Archive for the ‘Abrogation’ Category

The Grace of gradual revelation

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

The style of the revelation of the Quran was gradual, over a period of 23 years. A command would initially be revealed in much general terms. This was done to ease Muslims into the new Divine regulations. When the initial command is absorbed by Muslims, God followed it with more details about it, such as how to implement it properly. Many scholars thought that subsequent commands were abrogation of the initial command! But that is incorrect, since abrogation means cancellation, and the initial command always remained in force.

A good example of that is the prohibition of drinking alcoholic beverages. The first command God sent down on this issue was,
“And from the fruits of the palm trees and grapevines you take for yourselves intoxicant and good provision. Verily, in that is a sign for a folk who reason.” (16:67)
Here is a very subtle indication that intoxicants are not a good thing. God leaves the word without an adjective to describe it, but He follows the word “provision” with the adjective “good.” Those who got the hint, Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (RA) was one, understood that God is not pleased with alcoholic beverages.

A subsequent command was then revealed,
“They ask you about intoxicants and easy gain (gambling). Say: In them is major sin and benefits for people. But their sin is bigger than their benefit.” (2:219)
So, those who did not notice before are now left with no doubt that alcohol is bad. Notice that this verse does not abrogate 16:67, because not describing something as being good is tantamount to describing it as more bad than good!

Then, a third command was revealed,
“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying, ” (4:43)

Now the matter is getting serious; intoxication prevents a Muslim from even approaching a prayer! Still, many people thought that it was OK to drink outside prayer times! They still didn’t get the hint. You see why God is walking them those baby steps? It is very hard for a society used to drinking alcohol to quit that habit. They need training. That is what God was doing, out of His Grace, by the gradual revelation of these commands. Notice also that this verse does not abrogate either of the aforementioned verses, because not praying while drunk does not mean drinking is allowed.

Finally, the prohibition was revealed in no uncertain terms,
“O you who have believed! Verily, intoxicants, easy gain (gambling), [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that perhaps you may prosper.

Verily, Satan only wants to drop between you enmity and acrimony through intoxicants and easy gain (gambling) and to shun you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So, are you ceasing?” (5:90-91)

It is of particular interest to notice that Chapter 5 was one of the very last chapters of the Quran to be revealed. That means that the prohibition of alcohol took the entire period of revelation between Chapter 16 and Chapter 5, almost a decade!

That is just one example of why the Quran may not start off a command with the clear statement outright.

Was there once a “stoning verse”?

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Is there such thing as a “Verse of Rajm or stoning”? I read a hadith that says in Sahih Bukhari:
Volume 8, Book 82, Number 816 :

Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas:

‘Umar said, “I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, “We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book,” and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession.” Sufyan added, “I have memorized this narration in this way.” ‘Umar added, “Surely Allah’s Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him.”

Is this hadith authentic?

And also, is it possible for a hadith to be authentic but still contradict the Glorious Quran? Thanks, and in no way did I mean to cause offence.

This hadeeth is problematic because it alleges that several verses were revealed but never recorded as part of the Quran. This is called Naskh in Islamic literature and is often, incorrectly IMHO, translated abrogation. This is a complex, and controversial, subject in Islamic literature, but if you’re interested to know more about it you can check out this discussion forum.

Because this hadeeth is reported in Al-Bukhaari (and Muslim’s) Hadeeth compilation books, regarded by all Sunni Muslims to be authentic sources, many scholars are adamant that there was once a stoning verse. The majority of them have opined that it was abrogated by 24:2, the only explicit verse that sets a penalty for adultery in an unambiguous, most emphatic language. There is no other penalty for adultery in Islam than what verse 24:2 states.

The subject of abrogation is perhaps the strangest subject you will ever read in the classic books of the Salaf. If you are interested in learning what has been said about the stoning verse and whether it was abrogated by 24:2 or abrogated it (!!), you may want to read this discussion topic.

To answer your last question, yes, a hadeeth can be rated authentic but still appear contradictory to the Quran. It’s not because the Prophet (PBUH) would contradict the Quran, but it’s because the hadeeth is either misunderstood or mistransmitted. Read some of the posts in categories Authentication and Abrogation for more details.

Satanic verses?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

I researched this and have not found a straight answer. What is the story of the Satanic verses and does it have any basis?

What Salman Rushdi’s novel builds on is a fabricated hadeeth that alleges that, as verses 53:19-20 were being revealed, which name three idols of the polytheist Arabs, Satan added words after them and that the Prophet (PBUH) recited those words as if they were two additional verses and that the people around him heard it. God forbid. The words are “تلك الغرانيق العلى، وإن شفاعتهن لترتجى”, meaning “Those are the high prizes and their mediation is hoped for”. That made the verses sound like they condone idolatry.

Many scholars fell for the story because they took narrations without authentication. Unfortunately, that happened a lot in the classic literature. These scholars wrote in their books attempts at explaining that strange event. One explanation that they came up with was that those “verses” were later abrogated!

The reality is that the event never happened; it’s a figment of imagination of the man who concocted that fake narration. Those alleged “verses” were never uttered by the Prophet (PBUH) and were never part of the Quran. The Quran has always been preserved from any corruption and nothing in it was abrogated. It is dangerous to the religion to give precedence to narrations over the Quran, for the simple reason that the authenticity of any narration cannot compete with the ubiquitous authenticity of the Quran and that narrations were written down 200 years after the death of the Prophet (PBUH) while the Quran was written down by 43 Sahaaba during the Prophet’s lifetime (PBUH) and memorized by thousands of them.

Are there abrogated verses in the Quran?

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

I read, with shock, that the majority of Sunni Muslim scholars of the past have opined that there are verses in the Quran that have been abrogated. Is this true? How can that be?

The subject of abrogation has been very controversial and scores of scholars have written authoritative books proving it never happened. The key to understanding it is to understand what the word Naskh means in Arabic and how the early Muslims understood and used it. This forum discusses the subject in depth, for those who may be interested. It’s a rather advanced subject.

I’d rather follow the scholars of the past than opinions on some forum.

Did you read the forum at all? If you did, you would’ve understood that the debate is largely semantic, and you would’ve also seen that many scholars did not support abrogation. You can’t learn if you refuse to read.

If you did read it and do not agree, you are certainly entitled to your conclusion.

Were parts of the Quran lost or forgotten?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I got an email from a group called the Sakshi Reserach Team quoting some hadeeths which imply that parts of the Quran were lost, forgotten or abrogated. One hadeeth says that verses were written on a piece of paper but a goat ate it!

Is is strange or what? How do I answer them?

See what happens when people give narrations precedence over the Quran? The subject of abrogation is one of the worst manifestations of that.

BTW, verse 2:106 does not say “We do not abrogate”, it says “If we ever abrogate”.

If you read half as many classical books as I did, you will be absolutely shocked by some of what was said in them.

Muslims must never believe that any part of the Quran was lost, forgotten or abrogated, because God clearly says in it,

“Verily, upon Us is collecting it and [teaching you how to] recite it. When We recite it [to you], follow its recitation. Then upon Us is its elaboration.” (75:17-19)

Muslims must also never give narrations, no matter how authentic they are, precedence over the Quran, if those narrations contradict it. This is what Imaam Maalik and all the Sahaaba did in regard to the authentic hadeeth reported by Amra bint Abdir-Rahmaan (RA) who said that `Aa’isha (RA) told her that there was once a verse specifying ten sucklings as a minimum before a child is considered a suckling sibling. Then, she said, it was abrogated by anoher verse that reduced the minimum to five. She said that `Aa’isha told her that both verses were in recitation when the prophet (PBUH) died!

All the Sahaaba rejected that. None of them ever heard those two “verses”. Imaam Maalik said that the hadeeth, even though it’s authentic, must be rejected (Mardood). No one has ever said that Amra lied, or that she was anything less than trustworthy. In fact, she was so knowledgeable that Umar ibn Abdil-Azeez (RA) used to consult her!

So, how can that be? Who knows why? Maybe she was confused. Maybe she misunderstood what she heard from `Aa’isha. Maybe maybe. The bottom line is that when a narration, even an authentic one, contradicts the Quran, it must not be accepted. The Sahaaba did so and so did Imaam Maalik, rahimahullah.

Does that mean they denied the Sunna? Of course not. They simply put the Quran at a higher pedestal. The Quran was transmitted to us by thousands narrating to thousands who all memorized every letter, diacritic and intonation of it. It was written down entirely during the life of the Prophet (PBUH). It was copied and sent to the capitals of all Muslim countries.

The Hadeeth, on the other hand, was not written down and was not authenticated for nearly 200 years after the death of the Prophet (PBUH). 99% of it is narrated by a few people (Aahaad), only a small fraction, approximately 300, are narrated by many from many, called Mutawaatir (ubiquitous).

Does that mean we should discard the Hadeeth? Of course not. The Hadeeth is extremely important as it tells us details we could never know on our own without it. But we must understand that the Quran takes first stage, and nothing can nor should overrule it. This is what God tells us in the Quran,

“Is it then other than God that I should seek as judge, when He sent down to you the Book, detailed?” (6:114)

Did Muhammad put adulterers to death?

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

There are hadeeths that state that, but many scholars have pointed out problems with those hadeeths that cast doubt on their authenticity.

Other scholars said that the Prophet (PBUH) stoned married adulterers of his own judgment, not by command from God, because that was the penalty in the Old Testament. The Prophet (PBUH) often did as the People of the Book do in matters in which He received no revelation from God. These scholars added that the Quran came to abrogate that ruling and correct it with Chapter 24.

IMHO, I do not believe that the Prophet (PBUH) would put someone to death, the ultimate and terminal penalty, based on his own opinion or judgment. I agree with the scholars who rejected or doubted the stoning hadeeths. I also agree that the Quran abrogates the Sunna but not the other way around. That should be obvious to everybody because of the relative authority of both, yet you will find scholars who said that the Sunna can abrogate the Quran! These scholars seem to forget that the Prophet (PBUH) made mistakes and the Quran corrected him with verses that we all read till this day.

For more details, you may want to read this discussion,

Stoning is the penalty for adulterers in the Torah, so why did Muhammad change it?

We do not know if stoning is the law of the Torah; it’s the law of the Old Testament. We do not know what the law of the Torah was because the Torah has been edited by the Jews. One of the purposes of the Quran is to restore the Torah. That’s why I’m inclined to believe that stoning was not the law of the Torah, because it is not the law of the Quran.