It is due to our misunderstanding that we have lost the message of the Quran and turned it into the ‘sacred book of centuries’. Yet, in terms of its spirit and purpose, the Quran comprises qualities that can shed light on humanity for as long as it exists; it is a timeless book!
For the most part, the Quran reveals significant beneficial information about the states of life referred to as paradise and hell, and their conditions and necessities. Secondly, it explains the reality of man and the One referenced as ‘Allah’!
In my previous writings, I talked about the two sources of the knowledge contained in the Quran, namely Nubuwwah and Risalah, and that the knowledge sourced from Risalah preserves its validity throughout all times and continues to provide new insight to humanity. The chapters Ikhlas and Fatiha are examples of Risalah-based knowledge.
Topics sourced from Nubuwwah, on the other hand, pertain more to environmental and behavioral issues and are associated with worldly affairs, such as marriage, inheritance, testimony and retribution – laws that are only valid during one's life on earth and invalid once the person passes on.
So, let us now try to understand the ‘spirit’ of the Quran...
Has the Quran been disclosed to us to make us return to an outdated primitive state of life, or to encourage and prepare us for what is to come by showing us the ways of spiritual development and perfection?
Hadhrat Ali (ra), whom I believe is one of those who best understand the Quran, says:
“Raise your children not according to your current time, but according to the time in which they are to live!”
This is the vision of a person who spent his childhood and youth with Muhammad (saw) and who acquired the ‘spirit’ of the Quran directly from him...
As for the laws originating from the source of Nubuwwah, it is evident the primary motive, more than anything, is to establish women's rights among a people who hardly regarded them to be human, but used them more as sexual merchandise! The Nubuwwah-based laws prohibited all forms of assault and exploitation of women, and instead enabled them with the right to be ‘partners’ to men, gave them rights of testimony where previously they had no say in any legal matters, and empowered them with the right of inheritance.
The Quran is prevention of backwardness, termination of injustice and encouragement of continual development! For those that attempt to discern its spirit, that is...
The Quran does not present these laws as a definitive measure, but rather as the formula for further development according to changing times and conditions. For example, by limiting men’s right to be wed ‘limitless partners’ to only four partners in marriage, the Quran established the initial stage of the process towards single-partnered marriages. By relaying the benefits of having a ‘single partner,’ the Quran has shown this as the target for the evolved man.
Another example is almsgiving (zakah). While a particular amount is advised as the minimum amount of alms payable, the verses about charity encourage the giving of one's possessions without limit.
In short, the rights given to women in the Quran are not fixed and absolute, but act rather as the foundation of a ‘legal system of rights’ that is open to be developed according to changing times and conditions.
If a woman, who previously had no legal say, was given the right to testify as ‘one of two women’ (i.e. the testimony of two women being held equivalent to the testimony of one man), this, according to my understanding, was not advised as a definitive measure, but one that can be updated as women and the community in general develop.
Giving some right to testimony, as opposed to no right, was still an enormous reform in such a primitive community. By laying this foundation, the Quran was implicitly saying, “When you begin to understand and appreciate the value of women and recognize they are also servants of Allah like yourselves, and they are also humans and vicegerents on earth, do not prevent them from having the same rights as men.”
If any community or nation gives equal rights to men and women, this does not in any way go against the spirit of the Quran, according to my understanding; if anything, this is what is preferred.
That women were given half of the rights of men to inherit in those days, when previously they had no right to inherit, does not in any way mean they should not be given any more right in later times. On the contrary, a community that gives equal rights to men and women reflects the level of their development in line with the Quran.