Abrogation in the Quran - Revisited
Jihad Turk, July 27, 2008

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things? Quran (2:106)

There are two opinions among the scholars:

1. Jewish/Biblical scriptures were replaced with Quran.
2. Quran abrogated itself.

1. Jewish/Biblical scriptures were replaced with Quran

Sabbath Day

Jews observe Sabbath Day whereas Muslims do not.

Diet

Jews follow a stringent diet law and for Muslims, some of the restrictions have been relaxed.

"'(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me. Quran (3:50)


Why would God replace His earlier revelations?

All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel Made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say: "Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth." Quran (3:93)


Why did Israelites make some of the food unlawful that God made lawful to them?

And remember Moses said to his people: "(Allah) commands that ye sacrifice a heifer." They said: "Makest thou a laughing-stock of us?" He said: "(Allah) save me from being an ignorant (fool)!" They said: "Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us what (heifer) it is!" He said; "He says: The heifer should be neither too old nor too young, but of middling age. Now do what ye are commanded!" They said: "Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us Her colour." He said: "He says: A fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone, the admiration of beholders!" They said: "Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us what she is: To us are all heifers alike: We wish indeed for guidance, if Allah wills." He said: "He says: A heifer not trained to till the soil or water the fields; sound and without blemish." They said: "Now hast thou brought the truth." Then they offered her in sacrifice, but not with good-will. (Quran 2:67-71)

In this particular instance, when God ordered them to sacrifice a cow, the Jews went into the specifics of the food, making their diet law too stringent. Some of the scholars in their tafsirs state that it in some occasions it took nearly 60 years to find such an animal for sacrifice.

Muslims are expected to exercise moderation

Would ye question your Messenger as Moses was questioned of old? but whoever changeth from Faith to Unbelief, Hath strayed without doubt from the even way. (Quran 2:108)

The Prophet (PBUH) made it clear that we need not investigate things that are not readily known to us with regard to worship and religion. We take the case of Umar who was walking with another companion of the Prophet when some water dropped over them from a building nearby. Umar's companion started to inquire whether the water was clean or contaminated with impurity. Umar stopped him, saying to the man in the building that he should not answer the questions put to him. He also told his companion that the Prophet ordered that we do not go to such lengths in trying to establish details. This ties up with the rule that everything is permissible unless pronounced otherwise. Similarly, everything is pure unless we are certain that it has been contaminated with impurity. This gave rise to the principle of Islamic law, buniya alal yakeen, a position that can be taken based on what we know.

2. Quran abrogated itself

a. Prohibition of Alcohol

They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider- (Quran 2:219)
Bad outweighs good in alcohol and gambling.

O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again. (Quran 4:43)

Do not approach prayer while intoxicated.

O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.(Quran 5: 90)

Alcohol was completely banned.


Scholars use incremental argument that alcohol was stopped gradually but what about us Muslims who never consumed alcohol? All the three verses are still valid for the reasons cited above.


b. Individual Will vs. Laws of inheritance

It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you, if he leave any goods that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable usage; this is due from the Allah.fearing. (Quran 2:180)

The inheritance laws were later revealed in Quran 4:11, 12 and 176.

Some scholars argue that the verses related to inheritance law abrogated the verses in regards to leaving individual will.

Some scholars say that one can specify 1/3rd of their property in their wills to be given to charity, friends and extra members of the family who are in need while the Islamic state will distribute the remainder 2/3rd property amount as per the Islamic inheritance law to other members of the family.

Hence both the verses are still valid.

c. Stoning for adultery

When someone commits adultery, there is no stoning according to the Quran. It is clearly specified in this verse:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment. (Quran 24:2)

Some claim the prophet ordered stoning based on the following hadith and consider this hadith as abrogating the Quran.

'Abdullah bin 'Abbas reported that 'Umar bin Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah's messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and he sent down the book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah's messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning. I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy or a confession. [Muslim, III, No. 4194; Bukhari, VIII, No. 816.]

For all reports concerning the text of the Quran, two independent witnesses are required. Only 'Umar reported that the 'verse of stoning' had been included in the Quranic text. This legal ruling was not included in the Quran precisely because it was not considered reliable, being based on one witness only.

In Torah one can find stoning for committing adultery.


d. Jihad vs. Peace

Some argue that the peaceful verses in the Quran were later abrogated.

Quran talks about leaving the enemy gently (e.g. Quran 9:6) whereas in other place it talks about engaging in military confrontation (e.g. Quran 9:5).

Both the verses are still valid and it is contingent upon the circumstances.


Excerpts from 'Islamic Law' Sunday lecture series by Jihad Turk, Religious Director, Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles on July 27, 2008.