August 10, 2015 by Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The Abrogation of the Ayaat and the Wisdom behind it
At first, the Muslims used to pray with their faces turned towards the Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), later Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commanded them to turn toward the Ka’abah. Similarly, certain other commands were abrogated altogether or replaced by others. This provided the Jews and some of the idolators an opportunity to taunt the Muslims. They claimed that these changes were made by the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself and not by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. They argued that if everything that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed was good, as the Muslims affirmed, why should one command be replaced by another? The purpose of such taunts and arguments was to sow the seed of doubt in the hearts of the Muslims.
By revealing the following ayaat Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has refuted their claim.
The ayah declares that if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chooses to abrogate a command in a certain ayah while retaining the ayah itself as a part of the Qur’an, or chooses to remove an ayah from the memories of men altogether, there is nothing objectionable in it. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala alone knows the wisdom that lies in His choice, and He makes these changes for the good of men. In fact, He always sends another ayah or command better than or at least equal to, what He has abrogated. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala being Omnipotent and Omniscient, possesses the authority to change His commandments as He likes. He knows what is good for men at a particular time, and makes these changes according to this knowledge.
What is Naskh [Abrogation]?
The word nansakh [نَنسَخْ] is from the root noon-seen-kha and it has two lexical meanings (1) to write, and (2) to abolish, to repeal. According to the commentators, in the ayah the second meaning applies.
Ibn Katheer writes that the naskh only occurs with commandments, prohibitions, permissions, and so forth. As for the stories, they do not undergo abrogation. The meaning of naskh in the case of commandments is removing the commandment and replacing it by another. And whether the naskh involves the wordings, the rulings or both, it is still called naskh.
The other form of naskh mentioned in this ayah is nunsiha [نُنسِهَا] from the root noon-seen-ya. Sometimes Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala made the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum forget a certain ayah altogether.
Why change a command?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it…” The scholars explained that better means better in terms of the benefits that it offers or it could also mean easier in implementation.
Making laws and repealing them to promulgate new ones in their stead is a regular and well-known practice in human governments. But in the case of man-made laws abrogation takes place sometimes because the law-makers do not understand the situation properly while making a certain law, and have to change it when they realize their mistakes. Also, sometimes when a law is promulgated, it is in accord with the prevailing situation, but when unforeseen changes alter the situation, the law too has to be changed. These two forms of abrogation, however, are out of the question in the case of Divine injunctions.
There is, however, a third form too. The lawmaker makes the law knowing well that the circumstances are going to change and the law will no longer be suitable for the new situation. So, when the situation changes as he already knew, he changes the law too, and promulgates a new one which he had thought of at the very start.
For example, a physician prescribes a medicine for a patient in view of his present conditions, but he knows that when the patient has been using it for two days, his condition will change and require a new medicine – with this realization, he prescribes a medicine suitable for that day, but two days later, when circumstances have changed, he prescribes a new one. The physician can easily give the patient written instructions for the whole course of the treatment, with all the changes in the medicines duly indicated. But this would be putting too much burden on the already feeble patient, and there would also be the danger of some harm through a possible error or misunderstanding.
This is the only form of abrogation which can occur, and has been occurring in Divine commands and Divine books. Every new Shar’iah and every new revealed Book has been abrogating many commands of the earlier Shar’iah and of the earlier Book. Similarly, within the same Shar’iah, too, it has always happened that a certain law was in force for a time, but Divine wisdom chose to abrogate it and to promulgate another in its place.
This was another objection that the Jews had against the Qur’an. They said if the Torah is the Book of Allah, then was there a need for another Book or a new Messenger? Since Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was to be the Final Messenger, there was a need to finalize the commands. Hence, by sending the Qur’an Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has completed and finalized religion.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala responds, “Do you not know that Allah is over all things competent?” He alone is the Owner of His creatures and that He does with them as He wills. Indeed, His is the supreme authority and all creation is His, and just as He created them as He wills, He brings happiness to whom He wills, misery to whom He wills, health to whom He wills and ailment to whom He wills. He also brings success to whom He wills and failure to whom He wills. He judges between His servants as He wills, allows what He wills and disallows what He wills. He decides what He wills, there is no opponent for His judgment, and no one can question Him about what He does, while they shall be questioned. He tests His servants and their obedience to His Messengers by the naskh. He commands a matter containing a benefit which He knows of, and then He out of His wisdom, prohibits it. Hence, perfect obedience is realized by adhering to His commands, following His Messengers, believing in whatever they convey, implementing their commands and avoiding what they prohibit.
Imam Abu Ja`far bin Jarir said, “The Ayah means, ‘Do you not know, O Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), that I alone own the heavens and the earth and that I decide whatever I will in them I forbid whatever I will, change and repeal whatever I will of My previous rulings, whenever I will. I also uphold whatever I will.’”
Ibn Jarir then said, “Although Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) directed His statement indicating His greatness towards His Prophet, He also rejected the lies of the Jews who denied that the rulings of the Torah could undergo naskh. The Jews also denied the prophethood of Jesus (‘alayhi salaam) and Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), because of their dislike for what they brought from Allah, such as changing some rulings of the Torah, as Allah commanded. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) thus proclaimed to the Jews that He owns the heavens and earth and also all authority in them. Further, the subjects in Allah’s kingdom are His creation, and they are required to hear and obey His commands and prohibitions. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has full authority to command the creation as He wills, forbidding them from what He wills, abrogate what He wills, uphold what He wills, and decide whatever commandments and prohibitions He wills.”
Giving examples of naskh in the previous Scriptures, Ibn Katheer writes Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) allowed Prophet Adam to marry his daughters to his sons and then later forbade this practice. Allah also allowed Prophet Nuh [Noah] to eat from all kinds of animals after they left the ark, then prohibited eating some types of foods. Further, marrying two sisters to one man was allowed for Israel and his children, but Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) prohibited this practice later in the Torah. Allah commanded Prophet Ibraheem [Abraham] to slaughter his son, then repealed that command before it was implemented. Also, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) commanded the Children of Israel to kill those who worshipped the calf and then repealed that command, so that the Children of Israel were not all exterminated. There are many other instances that the Jews admit have occurred, yet they ignore them. Also, it is a well-known fact that their Books foretold about Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and contained the command to follow him. These texts, in their Books, indicate that the Jews were required to follow the Prophet Muhammad and that no good deed would be accepted from them, unless it conformed to Muhammad’s Law. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam brought another Book, – the Qur’an – which is the last revelation from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
► When someone is prejudiced he does not accept any goodness present in another. All that this person does is find faults and criticize.
► When a person begins learning Islam we cannot expect to pick everything at once. Allow them to take knowledge in piecemeal. Take small steps, practice and let the heart be at ease. Gradually, we teach them more and they reach a higher stage. When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prohibited alcohol He did not say leave it at once. Rather, He first shaped the thinking of the drinkers. He informed them that it carries little benefit and more harm. Gradually, they were asked to abandon it altogether. And when that happened, it take not take the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) much time to throw away their bottles.
We ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to cleanse our hearts of prejudice; show us the truth and allow us to follow it. We also ask Him to make our hearts kind and humble toward those who are taking baby-steps in understanding the religion, ameen.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Al-Baqarah Ayaat 106 – 107
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]