The Paradigm of Permanence and Change in Islam (Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)

Islam is not a religion. It is a comprehensive system of life in which obedience is collectively carried on by means of the state enterprise. The Islamic State or System is responsible for implementing the commandments of Allah (TWT), for making the people obey them. The Messenger (PBUH), first of all, implemented such a system – the purpose of which was to get the Ummah obey the commandments of Allah (TWT). So the meaning of the Quran’s term – “Obedience to Allah and His Messenger” – was obeying the commandments of Allah (TWT) – not individually on one’s own accord but by means of that system which the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) established. Allah’s commandments were close-fitted in the Qur’an, and His Messenger (PBUH), as the central authority of the Divine system, made the members of the society obey these commandments in consonance with the exigencies of the time, place and circumstances.

The second worth pondering vantage point is the reality that some commandments have been enshrined in the Qur’an – but in most of the matters, only the principle directives have been provided. The responsibility of the Divine System was to develop itself the subsidiaries, the bylaws, of these principles in consultation with the Momineen (believers) to meeting the exigencies of the time. The order of counseling the companions hewn to the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) was segued for this very purpose; so the Messenger (PBUH) of Allah, ut dict, formulated the subsidiaries – the bylaws – of these principles. Take an example: the order of Zakaat had been given at various places of the Qur’an – but there is no mention of its rate or value anywhere in it. It means it was a directive in principle. Its aim and operation, for the Islamic System was to arrange for the physical nourishment and personality integration of the members of its society. What would be the mode of this arrangement? What would be taken from the haves for this purpose? How would it be spent? – All these subsidiaries, this system had to formulate. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) made for its arrangements, he would have fixed a certain rate (2½%) for it, because, keeping in view the exigencies of the time, this would have accomplished to bear upon the necessities of life. This makes it clear that “obedience to Allah and His Messenger” did not mean to “give Zakaat”. But giving 2½ % in the Islamic System of that time had validated the “obedience to Allah and His Messenger.”

The Islamic System was not confined to the personality of the Messenger (PBUH): that this would end with the sad demise of the Messenger (PBUH). It had to flourish and sustain to the day of judgement; so after the death of the Messenger (PBUH) this system stood established in the form of Khilaafat-i-Rasheda. The “obedience of Allah and His Messenger” meant obeying the very system the hub of which was the Messenger’s successor. Its modality at that time was that the injunctions of the Qur’an were compiled within the manner these were compiled at the time of the Messenger (PBUH). It was because these are immutable and unchangeable; none has the right to bring about any kind of change. What is left over are the subsidiaries – the bylaws – formulated in the light of the Quranic Principles at the time of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). Out of these subsidiaries, whichever needed no change or modification were kept constant, whichever warranted change due to the change in the circumstances, were subjected to the necessary change. And wherever some new addition was needed, it was incorporated. So the details of the incorporated changes or additions in the subsidiaries – the bylaws – formulated at the felicitated era of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) are extant in the annals of history. (Muqaam-e-Hadith, 1992, p.1)

These expositions will make this reality prudent as to why the Qur’an has not enshrined the details of all the injunctions. And that this too will be prudent as to why the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) has not handed over to the Ummah the subsidiaries – bylaws – and judgements of his era in close-fitted and preserved form. The injunctions and principles of the Qur’an had to remain permanent forever – so these were preserved. The subsidiaries – bylaws –, which were to be formulated duly dovetailed with these principles, were liable to change or modification in cognizance to the time, place and circumstance – so these were not preserved. There was no need of it even. The companions of the Messenger (on them be mercy) had also the cognizance of this reality; they, too, did not feel the compulsion of preserving the Ahadith, but on the contrary they vehemently opposed it. It was because had these been preserved, there was the possibility of these being thought to be immutable and unchangeable like the Qur’an.

So far the Divine System of caliphate  -Khilafat- perpetuated, this stark fact took the rap in focus. And the “obedience to Allah and His Messenger” went on reviving without the Ahadith – but unfortunately this could bolster no revival later on.


The system of Caliphate  -Khilaafat- was transformed into aristocracy; Deen did not remain in its genuine form. The dualism of “religion and politics” crept into it. The Kings, the Salaateen, wielded reins of power in political affairs. And the religious affairs (beliefs, prayers, and personal laws maximally relating to marriage, divorce) were entrusted to the “Ulamas” – religion scholars. The concept of “obedience to Allah and His Messenger (PBUH)” did no longer remain in focus. Its reason was: when the duty of the Government no longer remained confined to the implementation of the Divine Commandments, its subordination in the tone and tenor of the “subservience to Allah and His Messenger (PBUH)” vanished all through.

Then the question was raised: How Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) be obeyed? Had the Ummah been fortunate, it would have been decided   -that the system in which the obeisance to the Divine System was the “obeisance to Allah and His Messenger (PBUH)” ought to be revitalized. But it was not done so. Then there was no alternate left except this understanding that Allah’s subservience be carried out by means of the Quran and that of the Messenger’s (PBUH) through his sayings. This became the necessary cause of compiling and regulating the Ahadith. (Compiling the history of era of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and his companions (on them be mercy) was also its impetus. The end product of both of these impetuses was equally the same. Some laid more stress on narrating the events, and some on compiling the injunctions.) Since then, the system of Caliphate  -Khilaafat- based on the precept of Messengerhood did remain no more extant anywhere. This is the state till today. So the genuine exposition and process of “obedience to Allah and His Messenger” also did not come by. During this whole period, Ahadith remained the nitty-gritty of all condescension (or to that jurisprudence which remained under preparation in accordance with Ahadith). It was because there were a few injunctions in the Quran and the pragmatic necessities of life exceedingly outstripped these injunctions. Those subsidiaries – bylaws –, which the Caliphate  -Khilaafat- was to formulate, had to meet these necessities. In their absence, the eye used to repeatedly fall upon the Ahadith – even when the general use of Ahadith bolstered to be insufficient to serve this purpose, the process of coining new Ahadith set in motion. Numerous sects took birth due to these very Ahadith and every faction in support of its own precepts either provided or coined its Ahadith when required. When centuries elapsed in the same manner, this concept took the root of a firm belief – nay, it transformed into conviction that obedience to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is done by means of Ahadith and the renouncer of Ahadith is the renouncer of Messengerhood. It is this very wrong notion that epitomizes the root cause of all entanglement in the matters of Deen.


There is only one way to get out of this quagmire. It is to re-vitalize the Caliphate  – Khilaafat- at the precepts of Messengerhood. It means the Muslim State may decide that it has to establish governance compatible with the dictates and principles of the Quran; it has to implement the Commandments of the Quran. And then it has to see as to which principle-guidance does the Quran cherish for the various disciplines of life, and which are our legal needs? From the material of Ahadith (and jurisprudence) that is being inherited today, if laws compatible with the Quran are found – and these laws meet the needs of the day – then the State may promulgate them as its legal laws in the country. And wherever such laws are not found, it may formulate its own details – bylaws – epitomizing the principles of the Qur’an. These principles will remained permanent –unchangeable – and the details (subsidiaries), the bylaws, formulated to actualize these principles – whether these are prepared earlier or these have been developed by the State itself – will go on changing when required. These laws will be unequivocally applied to all the Muslims of the State without discriminatory treatment to any religious sect. In this manner, the State will also harbor oneness in the Islamic epitomes; it will gradually transform the State into the very form it burgeoned at the time of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and his companions (on them be mercy). In his lectures “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”, Allama Iqbal (p. 142) says:

“The ultimate spiritual basis of life, as conceived by Islam, is eternal and reveals itself in variety and change. A society based on such a conception of Reality must reconcile, in its life, the categories of permanence and change. It must posses eternal principles to regulate its collective life . . . But eternal principle when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change . . . tend to immobilize what is essentially mobile in its nature. The failure of the Europe in political and social sciences illustrates the former principles; the immobility of Islam during the last five hundred years illustrates the latter.”

In connection with Ahadith, he further( pp. 136-137) writes:

However, we must distinguish traditions of a purely legal import from those, which are of a non-legal character. With regard to the former, there arises a very important question as to how far they embody the pre-Islamic usages of Arabia which were in some cases left intact, and in others modified by the Prophet. It is difficult to make this discovery, for our early writers do not always refer to pre-Islamic usages. Nor is it possible to discover that usages, left intact by express or tacit approval of the Prophet, were intended to be universal in their application. Shah Wali Allah has a very illuminating discussion on the point. I reproduce here the substance of his view. The prophetic method of teaching, according to Shah Wali Allah, is that, generally speaking, the law revealed by a Prophet takes especial notice of the habits, ways, and peculiarities of the people to whom he is specifically sent. The Prophet who aims at all-embracing principles, however, can neither reveal different principles for different peoples, nor leaves them to work out their own rules of conduct. His method is to train one particular people, and to use them as a nucleus for the building up of a universal Shar’ah. In doing so he accentuates the principles underlying the social life of all mankind, and applies them to concrete cases in the light of the specific habits of the people immediately before him. The Shar’ah values (Ahkam) resulting from this application (e.g., rules relating to penalties for crimes) are in a sense specific to that people; and since their observance is not an end in itself they cannot be strictly enforced in the case of future generations. It was perhaps in view of this that Abu Hanifah, who had a keen insight into the universal character of Islam, made practically no use of these traditions. The fact that he introduced the principle of Istihson, i.e. juristic preference, which necessitates a careful study of actual conditions in legal thinking, throws further light on the motives which determined his attitude towards this source of Muhammadan Law. It is said that Abu Hanifah made no use of traditions because there were no regular collections in his day. In the first place, it is not true to say that there were no collections in his day, as the collections of’Abd al-Malik and Zuhri were made not less than thirty years before the death of Abu Hanifah. But even if we suppose that these collections never reached him, or that they did not contain traditions of a legal import, Abu Hanifah, like Malik and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal after him, could have easily made his own collection if he had deemed such a thing necessary. On the whole, then, the attitude of Abu Hanifahtowards the traditions of a purely legal import is to my mind perfectly sound; and if modern Liberalism considers it safer not to make any indiscriminate use of them as a source of law, it will be only following one of the greatest exponents of Muhammadan Law in Sunni Islam.

Maudoodi Sahib (Tafheemaat, part II, P. 327), regarding the change and permanence in laws operative at the time of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), writes:

“This is an irrefutable fact that the law-givers with their utmost prudence and exquisite knowledge, for carrying out their commands, optimally suggested such ways, which materialize its purposes through out all the times and the environs. But in spite of it, many of the subsidiaries – bylaws – are such in which change in the commands compatible with the changing circumstances – the circumstances of the Arabia and the world of Islam at the period of the Messengerhood and of his companions – is a must. It is not essential that the same circumstances be prevalent in every time in every country. So the modalities that were exercised to execute the Islamic injunctions in those circumstances: to sustain them as these are for all times in all circumstances and – just for the sake of expediency and prudence – not to make any kind of change in their subsidiaries, bylaws – it is all nothing short of any inkling but a ritualism which has nothing to do with the spirit of Islam . . . .. So it is discovered in the subsidiaries – bylaws – setting sturdy cause of proof and the approved insinuation aside, even the following of the manifestly approved – without shrugging off jurisprudence – is a fallacy. The purpose of jurisprudence is that the human being may keep in view the lawgivers’ aims and expediencies in every problem. And then according to these with the changing circumstances may go on pursuing such a change in the bylaws that may tantamount to the lawgiver’s principles of exposition and nearest to his mode of process.”

In the very detail of it, he (Nishaan-i-Raah, p.55) writes:

“The meaning of developing resemblance to blessed Madina may not be considered as if we want to create resemblance in the outwardly manifested configurations. And, recording from the vintage point of culture the world enjoys today, we are desirous to clinch the file of culture, which prevailed in Arabia 1300 years ago. This exposition of subservience to the Messenger (PBUH) is absolutely erratic and the majority of the religious people accept this very meaning erroneously. To them, the meaning of obeying to the most virtuous predecessors is that we may struggle to perpetuate – to the day of judgement – the very fossilized from of that state of culture and civilization which was prevalent during the tenure of their era. And, keeping ones eyes shut of all the changes occurring in the milieu of our outer world, we may draw such an enclosure around our own mind and life where the speed of the hour and the change wrought by time find no permission to enter. The concepts of subservience tuning the heart and mind of the religious people through-out the centuries old declining period, is, in fact, a real negation of the spirit of Islam. It is absolutely not the teaching of Islam – that we may simply transform into a living archaeopteryx and keep on transcending our life onto an historical aroma of the ancient culture. It does not teach us monasticism and ritualism. Its purpose is not to create such a nation, which goes on striving to deter the process of change and evolution. But on the contrary, it wants to develop such a nation, which struggles – by intercepting the wrong ways, leading the change and evolution march forward – to hasten onto the right pathways. It does not provide us any pattern. On the other hand, it does shower on us a drive and desires us to instill the very common drive in all the pattern that emerge – up to the day of judgement – from the various transformations of time and space the life transcends to. As Muslims, our only genuine mission is that: our being as “the best among the nation” is not for this purpose that we may go on taking root as rear guard in stead of going on the march of evolution; au contraire, leadership and counseling is our job. We have been created to be the vanguard, the forerunners. And the secret of our being as “the best among the nation”, lies in our emerging as “the good for all humanity”. The real ‘character model’ of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and of his companions (on them be mercy), which we should follow is that they – through establishing Allah’s Sovereignty on earth by bring natural laws under the canopy of Sharia laws – fully rendered their duty. They imbued vitality in the body of their culture of their time. – So the true obedience to the Messenger (PBUH) and to that of the companions of the Messenger (on them be mercy) is to vie for making the resources – now captured in the form of bulk of information due to evolution of culture and conquering of physical laws – subservient to the Islamic civilization in exactly the same way these were subjugated during the Islamic renaissance of the first era.”

Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islaahi’s belief is that mostly the principles have been given not alone in the Quran, but also in the Ahadith, and that the formulations of the bylaws have been entrusted to the Ummah. In this regard, he (Tarjamaan-ul-Quran, April 1954) writes:

“In the Quran and Hadith, only the basic and fundamental matters have mostly been given. The subsidiaries – bylaws – and detail thereof have mostly been deterred. Bridging this gap up – for bringing on at par with the exigencies of time and tide, as well as formulating laws for the incoming collective and political matters in harmony to the purpose and temperament of Islam – has been left over to the discretion of the Ummah.”

It has also been said wherever the mention of “obedience to Allah and His Messenger” or “disobedience to Allah and His Messenger” has been made in the Quran, it mean the very system of governance, which was established to implement the Divine injunctions. Now take the rap what Maudoodi Sahib says in this regard. It has been said in verse 33 of the chapter Almaa-i-da:

Innama jazao allatheena yuhariboona Allaha warasoolahu . . . (5: 33)

“The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger is this that.” Elucidating this Verse, Maudoodi Sahib, in his exegesis “Tafheem-ul-Quran, Vol.I, p. 465, Edition 1951” writes:

“Waging war against Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) is to wage war against that virtuous system, which the Government of Islam has established in the country.”

So the intention of ‘subservience to Allah and His Messenger’ is not to comply with the Qur’an and Hadith on ones own. It is the sub-ordination to the Central Authority of the Divine System established for the implementation of the Divine Injunctions. It is the responsibility of this System to oversee as to how these injunctions be translated into concrete actions. This is termed as “obedience of Sunnah,” the rebellious of which is not adjudged to be an apostate theoretically but a convict to the crime of revolt practically. In the absence of this System, ‘obedience to Allah and His Messenger’ comes to be individual, private action the practice of which is acted upon as per the discretion of every individual or every religious sect. After the establishment of this System, ‘obedience to Allah and His Messenger’ is executed by complying with the decisions of this System. This is the very object of Deen – and this alone synchronizes oneness in the Ummah.(Muqaam-e-Hadith, 1992, p.48)


There is also one section in the collection of Ahadith that contains such traditions-sayings-, which pertain to the tone and tenor of the sublime conduct of the Messenger (PBUH). This sublime conduct of the Messenger (PBUH) was the culmination of the human dignity and greatness. But unfortunately, among these traditions-sayings-some are of such quality which blur this very sublime conduct. For this purpose, the job to be thoroughly accomplished is that the sublime conduct of the Messenger (PBUH) be compiled in the light of the Qur’an at scratch and only that portions of the Ahadith Books be racked up which harmonize with the Qur’an. And that which is repugnant to the Qur’an or give any inkling of derision on the character and the conduct of the Messenger (PBUH) or his companions (on them be mercy) be rejected forth with. (Muqaam-e-Hadith, p. 49)

This is not only the true position of Hadith but also is the operational paradigm of permanence and change in Islam. Unless and until this is accepted – and the repertoire of Ahadith is kept in its true perspective – the Muslims the world over will never be able to get over the present sulks of the windings and turnings in which the nation is entangled since centuries. It is hoped you will contemplate over this reality with cool of mind and solace of heart.

This is the only remedy to the old rut of the nations.


1.      Iqbal, Allama Muhammed: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam(2nd Edition), Iqbal Academy, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 19862.      Maudoodi, Syed Abu ul Aala: Tafheemaat, Vol. II,(16th Edition), Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore,  November, 19923.      Maudoodi, Syed Abu ul Aala: Tafheem-ul-Quran, Vol.I, Islamic Publications Ltd., Lahore,  19514.      Muqaam-e-Hadith, Tolu-e-Islam Trust(Rgd), Lahore Muqaam-e-Hadith, Tolu-e-Islam Trust(Rgd), Lahore5.      Nishaan-e-Raah quoted in Muqaam-e-Hadith, Tolu-e-Islam Trust(Rgd), Lahore, 19926.      Tarjamaan-ul-Quran,   April, 1954

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