Chapter 3
Dynamic Nature of the Quran

The fundamentalists preach that Islamic laws and precepts should be carried out today exactly as they were 1,400 years ago. Maybe this is why they are called fundamentalists! Let me comment, in passing, that I do not believe this name is appropriate for them at all. They absolutely do not abide by the fundamentals. Instead, they dogmatically adhere to the secondary commandments and outdated forms, and sacrifice the principles and fundamentals to the pettiest of their own interests. In the 20th century, they absurdly calculate religious fines (diyat) and tithes based on the value of camels, sheep, dates and the currency of 14 centuries ago.

Beyond the precepts and rules relevant only within a certain time-frame, we must understand the spirit of Islam and the genuine outlook of the Quran. The precepts must not be interpreted as unalterable dogmas; as circumstances change, they must be replaced with new precepts more compatible with Islam's ideal society. This is the dynamism of the Quran and of an ideology which claims to respond to the problems and needs of humankind and society in any circumstances. When this dynamism is overlooked, it inevitably leads to retrogression, oppression and discrimination emerging under the cloak of Islam.

Dogmatism about the letter of the law while overlooking its spirit is not, of course, exclusive to Islam, but has a long history in all ideologies and creeds. To distinguish right from wrong, one must first differentiate between the overall objectives and strategies and the tactical means of achieving those objectives. Consider, for example, a boat sailing toward the shore. The ultimate objective is to reach the shore, and the strategy is to go straight ahead, directly east, for example. Paddling, adjusting the speed, and other mandatory behavior at any stage should never be considered unalterable and inflexible. Otherwise, tactics will replace strategy, diverting or reversing the desired direction. The objective will be forgotten, and the means will become the end to themselves.

No matter how definite and unchangeable a goal is, therefore, rules, regulations and tactical precepts are flexible, provided they are not rejected due to opportunism or personal interest. Dogmatic adherence to them will stunt efforts to achieve the final objective or delay its achievement. We must move forward toward the goal, without dogmatism, without opportunism, without profiteering, without an outdated approach to tactical rules, regulations and precepts. Otherwise, we will be deviated from the correct path.

Aside from this introduction, Islam is a religion, an ideology, with fundamental views on humankind, society and history. It defines each of these concepts within the philosophy of Towhid, or monism. One fundamental and central theme, derived from Islam's monistic approach to existence, is equality among human beings. It is explicitly emphasized in the Quran that all human beings are equal, regardless of gender, race or nationality. According to this principle, the only criterion for differentiating among people is the extent of their cognizance, emancipation, and sense of responsibility, which in Quranic terminology is called Taqwa. The equality of women and men is one of the most obvious aspects of the Towhidi philosophy.
This guiding principle is proclaimed in the chapter The Inner Apartments, verse 13: "O' People! We created you, men and women, and made you into Nations and tribes, that yea may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you."
Another guiding principle is that Islam's social ideal strives for freedom, justice and social unity. The Quran describes the mandate of monotheist prophets as inspiring humankind to rise up and establish Qest, the ultimate stage of social freedom, justice and unity. The sura Iron, verse 25, reads: "We sent aforetime, our apostles with Clear Signs and set down with them The Book and the Balance (of right and wrong), that peoples may stand forth in justice." In such a society, the oppressed and the talented - whose talents have been suppressed - will be free and, at the zenith of their development, will occupy positions of leadership, and the community will flourish. The Narration, verse 5: "And we wished to be gracious to those who were abased in the land, to make them leaders and make them heirs."

Such examples vividly express Islam's genuine views on humankind and history. The leaders of Islam, inspired by this outlook and striving to move toward Islam's ideal society, responded to the extent that their circumstances allowed change. For such a society to be realized, of course, many grounds had to be prepared. It was not possible even for the Prophet of Islam to instantly realize these ideals in the primitive society of his time. The Prophet could not simply issue a decree abolishing even the most violently oppressive and blatant form of discrimination, slavery; instead, he laid the groundwork for its annihilation. The Tradition, guidance and direction provided by the Prophet and the Quran led to the rapid elimination of this inhuman phenomenon. Today, we can appreciate that given the economic structure of the time and the rudimentary state of the forces of production, any decree to completely abolish slavery would have brought progress neither to the society nor to the system of production as a whole. So premature a measure would have delayed the actual eradication of slavery. It is evident in the spirit of all the teachings and actions of the Prophet, however, that slavery is a stigma on the visage of humanity; one that must be removed as soon as possible, so that the tremendous gap between the infancy and maturity of the human race can be bridged.

It is important to note that today, even the fundamentalists cannot claim that the Quran, because it did not explicitly abolish slavery, condoned the practice, let alone defended it.
So the key is to grasp the spirit and genuine outlook of the Quran. This understanding will enable the followers of this religion at any historical stage to determine the precepts and laws suited to their time. To understand this concept, let us read the Quran to see how verses are categorized and defined. The Family of Imran, verse 7: "He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses fundamental (muhkamat); They are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical (motashabihat). But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord."

The fundamentalists and reactionaries interpret all the precepts and temporal rules as unchangeable dogma. This interpretation contradicts the Quran's own definitions and categorization. Muhkamat are the fundamental principles of Islam, definite and unchangeable. Motashabihat are relative, dynamic and flexible. Elsewhere, the Quran uses the term mathani (which means flexible and having dynamism) for motashabihat.

The Crowds, verse 23: "God has revealed the most beautiful Message in the form of a Book, Consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teaching in various aspects)."

Take the precepts on inheritance, for example: Fourteen centuries ago, a woman's share was set at half a man's. If the historical circumstances are ignored and this ruling is interpreted as permanent, then its significance at the time cannot be appreciated. Furthermore, the unrealistic conclusion would be that Islam opposes the equality of women and men. In fact, Islam accorded women a share in inheritance at a time when they basically inherited nothing, but were themselves inherited. They were part of their husband's property, to be owned by his heirs or other men of their tribe.

So the very idea of according women the right to inheritance, in and of itself, was a revolution. We all know that until just recently, even in European countries, women had no financial independence. Another important point to note is that 14 centuries ago, women did not play any role in production and men provided for the family expenses. All things considered, it is natural to conclude that when socio-economic progress allows, and when women's socio-economic status has changed or been allowed to change, the Quran's dynamism calls for changes in inheritance laws, and that is why, as we have already declared, women and men enjoy equal and identical rights with respect to inheritance.

The same holds true for many other precepts on social or legal issues, such as testimony, the payment of fines, etc. Consider the precept on testimony, whereby the testimony of two women is equal to that of one man. In this case, too, a dogmatic interpretation would presume that this decree is immutable and eternal. Again, that would mean inequality, attributed to Islam. Whereas 14 centuries ago, when women had no rights in primitive societies and female infants were buried alive, such decrees were very important, bold initiatives towards establishing women's rights. Now look at the fundamentalists, and see how they have distorted the liberating message and ideal of Islam with their dogmatic interpretations, reducing it to a deficient, short-sighted and profiteering mentality.

I would like to add that the fundamentalist mullahs' claim that they are carrying out the religious precepts in accordance with the Tradition of the Prophet is a blatant lie. It is common knowledge that one of the most brilliant aspects of the Prophet's mission was to emancipate and teach respect for women. It was he who made it a mortal sin to slander a woman, who levied a heavy punishment for the slanderer, and who ruled that to prove the accusation, one had to produce four witnesses. Even when faced with a confession, time and again he simply turned his face away and urged the sinner to repent.

The misogynous mullahs, however, slander hundreds of women every day, detain them, flog them or stone them in public. Imam Ali tells us: "There will come a time when nothing will remain of the Quran but a set of rituals. And nothing will be more common than attributing falsities to God and the Prophet."
Let us also acquaint ourselves a little with Imam Ali's views on the Quran and the religious precepts. "The Quran has spelled out what is lawful (halaal) and unlawful (haraam); what is obligatory (wajeb) and recommended (mostahab); what is renewing (nassekh) and outdated (mansookh); what is general and specific; what is fundamental and allegorical." He continues: "The Quran has proclaimed some things as obligatory, but they have been annulled by the Prophet's Tradition. There are also certain matters that have been considered as obligatory in the Tradition, but the Quran allows their annulment. There are also matters that were obligatory in their own time, but were later abolished." Do these remarks by Imam Ali endorse the fundamentalist interpretation, or prove the dynamism of the Quran?

The introduction of Ijtihad to respond to the questions and developments of any historic juncture is more solid proof of the dynamism of Islam and the Quran. Ijtihad is undertaken by a decent, competent leader who believes in the religion, has a good knowledge of the ideology and its emancipating mandate, and is also abreast of the developments of the time. Unfortunately, despite official Shiite recognition of Ijtihad, in practice this institution has been used not to reflect the dynamism of the Quran, but to formulate reactionary readings of the precepts and distort the liberating message of Islam.

Relying on the principal Islamic texts, such as the Quran, the Mojahedin have discovered the dynamism of the Holy Book. For their part, the fundamentalists cannot produce any viable counter arguments. Islam, free of rust and reactionary distortions, has become the essential, eternal premise and "breakthrough" ideology of the People's Mojahedin of Iran. Their grasp of genuine Islam was made possible by the organization's ideological research based on the Quran, the original texts of Islamic culture, and 30 years of practical experience under the leadership of Massoud Rajavi. He truly is Iran's most qualified, most decent, most selfless leader and Islamic ideologue. He has conveyed and taught the Mohammadan Islam as a religion of mercy and tolerance, freedom and democracy, progress and advancement of science and society to an unrelenting generation of Muslims.

Years before Khomeini seized power in Iran, the demarcation between the Mojahedin's ideology and the ideas of Khomeini and his reactionary clerics had surfaced. In the early days of Khomeini's rule, a tremendous number of young people, intellectuals, and progressive clerics chose the Mojahedin's interpretation of Islam and supported Massoud Rajavi. Since the 1906 Constitutional Revolution, generation after generation of Iranians have been aware of the views of the reactionaries. Subsequent to the anti-monarchic revolution, these very ideas basically served the political ends of a suppressive regime, enjoying neither influence nor ideological weight. Consequently, a furious Khomeini had to call off his unpopular televised classes in which he interpreted the Quran. He also had to close down the weekly classes at Sharif University of Technology, where 10,000 university students eagerly gathered to listen to Massoud Rajavi teach philosophy and a comparative study on the nature of existence. On March 1, 1980, Le Monde wrote: "Among the most important events not to be missed in Tehran are the courses on comparative philosophy, taught every Friday afternoon by Mr. Massoud Rajavi. Some 10,000 people presented their admission cards to listen for three hours to the lecture by the leader of the People's Mojahedin on Sharif University's lawn."

"In the weekly conferences at Sharif University," Le Monde continued, "Mr. Rajavi draws help from the Quran, the Old Testament and the Bible as well as from Plato, Socrates, Sartre, Hegel, Marx, and others to explain the Mojahedin's ideology. The courses are recorded on video cassettes and distributed in 35 cities. They are also published in paperback and sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies."

Now, let us study Islam's view of women and compare it, in accordance with its fundamental principles, with the outlook of the fundamentalists. This is a discussion which I think will bring many pervious discussions into