بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين
In this article we will be addressing the claim of anti-Islamic missionaries that the abrogated verses were never revealed by Allah and only the replaced verses were a part of revelation from Allah. Does the Qur’an indicate that the replaced verses were from Satan and therefore Allah replaced them?
We know from the Qur’an that it (the Qur’an) was initially revealed in Ramadan
and completed in Dhul Hajj
over a period of around 23 years.During this period of time, some verses were revealed by Allah which were later abrogated i.e. replaced with other similar or better verses:
مَا نَنْسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنْسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
We do not abrogate a verse (Ayah) or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is over all things competent?
The verse, however, does not limit the abrogation to within the Qur’an but also of previous revelations as Muhammad Asad explains the verse as follows:
“The doctrine of progressive revelation from age to age and time to time does not mean that Allah’s fundamental law changes. It was sheer ignorance of the unbelievers to charge the messenger of Allah with forgery because the message as revealed to him was in different form from that which was revealed before, when the core of the truth is the same, for it came from Allah. This verse refers to the changes the Quran introduced in the teachings of the previous scriptures because of which the infidels thought that it was a forgery, and asserts that the same Holy Spirit has brought the revelation to the Holy Prophet.”
Based on this and similar verses, anti-Islamic missionaries argue that the replaced verse is from Allah but the Qur’an mentions nowhere that the abrogated verse was also from Allah. The reason for not being able to find such a mentioning is due to improper reading. We find elsewhere in the Qur’an the following:
وَإِذَا بَدَّلْنَا آيَةً مَكَانَ آيَةٍ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُنَزِّلُ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُفْتَرٍ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
And when We substitute a verse (Ayah) in place of a verse (Ayah) – and Allah is most knowing of what He sends down – they say, “You, [O Muhammad], are but an inventor [of lies].” But most of them do not know.
Pondering over the underlined part indicates to the reader that what Allah has sent down (Ayah) is replaced by what Allah has sent down Himself (Ayah). Ayah means not just a verse from the Quran but also means proof, evidence, lesson, sign, revelation, miracle, etc. The thing being replaced (sign/miracle of Allah) is being done so by another sign or miracle of Allah. Therefore to say that the initial thing being replaced is from someone other than Allah is simply ignoring parts of the Qur’an.
Even though the Qur’an explains itself, we shall provide explanation for the quoted verse from early Islamic scholars. Tafsir Ibn Kathir states:
And when We change a verse (of the Qur’an) in place of another, Mujahid said: this means, “We remove one and put another in its place.”Qatadah said:this is like the Ayah:Whatever verse We change (abrogate) or omit (the abrogated)…” (2:106). Allah said, in response to them: Say: “Ruh-ul-Qudus has brought it…” (meaning, Jibril), from your Lord with truth, meaning, with truthfulness and justicefor the conviction of those who believe,so that they will believe what was revealed earlier and what was revealed later, and humble themselves towards Allah.
The great early Muslim scholars from the third generation and before did not differ from the understanding presented here. They have provided their input clearly stating that the abrogated and the abrogating verses were both revealed by Allah and hence the understanding of Qur’an 16:101 presented here is nothing less than authentic.
If we look at the last line of Qur’an 16:101 quoted above “but most of them do not know“, we get the idea that the hypocrites and disbelievers at the time of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) were similar to the anti-Islamic missionaries of today. They had somewhat similar arguments, attacks and allegations against the Prophet (ﷺ). If such people have simple reading issues, then no wonder they will find human nature, incoherence and unintelligibility in the Qur’an.
Are the abrogated verses from Satan?
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ مِنْ رَسُولٍ وَلَا نَبِيٍّ إِلَّا إِذَا تَمَنَّى أَلْقَى الشَّيْطَانُ فِي أُمْنِيَّتِهِ فَيَنْسَخُ اللَّهُ مَا يُلْقِي الشَّيْطَانُ ثُمَّ يُحْكِمُ اللَّهُ آيَاتِهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet except that when he spoke [or recited], Satan threw into it [some misunderstanding]. But Allah abolishes that which Satan throws in; then Allah makes precise His verses. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.
Based on the above quoted verse of the Qur’an, it has been argued that since Satan interrupted the Message of the Messengers, Allah abolished Satan’s interruption and then made clear His verses, this means that Satan had revealed some verses which were abrogated by Allah. Even though this contradicts with the explanation provided above that verses (Ayaat plural of Ayah) are only from Allah, the argument appears reasonable and valid to a rather naive person.
Even though a layman can see that this verse speaks of the abrogation of something cast in the hearts of the prophets by Satan, and not about the abrogation of the Qur’anic verses, we shall provide explanations from the great Islamic scholars of the past but first we shall present a verse from the Qur’an that nullifies this claim:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian
Promise of Allah to protect the revelation does not merely signify that after the revelation but also before and during its revelation. To claim that Satan managed to interfere into the process of revelation (Qur’an 22:52) is to falsify the divine guarantee for the safety of revelation from any corruption whatsoever made in Qur’an 15:9. Now let us understand Qur’an 22:52 from classical Muslim scholars. Here is the explanation from Ibn Kathir:
In his recitation (of the revelation). “When he spoke, the Shaytan threw (some falsehood) into his speech, but Allah abolished that which the Shaytan threw in.”
Then Allah makes precise His verses or establishes His revelations: `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, when he did recite (the revelation), Shaytan threw (some falsehood) in it “When he spoke, the Shaytan threw (some falsehood) into his speech.”
Mujahid said: When he did recite. “When he spoke.” It was said that it refers to his recitation. It means they speak but they do not write.
Al-Baghawi and the majority of the scholars of Tafsir said: “Reciting the Book of Allah.” Shaytan threw (some falsehood) in it i.e. “in his recitation.”
Ad-Dahhak said: “When he recited.” Ibn Jarir said, “This comment is more akin to interpretation.” (But Yansakh Allah that which Shaytan throws in). The meaning of the word Naskh in Arabic is toremove or lift away. `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “This means, Allah cancels out that which the Shaytan throws in i.e. the doubt or the falsehood in recitation.”
The scholars and companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) understood the input of Satan to be nothing more than hesitation and stop of flow in recitation and the interpretation. This is somewhat similar to the temptation of Prophet Eisa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) as mentioned in the Bible
. Such temptation or thoughts from Satan are natural and not to be taken as sins as mentioned by the Prophet (ﷺ) in Sahih Bukhari:
“Allah has forgiven my followers the evil thoughts that occur to their minds, as long as such thoughts are not put into action or uttered.”
Christians as well as Muslims believe that Satan exists and his mission and actions are a reality. Therefore, there appears to be no reason of concern if someone is enticed by Satan but does not fall into the trap.
The understanding stated above that what Satan puts in are his evil whispers and ‘not words into the Qur’an’ is further established by the following verses of the Qur’an:
فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ
So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy].
وَقُلْ رَبِّ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشَّيَاطِينِ
And say “O my Lord! I seek refuge with Thee from the suggestions of the Evil Ones.
The above command by Allah is not just for the Prophet (ﷺ) but also for the believers in general.The reason for seeking refuge with Allah before reading is that the reader should not get confused or mixed up, and that Satan would not confuse him or stop him from thinking about and pondering over the meaning of what he reads. Hence the majority of scholars said that refuge should be sought with Allah before starting to read.Moreover the verse (Qur’an 16:98) is the immediate context for Qur’an 16:101 quoted above. It has been proven from the companions and the early scholars that the actual input of Satan was only limited to evil whispers, Qur’an 16:98 and 23:97 further confirm this fact. There appears no question of any input into the Qur’an from Satan. People who read the Qur’an and lose their reasoning power or try to seek faults do so due to the temptations and suggestions of Satan. Their anger towards the Qur’an does not result in any addition or alteration to the Qur’an.
Wisdom behind abrogation
As mentioned at the start of this article, the Qur’an was revealed over a period of around 23 years and during this time some verses were revealed by Allah which were later abrogated. Types of abrogation and wisdom behind them has been summarized for the readers below.
Abrogation of the recited verse along with the legal ruling:
Simplest example is from the rules related to foster relationship. Initially the law was that suckling ten times alone proved the foster relation. This was based on Qur’anic verse. However, later the verse was abrogated and law changed to five sucklings.
A’isha (Allah be pleased with, her) reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur’an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings 
Some scholar actually hold that eventually even five sucklings instruction was abrogated
Abrogation of the legal ruling without the recited verse:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنْتُمْ سُكَارَى حَتَّى تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ
O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying…
In the verse above, one might get the impression that drinking is allowed but praying while in the state of drunkenness is forbidden. This verse has been abrogated by the following:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِنْ نَفْعِهِمَا
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.”
When Qur’an 4:43 was initially revealed, drinking was not completely forbidden. Islam did not bring immediate stop to drinking but brought the change through a way that implementation becomes strong and easy for the believers. Pre Islamic people were heavy drinkers and it would have been impossible for many to quit drinking immediately. Qur’an implements this prohibition in stages. Initially it was partially prohibited, then prohibition increased further and then finally completely prohibited. We find immense wisdom behind it and any alcoholic seeking to cure the disease would wholeheartedly agree with this wisdom.
The verse, however, has not been abrogated because Qur’an 4:43 and Qur’an 2:219 can be followed at the same time; they do not contradict each other. Drinking does not make someone a disbeliever and it is very much possible that a believer in the Qur’an falls in this trap of Satan. For that person, the order would still be valid to not come near to prayer while in the state of drunkenness.
All abrogated verses that still remain in the Qur’an do carry meanings that are still very much valid and applicable. However, when or if it may appear that two verses contradict each other in their rulings (example Qur’an 4:43
addressed above), we must understand that they need to be interpreted in light of the new ruling brought forward while keeping the rules of context in mind.
Please note that the law for Qisas (an eye for an eye) on one hand (Qur’an 2:178) and forgiving being better than taking revenge (Qur’an 5:45) or slaying of innocent being equal to slaying of humanity (Qur’an 5:32) on the other hand are neither abrogating nor contradictory verses. Studying them in isolation might give this impression but reading them as per explanations provided in the article and by reading in context, we find the argument to be of no worth.
Abrogation of the recited verse without the legal ruling:
This is the case in which a verse has been abrogated but the ruling remains. The most commonly known example of this is that of the ‘verse of stoning.’ This case requires a detailed treatment. We shall in-sha’Allah (if Allah so wills) present a detailed study of it in future.
We have addressed the major arguments of Christian missionaries above. However, they are not satisfied due to a number of questions they have as follows:
1. Qur’an 16:100 state that Satan has no affect on those who put their trust in Allah whereas the Prophet of Islam (ﷺ) was disturbed by Satan for a while that he used to forget things.
2. The Gospels teach the crucifixion of Jesus whereas Qur’an goes against it and if Qur’an is to be believed, then the abrogation of this false teaching of the Bible by the Qur’an took around 600 years thereby resulting in the misguidance of billions of people.
3. The abrogated verses are at times better than the abrogating verses.
1. Being disturbed by Satan so that the person forgets things does not classify under Qur’an 16:100
. What the verse refers to is to fall in the trap of Satan. Regarding Verily, he has no power over those who believe and put their trust only in their Lord
, Imam Sufyan al-Thawri states that it means “He has no power to make them commit a sin they will not repent from
.” Forgetting things is not a sin and the mission of Satan is to get the children of Adam (عليه السلام) on the stray path and eventually to hell.
2. Before we come to the point of crucifixion from the Qur’an, it must be made clear that the concept of no crucifixion is present even in the Bible
. Even the earliest believers of the message of Prophet Eisa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) rejected the crucifixion; Paul speaks to them harshly for keeping this belief (Galatians 3:1
) and instead promoted his own beliefs.The concept of Prophet Eisa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) being saved from crucifixion can be found in Dead Sea Scrolls as well
. This belief that Prophet Eisa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) did not die on the cross was very much present until the council of Nicaea around 300 years after Prophet Eisa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) after which it was violently opposed and followers of it persecuted. They were persecuted even before but after the council, the attacks of the enemies of Prophet Eisa (Jesus) (عليه السلام) became ruthless and much more violent.
It, therefore, appears very much unreasonable to blame it on Allah while He has allowed sufficient evidences to remain even in their own books even after much alteration and editing. If the believers of the Bible were to be judged by the Almighty God upon their own books, it appears they would fail. If the followers of ancient scriptures do actually open up their own books to read them without bias and with an open mind, they would surely be directed towards Islam and accept it if Allah Almighty wills.
3. To say that the abrogated verses of the Qur’an were much better than the abrogating ones,indicates nothing less than pure bias. As quoted above, the previous Qiblah of the Muslims before the Ka’aba used to be the sacred Masjid in Jerusalem. The change in Qiblah had displeased the Jews even though the order was from Allah:
سَيَقُولُ السُّفَهَاءُ مِنَ النَّاسِ مَا وَلَّاهُمْ عَنْ قِبْلَتِهِمُ الَّتِي كَانُوا عَلَيْهَا
The foolish among the people will say, “What has turned them away from their Qiblah, which they used to face?”
Here we learn of one reasons why some people preferred the abrogated ruling over the abrogating one i.e. bias.Other reasons are pure ignorance and blind hate. During the first decade of prophethood, the Muslims were not allowed to pick up weapons even against those who had done so against them. Then when the migration took place, the Muslims were commanded to fight those who fight the Muslims
. To a person holding bias against Islam and seeking pleasure at the torture of Muslims at the hands of their enemies, the new ruling of fighting would certainly appear to be displeasing than the previous one of restraining themselves.
We can safely conclude here with authority that the verses abrogating and those abrogated have both been revealed by Allah and Satan had no power or influence in the revelation of the Qur’an. Any claim to the contrary is an indication of bias and hatred towards Islam.
Indeed, Allah knows best.
Sahih Muslim, Book 8, hadith 3421-3422. For further discussion on these narrations see the article HERE