The Changing of a Religious Edict According to Time and Place: Part One [changes in developments and capabilites] al-Allamah Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi
By Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi | Translated and abridged by Suhaib Webb
“Modern knowledge and developments provided people of this era with astonishing capabilities unknown to those who preceded them. This can be traced back to the following, knowledge based, revolutions:
- Electronic revolution
- Biological revolution
- Space exploration
- Nuclear revolution
- Electronic revolution
- Information revolution
- Communications revolution
These discoveries provided people with means unknown to those before them and have an effect on rulings and religious edicts.
There are some rulings based on the abilities of a person or community, thus, if these capabilities change, then the ruling changes as well.
An example of this is the classical scholarly opinion related to seeking cures for illnesses. Some scholars considered seeking a cure as unwanted; neither an obligation nor commendable. They considered it to be from the permissible actions with some even stating, “It is better not to seek remedies because their success cannot be guaranteed and their outcomes are suspect.”
However, after today’s advances in medicine, innovations in medical equipment and the progress of drugs and medications, the likes of which those who proceeded us could have never imagined, how could we possibly say to one who suffers from a headache, toothache, hemorrhoids, colic or some other simple ailment, that requires something as simple as an aspirin which is well known, tried and tested, to be patient and bear the pain?
It is not allowable [nor conceivable] for a person to be patient with such an aliment when he has the ability to alleviate it with ease, because failing to do so would result in harming himself without benefit or cause. Regarding this, there is an agreed upon axiom in Islamic Law that states, “There is to be no harm, nor countering with harm.” Thus, if harm occurs it is an obligation to strive to towards its removal. And for that reason the scholars of Islamic law coined the following axioms: “Harm should be removed according to one’s ability” and “Harm is not removed with a greater harm or one equal to it.”
Today people have acquired capabilities [regarding things] which those before them could have never imagined such as growing organs. However, advances in medicine and knowledge have made [by Allah's will alone] the unimaginable became possible and this change lead to new rulings.
Advances in Communication
There is a tradition of the Prophet [may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him] which states: “A man should not enter [after returning from a trip] upon his family during the night.” [related by Muslim from Jabir [ra] Meaning: if a man returns from a trip he should not surprise his family [by returning] during the middle of the night and should delay his arrival until the next day. This prohibition was due to the inability [during those times] of a person to inform his family of his arrival. Thus, the Prophet [may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him] prohibited this in order to allow one’s family to prepare for his arrival and greet him in a proper manner. However, today a person has unlimited access to a mass means of communication: mobile phones, SMS and email by which he can inform his family of his arrival and its time [well ahead of his arrival]. Thus, his arrival would not be of a sudden nature, nor would he startle his family. This is due to the revolution in capabilities and possibilities due to inventions and developments in technology. Thus, without a doubt, this ruling must change and [we can safely say] there is no prohibition related to a man’s returning to his home, after informing his family, at anytime during the night or day.
A Women Relocating with Her Husband:
The Scholars of the Hanafi rite of Islamic jurisprudence stated that, a woman, if her husband has paid her entire dowry, must relocate with him [leave her family] even if he moves to another [distant] country. The latter scholars of the Hanafi rite differed with this and stated that this was the case in previous times because a man was able to secure his wife and family. However, in today’s times [the time in which the latter Hanafi scholars lived] if a woman moved away from her family, her husband could harm her and there would be none to neither look after her, nor defend her honor. Thus, it is her right not to travel with him. [This change of opinion was based on some social phenomenon that took place and needs research]
This, the latter opinion, was based on the fact that communications, in those days, with the woman’s family were next to impossible. However, today a woman, when she moves with her husband can easily reach her family.
Today the world has become one village and we are able to access information at an astonishing pace. Therefore, if the capabilities and possibilities change, then this change will lead to a change in religious edicts and rulings.”
Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi