Abrogation (Naskh) in Islam: Al-Nasekh Wa Al-Mansoukh

Abrogation is one of the main issues used to attack Islam, attribute contradiction to Quran and give doubts

Abrogation is one of the main issues used to attack Islam, attribute contradiction to Quran and give doubts about Quran’s authenticity.

Al-Nasekh and Al-Mansoukh are two Arabic words having the same root word meaning: to abolish, lift, replace, remove, withdraw or abrogate. The first word means “The abrogate” and the second is “The abrogated”. It is limited only to the time of the Prophetic mission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

What is Abrogation (Naskh)?

Islam was first presented to the Arabs (a tribal community).  Islam which contained commandments and legal rulings so different from their way of life and what they were used to, it was expected to encounter resistance or at the least a type of resentment. So, it was out of mercy and wisdom of Allah that these rulings were revealed in a gradual manner to ease them (Arabs and the new reverts to Islam of every time and place) into Islam’s domain and to alleviate difficulty from up on them.

There are different views of different Islamic scholars in the matter of Naskh but the most agreed on opinion is that there are four classes of Naskh:

  1. Quran abrogates Quran
  2. Quran abrogates Sunnah
  3. Sunnah abrogates Quran
  4. Sunnah abrogates Sunnah

This is based on the fundamental Islamic belief that Quran and Sunnah are both revelation from Allah and He is All-Knowing, Wise, On-all-Predominant and The-Expert of his worshiper’s nature, good, welfare and benefit.

Here, it must be noted that Quran is the word and ruling of Allah while Sunnah is the wording of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for the ruling of Allah.

Proof of Naskh in Qurans

Some argue that it is a later concept developed by scholars to justify contradictions in Islam and/or Quran, this is completely false. This verse shows the foundation for the principle of Naskh in Quran:

Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things? Know you not that it is Allah to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth? And besides Allah you have neither any Walee (protector or guardian) nor any helper.”  (2:106-107)

What is the importance of Naskh?

Knowledge of Naskh is of the utmost importance as it concerns the understanding of Islamic texts and the correct and exact application of legal rulings in Islam. In other words, knowledge of Naskh is vital because:

  • It is a pre-requisite for embarking on Tafsir (explanation of Quran).
  • It is a must for attempting to understand and implement Islamic law.
  • It shows steps of gradual prescribing of Islamic legal code.

Objectives for Naskh

Looking at what Islamic scholars consider as agreed upon abrogation, we can recognize some of the objectives of Naskh as follows:

  • To gradually prohibit something (as in intoxicants).
  • To gradually implement restrictions on an act that was previously more general or common (polygamy restricted to four wives).
  • To ordain a harsher punishment for a sinful act (prohibition of usury).
  • To ease people’s lives and let justice prevail (inheritance rulings of siblings, parents and relatives).
  • To give more details for a previous more general ruling (different waiting periods for a divorced woman according to her condition).

An example of Naskh

Islamic prohibition of utilizing intoxicants particularly alcoholic beverages came in a gradual form. On account of it being such a common practice in pre-Islamic communities, Allah The-Merciful gradually withdrew their attachment to it on three stages:

First: Muslims were forbidden to perform Prayers if intoxicated.

O you who believe! Approach not As-Salat (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter,” (4:43)

Then: Allah informs people about the harms of intoxicants compared to their limited benefits.

They ask you (O Muhammad) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: In them is a great sin and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.” (2:219)

Finally: In a clear and a decisive verse came the ruling of its prohibition.

O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al-Ansab (sacrificing on stone alters), and Al-Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaitan’s (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.” (5:90)

How do we know of Nasekh and Mansoukh?

The knowledge of Naskh does not come from personal opinion, guesswork or hearsay; it must be based on reliable authentic reports and must be taught by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and followed by his Companions. It is commonly accepted that there are three ways of Knowing about Nasekh and Mansoukh:

  1. Authentic report from the Prophet and/or his Companions.
  2. Ijma (consensus) of Muslims about it.
  3. Knowledge of the time sequence of revelation historically (which is preceded what).

To summarize

Naskh is an Islamic concept driven from Quran (2:106). Nevertheless there are a lot of different opinions about its extent in Islamic text, so, the subject must be treated with great caution and extensive study among Muslim scholars (not really for common people as they lack the background knowledge needed to for an opinion on the subject) as, all Quranic verses are subjected to the scrutinizing rules of Islamic authentication as well as Sunnah.

The Knowledge of agreed upon opinions of scholars in Naskh is crucial in understanding Quran translation and interpretation as well as Islamic legal ruling code. It is also important for practical applying Islamic legal rulings.

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