The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement Blog

Miracles, Myths, Mistakes and MattersSee Title Page and List of Contents

See: Project Rebuttal: What the West needs to know about Islam

Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

Read: Background to the Project

List of all Issues | Summary 1 | Summary 2 | Summary 3

March 2nd, 2015

Basis of alleged abrogation in Quran, Anything but

Basis of Alleged Abrogation in Qur’ân[1], Anything But

The alleged theory of abrogation – that one verse abrogates another one in Qur’ân, would apply only if there are two or more verses addressing a common subject. The proponents of the theory allege that certain later revealed verses supersede the previous one on the same subject; hence the earlier verse stands abrogated. Fact of the matter is that just because the theorists could not reconcile different aspects of a matter in Qur’ân, they find refuge in their dogmas. On the contrary, any repetition of a subject matter in a different shade in different verses is intentional. Qur’ân is clear about why it repeatedly mentions a given subject from different angles and how various verses on a given subject are interlinked:

6:65. …Behold! how We explain Our Messages in different ways so that they may give thought.[2]

39:23. Allâh has revealed the best Message (the fairest discourse), this wonderfully coherent Book (the verses of which are mutually supplementing and) repeated, (narrating both sides of the case in various ways to drive home the divine injunctions to human minds).[3] [Emphasis added]

41:2-3. The compilation and orderly arrangement (of this Qur'ân) proceeds from the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful (God). (It is) a Book, the verses of which are detailed and clear in exposition. It is beautifully inter linked, (and it is in a language that) makes the meanings eloquently clear. It is very useful for a people who have knowledge.[4] [Emphasis added]

The term abrogation that we find in Qur’ân is not about abrogation within Qur’ân; rather it is abrogation of links in the chain of Laws that were revealed in earlier scriptures. The term Shariah should not be confused with Fiqh. Sharia is the Law in Qur’ân,whereas Fiqh is the human formulation of the Law in Qur’ân.

Abrogation in Qur’ân refers to the gradual evolution of Shariah that started with Adam, was refined by Noah, defined by Moses, adjusted by subsequent prophets until it was finalized by Muhammad (peace be upon them). Such a needed change in Law corresponded to the social evolution of the humanity:

95:1. I call to witness (four periods of human evolution including) the Fig[5] (symbolic of the era of Adam when the foundations of the human civilization were laid), and the Olive[6] (that of Noah, the founder of sharî`at),

95:2. And Mount Sinai[7] (that of Moses when the details of the Sharî`at were revealed),

95:3. And this Town of security[8] (of Makkah where with the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, the divine law was perfected and finalized),[9]

Social laws evolved over time. Whereas, the fundamental faith has essentially remained the same across all the prophets:

42:13. He has ordained for you the same course of faith as He enjoined on Noah (to adopt), and which We have revealed to you, and it is that (same faith) which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, Jesus, so keep the faith and do not differ in it. (He ordains you) to establish obedience (to Allah) and not to be divided (in sects) therein…[10]

While the Law did evolve over time with subsequent prophets, the core principles of the faith were not abrogated in any Book. Qur’ân stands as a guardian over these core principles :

5:48. And We have revealed to you the Book [–Qur’ân] with the truth, verifying what is (already) before it [–the prophecies in Scriptures] of the Book [–Qur’ân] and a guardian over it [–i.e. over the light and guidance in the previous Scriptures]…[11]

Being a guardian over all previous revelation shows that whatever was of permanent value in the previous scriptures has been preserved in the Qur’ân. The previous books contained a light and guidance for the people for whom they were meant, and they were commanded to judge by those books, but the Qur’ân is now the Book which judges all truth, wherever it may have been.[12]

On the other hand, the details and context of the Law transitioned from one prophet to another. During that transition some aspects of the previous Law thus stood amended or abrogated. This principle of a prophet abrogating a previous Law while preserving the guidance of Scriptures can be seen for Jesus in Qur’ân, in which he changes the Law of Moses where needed while verifying the core principles of Torah:

3:49-50. …and I [–Jesus] inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses. Surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers. And (I have come) verifying what is (already) before me of the Torah, and I allow you part of what was forbidden to you…[13]

Such improvements, modifications and abrogation of the Law continued across the prophetic chains till the time the prophethood itself ended with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when the abrogation of previous Scriptures was finalized and the final Law was revealed in Qur’ân:

2:106. Whatever Message We abrogate or abandon it, We bring a better (Message) than that [– Arabic: Khair am minha] or (at least) the like of it [–Arabic: Mislaha]. Do you not know that Allâh is indeed Possessor of power to do all He will.[14]

Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book “Prophethood in Islam” explains the verse 2:106 as follows:

The Qur'ãn does not mention the abrogation of Shari'ahs, because actually the whole Shari'ah (Law) is never abrogated in toto. After all, the first prophet who was raised by God was also given the command that God was one and He alone deserved to be worshipped and that there was no associate with Him. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who was sent last of all was also given the same message. Therefore, the Shari'ah of even the first prophet can never he abrogated in its entirety. As all the prophets had been basically given the same teaching it is not correct to think that a prophet could abrogate all the teachings of another prophet. It is for this reason that the Qur'an has thus not mentioned about the abrogation of Shari'ah, but has rather stated:

"Whatever message (or verse) We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or one like it" (Qur’ân – al-Baqarah 2:106).

This signifies that the words of God which are revealed to the prophets have sometimes to be abrogated and sometimes people forget them. In both these cases, God sends down other commands. That is His general practice. This does not specially refer to the Qur'an but it has been stated that God has been doing so from the beginning. Thus, after the words which follow the above verse, "knowest thou not that God is Possessor of power over all things? (Qur’ân – al-Baqarah 2:106)" it has been stated, "knowest thou not that God's is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth? (Qur’ân – al-Baqarah 2:107)" As a king finds it necessary to introduce changes from time to time for the betterment of his subjects, similar is the case with the Possessor of the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, as has been mentioned here that God reveals another command after abrogating the previous one or He sends the new command because the old one has been forgotten.[15]

To understand the term abrogation and its context in Qur’ân one has to read across previous Scriptures. Take for example the Mosaic Law of Retribution in Old Testament in which there is no forgiveness:

Leviticus 24:17-22. ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal. ‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him — fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death. You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.’[16] [Emphasis added]

In light of Qur’ânic verse 2:106, Jesus abrogated the same Mosaic Law and replaced it with a Law in which there is no retribution:

Matthew: 5:38-40. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.[17] [Emphasis added]

Qur’ân in turn abrogated the said Law of both Old and New Testaments and finalized it with a well-balanced law in which the right for a just retribution exists side by side with option of forgiveness because vengeance in every case is not necessary:

5:45. And therein We laid down (the following law) for them (- the Jews); life for life and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth and for (other) injuries an equitable retaliation. But he who chooses to forgo (the right) thereto for the sake of Allâh, it shall be an expiation of sins for him. And whoever does not judge according to (the law) which Allâh has revealed, these it is who are the very unjust.[18] [Emphasis added]

Again, Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book “Prophethood in Islam” explains the above quoted references from the Scriptures as follows:

It is, however, as clear as daylight that the Torah was not a complete and perfect book. Some of its commandments have been retained by the Qur'ân. For instance: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shall not steal, and honour thy father and mother (Exodus 20:3, 14, 15, 12)." But some of the commands which were given according to the needs of the time. e. g., the severe law of retaliation, which was only a temporary measure, as the other aspect of the problem (i.e., forgiveness) was ignored in it, in such commands of course the need of change must have always been felt, (by various prophets) as happened in the case of Jesus Christ. If the Torah did not stand in need of such prophets who would make changes in the Law under God's instruction, from time to time, and in accordance with the needs of their age, then the Law of retaliation would not have been left incomplete for the Gospel to fulfil this deficiency. It was quite possible that God would have revealed to Moses the following perfect teaching: "And the recompense of evil is punishment like it; but whoever forgives and amends, his reward is with Allah? (Qur’ân – al-Shura 42:40)" Now retaliation is here not made compulsory but the words mithluha (like it) show that evil must be requited by punishment proportionate to the evil. On this golden rule are based today all the laws of justice of the civilized nations. And as in the Torah, vengeance in every case is not necessary. And then this teaching has removed the two defects of the teachings of the Gospel as well. Firstly, the exercise of forgiveness is not recommended in every case as has been done in the Gospel that "whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also." This is quite impracticable and even a staunch follower of Christianity cannot make it a rule of his life. Secondly, the exercise of forgiveness has been made conditional, that is, one should only resort to forgiveness when it will mend the matter and be of some good to the wrong-doer. Now this perfect conception of justice is neither found in the Torah nor in the Gospel. The Torah contained a part of it which was imperfect because punishment was made compulsory, and the Gospel contained another part which was also defective because there forgiveness was made essential and no scope was left for punishment. The reason was that the Israelites were not yet so capable that Moses or Jesus Christ or the prophets who passed in between could give them complete and perfect teaching. And if it was, however, given to them it could not have helped them in any way. It was, however, expedient that they should be given at one time the Mosaic law of retaliation but when they went to the other extreme in the application of this law another aspect of the teaching was needed. This point finds support from Jesus Christ's own words:

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth '(i.e., Ahmad or the Paraclete) is come he will guide you unto all truth (St. John, 16:12-13)."

In short, this one instance is enough to prove that in the Shari'ah of Moses some matters needed alteration or modification even before the Shari'ah of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah he upon him) came into operation.[19]

In summary, Law of Moses for Retaliation in Leviticus 24:17-22 was abrogated by Jesus who then replaced it with absolute forgiveness in Matthew 5:38. As a case in point in light of Qur’ânic verse 2:106, it is obvious that both Jews and Christians have either forgotten or abandoned both of the quoted references in not only their daily living but also in the laws that they implemented in their lands. Similarly, same Mosaic Law of Retribution is referred to and abrogated in Qur’ânic verse 5:45 with the option of forgiveness under the principle of abrogation – Whatever Message We abrogate or abandon it, We bring a better (Message) than that or (at least) the like of it (2:106). The Qur’ânic verse 5:45 has both the attributes of being better or the like of it of that in Leviticus 24:17-22 and Matthew 5:38.

It is to this abrogation or abandoning of a previous Law by subsequent prophets that Qur’ân states:

13:38. And most surely, We sent before you many Messengers and We gave them wives and children [i.e. Prophets were not monks and were part of social fabric of their societies]. Yet it was not possible for a Messenger to bring a sign [Arabic: biāyatin] but by Allâh's command. For everything [including the previous Law,] that has an appointed term, there is a (divine) law (to regulate it).[20]

Of course, Law brought by a prophet before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had a limited shelf-life till the time some aspects of it were amended or updated, in part or in whole, by a subsequent prophet. As to why these changes were allowed in the evolution of Shari’ah is explained in the next verse i.e. the ultimate Law giver is none but Allah Himself and the prerogative for such changes rests with Him:

13:39. Allâh repeals (the law relating to punishment) what He will and He establishes and confirms (what He pleases) and with Him is the source and origin of all laws and commandments [Arabic: ummu l-kitābi = Mother/Basis of the Book].[21]

Those who advocate abrogation of verses in Qur’ân just because they could not reconcile the different aspects of the message in different verses, fall back on verses 16:101, 2:106, 87:6-7 and 22:52 to form the basis of their alleged doctrine. Under this doctrine, certain verses which have been supposedly overridden by subsequently revealed ones, are nullified. They are mistaken in the first case for being unable to fully understand the different aspects of 'apparently' conflicting verses and secondly they are reading the verses wrongly to justify their conclusions that Qur’ân accepts its own abrogation. Let’s review these verses one by one to see if Qur’ân abrogates itself by its own words:

* 16:101. And Allâh knows very well the need of what He reveals, yet when We replace a revelation with another revelation they say (to you), `You are only a fabricator (of lies).' The truth is, however, that most of them know nothing.[22]

* 2:106. Whatever Message We abrogate or abandon it, We bring a better (Message) than that or (at least) the like of it. Do you not know that Allâh is indeed Possessor of power to do all He will.[23]

* 87:6-7. We will soon teach (you and) make you recite (the Qur'ân) so that you shall not forget (any part of it). Except whatever (other things which) Allâh will (and which things you are apt to forget as a human being). Indeed He knows all that is manifest and all that is hidden.[24]

* 22:52. And We have sent no Messenger, nor a Prophet before you but when he longed (to attain what he sought), satan (interfered and) put hindrances in the way of what he sought after. But Allâh removes (the hindrances) that are placed by satan, then Allâh firmly establishes His Messages. And Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise.[25]

Firstly, the following verse is oft quoted to support validation of alleged sanctioning of abrogation in Qur’ân:

16:101. And Allâh knows very well the need of what He reveals, yet when We replace a revelation [–in a previous scripture e.g. Torah] with another revelation [–in a subsequent scripture e.g. Qur’ân] they say (to you), `You are only a fabricator (of lies).' The truth is, however, that most of them know nothing.[26] [Emphasis added]

It is an established fact that the above verse is from Makkah period. It is also known that abrogation theories are essentially about the Laws in Qur’ân. The details of Laws in Qur’ân were revealed only after migration of the Prophet to Medina. Is it not strange then to assume that Qur’ân is advocating abrogation of its own Laws while none had yet been revealed? The abrogation that Qur’ân speaks of while the Prophet is still in Makkah is the abrogation of the previous Scriptures.

This said verse clearly gives the principles of updating of the Law across the subsequent prophets. Those who take a narrow view of the said verse from within the Qur’ân fail to read the phrase – they say. Who is referred to by – they say? Because, once it is recognized as to who are they, it fully explains the meaning of the above verse and what is being substituted in – replace a revelation with another revelation. Essentially, Mosaic Law needed an upgrade because the Final Law, i.e. Qur’ân was to be universal whereas the Torah was nation and time specific only. The above verse also needs to be read in full context as to why Prophet Muhammad is being accused of being a fabricator. It is obvious in the stated verse that there was 'something' which Muhammad (PBUH) was bringing that was replace-ing an existing revelation i.e. Torah. Of note is that in the above verse the smear against Prophet Muhammad of being a fabricator itself identifies the allegers, who cannot be Muslims. It were the Jews who were so much perturbed by the extent of an existing revelation, Torah being replaced with another newer revelation, Qur’ân. It would be totally absurd to imagine even for a moment that Prophet Muhammad is being called by Jews of Arabia a fabricator of a select few verses of Qur’ân, in the manner of proponents of abrogation within Qur’ân, while rest of Qur’ân is 'genuine' and a non-fabrication to them. The criticism here is that he is an alleged fabricator of the whole Book – The Qur’ân. It is thus the whole of Qur’ân in its entirety, allegedly 'fabricated', which is replacing the whole of Torah and Evangel.

Qur’ân further rebukes this alleged forging of Qur’ân by the Prophet as follows:

17:73. And they had spared nothing in causing you [–Muhammad] (the severest) affliction with the purpose to turn you away from the revelations given to you, that you might forge in Our name something different from that which We have revealed to you. In that case they would surely have taken you for a special friend.[27]

It would be ridiculous to imagine that Jews were anxious and angry that Prophet is fabricating and replacing verses of Qur’ân. Rather, they would have been quite happy for the Prophet to make contradictions by his own hands and for him to fail because of such fabrications. Factually, it is the replacement of Mosaic Law which was provoking their objections.

The reply to above objections of Jews is further explained and contextualized in subsequent verses:

16:102. Say, `The Spirit of Holiness [– Angel Gabriel] has brought this (Qur'ân) down from your Lord to suit the requirement of truth and wisdom, (Allâh has revealed it) so that He may strengthen those who believe in their faith and so that (this may serve as) a guidance and good tidings for Muslims.[28]

The Spirit of Holiness is the term used in Torah in equivalence to Angel Gabriel in Qur’ân:

The Hebrew language phrase ruach ha-kodesh (Hebrew: רוח הקודש, "holy spirit" also transliterated ruaḥ ha-qodesh) is a term used in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and Jewish writings to refer to the spirit of YHWH (רוח יהוה). It literally means "the spirit of holiness" or "the spirit of the holy place". The Hebrew terms ruaḥ qodshəka, "thy holy spirit" (רוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ), and ruaḥ qodshō, "his holy spirit" (רוּחַ קָדְשׁ֑וֹ) also occur (when a possessive suffix is added the definite article is dropped). The "Holy Spirit" in Judaism generally refers to the divine aspect of prophecy and wisdom. It also refers to the divine force, quality, and influence of the Most High God, over the universe or over his creatures, in given contexts.[29]

Said objections were raised by none other than the Jews of Medina as no other religion in Arabia had anything to do with The Spirit of Holiness or its context in above verse. It was Jews who are told that their Torah is being abrogated by Qur’ân by revelations through Gabriel, not that a certain passage of Qur’ân is being replaced by a revelation with another revelation. In the latter case Jews would have no objection where Qur’ân abrogates itself. No wonder the Jews were unwilling to accept abrogation of Torah and Mosaic Law by Qur’ân. The Makkan idolaters taking cues from Christians alleged further that Qur’ân is a fabricated reformulation of Bible as taught by one of the Christian slaves. Qur’ân refutes those charges as well:

16:103. And We know fully well what they say (by way of objection) that this (Qur'ân) is (not revealed by God but it is) only what a human being instructs to him (- to Muhammad). But (strange it is) that the tongue of him to whom they (unjustly) allude (of making this insinuation) is foreign and wanting in clearness, whereas the language of this (Qur'ân) is chaste Arabic, plain and clear. [30]

To re-emphasize, the following verse outlines the paradox of the opponents, primarily the Jews of the time, then and even now, as to why they reject Qur’ân. On one hand they were awaiting the advent of the prophet and the Qur’ân, yet when one came:

2:89. And (now) when there has come to them the glorious Book from Allâh, fulfilling that (Prophecy) which is already with them, and previous to that they had been praying for victory over those who disbelieved, yet when that (long awaited Prophet and the Qur'ân) came to them which they recognised (also to be the truth), they disbelieved in it. (And because of this rejection) the disapproval of Allâh is the due for the disbelievers.[31]

The rejection of the Jews was not on the basis of the merits of Qur’ân, but their grudge towards a non-Israeli prophet, the bearer of Qur’ân:

2:90. Evil is that thing they have sold themselves for that they should reject that (source of guidance) which Allâh has revealed, grudging that Allâh should send down His grace on such of His servants as He pleases. Thus they have incurred (His) displeasure after displeasure. There awaits these disbelievers a humiliating punishment.[32]

According to Qur’ân the opposition of prophets was not a new behavior of Jews. They not only rejected Qur’ân and Prophet Muhammad, they also rejected Evengel and Jesus before as well. Not only that, they even tried to kill Jesus:

2:91. When it is said to them, `Believe in that (- the Qur'ân) which Allâh has sent down.' They say, `We believe only in that (- the Torah) which has been sent down to us.' And they deny every thing other than that (and which has since been revealed); though it (- the Qur'ân) is the lasting truth and corroborates that which is already with them (in their own Scriptures). Say, `Why, then, did you seek to kill the Prophets of Allâh in former times if you were (real) believers (in the former Scriptures)?'[33]

Qur’ân is cognizant of its recurring rejection by certain peoples:

2:92. Moses did come to you with clear arguments yet you took to the (worship of) the calf in his absence and you were not justified in doing so.

2:93. And (recall) when We took a covenant from you, (while you had encamped at the foot of Sinai) with (the summits of) the Mount towering above you, (and We had said,) `Hold fast to that which we have given you and obey.' (But) those (of you who were given this commandment) said, `We hear and we disobey.' Their hearts were, in fact, permeated with (the love of) the calf (worship) due to their disbelief. Say, `Evil is the way to which your faith leads you, if you are believers at all.'[34]

Qur’ân further denies that certain peoples are the chosen ones:

2:94. Say, `If the last Abode with Allâh is especially reserved for you excluding all other people, then invoke death (upon yourself standing against the Prophet of Islam) if you are on the right.'

2:95. But never shall they invoke it, on account of that which their own hands have sent before. Allâh knows these wrong doers very well.[35]

Secondly, verse 2:106 is also put forth to support abrogation in Qur’ân. Not so, especially when this verse is read together, in context, with the preceding verse as follows:

2:105. Neither those from among the people of the Scripture who disbelieved, nor the polytheists like that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord. But Allâh singles out for His mercy whomsoever He wishes [be it a non-Jewish Prophet – Muhammad] (to receive His mercy), and Allâh is of abounding bounty.

2:106. Whatever Message We abrogate or abandon it, We bring a better (Message) than that [–Arabic: Khair am minha] or (at least) the like of it [–Arabic: Mislaha]. Do you not know that Allâh is indeed Possessor of power to do all He will. [36]

Verse 2:106 continues to highlight the basis for Jewish opposition to the Qur’ân, as stated in the preceding verses 2:89-93, also quoted above. In addition, the immediately preceding verse, 2:105, is also about the people of Book i.e. Jews and Christians. Verse 2:106 is only and only about the previous Scriptures. Verse 2:106, even if read on it its own, still means that when a previous Divine Message is abrogated, God brings a better Message than that or the like of it. So, the natural question is what is the previous message that God has abrogated or abandoned? That answer is crystal clear in verse 2:105 where it mentions people of the Scripture, and by implication their Scriptures. Any allusion to Qur’ân abrogating any of its own verses in context of verses 2:105 and 2:106 is sign of sheer illiteracy or plain malicious distortion.

Maulana Muhammad Ali explains the verse 2:106 in light of verse 2:105 for its prophesized roots in Old Testament:

These words refer to Khair am minha (better one – Holy Qur’ân 2:106 – i.e., the abrogation of a message by a better one). The word Mislaha (like it – Holy Qur’ân 2:106 – i.e., message like one forgotten for its message, Torah) also refer to the prophecy of the Prophet Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18, that is the teaching of the Holy Prophet would be like that of Moses.[37]

Deuteronomy 18:18. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.[38]

Similarly, Muhammad Asad comments on the same verse as follows:

The principle laid down in this passage – 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 to the effect that the Prophet ever, declared a verse of the Qur'an to have been "abrogated". At the root of the so-called "doctrine of abrogation" may lie 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: for, if read in this way, the abrogation relates to the earlier divine messages and not to any part of the Qur'an itself.[39]

Next question is that what was that sent down to you from your Lord (2:105)? Of course, it was none but Qur’ân. Clearly there is a turf war between Jews and Muslims. By accepting Qur’ân as a revealed book, they naturally had to give up Torah as abrogated. This tussle between Jews rejecting Muhammad (PBUH) and Qur’ân instead of Torah is further brought to light by next verses:

2:108. Rather you (Jews!) like to question your Messenger (unduly) as Moses was questioned before? And he who adopts disbelief instead of belief, had undoubtedly strayed from the straight direction of the path.

2:109. Many of the people of the Scripture would love to turn you back after your having believed, into disbelievers, out of selfish envy, and after the truth (of this Qur'ân) has become apparent to them. But pardon (them) and overlook, until Allâh shall make manifest His will, indeed Allâh is Possessor of every power to do all He will.[40]

Thirdly, verses 87:6-7 are misinterpreted to mean that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was made to forget certain revelations so that the newer revelations could replace the ones forgotten by him, essentially abrogating the forgotten one.

Before we discuss the verses in question, it must be made clear in the reader’s mind that Divine revelation is not like ordinary knowledge attained through human efforts. In the former case, that knowledge is direct from God to Man via medium of angel and gets indelibly imprinted on heart of the recipient – And verily this (Qur'ân) is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Spirit, Faithful to the Trust (- Gabriel) has descended with it. (Revealing it) to your heart with the result that you became of the Warners (- a Prophet of God) (26:192-194) [41]. Whereas, the human knowledge that is limited by lapses in memory is attained by experience, reason and formal learning, symbolized by pen – Who taught knowledge by means of the pen, He taught human being what he did not know (96:4-5)[42].

Allamah Nooruddin in his translation contextualizes these same verses in question – 87:6-7 that bring out the context of possible human forgetfulness of prophet, which are only the non-revelation aspects of his life:

87:6. We will soon teach (you and) make you recite (the Qur'ân) so that you shall not forget (any part of it). [see verses 26:192-194 above]

87:7. Except whatever (other things which) Allâh will (and which things you are apt to forget as a human being) [see verses 96:4-5 above]. Indeed He knows all that is manifest and all that is hidden.

87:8. And We shall provide you (every) facility and make things easy for you.

87:9. Therefore keep on reminding (the people), surely reminding does good. [43]

Man is apt to forget, and the Prophet was a human being and he too was apt to forget. But he never forgot a word of the Divine revelation which came to him. He sometimes received long chapters on a single occasion, but the whole was so deeply impressed on his mind that once it was read out to him by the Holy Spirit, he repeated it without forgetting a word of it. Still more difficult was his task when chapters were received piecemeal. The reference in what Allah please is not to Divine revelation which the Prophet never forgot, but to other things which he forgot as a human being.[44]

The permanence of revelation of every verse of Qur’ân ever revealed is further affirmed and any contrary view, including the later developed abrogation theories, expunged in the following verses:

17:85. AND they question you about the revelation, and the human soul. Say, ‘The revelation and the soul is by the command of my Lord, (because) little is the knowledge there of that you have been given.’

17:86. Had We so willed We could surely take away [–alienation from the hearts and the memory of men, as well as its disappearance in written form[45]] that which We have revealed to you. If We did so you could find none to plead your cause (to restore it to you) against Our will.

17:87. But (it is) the special mercy from your Lord (that He will not do so [i.e. for the Prophet to forget any revelation]); His grace and favour upon you is very great infact.[46]

It sounds ridiculous for one to entertain even for a moment that a Prophet can forget a teaching whose teacher is none but Allah himself, as outlined by above-mentioned verses. Even if it is accepted that Prophet was made to forget some verses, then what about hundreds of Huffaz, those who had memorized Qur’ân during Prophet’s own life time and recited it in the same order one and all? Did they too forget along with the Prophet, yet we have no record of such forgetfulness, neither by the prophet nor by anyone else of significance?

The level of perfection attained by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) can be inferred in the following set of verses, if nothing else, at least in delivering of the Message:

53:1. I call to witness every part of the Qur'ân when it is revealed,
53:2. That your comrade (Muhammad) has neither deviated (from true guidance in his practices) nor has he erred (in his beliefs).
53:3. He does not say anything out of (his own) fanciful desire.
53:4. This (Qur'ân) is nothing but (pure) revelation, revealed (to him by God).
53:5. The Lord of Mighty Powers has taught him (this discourse).
53:6. (The Lord) Whose powers become manifest in manifold and frequent ways, with the result that he (- this Messenger of God) attained perfection and fullest vigour (both intellectually and physically).
53:7. And he attained to the zenith of heights (in his spiritual ascension).
53:8. Then he drew near to Him and afterwards he descended (to mankind, for their guidance).
53:9. So that he became (as it were) one chord to two bows or closer still.
53:10. Then He revealed that excellent and mighty (Qur'ânic) revelation which He had to send to His servant (Muhammad),
53:11. Whose mind made no mistake in (the interpretation of) that which he saw (during the ascension).
53:12. Will you doubt and dispute with him concerning that (sight) which he saw with his own eyes (it being no figment of imagination)?
53:13. And, of course, he saw Him (in His another manifestation to him) yet another time.
53:14. It was near the Sidrah which stands at the farthest end (of knowledge),
53:15. Near where also is the Garden which is the real eternal abode.
53:16. (This was) when the sublime thing (- the Divine Manifestation) which was to cover Sidrah had covered it.
53:17. (When he saw the Divine Manifestation) his eye deviated not (from the certainty of the Truth) nor did it wander away (from the invincible faith on which he stood).
53:18. (It was the moment when) he saw the greatly important signs of his Lord.[47][Emphasis added]

With the above discourse, doubting the capacity of a Prophet failing to remember revelations is tantamount to doubting God Himself, which is not possible.

Fourthly, similar to verses 87:6-7 above, it is alleged in certain translations that the verse 22:52 gives an opening to the idea that since Satan can interpose into the desire of a Prophet, thus God necessarily abrogates those revelations that got interposed by Satan. However, even the remote possibility of evil, no matter how much imagined, interposing between the Prophet and Allah is purged by Qur’ân:

26:210. It was not the evil ones who have brought this (Qur'ân) down.

26:211. It does neither suit them nor have they the power (to reveal it).

26:212. Infact, they (- the evil ones) are precluded from listening (to the Divine revelation).[48]

Still for the sake of argument even if the abrogation theorists are given some room in their assertion, then we draw their attention to the following parable in which there is a dialogue between God and Iblis, the Satan:

15:39. He [– Iblis] said, `My Lord! since You have condemned me as astray (and erring), I will surely make (evil of straying from the straight path) fair-seeming to them (as long as they stay) on the earth; I shall seduce them all,

15:40. `Except your (sincere) servants from among them; (Your) chosen and purified ones, (whom I shall not be able to seduce).'

15:41. (Lord) said, `The path (that My sincere servants follow) leads straight to Me.

15:42. `As for My servants, you have no authority over them. Different, however, is the case of such of the deviators who (choose to) follow you.[48a]

It is thus obvious that Iblis would attempt to lead astray all humanity, `Except your (sincere) servants from among them; (Your) chosen and purified ones, (whom I shall not be able to seduce).' The abrogation theorists now will have to decide for themselves if the Prophet was one of the chosen and purified ones or not, before we could even consider the role of Satan interfering in the desires of the Prophet to interject the satanic verses?

Allamah Nooruddin once again explains and contextualizes the hindering role of Satan in the alleged verse – 22:52 and its adjoining verses and removes any doubts that might creep up about abrogation. In the preamble to verse 22:52, the role of the Prophet, the reward for believers and the abasement of disbelievers is outlined:

22:49. Say, `O mankind! I am but a plain Warner to you all (against the evil consequences of refusal and misdeeds).'

22:50. There awaits protection and a generous and honourable provision for those who believe and do deeds of righteousness.

22:51. But those who strive hard against Our Messages seeking to frustrate (Us in Our aims and ends), it is they who will be the inmates of the flaming Fire. [49]

Of note is that verse 22:51above defines the term Satan i.e. those who strive hard against Our Messages seeking to frustrate. This definition of Satan is then used by Qur’ân in subsequent verses. Satan in following verses is just another term for oppositional forces and efforts that unleashed against the Prophet and not the actual ‘devil’ that the abrogation theorists allege. Rather, it is the attribute of the opposition to the Prophet who put hindrances in the way of Islam:

22:52. And We have sent no Messenger, nor a Prophet before you but when he longed (to attain what he sought), satan [–the opposition] (interfered and) put hindrances in the way of what he sought after. But Allâh removes (the hindrances) that are placed by satan [–the opposition], then Allâh firmly establishes His Messages. And Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

22:53. (Allâh permits the interference of satan) so that He may make (the hindrance which satan [–the opposition] puts in the way of the Messengers) serve as a trial for those whose hearts carry disease (of hypocrisy) and for those whose hearts are hardened (because of disbelief). Infact the wrongdoers have gone far (in their antagonism).

22:54. And (He permits this) so that those who have been given knowledge may know that this (Qur'ân) is the truth from your Lord and may believe in it and humble themselves before Him from their very hearts. And Allâh will indeed be the Guide of those who believe, to the straight and right path.

22:55. And those who have disbelieved will continue to have doubt about this (Qur'ân) until the Hour overtakes them suddenly, or the scourge of a destructive day befalls them. [50]

Any insinuation that Satan intercepted God’s message as misinterpreted in the verse 22:52 is removed by Qur’ân:

42:24. Rather they say, ‘He has forged a lie against Allâh (by presenting this Qur’ân).’ If Allâh so willed He would set a seal (against them) upon your heart. But Allâh eradicates falsehood (through you [– Muhammad]) and establishes the truth by (dint of) His words (-prophecies and revelation). He is indeed, One knowing full well (even) the innermost thoughts of the hearts.[51][Emphasis added]

The above verse makes plainly clear that Allâh eradicates falsehood and establishes the truth. Will the proponents of abrogation theory dare state that any verse of Qur’ân ever revealed to the Prophet is false or that it needed eradication? If so, which ones?

The proponents of abrogation theories might not be aware that their allegation of Satan interfering with Message given to any prophet is actually against the basic principle of Qur’ân. In contrast Qur’ân asserts that all Messages to mankind via Messengers are protected from any evil whatsoever by Allah Himself:

72:26. …so He makes His secrets known to none, except a messenger whom He chooses. For surely He makes a guard to go before him and behind him, that He may know that they have truly delivered the messages of their Lord; and He encompasses whatever is with them, and He keeps account of all things.[52]

Finally, for the record, unlike previous Scriptures, Qur’ân being the Final Law, it preemptively rejects any and every possibility, from many angles, of future development of abrogation theories about itself:

3:7. …and those firmly rooted in knowledge. They say: We believe in it, it is all [–without an iota of abrogation] from our Lord.[53][Emphasis added]

4: 82. Why do they not ponder over the Qur'ân? Had it been from anyone other than Allâh, they would surely have found a good deal of inconsistency therein [–in the manner of alleged abrogation theories that contradict each other].[54]

18:27. And recite (to these people) what is revealed to you of the commandment of your Lord. There is none who can change His words [–including the abrogation theorists], and you will find no refuge apart from Him.[55]

48:15. The believers are only those who (truly) believe in Allâh and His Messenger, and then doubt not [in the Message in the manner of Abrogationists who seed doubts about it]…[56]

If nothing else, the abrogation theorists have to justify their own recitation of even the alleged abrogated verses and still finding guidance in them:

27:92. `And to recite (to the people), and follow the Qur'ân; so one who (on listening to it) follows guidance, does it for his own good…[57]

In summary, the idea that Qur’ân speaks or hints about its own abrogation is purely extra-Qur’ânic. How this kind of thinking crept up may be best answered by its proponents, not Qur’ân.

The principle on which the theory of abrogation is based is unacceptable, being contrary to the clear teaching of the Qur’ân. A verse is considered to be abrogated by another when the two cannot be reconciled with each other; in other words, when they appear to contradict each other. But the Qur’ân destroys this foundation when it declares that no part of it is at variance with another: "Will they not then meditate on the Qur’ân? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy" (4:82). It was due to lack of meditation that one verse was thought to be at variance with another; and hence it is that in almost all cases where abrogation has been upheld by one person, there has been another who, being able to reconcile the two, has repudiated the alleged abrogation.[58]

[1] Reader is encouraged to review “Theory of Abrogation” in “Religion of Islam” by Maulana Muhammad Ali. Link:
[2] Al-Anam – The Cattle: Nooruddin
[3] Al-Zumar – The Multitudes: Nooruddin
[4] Fussilat – Detailed and Clear in Exposition: Nooruddin
[5] Genesis 3:6-7. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. New King James Version. BibleGateway. Link:

7:20-22. Then satan made an evil suggestion to them both, with the result that their shortcomings which were hidden from them, became manifest to them, and he said, `Your Lord forbade you from this tree only lest you should become angels or become of the immortals.' And he ardently swore to them both (saying), `Most certainly, I am one of your sincere advisers.' Thus he led them on the way of guile and deceit. And when they tasted of the tree (and committed the things forbidden to them), their shortcomings became manifest to them. They (in order to cover themselves) began to stick the leaves of the garden over themselves and their Lord called out to them both (saying,) `Did I not forbid you from (approaching) that tree, and tell you that satan is to you an enemy disuniting (from Me)?' Al-Araf – The Elevated Places: Nooruddin.
[6] Genesis 8:6-11: So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground. But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself. And he waited yet another seven days, and again he sent the dove out from the ark. Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. New King James Version. BibleGateway. Link:
[7] Exodus 19:20. Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. New King James Version. BibleGateway. Link:
[8] 2: 125. And when We made the House (- the Ka`bah at Makkah) a frequent resort for mankind and (a place of) peace and security, and (We commanded), `Take to yourselves the place of Abraham (- the Ka`bah) for a centre (and face towards it) during Prayer.' And We enjoined Abraham and Ismail, `Purify and clean My House for those who perform the circuit (around it) and those who cleave to it for devotion and for those who bow down (before Allah) and prostrate (to Him in Prayer).' Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
16:112. And Allah sets-forth an excellent description of a township (-Makkah). It enjoyed a state of security and peaceAl-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Tin – The Fig: Nooruddin
[10] Al-Shura – The Multitudes: Nooruddin
[11] Al-Maidah – Food: Nooruddin
[12] Al-Maidah – The Food: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz, footnote: a(48-1)
[13] Al`Imran – Family of Imran: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[14] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[15] Prophethood in Islam by Maulana Muhammad Ali, An-Nubuwwat fil Islam translated and edited by S. Muhammad Tufail, p. 133. Link:
[16] New King James Version. BibleGateway. Link:
[17] New King James Version. BibleGateway. Link:
[18] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[19] Prophethood in Islam by Maulana Muhammad Ali, An-Nubuwwat fil Islam translated and edited by S. Muhammad Tufail, p. 131-132. Link:
[20] Al-Rad – The Thunder: Nooruddin
[21] ibid
[22] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[23] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[24] Al-Ala – The Most High: Nooruddin
[25] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[26] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[27] Isra – The Night-Journey: Nooruddin
[28] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[29] Holy Spirit. Wikipedia. Link:
[30] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[31] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[33] ibid
[34] ibid
[35] ibid
[36] ibid
[37]God’s Word and the Turning Away of the Jews: Friday Sermon of Hazrat Ameer (Head) Maulana Muhammad Ali Sahib – December 20, 1914 –

[38] New King James Version. BibleGateway. Link:
[39] Footnote. Verse 2:106. The Message of The Quran. Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad.
[40] Al-Baqarah – The Cow: Nooruddin
[41] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin
[42] Al-Alaq – The Clot: Nooruddin
[43] Al-Ala – The Most High: Nooruddin
[44] Al-Ala – The Most High: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz, footnote: a(7)
[45] Footnote. Verse 17:86. The Message of The Quran. Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad.
[46] Isra – The Night-Journey: Nooruddin
[47] Al-Najm – Parts of the Quran: Nooruddin
[48] Al-Shuara – The Poets: Nooruddin

[48a] Al-Hijr – The Rock: Nooruddin
[49] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[51] Al-Shura – The Counsel: Nooruddin
[52] Al-Jinn – The Jinn: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[53] Al`Imran – The Family of Imran: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[54] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[55] Al-Kahf – The Place of Refuge: Nooruddin
[56] Al-Hujarat – The Chambers: Nooruddin
[57] Al-Naml – The Tribe of Naml: Nooruddin
[58] “Religion of Islam” by Maulana Muhammad Ali, section: “Basis of Abrogation”. Link:

Comments are closed.