Islamic Studies

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.

Medical Advances:

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

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  • Asalaamu Alaykum

    Great article masha Allah.

    The examples above do highlight interesting phenomena and do point towards the intent of the article [Even though I do have reservations about medicine and its impact of removing ailments, as many medicines today only suppress problems, and actual cause more problems in the long run – yet this statement “There is to be no harm, nor countering with harm” does argues that point as well i.e. do no counter your harm with another harm]

    In regards to religious edicts changing due to time and place, and other matters of this sort, it seems like the level of Islamic scholarship, or rather, the authority of Islamic scholarship is non-existent. People’s opinions of opinions are based not on substance or authority, but on whims, desires, and affiliations.

    With the debates over minority fiqh, taking part in non-Islamic institutions, and this matter, we always seem to have deep polemic divides.

    So I guess my questions or comments are: How do Muslims decipher which edicts need to change due to time and place, and how do these new rulings earn veracity amongst Muslims?

    And then in terms of the West, with all of its diversity, there seems to be an immense need for more Islamic Scholarship and opinions from Western Muslim Scholars who are rooted in the west, who understand the climate and terrain better than others.

    Sorry of this was too random.

    Insha Allah khayr

  • Salaam
    I was wondering when you will have a section for Shaykh Qaradawi. I hope globalisation and its effects will be further discussed by the shaykh and others.


  • brilliant work from a giant in Jurisprudence, jazzakAllah khair for translating and anticipating more Insha’Allah.

    I recently acquired some information that certain individuals [i know this may not be something new] do not consider him a scholar and label him as a liberal. SubhanAllah! to many, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ghazali and others like them were considered to be many things and look how through the span of time they have been vindicated. One day the al-qaradawi caravan, if not already, will sweep the floor of immature ranting and clamoring from the face of the planet.


  • knowledge seeker says, ”In regards to religious edicts changing due to time and place, and other matters of this sort, it seems like the level of Islamic scholarship, or rather, the authority of Islamic scholarship is non-existent. People’s opinions of opinions are based not on substance or authority, but on whims, desires, and affiliations.” it may be due to my sleepy eyes and hence not fully cognisant as to what you are really talking about but who are you alluding to? ‘allamah al-qaradwi is not following his whims and desires and he IS AN AUTHORITY thank you very much!

  • Jazakallahu khair for the translation. May Allah give you the strength to translate more articles like these, as we in the west (and also non-Arabic speakers) are deprived of the scholarly wisdom!

  • “How do Muslims decipher which edicts need to change due to time and place, and how do these new rulings earn veracity amongst Muslims?”

    This is really an excellent question for which there is a very simple answer. These type of issues are not for the masses to decide but left for the scholars. Allah says, “Ask those who know if you don’t know.” Therefore, it is upon us to ask those who are qualified and benefit from their words. Inshallah, more articles will be released that explain these concepts and provide their conditions and details.


  • Asalaamu Alaykum

    To the post posted by Brother that quoted me, Auzubillah, I would never refer to great scholar and man of Allah in such a manner. My head is spinning right now and I feel physically imbalanced [not joking]

    Whether it is your sleepy eyes, or my lack of clarifying my intentions correctly in my post, let me explain what I meant by this:

    “In regards to religious edicts changing due to time and place, and other matters of this sort, it seems like the level of Islamic scholarship, or rather, the authority of Islamic scholarship is non-existent. People’s opinions of opinions are based not on substance or authority, but on whims, desires, and affiliations.”

    What I meant is that we have True Scholars [like ‘Allamah as-Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (h)] who work diligently on matters and come to extraordinary outcomes [by the tawfeeq of God], but when this work is passed to the masses, people [not the Scholars] do not give the verdicts any weight and judge them based on their own [i.e. the people’s] biases and affiliations.

    My proposition as to why this occurs is that it is an argument of “authority”. I am not speaking about this particular matter, but in general.

    One could propose the following questions: “Who has the authority to propose a certain new edict?” As Shaykh Suhaib rightly answered, the scholars do.

    What I am trying to get at it is even when True Scholars are asked, and their opinions are then propagated, what gives those opinions the authority and veracity amongst the masses?

    For example, in the past, the opinion that came from the Caliphate, from a central or communal voice of Scholarship, had a sense of Authority and Veracity.

    Today, when an opinion comes, the masses say: “Oh that is just so-and-so’s opinion”. Or “He is just a Tablighi”. Or “He is just a sufi” Or “He is an Ikhwani” Or “That’s his ‘brand’ of Islam”.

    I know I am stating the obvious, but this is an immense problem. Who has the authority to interpret/re-interpret Islam. Reza Islam, whom I disagree with on may issues, but I still respect, spoke about this matter a long while back.

    For example, Usama bin Laden gave religious edicts and his followers, seeing him as a Islamic Scholar with “authority”, followed his edicts. The Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq, they are following their “authority”. So one begs to ask, who has the authority to give opinions.

    Islam is under much threat, physically and scriptually. Islam is in Reformation right now. Alhamdulillah, we have True Scholars, the likes of ‘Allamah as-Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and ‘Allamah as-Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah (may Allah protect them both).

    But, as this reformation goes forward, there are going to be many new edicts propagated, some good, some misguided.

    So my questions are: How do the masses filter out what they are going to receive? And how do the true scholarly works gain veracity amongst the masses?

    Shaykh Suhaib, your help is needed 😉

    Your akhi,


    ps –

    Here is a real time example:

    The Afghani Community Worldwide has many satelitte channels. On these channels, there are many religious shows, some are on-point, and some are causing problems.

    Examples: One pundit who has gained much authority amongst people says Muslim women can marry Ahl al-Kitab; he says that we should only follow the Quran [a very enticing message for many], he does not accept Hadith unless he verifies them, he calls Christians and Jews “Submitters to God”, then says Islam is the religion of Submission, so Chrisitans and Jews are Muslims, so marry them! Hijab is optional, etc He quotes Ibn Warraq. This man has his pulpit, his audience, calls himself a Scholar, and he has authority [with millions of people who watch him].

    This man, may Allah guide him, knows the Quran in and out. He has really studied a lot, but the Quran guides and misguides.

    This is just one example from one community, there are many examples to give.

    So, who has the Religious Authority to interpret Islam?

    And then who are true Scholars?

    I know it seems like this a circular argument [i.e. Scholars/those who know have the authority/veracity, they studied, etc], but I think it is a major hurdle facing the Ummah.

    Jazak Allah khayr Brother Brother for asking for clarification, I am glad you did so b/c I do not want people to have the wrong understanding as to what I meant earlier

    wa Allahu Alum in regards to everything I have said

  • Asalamu alaykum,
    Knowledge Seeker:

    I think you’ve touched on some extremely important issues that could form the basis of some serious research. The crisis of authority is one that many thinkers, activists and scholars alike are trying to address. There is no doubt, without a centralized Islamic authority, we find ourselves in a bit of a theological quagmire. Coupled with the pluralistic nature of post modernity we find Muslims are struggling for orientation and self definition. This is further heightened by those of us, like yourself, who live in the West. For the reason we no longer, as you noted, see a dedication to Islam and country, but dedication to personalities, al-Junaid, al-Ghazzali, Ibn Taymiyyah, Abdul Wahab and even some contemporary figures, for example you will find people dressing like them and even talking like them. Another type of dedication is to a group: ikhwan, salaf, sufi ect. In recent times we’ve even seen dedication to race [I recently saw an article by a Pakistani American on Why I’m an Ottoman?] and certain historical periods [traditionalism/salafism] which rejects modernity and a post industrial age religious expression. On the other end we have the extreme modernist, or as some have coined, the neo M’utazlites.

    All of this has lead to a major problem related to identity as a Muslim and in ones sincerity with Allah. It is not new and I have to differ with your contention that the Caliph, or Islamic state, was enough to silence critiques. We cannot romanticize history and should entertain the fact that our history his human. Outside of the Prophet [sa] all made mistakes and will make mistakes. The problem, and I’ve addressed this, is a hyper Utopian Vision related to history, religious articulation and community. This vision cripples our ability to function on a human level, expect the unrealistic from our leaders and causes us to idealize history to the point of turning our culture and religious expressions, things very human, into math or an advanced form of engineering. Secondly, it has caused us to become a nation of particulars instead of universals. We will shut any idea down based on such particulars instead of entertaining the general and universals which are considered more influential in law. An example is during the Bosnian crisis and the recent Tsunami that hit Indonesia. There were scores of Muslim children who needed homes to live in and even a large number whose parents where lost. Social workers and the Federal Government approached our communities, first asking if we were interested in helping out. but before an answer was given the first thing we heard was “Adoption is Haram in Islam” and “What do I do with these non-Mahram kids?”

    The result was a fare number of these children were lost to non-Muslims homes because we failed to place the universal goals of Islam “Protection of faith” and its axioms “Necessities permit the forbidden” above issues related to fiqh that scholars have differed over for over a 1000 years. What we need is to gain a Quranic Sunnic literacy when engaging the world. Instead we are using classical texts as our source for understanding and engagement. This is impossible as many of these texts were written addressing certain social norms that no longer exist [polarized foreign policy dar al-Harb and dar al-kufur, the dhimi system, slave women, women in general and human rights] or mention sects and arguments that have long since died. Because of this, the human element is expelled from our religion, and we become drones unable to engage, interact, think and contribute to society. This does not undermine the importance of these texts as we need them, but scholars must engage in writing the texts for our age using the classical period as a reference, and not the reference and that is another story.

    Taqlid, amongst some scholars, and to some degree the layman’s inability to understand it at an extreme level, contributed to this phenomenon. In an age of post modernity where pluralism runs ramped, we are unable to articulate a robust discourse that will help families raise their children, keep our youth off the streets and develop healthy communities. Like one brother stated, “Akhi I need an Aqidah that is going to protect me from zina, not teach me the meaning of Allah’s hand, does His throne have a direction and is the Hell eternal. Bro, my co worker is looking good and she’s pushing me to give her the digits and kick it. That is what I need help with.”

    In short, we are not looking forward, but looking backwards [something very postmodern by the way]; developing our identity based on the theologica wars that took place in Kufa and Baghdad and the Muslim community over a 1000 years ago: Sunni Shia, the clash between the fuqha and the sufis, or even better the bitter struggle that took place between the hanbalis of najid and their sufi brethren 200 yrs or so ago. Our problem is we are scared to look forward, so it is easy to escape to the past that does not exist. Thus, you will find people oriented to a dress code that reflects clothes that are no longer worn in the Muslim world, but were worn 500yrs ago? People began to use terms that are part of their historical identity crisis that are not from their own culture. This is a disaster and nothing new. One of the great students of Ibn ‘Arfah said, “I did not differ with him when he was alive and I will not do so after his death.” Ibn Ashur, the great 20th century Maliki scholar, harshly criticized this and stated that it was this type of attitude that is holding our Ummah back from growth and productivity.

    Instead of discussing who we should vote for, establishing think tanks to address the issues which face the world such as economic collapse, the slow death of the environment, the plight of the poor and oppressed, we are busy with theological issues that died many years ago and have no relevance to our lives. It is like a group of American Muslims arguing and splitting the community over making tawassul with the righteous; sending emails after emails, calling their friends, writing books and giving speeches. The irony is is that they don’t even have a Muslim cemetery in their community! Thus, they are looking for the milk without the cow.

    An answer I found somewhat beneficial came from Sh. Taha Jabir, Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Fiqh Council in Jeddah: Muslims should, in these time where there exist no real authority, follow the larger fiqh councils that exist in the world. Such councils should reflect different orientations in the community so their authority can be accepted by the masses. Bin Ladens’ fatwa should have never been listened to, just as Abu Hamza of the UK’s fatwas should have been ignored. However, and I need to go and will get back to this latter, inshallah, we have a few major problems that I will leave you with:

    1. The masses of Muslims are unaware of the resources they have and how to interact with such resources [awareness/literacy]
    2. Scholarly councils lack the independent freedoms that would bring about a trust between them and the masses
    3. Scholarly councils are often times ran by one group to the exclusion of the other
    4. Scholars themselves are not aware of how to communicate to the masses or do not have the resources to do so. [I’ve never been able to figure our why the European Fatwa Council has failed to release one of its journals in a European language. Then I realized that the don’t have the resources to do so]

    Allah knows best
    Br. Suhaib

  • jazzakAllah khair knowledge seker for the clarification.

    Ustadh Suhaib says, ‘nstead we are using classical texts as our source for understanding and engagement. This is impossible as many of these texts were written addressing certain social norms that no longer exist [slave women, women in general and human rights] or mention sects and arguments that have long since died. Because of this, the human element is expelled from our religion, and we become drones unable to engage, interact and contribute to society”. Excellent point jazzakAllah khair.

  • By far one of the most relevant articles and discussions I’ve ever read.
    JazakumAllahu khayr to you all.
    Br. Suhaib, I hope you can elaborate and provide more direction when it comes to your statement:
    “What we need is to gain a Quranic Sunnic literacy when engaging the world.”

    I can see a beautiful future of a Qur’anic Sunnic literate people who are engageing their societies.

    asSalamu ‘Alaykum

  • Salams Imam Suhaib – fantastic response and agree with Abdul Sattar and others…please do write on this subject.

    Knowledge seeker – really good clarification just one query regarding your example. You quote Ibn Warraq is he the same person as the description below from wiki? I know we have a few “ex extremists” who follow this line of argument, but it really doesn’t have much traction, as they do not accept the entire revalation as revelation, rather they see it as guidlines and not instructive. Herein lies the issue – is this a matter of Aqida?

    “Ibn Warraq (born 1946) is a secularist author of Pakistani origin and founder of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society and a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry[1][2] [3] focusing on Qur’anic criticism [4][5]

    Warraq gathered world notice through his controversial historiographies of the early centuries of the Islamic timeline and has published works which question mainstream conceptions of the period. He is the author of seven books, including Why I Am Not a Muslim (1995), The Origins of the Koran (1998), and Quest for the Historical Muhammad, (2000). He has also spoken at the United Nations “Victims of Jihad” conference organized by the International Humanist and Ethical Union alongside speakers such as Bat Ye’or, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Simon Deng.[6]”

  • Asalaamu Alaykum

    Jazak Allah khayr Shaykh Suhaib for your response. You mentioned so many great points and have left room for much reflection and thought.

    The point you made on affiliations/dedications towards personalities, groups, and not towards Deen sincerely is one of serious import. Insha Allah we are going to get beyond this.

    I definitely agree with your contention on the Caliphate system. The only reason I made this was to help clarify what I intended in my earlier post. Romanticizing on having this system return and all our problem solved gets us nowhere fast. You made great points, masha Allah in regards to this.

    Universals and Particulars!!! I love Usul al-Fiqh and Maqasid Shariah because they provide us with the intent of law, and not just its letter. Make dua that Allah allows me travel overseas and study Usul and the principles of our Deen.

    Subhan Allah, as I was typing up my longer post above, one of the things that came to mind was the Larger Fiqh Councils, and how they can serve as a very beneficial means to help propagate and project Islamic edicts to the mainstream and can carry a very weighty stamp of Authority with them.

    I am going to reflect on the points you mentioned about these councils and am getting interested in this topic as I think more about it.

    Brother Azad, yes that is the same “Son of Paper” [Ibn Warraq – its a pen name} I actually heard the speaker/pundit mention him once. May Allah help this brother, He seems sincere and seems to have love for the Deen, but is very confused. He says things that are disheartening and awkward.

    Insha Allah khayr

    May Allah join the hearts and guide us all

    With peace

    Knowledge Seeker

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