Abrogation and the Koran

Guest Columnist

Dr. Bukay and I have differing opinions about abrogation and how it fits into the concept of duality. But we both agree that knowledge about the foundational doctrine of Islam is essential for having any rational discussion about Islam. This idea is denied by the FBI, Homeland Security, politicians, universities and the media. They advocate asking a Muslim and believing whatever he says. You just need to find the right Muslim and then say the others are not “real” Muslims. Our authorities are Muslim-ologists, while Dr. Bukay and I are foundationalists. We study the doctrine found in the Koran, Sira and Hadith. We know that Islam makes Muslims. It is simple cause and effect.

You should know as you read this article, that it is the final word. There are no more subtle arguments or intricate intellectual moves that can refute it. Dr. Bukay deals with the very DNA of Islam and his work is authoritative. This article lacks one thing that would make it academically proper–footnotes. The footnotes did not move from his Word document to our HTML editor and I just did not want to put in the hour needed to do that work. This is a political newsletter, not an academic paper. My apologies, but if there is any source you want, let me know by email.

David Bukay (Ph.D.), teaches at the School of Political Science in the University of Haifa. His main fields are: International Terrorism and Islamic fanaticism; al-Qaeda and World Jihad; Inter-Arab Relations and the Arab Israeli Conflict; State and Conflict in the Middle East; the Arab State: Militarism vs. Islamism; Syria, Lebanon and Israel: the Politics of Power Politics.

His last two books are: Yasser Arafat: the Politics of Paranoia (Mellen Press, 2005) and From Muhammad to Bin Ladin (Transaction, 2007). He has written numerous articles (mostly in Hebrew). his forthcoming book is Arab-Islamic Colonialist Expansionism: Islamization and Arabization of the Dar al-Islam

Mekkan Peace or Medinan Jihad? Abrogation in Islam
David Bukay
School of Political Science – The University of Haifa

In his e-mail to Robert Spencer on February 14 2005, Dr. Jamal Badawi, one of the best known Muslim speakers in the West for the last two decades, wrote: The Qur’an prohibits compulsion in religion [2:256]. It teaches the Oneness of God, acceptance and respect of all prophets [2:285], broad human brotherhood [49:13], acceptance of plurality [5:48; 11:118], universal justice and fair dealing [4:134, 5:8]. It demands just, kind and respectful treatment of those who co-exist peacefully with Muslims [60:8-9]. Peaceful dialogue with the People of the Book and the emphasis on common grounds with them is a repeated theme in the Qur’an [3:64; 29:46, 5:5]. Those who erroneously claimed that all such definitive verses have all been “abrogated” by what they called “the verse of the sword” were mistaken and failed to give any definitive evidence of their claims. There is no single verse in the Qur’an properly interpreted in its context and historical circumstances that ever allowed the Muslim to fight non-Muslims simply because they are non-Muslims…

This list sums up most of the contemporary Islamic propaganda in hundreds of internet sites and thousands of various publications. Muslim propagandists purposely quote verses from the Qur’an that were written in the early days of Islam at Mecca, where Muhammad was weak and his followers were few and vulnerable, passages that make Islam appear a religion of peace. However, the Islamic propaganda that claims that the Meccan verses are dominant in Islamic teaching, is either ignorant of actual Islamic doctrine and tidings, or it practices a sophisticated deception. The second option is a possibility, since Muhammad is quoted to have saying: “war is deceit,” and it is also sanctioned in the Qur’an that Allah deceives the unbelievers and the hypocrites:

The hypocrites try to deceive Allah, but he deceives them…
Remember, when the infidels contrived to make you a prisoner, or murder or to expel you, they plotted, but Allah also plotted, and Allah’s plot is the best. [wa-Allah jabur-l-micriun]

It is not only because there are so many aggressive verses that incite for killing, slaughtering and decapitations from the Medina period, the second era of Muhammad’s career when he became strong and victorious, but also mainly because the Meccan verses were nullified, abrogated, and rendered void. The problem is the Western politicians, many members of the academia and communication media who are not only unaware and perhaps ignorant of this reality, but also disseminate, intentionally or unintentionally, the tidings of the Islamic propaganda. This behavior is contrary even to the basic interests of the Free World, but also exacerbates the reality as it is seen by contemporary Islamic terrorism, violence and aggressiveness.

Indeed, Medinan verses are totally different from the Meccan’s, concerning treatment, the relationship and the practical policies toward the infidels, or actually all the non-Muslims. Nevertheless, even without entering the argumentation of which of these two periods is better qualified, it is suggested to investigate the abrogation (al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh) principle. If it exists and proven practical according to the most important authoritative and reliable Islamic exegetes and religious scholars, then it ends any possible debate: Meccan verses concerning the relevant conflicting issues were nullified and rendered void, and the Medinan verses are the important and decisive.

The Arabic words ‘nasikh’ and ‘mansukh’ are both derived from the same root word, ‘n.s.kh.’, which means ‘to abolish, to replace, to withdraw, to abrogate’. It appears four times in the Qur’an, and also comes out with high amplification because the Qur’an is inherently confused. The Muslims deeply believed that the Qur’an is perfect and above and beyond human perceptions. It is miraculous (i`ajaz) and has been revealed for all times and situations from the beginning of history to the end of the world. However, the many repetitions in the Qur’an, the arbitrary order, the mixture of styles and genres are indicative of human process in its creation. The Surahs were not given to Muhammad in one piece but verse by verse, and in the Qur’an’s collection some later verses were added to earlier. The order in which the Qur’an was assembled was not done chronologically but according to the length of the chapters and the Qur’an being collated piecemeal, exacerbates the determination of the age of the verses and their orderly appearance.

This is the reason why so many Islamic exegetes have investigated this realm and developed it almost as a science called Asbab al-Nuzul, the reasons of revelations. The root s.b.b. appears over 11 times in the Qur’an, and the root n.z.l. means to descend or send down. For Abu al-Hassan Ali Ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi an-Naisaburi (d. 1075), a renowned classical scholar of the Qur’an, the knowledge of the reasons of revelations (ma`rifat asbab al-nuzul) becomes crucially important. He is considered the father of this approach, which he finds out to be the basis of all exegesis. The knowledge about Tafsir of the verses is not possible without occupying oneself with their stories and explanation of the reasons for their revelation. Abu Muhammad ‘Ali Ibn Ahmad Ibn Sa`id Ibn Hazm (d. 1064), an Andalusian theologian, philosopher, historian and jurist, has detailed the issue of abrogation to an extent of linguistic analysis, examined the Qur’an Surah by Surah and showed the abrogating and the abrogated in each of them.

Arthur Jeffery, the well-known Islamic scholar, explains: The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in teaching a doctrine of abrogation according to which later pronouncements of the Prophet abrogate, i.e.: declare null and void, his earlier pronouncements. The importance of knowing which verses abrogate others has given rise to the Qur’anic science known as ‘Nasikh wa-Mansukh,’ i.e. the Abrogators and the Abrogated. So, rather than attempting to explain away the inconsistencies in passages giving regulations for the Muslim community, Qur’an scholars and jurists came to acknowledge the differences while arguing that the latest verse on any controversial subject abrogates all earlier verses that contradicted it.

Another problem with al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh is in defining accurately which verses are Nasikh, and which are Mansukh. In a Hadith of Muslim it says: Abu al-A`la bin al-Shikhkhir [an Islamic reliable transmitter] said: The Messenger of Allah abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur’an abrogates some part of it with the other. `Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar al-Baydawi (d. 1286), a famous exegete and Qur’anic commentator, testifies ibn Hazm to have said that Muslims exegetes in general agreed that abrogation has clearly taken place in the Qur’an. This statement means that Muhammad was accustomed to stating something to his followers with the claim that it was revealed to him, then later he would change it for some reasons and tells them that Allah had invalidated it. This is although most of what was alluded to in the abrogated verses was intended to lighten the ordinances.

It should be noted that the Qur’an is confusing and there are revelations which might have been forgotten, changed or eliminated by Satan’s influence. There is no agreement even to which was the first Surah to be revealed to Muhammad. One example of the jumbled chronology is that Surahs 2:193 and 2:216, 2:217 were revealed just after Muhammad arrived in Medina, about six years before Surah 2:190-2:192 were revealed. Yet Surah 2:193 was inserted to follow 2:190-192.

What are the Qur’anic sources of abrogation?
When we cancel a message, or throw it into oblivion, we replace it with one better or one similar. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?

When we replace a message with another, and Allah knows best what he reveals, they say: you have made it up. Yet, most of them do not know.

Allah abrogates or confirms whatsoever he will, for he has with him the Book of the Books.

If we pleased we could take away what we have revealed to you. Then you will not find anyone to plead for it with us.

To that one can also add the verse:
Do they no ponder over the Qur’an? Had it been the word of other but Allah they would surely had found a good deal of variation in it.

There is a great deal of apologetic discussions on the above-mentioned abrogation verses, and Muslim propagators declare that there are no changes in Allah’s laws. However, the assertion of the Muslim scholar Ali Dashti is accurate: “It must always be borne in mind that most of the Qur’anic laws and ordinances were formulated in response to random incidents and petitions from aggrieved persons. There are some inconsistencies in them and in the reasons that there are abrogating and abrogated ordinances…. The Qur’anic laws are brief and were insufficient for the needs of the huge Muslim community…” Muhammad was prepared to change his mind, vows, and rules according to the circumstances.

Ahmad von Denffer, a contemporary converted to Islam exegete, summarizes the issue that the knowledge of al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh bear important perspectives: It is concerned with the correct and exact application of the laws of Allah; it is one of the important pre-conditions for interpretation (Tafsir) of the Qur’an, and the application of the Islamic law (Shari`ah) it sheds light on the historical development of the Islamic legal code; and it helps to understand the immediate meaning of the verses concerned.

Abu al-Fadl `Abd al-Rahman Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1505), an Egyptian theologian writer and Imam, explains the reasons and variations of the abrogation principle. First, Ibn `Abbas [the cousin of Muhammad and the most important Qur’an memorizer and Hadith transmitter] narrated: ‘Sometimes the revelation used to descend on the Prophet during the night and then he forgot it during daytime, thus Allah sent down this verse’ [2:106]. Second, such behavior led the infidels to say that Muhammad was preaching contradictory and opposite commands. He is a calumniator and he does not receive inspiration from Allah, for he changes his mind whenever he wishes. Thus, this verse [2:106] was written. Third, Muhammad has failed to comprehend his followers’ circumstances, thus he used to order something and then change it the next day whenever he found it too difficult to be implemented. Fourth, Muhammad did not want to embarrass the men around him who memorized his sayings: ‘Two men read a Surah which the Apostle of Allah had taught them, yet one night they rose up to pray but they failed to remember one word of it. The next morning, they went to the Apostle of Allah, but he told them, it is one of those which have been abrogated, thus, forget about it.’ Al-Suyuti also indicated one of the wonders of abrogation is that a verse in which its beginning has been abrogated by its end. In other case the Hadith abrogates the Qur’an: the stoning of the married adulterer. The Qur’an talks only about scourging and exiling the adulterer. Yet Muhammad himself stoned some adulterers. Thus, it has become Islamic law. Al-Suyuti summed up the issue by declaring that abrogation is removal as it is in Surah 22:52 and it means alteration.

Another type of argumentation is that Surah 2:106 refers to the revelations before the Qur’an, to commandments sent to earlier prophets and not to Muhammad, which have been substituted by the Qur’an itself. Abdallah Yusuf Ali, commentator and translator of Qur’an, said that Surah 2 verse106 means that Allah’s message from age to age is always the same, but its form may differ according to the needs and exigencies of time. There is nothing derogatory in this if we believe in progressive revelation. This does not mean that eternal principles change. Verse 2:106 refers to Muhammad’s abrogation of the Torah and the Injil. In Surah 16 verse 101 he claims: “The doctrine of progressive revelation does not mean that Allah’s fundamental law changes. It is not fair to charge a Prophet with forgery because the message, as revealed to him, is different from that revealed before, when the core of the truth is the same, for it comes from Allah.”

There are also those who have criticized the doctrine of an eternal Qur’an as diluting the doctrine of the unity of Allah (tawhid), like the Mu`tazillah, and render it as shirk (the association of other deities with Allah). For them, there is no issue: the Meccan verses deal more with spirituality, while the Medinan verses do not abrogate them, but creat a better and expanded understanding of the whole. The Ahmadiyah sect, which is considered non-Muslim by most of Islamic jurisprudence, is the most consistent with rejecting abrogation, being contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an, and because it violates the claim to be free from errors and discrepancies. For them, this concept was developed precisely because Muslims were confronted with references that conflicted with one another, which they could not satisfactorily explain.
However, Abd al-Majid Daryabadi, the Pakistani exegete and Qur’an commentator, refers to 2:106: “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, enacted by the same law-giver. The course of Qur’anic revelation has been avowedly gradual… Even divine laws may be subject to divine improvement… The doctrine of abrogation applies to “law” only.

The Maliki and Hanafi School of Jurisprudence are in opposition to Shafi’i’s and hold that the Sunnah can abrogate the Qur’an and vice versa. However, regarding the differences of opinions on the scope, classical orthodox view is that abrogation applies to both the Qur’an and to Sunnah. Thus the Qur’an abrogates the Qur’an, Sunnah abrogates the Qur’an, Sunnah abrogates the Sunnah, and the Qur’an abrogates Sunnah. Al-Nahhas lists five different opinions: the Kufans agree that the Qur’an may abrogate both the Qur’an and the Sunnah; the Shafi`i agrees that the Qur’an abrogate the Qur’an only and the Sunnah does not abrogate the Qur’an; other groups claim that the Sunnah abrogates both the Qur’an and the Sunnah; others claim that the Sunnah abrogates the Sunnah but not the Qur’an; and others plead that no approach of the four above-mentioned is preferable to the Other. al-Suyuti said that Muhammad’s traditions abrogate the Qur’an. At the same time he asks the logical question and endeavors to answer it: what is the wisdom in abolishing the recitation and retaining the provision? His answer: so Muslims will be rewarded whenever they read it. That is to show the extent of the believers’ obedience.

Another explanation given is that the naskh of verses occurred by means of Allah’s, causing the believers to forget it. He withdrew it from their memories while commanding them to neglect its public recital and its recording in the mushaf [Qur’an text]. With the passage of time, it would quite disappear like the rest of Allah’s revealed Books which he mentions in the Qur’an, but nothing of which is known today. This can have happened either during the Prophet’s life, so that when he died the forgotten material was no longer being recited as part of the Qur’an; or it might have happened after the death of the Prophet.

However, today Islamic propagandists, fearing the implications of abrogated verses on their propaganda and Da`wah, try to undermine it from itself. In the well-known Islamic internet site, A. Muhammed, who does not give any details about him, tries to refute the abrogation principle, by attacking the “corrupted interpretation the verses: 2:106 and 16:101.” He claims that abrogation is solely based on one word ‘Ayah’. As it used in the Qur’an, there are four meanings: a) a miracle from Allah, as in 17:101; b) an example for people to take heed from, as in 25:37; c) a sign, as in 19:10; and d) it could mean a verse in the Quran, as in 38:29. However, he claims, the word ‘Ayah’ in verse 106 of Surah 2 could mean any of the three other meanings: a) how can a verse in the Qur’an become forgotten being a part of a divine and perfect book such as the Qur’an? b) It would make no sense for Allah to invalidate one verse then replace it with one that is identical to it. c) If the word ‘Ayah’ means a miracle, an example, or a sign, then all the words of the verse would make perfect sense, as in 43:46-48.

Muhammed continues to Surah 16:101. For him, the substitution concerns one of two things: a) The substitution of one Scripture in place of another, as in 5:48; b) The substitution of one verse or law within a Scripture with another in a subsequent Scripture, as in 2:187. However, 16:101 does not speak about the substitution of one verse in the Qur’an with another. The key to the meaning of the verse lies in the words: “…they say, ‘You made this up.'” For sure it cannot be his followers. To this day, the Jews and Christians accuse Muhammad of fabricating the Qur’an. If this is the case, are they accusing Muhammad of substituting one verse in the Quran with another? They do not care about it. But, if their Scripture is being substituted by the Qur’an, they immediately accuse the messenger. He sums up his declarations with highly self-esteemed attitude: “these glorious words ‘You have made it up’ stand as true indicator from Allah that the substitution spoken of in this verse is not related to one within the Qur’an, but indeed a substitution between two scripture.

Muhammad Asad comments on the same verse: “… The Qur’an commentator, Abu Muslim al-Isfahani (d. 1066) based his rejection of the so-called the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ discussed in my note 87 on 2:106.” Asad cites Surah 10: 64 as proof that the Qur’an is unchangeable. His interpretation to Surah 2:106 is: “… The principle laid down in this passage has given rise to an erroneous interpretation by many Muslim theologians. The word ‘ayah’ (message) occurring in this context is also used to denote a ‘verse’ of the Qur’an (because every one of these verses contains a message). Taking this restricted meaning of the term ‘ayah,’ some scholars conclude that certain verses of the Qur’an have been ‘abrogated’ by Allah’s command… There is not a single reliable tradition to the effect that the Prophet ever declared a verse of the Qur’an to have been ‘abrogated’… In short, the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ has no basis in historical fact, and must be rejected …”

To this group Abu al-Kasim Hibat-Allah Ibn Salama (d. 1019), one of the Islamic scholars and abrogation founders, would have reacted by declaring: “these people have deviated from the truth, and by the virtue of their lies have turned away from Allah.” For him, it is clear that the abrogation system exists and has to be taken seriously because it is important to understanding the basics of the religion. The only difference among Muslim scholars is not its existence and importance but its scope – how many changes are there in the Qur’an.

Indeed, between these approaches, the one that find abrogation important to understanding the Tafsir exegesis, and the other that de-legitimizes it, there are those who declare that a study of the Qur’an shows, that only a limited number of verses have been abrogated, and that the abrogation pertains to legal and practical matters only, and not to matters of belief. For al-Nahhas, the opinion of the scholars of his time is formulated clearly: abrogation only takes place with regard to acts of devotion (muta`abbadat). This is the attitude of al-Suyuti, who recognizes 20 instances of abrogation, and Shah Walli Allah (d. 1762), a puritan Indian Muslim thinker, who reduced that number to five (the exegetes Al-Farisi has the highest total abrogated verses of 248). Walli Allah claimed his lineage from Quraysh tribe, and wanted a return to the ideal religious principles of Sunnah of the first two successors of Muhammad, as the only answer to Islamic reality.

Andrew Rippin states that although the companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed naskh and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of verses, references are relatively infrequent. The number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased dramatically between the eighth and eleventh centuries (al-Zuhri mentions 42 abrogated verses, al-Nahhas 138, Ibn ‘Ata’iqi 231, Ibn Salama, 238, and al-Farsi, 248 abrogated verses). There are also those who maintained that any narrative, positive command or prohibition may be abrogated.

However, whether there are more than 200 abrogations or only five and no matter what are the debates and argumentations of abrogation and its status, it is almost a consensus among classical and most important Muslim exegetes that it exists and had much influence on understanding the revelation of Qur’an. They accept abrogation as orthodox, though differing on its conceivable aspects. The classical and important exegetes, who analyzed Islam as a victorious religion and had no problem with so-called contemporary public opinion and world propaganda, agreed almost unanimously that abrogation exists, with changing opinions on its scope. Indeed, the teachings of the Medinan Surahs supersede the Meccan’s, not only because they came after chronologically; not only because they mark a totally different Islam, this time strong and victorious; not only because we find a different characteristics of leadership and attitudes of Muhammad; but because his teachings contradicted the Meccan’s, concerning war and jihad and the treatment of the enemies of Islam.

The accurate attitude is that of Abu Ja`far Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari, (d. 923), the famous and widely-influential Sunni historian and theologian. He clearly states that “abrogation can only be done with regard to commands and prohibitions.” Indeed he is right, and this is exactly what is needed to understand the radical change towards the enemies of Islam from appeasement to jihad.

Understanding the concept of abrogation is crucially important in order to substantiate Islamic teachings in general, and the place the essence and the practice of jihad fi sabilillah in particular. Since abrogation was legitimate and had been practiced in the Qur’an and the Hadith, there is no need to argue with the false fraudulent Islamic propaganda concerning Jihad being spiritual and Islam being peace-loving. Indeed, jihad means terrorism, aggressiveness and violence implemented against all infidels, the unbelievers and also the People of the Book – Jews and Christians. The contemporary ill-treatment, the horrendous policy toward all the minorities in the Middle East reflects this reality. The crimes against humanity such as the ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the blacks in Sudan (Christians as Muslims), is only one example of this mass murderous policy.

For Ibn Salama the whole issue of abrogation is justified after observing that Islamic commentators were unable to master the science of abrogation or to memorize it, and frequently mix one part with another. The starting point of any proper investigation of the Qur’an is the science of abrogating and abrogated verses.

This is the reason why the issue of abrogation has become a serious matter in contemporary political debate conducted by the Islamists, concerning jihadi terrorism and the homicide bombings phenomenon. They clearly sense that their propagation towards the free democratic world concerning peaceful compassionate Islam is shaky and slippery, and for that they refute and deny any traces of abrogation. Nevertheless, they have to take into account that from Islamic perspective, abrogation is not viewed as contradictions, but rather as improvements. The target was to better suit the varying circumstances or needs of the Islamic community and to fit Muhammad’s religious concepts developed through his career. Conquering the world, Dar al-Islam against Dar al-Harb, and the perpetuated war against the infidels, all these are not only slogans, but religious duty to be accomplished in the right time and circumstances.

Concerning types of abrogation, according to Ibn Salamah, there are four kinds:
a) 43 Surahs that were not abrogated at all (neither Nasikh nor Mansukh): 1, 12, 36, 49, 55, 57, 61, 62, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 84, 85, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107,109, 108, 110, 112, 113, 114.
b) 6 Surahs that maintained the authority of the abrogator, but their original wording was not abrogated (with Nasikh but no Mansukh): 48, 59, 63, 64, 65, 87
c) 40 Surahs in which their wording had been abrogated, but maintained their authority for applications (with Mansukh but no Nasikh): 6, 7 10, 11, 13, 15 16 17, 18, 20, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 53, 54, 60, 68, 70, 74, 75, 76, 77, 86, 80, 88, 109.
d) 25 Surahs that have had both their authority for applications and their wording abrogated (with both Nasikh and Mansukh): 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, 40, 42, 51, 52, 56, 58, 73, 103, and 108.

Here is a table of findings concerning abrogation:

Table 1: Abrogation in Practice

Verse Abrogating Verse Abrogated Issue
2:185 2:184 Fasting
2:234 2:240 Divorced women
2:285 2:284 Revelations
3:85-6; 9:73 2:62, 2:256; 5:69 Tolerance – Ahl al-Kitab
4:11-12 2:180; 2:240 Bequest-Inheritance
5:90 2:219; 4:43 Wine drinking
8:66 8:65 Fighting abilities
9:29 2:109; 60:8-9 People of the Book
9:36 2:217; 45:14 Prohibition of fighting
22:52 53:19-23 Satan and his daughters
24:2 4:15-7 Adultery and fornication
33:50 33:52 Muhammad’s wives
58:13 58:12 Money for conferring
64:16 3:102 Fear of God
73:20 73:2-3 Night prayer

The flexibility of the Qur’an is also shown by the readiness to add/delete verses according to questions/issues raised by his followers to special events:
a) It is well-known among the Muslims that many verses were uttered, inspired and narrated by ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab. ibn ‘Umar said: “Allah has placed the truth on Umar’s tongue and on his heart” An example is the story: “During Ramadan, Muslim’s were accustomed to eat, drink and have intercourse with women. After they sleep and wake up they abstain. ‘Umar had intercourse with one of his women after he woke up from his sleep. He went to the Prophet and told him what happened. Allah sent down this verse, ‘It is made lawful for you to go unto your wives on the night of the fast”‘ (2:187).

b) Concerning the fast in Ramadan: Narrated `Ata that he heard Ibn ‘Abbas reciting: “And for those who can fast they had a choice either fast, or feed a poor for every day” (Surah 2:184). Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This verse is not abrogated, but it is meant for old men and women who have no strength to fast, they should feed one poor person for each day of fasting.” However, the next two traditions disagree with Ibn Abbas’ claim. Narrated Nafi: Ibn ‘Umar recited: “They had a choice, either fast or feed a poor for every day …” and added, “This verse is abrogated.” Narrated Salama: When the revelation: “For those who can fast, they had a choice either fast, or feed a poor for every day” (2:184) was revealed, it was permissible for one to give a ransom and give up fasting, till the verse succeeding it was revealed and abrogated it.

c) In response to the question of Umm Salama, one of Muhammad’s wives, why only the men had been referred to in the Qur’an as being rewarded in paradise, three verses 3:195, 4:32 and 33:35 were revealed.

d) “When this verse came: ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and are not wounded and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah’ (4:95), Muhammad said: ‘Summon Zayd and let him sit down.’ Then he told him: ‘Write’, and he dictated the above verse to him. ‘Umru ibn Maktum who was blind, was sitting behind the Prophet, and said: ‘O, Apostle of Allah, I am a blind man! How can I go to fight? I have a handicap.’ Then, the following was added to the above mentioned verse: ‘other than those who have a handicap.’

e) “Verse 161 of Surah 3, which states, ‘No prophet could ever be false to his trust,’ was given because red velvet was missed after the War of Badr. Some people said, ‘Maybe the Apostle of Allah took it.’ Thus, Allah revealed this verse to acquit the Apostle… ibn ‘Abbas said so.”

f) Surah 9:113 was revealed in connection with the death of the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib. But, soon Muhammad realized that “It is not worthy of the Prophet and those who believe to seek forgiveness for those who are idolaters, even though they may be their relative… ”

g) “Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘There was a woman who prayed behind the Apostle of Allah. She was one of the prettiest women, thus some people stepped forward to be in the first row lest they see her; others lingered behind in back rows in order to look at her from under their armpits.’ So Allah sent down ayah 24 of Surah 15: ‘And verily we know the eager among you and verily we know the laggards.’ Someone asked Suhayl ibn Hanif about this verse if it was sent down in relation to fighting in the cause of Allah, he said, ‘No, but it was sent down in relation to rows of prayer.”‘

h) Concerning widows of war: Narrated Ibn al-Zubair: I said to `Uthman bin `Affan regarding the verse: “Those of you who die and leave wives …” (2: 240) “This verse was abrogated by another verse. So why should you leave it in the Qur’an?” `Uthman said. “O son of my brother! I will not shift anything of it from its place.” Narrated Mujahi: “Those of you who die and leave wives behind, they shall wait four months and ten days.” (2: 234). “Those of you who die and leave wives should bequeath for their wives, a year’s maintenance and residences without turning them out, but if they leave, there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves provided it is honorable’ (2: 240). `Ata said: Ibn `Abbas said, “This verse… cancelled the obligation of staying for the waiting period in her dead husband’s house, and she can complete this period wherever she likes.” `Ata’s said: if she wished, she could complete her ‘Idda by staying in her dead husband’s residence according to the will or leave it according to Allah’s Statement.

i) The companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed Naskh, and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of a particular verse: `Ali and Ibn ‘Abbas disagree over the abrogation of Surah 4 verse 94; `Ali maintained that the verse was abrogated by Surah 4 verse 115 and Surah 4 verse 48, while Ibn ‘Abbas held that it remained muhkama (void). In another instance, although the majority of scholars consider Surah 2 verse 62 to have been abrogated by Surah 3 verse 85, Mujahid ibn Jabr and al-Dahhak ibn Muzahim considered the verse to be muhkama.”

j) Concerning the killing of a believer, Sa`id b. Jubair narrated: I said to Ibn Abbas: will the repentance of that person be accepted who kills a believer intentionally? He said: No. I recited to him this verse 25: 19: “And those who call not upon another god with Allah and slay not the soul which Allah has forbidden except in the cause of justice…” He said: This is a Meccan verse which has been abrogated by a verse revealed at Medina: “He who slays a believer intentionally, for him is the requital of Hell-Fire where he would abide for ever.”

k) This was also case in the following events: Changing the Qiblah (direction of prayer) to Mecca: Surah 2 verses 143-4. Accepting the Safa and Marwa rites, consequently accepting the Haj as part of Islam. Division of booty: Surah 3 verse 161. Participating in fighting: Surah 4 verse 95. Allah has not abandoned the Prophet: five verses of Surah 93.

Surah 9 is most important concerning the issues of abrogation and the policy of jihad against all the unbelievers. It is the only Surah without the Bismillah (“in the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful”) opening, for its military jihadi and violent character. `Abdallah Yusuf Ali concluded that Surah 9 verses 1-29 were revealed during the month of Shawwal of the Islamic 9th year (631), and read by Ali to the pilgrims in Mecca. Most Islamic scholars agree that the first 29 verses were the last verses spoken by Muhammad. The rest of Surah 9 verses 30-129 were revealed months earlier, although no less radical in its teachings. This is the view of Ibn Ishaq, who proves that the main jihad section of Surah 9 was revealed during Muhammad’s last year (631), and the attitude of al-Tabari, the great Muslim historian, who shows that the conquest of Mecca occurred in 630, and that only after that glorious event Surah 9 was revealed. Al-Suyuti listed Surah 9 second to last, however al-Bukhari claimed that “The last Surah that was revealed to Muhammad was Surah Bara’ah [Surah 9].”

Al-Jalalayn, the two important famous commentators of the Qur’an, Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli and his student Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, in their classical Sunni commentary, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, most popular among contemporary Qur’an exegetes, say that according to Al-Bukhari, Surah 9 was sent down as a whole. Muhammad said, “The Qur’an was sent down ayah [verse] by ayah except for Surat al-Bara’ah and Surat al-Ikhlas [112]. They were sent down accompanied by seventy thousand angels.”

So, it is agreed that Surah 9 is either the last or second to last to be spoken by Muhammad. Consequently, since this chapter contains the largest amount of violent passages, it abrogates all the relevant Qur’anic passages from earlier periods. Muhsin Khan, the translator of Sahih al-Bukhari into English, claims that Allah revealed Surah Bara’ah in order to discard all obligations, and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the pagans as well as against the People of the Scriptures, if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizyah with willing submission and feel subdued [9:29]. The Muslims were not permitted to abandon the fighting against them and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them. So, at first fighting was forbidden, then it was permitted [2:190], and after that it was made obligatory [9:5]. By this verse Allah ordered Mohammad to cancel all covenants and to fight the pagans and Jews and Christians. The Muslims fight against the enemies of Allah in order that the worship should be all for Allah alone and not for any other deity, and that the word of Allah’s should be uppermost.

Immediately prior to the revelation of Surah 9, Muhammad had several agreements with various Arab tribes. But Allah gave Muhammad a revelation, in Surah 2 verses 190-192, allowing him to break all these agreements, and to attack the infidels following the four sacred months. For Ibn Kathir it is clear: as Jihad involves death and the killing of men, Allah draws our attention to the fact that disbelief, polytheism of the disbelievers and their avoidance of Allah’s path (Fitnah) are far worse than killing. Here is the permission to kill and the license of violence for the Muslims through all generations. Jihad is the right way of the Muslims, and it is permissible for the believers just because the others are unbelievers.

After signing the Treaty of Hudaybiyah in 628 with the Meccans, the Muslims were by this time a strong and influential community, and were allowed to attack those groups that were not aligned with the Meccans. Just six weeks after Muhammad concluded the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, he attacked and plundered the prosperous Jewish settlement Khaybar. Mecca was still the main target. According to Yusuf Ali, many Muslims were exiles from Mecca, where the pagans had established an intolerant autocracy, persecuting and preventing them from visiting their homes, and even keeping them out by force from performing the Pilgrimage during the universally recognized period of truce. This was intolerance, oppression, and autocracy to the last degree. This was Muhammad’s objective.

The most important verse and the greatest abrogator (Nasikh) of the Qur’anic verses is Surah 9 verse 5, “the verse of the sword.” It has abrogated, cancelled and replaced all verses that call for tolerance, compassion and peace, 124 in Toto:
2:62; 2:83; 2:109; 2:139; 2:190; 2:191; 2:192; 2:217; 2:256; 3:20; 3:28; 4:15; 4: 16; 4: 63; 4:80; 4:81; 4:84; 4:90; 4:91; 5:2; 5:13; 5:99; 5:102; 6:66; 6:70; 6:91; 6:104; 6:106; 6:107; 6:108; 6:112; 6:135; 6:137; 6:158; 7:183; 7:199; 8:61; 8:73; 10:20; 10:41; 10:46; 10:99; 10:102; 10:108; 10:109; 11:12; 11:121; 11:122; 13:40; 15:3; 15:85; 15:89; 15:94; 16:82; 16:106; 16:125; 16:127; 17:54; 19:39; 19:75; 19: 84; 20:130; 20:136; 22:68; 23:54; 23:96; 24:54; 27:92; 28:55; 29:46; 29:50; 30:60; 32:30; 33:48; 34:25; 35:23; 36:76; 37:174; 37:175; 37:178; 37:179; 38:70; 38:88; 39:3; 39:15; 39:39; 39:40; 40:12; 41:34; 42:6; 42:6; 42:15; 42:48; 43:14; 43:83; 43:98; 44:59; 45:14; 46:35; 47:4; 50:29; 50:39; 50:45; 52: 48; 53:29; 53:39; 54:6; 58:8; 58:9; 58:11; 60:8; 60:9; 68:44; 68:48; 70:42; 73:10; 74:11; 76:8; 76:24; 86:17; 88:22; 88:23; 88:24; 93:22; 95:8; 109: 6.

According to Ibn Kathir in his commentary to Surah 9 verse 5, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq used this and other verses as proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakah. These verses allowed fighting people unless and until they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations. “It is recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said, 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. This honorable Ayah was called the Ayat al-Sayf [the verse of the Sword], about which al-Dahhak bin Muzahim [Islamic authentic transmitter] said, ‘It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term.’ Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas commented: ‘No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah was revealed. The four sacred months [Shawwal, Dhu al-Qa’dah, Dhu al-Hijjah and al-Muharram], in addition to, all peace treaties conducted before Bara’ah was revealed and announced had ended by the tenth of the month of Rabi` al-Akhir.” The Shafi`i school took this as a proof for killing anyone who abandons the prayer and fighting anyone who refuses to pay the almsgiving.

Al-Bukhari, in the chapter headed “‘The statement of Allah” related to Surah 9 verse 5, claims: “Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Mohammad is Allah’s apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give obligatory charity [Zakah]. If they perform all that, then they save their lives and property from me, and then their reckoning will be done by Allah.” Later on, “Paradise is under the blades of the swords,” he declares: “Our Prophet told us about the message of our Lord that ‘… whoever amongst us is killed, will go to Paradise.’ ‘Umar asked the prophet, ‘Is it not true that pure men who are killed will go to Paradise and their enemies will go to the [Hell] fire? The Prophet said, ‘Yes’.”

Ibn Hazm deals in detail in the Qur’an wherein there appears to be conflict and/or contradiction. Through every Surah he points out verses which have been canceled and the verse(s) which replace it. He notes that there are 114 versus that call for tolerance and patience which have been canceled and replaced by Surah 9:5 Islam is unanimous about fighting the unbelievers and forcing them to Islam, or submitting them by paying the Jizyah, or being killed. All verses about forgiving the unbelievers are abrogated unanimously by the obligation of fighting them or subduing them to Islamic governance. The ‘science of abrogation’ is, in the investigation of the Qur’an, the starting point. Anyone who engages in the scientific study of the Qur’an without having mastered the doctrine of abrogation is ‘deficient’ (naqis).

Al-Suyuti declared clearly that every thing in the Qur’an about forgiveness and peace is abrogated by verse 9:5, which orders Muslims to fight the unbelievers and to establish Allah’s kingdom on earth. There is a consensus among Islamic scholars that this verse of the Qur’an abrogates 124 verses, which are basically all the verses that talk about peace and forgiveness. All in all, there are 21 instances in the Qur’an, where a revelation has been abrogated by another. The order for the Muslims to be patient and forgiving was issued when they were few and weak, but when they became strong, they were ordered to fight and the previous verses were abrogated. This is also the attitude of Muhi al-Din Ibn al-‘Arabi, an Andalusian Muslim mystic and philosopher: “The verse of the ‘sword’ has abrogated 124 verses.”

Al-Nahhas had the same attitude, while not mentioning the number of abrogated verses. Islam has approved war so that the word of Allah becomes supreme. This is war for the cause of Allah. Muhammad sent missions to the neighborhood of the Arab Peninsula to call them to embrace Islam. When they rejected his call, it became incumbent on the Muslims to fight them. Islamic law demands that before Muslims start fighting infidels, they must first deliver the message of Islam to them. Muhammad never fought people before he called them to embrace Islam.

The contemporary Islamic al-Azhar influential scholar, Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti, says in his well-known research: “The verse (9:5) does not leave any room in the mind to conjecture about what is called defensive war. This verse asserts that holy war which is demanded in Islamic law is not a defensive war, because it could legitimately be an offensive war. That is the apex and most honorable of all Holy wars. Its goal is the exaltation of the word of Allah and the construction of Islamic society and the establishment of Allah’s kingdom on Earth regardless the means. It is legal to carry on an offensive Holy War.”

Defensive warfare in Islam is nothing but a phase of the Islamic mission which the prophet practiced. After that, it was followed by another phase; that is, calling all people to embrace Islam so that nothing less would be acceptable from atheists and those who associate other deities with Allah than that they embrace Islam. Also, nothing would be acceptable from the people of the Book except conversion to Islam or being subjugated to Muslim rule. In addition, there is the command to fight anyone who attempts to stand in its way. Otherwise, what does Muhammad’s statement mean “They would not invade you, but you invade them” (al-Bukhari)? The Holy War, as it is known in Islamic Jurisprudence, is basically an offensive war. This is the duty of Muslims in every age when the needed military power becomes available to them. This is the phase in which the meaning of Holy War has taken its final form. Thus the apostle of Allah said: “I was commanded to fight the people until they believe in Allah and his message.”

Although this research is performed by analyzing Muslim exegetes’ approach alone, it is interesting to mention one example of how Western attitude is apologetically stated as by David Powers, one of the well-known researchers of classical Islam. He agrees that 9:5 abrogates no less than 124 verses which command or imply anything less than a total offensive against the non-believers. However, remarkably he says, the verse is itself considered to be abrogated by the conditional clause with which it concludes: ‘But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way.’ Unfortunately he is misleading by mentioning the so-called conditional clause. It is clearly understood that when infidels repent and perform the prayer and pay the alms, it means they have become Muslims. Once they are Muslims, there is no need to slay them. Not only that this clause is not conditional, but the verse is totally coercive and compulsory, and it precisely emphasizes its horrific meaning: to be slain or to convert to Islam.

Probably no verse is more frequently cited by contemporary Muslims preachers and propagators to show the mild and compassionate face of Islam and to encounter 9:5 is Surah 2 verse 256: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”. For Sheikh Abdur Rahman, the chief justice of Pakistan, this verse [2:256] is one of the most important, containing a charter of freedom of conscience unparalleled in the religious annals of mankind. The fallacy that Islam imposes on the non-Muslim the choice between conversion and the sword is disproved by Qur’anic injunctions.

However, this verse was given in the first year of Muhammad’s stay at Medina, when he needed the Jews’ support. Moreover, according to Muslim exegetes, the cause of this revelation is the expulsion of the Jewish tribe of Bani al-Nadir, after Bader war in 624, and it has nothing to do with tolerance towards the other. The women of Ansar used to make a vow to convert their sons to Judaism if they lived. When the tribe of Bani al-Nadhir was expelled from Medina, some children of Ansar were among them, so their parents could not abandon them; hence Allah revealed: “There is no compulsion in religion…” This is narrated by most authoritative informers. Ibn Ishaq narrated what Ibn Abbas said: it was revealed with regard to a man from the tribe of Bani Salim whose two sons converted to Christianity but he was himself a Muslim. He told the Prophet: “Shall I force them to embrace Islam they insist on Christianity”, hence Allah revealed this verse. But, it is abrogated by the verses of “fighting”… Surah 48 verse 16, Surah 9 verse 73 and Surah 9 verse 123.

Ibn Kathir elaborated: Allah says: “There is no compulsion in religion”, meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam, because it is clear and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force. Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion.

Al-Nahhas, with the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, said: “scholars differed concerning 2:256. Some said it has been abrogated by Surah 9 verse 73, for the Prophet compelled the Arabs to embrace Islam and fought those that had no alternative but to surrender to Islam. Other scholars said that it has not been abrogated concerning the People of the Book. It is only the infidels who are compelled to embrace Islam, and upon them 9:73 applies. Compelling people in the truth is a religious duty. The Prophet said: I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah. This Hadith is taken from the words of Allah in Surah 2 verse 193. Allah sent Muhammad calling people to Him, showing the way to the truth, enduring much harm… until the evidence of Allah’s truth became manifest … He ordered him to call people by the sword…”

Al-Suyuti does not see 2:256 abrogated by 9:73, but a case of delaying or postponing the command to fight the infidels until the Muslims become strong. When they were weak, they were commanded to endure and be patient. The first verse that was revealed in the Qur’an about fighting in Medina is Surah 2 verse 190, until Surah 9 was revealed, and it was cancelled by Surah 9 verse 5. This view support exactly the attitude presented here: in Medina Muhammad became strong, and the order of Surah 9 verse 73, along with verses 5, 29 and 123 to fight in jihad war all the unbelievers and the hypocrites was performed. Indeed, Surah 2:256 was abrogated. But even if it was delayed to the time when Muhammad became strong, when Surah 9 was revealed Muhammad had already become the strongest in Arabia. The result is the same: the infidels should embrace Islam or face death at the hands of the believers. The only one way for infidels to be spared from being slain – they repent and become Muslims.

This is also the case of Surah 9: 29, which deals with the People of the Book, Jews and Christians. Fighting them is mentioned after the clarification regarding fighting the idolaters [9:5]. This verse [9:29] was revealed when Muhammad was commanded to fight the Byzantines and prepared the expedition to Tabuk. Ibn Kathir declared: the order is to fight the People of the Book until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. Had they been true believers in their religions, that faith would have directed them to believe in Muhammad, because all Prophets commanded them to obey and follow him. Yet when he was sent, they disbelieved in him, even though he is the mightiest of all messengers, because it suits their desires and lusts, and because they disbelieved in the master, the mightiest, the last and most perfect of all prophets.

Ibn Kathir continues: this honorable ayah was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book. After the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah’s religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims’ control. Therefore, Allah commanded his Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, in the ninth year of Hijrah. If they do not choose to embrace Islam, they will have to pay the Jizyah as a sign of Kufr, with willing submission, in defeat and subservience, disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated. The exegete Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said, do not initiate the Salam [to greet peace] to Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.

7 Responses

  1. […] Quranic verses were used to initiate the principles of Naskh (نسخ) which translates to mean Abrogation. “And when We substitute a verse in place of a verse – and Allah is most knowing of what He […]

  2. Tobias Steidle

    I would like to take your offer made on https://politicalislam.com/abrogation-and-the-koran/ to receive your text within the sources and footnotes.
    Do you now of the list of abrogations in http://wikiislam.net/wiki/List_of_Abrogations_in_the_Qur'an ?

    Thanks from Germnay for your file.
    Tobias Steidle

  3. Malcom Othman

    I didn’t even need to read your drivel, the minute i saw the name of the author i knew the whole article will be as stupid and ignorant as they come .
    the Jews must know about the Quran more than muslims do i guess ?
    I wonder if i also should believe the jews when they call Jesus a ” pimp ” or call Mary a “…….” ..may be they also know about christianity more than christians .
    I noticed that christians are out in full force to discredit the Quran ..especialy after the embarrassing pedophilia charges against the christians relgious leaders .
    Please stop using muslim names , we know that praise emails are from you …next time worry about your own book ” porn book ” and leave the Quran to muslim scholars .

  4. meekaa

    we have read what you said in your article dealing with the words of The Glorious Qur’an and the Mansukh
    ayyah…and we agree with you in this article. Thank you for your commentary on The Glorious Qur’an regardless of what the nay sayers have rebutted in this regard… As Salammu alaikum..

  5. john

    I see that you removed my reply indicating that this is indeed an orientalist site designed to misinform leaving only “Umar Abaka” ‘s glowing praise of the drivel above. I wonder if he is really called Umar and not David or Emmanuel, hmmm?

  6. john

    What you have written is either unwittingly wrong or purposely so for misinformation purposes. I only read so far as hanbali and sharifi schools disagreeing with one of the others in regards to the laws of abrogation and decided to leave it at that, as, alhamdulillah, i have been on course with Shiek Haitham Al-Haddad who is one of the foremost scholars in Britain on islamic jurisprudence and what i was taught is quite different to what you have said. In Islam we have something called Ij’ma which means consent. It means that what the 1st three generations of muslims (which include the 4 great imaans) knew and agreed on as Islam & Sunnah, any tradition (sunnah) that turned up afterwards is an innovation as none of the first generations every heard of this. None of the 4 imaans ever accused each other of innovation, nor did they disagree. The disagreement is only in their followers who are of little knowlegde of the imaan they claim to follow. First the should be following the Prophet (pbuh) and not anyone else, and second all the 4 imaans are on record for saying that if a sahih (authentic) hadith reaches you which contradicts what i have said, then disregard my statement.
    The article you wrote should be more carefully researched if you wish to guard yourself from accusations of orientalism.
    yours sincerely,

  7. Engr. Umar Abaka

    this ia a good research and it will help muslims brotherws world wild to get undersatanding of the topic

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