Allah created for us all that is in the heaven and earth in order to fulfill the common human enterprise. Heaven and earth constitute the physical universe or the observable reality around us. The physical universe does not only provide us with the resources but serves as the guidance for our movement and the reference that validates our actions.

Let us take these examples:

  1. If we want to build a bridge, we must make sure that we are following the laws of physics that govern this universe and make the right calculations.
  2. A new medication or a vaccine will be approved for clinical use only if clinical trials show their efficacy and safety.

In both examples, the universe validates these actions. But the universe does not inform the direction of our actions. Take the example of a simple tool like the knife. It can be used to cut an apple but also can be used to harm someone. In both instances the universe validates the action of the knife. The knife cuts in both instances but the two actions differ in the direction given to each one of them. Therefore, we need another reference besides the universe to inform the direction of our actions. In addition to providing us with the universe and its resources, Allah did not leave us since the time He created us without revelation that guides the direction of our actions:

“Allah who created me, and it is He who guides me.” [26:78]

“Should He not know what He has created?” [67:14]

“The guidance of Allah is The Guidance.” [2:120]

Divine revelation supersedes all other references people have adopted through history such as customs, traditions, or constitutions. I am not saying that such references are not good, but Quran, the Divine revelation in its complete and perfect form has higher interpreting value and capacity to guide to what is better and more balanced.“Verily this Quran does guide to that that is more balanced.” [17:9]

We can conclude that the common human enterprise requires two types of reference:

  1. The universe with all its resources guides our actions and validates their occurrence.
  2. The Divine Revelation gives meaning and guides the direction of our actions.

However, there are people who remain prisoners of their past and do not want to take into consideration the implications of the change of time, place, persons, and circumstances. In Surat Al-Baqara, we read:“When it is said to them: Follow what Allah has revealed; they say: Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers.” [2:170]

This issue becomes very relevant to our approach to current issues and new challenges. We love our ancestors, and we respect our parents and grandparents. But shall we consult them after they have died on matters being experienced by the living? Are we going to follow the footsteps of our forefathers on matters that they had no chance to reflect upon and reach reasonable conclusions?

The above verse ends with a similar question that addresses the same argument:“What! Even though their fathers lack wisdom and guidance.” [2:170]

Imam Ali (R), the Prophet’s cousin and closest disciple, addressed parents raising their children saying: “Do not limit your children to your own habits, for they are created for a time different from yours.”

The celebrated Jurist Al-Shafi’ changed so many of his rulings after he moved from Bagdad to Cairo. He was conscious of the new social dynamics in a new place and culture.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, referred to the newly formulated Constitution as the “American experiment.” He was deeply aware of the future changes, and the amendments introduced to the Constitution over time are testimonies to this visionary approach.

By Dr Walid Khayr