Abrogation أ لنسخ

Abrogation أ لنسخ

Definition

Technically, Naskh refers to the abrogation of a religious ruling through another religious ruling involving commands and prohibitions, and, the abrogation being either through a Qur’anic statement, Hadith, or consensus of the Ummah. There can be, and has not been, abrogation of a spiritual matter, moral, historical, exhorting statements, doctrinal, or Allah's attributes.

Valididy of Naskh – also found in Biblical traditions - is proven by the Qur’an. Allah said,

مَا نَنْسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنْسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا ۗ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
We do not abrogate a verse, or cause it to be forgotten, but substitute with one better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah has power over everything?” (Al Baqarah: 106) .

He also said,

وَإِذَا بَدَّلْنَا آيَةً مَكَانَ آيَةٍ ۙ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُنَزِّلُ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُفْتَرٍ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
And when We substitute a verse in place of another verse - and Allah knows best what to reveal - they say, ‘You are merely a forger,’ but most of them know not.(An-Nahl: 101)

He also said,

يَمْحُو اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِنْدَهُ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ
“Allah erases what He will, or confirms; and with Him is the Mother of the Book.”(Ar-Ra’d: 39).

Abrogation took place due to requirements and contingencies. It involved abrogation of (i) the Qur’an with the Qur’an, (ii) a Sunnah with the Qur’an, (iii) the Qur’an, with a Sunnah or (iv) a Sunnah with a Sunnah.

Examples of Naskh

(i) The example of a Qur’anic command abrogated, (repealed, withdrawn, replaced or changed), by the Qur’an is the Qur’anic verse:

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ إِنْ تَرَكَ خَيْرًا الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۖ حَقًّا عَلَى الْمُتَّقِينَ
“It has been prescribed for you, when death approaches one of you, and he is leaving wealth (behind him), that he make testament in favor of his parents and kinsmen, in a just manner: an obligation on the godfearing.” (Al-Baqarah: 180)

According to the great majority of scholars, this verse has been abrogated by verse 7 of Surah al Nisa’ which says:

لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ ۚ نَصِيبًا مَفْرُوضًا
“For men is their share of what their parents and relatives leave behind, and for women is their share of what their parents and relatives leave behind - whether little or much that they leave behind - a share allotted (by Allah).” – (An-Nisa’: 7)

(ii) The example of a Sunnah abrogated by the Qur’an is as follows. The Prophet Prayed facing Bayt al-Maqdisin Jerusalem for 17 months after Hijrah until the following verse abrogated the choice.

فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ۚ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنْتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ
“Then turn thy face towards the Masjid al-Haram, and wherever you may be (O Muslims), turn your faces towards it.” (Al Baqarah: 144)

(iii) The example of a Sunnah abrogating a Qur’anic ruling is as follows.Allah said,

الزَّانِيَةُ وَالزَّانِي فَاجْلِدُوا كُلَّ وَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمَا مِائَةَ جَلْدَةٍ
“The fornicatress and the fornicator: lash each of the twain (with) a hundred stripes.”(An-Noor: 2)

This has been abrogated when applicable to married Muslims for whom the Sunnah prescribes stoning to death. And,

(iv) The example of a Sunnah abrogated by another Sunnah is as follows.

There are several kinds of abrogation e.g., abrogation of the recited (verse) together with the legal ruling, abrogation of the legal ruling without the recited (verse), abrogation of the recited (verse) without the legal ruling. Further, it also happened that a verse, or more, or a whole chapter was revealed and then, when the contingency was over, was removed from the people’s memory. It is reported by Ubayy ibn Ka`b and `A’isha that Surah al Ahzab was originally as long as Surah al Baqarah (until a large portion of it was erased from memory).”

For greater details, one may look into Suyuti’s Al-Itqan Fi Ulum Al-Quran or a simpler work like Manna’ al-Qattan’s “Mabahith fi `Ulum al-Qur’an.”

Nasikh and Mansukh

Naskh involves two elements: naasikh (the abrogating one), and mansukh (the abrogated one). This is an important discipline for those who attempt deeper understanding of the Qur’an. `Ali ibn abi Talib prevented a man from lecturing in a mosque who did not know this discipline. The number of Qur’anic verses that abrogate or have been abrogated will depend on the definition of the term. The stricter the definition, the lesser the number, e.g., Shah Waliyullah showed that there were no more than five verses of the Qur’an involving abrogation, while others have cited scores of them; but their definition is all-comprehensive and particularly broad.

IbIbn Taymiyyah wrote, “Sometimes the salaf used the word Naskh (abrogation) to indicate that certain implications of the verse in question stood abrogated and not the verse itself. For instance, they said that the verse: ‘Fear Allah, as He should be feared,’ is abrogated by the verse, ‘Fear Allah to the extent possible,’ when we know that there is no contradiction between the two. What they meant, therefore, is that only a certain sense of the first verse stands abrogated by the second. One may assume that by the verse, ‘Fear Allah in the manner He should be feared,’ one is being burdened with what was beyond his capacity. The second verse corrected this understanding and explained that he ought to fear Him “to the extent possible.” Thanwi added that the salaf also used the term Naskh where one verse explained another. This should explain why some of the Companions believed a certain verse stood abrogated, while others maintained that it was not.

Further, what was Naskh for some was mere further expounding for others. For instance, according to some the following verse,

إِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَابِرُونَ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ ۚ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفًا مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا
“If there are twenty of you, patient and persevering, they will overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred, they will overcome a thousand of the unbelievers,” (Al-Anfaal:65)

has been abrogated by the verse which follows:

الْآنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنْكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفًا ۚ فَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ مِائَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُوا مِائَتَيْنِ ۚ وَإِنْ يَكُنْ مِنْكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُوا أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ
“Now, Allah made it lighter upon you and known that there is weakness in you. So, if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will overcome two hundred and if there are a thousand of you, they will overcome two thousand, by Allah leave.”(Al-Anfaal:66)

However, others point out that the two verses are not in nasikh-mansukh relationship, but rather, they are making independent statements about the relative strength of the Muslims in two different historic phases: earlier and later. Thus, one need not be unnecessarily alarmed by the high number of abrogations cited by some scholars.

Reasons of abrogation

There were several points of wisdom behind abrogation in early Islam. For centuries, human societies lived a certain kind of life: closer to beastly than human. Their situation could only be changed gradually. That required allowing certain things in the early stages of change and development, to be disallowed later.

There were several points of wisdom behind abrogation in early Islam. For centuries, human societies lived a certain kind of life: closer to beastly than human. Their situation could only be changed gradually. That required allowing certain things in the early stages of change and development, to be disallowed later. Later generations would not need the same measures because they would be in an already transformed society, in which they would not need to struggle against the rest of the world to follow Islam. As for the contingency itself, the scholars are agreed that in its early days, Islam was passing through special circumstances which required special rulings, accommodative of the prevailing situation. They were repealed once those very circumstances disappeared.

Another reason was to try out the earliest followers, to see whether they remained true to their faith or, were betaken by doubts and skepticism when abrogation came. In this manner, a band of tested and purified men and women was created that submitted to everything that Allah and His Messenger commanded. They were the trustworthy followers of Islam. It was they who were addressed when in a losing situation in a battlefield, it was called, “Where are the people of (Surah) Al-Baqarah?” It were these tried and tested soldiers of Islam that became the ambassadors of Islam wherever they were sent.

Modern-day Muslims feel uncomfortable when asked to explain “abrogation” by a Lord, who “Knows all.” Majid answered in his Tafsir work: “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the doctrine of certain laws, temporary or local, being superseded or abrogated by certain other laws, permanent and universal, and enacted by the same Law-giver, especially during the course of promulgation of that law. The course of Qur’anic Revelation has been avowedly gradual. It took about 23 years to finish and complete the Legislation. Small wonder, then, that certain minor laws, admittedly transitory, were replaced by certain others, lasting and eternal....It must be, however, clearly understood that the doctrine of abrogation applies to ‘law’ only, and even there to those of minor or secondary importance. Beliefs, articles of faith, principles of law, narratives, exhortations, moral precepts, and spiritual verities - none of these is at all subject to abrogation or repeal.”