Some people say that the Quran is trapped in a time machine and need to be modernise…and that a lot of things that the Quran or Hadith said are only applicable at their time and not at our time. for example the Sewak, and that a lot of people are using it as Sunnah while we have a tooth paste and a brush now…they say that people stick at using the Sewak and leaving the truth behind it which is cleaning our teeth…how to answer them, shortly and to the point?
The Qur’an and body of Hadith need to be treated separately because they are of differing natures. Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the divine word of God, while the Hadiths are a collection of traditions mostly dealing with the Prophet (pbuh). This distinction is important to any criticism being made so that proper answers are given to the critic or anyone with such questions.
The Hadiths relate many stories that are relative to a particular time or place. They give us a look into many aspects of life in 7th century Arabia. However, and more importantly, they are the supplemental material to the Sunnah and to the religion overall. It is possible that when reading a hadith one may find something that is only relevant to a particular time and place. It should not be assumed, however, that the whole body of Hadiths is useless or that parts of it are without worth. Instead, even if there are parts that we may not relate to, the overall picture must be taken into account. Without each element (tradition), we may lose a bit of information that may help in a better understanding of the subject. Also, hadiths may contain information that is religious in nature and in some cases not but that will be discussed later.
As for the Qur’an, it is the divine universal book of guidance. This means that it is for all times and all places. This, of course, is a very simplified way of looking at it but it’s the overall gist of this concept. While considering this point, it needs to be recognized that the Qur’an had a primary audience of a specific time and place: the framework of the message was Semitic in nature, the period was the 7th century and the backdrop was Arabia. This should not be interpreted as being outdated; rather, there are several reasons the message as is is the best way to establish the faith. One of these ways, is the fact that it does not impede the challenge of faith. More importantly, it is functional as a basis to live one’s life regardless if the features of modern days vary greatly from the ones mentioned in the book. In fact, even modernity is relative; while in some places people are flying in planes and using computers there are still places in the world that reflect life of a thousand or more years ago. The Qur’an is a book of guidance. It helps us realign ourselves with the Almighty. Its message of peace, love, honor, righteousness, charity, unity, etc… does not become outdated. Most importantly, its message of walking on the path of God does not decay because of time.
You cited one instance of behavior that may seem out of touch but the example is not a religious one. People use the miswak (i.e. twig) for several reasons but in our understanding it is not an obligation. Whether using toothbrushes with toothpaste is better has no bearing on the religion; however, Islam promotes a clean body that in turn leads to a clean mind and soul. So there is nothing wrong with using either method as long as it cleans well. If one does a better job, then there is no harm in using one method over the other. Even if a person decides to use both methods, it’s fine. At the end of it all, the Prophet used it because that was the best method for him to clean his teeth. So while cleaning our teeth is relevant to the religious concept of cleanliness, using the miswak is not. Additionally, this issue is not found in the Qur’an. This goes back to the matter of what is religious and what is not. The Hadiths mention a lot of things that have no religious significance, but more so historical. There are many scholars and lay-Muslims that believe that anything the Prophet did, said, approved (explicitly or tacitly) is part of the religion but our understanding is that this is an incorrect approach.
Keeping the above explanation in mind, the criticism against the Qur’an is without merit. The Qur’an’s directives, while within the framework of time place, are universal because they are fundamental. Whether the matter is ritual, faith-based, or moral these things don’t need updating.
I hope this helps.
God knows best.