Misgivings regarding abrogation clarified

Abrogation is something that bothers many people and the idea that there are redundant verses in the Qur’an troubles some Muslims as well. However, there is more to this than this simple assumption.

Abrogation may be of a number of types and these are logical and understandable as well. Of the different types, two are as discussed in brief as follows:

  • A revealed verse is abrogated and replaced with another

This is simple to understand and not something that bothers anyone. If your office changed its working times from 9 AM – 6 PM to 8 AM to 5 PM, you would be following the new times while the older ones would be nullified and cancelled.

  • A revealed verse is abrogated but remains in the Qur’an

This is what bothers some people and some enemies of Islam use this idea to their advantage[1] and some vile Islam haters allege that every peaceful verse in the Qur’an is abrogated and only the violent ones are applicable to the Muslims. This essay clarifies this concept.

There are no abrogated verses present in the Qur’an in real sense. Whatever of abrogated verses remain in the Qur’an carry a new meaning and that new meaning also makes perfect sense and the new meaning is not forced onto it. We find the following from Sheikh Anwar Shah Kashmiri:

وادعيت أن النسخ لم يرد في القرآن رأسا – أعني بالنسخ: كون الآية منسوخة في جميع ما حوته بحيث لا تبقى معمولة في جزئي من جزئياتها – فذلك عندي غير واقع. وما من أية منسوخة إلا وهي معمولة بوجه من الوجوه، وجهة من الجهات

I claimed that the abrogation is not found in the Qur’an directly – I mean by abrogation: the fact that the verse is abrogated in totality so that it does not even remain applicable partially – that is not correct in my view. There is no abrogation, but it is applicable in one way or another.

Let us look at it in some detail below:

Example 1

Here is an example: Q.5:90-91 gives us a complete prohibition of alcohol:

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالاٌّنصَابُ وَالاٌّزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَـنِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ – إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَآءَ فِى الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَوةِ فَهَلْ أَنْتُمْ مُّنتَهُونَ

O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist? [Q.5:90-91]

However, when we read Q.2:219, we find that there is a strong discouragement of drinking alcohol but not explicit prohibition:

يَسْـئَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَآ إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَـفِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَآ أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا وَيَسْـئَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ كَذلِكَ يُبيّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَـتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

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.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought. [Q.2:219]

Moreover, Q.4:43 indicates that drinking should not be done at certain times of the day:

يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَلاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلَوةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَـرَى حَتَّى تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلاَ جُنُباً إِلاَّ عَابِرِى سَبِيلٍ حَتَّى تَغْتَسِلُواْ وَإِنْ كُنتُم مَّرْضَى أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَآءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنْكُمْ مِّن الْغَآئِطِ أَوْ لَـمَسْتُمُ النِّسَآءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ مَآءً فَتَيَمَّمُواْ صَعِيداً طَيِّباً فَامْسَحُواْ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوّاً غَفُوراً

O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving. [Q.4:43]

It makes sense to prohibit alcohol gradually for heavy drinkers; however, if Q.5:90-91 prohibits drinking altogether and abrogates Q.2:219 and Q.4:43, how do we understand the latter two Ayaat?

The answer is not complicated. Q.2:219 mentions some facts about alcohol both positive and negative and from that and other Ayaat of the Qur’an, the scholars have deduced that alcohol may be allowed in certain circumstances such as absolutely essential medicines. Hence, Q.2:219 continues to make sense and hold value even if it is abrogated from its originally revealed intended meaning. If someone continues to drink, even though the Qur’an prohibits it, Q.4:43 would still apply; he/she should not come to prayer in a drunken state.

All this is regarding abrogation where the verses are still found in the Qur’an. Therefore, one cannot say that certain verses in the Qur’an are abrogated and carry no meaning now. They do carry meanings as explained above but not the same as the asbab al-nazool (reasons for revelation).

The other type of abrogation where the verse is altogether abrogated and not found in the Qur’an also exists and this should not be an issue for anyone. The Qur’an itself states that it came down in stages (Q.17:106, Q.25:32 and many others) and if certain verses were revealed for some specific purpose and the purpose got fulfilled and no longer remained and Allah removed those verses, then it is completely normal and makes perfect sense. The former type of abrogation is something which people find confusing.

We saw one example (of gradual prohibition of alcohol) above and we see some further examples below.

Example 2

The second of the two verses below is abrogated by the first one:

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِى أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days]. And when they have fulfilled their term, then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable manner. And Allah is [fully] Acquainted with what you do. [Q.2:234]

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَجًا وَصِيَّةً لازْوَاجِهِم مَّتَـعًا إِلَى الْحَوْلِ غَيْرَ إِخْرَاجٍ فَإِنْ خَرَجْنَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِى مَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ مِن مَّعْرُوفٍ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – for their wives is a bequest: maintenance for one year without turning [them] out. But if they leave [of their own accord], then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable way. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. [Q.2:240]

From Q.2:234, we learn that a widow is to wait for four months and ten days before she can remarry. However, Q.2:240 says that she must be taken care of for a year. The way we understand it is that she may remarry after four months and ten days and she gets her inheritance stipulated in Q.4:12. The one-year period in this Ayah is not obligatory but voluntary because {if they leave, then there is no blame…}. There may be voluntary cases where she may have to stay for more than four months and ten days such as delayed distribution of inheritance due to some factor(s) among others. We learn that even if the verse is abrogated (from its originally intended revealed meaning), it is not rendered meaningless; the interpretation changes which is also not forced upon but goes with the flow of the verses.

We find the following in tafsir of Ibn Kathir:

Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn Az-Zubayr said: I said to `Uthman bin `Affan: (And those of you who die and leave wives behind them) was abrogated by the other Ayah (2:234). Therefore, why did you collect it (meaning, in the Qur’an)” He said, “O my nephew! I shall not change any part of the Qur’an from its place.”

The question that Ibn Az-Zubayr asked `Uthman means: `If the ruling of the Ayah (2:240) was abrogated to four months (the `Iddah of the widow, and refer to 2:234), then what is the wisdom behind including it in the Qur’an, although its ruling has been abrogated. If the Ayah (2:240) remains (in the Qur’an) after the Ayah that abrogated it (2:234), this might imply that its ruling is still valid.’ `Uthman, the Leader of the faithful, answered him by stating that this is a matter of the revelation, which mentioned these Ayat in this order. `Therefore, I shall leave the Ayah where I found it in the Qur’an.’

We learn that even the Sahaba asked the reason for the verse to be still there if it has been abrogated. Ibn Kathir further explains that even if the verse was abrogated from its originally revealed intended meaning, it is not redundant and continues to carry meaning. He states:

Allah made the rest of the year, which is seven months and twenty days, as a will and testament for her. Consequently, if she wants, she could use her right in this will and remain in the residence (for the rest of the year). Or, if she wants, she could leave the (deceased husband’s) house after the four months and ten days have passed.

Example 3

The first verse below is abrogated by the second one:

أَيَّامًا مَّعْدُودَتٍ فَمَن كَانَ مِنكُم مَّرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ فَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّهُ وَأَن تَصُومُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

[Fasting for] a limited number of days. So whoever among you is ill or on a journey [during them] – then an equal number of days [are to be made up]. And upon those who are able [to fast, but with hardship] – a ransom [as substitute] of feeding a poor person [each day]. And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew. [Q.2:184]

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِى أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَى وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُواْ الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُواْ اللَّهَ عَلَى مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [Q.2:185]

The second of the two verses above makes fasting in Ramadan compulsory for everyone except ill people and travelers. Such are to make them up later when they are able. The first verse states that those {who are able} may skip their fast and feed the poor in return. This gives the impression of optionality and according to scholars, this was the original intended meaning of the revealed verse.

This may appear to be contradictory; however, those {who are able} is not an unconditional term referring to all able people. The Arabic word used yuteequnahu (يطيقنه) or its root taaq (طاق) means doing something with difficulty, among other meanings. Therefore, fasting the month of Ramadan is obligatory for all except those who find it difficult but are able such as travelers, those who are sick, and those who have difficulty such as due to old age, medical condition, pregnancy and breastfeeding and so on.

Therefore, what we learn from these verses is that those who are ill and on a journey may skip their fasts and cover up later while those who fast with difficulty may skip and not cover their fasts. According to the Sahaba, the definition of those who fast with difficulty is that of pregnant and breastfeeding women and these are not required to make up the missed fasts.[2]

Hence, we learn that even if the verse was abrogated from its originally intended meaning (i.e. fasting in Ramadan being optional), the verse is not redundant and still carries meaning which is not forced upon it and makes perfect sense.

Example 4

According to the first verse, inheritance may be done so through a will whereas the second verse goes on to give rules of inheritance:

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ إِن تَرَكَ خَيْرًا الْوَصِيَّةُ لِلْوَلِدَيْنِ وَالاٌّقْرَبِينَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ حَقًّا عَلَى الْمُتَّقِينَ

Prescribed for you when death approaches [any] one of you if he leaves wealth [is that he should make] a bequest for the parents and near relatives according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous. [Q.2:180]

لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصيِبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَلِدَنِ وَالاٌّقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَلِدَنِ وَالاٌّقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ نَصِيباً مَّفْرُوضاً

For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share. [Q.4:7] – The chapter goes on to clarify the inheritance rules.

Allah provides the inheritance rules in Q.4:7 and onwards; then how come one has to write a will as well? A part of Q.4:12 reads {after any bequest which was made or debt} and hence we learn that will can be made for a portion of the inheritance.

A question then arises; since will cannot be made for heirs, how do we understand the Qur’anic account of making a will {for the parents and near relatives} as they are already covered under the original inheritance distribution and classify as heirs? The way we understand this is that the person making the will may set conditions {according to what is acceptable}. If, for example, the deceased has equal value properties and he classifies one to be given to his parents that is nearer to their home; he does not take away anyone’s rights and all the inheritance gets distributed as per the Shariah; however, he sets certain conditions that assist some while not harming others.

Moreover, making wills is wise even though the inheritance division has been stipulated by Allah (ﷻ) and His Messenger (ﷺ) as many people abandon Islamic teachings. Even in our times, these Islamic laws have been ignored so much that a lot of people don’t even know about them; all they know are the colonial laws implemented in their respective countries. Hence, for a practicing Muslim, assuming that the inheritance would be divided per Islamic rules may not actually bring fruit. The heirs may not go for it or if they do so, the legal systems may prove a hindrance in it among other reasons and a will may serve as a helping tool. Therefore, stating the obvious in will i.e. the Shariah based division/distribution, may prove beneficial.

An authentic Hadith states that there is no will for a deserving heir. Ibn Kathir states:

It is recommended that the remaining relatives who do not have a designated fixed share of the inheritance, be willed up to a third, due to the general meaning of the Ayah about the will. It is recorded in the Sahihayn that Ibn `Umar said that Allah’s Messenger said:

«مَا حَقُّ امْرِىءٍ مُسْلِمٍ لَهُ شَيْءٌ يُوصِي فِيه يَبِيتُ لَيْلَتَيْنِ إلَّا وَوَصِيَّتُهُ مَكْتُوبَةٌ عِنْدَه»

(It is not permissible for any Muslim who has something to will to stay for two nights without having his last will and testament written and kept ready with him.)

Ibn `Umar commented, “Ever since I heard this statement from Allah’s Messenger , no night has passed, but my will is kept ready with me.” There are many other Ayat and Ahadith ordering kindness and generosity to one’s relatives.

Even though one verse abrogates the other, from its originally revealed intended meaning, the abrogated verse is not considered redundant and this is agreed by the scholars as well.

Example 5

The first verse below is abrogated by the second one:

يَـأَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ حَرِّضِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَلَى الْقِتَالِ إِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ عِشْرُونَ صَـبِرُونَ يَغْلِبُواْ مِاْئَتَيْنِ وَإِن يَكُنْ مُّنكُمْ مِّاْئَةٌ يَغْلِبُواْ أَلْفًا مِّنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ

O Prophet, urge the believers to battle. If there are among you twenty [who are] steadfast, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are among you one hundred [who are] steadfast, they will overcome a thousand of those who have disbelieved because they are a people who do not understand. [Q.8:65]

الَـنَ خَفَّفَ اللَّهُ عَنكُمْ وَعَلِمَ أَنَّ فِيكُمْ ضَعْفاً فَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ مِّاْئَةٌ صَابِرَةٌ يَغْلِبُواْ مِاْئَتَيْنِ وَإِن يَكُن مِّنكُمْ أَلْفٌ يَغْلِبُواْ أَلْفَيْنِ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ مَعَ الصَّـبِرِينَ

Now, Allah has lightened [the hardship] for you, and He knows that among you is weakness. So if there are from you one hundred [who are] steadfast, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are among you a thousand, they will overcome two thousand by permission of Allah. And Allah is with the steadfast. [Q.8:66]

Here the reason is stated as well and one should not find any problem with it. One believer can take on ten enemies if there is no weakness and if there is weakness, then he can take on two. Here the abrogation is easy and simple to understand as the reason and conditionality is provided within the same verse.

Example 6

The second verse below abrogates the first one:

لاَّ يَحِلُّ لَكَ النِّسَآءُ مِن بَعْدُ وَلاَ أَن تَبَدَّلَ بِهِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَاجٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكَ حُسْنُهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ رَّقِيباً

Not lawful to you, [O Muhammad], are [any additional] women after [this], nor [is it] for you to exchange them for [other] wives, even if their beauty were to please you, except what your right hand possesses. And ever is Allah, over all things, an Observer. [Q.33:52]

يأَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ إِنَّآ أَحْلَلْنَا لَكَ أَزْوَجَكَ اللاَّتِى ءَاتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ مِمَّآ أَفَآءَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمِّكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمَّـتِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَالِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَـلَـتِكَ اللاَّتِى هَـجَرْنَ مَعَكَ وَامْرَأَةً مُّؤْمِنَةً إِن وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِىِّ إِنْ أَرَادَ النَّبِىُّ أَن يَسْتَنكِحَهَا خَالِصَةً لَّكَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا فَرَضْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِى أَزْوَجِهِـمْ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـنُهُمْ لِكَيْلاَ يَكُونَ عَلَيْكَ حَرَجٌ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً

O Prophet, indeed I have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives] and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who emigrated with you and a believing woman if she gives herself to the Prophet [and] if the Prophet wishes to marry her, [this is] only for you, excluding the [other] believers. I certainly know what I have made obligatory upon them concerning their wives and those their right hands possess, [but this is for you] in order that there will be upon you no discomfort. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [Q.33:50]

We find the following in tafsir Ibn Kathir:

(It is not lawful for you (to marry other) women after this,) means, `after the description I have given of the women who are lawful for you, those to whom you have given their dowery, those whom your right hand possesses, and daughters of your paternal uncles and aunts, maternal uncles and aunts, and those who offer themselves to you in marriage — other kinds of women are not lawful for you.’ This view was narrated from Ubayy bin Ka`b, from Mujahid in one report which was transmitted from him, and others. At-Tirmidhi recorded that Ibn `Abbas said: “The Messenger of Allah was forbidden to marry certain kinds of women apart from believing women who had migrated with him, in the Ayah,

﴿لاَّ يَحِلُّ لَكَ النِّسَآءُ مِن بَعْدُ وَلاَ أَن تَبَدَّلَ بِهِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَاجٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكَ حُسْنُهُنَّ إِلاَّ مَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ﴾

(It is not lawful for you (to marry other) women after this, nor to change them for other wives even though their beauty attracts you, except those whom your right hand possesses.) Allah has made lawful believing women, and believing women who offered themselves to the Prophet for marriage.

It is pertinent to note that the Prophet (ﷺ) did not marry after the verse was revealed.

Example 7

It is said that the following verse was abrogated and remained enforced for only an hour:

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا نَـجَيْتُمُ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدِّمُواْ بَيْنَ يَدَىْ نَجْوَكُمْ صَدَقَةً ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَأَطْهَرُ فَإِن لَّمْ تَجِدُواْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who have believed, when you [wish to] privately consult the Messenger, present before your consultation a charity. That is better for you and purer. But if you find not [the means] – then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Q.58:12]

In all the examples we see that the language used by Allah is simply beautiful. It is so amazing and deep that even if it is no longer understood in light of the originally intended purpose, it still makes sense and continues to apply in another way. In Q.58:12, when the instruction was given, it was worded in such a way that lack of means would justify its non-fulfillment. If someone wanted to follow it later as well, he or she may have done so. This is one of the amazing literary aspects of the Qur’an and reminds one of the following Hadith:

بُعِثْتُ بِجَوَامِعِ الْكَلِمِ

I have been sent with Jawami al-Kalim (i.e., the shortest expression carrying the widest meanings). [Sahih al-Bukhari 7013]

Moreover, not only was the Prophet (ﷺ) sent with Jawami al-Kalim, he also liked it as well:

عن عائشة، رضي الله عنها، قالت‏:‏ كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، يستحب الجوامع من الدعاء، ويدع ما سوى ذلك

Aishah reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) liked comprehensive supplications or (al-Jawami’ – i.e., supplications with very few words but comprehensive in meanings), and discarded others. [Sunan Abi Da’ood]

When the verse was originally revealed, it was taken as an order by Ali b. Abi Talib and he was the only one to implement it before it was abrogated by the following verse:

أَءَشْفَقْتُمْ أَن تُقَدِّمُواْ بَيْنَ يَدَىْ نَجْوَكُمْ صَدَقَـتٍ فَإِذْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُواْ وَتَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلوةَ وَءَاتُواْ الزَّكَوةَ وَأَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَاللَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do. [Q.58:13]

Tafsir Jalalayn clarifies this as follows:

Do you fear … poverty when you fear to offer voluntary alms before your secret talks. So as you did not do this giving of voluntary alms and God relented to you waiving this requirement for you maintain prayer and pay the alms and obey God and His Messenger that is to say observe these duties regularly. For God is Aware of what you do.

The tafsir clarifies that the abrogating verse made the initial instruction into a voluntary act. Ali b. Abi Talib said: No one except me implemented this Ayah, until it was abrogated. His statement clarifies that others after him may have implemented it but by that time, its originally intended revealed meaning had been abrogated and was made voluntary.

Sheikh Shinqiti gives a similar explanation:

أن وجوب تقديم الصدقة أمام المناجاة لما نسخ بقي استحباب الصدقة وندبها، بدلا من الوجوب المنسوخ كما هو ظاهر.

The obligation to offer almsgiving before consultation regarding what was abrogated remains recommended (mustahab) instead of obligatory (waajib) as this is apparent.

When we read both the verses together, the second one makes the earlier one a recommendation; looking at the first alone may give the impression of an obligation whereas the abrogating verse keeps it applicable in a voluntary sense. Tafsir Sa’di provides a similar commentary:

يأمر تعالى المؤمنين بالصدقة، أمام مناجاة رسوله محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم تأديبا لهم وتعليما، وتعظيما للرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم، فإن هذا التعظيم، خير للمؤمنين وأطهر أي: بذلك يكثر خيركم وأجركم، وتحصل لكم الطهارة من الأدناس، التي من جملتها ترك احترام الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم والأدب معه بكثرة المناجاة التي لا ثمرة تحتها، فإنه إذا أمر بالصدقة بين يدي مناجاته صار هذا ميزانا لمن كان حريصا على الخير والعلم، فلا يبالي بالصدقة، ومن لم يكن له حرص ولا رغبة في الخير، وإنما مقصوده مجرد كثرة الكلام، فينكف بذلك عن الذي يشق على الرسول، هذا في الواجد للصدقة، وأما الذي لا يجد الصدقة، فإن الله لم يضيق عليه الأمر، بل عفا عنه وسامحه، وأباح له المناجاة، بدون تقديم صدقة لا يقدر عليها. ثم لما رأى تبارك وتعالى شفقة المؤمنين، ومشقة الصدقات عليهم عند كل مناجاة، سهل الأمر عليهم، ولم يؤاخذهم بترك الصدقة بين يدي المناجاة، وبقي التعظيم للرسول والاحترام بحاله لم ينسخ، لأن هذا الحكم من باب المشروع لغيره، ليس مقصودا لنفسه، وإنما المقصود هو الأدب مع الرسول والإكرام له، وأمرهم تعالى أن يقوموا بالمأمورات الكبار المقصودة بنفسها، فقال: { فَإِذْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا } أي: لم يهن عليكم تقديم الصدقة، ولا يكفي هذا، فإنه ليس من شرط الأمر أن يكون هينا على العبد، ولهذا قيده بقوله: { وَتَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ } أي: عفا لكم عن ذلك، ـ { فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ } بأركانها وشروطها، وجميع حدودها ولوازمها، ـ { وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ } المفروضة [في أموالكم] إلى مستحقيها. وهاتان العبادتان هما أم العبادات البدنية والمالية، فمن قام بهما على الوجه الشرعي، فقد قام بحقوق الله وحقوق عباده، [ولهذا قال بعده:] { وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ } وهذا أشمل ما يكون من الأوامر. ويدخل في ذلك طاعة الله [وطاعة] رسوله، بامتثال أوامرهما واجتناب نواهيهما، وتصديق ما أخبرا به، والوقوف عند حدود الله. والعبرة في ذلك على الإخلاص والإحسان، ولهذا قال: { وَاللَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ } فيعلم تعالى أعمالهم، وعلى أي وجه صدرت، فيجازيهم على حسب علمه بما في صدورهم.

Allah commanded the believers to give sadaqah (charity) before privately consulting His messenger (ﷺ) as an admonition to them and as an instruction. And it is a magnification of the prophet (ﷺ), for verily this magnification is better for the believers and more pure – meaning that through this they would accumulate a great deal of good and reward and achieve purity from the blemishes which ensue from leaving off revering the Messenger (ﷺ) and [leaving off] having good manners with him by engaging in excessive private consultations which bear no benefit. So when He commanded the giving of saqadah prior to privately consulting him, this became a measuring scale of whoever was eager for good and for ‘ilm, for the sadaqah would not bother him. And for those who did not have eagerness or craving for good and whose intention was merely to engage in abundant conversation, then he was stopped by this from bothering the Messenger. This was all in regards to the one who was able to find saqadah [to give]. But as for the one who could not find sadaqah, then certainly Allah did not make the affair constricting for him – rather He pardoned him and dealt with him generously and allowed him to make private consultation without having to precede his private consultation with sadaqah which he was not able to produce. Then when Allah saw the concern of the believers and the hardship they faced in having to give sadaqah for every private consultation [with the Messenger], He made the matter easy for them, and He did not take them to task for leaving off giving sadaqah before private consultation. And the magnification of the Messenger and revering him due to his status remained in place and was not abrogated, because this ruling is from the category of divinely legislated for an ulterior purpose; the objective was not this [i.e. the giving of sadaqah prior to every private consultation with the Messenger] in and of itself, the objective was only good etiquette with the Messenger and esteeming him. And His command to them to fulfill the major commandments was itself the (true) objective, so He said, “Then when you did not” – i.e. you did not trivialize the giving of sadaqah (before private consultation) and did not feel that to be sufficient – for it is not appropriate that an integral condition of a command be something trivial to the slave – then because of this Allah specified it by His statement, “and Allah has forgiven you” – i.e. pardoned you of that. “Then establish the salaah” according to its pillars and conditions, and all of its limits and necessary parts, “And give the zakaah” – i.e. the obligatory zakaah, from your wealth to those who are deserving of it. And these two acts of ‘ibaadah are the mother of physical and financial ‘ibaadaat. So whoever fulfills these two in accordance with the sharee’ah, then he has fulfilled the rights of Allah and the rights of His slaves. And because of this He said right after that, “and obey Allah and His messenger” and this includes all of the commands which exist. And included in this is obedience to Allah and obedience to His messenger through conforming to their commands and avoiding their prohibitions, and affirming what they have informed you of, and halting at the limits set by Allah. And the lesson of this is [to have] al-ikhlaas (sincerity to Allah) and al-ihsaan (excellent behavior to the people). And concerning this Allah said, “And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do” for Allah knows their actions, regardless where they originate [i.e. what motives or intentions drive them]. So He recompenses them according to His knowledge of what is in their chests. [Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 998-999]

It must be mentioned with strictness here that some Muslims on the other extreme, proclaiming self-righteousness, and the saved sect status for themselves, are very easily bothered by what they do not understand. They think of some views as those of modernists and Mu’tazilis when in fact, they belong to the people of Sunnah. They need to be reprimanded for this and this thinking and rage needs to be cooled down because it occasionally results in blasphemic words from them where they state that certain verses of the Qur’an (esp. 58:12) are redundant i.e. not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous. One should be fearful of Allah when making such statements and holding such beliefs. Yes it is true that certain commands and instructions of Allah are specific to the Prophet (ﷺ) and since, he is no longer with us, they are inapplicable to us; however, calling such verses redundant would still be blasphemous.

Hopefully the explanations make sense and would end any confusion there may have been.

Allah knows best.

References and footnotes:

[1] Abrogated Qur’anic Verses were not from Satan

[2] Are pregnant and breastfeeding women required to make up their missed fasts?


7 thoughts on “Misgivings regarding abrogation clarified

    • Wa’alaykumusSalaam wr wb, yes 🙂 You don’t see updates on site because I’m busy with three books these days. Two are done and will be published in this month iA and the third in Mar iA. However, if there’s any request in between, I can incorporate it.

  1. Pingback: Did Jesus die according to the Qur’an? | Qur'anic misconceptions addressed

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