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Abrogation (Naskh) refers to one Qur'anic verse superseding another, and is itself supported by Qur'anic verses and various hadith narrations. There was scholarly disagreement as to which verses were abrogated (see the article List of Abrogations in the Qur'an).
Understanding the necessity for Naskh is crucial in understanding Islam and its theology. The Qur'an is said to have been revealed by the angel Jibreel to Prophet Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years. During those years, a lot had changed in his personal and private life.
Muhammad began as a preacher, and ended his life as the founder and Head of the first Islamic state, so it is not surprising that the style and message of later Medinan Qur'anic revelations changed and often conflicted with earlier Meccan ones.
Today's Qur'an, when read at face value with its non-chronological organization, can support any number of views on several subjects, and when read as a whole, many surahs clearly contradict one another. This is why Muhammad himself (through Qur'anic revelations) introduced this concept into Islam.
At the time of the caliphate, some scholars (particularly a preacher from Kufa, Iraq) were banned from explaining and preaching the Qur'an by early 'ilmic authority figure (usually 'Alī but sometimes also Ibn 'Abbās) because of their ignorance of the principles of naskh.
Some may claim this doctrine does not exist or is not a part of mainstream Islam. However, when you view the chronological order of the revelations, it becomes undeniable. Moreover, Muslims adhere to this doctrine everyday by prohibiting the consumption of alcohol.
Transliteration: Ma nansakh min ayatin aw nunsiha na/ti bikhayrin minha aw mithliha alam taaalam anna Allaha aala kulli shay-in qadeerunShakir: Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?
Meaning of Verse 2:106
Ibn Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "Whatever an Ayah We abrogate. Also, Ibn Jurayj said that Mujahid said that,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "Whatever an Ayah We erase. Also, Ibn Abi Najih said that Mujahid said that,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "We keep the words, but change the meaning. He related these words to the companions of `Abdullah bin Mas`ud. Ibn Abi Hatim said that similar statements were mentioned by Abu Al-`Aliyah and Muhammad bin Ka`b Al-Qurazi. Also As-Suddi said that,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "We erase it. Further, Ibn Abi Hatim said that it means, "Erase and raise it, such as erasing the following wordings (from the Qur'an), `The married adulterer and the married adulteress: stone them to death,' and, `If the son of Adam had two valleys of gold, he would seek a third.'
Ibn Jarir stated that,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "Whatever ruling we repeal in an Ayah by making the allowed unlawful and the unlawful allowed. The Nasakh only occurs with commandments, prohibitions, permissions, and so forth. As for stories, they do not undergo Nasakh. The word, `Nasakh' literally means, `to copy a book'. The meaning of Nasakh in the case of commandments is removing the commandment and replacing it by another. And whether the Nasakh involves the wordings, the ruling or both, it is still called Nasakh.
Allah said next,
(or Nunsiha (cause it to be forgotten)). `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said that,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh or Nunsiha) means, "Whatever Ayah We repeal or uphold without change. Also, Mujahid said that the companions of Ibn Mas`ud (who read this word Nansa'ha) said that it means, "We uphold its wording and change its ruling. Further, `Ubayd bin `Umayr, Mujahid and `Ata' said, `Nansa'ha' means, "We delay it (i.e., do not abrogate it). Further, `Atiyyah Al-`Awfi said that the Ayah means, "We delay repealing it. This is the same Tafsir provided by As-Suddi and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. `Abdur-Razzaq said that Ma`mar said that Qatadah said about Allah's statement,
(Whatever a verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten) "Allah made His Prophet forget what He willed and He abrogated what He will.
(We bring a better one or similar to it), better, relates to the benefit provided for the one it addresses, as reported from `Ali bin Abi Talhah that Ibn `Abbas said,
(We bring a better one) means, "We bring forth a more beneficial ruling, that is also easier for you. Also, As-Suddi said that,
(We bring a better one or similar to it) means, "We bring forth a better Ayah, or similar to that which was repealed. Qatadah also said that,(We bring a better one or similar to it) means, "We replace it by an Ayah more facilitating, permitting, commanding, or prohibiting.
Tafsir ibn Kathir
The following sahih narration indicates, that there are many verses in the Qur'an that have been abrogated, but all of them had to be included.
Neither the abrogating nor the abrogated verses on suckling appear in the text of the Qur'an today. This, along with the Qur'anic verse of rajm (stoning), were written on a piece of paper and were reportedly lost when a goat ate them.
Companions of Muhammad
According to Ali, the fourth Rightly-guided Caliph, knowing the difference between abrogating and abrogated verses will save you from being damned.
"Although the companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed naskh, and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of a particular verse, references to the generation of the companions in the naskh literature are relatively infrequent.Ibn Salama, al-Nasikh wa ‘l-mansukh (Cairo 1315/1899), 142-3, where `Ali and Ibn ‘Abbas disagree over the abrogation of Quran 4:94; `Ali maintained that the verse was abrogated by Quran 4:115 and 4:48, while Ibn ‘Abbas held that it remained muhkama.
Dr David Powers notes the following regarding the highs and lows of abrogation in the Qur'an.
al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505) recognised only twenty instances of true abrogation and Shah Wali Allah (d 1762) reduced that number to five.
Ibn al-’Ata’iqi, on the other hand, while citing 231 instances of abrogation, appendixes the phrase wa fihi nazar, indicating doubt or uncertainty to his discussion of twenty-six verses."
 These figures are mentioned in Ernest Hahn, ‘Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s The Controversy over Abrogation (in the Qur’an)
There is also considerable disagreement over the scope of abrogation within the Qur’an itself. At one extreme, there were apparently certain people who argued that ‘the Qur’an does not contain either an abrogated or an abrogating verse’; these people, according to Ibn Salama, ‘have deviated from the truth and by virtue of their lying, have turned away from God’.
At the other extreme were those scholars who maintained that any narrative, positive command, or prohibition in the Qur’an may be abrogated.
 Ibn Salama, p. 26; cf. Al-Nahhas, pp 2-3 Ibn Salama, p. 26
According to Ibn Salama , those who reject abrogation have deviated from the truth. Once again, its improtant to note at the time of the caliphate, some scholars (particularly a preacher from Kufa, Iraq) were banned from explaining and preaching the Qur'ān by early 'ilmic authority figures because of their ignorance of the principles of naskh.
Second, the mutual abrogability of the Qur'an and the Sunna (i) is rationally possible - since the Qur'an describes the Sunna as revealed as well: "Nor does he speak of his own desire" (53:3) - and (ii) occurs in the Law, as per the abrogation of the verse of bequest (2:180) by the mass-transmitted hadith "There is no bequest for anyone who stands to inherit."
Imam al-Shafi`i famously dissented with the massive majority of the Scholars when he said that only the Qur'an abrogates the Qur'an and only the Sunna abrogates the Sunna, but his School did not follow him in this cf. Imam al-Haramayn in Mughith al-Khalq and the contemporary Shaykh Hasan Hitu in al-Wajiz fi Usul al-Tashri` al-Islami, both staunch Shafi`is.
We should be aware that in recent times the tendency has been toward minimalism, much of it a reaction to Orientalist and other attempts to construe naskh as a literary rewrite invalidating Divine origin, some Muslim revisionists even forwarding the view that there is no abrogation in the Qur'an. However, of the 60-odd teatises written on abrogation there is no precedent for such an extreme view. The number of cases hovers around 200, peaking at 247 with Ibn al-Jawzi, 214 with Ibn Hazm and 213 with Hibat Allah ibn Salama while falling to 134 with al-Nahhas and only 66 with `Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi.The Mu`tazili grammarian and author of the Qur'anic commentary Jami` al-Ta'wil li-Muhkam al-Tanzil, Abu Muslim al-Asfahani (254-322), was reputed to have denied intra-Qur'anic naskh altogether. Al-Razi and al-Shawkani refuted him in al-Mahsul and Irshad al-Fusul respectively, but others (such as Ibn Daqiq al-`Id and the contemporary scholar `Ali Hasabullah) justified his stance as a difference in terminology only (khilaf lafzi) - due, for example, to interpreting the word aya as "(super)natural sign" or "previous Scriptures" rather than "Qur'anic verse," or a reconsideration of purported abrogation to be mere specification (ikhtisas). Hence al-Qarafi's rebuttal, when al-Razi questioned the claim of consensus on the existence of abrogation: "Agreement has indeed formed over meaning; difference is only over naming."
Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, living islam, December 23, 2008
Misinformation Spread by Apologists
Only Meccan Verses are Universal Commands
When you understand abrogation, the drive behind Islamic terrorism and extremism becomes somewhat comprehensible, even if one disagrees with it. This has led some apologists to flatly deny they are even aware of such a concept existing within Islam. Some have even attempted to create their own methods in choosing which verses apply to today's world.
One such example of this is the reversal of the truth; it is the obscure and baseless claim that the Medinan verses are read only in an historical and non-legal context, while the less violent Meccan verses are universal commands.
This in itself is not a negative thing, but when they try to pass this off to non-Muslims as authentic Islam and claim this is widely accepted by Islamic scholars, while never attempting to rectify the alleged misconceptions with their co-religionists, it is nothing more than deceptive propaganda.
Furthermore, this claim is theologically difficult. It contradicts several sahih hadith, and Qur'an 5:90-91 which prohibit the consumption of Alcohol and gambling, are Medinan verses.
Prior to the revelation of these verses, there were no prohibitions against intoxicants and games of chance. So when is the last time you have heard Muslims claiming drinking alcohol and gambling is permitted in Islam today?
Abrogation Exists Only Between the Qur'an and Previous Scriptures
Many modern apologists assert that abrogation does not exist within the Qur'an itself, but that the abrogation mentioned in Quran 2:106 and Quran 16:101 refers to the Qur'an replacing directives given in the Taurat and Injil.
Although this understanding has already been shown to be in error by Ibn Kathir's commentary here, let us take a look at these verses in context.
Say: The Holy spirit has revealed it from your Lord with the truth, that it may establish those who believe and as a guidance and good news for those who submit.
And certainly We know that they say: Only a mortal teaches him. The tongue of him whom they reproach is barbarous, and this is clear Arabic tongue.(As for) those who do not believe in Allah's communications, surely Allah will not guide them, and they shall have a painful punishment.
According to Islam, the Book of Musa was revealed from Allah to Moses (not via the Qur'an's “Holy Spirit” which is Jibreel, an Angel). The Gospels which the Qur'an talks about were written by people who were there, or revealed in visions from Allah etc. Again no angels were involved with the revelation of the previous scriptures. So verse 16:101 is clearly talking about Muhammad and the revelation of the Qur'an after talking about abrogation.
Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?
Do you not know that Allah's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and that besides Allah you have no guardian or helper?Rather you wish to put questions to your Messenger, as Musa was questioned before; and whoever adopts unbelief instead of faith, he indeed has lost the right direction of the way.
Verse 2:106 in context is clearly talking about those who questioned Muhammad about his contradictions, hence the revelation regarding “abrogation”. This has nothing to do with the “previous scriptures” either. So far its abrogation within the Qur'an itself.
Looking at verse 2:136, Allah says there is no distinction between the previous messages.
Since Isa never wrote a book, we can infer that Allah is talking about the Injil, and Musa; the Taurat. Why would Allah “make no distinction” between them if he had abrogated parts of it? Surely he would have seen fit to mention “except the parts we have substituted”?
Examples of Abrogation (According to Some Scholars)
The verses listed in this section were believed by some scholars to have been abrogated by Quran 9:5, known as the "verse of the sword". This view was held by those scholars, such as ibn Salama, whose beliefs about the number of abrogated verses were at the upper end of the range. This view became less common among later scholars.
This verse appears in Surah Al Taubah (Repentance), which is considered to be the closing remarks of Allah. It is also the most aggressive chapter of the entire Qur'an.
I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay the Zakah.This honorable Ayah (9:5) was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolator, every treaty, and every term." Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas commented: "No idolator had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara'ah was revealed.
Tafsir ibn Kathir
Let there be no compulsion in religion
Meaning of Verse 2:256
If they incline towards peace, you incline also
Meaning of Verse 8:61
Ibn Abbas in Tafsir Ibn Abbas and Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Suyuti)
Scholars on 8:61
Imam Abdullah Azzam
Imam Abdullah Azzam
Fight those who fight you, Allah hates aggressors
Meaning of verse 2:190
Tafsir al jalayn (Suyuti)
- Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths, Mary Pat Fisher, 1997, page 338, I.B. Tauris Publishers,
- Quran 17:106
- Powers, The Exegetical Genre nāsikh al-Qur'ān wa mansūkhuhu, ISBN 0-19-826546-8, p. 124
- Andrew Rippin, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 47, ISSN 0041-977X, pp. 26, 38
- Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal. vol. 6. page 269; Sunan Ibn Majah, page 626; Ibn Qutbah, Tawil Mukhtalafi 'l-Hadith (Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya. 1966) page 310; As-Suyuti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthur, vol. 2. page 13
- Annasikh-wal-Mansukh, by Abul Qasim, published by Hindia Press, Cairo, p. 6. A similar saying is found in An-Nasikh -wal- Mansukh (i.e. Abrogating & Abrogated), by Abu Ja'afar An-Nah'has, Beirut, 2003, p. 9, and Nawasikh Al-Qur'an (i.e. The Abrogating of the Qur'an), by Ibn Al-Jauzy, Beirut 2002, p. 24, and Al-Itqan Fi Ulum Al Qur'an by Al-Suyuti, II, p. 700.
- (referenced by A.Rippin) Abrogation and the Koran - David Bukay, School of Political Science, The University of Haifa
- Powers, D.S, "The Exergetical Genre nasikh al-Qur'an", pp.122-126 in Rippen, A (ed.), "Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an", Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1988
- Allamah Abu 'Abd Allah al-Zanjani - The History of the Quran - Al-Tawheed Vol. 4, No. 3; Vol. 5, No. 1, 2, & 3
- Quran Verses in Chronological Order - Qran.org, accessed May 13, 2011
- Kevin P. Edgecomb - Chronological Order of Quranic Surahs - Bombaxo, 2002
- Quran Chapters and their Chronological Sequence of Revelation - International Community of Submitters (ICS)
- Revelation Order - Tanzil Project, accessed May 13, 2011
- David Bukay - Abrogation and the Koran - School of Political Science, The University of Haifa
- Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz - Sunni Muslims and Taqiyyah - Answering Islam
- Shaykh ul-Islaam Taqi ud-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah - 'The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihaad' - p.28, © Copyright 2001 Maktabah Al Ansaar Publications, ISBN: 0-9539847-5-3