When one speaks of change and progress in the world system, one would perhaps wonder where Islam – which is the world’s fastest-growing religion and is now arguably the world’s largest religion – fits into the whole scheme. For one, there is no proof to suggest that the founders of Islam, the foremost of whom were the Prophet Muhammad and his closest companions, intended for their condition to be the end-all-be-all for change and progress, despite the claims of literalists and fundamentalists who contend that a return to the way of life in 7th century Arabia is the only means of salvation. If anything, Islam is a stepping stone for further change and progress, not necessarily an endpoint. While Islam prompted significant changes and progress when it came to issues such as racial equality and women’s rights, there is nothing to suggest that Islam left no room for further change and progress.
Islam normalized practices such as divorce and polyamory at a time when Europe was incredibly strict over such issues. For Islam, camaraderie and love are the ultimate ideals in any interpersonal relationship, including marriage. As a matter of fact, marriage is not even a requirement in Islam. As mentioned before, marriage – which in literal terms amounts to the control and possession of another person’s sexual attributes – is largely a feudal and medieval institution, not a progressive or Islamic institution. Marriage was, in essence, an institution which ensured that men from a lower class could not have access to women which sparked the interest of feudal overlords.
Also, if we take the Prophet Muhammad himself as a model for the institution of marriage, his first marriage – which he entered into at the tender age of twenty-five with a woman whom he did not approach, but rather, she approached him and was fifteen years older than him – was a love marriage which ended up being much less tumultuous than his future marriages, some of which were political in nature. Those who studied the life of the Prophet Muhammad would know that the void left by the untimely death of his first wife was a void left in his heart that could never be filled again.
The idea behind the human development aspect of Islam is such that as long as a person has overcome a state of desire and lust and has entered into a state of camaraderie and love with others – regardless of their race, religion, or gender – then that person has achieved the high standard of character and ethics which Islam seeks to develop in a person. Moreover, there is no rule in Islam which prohibits Muslim men from marrying Christian, Jewish, or non-Muslim women or having friendly relations with non-Muslim peoples. What cannot be negated, however, is the fact that there is natural law on one hand, and there is man-made law on the other hand. Obviously, the former is superior to the latter. If we look at what is occurring in the Western world at the moment, one realizes that man-made laws are always in need of change and reform, whereas natural law always steps in to make those necessary changes and reforms happen. As with knowledge, there is also a hierarchy as it pertains to law, and this political and social reality will most likely manifest itself over the course of time.