Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn:
While formulating Islamic laws, a rationalist and contextual approach to Islamic sources should be taken, keeping in mind Islam’s core values i.e., justice and mercy.
Islamic rules should always meet the following criteria: Compatibility with reason and compatibility with the requirements of (modern) times and people’s preferences.
How is that possible, wouldn’t the traditionalists protest?
Well, let’s take the example of Quranic verses dealing with slavery. Understandably, the institution of slavery was perceived as perfectly acceptable in the seventh century. But from eighteenth century onwards, through a widespread civil consensus between various world civilisations (including the Muslims), slavery was abolished as being an inhuman act.
Just imagine what the state of the Muslims would have been had they insisted on retaining slavery. The so-called Muslim ummah would have stood completely isolated with millions of Muslims preferring to adopt a more accommodating religion.
So my point is that when traditionalists demand that the Quran be understood literally and laws should then be based on this literalist reading, they are actually undermining the evolutionary spirit of the Holy book and relegating its status to being a document frozen in the social, political and cultural ethos of a distant past.
Islam and Islamic law should be understood and implied by each generation according to its own conditions.
We should define Islam in such a way that it does not undermine its global standing. For this we need educated, pragmatic and rational political and cultural spokespersons. Obviously, people like the Al Qaeda and the Taliban are the worst poster boys for Islam in the modern world.