ARE THE VERSES OF THE QUR'AN
ABROGATED OR SUBSTITUTED?
This article clarifies the often misinterpreted subject of "the doctrine
of abrogation and the Qur'an". It is also a response to an article on Christian
web <answering-islam.org>. Below is the text from Christian web site <answering-islam.org>:
According to some Muslim commentators, more
than 260 verses of the Quran have been abrogated. Others concede only 5
verses while others deny there is any abrogation. Thus, there is no general
agreement as to what all the abrogated verses are. This can become a point
of confusion as sometimes, these abrogated verses deals with matters of
life and death. For example, most scholars believe that the stoning verse
for adultery for married persons, which was once in the Qur'an, has been
abrogated from recitation, but remains in effect in the Sharia.
The issue of abrogation is a very serious problem
for the Qur'an and its claims for two reasons:
1. If the Qur'an is the actual Word of God,
then it is eternal and, is thus incapable of change. The abrogation problem
suggests that the Qur'an was created, and cannot be the uncreated Word
2. If the Qur'an is the Word of God, it should
be perfect and no verse can be superior to another.
accusation of invention when a verse
is replaced by another, an-Nahl 16:101.
Allah removes what he wills, ar-Ra`d 13:39.
brings one better or similar to replace it,
This verse can cause quite a consternation.
In the case of the Stoning Verse for example, there was no replacement
(better or not). Neither was there any replacement for the Missing Bismillah,
the Ibn Adam Verse, the Suckling Verse or the "Pleasing" Verse.
forgotten, al-A`la 87:6-7.
God can withdraw any revelation, bani
Every instance of abrogation is a problem for
the doctrine of an unchanging God and should equally trouble thinking Muslims.
For non-Muslims, however, the changing commands regarding the use of violence
against non-believers are certainly the most relevant:
THE FOLLOWING TEXTS
AND THE NOTES
THE WHOLE TRUTH...
Surah Baqara (2) - Verse 106, translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
None of Our revelations do
We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something
better or similar; knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?
Maa nansakh min 'aayatin
'aw nunsihaa na'-ti bi-khayrim-minhaa 'aw mislihaa; 'alam ta'-lam 'annallaaha
'alaa kulli shay-'in-Qadiir(un)?.
verse opens with a conditional sentence. Hence the opening portion of the
sentence is subjected to the rest of it. Please note the word
by Yusuf Ali to connect the ensuing text. Quoting the first part of the
sentence by itself would amount to misleading the readers. Substitution
is acknowledged. The Abrogation is negated and so is the concept of causing
to be forgotten.
use of the negative particle "Maa"
the beginning of the verse emphatically negates this conditional Perfect
Sentence. Below is another example from the Qur'an, wherein the word "maa"
used in the beginning of a conditional sentence to Negate the text,
with the specified exception.
Maa qultu lahum 'illaa
maaa 'amarata bihiii 'ani'-budullaaha Rabbii wa Rabbakum:...
Translation of Surah Maidah (5), Verse 117 by Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
"Never said I (Jesus), to them
aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, 'Worship
Allah, my Lord and your Lord':...
To propagate the opening portion of the above
verse out of context would amount to saying that Jesus Christ never spoke
anything to disciples.
Are the verses of the Qur'an
The earlier revelations are
by the later revelations?
the verse under study (2: 106), translated as "Our
revelations" is used to denote the "total
revelations of Allah" that have come to mankind.
In other words it includes Allah's Messages that were conveyed in the earlier
books as well as the final Message revealed by Him in the Qur'an.
his commentary, Yusuf Ali explains the term "aayatin"
What is the meaning here? If
we take it in a general sense, it means that God's Message from age to
age is always the same, but that its form may differ according to the needs
and exigencies of the time. That form was different as given to Moses
and then to Jesus and then to Muhammad.
and its portions...
"Hast thou not turned thy vision to
those who have been given
know it for a fact that the harsh punishment of "stoning to death" prescribed
in the Torah for the sin of adultery, to purge the prevailing evil from
the Israel (Deuteronomy 22: 24), was basically invalidated by Christ. When
Jesus was questioned by the scribes and the Pharisees concerning the Command
of Moses for stoning, Jesus gave his famous noteworthy response; "Let
anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone."
a portion of the Book? They are
invited to the Book of Allah, to settle their dispute, but a party of them
turn back and decline
(the arbitration)." Qur'an 3:
23 Translation by Yusuf Ali
Commentary # 366 to the above verse:
A portion of the Book. I conceive that
Allah's revelation as a whole throughout the ages is "The Book". The Law
of Moses, and the Gospel of Jesus were portions of the Book. The Qur'an
completes the revelation and is par excellence the Book of Allah.
Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth:
Him is the Mother of the Book. Qur'an
13 : 39 Translation by Yusuf Ali
Commentary # 1864 to the above verse:
Umm-ul-Kitab: Mother of the Book: the
original foundation of all revelation; the Essence of Allah's Will and
Law. Cf. iii. 7, and
(John 8 : 7).
Jewish Law of "stoning to death" has been abrogated and substituted
with the punishment of "flogging" in the Qur'an (Surah Nur 24: 2). This
answers the following misleading claim made by <answering-islam.org>:
one better or similar to replace it, al-Baqarah 2:106.
Gospels record that Jesus Christ was a Jew and an upholder of "The Law"
revealed to his predecessors. Here is what he said to uphold the Law:
This verse can cause
quite a consternation. In the case of the Stoning Verse for example, there
was no replacement (better or not).
"Therefore, whoever breaks one of
the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will
be called least in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5: 19
Just two verses earlier he said:
"Do not think that I have come to
abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."
What exactly did Jesus mean when he said; "not
to abolish but to fulfill"?
The Gospel of Matthew records that Jesus, instead
of upholding, did Substitute the earlier command of Torah; "eye
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" (Leviticus
24: 20), with his alternate command; "Do not
resist an evil doer, but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn
the other also..." (Matthew 5: 39).
two examples from the Bible tell us that the process of God Substituting
His earlier Message with a better suited one, through the succeeding Messenger
of God is not an alien or an unheard of phenomena.
Is the web site <answering-islam.org> prepared to admit, based upon
the above, that the recorded Commands of the
Torah were neither the actual Words of God,
nor they were eternal and thus capable of change by Jesus.
a cue from the Critic's text above; If the
Torah was the Word of God, it should be perfect and no verse can be superior
to another. One must therefore reject what
Jesus had taught to his disciples on these two issues.
with the needs and exigencies of the time,
Qur'an has revealed the following Message in connection with the Law of
We ordained therein for them: "Life
for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and
wounds equal for equal." But if anyone remits the retaliation by
way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any
fail to judge by what Allah hath revealed, they are wrong-doers. Qur'an
When We substitute one revelation
for another, -- and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages), --they
say, "Thou art but a forger": But most of them understand not.
16 : 101
11. Please do
not be misguided if any Muslim or non Muslim tells you that a verse of
the Qur'an that was once revealed, is no more to be found in the final
compilation. But, the prescribed punishment for adultery of "stoning
to death" commanded in that "missing verse" is applicable.
The following verses of the Qur'an should make them stop making such erroneous
claims and misleading the believers. Allah has Himself Guarded and Protected
the Final Scripture.
Commentary # 2140 to the above verse:
See ii. 106, and n. 107. The doctrine of progressive
revelation from age to age and time to time does not mean that Allah's
fundamental Law changes. It is not fair to charge a Prophet of Allah with
forgery because the Message as revealed to him is in a different form from
that revealed before, when the core of the Truth is the same, for it comes
We have without doubt sent down the
Message; and We will assuredly guard it. 15
It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate
it: But when We have promulgated it follow thou its recital (as promulgated):
17 - 18
No falsehood can approach it from before or
behind it: it is sent down by One Full of Wisdom Worthy of all Praise.
The commentary by Dr. Muhammad Asad for the
verse 2: 106, reproduced below, explains the problem with the misunderstood
"doctrine of abrogation":
The principal laid down in this passage
– relating to the suppression 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 the Qur'an have been “abrogated”
by God’s command before the revelation of 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 Quranic 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 contains on it. In short, the “doctrine
of abrogation” has no basis whatsoever 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..
The grammatical interpretations
for the Arabic word "maa"...
The opening word "maa"
of the Arabic text in Verse 106 of Chapter 2 (under study and quoted above),
plays an important role in the translation and the interpretation of that
verse. I have copied the following interpretations from two books; 'A
Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran' by Dr. John Penrice and 'Vocabulary
of the Holy Qur'an' compiled by Dr. Abdullah Abbas Nadwi:
a. "maa" as
a conjunctive pronoun meaning:
which, that, what, whatsoever, as, in such manner as, as much as, as far
b. "maa" as
a negative adverb or as a negative particle meaning: Not.
In general it denies and negates a circumstance
either present, or if past,
but little remote from the present. Here are
three forms of negations:
( i ) When placed before the perfect,
( ii ) When placed before a pronoun,
( iii ) When placed before a demonstrative
In this verse 106 of chapter 2, some translators
(e.g. Pickthall), have opted
other translators (e.g. Yusuf Ali), have opted for (b).
The Often Quoted Sets of Verses,
on the subject:
No. 1 The
verse 2: 115 is NOT abrogated by the verses 2: 149-150.
The text of verse 2: 115 reads:
To Allah belong the East and the West;
whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of Allah. For Allah
is All-Pervading, All-Knowing.
The above Revelation is the simple statement
of an Eternally True Basic Fact. Allah's presence is to be felt
in all or any direction, one prefers to turn.
The text of verses 2: 149-150 read:
From whencesoever thou startest forth,
turn thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; that is indeed the
truth from thy Lord. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
The above Revelation Ordains a Strict Command
for facing a specific direction while reciting the daily Ritual Prayers.
Muslims are Commanded by Allah to submit themselves to this Law of Allah.
This LAW does not abrogate, change or
substitute the earlier Statement of Basic Fact for the Allah's Presence.
So from whencesoever thou startest forth, turn
thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; among wheresoever ye are
turn your face thither: that there be no ground of dispute against you
among the people. Except those of them that are bent on wickedness; so
fear them not but fear Me; and that I may complete My favors on you and
ye may (consent to) be guided.
No. 2 The verse
2: 240 is NOT abrogated by the verse 4 : 12
The text of verse 2: 240 reads:
Those of you who die and leave widows
should bequeath for their widows a year's maintenance and residence;
but if they leave (the residence) there is no blame on you for what they
do with themselves provided it is reasonable and Allah is Exalted in Power
The above Command is for the Bequeathing of a fixed sum for the
widows towards their maintenance and the residence for a period of one
The text of verse 4: 12 read:
In what your wives leave your share
is a half if they leave no child; but if they leave a child ye get a fourth;
after payment of legacies and debts. In what ye leave their share
is a fourth if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child they get an eighth;
after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance
is in question has left neither ascendants nor descendants but has left
a brother or a sister each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than
two they share in a third; after payment of legacies and debts; so that
no loss is caused (to anyone). Thus is it ordained by Allah and Allah
is All-Knowing Most Forbearing.
The above Revelation is concerning the rights of Inheritance
for wives. It does not reveal that since the wives are entitled to the
inheritance, the husbands should not Bequeath the fixed sums for their
year's maintenance and residence. The Command of
Bequeathing in effect safeguards the widows from the dire situations wherein
the share of their portion of the Inheritances are not sufficient enough
to provide a year's maintenance and residence. A
husband MUST set aside in his Will Document a fixed sum for his wife as
a Bequeath and leave the rest of his assets for the Inheritance, shared
by all concerned.
New Text added on December 13, 2002:
The critic writes: "Allah
removes what he wills, ar-Ra`d 13:39."
Here is the entire verse 13 : 39
"Allah doth blot out or confirm what
He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book."
Translation by Abdullah Yusuf All
The Whole Truth is clearly manifested once the
entire verse is read in light of the Important
Note # 10 mentioned earlier. This verse directly
supports the commentary # 2140 to verse 16: 101 that is mentioned under
the said note.
"Allah effaceth what He will, and establisheth
(what He will), and with Him is the source of ordinance."
Translation by Pickthall
The critic writes: "forgotten,
al-A`la 87:6-7. "
Here is the text of these two verses number
6 and 7:
"By degrees shall We teach thee to
declare (the Message) so thou shalt not forget. Except as Allah wills:
For He knoweth what is manifest and what is hidden."
I wish the critic had read Yusuf Ali's commentary
# 6086 to verse # 7. It clearly negates the false impression critic is
trying to make. The commentary reads:
"There can be no question of this
having any reference to the abrogation of any verses of the Qur-an. For
this Sura is one of the earliest revealed, being placed about eighth according
to the most accepted chronological order. While the basic principles
of Allah's Law remain the same, its form, expression, and application have
varied from time to time, e.g., from Moses to Jesus, and from Jesus to
Muhammad. It is one of the beneficent mercies of Allah that we should forget
some things of the past, lest our minds become confused and our development
is retarded. Besides, Allah knows what is manifest and what is hidden,
and His Will and Plan work with supreme wisdom and goodness."
The critic writes: "God
can withdraw any revelation, bani Isra'il 17:86."
After reading the entire verse 17: 86, reproduced
below, one can tell that it is was conditional statement subject to certain
stipulations and circumstances which did not happen during the life of
Prophet and NO text was withdrawn.
"If it were Our Will We could take
away that which We have sent thee by inspiration: then would thou find
none to plead thy affair in that matter as against Us."
The critic speaks of the replacement
for the Missing Bismillah.
Can a verse that was NOT REVEALED to begin
with, be regarded as the "Missing" or the Lost Verse? The Critic
has first to produce a verse that reveals that Allah had promised that
every chapter of the Qur'an will begin with "Bismillahir Rehmanir Raheem",
before speaking of the replacement.
The above rebuttal shows how hollow are the
claims made by the critic...
If you come across any Commentary of the Qur'an that speaks of any
verse that has been abrogated, please e-mail that information to
If you know the verse numbers of the following verses please communicate
the Ibn Adam Verse, the Suckling Verse, the
"Pleasing" Verse. Thanks.
Allah knows the best...