Is there Abrogation in the Quran?

PICKTHAL: Nothing of our revelation (even a single verse) do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things? (Qur’an 2:106)

Depending on which translation of the Qur’an is being read, the most common rendering of verse 2:106, as can be seen above in the translation of Pickthal, is that the Qur’an is subject to “abrogation”, and, in some special cases, is even subject to verses being lost/forgotten altogether!

On the face of it, this seems like a very peculiar statement that God would make, especially when the Almighty has asserted time and time again in the very same Book that the Qur’an is “complete, detailed, does not run out of words, cannot be changed, etc.”

6:115 And the word of your Lord has been completed with truth and justice; there is no changing His words. He is the Hearer, the Knower.  

The result of such understanding of “abrogation” and verses being “forgotten” cannot be underestimated, as the sects have used such interpretation to serve their misunderstanding of various concepts/verses within the Quran to the extent of “changing” the laws of God that were never meant to be changed such as the example of “adultery” whereby the Quran states in 24:2 that the adulterer and adulteress are to be lashed 100 lashes each, however, using the laws of abrogation and forgetting, the sects have decided that “stoning” is a more suitable punishment if the adulterer is married, and have stated in their various writings that a Quranic verse on stoning was indeed revealed to the Prophet, but that such verse was destroyed and thus “forgotton” to be added to the verses of the Quran.

It seems todays sectarians have outmaneuvered their ancestors who did not realize they could simply override/disregard the Quranic verses that did not meet their desire and begged the Prophet to change the verses himself:

10:15 And when Our clear revelations were recited to them, those who do not wish to meet Us said: “Bring a Qur’an other than this, or change it!” Say: “It is not for me to change it of my own accord, I merely follow what is inspired to me. I fear, if I disobeyed my Lord, the retribution of a great Day!”

The truth of the matter is that the subject of “abrogation” is one of the simplest to clear-up, simply by looking with more depth at the verse involved:

2:106 We do not “nansakh”(abrogate?) an “ayah” (verse?), or “nunsiha” (make it forgotten), unless We bring one which is like it or even greater. Did you not know that God is capable of all things?

1. NASKH

The first word that we come across in the above mentioned verse is “naskh” which, when we examine other verses in the Quran that use the same word, the meaning seems to be anything but “abrogate”:

43:80 Or do they think that We do not hear their secrets and their private counsel? Yes indeed; and Our messengers are with them, recording “yansakhoon”.

45:29 “This is Our record; it utters the truth about you. We have been recording “nastansikh” everything you did.”

22:52 “And We did not send before you any messenger or prophet, without having the devil interfere with his wishes. God then duplicates “yansakh” what the devil has cast, and God secures His revelations.”

7:154 And when the anger subsided from Moses, he took the tablets; and in its recording “nuskhatiha” was a guidance and a mercy for those who reverence their Lord.

In the four verses above, the context of “naskh” can take on the meaning of “record” or “duplicate” – but never as “abrogate”.  Thus, in looking again at 2:106 the meaning changes drastically from that offered to us by Pickthal.

2:106 We do not “nansakh”(duplicate) an “ayah” (verse?), or “nunsiha” (make it forgotten), unless We bring one which is like it or even greater. Did you not know that God is capable of all things?

2. AYAH

The second key word is “ayah” which translators such as Pickthal have opted to translate as “revelation” in 2:106. While this meaning of “revelation” is indeed a correct one, it is not the only meaning given for “ayah” as we can see in the verses below:

17:101 And We had given Moses nine clear signs “ayat”. So ask the Children of Israel, when he came to them, then Pharaoh said: “I think that you Moses are bewitched!”

19:10 He said: “My Lord, make for me a sign “ayah”.” He said: “Your sign is that you will not speak to the people for three nights consecutively.”

25:37 And the people of Noah, when they denied the messengers We drowned them, and We made them a lesson “ayah” for the people. And We have prepared for the wicked a painful retribution.

38:29 A Book that We have sent down to you, that is blessed, so that they may reflect upon its revelations “ayat”, and so that those who possess intelligence will take heed.

Looking at all the possible meaning above, the one meaning that can be eliminated for 2:106 without much thought is the “verse/revelation” as 2:106 tells us that these “Ayas” could be "forgotten" – a notion that is not possible when it comes to the Quran as the Book was revealed and recorded in written form during the life of the Prophet. Also, the words "We replace it with its equal" would be meaningless if the word ‘Ayah’ in this verse meant a Quranic verse, simply because it would make no sense for God to invalidate one verse then replace it with one that is identical to it!

However, if the word ‘Ayah’ in verse 106 meant a miracle, an example or a sign, then all the words of the verse would make perfect sense as the words "cause to be forgotten" can apply to all three meanings and that is what actually happens with the passing of time. The miracles of Moses and Jesus have long been forgotten and we only know of them from the narrations of the Quran.

Similarly the words "We replace with its equal or with that which is greater" is in line with the miracles of God. God indeed replaces one miracle with its equal or with one that is greater than it. Consider the following verse :

"And We have sent Moses with Our Ayah’s (miracles or signs) to Pharaoh and his elders proclaiming : ‘I am a messenger from the Lord of the universe’. When he brought them our Ayah’s they laughed at him. Every Ayah We showed them was greater than the one that preceded it." 43:46-48

Therefore, in re-examining verse 2:106 with the proper context, the verse takes on a perfectly logical and harmonious meaning:

2:106 We do not duplicate a sign, or make it forgotten, unless We bring one which is like it or even greater. Did you not know that God is capable of all things?

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In addition to the subject of abrogation, we find there are several other statements that are being taught which have no basis and are contradicted by the Quran itself:

False Teaching: Mohammed was illiterate and had scribes write the Quran for him.

Quranic Truth: The Quran was penned by Mohammed himself

29:48 You were not reciting any Book before this, nor were you writing one down by your hand. In that case, the doubters would have had reason.

25:5 And they said: "Fictional tales of old! He wrote them down while they were being dictated to him morning and evening."

False Teaching: The Quran’s verses/suras were arranged in their current arrangement after the death of Mohammed based on a committee put together by Uthman Bin Afaan.

Quranic Truth: The Quran's compilation/arrangement was done during the life of the Prophet under direct instructions from God:

16:101 And if We exchange a revelation in place of another revelation; and God is more aware of what He is revealing; they say: “You are making this up!” Alas, most of them do not know.

16:102 Say: “The Holy Spirit has brought it down from your Lord with the truth, so that those who believe will be strengthened, and as a guidance and good news for those who have submitted.”

False Teaching: The earliest copies of the Quran have been lost.

Quranic Truth: The Original Quran Exists On a Tablet

85:21 No, it is a glorious Qur’an.

85:22 In a tablet, preserved.
 


Written for www.free-minds.org

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