View Full Version : [Uloom Al-Qur'an] Naskh (Abrogation)

Ansar Al-'Adl
09-09-2005, 01:16 AM
Extracts from Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence by M. H. Kamali


Chapter Seven: Naskh (Abrogation)

Literally, naskh means 'obliteration', such as in nasakhat al-rih athar al-mashy, meaning 'the wind obliterated the footprint'. Naskh also means transcription or transfer (al-naql wa al-tahwil) of something from one state to another while its essence remains unchanged. In this sense, 'naskh' has been used in the Qur'anic ayah which reads: inna kunna nastansikhu ma kuntum ta'malun, that is, 'verily We write all that you do' (al-Jathiyah, 45:29). This usage of naskh can also be seen in the familiar Arabic expressions, tanasukh al-arwah (reincarnation), and tanasukh al-mawarith, the transfer of inheritance from persons to persons. The ulema have differed as to which of these two meanings of naskh is the literal (haqiqi) as opposed to that which might be metaphorical (majazi). Some ulema, including Abu Bakr al-Baqillani and al-Ghazali, have held that 'naskh' is a homonym and applies equally to either of its two meanings. According to the majority view, however, obliteration (al-raf wa al-izalah) is the primary, and transcription/transfer is the secondary, meaning of naskh. [1. Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 69; Amidi, ahkam, III, 102ff; Hitu, Wajiz, p.241.]

Naskh may be defined as the suspension or replacement of one Shari'ah ruling by another, provided that the latter is of a subsequent origin, and that the two rulings are enacted separately from one another. According to this definition, naskh operates with regard to the rules of Shari'ah only, a proviso which precludes the application of naskh to rules that are founded in rationality (aql) alone. The hukm, or ruling, in this definition not only includes commands and prohibitions but also the three intermediate categories of recommended, reprehensible and mubah. The requirement that the two rulings must be separate means that each must be enacted in a separate text. For when they both occur in one and the same passage, it is likely that one complements or qualifies the other, or that one may embody a condition or an exception to the other. [2. Badran, Usul, p. 442.]

Abrogation applies almost exclusively to the Qur'an and the Sunnah; its application to ijma` and qiyas, as will later be explained, has been generally overruled. And even then, the application of naskh to the Qur'an and Sunnah is confined, in terms of time, to one period only, which is the lifetime of the Prophet. There is, in other words, no naskh after the demise of the Prophet. But during his lifetime, there were instances when some of the rulings of the Qur'an and Sunnah were either totally or partially repealed by subsequent rulings. This was due mainly to the change of circumstances in the life of the community and the fact that the revelation of the Qur'an spanned a period of twenty-three years. The ulema are unanimous on the occurrence of naskh in the Sunnah. It is, however, with regard to the occurrence of naskh in the Qur'an on which there is some disagreement both in principle as well as on the number of instances in which naskh is said to have occurred.[3. Khallaf, Ilm, p. 222; Abu Zahrah, Usul, p.148.]

Abrogation is by and large a Madinese phenomenon which occurred as a result of the changes that the Muslim community encountered following the Prophet's migration to Madinah. Certain rules were introduced, at the early stage of the advent of Islam, which were designed to win over the hearts of the people. An example of this is the number of daily prayers which was initially fixed at two but was later increased to five. Similarly, mut`ah, or temporary marriage, was initially permitted but was subsequently prohibited when the Prophet migrated to Madinah.[4. Shatibi, Muwafaqat, III, 63; Badran, Usul, p. 447.] These and similar changes were effected in the nusus at a time when the Muslim community acquired sovereign authority and fresh legislation was deemed necessary to regulate its life in the new environment of Madinah.

Some Hanafi and Mu'tazili scholars have held the view that ijma can abrogate a ruling of the Qur'an or the Sunnah. The proponents of this view have claimed that it was due to ijma` that `Umar b. al-Khattab discontinued the share of the mu'allafah al-qulub in the zakah. These were persons of influence whose friendship and co-operation was deemed to be beneficial to Islam.[5. Taj, Siyasah, p.14.] The Qur'an assigned them a share in zakah (al-Tawbah, 9:60), but this was discontinued apparently because the mujtahidun of the time reached a unanimous agreement to that effect. The correct view, however, is that owing to differences of opinion that are recorded on this matter, no ijma` could be claimed to have materialized.[6. Badran, Usul, p.458.] Besides, the majority of ulema have held that ijma` neither abrogates nor can be abrogated itself; and at any rate ijma cannot abrogate a nass of the Qur'an or the Sunnah. For a valid ijma' may never be concluded in contradiction to the Qur'an or the Sunnah in the first place. Al-Amidi elaborates this as follows: the hukm which the ijma` seeks to repeal might be founded in a nass, another ijma, or qiyas. The first is not possible, for the ijma` which seeks to abrogate the nass of Qur'an or Sunnah is either based on an indication (dalil) or not. If it is not based on any dalil, then it is likely to be erroneous, and if it is based on a dalil this could either be a nass or qiyas. If the basis (sanad) of ijma` is a qiyas, then abrogation is not permissible (as we shall explain later); and if the sanad of ijma` is a nass, then abrogation is by that nass, not by ijma`. The share of the mu'allafah al-qulub was discontinued by Umar b. al-Khattab on the grounds of the Shari'ah-oriented policy (al-siyasah al-shar`iyyah), which is explained in the caliph's widely-quoted phrase that `God has exalted Islam, which is no longer in need of their favor.' [7. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 161; Taj, Siyasah, p. 28.]

According to the general rule a Qur'anic nass or a Mutawatir Hadith cannot be abrogated by a weaker Hadith, by ijma' or by qiyas. For they are not of equal authority to the nass. This is, in fact, the main argument in support of the rule, already referred to, that no abrogation of the nusus is possible after the demise of the Prophet, for the Qur'an and the Sunnah ceased to be revealed with his demise. Since nothing weaker than the Qur'an and Sunnah can abrogate anything in either of these sources, abrogation, to all intents and purposes, came to an end with the death of the Prophet. Ijma`, qiyas and ijtihad, being weaker in comparison to the nusus, cannot abrogate the rules of divine revelations.[8. Khallaf, Ilm, p. 228.]

It is in view of these and similar considerations that the ulema have arrived at the general rule that ijma' can neither abrogate anything nor be abrogated itself. Abrogation in other words is generally not relevant to ijma`. The preferable view, however, is that ijma' cannot abrogate the rulings of the Qur'an, the Sunnah, or of another ijma' which is founded in the Qur'an, Sunnah, or qiyas. However, a subsequent ijma' may abrogate an existing ijma` which might be founded in considerations of public interest, or maslahah mursalah. This would in theory appear to be the only situation a which ijma` could operate as an abrogator.[9. Badran, Usul, p. 459.]

And finally, since the principal function of qiyas is to extend the rulings of the Qur'an and Sunnah to similar cases, it may never operate in the opposite direction, namely, to repeal a text of the Qur'an or Sunnah. Broadly speaking, qiyas has no place in the theory of naskh: qiyas cannot be an abrogator, basically because it is weaker than the nass and ijma and thus cannot abrogate either. Nor can qiyas itself be abrogated, for qiyas is normally based on a textual ruling and is bound to remain valid for as long as the original text remains valid. It is thus inconceivable that a qiyas be abrogated while the text to which it is founded remains in force. Furthermore, an established analogy is not exactly abrogated by a subsequent analogy. If the first analogy is based on the Qur'an, or Sunnah, then a conflicting analogy would presumably be erroneous. Besides, the two analogies can coexist and be counted as two ijtihadi opinions without the one necessarily abrogating the other. For the rule concerning ijtihad is that the mujtahid deserves a reward for his effort even if his ijtihad is incorrect. In short, naskh basically applies to binding proofs, and qiyas is not one of them.[10. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 163ff; Badran, Usul, p. 459.]

In his Risalah, Imam Shafi'i has maintained the view that naskh is not a form of annulment (ilgha'); it is rather a suspension or termination of one ruling by another. Naskh in this sense is a form of explanation (bayan) which does not entail a total rejection of the original ruling.[11. Shafi'i, Risalah, p. 103, Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 148.] Naskh is explanatory in the sense that it tells us of the termination of a particular ruling, the manner and the time of its termination, whether the whole of a ruling or only a part of it is terminated, and of course, the new ruling which is to take its place. However, the majority of ulema do not accept the view that naskh is a form of bayan. The fact that naskh terminates and puts an end to a ruling differentiates it from bayan, and when a ruling is terminated, it cannot be explained.

There may be instances of conflict between two texts which, after scrutiny, may turn out to be apparent rather than real, and it may be possible to reconcile them and to eliminate the conflict. One of the two texts may be general (`amm) and the other specific (khass), in which case the rules of interpretation and takhsis (specification) must be applied so as to eliminate the conflict as far as possible. If the two texts cannot be so reconciled, then the one which is stronger in respect of authenticity (thubut) is to be preferred. If, for example, there be a conflict between the Qur'an and a solitary Hadith, the latter is weaker and must therefore give way to the Qur'an. The solitary, or Ahad, Hadith may also be abrogated by the Mutawatir, the Mashhur, or another Ahad, which is dearer in meaning or which is supported by a stronger chain of narration (isnad). But if the two texts happen to be equal on all of these points, then the prohibitory text is to be given priority over the permissive. Furthermore, in all instances of conflict, it is essential to determine the time factor. If this can be determined, then the later in time abrogates the earlier. The chronological sequence between the two rulings can, however, only be established by means of reliable reports, not by rational argumentation or analogical reasoning.[12. Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 83; Badran, Usul, p. 455.]

As a general rule, naskh is not applicable to the `perspicuous' texts of the Qur'an and Hadith, known as muhkamat. A text of this nature is often worded in such a way as to preclude the possibility of repeal. There are also certain subjects to which abrogation does not apply. Included among these are provisions pertaining to the attributes of God, belief in the principles of the faith, and the doctrine of tawhid and the hereafter, which could not be subjected to abrogation. Another subject is the Shari'ah of Islam itself, which is the last of the revealed laws and can never be abrogated in its entirety.[13. Ghazali, Mustasfa, I,72.] The ulema are also in agreement that rational matters and moral truths such as the virtue of doing justice or being good to one's parents, and vices such as the enormity of telling lies, are not changeable and are therefore not open to abrogation. Thus a vice cannot be turned into a virtue or a virtue into a vice by the application of naskh. Similarly the nusus of the Qur'an and Sunnah which relate the occurrence of certain events in the past are not open to abrogation. To give an example, the following Qur'anic text is not amenable to the application of naskh: `As for the Thamud, they were destroyed by a terrible storm, whereas the `Ad were destroyed by a furious and violent wind' (al-Haqqah, 69:5-6). To apply naskh to such reports would imply the attribution of lying to its source, which cannot be entertained.[14. Badran, Usul, p.454; Hitu, Wajiz, p. 244.]

To summarise the foregoing: no abrogation can take place unless the following conditions are satisfied. First, that the text itself has not precluded the possibility of abrogation. An example of this is the Qur'anic provision concerning persons who are convicted of slanderous accusation (qadhf) that they may never be admitted as witnesses (al-Nur, 24:4). Similarly the Hadith which proclaims that `jihad shall remain valid till the day of resurrection', obviously precludes the possibility of abrogating the permanent validity of jihad.[15. Abu Dawud, Sunan, II, 702, Hadith no. 2526; Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 150.] Second, that the subject is open to the possibility of repeal. Thus the attributes of God and the principles of belief, moral virtues and rational truths, etc., are not open to abrogation. Third, that the abrogating text is of a later origin than the abrogated. Fourth, that the two texts are of equal strength in regard to authenticity (thubut) and meaning (dalalah). Thus a textual ruling of the Qur'an may be abrogated either by another Qur'anic text of similar strength or by a Mutawatir Hadith, and, according to the Hanafis, even by a Mashhur Hadith, as the latter is almost as strong as the Mutawatir. By the same token, one Mutawatir Hadith may abrogate another. However, according to the preferred (rajih) view, neither the Qur'an nor the Mutawatir Hadith may be abrogated by a solitary Hadith. According to Imam Shafi'i, however, the Sunnah, whether as Mutawatir or Ahad, may not abrogate the Qur'an.[16. Shafi'i, Risalah, p.54; Amidi, Ihkam, III,146ff.] Fifth, that the two texts are genuinely in conflict and can in no way be reconciled with one another. And lastly, that the two texts are separate and are not related to one another in the sense of one being the condition (shart), qualification (wasf) or exception (istithna') to the other. For when this is the case, the issue is likely to be one of specification (takhsis), or qualification (taqyid) rather than abrogation.[17. Hitu, Wajiz, p.244; Khallaf, Ilm, p. 223.]

Types of Naskh

Abrogation may either be explicit (sarih), or implicit (dimni). In the case of explicit abrogation, the abrogating text clearly repeals one ruling and substitutes another in its place. The facts of abrogation, including the chronological order of the two rulings, the fact that they are genuinely in conflict, and the nature of each of the two rulings, and so forth, can be ascertained in the relevant texts. An example of this is the Hadith which provides: `I had forbidden you from visiting the graves. Nay, visit them, for they remind you of the hereafter.'[18. Tabrizi, Mishkat, I, 552, Hadith no.1762; Muslim, Sahih, p.340.]

In another Hadith the Prophet is reported to have said, `I had forbidden you from storing away the sacrificial meat because of the large crowds. You may now store it as you wish.'[19. Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 83. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 181.]

The initial order not to store the sacrificial meat during the id festival (`id al-Adha) was given in view of the large number of visitors who attended the festival in Madinah, where the Prophet desired that they should be provided with necessary foodstuffs. The restriction was later removed as the circumstances had changed. In both these examples, the text leaves no doubt as to the nature of the two rulings and all the other relevant facts of abrogation. An example of explicit abrogation in the Qur'an is the passage in sura al-Baqarah (2: 142-144) with regard to the change in the direction of the qiblah from Jerusalem to the Ka'bah. The relevant text of the Qur'an as to the direction of the qiblah before and after the new ruling is clear, and leaves no doubt with regard to the facts of abrogation and the nature of the change which was effected thereby.[20. Another instance of explicit naskh in the Qur'an is the passage in sura al-Anfal (8:65-66) which encouraged the Muslims to fight the unbelievers. The passage reads as follows: 'If there be of you twenty steadfast persons, they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be one hundred of you, they shall overcome one thousand.' The subsequent ayahreviewed these figures as follows: `Now Allah has lightened your burden [...] if there be of you one hundred steadfast persons, they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you one thousand, they shall overcome two thousand.']

In the case of implicit abrogation, the abrogating text does not clarify all the relevant facts. Instead we have a situation where the Lawgiver introduces a ruling which is in conflict with a previous ruling and the two cannot be reconciled, while it remains somewhat doubtful whether the two rulings present a genuine case for abrogation. An example of implicit abrogation is the ruling in sura al-Baqarah (2:180) which permitted bequests to one's parents and relatives. This was subsequently abrogated by another text (al-Nisa, 4:11) which entitled the legal heirs to specific shares in inheritance. Notwithstanding the fact that the two rulings are not diametrically opposed to one another and could both be implemented in certain cases,[21. Shafi'i (Risalah, p. 69) has observed concerning these ayat that the abrogation of bequest to relatives by the ayah of inheritance is a probability only, but he adds that the ulema have held that the ayah of inheritance has abrogated the ayah of bequests. On the same page, Shafi'i quotes the Hadith that `there shall be no bequest to an heir.' It thus appears that in his view, the abrogation of bequest to legal heirs in the Qur'an is a probability which has been confirmed and explained by this and other ahadith on the subject.] the majority of ulema have held that the initial ruling which validated bequests to relatives has been abrogated by the rules of inheritance. They have held that the ayah of inheritance prescribes specific portions for legal heirs which can be properly implemented only if they were observed in their entirety, and that the Qur'anic scheme of inheritance is precise and self-contained, and any outside interference is likely to upset the individual shares as well as the overall balance between them. Since bequest to legal heirs is seen as a principal source of such interference it is totally forbidden. This analysis is substantiated by the explicit ruling of a Hadith in which the Prophet is reported to have said, `God has assigned a portion to all who are entitled. Hence there shall be no bequest to legal heirs.' [22. Shafi'i, Risalah, p. 69; Abu Dawud, Sunan, II, 808, Hadith no. 2864; Khallaf, `Ilm, p. 224.]

Implicit abrogation has been sub-divided into two types, namely total abrogation (naskh kulli) and partial abrogation (naskh juzi). In the case of the former, the whole of a particular nass is abrogated by another, and a new ruling is enacted to replace it. This may be illustrated by a reference to the two Qur'anic texts concerning the waiting period (`iddah) of widows, which was initially prescribed to be one year but was subsequently changed to four months and ten days. The two texts are as follows:

  1. Those of you who are about to die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year's maintenance and residence; but if they leave the residence, you are not responsible for what they do of themselves (al-Baqarah, 2:240).
  2. Those of you who die and leave widows, the latter must observe a waiting period of four months and ten days; when they have fulfilled their term, you are not responsible for what they do of themselves (al-Baqarah, 2:234)
As can be seen, the provision concerning the waiting period of widows in the first ayah has been totally replaced by the new ruling in the second. There is no doubt on the point that both of these rulings are exclusively concerned with the same subject, namely, the widows. Both ayat require them to observe a waiting period, whose length varies in each, and only one must be observed, not both. The two passages are thus in conflict and the latter abrogates the former. But this is a case, as already noted, of an implicit naskh, in that the two ayat do not expound, with complete clarity, all the facts of abrogation and it is not certain whether they are genuinely in conflict, for the term `a year's maintenance and residence' in the first ayah does not recur in the second. There is, in fact, no reference to either maintenance or residence in the second ayah. This would, for example, introduce an element of doubt concerning whether the two ayat are concerned with different subjects of maintenance and `iddah respectively. There is, in other words, a level of discrepancy which might make it possible to apply each of the two rulings to different situations. This is not to argue against the majority view which seems to be the settled law, but merely to explain why an abrogation of this type has been classified as implicit naskh.

Partial abrogation (naskh juz'i ) is a form of naskh in which one text is only partially abrogated by another, while the remaining part continues to be operative. An example of this is the Qur'anic ayah of qadhf (slanderous accusation) which has been partially repealed by the ayah of imprecation (li'an). The two texts are as follows:

  1. Those who accuse chaste women [of adultery] and then fail to bring four witnesses to prove it shall be flogged with eighty lashes (al-Nur, 24:4).

  1. Those who accuse their spouses and have no witnesses, other than their own words, to support their claim, must take four solemn oaths in the name of God and testify that they are telling the truth (al-Nur, 24:6).

The first ayah lays down the general rule that anyone, be it a spouse or otherwise, who accuses chaste women of zina must produce four witnesses for proof. The second ayah provides that if the accuser happens to be a spouse who cannot provide four witnesses and yet insists on pursuing the charge of zina, he may take four solemn oaths to take the place of four witnesses. This is to be followed, as the text continues, by a statement in which the husband invokes the curse of God upon himself if he tells a lie. The ruling of the first text has thus been repealed by the second text insofar as it concerns a married couple.[23. Shafi'i, Risalah, p. 72; Khallaf, `Ilm, p.227.]

It will be noted that the text of the Qur'an has two distinctive features, namely, the words of the text, and the ruling, or the hukm, that it conveys. Reading and reciting the words of the Qur'an, even if its ruling is abrogated, still commands spiritual merit. The words are still regarded as part of the Qur'an and salah can be performed by reciting them. It is on the basis of this distinction between the words and the rulings of the Qur'an that naskh has once again been classified into three types. The first and the most typical variety of abrogation is referred to as naskh al-hukm, or naskh in which the ruling alone is abrogated while the words of the text are retained. All the examples which we have given so far of the incidence of naskh in the Qur'an fall into this category. Thus the words of the Qur'anic text concerning bequests to relatives (al-Baqarah, 2:180) and the one concerning the `iddah of widows (al-Baqarah, 2: 240) are still a part of the Qur'an despite the fact that they have both been abrogated. We still recite them as such, but do not apply the law that they convey. The other two varieties of naskh, respectively referred to as naskh al-tilawah (sometimes as naskh al-qira'ah), that is, abrogation of the words of the text while the ruling is retained, and naskh al-hukm wa al-tilawah, that is, abrogation of both the words and the ruling - are rather rare and the examples which we have are not supported by conclusive evidence. Having said this, however, we might add that, except for a minority of Mu'tazili scholars, the ulema are generally in agreement on the occurrence of abrogation in both these forms.[24. Amidi, Ihkam, III,141.] An example of naskh al-tilawah is the passage which, according to a report attributed to `Umar b. al-Khattab, was a part of the Qur'an, although the passage in question does not appear in the standard text. However the ruling conveyed by the passage in question still represents authoritative law. The reported version of this text provides: `When a married man or a married woman commits zina, their punishment shall be stoning as a retribution ordained by God.'[25. The Arabic version reads 'al-Shaykhu wa'l-shaykhatu idha zanaya farjumuhuma albattatas nakalan min Allah.' Both Ghazali (Mustasfa, I, 80, and Amidi, Ihkam III, 141) have quoted it. 'Umar b. al-Khattab is quoted to have added: 'Had it not been for fear of people saying that `Umar made an addition to the Qur'an, I would have added this to the text of the Qur'an']

In the event where the words of the text, and the law that they convey, are both repealed, then the text in question is of little significance. According to a report which is attributed to the Prophet's widow, `A'ishah, it had been revealed in the Qur'an that ten clear suckings by a child, make marriage unlawful between that child and others who drank the same, woman's milk. Then it was abrogated and substituted by five suckings and it was then that the Messenger of God died. The initial ruling which required ten suckings was read into the text of the Qur'an. The ruling was then repealed and the words in which it was conveyed were also omitted from the text. However since neither of these reports is established by tawatur, they are not included in the Qur'an. The position now, according to the majority of ulema, is that either five clear suckings, or any amount which reaches the stomach, even if it be one large sucking, constitutes the grounds of prohibition.[26. Amidi, Ihkam, IV, 154; Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 80; Denffer `Ulum, p. 108.]

According to the majority (jumhur) view, the Qur'an and the Sunnah may be abrogated by themselves or by one another. In this sense, abrogation may be once again classified into the following varieties: (1) Abrogation of the Qur'an by the Qur'an, which has already been illustrated. (2) Abrogation of the Sunnah by the Sunnah. This too has been illustrated by the two ahadith which we quoted under the rubric of explicit abrogation. (3) Abrogation of the Qur'an by Sunnah. An example of this is the ayah of bequest in sura al-Baqarah (2:180) which has been abrogated by the Hadith which provides that `there shall be no bequest to an heir'. It is generally agreed that `the Qur'an itself does not abrogate the ayah of bequest and there remains little doubt that it has been abrogated by the Sunnah'.[27. Hitu, Wajiz, p. 252. See also Qadri, Islamic Jurisprudence, p. 230.] (4) Abrogation of the Sunnah by the Qur'an. An example of this is the initial ruling of the Prophet which determined the qiblah in the direction of Jerusalem. When the Prophet migrated to Madinah, he ordered the believers to pray in the direction of Jerusalem. This was later repealed by the Qur'an (al-Baqarah, 2:144) which ordered the Muslims to turn their faces toward the holy mosque of the Ka'bah.[28. Hitu, Wajiz, p. 252. See also Qadri, Islamic Jurisprudence, p. 230.] The Qur'an, in other words, abrogated a practice that was initially authorised by the Sunnah.

The main exception to the foregoing classification of naskh is taken by Imam Shafi'i, the majority of the Mu'tazilah, and Ahmad b. Hanbal (according to one of two variant reports), who have validated the first two types of abrogation, but have overruled the validity of the remaining two. In their view, abrogation of the Qur'an by the Sunnah and vice versa is not valid.[29. Amidi, Ihkam, III,153] This is the conclusion that al-Shafi'i has drawn from his interpretation of a number of Qur'anic ayat where it is indicated that the Qur'an can only be abrogated by the Qur'an itself.[30. Shafi'i, Risalah, p.54ff; Amidi, Ihkam, III,156ff.] Thus we read in sura al-Nahl (16:101):

And when We substitute one ayah in place of another ayah [ayatun makana ayatin], and God knows best what He reveals.

This text, according to al-Shafi`i, is self-evident on the point that an ayah of the Qur'an can only be abrogated or replaced by another ayah. The fact that the ayah occurs twice in this text provides conclusive evidence that the Qur'an may not be abrogated by the Sunnah. In another place, the Qur'an reads:

None of our revelations do We abrogate [ma nansakh min ayatin] or cause to be forgotten unless We substitute for them something better or similar (at-Baqarah,2:106).

The text in this ayah is once again clear on the point that in the matter of naskh, the Qur'an refers only to itself. The Qur'an, in other words, is self-contained in regard to naskh, and this precludes the possibility of it being abrogated by the Sunnah. Naskh in the Qur'an, according to al-Shafi'i, is a wholly internal phenomenon, and there is no evidence in the Qur'an to suggest that it can be abrogated by the Sunnah. Indeed the Qur'an asks the Prophet to declare that he himself cannot change any part of the Qur'an. This is the purport of the text in sura Yunus (10:1 5) which provides: `Say: it is not for me to change it of my own accord. I only follow what is revealed to me.' It is thus not within the Prophet's terms of reference to abrogate the Qur'an at his own initiative. 'The Sunnah in principle', writes al-Shafi`i, 'follows, substantiates, and clarifies the Qur'an; it does not seek to abrogate the Book of God'.[31. Shafi'i, Risalah, p. 54.] All this al-Shafi'i adds, is reinforced in yet another passage in the Qur'an where it is provided: 'God blots out or confirms what He pleases. With Him is the Mother of the Book' (al-Ra'd, 13: 39). The reference here is again to naskh and the source in which it originates is the Mother of the Book, that, is the Qur'an itself. The Sunnah, even the Mutawatir Sunnah, may not abrogate the Qur'an. AI-Shafi'i is equally categorical on the other limb of this theory, namely that the Qur'an does not abrogate the Sunnah either. Only the Sunnah can abrogate the Sunnah: Mutawatir by Mutawatir and Ahad by Ahad. Mutawatir may abrogate the Ahad, but there is some disagreement on whether the Ahad can abrogate the Mutawatir. According to the preferred view, which is also held by al-Shafi'i, the Ahad, however, can abrogate the Mutawatir. To illustrate this, al-Shafi'i refers to the incident when the congregation of worshippers at the mosque of Quba' were informed by a single person (khabar al-wahid) of the change of the direction of the qiblah from Jerusalem to the Ka'bah; they acted upon it and turned their faces toward the Ka'bah. The fact that Jerusalem was the qiblah had been established by continuous, or mutawatir, Sunnah, but the congregation of Companions accepted the solitary report as the abrogater of Mutawatir.[32. Shafi'i, Risalah, p.177; Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 81.]

Al-Shafi'i elaborates his doctrine further. If there existed any occasion for the Sunnah to abrogate the Qur'an or vice versa, the Prophet would be the first to say so. Thus in all cases where such an abrogation is warranted, there is bound to be a Sunnah of the Prophet to that effect, in which case the matter automatically becomes a part of the Sunnah. The Sunnah in other words is self-contained, and covers all possible cases of conflict and abrogation of the Qur'an by the Sunnah and vice versa. If any Sunnah is meant to be abrogated, the Prophet himself would do it by virtue of another Sunnah, hence there is no case for the abrogation of Sunnah by the Qur'an.[33. Shafi'i, Risalah, p. 102.]

Al-Shafi'i considers it necessary for the abrogation of Sunnah that the Prophet should have informed the people specifically about it. If the Qur'an were to abrogate the Sunnah, while the Prophet has not indicated such to be the case, then, to give an example, all the varieties of sale which the Prophet had banned prior to the revelation of the Qur'anic ayah on the legality of sale (al-Baqarah, 2:275) would be rendered lawful with the revelation of this ayah. Similarly, the punishment of stoning for zina which is authorised by the Prophet would be deemed abrogated by the variant ruling of one hundred lashes in sura al-Nur (24:2). In the case of theft, too, the Prophet did not punish anyone for theft below the value of one-quarter of a dinar, nor did he apply the prescribed punishment to the theft of unguarded (ghayr muhraz) property. These would all be deemed abrogated following the revelation of the ayah in sura al-Ma'idah (5:83) which prescribes mutilation of the hand for theft without any qualification whatsoever. If we were to open this process, it would be likely to give rise to unwarranted claims of conflict and a fear of departure from the Sunnah.[34. Shafi'i, Risalah, pp. 57-58. In raising the fear of departure from the Sunnah, Shafi'i was probably thinking of the doubts that would arise with regard to establishing the precise chronological order between the Qur'an and Sunnah in all possible cases of conflict. Since the Qur'an is generally authentic, any doubts of this nature are likely to undermine the Sunnah more than the Qur’an.]

Notwithstanding the strong case that al-Shafi'i has made in support of his doctrine, the majority opinion, which admits abrogation of the Qur'an and Sunnah by one another is preferable, as it is based on the factual evidence of having actually taken place. AI-Ghazali is representative of the majority opinion on this when he writes that identity of source (tajanus) is not necessary in naskh. The Qur'an and Sunnah may abrogate one another as they issue both from the same provenance. While referring to al-Shafi'i's doctrine, al-Ghazali comments: `how can we sustain this in the face of the evidence that the Qur'an never validated Jerusalem as the qiblah; it was validated by the Sunnah, but its abrogating text occurs in the Qur'an? Likewise, the fasting of `Ashura' was abrogated by the Qur'anic provision concerning the fasting of Ramadan while the former was only established by the Sunnah. Furthermore, the Qur'anic ayah which permitted conjugal intercourse at night-time in Ramadan (al-Baqarah, 2:178) abrogated the prohibition that the Sunnah had previously imposed on conjugal relations during Ramadan'.[35. Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 81; see also Amidi, Ihkam, III, 150ff.]

Abrogation, Specification (Takhsis) and Addition (Taz'id)

Naskh and takhsis resemble one another in that both tend to qualify or specify an original ruling in some way. This is particularly true, perhaps, of partial naskh, which really amounts to qualification / specification rather than repeal. We have already noted al-Shafi'i's perception of naskh which draws close to the idea of the coexistence of two rulings and an explanation of one by the other. A certain amount of confusion has also arisen between naskh and takhsis due to conceptual differences between the Hanafis and the majority of ulema regarding naskh in that they tend to view naskh differently from one another. These differences of perspective have, however, been treated more pertinently in our discussion of the Amm and the Khass. In this section, we shall outline the basic differences between naskh and takhsis without attempting to expound the differences between the various schools on the subject.

Naskh and takhsis differ from one another in that there is no real conflict in takhsis. The two texts, namely the general text and the specifying text, in effect complement one another. This is not, however, the case with naskh, in which it is necessary that the two rulings are genuinely in conflict and that they could not coexist. Another difference between naskh and takhsis is that naskh can occur in respect of either a general or a specific ruling whereas takhsis can, by definition, occur in respect of a general ruling only.[36. Ghazali, Mustasfa, I,71; Badran, Usul, p.452.]

As already stated, naskh is basically confined to the Qur'an and Sunnah and could only be effected by the explicit rulings of divine revelation. Takhsis on the other hand could also occur by means of rationality and circumstantial evidence. Naskh, in other words, can only occur by shar' whereas takhsis can occur by rationality (`aql ), custom (`urf) and other rational proofs. It would follow from this that takhsis (i.e. the specification or qualification of a general text) is possible by means of speculative evidence such as qiyas and solitary Hadith. But in the case of naskh, a definitive ruling, that is, a qat'i, can only be abrogated by another qat'i ruling. Abrogation, in other words, is basically not operative with regard to speculative rulings.[37. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 113; Badran, Usul, p.453.]

As already stated, in naskh it is essential that the abrogator (al-nasikh) be later in time than the ruling which it seeks to abrogate. There can be no naskh if this order is reversed, nor even when the two rulings are known to have been simultaneous. But this is not a requirement of takhsis. With regard to takhsis, the Hanafis maintain that the 'Amm and the Khass must in fact be either simultaneous or parallel in time. But according to the majority, the `Amm, and the Khass, can precede or succeed one another and they need not be in any particular chronological order.

Lastly, naskh does not apply to factual reports of events (akhbar) whereas takhsis could occur in regard to factual reports. Thus a news report may be specified or qualified, but cannot be abrogated. The closest concept to abrogation in regard to reports is that they can be denied.

Another issue which arises concerning naskh is whether a subsequent addition (taz'id) to an existing text, which may be at variance with it, amounts to its abrogation. When new materials are added to an existing law, the added materials may fall into one of the following two categories: (1) The addition may be independent of the original text but relate to the same subject, such as adding a sixth salah to the existing five. Does this amount to the abrogation of the original ruling? The majority of ulema have answered this question in the negative, holding that the new addition does not overrule the existing law but merely adds a new element to it. (2) The new addition may not be independent of the original text in that it may be dealing with something that constitutes an integral part of the original ruling. A hypothetical example of this would be to add another unit (rak'ah), or an additional prostration (sajdah) to one or more of the existing obligatory prayers. Another example would be to add to the existing requirement of releasing a slave in expiation for breaking the fast, a new condition that the slave has to be a Muslim. Does this kind of addition amount to the abrogation of the existing law? The ulema have differed on this, but once again the majority have held the view that it does not amount to abrogation as it does not seek to overrule the original text. The Hanafis have held, however, that such an addition does amount to abrogation. It is on this ground that the Hanafis have considered the ruling of the Ahad Hadith on the admissibility of one witness plus a solemn oath by the claimant to be abrogating the Qur'anic text which enacts two witnesses as standard legal proof (al-Baqarah, 2:282). The abrogation, however, does not occur, not because the Hanafis consider the new addition to be immaterial, but because the Ahad cannot repeal the Mutawatir of the Qur'an.[38. Amidi, Ihkam, III,170; Hitu, Wajiz, p.256.] The majority opinion does not regard this to be a case for abrogation. For the Qur'anic text on the requirement of two witnesses does not preclude the possibility of proof by other methods. Since the original Qur'anic text does not impose an obligatory command, it leaves open the possibility of recourse to alternative methods of proof.[39. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 175; Hitu, Wajiz, p. 257.]

The Argument Against Naskh

As already stated, the ulema are not unanimous over the occurrence of naskh in the Qur'an. While al-Suyuti has claimed, in his Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an, twenty-one instances of naskh in the Qur'an, Shah Wali Allah (d. 1762) has only retained five of al-Suyuti's twenty-one cases as genuine, stating that the rest can all be reconciled.[40. Subhi al-Salih (Mabahith, p.280) records the view that only ten of al-Suyuti's twenty-one instances of naskh in the Quran are genuine and that all the rest can be reconciled.] Another scholar, Abu Muslim al-1sfahani (d. 934) has, on the other hand, denied the incidence of abrogation in the Qur'an altogether.[41. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p.155; Denffer, 'Ulum, p. 110.] The majority of ulema have nevertheless acknowledged the incidence of naskh in the Qur'an on the authority of the Qur'an itself. This is the conclusion that the majority have drawn from the relevant Qur'anic passages. However, it will be noted that the counter-argument is also based on the same Qur'anic passages which have been quoted in support of naskh. The following two ayat need to be quoted again:

None of our revelations do We abrogate nor cause to be forgotten unless We substitute for them something better or similar [ma nansakh min ayatin aw nunsiha na'ti bi-khayrin minha aw mithliha] (al-Baqarah, 2:106).

Elsewhere we read in sura al-Nahl (16:106):

When We substitute one revelation for another, and God knows best what He reveals [wa idha baddalna ayatan makana ayatin wa' Llahu a'lam bima yunazzil].

To some commentators, the word 'ayah' to these passages refers, not to the text of the Qur'an itself, but to previous scriptures including the Torah and the Gospel. An interpretation of this type would, of course, render the ayah under discussion irrelevant to the occurrence of naskh in the Qur'an. Abu Muslim al-Isfahani, a Mu'tazili scholar and author of a Qur'an commentary (Jami al-Ta'wil), has held the view that all instances of so-called abrogation in the Qur'an are in effect no more than qualifications and takhsis of one text by another.[42. Subhi al-Salih, Mabahith, p.274.] To al-Isfahani, the word 'ayah' in these passages means not a portion of the Qur'anic text, but 'miracle'. To read this meaning in the first of the two passages quoted above would imply that God empowered each of His Messengers with miracles that none other possessed; that God provided each of His Messengers with superior miracles, one better than the other. That this is the correct meaning of the text is substantiated, al-Isfahani adds, by the subsequent portion of the same passage (i.e. al-Baqarah, 2:106) which reads: 'Do you not know that God is all-powerful?' (`ala kulli shay'in qadir). Thus this particular attribute of God relates more appropriately in this context to the subject of miracles rather than abrogation of one ayah by another. This interpretation finds further support in yet another portion of the same passage (i.e. 2:108) which provides in an address to the Muslim community: `Would you want to question your Prophet as Moses was questioned before?' It is then explained that Moses was questioned by the Bani Isra'il regarding his miracles, not the abrogation as such?[43. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 120.] The word `ayah', in the second passage (i.e. al-Nahl, 16:101) too means 'miracle'. For after all, 'ayah' literally means 'sign' and a miracle is a sign. AI-Isfahani further argues: Naskh is equivalent to ibtal, that is, 'falsification' or rendering something invalid, and ibtal as such has no place in the Qur'an. This is what we learn from the Qur'an itself which reads in sura Ha-Mim (41:42): 'No falsehood can approach it [the Book] from any direction [la ya'tihi al-batil min bayn yadayhi wa la min khalfih].' In response to this, however, it is said that naskh a not identical with ibtal; that naskh for all intents and purposes means suspension of a textual ruling, while the words of the text are often retained and not nullified.[44. Amidi, Ihkam, III, 124.]

Two other points that al-Isfahani has added to his interpretation are as follows. Supposing that the passages under consideration do mean abrogation, even then they do not confirm the actual occurrence of naskh but merely the possibility of it, and there is a difference between the two. Lastly, al-Isfahani maintains that all instances of conflict in the Qur'an are apparent rather than real, and can be reconciled and removed. This, he adds, is only logical of the Shari'ah, which is meant to be for all times; this is just another way of saying that it is not open to abrogation.[45. Abu Zahrah, Usul, p.155; Badran, Usul, p.448.]

Having explained al-Isfahani's refutation of the theory of naskh, it remains to be said that according to the majority of ulema, the occurrence of naskh in the Qur'an is proven, although not in so many instances as has often been claimed. The proponents of naskh have stated that the incidence of naskh in the Qur'an is proven, not only by the Qur'an itself, but also by a conclusive ijma. Anyone who opposes it is thus going against the dictates of ijma.[46. Al-Ghazali, Mustasfa, I, 72.] In the face of the foregoing disagreements, it is admittedly difficult to see the existence of a conclusive ijma' on the point. But according to the rules of ijma`, once an ijma' is properly concluded, any subsequent differences of opinion would not invalidate it. Divergent views such as that of al-Isfahani seem to have been treated in this light, and almost totally ignored.

In his book The Islamic Theory of International Relations: New Directions For Islamic Methodology and Thought (originally a doctoral dissertation), Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman is critical of the classical approach to naskh and calls for a fresh and comprehensive understanding `of the technique of naskh [.. .] on a systematic and conceptual basis, not a legalistic one' [47. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p.84.] The author is of the view that the classical exposition of naskh is unnecessarily restrictive as it tends to narrow down the 'rich Islamic and Qur'anic experience', and also indulges, in some instances at least, in a measure of exaggeration and excess.[48. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p. 107.]

The author maintains that abrogation was primarily an historical, rather than juridical, phenomenon and ought to have been read in that context. This may be part of the reason why the jurists have found it difficult to establish the validity of abrogation by the direct evidence of the Qur'an or Sunnah. The argument runs that the facts of naskh in regard to, for example, the ayah of the sword, as discussed below, were historical and were largely dictated by the prevailing pattern of relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims at the time. Now, instead of understanding naskh as a circumstance of history, the ulema turned it into a juridical doctrine of permanent validity. This classical concept of permanent abrogation is oblivious of the space-time element which, if taken into account, would have restricted the application of naskh to those circumstance alone.[49. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p. 73.]

The broad sweep of naskh was, however, taken so far as to invalidate a major portion of the Qur'an. This is precisely the case with regard to the ayah of the sword (ayah al-sayf) which reads, in the relevant part: `And fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together, and know that God is with those who keep their duty [to Him]' (al-Tawbah, 9:36). Influenced by the prevailing pattern of hostile relations with non-Muslims, 'some jurists took an extreme position in interpreting this ayah,' and claimed that it abrogated all preceding ayat pertaining to patience, tolerance and the right of others to self-determination.[50. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p. 36.] Although scholars are not in agreement as to the exact number of ayat that were abrogated as a result, Mustafa Abu Zayd has found that the ayah of the sword abrogated no less than 140 ayat in the holy Book.[51. Abu Zayd, Al-Nasikh wa al-Mansukh, I, 289 ff and II, 503 ff.] Jurists who were inclined to stress the aggressive aspect of jihad could only do so by applying abrogation to a large number of Qur'anic ayat, and 'using abrogation in this manner has, Abu Sulayman contests, `indeed narrowed the Qur'anic experience' [52. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p.36.] and undermined the egalitarian substance of its teachings. In many passages the Qur'an calls for peace, compassion and forgiveness, and promotes a set of moral values such as moderation, humility, patience and tolerance whose scope could not be said to be confined to relations among Muslims alone.

The Muslim jurists of the second hijrah century, as al-Zuhayli informs us, considered war as the norm, rather than the exception, in relations with non-Muslims, and they were able to do so partly because of a certain exaggeration in the use and application of naskh. The reason behind this attitude was the need, which was then prevalent, to be in a state of constant readiness for battle in order to protect Islam.[53. Wahbah al-Zuhayli, Athar al-Harb, p.130.] Under such political circumstances, it is not difficult to understand how abrogation was utilised as a means by which to strengthen the morale of the Muslim in facing their enemies.[54. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p.74.] It is to be noted further that the position of the classical jurists which characterised war as the permanent pattern of relationship with non-Muslims, as al-Zuhayli points out, is not binding on anyone, and is not supported by the balance of evidence in the Qur'an and Sunnah.[55. Al-Zuhayli, Athar al-Harb, p.135.]

It is therefore important, Abu Sulayman tells us, 'to put the concept of naskh back in proper context' and confine its application only to clear cases, such as the change of qiblah from the direction of Jerusalem to the Ka'bah. As for the rest, the rules and teachings of Islam are valid and applicable in unlimited combinations as they meet the needs and benefits of mankind, in the light of the broader values and objectives that the Qur'an and Sunnah have upheld.[56. cf. Abu Sulayman, The Islamic Theory, p. 107; cf. the review of his book by James Piscatori, in Journal of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 10.2 (July 1989), pp. 542-3.]


Login/Register to hide ads. Scroll down for more posts
Ansar Al-'Adl
09-09-2005, 01:21 AM
Extracts from Uloom Al-Qur'an by Ahmed Von Denffer:

The revelations from Allah as found in the Qur'an touch on a variety of subjects, among them beliefs, history, tales of the prophets, day of judgement, Paradise and Hell, and many others. Particularly important are the ahkam (legal rulings), because they prescribe the manner of legal relationships between people, as Allah wishes them to be observed.</FONT>

While the basic message of Islam remains always the same, the legal rulings have varied throughout the ages, and many prophets before Muhammad brought particular codes of law (shari'a) for their respective communities.</FONT>

The Arabic words 'nasikh' and 'mansukh' are both derived from the same root word 'nasakha' which carries meanings such as 'to abolish, to replace, to withdraw, to abrogate'.</FONT>

The word nasikh (an active participle) means 'the abrogating', while mansukh (passive) means 'the abrogated'. In technical language these terms refer to certain parts of the Qur'anic revelation, which have been 'abrogated' by others. Naturally the abrogated passage is the one called 'mansukh' while the abrogating one is called 'nasikh'.</FONT>

The Qur'an on Naskh

The principle of naskh (abrogation) is referred to in the Qur'an itself and is not a later historical development:</FONT>

'None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause it to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: knowest thou that God has power over all things?' (2: 106). </FONT>[Some however say that this refers to the revelations before the Qur’an, which have now been substituted by the Qur’an itself. See Mawdudi. The Meaning of the Qur’an, Lahore, 1967, Vol. I, p.102. note 109.]

How it came about

When the message of Islam was presented to the Arabs as something new, and different from their way of life, it was introduced in stages. The Qur'an brought important changes gradually, to allow the people to adjust to the new prescriptions.</FONT>


There are three verses in the Qur'an concerning the drinking of wine. Wine drinking was very widespread in pre-Islamic times and, although a social evil, highly esteemed. The three verses which finally led to the prohibition of intoxicating substances were revealed in stages (4: 43, 2: 219; 5: 93-4).</FONT>

Why it is important

Knowledge of al-nasikh wa al-mansukh is important because it concerns the correct and exact application of the laws of Allah. It is specifically concerned with legal revelations:</FONT>

  • It is one of the important pre-conditions for explanation (tafsir) of the Qur'an.</FONT>
  • It is one of the important pre-conditions for understanding and application of the Islamic law (hukm, shari'a).</FONT>
  • It sheds light on the historical development of the Islamic legal code.</FONT>
  • It helps to understand the immediate meaning of the ayat concerned.</FONT>
Tafsir (explanation of the Qur'an) or legal ruling is not acceptable from a person who does not have such knowledge.</FONT>

How do we know it?

As in the field of asbab al-nuzul, the information about al-nasikh wa al-mansukh cannot be accepted upon mere personal opinion, guesswork or hearsay, but must be based on reliable reports, according to the ulum al-hadith, and should go back to the Prophet and his Companions.</FONT>

The report must also clearly state which part of the revelation is nasikh and which is mansukh.</FONT>

Some scholars say that there are three ways of knowing about al-nasikh wa al-mansukh:</FONT>

  • Report from the Prophet or Companions.</FONT>
  • Ijma' (consensus of the umma upon what is nasikh and what mansukh).</FONT>
  • Knowledge about which part of the Qur'an preceded another part in the history of revelation. </FONT>[Qattan, op.cit., p. 199]

Narrated Mujahid (regarding the verse):</FONT>

Those of you who die and leave wives behind, they (their wives) shall await (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days (2: 234).</FONT>

The widow, according to this verse, was to spend this period of waiting with her husband's family, so Allah revealed: Those of you who die and leave wives (i.e. widows) should bequeath for their wives, a year's maintenance and residence without turning them out, but if they leave (their residence) there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves, provided it is honourable (i.e. Lawful marriage) (2: 240).</FONT>

So Allah entitled the widow to be bequeathed extra maintenance for seven months and 20 nights and that is the completion of one year. If she wished, she could stay (in her husband's home) according to the will, and she could leave it if she wished, as Allah says: Without turning them out, but if they leave (the residence) there is no blame on you.</FONT>

So the idea (i.e. four months and ten days) is obligatory for her.</FONT>

'Ata' said: Ibn 'Abbas said: This verse i.e. the statement of Allah ... without turning one out ... cancelled the obligation of staying for the waiting period in her late husband's house, and she can complete this period wherever she likes.</FONT>

'Ata' said: If she wished, she could complete her 'idda by staying in her late husband's residence according to the will or leave it according to Allah's statement:</FONT>

'There is no blame on you for what they do with themselves.'</FONT>

'Ata' added: Later the regulations of inheritance came and abrogated the order of the dwelling of the widow (in her dead husband's house) so she could complete the 'idda wherever she likes. And it was no longer necessary to provide her with a residence.</FONT>

Ibn Abbas said: This verse abrogated her (i.e. the widow's) dwelling in her dead husband's house and she could complete the 'idda (i.e. four months and ten days) (wherever she liked, as Allah's statement says: ...'without turning them out ...' </FONT>[Bukhari, VI, No. 54.]
This report explains clearly which part of the revelation is nasikh and which is mansukh. Mujahid was one of the well-known tab'iun and Ibn 'Abbas was a Companion of the Prophet.</FONT>

What is Abrogated?

According to some scholars the Qur'an abrogates only the Qur'an. They base their view on suras 2: 106 and 16: 101. According to them the Qur'an does not abrogate the sunna nor does the sunna abrogate the Qur'an. This is, in particular, the view held by Shafi'i. </FONT>[For details see Kitab al-risala, Cairo, n.d., pp.30-73; English translation by M. Khadduri, op.cit., pp. 12345; for a brief summary of Ash-Shafi'i's views see also Seeman, K., Ash-Shafi'is Risala, Lahore, 1961, pp.53-85.]

Others are of the opinion that the Qur'an may abrogate the Qur'an as well as the sunna. They base their view on Sura 53: 34.</FONT>

There is also the view that there are four classes of naskh:</FONT>

  • Qur'an abrogates Qur'an.</FONT>
  • Qur'an abrogates sunna.</FONT>
  • Sunna abrogates Qur'an.</FONT>
  • Sunna abrogates sunna. </FONT>[Qattan, op.cit, pp. 201-2.]
In this discussion, we shall only consider the abrogation in the Qur'an, and leave aside the abrogation in the sunna.</FONT>

Three Kinds of Naskh in the Qur'an [Ibn Salama, al-nasikh wa al-mansukh, Cairo, 1966, p.5.]

The scholars have divided abrogation into three kinds:</FONT>

  • Abrogation of the recited (verse) together with the legal ruling.</FONT>
  • Abrogation of the legal ruling without the recited (verse).</FONT>
  • Abrogation of the recited (verse) without the legal ruling.</FONT>

For abrogation of the recited (verse) together with its legal ruling:</FONT>

'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur'an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah's apostle (may peace be upon him) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur'an (and recited by the Muslims). [34 Muslim, II, No. 3421.]</FONT>
For abrogation of a legal ruling without the recited (verse):</FONT>

'O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou has paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom God has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; - this only for thee and not for the believers (at large);We know what we have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess; - in order that there should be no difficulty for thee and God is oft-forgiving, most merciful' (33: 50).</FONT>

'It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as handmaidens); and God doth watch over all things' (33: 52).</FONT>
This is one of the few very clear examples of naskh, though only concerning the Prophet specifically, since for Muslims in general the number of wives has been restricted to four. (Sura 4:3).</FONT>

For abrogation of the recited (verse) without the legal ruling:</FONT>

'Abdullah bin 'Abbas reported that 'Umar bin Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah's messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and he sent down the book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah's messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning. I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy or a confession. </FONT>[Muslim, III, No. 4194; Bukhari, VIII, No. 816.]
The punishment of stoning for adultery by married people has been retained in the sunna, while it is not included in the Qur'an .</FONT>

The Abrogated Verses</FONT>

There are, according to Ibn Salama, </FONT>[Op cit., see pp.6-8 for the names of these suras.] a well-known author on the subject:</FONT></FONT>

  • 43 suras with neither nasikh or mansukh.</FONT>
  • 6 suras with nasikh but no mansukh.</FONT>
  • 40 suras with mansukh but no nasikh.</FONT>
  • 25 suras with both nasikh and mansukh.</FONT>
According to Suyuti's Itqan there are 21 instances in the Qur'an, where a revelation has been abrogated by another.</FONT>

He also indicates that there is a difference of opinion about some of these: e.g. 4: 8, 24: 58, etc. </FONT>[Itqan, II, pp.20-3; Kamal, op.cit., pp.101-9 also gives Suyuti's complete list.]</FONT>

Some scholars have attempted to reduce the number of abrogations in the Qur'an even further, by explaining the relationships between the verses in some special ways, e.g. by pointing out that no legal abrogation is involved, or that for certain reasons the naskh is not genuine</FONT>

Shah Waliullah (d. 1759) the great Muslim scholar from India only retained the following 5 out of Suyuti's 21 cases as genuine:</FONT>

Mansukh</FONT> 2: 180</FONT>nasikh</FONT> 4: 11, 12</FONT>Mansukh</FONT> 2:240</FONT>nasikh</FONT> 2: 234.</FONT>Mansukh</FONT> 8:65</FONT>nasikh</FONT> 8: 62.</FONT>Mansukh</FONT> 30:50</FONT>nasikh</FONT> 33: 52.</FONT>Mansukh</FONT> 58: 12</FONT>nasikh</FONT> 58: 13.</FONT>


A case listed by Suyuti, which has no direct legal implication is the following:</FONT>

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: When the verse: 'If there are 20 amongst you, patient and persevering, they will overcome two hundred', was revealed, it became hard on the Muslims, when it became compulsory that one Muslim ought not to flee before 10 (non-Muslims) so Allah lightened the order by revealing: 'but now Allah has lightened your (task) for He knows that there is weakness in you. But (even so) if there are 100 amongst you who are patient and persevering, they will overcome 200 (non-Muslims)' (8: 66).</FONT>

So when Allah reduced the number of enemies that Muslims should withstand, their patience and perseverence against the enemy decreased as much as their task was lightened for them. </FONT>[Bukhari, VI, No.176.]</FONT>
Still others hold that there are no genuine (sahih) reports available on this issue, going back to the Prophet, while those going back to the Companions contradict each other. </FONT>[Ali, M.M.: The Religion of Islam, Lahore, 1936, p.32. It may be pointed out that Ali's treatment of the subject is not very thorough. Of the three examp1es he cites in support of his opinion ('in most cases, where a report is traceable to one Companion who held a certain verse to have been abrogated, there is another report traceable to another Companion, through the fact that the verse was not abrogated' - p. 33) two are definitely not in his favour, while the third can be easily explained. His first case concerns Sura 2:180 (inheritance). It has certainly been superseded by other verses, e.g. 4:7-9 and that is probably all that is meant, when saying it is mansukh Ali's second case, '2:184, is considered by Ibn 'Umar as having been abrogated while Ibn 'Abbas says it was not' . See below, where I have quoted this very hadith from Ibn 'Abbas (Bukhari, VI, No.32) where Ibn 'Abbas himself explains why he does not hold it as abrogated. The third case is, like the first one, definitely not in support of Ali: '2: 240 was abrogated according to Ibn Zubair, while Mujahid says it was not'. This is wrong, see Sahih Bukhari, VI, Nos. 53 and 54, where both Ibn Zubair and Mujahid hold the verse to be abrogated. Furthermore both Ibn Zubair and Mujahid are tabi'un, and not Companions (sahaba).]</FONT>

Therefore to them the issue of nasikh wa al mansukh is perhaps not of great importance. However, it is clear from the Qur'an itself, (e.g. in the case of inheritance, 2: 180; 4: 7-9, etc.) that abrogation occurred occasionally. Hence it is wrong to completely ignore the subject.</FONT>

Abrogation and Specification

There is of course a difference between abrogation and specification. By the latter is meant that one revelation explains in more detail or according to specific circumstances how another revelation should be understood.</FONT>


Sura 2:183 says 'O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you ...'</FONT>

Narrated 'Ata' that he heard Ibn 'Abbas reciting the Divine verse 'for those who can do it is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent' (2:184).</FONT>

Ibn 'Abbas said 'This verse is not abrogated but it is meant for old men and old women who have no strength to fast, so they should feed one poor person for each day of fasting (instead of fasting). </FONT>[Bukhari, VI, No. 32.]
It is quite clear that the second verse (2:184) does not abrogate the rule of fasting from the first verse (2:183) but explains that in a specific case, that of feeble old people, there is a way of making up for the loss of fast.</FONT>

In the same way the verses concerning intoxicating drinks can be understood as specifications rather than abrogations (see 4:43;2:219;5:93-4).</FONT>


The Qur'an, in 2:106, refers to the concept of naskh. However, there is a difference of opinion about the extent to which al-nasikh wa-al mansukh does in fact occur in the text of the Qur'an. The information concerning al-nasikh wa-al mansukh must be treated with great caution as, for all reports concerning the text of the Qur'an, two independent witnesses are required. Many of the examples which the scholars have drawn upon to illustrate this question (and I have quoted them for the same purpose) are based on one witness only. 'A'isha alone reported that 10 or 5 sucklings had been part of the Qur'anic recitation, and only 'Umar reported that the 'verse of stoning' had been included in the Qur'anic text. These legal rulings are not included in the Qur'an precisely because they were not considered reliable, being based on one witness only. Similarly, other examples about naskh, based on the words of Ibn 'Abbas or Mujahid alone, are to be judged by the same measure.</FONT>

However, as mentioned there remain a small number of verses which, as far as can be ascertained from the internal evidence of the Qur'an, have been superseded by other verses in the Qur'an.</FONT>

Hey there! Looks like you're enjoying the discussion, but you're not signed up for an account.

When you create an account, you can participate in the discussions and share your thoughts. You also get notifications, here and via email, whenever new posts are made. And you can like posts and make new friends.
Sign Up

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 11
    Last Post: 09-03-2013, 04:53 PM
  2. Replies: 19
    Last Post: 02-10-2009, 08:03 AM
  3. Replies: 7
    Last Post: 11-22-2007, 09:54 AM
  4. Replies: 5
    Last Post: 02-01-2006, 06:43 PM
HeartHijab.com | Hijab Sale | Pound Shop | UK Wholesale Certified Face Masks, Hand Sanitiser & PPE


Experience a richer experience on our mobile app!