Should there be Amendments in Islamic injunctions after the Industrial Revolution? By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani

Compiled by: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

Islam and the industrial revolution

Life is constantly on the move. Every new era is associated with new circumstances and fresh problems. But the great revolution which the world has experienced after the invention of the Machine has affected every sphere of life. It has opened the doors of research and observation for every art and science and has created some new problems in every section of life. If we look into the teachings of religions other than Islam we find that they are not capable of absorbing the great revolution in them. The fountainhead of these teachings was human intellect rather than the Divine Revelation (Wahy), hence they had neither a full cognition of human nature nor were they based on the considerations of changing circumstances of time, nor did they have an insight on the possible future happenings. The result is that most of the original teachings of those religions have died under loads of machines.

Now there exist only two possibilities before the followers of these religions. They have to say goodbye to their religion if they want to keep pace with the march of time, and if their religion is dearer to them they have to turn away from the light of thought and cognition and make themselves an isolated group of people who do not belong to the twentieth century. However, some people have designed an intermediary way to reshape and modify their religion in order to make it practicable for the present time. But, obviously, he is the follower of his own whims and not his true religion. In this case, he is deprived of the religion he followed before.

But the matter of Islam is totally different. This is the only religion in the world whose guidance is ever fresh. No revolutions and circumstances make it old. It is fresh today and it will remain fresh as long as the world exists. The reason is obvious. Its precepts and injunctions are not the product of the human brain which is unaware of the coming events. The source of its teachings is the Divine Revelations. The Being who made it the code of life for Mankind is the One who is the Creator of Mankind and the entire universe. He has full knowledge of Man’s nature and his needs. He is fully aware of the changing circumstances and He knows what is going to happen when and where.

It is the miracle of His words that the rules and regulations laid down by Him in the Qur’an and those preached by His last messenger Muhammad (PBUH) encircle all problems arising till the last day. The world may turn to one side or the other these teachings will continue to provide with. The principles and laws of Islam would always suffice for all times to come.

Alterations in Islam by modernists

But it is a pity that a group of people in the Islamic world known as “Modernists” has been unable to get this reality. That is why, in taking their lead from other religions, they have started a campaign of alterations and innovations in Islam. They have made it their duty to prove that every exhibit of the industrial revolution is consistent with Islam. After every alteration and innovation, they present their only argument that Islamic Injunctions must change because the world has greatly changed after the industrial revolution bringing about revolutionary changes in thought and practice.

Changes that took place after the Industrial Revolution

In this connection we wish to point out two types of changes that have occurred in every walk of life as a result of the industrial revolution of Europe:

The praiseworthy aspect of the Industrial Revolution

(1) Some of them were inevitable for the present advancements and without them, it was not possible for Science and Technology to have attained the present standard. It was due to these that the world had benefited by the latest inventions, large factories came into being, bridges have been constructed, big dams and useful additions to human knowledge have been made. This aspect of the industrial revolution is indeed commendable and it is imperative for the Islamic world to progress in this field. Islam does not place any obstacle in this direction. Rather, it looks at this achievement of power with approbation.

The destructive aspect of the Industrial Revolution

(2) But, at the same time, there are some changes that are not at all essential for industrial and material progress. The West has associated them with the industrial revolution for no reason, and now realizing this error is sighing with grief. Obscenity and nudity, free mixing of men and women, music and dances, interest, and birth control are things that have nothing to do with material and industrial progress. Experience has proved that these things have served as an obstacle rather than assistance towards progress.

This is the evil from which the Islamic world has to save itself very diligently. The industrial revolution in the Islamic world has become a Western civilization which has led them to the brink of total destruction.

The misguided behavior of the modernists after the Industrial Revolution

Unfortunately, our modernist group wants us to accept the industrial revolution of the West as it is, without an iota of change in it, and thus drown ourselves in their ideological and practical aberrances even before the Machine has taken roots in our society. That is why, instead of developing Science and Technology, this group is spending its energy in molding Islam to bring it in conformity with Western civilization. Supporting this new viewpoint the official spokesman of monthly “Fikr-o-Nazar” of the Institute of Islamic Research writes as under:

“The entire lifestyle of Pakistan will be changed after the completion of the fourth five-year plan. The rule of the machine will prevail, and due to this family life will change, economy and social values will change, there will be changes in the relations between man and woman, and obviously, individual and collective thinking will be affected, and people will think more positively”. (Fikr-o- Nazar p.733, voL2, p.12)

It is obvious that such people do not want to make any distinction between the industrial revolution of the Islamic World and that of the West. Our humble submission is that the “rule of the machine” in the industrial sphere is not negated, what we think highly venomous are the changes in the family life, economy and social values, relationship of man and woman, and the thought of general people.

These “changes” do not match with the temperament of Islamic ideologies. A study of the Industrial Revolution of the West itself leads us to think that we shall have to abstain from these “changes” if we want to lead a peaceful life despite the sway of machines in our lives.

The philosopher-poet of Pakistan, Iqbal, had a deep insight into the state of West, he said:

افرنگ مشینوں کے دھوئیں سے ہے سیہ پوش

“Christianity (in Europe) is blackened with the smoke of machines”


ہے دل کے لیے موت مشینوں کی حکومت

احساس مروت کو کچل دیتے ہیں آلات

“The rule of machine is the death of soul. Instruments only crush the sense of tolerance.”

It will not be proper to deduce from the above that he was allergic to machines and instruments or that he opposed the progress of Technology. What he means is that the evil which the West has imposed on them along with the machines is detestable and should be avoided.

Course of action for Muslims

Under the present circumstances, the proper line of action for us is that in the pursuit of the industrial revolution we should not blindly march on the path that has carried the West to the brink of total destruction. The industrial revolution will give rise to many difficulties and new problems, which will be resolved under the Islamic guidance, and this solution will be free from the defects of the Western thought. Rather, we should acquire science and technology with deep insight and open mind in a manner that Islamic values are not injured.

On the contrary, if alteration and innovation are carried out in Islam itself, to fit it into the framework of Western civilization and, somehow or the other, it is molded to meet the requirement of the modern time, what credit goes to Islam for this? In this manner, any religion can be brought in conformity with the present time by twisting and distorting it. There are many who demonstrated such artistry in their religions. The credit of this goes to them and not to the poor religion that became a plaything in their hands. We honestly feel that Islam cannot be matched with other religions.

Treating Islam in this manner is by no means justified, and any such attempt will be an interpolation in religion and hence condemnable.

Amendments in Islamic injunctions according to circumstances

No doubt many injunctions of Islam are flexible enough to accept changes in varying circumstances. But there are certain prescribed rules which must be observed when applying these to new problems. It does not mean that every Islamic injunction can be dissolved in the ready-made mixture of modern necessities. It may be understood that the Islamic injunctions prescribed by the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the consensus of the Ummah are fixed and unalterable. They cannot be changed in any period. However, in the matters, which can be influenced by the change of time, the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah have provided us with some basic principles without giving specific commandments for a specific condition. These principles can be used as a basis for the deductions of new injunctions in every period. Had Islam permitted the people of every time to deduce Islamic injunctions according to their circumstances and in opposition to the unanimous decisions of the Muslim Ummah, it would not have provided us with such comprehensive and detailed commandments in every sphere of life.

Rather, it would have said, “Keep making your own commandments according to your circumstances.” On the contrary, Islam has provided us with specific and elaborate precepts with divine wisdom in order that they are to be observed up to the end of time. In short, these Islamic injunctions are fixed and cannot be changed simply because time has changed. They are not only practicable up to the Day of Judgment but they, in fact, hold the key to the real material progress of the Muslims.

There are injunctions, the Qur’an and traditions have themselves left to be decided by time, which are alterable. They can be changed, and are being changed, according to the circumstances.

But in the guise of this flexibility, our modernists not only try to change those unanimously accepted injunctions that are being accepted as established for the last fourteen centuries but they desire to make amends even in certain beliefs that are against the clear and explicit injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah, though not accepted by a single person of any significance.

In case we allow this attitude to be correct it would imply that no basic belief of Islam has been understood by anyone in the last fourteen hundred years. It requires our serious thought if such a religion is worthy of being followed by any sensible person?

Contradictions of the modernists

How funny it is that our modernists feel the change of time only when they want to give religious sanction to an activity or when they want to seek approval to a thought or practice of western ideology. On the contrary, when the change of time demands labor or some hard work they do not even think of it. For example, the modernists have made loud claims that usury and interest should be made permissible because time has changed but none of them ever demanded that the concessions in the Salah (Five daily prayers of worship) and Fasting during journeys should be withdrawn because the change of time has made the journey far more comfortable and easy than it was in olden days. They never insisted that these facilities should be withdrawn in modern times and they were meant only for the time foregone.

The hedonistic attitude of Modernism can be well conceived with this diversity of action. In fact, all its arguments are designed for their pre-conceived ideas. Since their aim is to infuse Western ideologies in Islam they look for any situation where this may be achieved and they use, any trivial thing they find, as an argument, no matter how transient and superfluous it may be. Whereas the same argument is simply ignored when it turns against their intentions.

How I wish that our Modernists think over these submissions seriously and realistically and their able efforts are spent on some constructive service instead of distorting or innovating the Islamic guidance.

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