Quran for All Times (2)
If Quran’s verses are not applicable anymore, why did they need to be in Quran?
The way I understand is that all of Quran is applicable for all times to come, but Quran itself clarifies that certain commandments required certain circumstances. Verses of intoxicants are an example – let us say there is a society where drinking is legalized today, the approach would be to apply those verses initially that do not punish the believers but just prohibit them. Or for instance, in West, if someone was in the habit of drinking, we wouldn’t argue that they should be flogged (since the prerequisite of a state law, and because the society and a system that ban drinking doesn’t exist), but rather convince them that it is in fact a vile that they should stay away from.
I also thought that Hazrat Umar (ra) declared that a thief’s hands not be cut because conditions were no longer there for the verse to apply.
Same is the case for the verses that apply to messengers. Quran’s commands are applicable for all times whenever the condition of a messenger of God is true, but we don’t have a messenger anymore. However, they were also applicable for messengers before Muhammad (pbuh). Those verses still provide us guidance about the rule of the messengers and how did God deal with the opponents of messenger – they are thus applicable for guidance today.
Having said that, there is obviously commands that were applicable to the Prophet (pbuh)’s personality and I think that is easiest to explain just by bringing one example: the Prophet (pbuh) was allowed to take more than four wives in marriage and Quran clarified that.
There is guidance in it for us in those verses too, for if these verses were non-existent in Quran, we would be misled because of our history and would not know what had really happened. That guidance is applicable today as well. Same is the case with all the other verses that you might present as ‘not applicable for all times’, but I would say ‘provide guidance for all times’, and by their guidance they also specify conditions or applicability to a small set of persons.
To understand your opinion better, why, in your opinion were the verses that you have referred to were kept in the Quran by the Almighty for us? I ask because, for instance, many scholars opine that not a single verse of Quran is needless – from your email, it seems that these verses are needless, if I understand you correctly that is.
All Quranic verses were applicable for all times to come means that they still apply practically on us and we have to follow them. If the Quran says “Kill the polytheists wherever you find them” (9:5), it must apply and should be allowed today as well. If the Quran allowed physical relations with slave girls, that permission must hold good even today etc. That is the kind of understanding that emerges if we make the claim of applicability for all times to come. The Quranic claim is that it is “zikra lil’alamin”, (reminder for all mankind) “lil’alamina nazira” (enables the prophet to become a Warner for the entire mankind), and “hudallinnaas” (guidance for mankind). None of these expressions is implying that all its injunctions were practically applicable for all times to come.
Most certainly whatever is in the Quran is important for us even today. However, that reality doesn’t mean that all of it is practically binding for us to follow too for all times to come.
For an example to see whether the Quranic guidance is applicable to us, read surah Quraish:
“For the protection of the Quraish – their protection during their trading in the winter and the summer – so let them serve the Lord of this House, Who feeds them against hunger and gives them security against fear.” (106:1-4)
This surah has a message which was not directly applicable to even all the people of Arabia who were present at the time of the revelation of the Quran. It was directly relevant for the people of the tribe of Qur’ash alone. However, it was important that its message be preserved in the Quran for us to read it to enable us to know how and under what circumstances the Almighty enabled His messenger to deliver His message for it to ultimately prevail over the entire Arabian Peninsula and even beyond.
Your explanation of verses implying temporary permission of intoxicating drinks is valid. However, such explanation would help only in some cases. It wouldn’t help in explaining the entire text of the Quran.
I have not mentioned anywhere, nor do I believe that any of the verses of Quran was needless. Need can be of different kinds. One very important need is to know how our prophet, alaihissalaam, was able to overcome different forms of resistance to achieve the remarkable feat that he did. It is very much my need even today to know it and as a result to reinforce my faith in him and the message he brought. That purpose is one thing and to suggest that what practically applied to him and his companions did likewise apply to us as well is quite another. It is this latter possibility which I am denying in the case of some verses which very clearly don’t practically apply to us.
I repeat my conviction: If you read the Quran with an open mind, you can never form the opinion that all the Quranic injunctions and guidance were practically binding on all Muslims for all times to come. This fact must be clarified to Muslims and non-Muslims alike or else we will not be communicating the true message of the Quran to them.
It is extremely important that we make an earnest attempt to understand what the Quranic message is. We must never yield to the pressures of what people say or what our desires demand to force the Quran to speak a message which is not original to its own text.