Objection # 17
Allah gives Himself permission to edit his own work. It says in the Qur’an that if a passage written later contradicts an earlier passage, then the later one is the better one, the later, violent, intolerant verses abrogate the earlier peaceful, more tolerant passages.
The Doctrine of Abrogation
The revelations from Allah as found in the Qur’an, touch on a variety of subjects, among them beliefs, history, lives of the prophets, Day of Judgment, Paradise and Hell, and many others. Particularly important are the ahkam (legal rulings), because they prescribe the manner of legal relationships between people, as Allah wishes them to be observed. While the basic message of Islam remains always the same, the legal rulings have varied throughout the ages, and many prophets before Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) brought particular codes of law (Shari’a) for their respective communities, like Law of Moses [Torah]. Qur’an, is for the final message for the humanity, clear and concise for ever which replaces all previous so its message:
“And now that We replace one message by another – since God is fully aware of what He bestows from on high, step by step – they [who deny the truth] are wont to say, “Thou but inventest it!” Nay, but most of them do not understand it!”[Qur’an;16:101]
“Any message which, We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or a similar ones. Dost thou not know that God has the power to will anything?”[Qur’an;2:106]
Qur’an which abrogates all the previous scriptures is clear in the doctrines:
“He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves – and these are the essence of the divine writ – as well as others that are allegorical. Now those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion,7 and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning [in an arbitrary manner]; but none save God knows its final meaning. Hence, those who are deeply rooted in knowledge say: “We believe in it; the whole [of the divine writ] is from our Sustainer – albeit none takes this to heart save those who are endowed with insight.”[Qur’an;3:7]
Allah has taken the responsibility to guard Qur’an, His final message against corruption:
“We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and we will Assuredly guard it (from corruption).”[Qur’an;15:9.]
“No falsehood can approach it from before or from behind. It is a revelation from the One Who is Wise and Praiseworthy.”
Qur’an and Abrogation:
The principle laid down in the passage mentioned above [Qur’an;16:101, 2:106] – relating to the supersession of the Biblical dispensation by that of the Qur’an – 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 from the above passage that certain verses of the Qur’an have been “abrogated” by God’s command before the revelation of the Qur’an was completed. Apart from the fancifulness of this assertion – which calls to mind the image of a human author correcting, on second thought, the proofs of his manuscript – deleting one passage and replacing it with another – there does not exist a single reliable Tradition [Hadith] to the effect that the Prophet [pbug] ever, declared a verse of the Qur’an to have been “abrogated”. The root cause of the so-called “Doctrine of Abrogation” may be the inability of some of the early commentators to reconcile one Qur’anic passage with another: a difficulty which was overcome by declaring that one of the verses in question had been “abrogated”. This arbitrary procedure explains also why there is no unanimity whatsoever among the upholders of the “doctrine of abrogation” as to which, and how many, Qur’an verses have been affected by it; and, furthermore, as to whether this alleged abrogation implies a total elimination of the verse in question from the context of the Qur’an, or only a cancellation of the specific ordinance or statement contained in it. In short, the “Doctrine of Abrogation” has no basis whatever in historical fact, and must be rejected. On the other hand, the apparent difficulty in interpreting the above Qur’anic passage disappears immediately if the term ayah is understood, correctly, as “message”, and if we read this verse in conjunction with the preceding one, which states that the Jews and the Christians refuse to accept any revelation which might supersede that of the Bible:
“Neither those who disbelieve among the People of the Scripture nor the idolaters love that there should be sent down unto you any good thing from your Lord. But Allah chooses for His mercy whom He will, and Allah is of infinite bounty.“Any message which, We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or a similar ones. Dost thou not know that God has the power to will anything?”[Qur’an;2:105-106]
Hence the abrogation relates to the earlier divine messages and not to any part of the Qur’an itself.[‘Message of Qur’an’ y Muhammad Asad]
All the verses of Qur’an remain valid and be applied according the prevailing situation and context.
Now lets take the other view, some scholars consider that the doctrine of abrogation also applies to Qur’an. According to prolific Egyptian scholar, Suyuti [d 1505] there are 21 instances in the Qur’an, where a revelation has been abrogated and replaced by another. He also indicates that there is a difference of opinion about some of these: e.g. 4:8, 24:58, etc. Some scholars have attempted to reduce the number of abrogation in the Qur’an even further, by explaining the relationships between the verses in some special ways, e.g. by pointing out that no legal abrogation is involved. Shah Waliullah (d. 1759) the great Muslim scholar from India only retained the following five out of Suyuti’s twenty one cases as genuine.
1) Instructions to leave ‘Will’ before death, and ratio of share of rightful heirs. [2: 180 considered to be abrogated by 4: 11, 12]:
2) Maintenance allowance to the widow and residence for 1 year, she may remarry if she desires after waiting period of four 4 months and ten days.[Verse; 2:240 considered to be abrogated by 2: 234]
3) Raising morale of the believers for combat, being superior to unbelievers.[Verse; 8:65 considered to be abrogated by 8:66 ]
4) Regarding restriction on marriage and number of wives of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] [Verse; 33:50 considered to be abrogated by 33: 52]
5) Offering charity [Sadiqah, to poor] before privately consulting the Prophet [pbuh], offering prayer [Salah] and Zakah [obligatory] alms.[ Verse 58: 12 considered to be abrogated by 58: 13]
It may be noticed that even in these five cases last two [33:50 & 58: 12 ] are specific to the private person of Prophet are part of history. Hence in real terms we are left with only first three cases [2: 180, 2:240 & 8:65] of supposed abrogation on the subject of: 1) Inheritance, 2) welfare of Widow and 3) Superiority of believers in combat. These are minor in nature and do not involve any change in the Fundamentals of Faith, or doctrines of Islam and practices.
Conclusion: Application of “Doctrine of Abrogation” with in Qur’an has neither, scriptural support nor historical evidence, hence must be rejected. However Qur’an clearly abrogates all the previous scriptures. Qur’an is the final book of divine guidance for the humanity, catering for all situations, probabilities, different cultures, environments for all times, hence applied accordingly by the experts well versed in the knowledge. All the verses weather they emphasize the peaceful coexistence, tolerance, justice or use of force remain applicable in diverse situations.
“A DIVINE WRIT [is this], with messages that have been made clear in and by themselves, and have been distinctly spelled out as well- [bestowed upon you] out of the grace of One who is wise, all-aware, so that you may worship none but God”.[Qur’an11:1-2]
“The Words of your Lord have been completed with credibility and justice; there is no way to change His Words. He is the Hearer, the Knower”[Qur’an;6:115].
“There is no changing the Words of Allah that is the Supreme Triumph”.[Qur’an;10:64].
The Doctrine of Abrogation and Bible:
Practically New Testament appears to be abrogating the entire Old Testament as evident form following:
1) The concept of monotheistic and henotheistic God of Old Testament replaced it with Trinity vaguely inferred in New Testament, a total shift to form a new religion, thus abrogating OT.
2) Genesis 8:21 abrogated by Exodus 32:14
3) Paul claimed that Jesus Christ abrogated his own commandments: “Do not go among the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:22-24) abrogated by (Matthew 28:18-20) go to all nations [gentile].
4) Jesus said “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill”. (Matthew 5:17-19) but later in the New Testament this is abrogated by change in the Laws of Divorce, Justice and Oaths:
- Abrogation of Divorce: (Deuteronomy 24:1-2) by (Matthew 5:31-32) (Matthew 19:7-9)
- Law of Absolute Justice: (Deuteronomy 19:21) by (Matthew 5:38-42)
- Law of Oaths: (Deuteronomy 23:21-23) by (Matthew 5:33-37)
5) Later Paul abrogated teaching of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-19) and claimed:
- “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”(Galatians;2:19)
- “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”(Romans;7:6).
It may be pointed out that these are NOT minor abrogation of social or legal issues of pubic nature but Change in the basic Doctrines and beliefs, establishing the new religions different to the one followed by Prophet, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Prophet Jesus Christ, the son of Mary [peace be upon them all].