Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Terminology Tuesday: Abrogation

Muslims say that a prerogative of the Quran is abrogation, which involves the annulling of a former law by a new law. Sura 16:101 says, "When We substitute one revelation for another, and God knows best what He reveals (in stages), they say, 'Thou art but a forger': but most of them understand not."

What this means is that Allah is not bound to his revelations. If he wants, he is free to bring new revelation that completely contradicts former revelation. If circumstances call for it, Allah is free to rescind earlier revelations and bring about something entirely new and different.

An example of such a change is that, originally, Muhammad ordered his followers to pray toward Jerusalem (Sura 2:150). However, when the Jews rejected him and called him an impostor, he received new revelation to the effect that the correct direction of prayer should be toward Mecca (Sara 2:125). This change is in keeping with what we read in Sura 2:106: "If we abrogate a verse or consign it to oblivion, we offer something better than it or something of equal value."

Islamic scholars do not agree among themselves as to the precise number of verses that have become abrogated by other revelations. But there are at least 20 instances in which a newer revelation has been said to supersede, contradict, or abrogate a previous revelation." All this has given rise to a Quranic science known as Nasikh wa Mansukh, that is, "the Abrogators and the Abrogated."1

1. Excerpt from Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims (pp. 75-76).


pds said...

Do Muslim scholars generally hold to this principle?

Brian said...

Check out AnsweringIslam.org right here for more elaboration:

"Not all Muslim scholars agree on what abrogation covers. Briefly here was my discovery.

Muslim scholars of old hold to the concept that some ayahs in the Quran abrogate other ayahs in the Quran, but do not all hold to the same set of abrogated and abrogating ayahs.
Other Muslim scholars are of the opinion that the Quran may abrogate the Quran as well as the Sunnah (deed or example of Mohammad) and vice versa.
Some Muslim scholars hold that the Quran abrogates all the previous scriptures, specifically the scriptures sent to Musa and Isa, but not itself.
Some Muslim scholars, especially of recent times do not believe in the concept of abrogation at all."

MaryLou said...

If Muslim scholars do not hold to the concept of abrogation, then they are left with a lot of contradictions to deal with, are they not?

Ex N1hilo said...

Much of the need for a doctrine of abrogation in Islam comes from Muhammad's shifting views and whims.

A Hadeeth found in Sahih Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 311 recounts the reaction of Muhammad's child-bride Aisha to Muhammad's receiving Sura 33, Ayah 51 of the Quran. This revelation frees Muhammad from 4-wife limit placed on all other Muslim men, as well as from the injunction to treat all wives equally.

Aisha remarked, "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires."

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