Abrogation
(naskh)

Gibril Fouad Haddad

Abrogation (Naskh) lexically denotes elimination (izāla), as in the verse but Allah annuls (yansakhu) what Satan casts, then Allah confirms His signs (Q 22:52); substitution (tabdīl), as in the verse and when We exchange (baddalnā) one revelation (āya) in place of another revelation (āya) (Q 16:101) in light of the verse We do not erase (nansakh) any revelation (āya) or cause it to be forgotten (nunsihā) but bring a better one or the like of it (Q 2:106); transfer (taḥwīl), as in the tanāsukh of inheritance, meaning its transfer from one person to another; and copy or transcript (naql) from one place to another, as in the verses We have been recording (nastansikhu) all that you were doing (Q 45:29) and he took the tablets, and in their record (nuskhatihā) there was guidance and mercy for those who fear their Lord (Q 7:154), and as implied in the verse Lo! in the Motherbook, which We possess, it is indeed sublime, full of wisdom (Q 43:4).

Definitions

In legal theory and exegesis naskh denotes the “cessation and change” (al-rafʿ wal-taghyīr) of an early legal ruling (sharʿ, ḥukm sharʿī)—the mansūkh or “abrogated”—and its replacement (though not indispensable, see next Section) by a later one—the nāsikh or “abrogator,” also called “substitute” (badal)—per ʿAlam al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī (558-643/1163-1245) and al-Shawkānī’s (1173-1250/1759-1834) definitions (Ṭawd 1:335 and Irshād 2:787, respectively); or the injunction (khiṭāb) pertaining thereunto, per the two definitions given by (i) al-Juwaynī (419-478/1028-1085), al-Ghazālī (450-505/1058-1111), and Ibn al-ʿArabī (468-543/1075-1148) as in the former’s Waraqāt (al-Maḥallī’s Sharḥ p. 50), the second’s Mustaṣfā (1:107) and al-Rāzī’s (543-606/1148-1209) Maḥṣūl (3:282): “The injunction indicating the cessation of a ruling established by a prior injunction, in a sense were it not for which the prior one would remain established, with an interval of time between the two” (which is actually the definition of the nāsikh as pointed out by al-Sakhāwī, Ṭawd 1:335 and al-Maḥallī, Sharḥ p. 50) and (ii) al-Rāzī himself (Maḥṣūl 3:285): “An avenue of the Law indicating that the ruling that was established by a prior avenue is no longer existent thenceforth, with an interval of time between the two, in a sense were it not for which the prior avenue would remain established.” (The interval of time is necessary, otherwise there would be simultaneity and the second injunction would be an exposition of the first rather than an abrogation.) Naskh therefore takes place only in the lifetime of the Prophet—upon him blessings and peace—as “there is no more abrogation after the termination of revelation” and, furthermore, the true abrogator is Allah Himself, although the name of abrogator is metaphorically applied to the proof (e.g., a verse) or the substitute ruling by which naskh is established (al-Ghazālī, al-Mustaṣfā 1:126, 1:121).


Wisdom

Naskh is mostly (though not necessarily, see “Legal Scenarios” below) about ease and can be exemplified by the gradual lessening of the Divinely-imposed duty of 50 daily prayers to five in the account of the Prophet’s Heavenly Ascension (see Night Journey and Ascension) (Bukhārī, Tawḥīd, qawluhu wa-kallama Allāhu Mūsā taklīman; Muslim, Īmān, al-isrāʾ bi-Rasūl Allāh). The latter gradation is similar to the three-tiered prohibition of intoxicating substances in the Qurʾān (Q 4:43 then 2:219 then 5:90-91) although the latter is in fact a case of abrogation leading to a more stringent ruling, such as the replacement of pacifism with combat to the point of standing firm even at ten to one odds (Q 8:65)—then two to one (Q 8:66)—and the obligation of fasting in replacement of free choice between a makeup fast and feeding the poor (Q 2:184-185 cf. al-Ghazālī, al-Mustaṣfā 1:120). Thus, a primary wisdom behind naskh is the gradual development of the community of the believers: certain rulings were appropriate at initial stages and were later made obsolete, but remain as an indication of the Divine mercy in implementing a gradual rather than a sudden and brutal process of development.

Naskh does not imply a Divine “change of mind” (badāʾ)—an absurdity (Ibn al-Jawzī, Nawāsikh p. 83)—for “the Almighty Creator has known from pre-eternity the former and the latter command, the duration of the former, and the start of the latter, all before the existence of His creatures and their being tasked with that, then the other; and He, since pre-eternity, has wanted the first until its term of abrogation and likewise the abolishment of its ruling and replacement with a substitute—or none—while His Speech is His own Attribute which incurs no change and no substitute” (al-Sakhāwī, al-Ṭawd 1:335-336). Rather, it is “the disclosure of the finite duration of a given ruling, comparable to the giving of life after death and vice versa, health after sickness and vice versa, or poverty after wealth and vice-versa” (Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:701). Al-Shahrastānī (469-548/ca.1076-1153) drew a similarly striking comparison of naskh to the organic fruition and completion of growth (see below, “Islam’s abrogation of prior dispensations”).

Like the knowledge of genealogy, grammar, and transmission chains (isnād), naskh has been described as one of the specialties of the Muslim umma (see Community). Its mastery has been from the very beginning a prerequisite of the science of exegesis sine qua non and even the litmus test of learning as a whole, as evinced by ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib’s (13bh-40/609-660) (Allah ennoble his countenance) silencing of a would-be preacher, Miṣdaʿ Abū Yaḥyā al-Muʿarqab (“The Hamstrung”), in the following exchange:

ʿAlī: Who are you?

Miṣdaʿ: Abū Yaḥyā.

ʿAlī: No, not Abū Yaḥyā but Mr. Seeking-Fame (anta Abū Iʿrifūnī). Can you tell the nāsikh from the mansūkh?

Miṣdaʿ: No.

ʿAlī: You’re a menace to yourself and everyone else!

Ibn Bashkuwāl, Ghawāmiḍ 1:257-259 and Ibn al-Jawzī, Nawāsikh p. 104-110; cf. ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Muṣannaf 3:220 §5407. The second half is narrated with sound chains in Ibn Abī ʿĀṣim, al-Mudhakkir wal-tadhkīr p. 82 §14; Abū Khaythama, al-ʿIlm p. 53 §130; al-Ḥarbī, Gharīb al-Ḥadīth 3:1044; Abū Dāwūd in al-Nāsikh wal-Mansūkh and, through him, al-Khaṭīb in al-Faqīh wal-Mutafaqqih 1:244 §239; Bayhaqī, Sunan 10:117 and Madkhal 1:174-175 §184 misspelt qāḍī yaqḍī instead of qāṣṣin yaquṣṣ. Something similar is related from Ḥudhayfa through sound narrators (Dārimī, Sunan, Muqaddima) and others, as well as ʿUmar and Ibn ʿAbbās—Allah be well-pleased with them—according to Shams al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī (831-902/1428-1497) in the chapter on abrogation in his Fatḥ al-Mughīth

This phenomenon of uninformed encroachment on the scholarly sphere is still observed in the form of individuals and groups who take abrogated verses and treat them as if they were not abrogated, without recourse to qualified scholarship and sound legal sources.


Modalities

Naskh is both rationally possible and actually occurs in relation to meanings (maʿān), either with a substitute (naskh bi-badal) or without (naskh bi-lā badal). Al-Āmidī (551-631/1156-ca.1234) cited the inter-school consensus that it is not a prerequisite of abrogation that there be a substitute ruling (al-Iḥkām 3:168) since, al-Ghazālī said, “the literal meaning of naskh is cessation (al-rafʿ) and nothing else” (al-Mustaṣfā 1:119). As for the naskh of “scripta” (rusūm, sing. rasm), that is, from the aural perspective, the naskh of “recitation” (tilāwa), there is a variance of opinion over possible scenarios:

Abrogation of both the Qurʾānic recitation/script and the ruling together, as in the case of the once-recited verse of “ten recognizable sucklings” abrogated by the ruling of “five recognizable sucklings,” as narrated from ʿĀʾisha—Allah be well-pleased with her (Mālik, Ṭalāq, raḍāʿ; al-Shāfiʿī, Musnad, Raḍāʿ; Muslim, Raḍāʿ, al-taḥrīm bi-khamsi raḍaʿāt; and in the Sunan). Makkī (d. 437/ca.1045) said this is the only instance of an abrogated and its abrogator being both unrecited (Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:706). Examples of abrogated verses which did not comprise any ruling are “Inform on our behalf our people that we have met our Lord and He was content with us and has made us content,” spoken by the seventy Anṣār martyrs of Biʾr Maʿūna (Bukhārī, Jihād, man yunkab fī sabīl Allāh; Muslim, Masājid, istiḥbāb al-qunūt) and “If the son of Ādam possessed a valley full of gold he would love its like in addition, and nothing fulfills the soul of the son of Ādam but dust, and Allah relents toward whosoever repents” (Bukhārī, Riqāq, mā yuttaqā min fitnat al-māl; Muslim, Zakāt, lawn anna li-ibni Ādama wādiyān), both cited by the exegetes of the first two generations in illustration of the “abrogation-cum-oblivion” (al-naskh wal-insāʾ) mentioned in Q 2:106 as documented by Zayd (al-Naskh 1:279-282 §383-387) and of which a historical archetype is Ibrāhīm’s, upon him peace, ṣuḥuf (see Books) per al-Pazdawī (d. 482/1089) in his Uṣūl and its commentary by ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn al-Bukhārī (d. 730/ca.1330) entitled Kashf al-asrār (3:356);

Abrogation of the ruling while the recitation (or script) remains, as in the verse of bequest (Q 2:180). Most of the cases itemized by al-Suyūṭī (849-911/1445-ca.1505) are of this type and both he and Ibn al-ʿArabī deem it “a very rare category despite its examples forming the substance of the books of nāsikh and mansūkh due to confusion” between abrogation and the category of the “general verse narrowed by a specifier” (makhṣūṣ), for example, Wed not idolatresses till they believe (Q 2:221) made specific by and in wedlock women of them who were given the Book (Q 5:5) rather than being abrogated by it (Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:706);

Abrogation of the Qurʾānic recitation/script while the ruling remains (cf. al-Rāzī, al-Maḥṣūl 3:322ff.). Among other examples, the archetype here is the “Verse of Lapidation” (āyat al-rajm), which Ubayy b. Kaʿb, ʿĀʾisha, ʿUmar, Zayd b. Thābit, Saʿīd b. al-ʿĀṣ, and others—Allah be well-pleased with them—said used to be recited as part of Sūrat al-Aḥzāb: “When the mature man and the mature woman commit fornication, stone them to death” (cf. Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:718 and Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 33:1). This is narrated from ʿUmar with a sound chain according to al-Naḥḥās (al-Nāsikh p. 9) and is quasi-mass-transmitted (taẓaharat) according to al-Ghazālī (al-Mustaṣfā 1:124). Yet both Muṣṭafā Zayd (al-Naskh 1:283 §388-389) and the late ʿAbd Allāh al-Ghumārī (1328-1413)—in Dhawq al-ḥalāwa fī imtināʿ naskh al-tilāwa and al-Iḥsān fī taʿqīb al-Itqān—deny that “When the mature man and the mature woman…” was ever part of the Qurʾān and the latter asserts that the report in this regard is disclaimed (munkar), overlooking the fact that Mālik himself narrates it verbatim in the chapter on ḥadd (see Boundaries of Allah) in no less than three versions of the Muwaṭṭāʾ (those of Yaḥyā al-Laythī, Muḥammad b. Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, and Abū Muṣʿab al-Zuhrī);

Annulments of pre-Islamic or early Islamic rulings which were never in the Qurʾān in the first place, such as the prohibition of marrying a father’s spouse(s) (Q 4:22), the restriction of divorce to three times (Q 2:229-230), the Jerusalemite qibla (Q 2:143-144), and others. All the above four types of abrogation are both rationally possible and historically factual in sacred law by consensus breached only by the Muʿtazilīs according to legal theorists such as al-Āmidī (Iḥkām 3:175), al-Ghazālī (al-Mustaṣfā 1:112 and 1:123-124), al-Pazdawī, and ʿAlāʾ al-Bukhārī (al-Kashf 3:357-358).


Prerequisites of Abrogator and Abrogated

The prerequisites of the abrogator are that it form (i) a law (sharʿ) (ii) distinct and separate, (iii) posterior in time to the abrogated, (iv) like it or higher in probative strength, and (v) different in import. The prerequisites of the abrogated are that it be (i) an abrogable law and (ii) non-time-specific (hence the proviso “in a sense were it not for which” in the definitions). For example, When the call is heard for the prayer of the day of congregation, hasten unto remembrance of Allah and leave your trading (Q 62:9) is not abrogated by And when the prayer is ended, then disperse in the land and seek of Allah’s bounty (Q 62:10), but the latter only acts as an exposition of the time frame of the ruling of prohibition (bayān ghāyat al-taḥrīm) mentioned in the former, as does also the post-taḥrīm resumption of the licitness of hunting (Q 5:2) after its prohibition during the consecrated state in pilgrimage (Q 5:96). A third prerequisite according to some scholars is that the abrogated be non-eternal in scope.

Naskh occurs only for commands and prohibitions or the report thereof, not for descriptions, reports, and stories about the past or the hereafter, or glad tidings, confusion over this provision being at the root of the long lists of abrogation cases. Another reason is assimilation of the abrogated with the “made-to-be-forgotten” (munsaʾ) mentioned alongside it in Q 2:106, such as the command to forbear patiently due to weakness (cf. Q 2:109) superseded rather than truly abrogated by the “Verse of the Sword” (Q 9:5, also Q 9:36). There has also been confusion between tilāwa (“recitation”), which is abrogable, and the matlūw (“recited”) which is pre-eternal and everlasting, and therefore unabrogable and immutable. In reply to this and similar Muʿtazilī objections, al-Ghazālī showed that (i) “the meaning of abrogation is not the cessation of the [Divine uncreated] Speech but the severance of its connection with the legally-responsible person;” (ii) abrogation does not “turn good into bad” since the Lawmaker is not bound by our subjective assessments; (iii) it is not a “change of mind” (badāʾ) since Allah both knows and has power over the temporal terms of what He commands and prohibits; and (iv) it is not an “anathematization of His will” (ṣayrūrat al-murād makrūhan) since ahl al-Sunna make a clearcut distinction between the Divine will (irāda)—which includes disobedience, for example—and the Divine command (amr)—which excludes it (al-Mustaṣfā 1:109-110; see Ability; Acquisition; Divine Decree; Will, Want, and Volition). Finally, there has been anachronism blurring the term-specific convention of later scholars with the language of the early Salaf, who used the term naskh broadly so as to include exception (istithnāʾ) and specification (takhṣīṣ) as well (al-Sakhāwī, Ṭawd 1:335-337; al-Shawkānī, Irshād 2:801-804; Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:702-703, 707).

Al-Suyūṭī considers naskh proper to occur whenever the legally-responsible person (see Legal Responsibility) has not yet put the abrogated command or prohibition into practice, for instance, the abrogated verse of najwā (see Confidences): when you consult the Messenger, offer something in charity before your consultation (Q 58:12) which the Companions did not have time to put into effect. As for the cancellation of commands (i) dispensed to other communities such as the abrogation of the talion by the various penalties (cf. Q 5:45; 2:178; 4:92) and (ii) dispensed in Islam but in “yet-to-be-defined” (jumlī) terms, such as the replacement of al-Quds (see al-Aqṣā Mosque) with the Kaʿba  as a qibla , or that of the fast of ʿĀshūrāʾ (the tenth of the month of Muḥarram) with that of Ramadan, these are metaphorical but not literal abrogations (Itqān 2:702-703).


Legal Scenarios

Al-Makkī lists four legal scenarios of abrogation (Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:704-705):

A categorical obligation (farḍ) abrogating another farḍ where it is impermissible to practice the first, for example, the abrogation of the imprisonment of women guilty of fornication (Q 4:15) with the ruling of corporal punishment (ḥadd) (whether Q 24:2 or the latter’s abrogator in the Sunna; cf. “Modalities” above, third part, and “Mutual Abrogability” below) (see Adultery and Fornication);

A categorical obligation abrogating another where it is permissible to practice the first, for example, the abrogation of the verse prohibiting flight from battle even with odds of ten to one already mentioned;

A categorical obligation abrogating a desirable act (nadb), for example, the abrogation of the mere permission to fight (Q 22:39 and the many hadiths in praise of jihad) with the command to do so (Q 2:215);

A recommendation (nadb) abrogating a categorical obligation, for example, the abrogation of the command to keep vigil most of the night (cf. Q 73:2) with the permission to recite of the Qurʾān as much as is feasible (Q 73:20). Ibn al-Jawzī brings up several more scenarios (Nawāsikh p. 91-93).


Some Disputed Criteria

There is a difference of opinion as to whether abrogation can properly apply to a ruling of which the legally-responsible person (mukallaf) remains unaware; or which he knows but is unable to put into practice; or is able to put into practice but its timeframe has not yet started; or it has, but he has not yet put it into practice (which, as we said, al-Suyūṭī considers naskh proper); or he has begun to put it into practice but has not yet finished; all this with the abrogator being either more exacting than the abrogated (as in the cancellation of the option of an expiatory fine in replacement of fasting Ramadan), or equal, or less. There is also a difference of opinion whether an abrogator can remain unknown while what it abrogates is agreed upon. The vast majority (al-jumhūr) also hold that (prophetic) action can abrogate speech and vice versa, but consensus and analogy can never abrogate the Book, the Sunna, or consensus. The latter can in itself neither abrogate nor be abrogated, but only serve as an indicator of such. Can analogy (qiyās) be abrogated? Only in the sense of the abrogation of the “counter-implication” (mafhūm al-mukhālafa) or “gist” (mafhūm al-muwāfaqa) of the abrogated by virtue of the latter’s abrogation, or even without it in the first instance (al-Nūrfūrī, Nukhba p. 51-52).


Mutual Abrogability of Qurʾān and Sunna

A well-known difference of opinion concerns the abrogability of the Qurʾān by the Sunna and vice-versa, or of mass-transmitted (mutawātir) Sunna by non-mass-transmitted Sunna, the preponderant view being that it:

is rationally possible—since the Qurʾān describes the Sunna as revealed as well: Nor does he speak of his own desire (Q 53:3); And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids, abstain from it (Q 59:7); and

occurs in the Law, as per:

the abrogation of the verse of imprisonment of women guilty of fornication, confine them to their homes until they die, or until Allah clears a way for them (Q 4:15) by the hadith, “Take this from me! Allah has cleared a way for them: for the single (lit. ‘virgin’), one hundred lashes and one year’s banishment; for the married, one hundred lashes and lapidation” (Muslim, Ḥudūd, ḥadd al-zinā; also the Sunan and Aḥmad, Musnad; cf. al-Ghazālī, al-Mustaṣfā 1:124); and

the abrogation of the verse of bequest (Q 2:180) by the sound Prophetic hadith in the Sunan (books of Waṣāyā) and Aḥmad’s Musnad, “There is no bequest for anyone who stands to inherit,” deemed mass-transmitted by al-Ashʿarī (cf. al-Shawkānī, Irshād 2:811) and Ibn al-Ḥājib as per al-Kattānī in his compilation Naẓm al-Mutanāthir, and which al-Bukhārī included as a chapter-heading (Waṣāyā).

Al-Shāfiʿī (150-204/767-819) held that “only Qurʾān abrogates Qurʾān and only the Sunna abrogates the Sunna”—as did al-Thawrī (97-161/716-778) and Aḥmad (164-241/781-855) according to one of two narrations (Ibn al-Jawzī, Nawāsikh p. 97-100), and this is the gist of the tābiʿī Ibn al-Shikhkhīr’s mursal-chained report (missing the Companion-narrator) that “the hadith of the Messenger of Allah would abrogate itself just as the Qurʾān would abrogate itself” (Muslim, Ḥayḍ, innamā al-māʾ min al-māʾ). While conceding its weakness, Imam al-Ḥaramayn explained this view as the respective conclusion of the facts that it is the messenger who is the elucidator and the message the elucidated, never vice versa, and that the Qurʾān precludes but that better than it or the like (Q 2:106) abrogate an āya (al-Juwaynī, Mughīth p. 29-32); the point being that it is Allah Most High Who abrogates, whether by means of the Qurʾān or the Sunna, both of which are His Message (al-Juwaynī, al-Burhān 2:1307-1309 §1440-1443), as al-Ghazālī elucidated in his wake (al-Mustaṣfā 1:122, 1:124), and, among our contemporaries, ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad al-Amīn al-Shinqīṭī in his monograph al-Āyāt al-mansūkha (p. 144).

A comparably staunch scholar of the same School, the modern Ḥasan Hītū, similarly sided with the vast majority (al-Wajīz p. 266ff.). However, al-Shāfiʿī also said that “whenever the Qurʾān is abrogated by the Sunna, there is a Qurʾānic confirmation of the latter; and whenever the Sunna is abrogated by the Qurʾān, there is a Sunnic confirmation of the latter” (Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:702) which not only holds true (e.g., in the case of bequests, Q 4:11-12: Allah charges you, concerning your children: to the male the like of the portion of two females…), but admits an extent whereby the Sunna can indeed be abrogated by the Book and the Book by the Sunna while admirably upholding their respective integrity as pointed out by al-Zarkashī (745-794/ca.1344-1392) in al-Baḥr al-muḥīṭ and al-Subkī (683-756/1284-1355) in al-Ibhāj (cf. al-Shawkānī, Irshād 2:814).


Some Constants of Abrogation

Al-Sakhāwī, al-Suyūṭī, and others have observed that every single abrogator occurs after its abrogated pendant in the Qurʾānic text except in two instances: ʿidda (see Waiting Period) in al-Baqara and the lawfulness of wives in al-Aḥzāb as referenced in the previous section. Every single abrogator occurs in a Madanī sūra and abrogates either a Makkī or a Madanī verse revealed before it (al-Sakhāwī, Ṭawḍ 1:337; Suyūṭī, Itqān 2:713f.).


Islam’s Abrogation of Prior Dispensations

Each successive Prophet in history is considered to have abrogated part or all of his predecessor’s law, as illustrated by the Evangel’s (see Injīl) abrogation of some of the rulings of the Torah (Q 3:48-50) until the final and all-encompassing abrogation of all the previous dispensations by the mission of the Seal of Prophets (Q 33:40), who was prophesied in those two Books (Q 7:156-158) and was sent to all people (Q 34:28) with the very last, greatest, and most complete of all heavenly Books, sent to the best of all human nations (Q 2:143; 3:109) until the end of times (cf. Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr, sub Q 5:49).

The final Revelation’s incorruptibility and supersession of previous Divine dispensations are notably expressed in the Qurʾānic term muhayminan, variously translatable as “trustee,” “trustworthy,” “custodian,” “watcher,” in the verse And unto you have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it (Q 5:48, Pickthall). Al-Rāzī said:

First, (a) [it means] ward (raqīb), witness (shāhid), and guardian (ḥāfiẓ); (b) it means “trusted” (amīn) over the Books that preceded it. Second, this is the case only because the Qurʾān is the Book that never becomes abrogated, nor is It subject to substitution (tabdīl) and tampering (taḥrīf), as the Most High said: We have, without doubt, sent down the Remembrance; and We will assuredly guard it (Q 15:9). If this is the case, then the testimony of the Qurʾān remains forever that the [pristine] Torah, Injīl (Evangel), and Zabūr (Psalms) are the pure truth, and that whatever is true in these Books can be known forever. Third, the author of the Kashshāf [al-Zamakhsharī (467-538/ca.1074-1143)] said it is also read muhaymanan, meaning “witnessed over” on the part of Allah Most High in that He preserves it from tampering and substitution.  (Tafsīr)

Al-Ghazālī specified that there is “consensus in the agreement of the entire Community that the sacred law of Muḥammad—upon him blessings and peace—has abrogated the laws of his predecessors either in toto or in whatever contravenes it—and this is agreed upon, and whosoever denies this violates consensus” (Mustaṣfā 1:111, cf. al-Bukhārī, Kashf al-asrār 3:345). It is noteworthy that this stipulation encompasses laws and rulings but not (i) historical reports, as already mentioned (see Section iv), nor (ii) credal foundations such as pure monotheism, resurrection, prophetology, angelology, and the hereafter which all stand unchanged since the first revelation (cf. al-Shawkānī’s two monographs Irshād al-thiqāt ilā ittifāq al-sharāʾiʿ ʿalā al-tawḥīd wal-maʿād wal-nubuwwāt and al-Maqālat al-fākhira fī ittifāq al-sharāʾiʿ ʿalā ithbāt al-dār al-ākhira, both published within his collected Fatāwā).

Al-Shahrastānī offered a teleological reading of naskh in the introduction to his exegesis:

It was said that it (abrogation) is a completion (takmīl) in the sense that the objectives of legal rulings, once they reach their endpoint and farthermost limit, are completed with other rulings that possess nobler and more perfect objectives. We say the same thing about organisms, as in the replacement (intisākh) of the zygote (nuṭfa) with the blastocyst (ʿalaqa) and the latter’s replacement with a grooved embryo (muḍgha), to the seventh stage which is another creation. So the sacred laws began with Ādam—upon him peace—and end up with Resurrection, which is the other birth; and every law is replacing the previous one, that is, completing it to the next stage of another perfection…. Do not think for a moment that any law cancels out another or that its rulings are lifted and others put in its place! For the zygote among organisms, if it were to be eradicated or taken out, would not reach to the second or third stage, but rather, its progress to completion has ended, and there is no further form of perfection coming in the wake of its own fulfillment. It is the same with the first law if it were to be eradicated…. Likewise, the last law, the noblest of them all, comprises rulings that have never been substituted—these are the foundations of the creed, and they are the clear revelations which are the substance of the Book (cf. Q 3:7)—together with substitutable rulings which are the branches of the creed—these are the ambiguous verses whereof Allah effaces what He will, and confirms (Q 13:39). And He does not efface except for a perfection fulfilled, nor does He confirm but for a principle directed toward perfection.  (Mafātīḥ al-asrār 1:52-53)


Al-Suyūṭī’s List of Intra-Qurʾānic Abrogations

Al-Suyūṭī summed up the scholarship, critiqued past methodologies as based on faulty criteria—while generally endorsing Ibn al-ʿArabī and al-Makkī—and finalized the number of intra-Qurʾānic abrogations to 21 cases including those disagreed upon (Itqān 2:708-712):

  • The verse of bequest (Q 2:180) already mentioned (in “Mutual Abrogability”) (see Inheritance and Patrimony);
  • The option of an expiatory fine (fidya) in replacement of fasting (Q 2:184) was said to be abrogated by the next verse but Ibn ʿAbbās deemed it “definite” (muḥkam) with regard to the very elderly (see Muḥkam and Mutashābih Verses);
  • The implied prohibition of intercourse on pre-fasting nights (Q 2:183 and hadith of al-Barāʾ in Bukhārī, Tafsīr “They would not approach women the whole month of Ramadan”) was abrogated by Permitted to you, on the night of the Fast… (Q 2:187);
  • The prohibition of warfare in the sacred months (Q 2:217) was abrogated by Q 9:36 per the report of ʿAṭāʾ b. Maysara (d. 135) as narrated by al-Ṭabarī (Tafsīr, sub Q 2:217);
  • The right of widows to the bequest of a full year’s maintenance and housing (Q 2:240) was abrogated by the verse of ʿidda (waiting period) (Q 2:234) and the verses of inheritance in Sūrat al-Nisāʾ. Some maintained the right to housing while others said it was also abrogated by the ḥadīth of Fāṭima bint Qays (Bukhārī, Ṭalāq, qiṣṣat Fāṭima bint Qays; Muslim, Ṭalāq, al-muṭallaqatu thalāthan lā nafaqata lahā);
  • The accountability of hidden thoughts (Q 2:284) was abrogated by Q 2:286;
  • Fear Allah as He should be feared (Q 3:102) was said to be abrogated by fear Allah as far as you are able (Q 64:16) (see Fear);
  • To those, also, to whom your right hand was pledged, give their due portion (Q 4:33) was abrogated by those related by blood are nearer to one another in the Book of Allah (Q 8:75);
  • If relatives, orphans, or the needy are present at the division [of the inheritance], provide for them out of it, and speak to them in kind words (Q 4:8) was said to be abrogated while others said people were merely remiss in putting it into practice;
  • The imprisonment of those who commit zinā (Q 4:15) already mentioned above (in “Legal Scenarios” above);
  • The prohibition of warfare in the sacred months (Q 5:2) was abrogated by its permission on the basis of retaliation (Q 2:194);
  • The Prophet’s option of arbitration (Q 5:42) was abrogated by the command making it compulsory (Q 5:49);
  • The option of choosing any other two witnesses (Q 5:106) was abrogated by the obligation to admit only upright witnesses (Q 65:2) (see Witness of Faith, Witnessing, and Witnesses);
  • The verses prohibiting flight from battle (Q 8:65-66) already mentioned above (in “Legal Scenarios” above);
  • General mobilization (Q 9:41), while abrogating verse Q 4:77, was itself abrogated by the exemption verses (Q 48:17, 9:91, 9:122);
  • The restriction of offenders to marry only among themselves (Q 24:3) was abrogated by Q 24:32;
  • It was said that the obligation that slaves ask permission (Q 24:58) was abrogated but others said people were merely remiss in its practice (see Slaves and Slavery);
  • It shall be unlawful for you to take more wives (Q 33:52) was abrogated by We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their dowries (Q 33:50) (see Marriage and Divorce);
  • The verse of najwā (Q 58:12) was abrogated by Q 58:13;
  • Pay to those whose wives have deserted the equivalent of what they had spent [on their dowries] (Q 60:11) was said to be abrogated by Q 9:5 and Q 9:36, but others said Q 8:41 and others yet deemed it definite (see Dowry);
  • It was said the command to keep vigil (Q 73:2) was abrogated with Q 73:20, itself abrogated by the obligation of the five prayers, another example of the “abrogated abrogator.”


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See also

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