to play poker, not to wear skirts above the knees, because all these things are the phenomena belonging to the modern age. If these things are not done, it would mean a return to the age of mule-riding.
How many individuals have been ruined and what countless number of families have been wrecked by the phrase “the signs of the times”.
They say it is the age of science, the era of the atom, the age of the satellite, and the epoch of rockets. Very well, we also thank Allah that we live in this age and time and in this epoch and era and wish that we may increasingly and in a better way take advantage and derive benefit from science and art. Not withstanding that, a question arises — have all the other incentives and motivating factors become dried up except the fountain head of knowledge? Are all the phenomena of this century the result of nothing but scientific progress? Does science claim that the nature of the individual scientist has been completely subjugated, made obedient and humanised?
Science does not make such a claim for the individual scientist, and that is why a group of scientists and scholars can undertake research and make discoveries with the utmost purity and sincerity of purpose, while groups of power-hungry, ambitious and money-worshipping people employ the results of their scientific labour to attain their nefarious purposes. The loud complaint of science is always that it has become the object of exploitation by man’s unrulv nature. The preoccupation and misfortune of our age is this very thing.
Science takes a step forward in the field of physics and discovers the laws of light, but a group of profiteers make the same discovery a means to make films with unforeseebly destructive results. The science of chemistry advances, and finds out how to make new compounds, whereupon some people begin to think how to profit from this advance and cook up a catastrophe for the human soul and call it heroin. Science finds its way to the heart of the atom, and harness its wonderful power, but before any plans for its use for the betterment of humanity could be made, the power-hungry men of the world manufactured bombs from it and then dropped them on innocent people.
When a celebration was held in honour of Einstein, the great scholar of the 20th century, he himself mounted the rostrum and said, “In whose honour are you going to hold this celebration — one whose talents have been the source for the preparation of the atom bomb?”
Einstein did not use his intellectual power for the preparation of a bomb, but the ambitions of another group did exploit his genius.
Heroin, the atom bomb, this or that kind of film can never be accepted just because they are “signs of the time”. If the most perfect bomb were to be dropped by the most ingenious array of instruments by a model pilot on innocent people, the savagery of the act would not be lessened in the least.
The main argument of the people who say that in family duties we should follow western patterns is that time, and, with it, social values have changed, and the exigencies of the twentieth century demand that we follow them. Thus if we do not make our view regarding this point clear, our further discussions will be incomplete.
If we were to undertake a full and thorough discussion of this question, there would not be enough space in this series of articles, because many aspects need to be dealt with and examined. Some of them are philosophical, some to do with religious jurisprudence, and others moral and social. I hope to be able to discuss those points in detail in a book, Islam and the Exigencies of the Modern Age, which I intend to write. The preparatory notes are ready, and I shall examine the material in detail and present it before those interested.
At present, it will be enough to clarify two points: Firstly, keeping up with the times is not as simple a matter as these ill-informed claimants imagine, and as they repeat with their clichés. With time, there is both progress and going astray. One should move forward according to the advance of time, but fight against being led astray by time. To discriminate between the two one should look to see from which origins new phenomena and currents rise forth, and in what direction they flow. It must be determined from which of the drives and urges of man’s existence they have sprung, and from which of his social groupings. Does the change arise from the higher, human drives of man; or from his lower, animal urges? Have men of knowledge and science and their selfless study brought about these changes; or have the indulgence status seeking and desire for wealth of the corrupt strata of society? These matters have been fully explained in the preceding two articles.
By: Martyred Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari