The subject is a nod to Sidiqi bhai's question in a post below asking "Is each and every ayer( verse) or surah (chapter) applicable and to be followed for ever?", and as I had been thinking about this myself recently I thought I would post my thoughts here to get some feedback. Kianusch Jahan had asked me a related question on FB, namely "It seems we can conclude that this law is optional and even we can take two women alone as the witnesses . Do you agree?," with my reply being:
"I would agree, yes. The Qur'an is a single book that applies to individuals and civilizations at all possible stages of development. It's like writing a single guidebook for every stage of a person's life. The advice in such a guidebook would be different depending on if the reader were in their teenage years, 30's, 40's, etc. As the person matures and grows their capacity, they would be capable of receiving more advanced guidance. So the rules that applied when they were young may no longer be needed when said person grows in maturity. But since it would all need to be written in the same book, the person would have to differentiate between guidance meant for their early years, and that meant for their latter years. Same idea applies here, I think, for nations.
This doesn't of course mean that the laws are "optional", per se, but that a more mature perspective allows discretion in terms of how guidance meant for different stages of growth is applied and balanced with that meant with earlier stages of growth."
And to expand on this, as an example the rule to stop at a stop sign is always "active", but only applies when certain conditions are met. It doesn't have to do with what time of day or year it is, only the conditions; namely, there being a stop sign in front of you. It just so happens that the world will on average continually progress and move closer to truth, this being God's promise, so it will appear that some parts of the book "no longer apply", but I don't agree that this is the correct way to put it. Rather, it's that current conditions of a welfare state, a meritocracy, and progressive values that protect human rights ensure that certain commands from the Qur'an, which may have been meant for solving the ills of a more primitive, patriarchal society, no longer apply. And here I'm thinking of things like polygamy (with 24:32, "marry the singles among you," winning out) and needing two women witnesses as compared to one man for legal matters.
If however there were a sudden collapse of society, and patriarchy and primitive society reared its ugly head again, such commands could once again apply due to the change in conditions.