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The False Theory of Qur’anic Abrogation

Azhar Goraya, Missionary Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

It is the opinion of many Muslims that the Ahkaam (rulings) in certain verses of the Qur’an have been abrogated, meaning that they have been cancelled. These verses are known as Mansookh.

They believe that rulings in certain verses have cancelled out those of other verses. These verses are known as Nasikh. These cancelled verses remain as part of the text of the Holy Qur’an but should no longer be followed.

They allege that this theory is supported by the Qur’an and opinions of the Sahaba.

Narrations about Nasakh

The theory of abrogation is the idea that there are certain verses of the Qur’an that have been abrogated or forgotten.

Certain verses of the Holy Qur’an and narrations of various companions are wrongly interpreted to support the theory.

Based on the different verses and narrations, the theory of abrogation postulates three types of abrogation that exist in relation to the internal structure of the Holy Qur’an:

Alleged Types of Nasakh in the Holy Qur’an

The first is where both the verse and its ruling is abrogated. That is to say the verse is no longer in the Qur’an and its ruling is also no longer valid and not meant to be acted on.

An example of this is found in a narration of Hazrat Aisha(ra), who allegedly stated that there was a verse in the Qur’an that has now been abrogated that stated that ten breastfeeding or five complete breastfeeding would make a marriage invalid:

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَارِثِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الصَّمَدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْوَارِثِ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبِي، حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ الْقَاسِمِ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَمْرَةَ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّهَا قَالَتْ كَانَ فِيمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ ثُمَّ سَقَطَ لاَ يُحَرِّمُ إِلاَّ عَشْرُ رَضَعَاتٍ أَوْ خَمْسٌ مَعْلُومَاتٌ (سنن ابن ماجہ، کتاب النکاح، باب لا تحرم مصة و لا مصتان، حدیث ۱۹۴۲)

It was narrated that ‘Aishah(ra) said:

“One of the things that Allah revealed in the Qur’an and then abrogated was that nothing makes marriage prohibited except ten breastfeeding or five well-known (breastfeeding).” (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, The Book of Marriage, Chapter: one or two breast-feedings are not illegitimate, Hadith #1942)

The second category is where the verse is abrogated and not found in the Holy Qur’an but its ruling is still valid and meant to be acted upon.

One example that is presented is of the alleged abrogated verse that orders the stoning of two old people that commit adultery:

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ، حَدَّثَنَا خَلَفُ بْنُ هِشَامٍ، حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ عَاصِمِ بْنِ بَهْدَلَةَ، عَنْ زِرٍّ، قَالَ: قَالَ لِي أُبَيُّ بْنُ كَعْبٍ: “كَأَيِّنْ تَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْأَحْزَابِ؟ أَوْ كَأَيِّنْ تَعُدُّهَا؟ ” قَالَ: قُلْتُ لَهُ: ثَلَاثًا وَسَبْعِينَ آيَةً، فَقَالَ: “قَطُّ، لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُهَا وَإِنَّهَا لَتُعَادِلُ سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ، وَلَقَدْ قَرَأْنَا فِيهَا: الشَّيْخُ وَالشَّيْخَةُ إِذَا زَنَيَا فَارْجُمُوهُمَا الْبَتَّةَ نَكَالًا مِنَ اللهِ وَاللهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ(مسند احمد بن حنبل، مسند الانصار، حدیث زر بن حبیش عن ابی بن کعب، حدیث ۲۱۲۰۷)

Ubay b. Ka’b(ra) said to me how do you read Suratul Ahzab? How many verses do you find in it? I replied: seventy-three verses. He said: Only? There was a time when it was equal in length to Sūratul Baqarah and we would read within it, “The old man and old woman when they commit adultery, stone them without any ambiguity as an exemplary punishment from Allah. And Allah is Powerful, Wise”. (Masnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Masnad of the Ansaar, Hadith of Zir bin Hubaish from Ubay bin Ka’ab, Hadith # 21 207).

The idea is that the verse no longer exists as part of the Qur’an, but the order to stone adulterers, whether old or not, is still in force.

There is another supposed verse that is commonly recorded as having been abrogated which states that nothing fills the belly of Adam except for dust:

قال أبو بكر بن أبي داود: وحدّثنا محمد بن عبد الملك الدقيقي، قال:أبنا عوان، قال: بنا حماد، قال: بنا علي بن زيد، عن أبي حرب بن أبي الأسود، عن أبيه، عن أبي موسى قال: نزلت سورة مثل براءة، ثم رفعت، فحفظ منها: «إن الله يؤيد الدين بأقوام لا خلاق لهم، ولو أن لابن آدم واديين من مال لتمنى واديا ثالثا، ولا يملأ جوف ابن آدم إلا التراب، ويتوب الله على من تاب» (نواسخ القرآن = ناسخ القرآن ومنسوخه، جمال الدین الجوزی، الباب السابع: باب اقسام المنسوخ، فالقسم الاول ما نسخ رسمه و حکمه)

Abu Musa(ra) stated: a Surah like Surah Bara’a was revealed but then it was taken back (abrogated), but what was remembered from it was: “Surely Allah will help the faith with groups for whom there will be no portion (in the afterlife). And if the son of Adam had two valley full of wealth, he would desire a third. And nothing will fill the belly of the son of Adam except dust, and Allah accepts the repentance of he who repents”. (Nawasikh-ul-Qur’an, Jamaal-ud-Deen Al-Jawzi, Chapter 7: Chapter on the types of Mansookh, the First Type: that whose text and ruling has been abrogated)

The third is where the verse is found in the Holy Qur’an, but its ruling is abrogated by another verse. That is to say that the verse still exists in the Holy Qur’an, but it’s meaning is cancelled out and made invalid by another verse, and therefore should not be acted upon.

One worrying example that is cited is that of the verse, “There is no compulsion in matters of faith”, which is supposedly cancelled by later verses encouraging Jihad:

وقد ذهب طائفة كثيرة من العلماء أن هذه محمولة على أهل الكتاب ومن دخل في دينهم قبل النسخ والتبديل إذا بذلوا الجزية . وقال آخرون : بل هي منسوخة بآية القتال وأنه يجب أن يدعى جميع الأمم إلى الدخول في الدين الحنيف دين الإسلام ، فإن أبى أحد منهم الدخول فيه ولم ينقد له أو يبذل الجزية ، قوتل حتى يقتل . وهذا معنى الإكراه قال الله تعالى : ( ستدعون إلى قوم أولي بأس شديد تقاتلونهم أو يسلمون ) [ الفتح : 16 ]وقال تعالى : ( يا أيها النبي جاهد الكفار والمنافقين واغلظ عليهم ) [ التحريم : 9 ] وقال تعالى : ( يا أيها الذين آمنوا قاتلوا الذين يلونكم من الكفار وليجدوا فيكم غلظة واعلموا أن الله مع المتقين ) [ التوبة : 123 ] وفي الصحيح : ” عجب ربك من قوم يقادون إلى الجنة في السلاسل ” يعني : الأسارى الذين يقدم بهم بلاد الإسلام في الوثائق والأغلال والقيود والأكبال ثم بعد ذلك يسلمون وتصلح أعمالهم وسرائرهم فيكونون من أهل الجنة .( تفسير القرآن العظيم (ابن كثير)، آیة ۲:۲۵۶)

A large group from amongst the scholars have related this verse to the Ahl-e-Kitab (Jews and Christians) and whosoever entered into their religion before the abrogation and changing (of this verse) while they would pay Jizya. And others have stated that it has been abrogated by the verses about fighting. And it is necessary to call all people to enter into the true religion of Islam. And if anyone from amongst them refuses to accept Islam and does not approach it with acceptance and refuses to pay the Jizya, he will be fought against until killed. And this is the meaning of “coercion”. Allah has stated: “Ye shall be summoned (to fight) against a people given to vehement war: then shall ye fight, or they shall submit.” (Al-Fath 16). And he has also stated, “O Prophet! Strive hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, – an evil refuge (indeed).” (Surah At-Tahreem 9). And Allah has stated, “O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.” (At-Taubah:123).

And in the Sahih it is mentioned: “Your Lord is surprised with the group of people that head towards paradise in chains”. Meaning, the prisoners that head towards the lands of Islam in chains, collars and cages and thereafter accept Islam, reform their actions and attitudes and become from the dwellers of paradise.” (Tafseer al-Qur’an al Azeem, Imam Razi, under 2:256)

This type of Nasakh is very widely accepted by different groups.

Theory of Nisyaan

Related to the theory of Nasakh is the idea that certain verses of the Holy Qur’an were completely forgotten.

An example is given where a companion was unable to remember a chapter of the Qur’an one night, and the next day the Holy Prophet(sa) declared that it had been removed from the hearts of the people:

أخبرنا إسماعيل بن أحمد، قال: أخبرنا عمر بن عبيد الله البقال، قال: أخبرنا أبو الحسين بن بشران، قال: أخبرنا إسحاق بن أحمد الكاذي، قال: حدّثنا عبد الله بن أحمد بن حنبل، قال: حدّثني أبي، قال: حدّثنا أبو اليمان، قال: أخبرنا شعيب، عن الزهري، قال: أخبرني أبو أمامة بن سهل بن حنيف أن رهطا من أصحاب النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم أخبروه؛ أنه قام رجل منهم من جوف الليل يريد أن يفتتح سورة كان قد وعاها، فلم يقدر منها على شيء إلا بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ فأتى باب النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم حين أصبح يسأل النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم عن ذلك، وجاء آخر وآخر حتى اجتمعوا، فسأل بعضهم بعضا ما جمعهم، فأخبر بعضهم بعضا بشأن تلك السورة، ثم أذن لهم النبي صلّى الله عليه وسلّم، فأخبروه خبرهم، وسألوه عن السورة. فسكت ساعة، لا يرجع إليهم شيئا، ثم قال: «نسخت البارحة، فنسخت من صدورهم ومن كل شيء كانت فيه».
(أخرجه أبو عبيد في «الناسخ والمنسوخ» (17) والطحاوي في «مشكل الآثار» (2/ 417) – ط.)

Abu Amama bin Sahal bin Haneef relates that a group of the companions of the Messenger of Allah(sa) told him that one of them got up one night and wanted to recite a chapter that he had memorized, but was not able to remember any part of it except Bismil-la Hirrahmaa Nirraheem. In the morning he came to the door of the Holy Prophet(sa) and asked him about it. Then another person came then another until they all gathered there. Some of them asked the others about why they were gathered there, and some of them informed the others about the Surah. Then the Holy Prophet(sa) called them, so they informed him of their matter and asked him about the Surah. He remained silent for a while and did not reply to their query. Then he said, “It was abrogated yesterday. It was abrogated from their hearts and every verse that was part of it.” (mentioned by Ubaid in An-Nasikh wal Mansookh, and by Tahawi in “Mushkil Aathaar”)

Another is attributed to Hazrat Ibn-e-Masud(ra), where he states that he wrote down a verse that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad(sa) in his book, but at night when he opened his book, he found that there was nothing written there. The next morning, he reported it to the Holy Prophet(sa), who stated that it had been “taken up” the previous day:

وقد روي عن ابن مسعود، رضي الله عنه، أنه قال: أنزلت على رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم آية فكتبتها في مصحفي فأصبحت ليلة فإذا الورقة بيضاء، فأخبرت رسول الله صلّى الله عليه وسلّم، فقال: «أما علمت أن تلك رفعت البارحة» (نواسخ القرآن = ناسخ القرآن ومنسوخه، جمال الدین الجوزی، الباب السابع: باب اقسام المنسوخ، فالقسم الاول ما نسخ رسمه و حکمه)

It has been narrated from Ibn-e-Masood(ra): He stated that a verse was revealed to the Messenger of Allah(sa) and I wrote it down in my book. I then got up in the night and saw that the sheet (upon which I had written the verse) was white. So I informed the Holy Prophet(sa). He said: “Do you not know that that verse was lifted (abrogated) yesterday?” (Nawasikh-ul-Qur’an, Jamaal-ud-Deen Al-Jawzi, Chapter 7: Chapter on the types of Mansookh, the First Type: that whose text and ruling has been abrogated)

There are other narrations from which it is sometimes understood that large numbers of verses were either abrogated or forgotten. It is alleged that there was a Surah revealed which was the length of Surah Al-Bara’a (Surah At-Taubah) and then it was “taken back”:

قال أبو بكر بن أبي داود: وحدّثنا محمد بن عبد الملك الدقيقي، قال: أبنا عوان، قال: بنا حماد، قال: بنا علي بن زيد، عن أبي حرب بن أبي الأسود، عن أبيه، عن أبي موسى قال: نزلت سورة مثل براءة، ثم رفعت، فحفظ منها: «إن الله يؤيد الدين بأقوام لا خلاق لهم، ولو أن لابن آدم واديين من مال لتمنى واديا ثالثا، ولا يملأ جوف ابن آدم إلا التراب، ويتوب الله على من تاب» (نواسخ القرآن = ناسخ القرآن ومنسوخه، جمال الدین الجوزی، الباب السابع: باب اقسام المنسوخ، فالقسم الاول ما نسخ رسمه و حکمه)

Abu Musa(ra) stated: a Surah like Surah Bara’a was revealed but then it was taken back (abrogated), but what was remembered from it was: “Surely Allah will help the faith with groups for whom there will be no portion (in the afterlife). And if the son of Adam had two valley full of wealth, he would desire a third. And nothing will fill the belly of the son of Adam except dust, and Allah accepts the repentance of he who repents”. (Nawasikh-ul-Qur’an, Jamaal-ud-Deen Al-Jawzi, Chapter 7: Chapter on the types of Mansookh, the First Type: that whose text and ruling has been abrogated)

Another narration mentions that Surah Al-Ahzab was once the length of Surah Al-Baqarah:

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ، حَدَّثَنَا خَلَفُ بْنُ هِشَامٍ، حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ عَاصِمِ بْنِ بَهْدَلَةَ، عَنْ زِرٍّ، قَالَ: قَالَ لِي أُبَيُّ بْنُ كَعْبٍ: “كَأَيِّنْ تَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْأَحْزَابِ؟ أَوْ كَأَيِّنْ تَعُدُّهَا؟ ” قَالَ: قُلْتُ لَهُ: ثَلَاثًا وَسَبْعِينَ آيَةً، فَقَالَ: “قَطُّ، لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُهَا وَإِنَّهَا لَتُعَادِلُ سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ، وَلَقَدْ قَرَأْنَا فِيهَا: الشَّيْخُ وَالشَّيْخَةُ إِذَا زَنَيَا فَارْجُمُوهُمَا الْبَتَّةَ نَكَالًا مِنَ اللهِ وَاللهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ(مسند احمد بن حنبل، مسند الانصار، حدیث زر بن حبیش عن ابی بن کعب، حدیث ۲۱۲۰۷)

Ubay b. Ka’b(ra) said to me how do you read Suratul Ahzab? How many verses do you find in it? I replied: seventy-three verses. He said: Only? There was a time when it was equal in length to Sūratul Baqarah snd we would read within it, “The old man and old woman when they commit adultery, stone them without any ambiguity as an exemplary punishment from Allah. And Allah is Powerful, Wise”. (Masnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Masnad of the Ansaar, Hadith of Zir bin Hubaish from Ubay bin Ka’ab, Hadith # 21 207).

The entire theory of Nasakh and Nisyaan is false. All three categories of Nasakh are incorrect, and it cannot be said that there was any verse of the Holy Qur’an that had been abrogated or forgotten. Nor that there is any verse in the Holy Qur’an that we have before us whose ruling has been abrogated by another verse.

Refutation of Nasakh within the Text of the Holy Qur’an

When certain Muslims refer to verses of the Holy Qur’an abrogating other verses, they refer to it as Nasakh (نسخ) of the verses. Nasakh is an Arabic word that literally means a change from one condition to another owing to changing circumstances:

إزالةُ شَيْءٍ بِشَيْءٍ يَتَعَقَّبُهُ، كنَسْخِ الشَّمْسِ الظِّلَّ، والظِّلِّ الشمسَ، والشَّيْبِ الشَّبَابَ. فَتَارَةً يُفْهَمُ منه الإزالة، وتَارَةً يُفْهَمُ منه الإثباتُ، وتَارَةً يُفْهَم منه الأَمْرَانِ. (المفردات في غريب القرآن)

To change something with something else that comes after it. Like the Nasakh of the sunlight with shade and the shade with light, and old age with youth. And sometimes what is understood from it is change, and sometimes what is understood is to maintain something, and sometimes both meanings are found in it. (Al-Mufradat Fi Ghareeb-il-Qur’an, Imam Raghib)

It also means to annul, supersede, change or to alter something:

{يَنْسَخُ}, (L, Ḳ,) inf. n. نَسْخٌ; and انتسخ; (L;) He, or it, annulled, superseded, obliterated, effaced, or cancelled (Lanes Lexicon)

In the terminology of the theory of abrogation, the term means to remove the validity of an order contained in a verse in the Holy Qur’an so that it is no longer correct to obey it in any context or situation:

إِنَّمَا النَّسْخُ الْإِزَالَةُ لِلْحُكْمِ حَتَّى لَا يَجُوزَ امْتِثَالُهُ (الاتقان فی علوم القرآن، النوع السابع والاربعون: فی ناسخه و منسوخه)

Nasakh refers to the removal of a commandment of the Holy Qur’an to the extent that it is no longer valid to obey it. (Al-Itqaan fi Uloom fi Uloom-il-Qur’an, Part 47: about what abrogates and what has been abrogated, Imam Jalal-ud-Deen As-Suyuti)

The Holy Qur’an is a perfect book:

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

[2:3] This is a perfect Book; there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous,

It is also complete in every respect:

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا 

[5:4] This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion

There is not a single verse that cancels out any other verse. Each verse is valid within its own context:

الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ

[11:2] Alif Lam Ra. This is a Book whose verses have been made unchangeable and then they have been expounded in detail. It is from One Wise, and All-Aware.

To say that certain verses cancel out others is to negate the perfect order of the Qur’an and the wisdom of Allah. It is to say that contradictions exist in the Qur’an if we do not resort to cancelling out the verses that we cannot make sense of. This is clearly against the declaration of the Qur’an that there is no contradiction between any of its verses:

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

[4:83] Will they not, then, meditate upon the Qur’an? Had it been from anyone other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much disagreement.

Allah has promised in that He will safeguard the text and meaning of the Holy Qur’an:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

[15:10] Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian.

How can a text be declared as being safeguarded if it is unknown which of its verses are abrogated by others? Even if a number be decided upon, such a belief invalidates the perfection of the text of the Holy Qur’an.

Rejection of Nasakh by the Prophet Muhammad(sa)

The Prophet Muhammad(sa) once advised his companions that the verses of the Holy Qur’an do not cancel each other out, rather they support they one another:

حدثنا أنس بن عياض حدثنا أبو حازم عن عمرو بن شعيب عن أبيه عن جده قال لقد جلست أنا وأخي مجلسا ما أحب أن لي به حمر النعم أقبلت أنا وأخي وإذا مشيخة من صحابة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم جلوس عند باب من أبوابه فكرهنا أن نفرق بينهم فجلسنا حجرة إذ ذكروا آية من القرآن فتماروا فيها حتى ارتفعت أصواتهم فخرج رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مغضبا قد احمر وجهه يرميهم بالتراب ويقول مهلا يا قوم بهذا أهلكت الأمم من قبلكم باختلافهم على أنبيائهم وضربهم الكتب بعضها ببعض إن القرآن لم ينزل يكذب بعضه بعضا بل يصدق بعضه بعضا فما عرفتم منه فاعملوا به وما جهلتم منه فردوه إلى عالمه

(مسند احمد بن حنبل، مسند المكثرين من الصحابة ، مسند عبد الله بن عمرو بن العاص رضي الله تعالى عنهما، حدیث 6663)

Umar Ibn-e-Shuaib narrated from his father who narrated from his grandfather, who said:

Me and my brother were sitting in a reunion that was more beloved to me than red camels.  As me and my brother arrived, we found a group of dignified companions of the Holy Prophet(sa) sitting by one of the doors of his home. We disliked separating them so we sat to the side. They mentioned a verse of the Holy Qur’an and argued about it until their voices became elevated. The Holy Prophet(sa) then came out in a state of such anger that his face was red. He threw dust upon them and said to them, “patience my people. This type of difference with their prophets destroyed the people before you and for judging as contradictory some of their books against others. Surely, the Holy Qur’an was not revealed so that certain parts of it reject others, in fact its various parts support each other. So follow that which you understand from it, and ask a knowledgeable person concerning that which you don’t understand. (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad of the treasures of the Sahaba, Musnad of Abdullah ibn-e-Umar bin Al-Aas, Hadith #6663)

The fact is that the Prophet Muhammad(sa) never mentioned any list or number of verses of the Qur’an that had been abrogated. If there were abrogated verses, he would have certainly pointed them out so that the Ummah not fall into misguidance.

Scholars Divided on the Number of Abrogated Verses

It is telling that about this form of Nasakh, where the verse remains as part of the Qur’an, but its ruling is seen as being cancelled by another verse, that there exists no universally accepted number of verses that are Mansookh (abrogated). Different scholars have given different numbers regarding the number of abrogated verses in the Qur’an.

In one of the earliest works on the subject, Muhammad bin Muslim Az-Zuhri (124 hijri) mentions 42 abrogated verses in his book “An-Nasikh Wal Mansukh wa Tanzeel-ul-Qur’an bimakkata wal madinata”.

Abu Jafar An-Nahaas An-Nahwi (338 hijri) reported 138 verses as being abrogated, with 30 just in Surah Al-Baqarah (chapter 2) in his work “An-Naasikh wal Mansookh.”

Imam Jalal-ud-Deen As-Suyuti (911 hijri) in his work Al-Itqaan fi Uloom-il-Qur’an stated that Ibn-e-Arabi has declared 124 verses of the Holy Qur’an as being abrogated by one verse of the Qur’an (the “sword verse” in 9:5):

وَقَالَ ابْنُ الْعَرَبِيِّ: كُلُّ مَا فِي الْقُرْآنِ مِنَ الصَّفْحِ عَنِ الْكُفَّارِ وَالتَّوَلِّي وَالْإِعْرَاضِ وَالْكَفِّ عَنْهُمْ فَهُوَ مَنْسُوخٌ بِآيَةِ السَّيْفِ وَهِيَ: {فَإِذَا انْسَلَخَ الأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ} الآية نَسَخَتْ مِائَةً وَأَرْبَعًا وَعِشْرِينَ آيَةً (الاتقان فی علوم القرآن، النوع السابع والاربعون: فی ناسخه و منسوخه)

And ibn-e-Arabi has stated: everything in the Holy Qur’an about forgiving, turning away from and avoiding kuffar has been abrogated with the sword verse: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans”. The verse has abrogated 124 verses.” (Al-Itqaan fi Uloom fi Uloom-il-Qur’an, Part 47: about what abrogates and what has been abrogated)

He later stated that many verses are claimed to be abrogated by scholars, but of these, there are between 19 and 21 verses that are abrogated:

فَهَذِهِ إِحْدَى وَعِشْرُونَ آيَةً مَنْسُوخَةً عَلَى خِلَافٍ فِي بَعْضِهَا لَا يَصِحُّ دَعْوَى النَّسْخِ فِي غَيْرِهَا وَالْأَصَحُّ فِي آيَةِ الِاسْتِئْذَانِ وَالْقِسْمَةِ الْإِحْكَامُ فَصَارَتْ تسعة عَشْرَ وَيُضَمُّ إِلَيْهَا قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: {فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ} عَلَى رَأْيِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ أَنَّهَا مَنْسُوخَةٌ بِقَوْلِهِ: {فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ}

الآية فَتَمَّتْ عِشْرُونَ.

(الاتقان فی علوم القرآن، النوع السابع والاربعون: فی ناسخه و منسوخه)

These twenty one verses, give or take a few, are the ones that have been abrogated; no acceptable claim for the remaining verses can be made. This number drops to 19 however if, as is correct, the verse requiring permission to enter and the verse of distribution of inheritance are considered binding. Add to this the view of Ibn `Abbas that the verse: And Wherever you turn there is the countenance of God.” is abrogated by: “So turn your face in the direction of Sacred Mosque” and the number goes up to twenty. (Al-Itqaan fi Uloom fi Uloom-il-Qur’an, Part 47: about what abrogates and what has been abrogated)

Hazrat Shah Waliullah Mudaddith Dehlvi (1176 hijri) in his Tafseer Al-Fauzul Kabeer stated that commentators have taken the number of abrogated verses in the Qur’an even up to five hundred or perhaps more:

“thus, the subject of abrogation is very vast, and there stands to reasoning, that there is scope for the difference of opinion about it. This is the reason why the commentators have taken the number of the abrogated verses to five hundred. But if you were to think well and deeply, you will find that such verses are rather countless” (Al-Fauz al-Kabir fi Usul Al-Tafsir, Eng. Trans. By G.N Jalbani, chapter 2: part 3 (Abrogation), pg. 30)

He stated that Imam Suyuti had reduced this number to twenty, but presenting his own analysis of these verses, he was able to resolve the apparent contradictions between fifteen of them, stating in the end that in his estimation there were only five verses in the Qur’an that were Mansookh:

“Imam Suyuti, in agreement with Ibn-e-Arabi, has agreed that the aforementioned twenty-one verses are abrogated, even though there are differences of opinion about whether all of them are actually abrogated or not. It is incorrect to claim that any other verse of the Holy Qur’an other than these are abrogated. In my estimation, only five verses of the Holy Qur’an are Mansookh.” (Al-Fauz al-Kabir fi Usul Al-Tafsir, Shah Walillah Muhaddath Dehlvi, Urdu translation by Prof. Muhammad Rafeeq Chauldhary. Chapter 7: The difficulties of understanding the Holy Qur’an and their Answer, section on Abrogation pg. 73)

The Promised Messiah Declares there is No Abrogation in the Qur’an

The Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), emphasized how the Holy Qur’an was a perfect book that could not be detracted from:

اور ہم پختہ یقین کے ساتھ اس بات پر ایمان رکھتے ہیں کہ قرآن شریف خاتم کتب سماوی ہے اور ایک شُعشہ یا نقطہ اس کی شرائع اور حدود اور احکام اور اوامر سے زیادہ نہیں ہو سکتااور نہ کم ہو سکتا ہے اور اب کوئی ایسی وحی یا ایسا الہام منجانب اللہ نہیں ہو سکتاجو احکا مؔ فرقانی کی ترمیم یا تنسیخ یا کسی ایک حکم کے تبدیل یا تغییر کر سکتا ہو (روحانی خزائن، جلد ۳ صفحہ ۱۷۰، ازالہ اوھام)

And we have complete confidence in the fact that Holy Qur’an is the last divine book, and that not an iota or dot can be added or detracted from its laws, limits, commandments and orders. Now there is no revelation or inspiration from Allah that can modify, change or abrogate any command of the Holy Qur’an. (Ruhani Khazain, vol. 3 pg. 170, Izala Auham).

He stated that the theory of abrogation would in fact invalidate the entire Qur’an:

حق یہی ہے کہ حقیقی نسخ اور حقیقی زیادت قرآن پر جائز نہیں کیونکہ اس سے اس کی تکذیب لازم آتی ہے (روحانی خزائن جلد ۴ صفحہ ۹۳، مباحثہ لدھیانہ)

The truth is that the (text of the) Holy Qur’an cannot be truly abrogated or added to because this would falsify it. (Ruhani Khazain, vol. 4 pg. 93, Mubahitha Ludhiana)

He declared that each order and teaching of the Holy Qur’an is valid and meant to be acted upon, and if someone believes that certain verses have been abrogated, he will never ponder over them nor have the conviction to follow all the teachings found therein:

آپ کے یہ الفاظ مجھے خوب یاد ہیں کہ جب کوئی انسان اس بات کا قائل ہو گا کہ قرآن کریم کے اندر ایسی آیات بھی موجود ہیں جو منسوخ ہیں تو اسے کیا ضرورت پڑی ہے کہ وہ قرآن کریم پر غور کرے اور سوچے اور اس کے احکام پر عمل کرنے کی کوشش کرے ۔ وہ تو کہے گا کہ جب اس میں ایسی آیات بھی ہیں جو منسوخ ہیں تو میں ان پر غور کر کے اپنا وقت کیوں ضائع کروں ۔ ممکن ہے میں جس آیت پر غور کروں مجھے بعد میں معلوم ہو کہ وہ منسوخ ہے۔ لیکن جو شخص یہ کہے گا کہ یہ کلام تمام کا تمام غیر منسوخ ہے اور اس کا ہر شوشہ تک قابل عمل ہے وہ اس کے سمجھنے کی بھی کوشش کرے گا اور اس طرح قرآن اس کی معرفت کی ترقی کا موجب بن جائے گا۔ (تفسیر کبیر، حضر مرزا بشیر الدین محمود احمد، زیر آیت ۲:۱۰۷، جلد دو، صحفہ ۹۷، دوسری کالم)

I fully remember the words of Hazrat Masih-e-Maud, where he said that when someone is convinced that there are certain verses in the Qur’an that are abrogated, then why would he ponder and meditate over it or endeavor to act according to its commandments? He would say why should I waste my time to ponder over such a book that has abrogated verses? It is possible that I ponder over a verse and later on find out that it has been abrogated. But the person who states that this entire text is valid and every iota of it is meant to be acted upon will try to understand it, and this way the Qur’an will become the means of progress for his spiritual understanding. (Tafseer-e-Kabeer, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Deen Mahmood Ahmad, under 2:107, vol. 2 pg. 97 second column)

After the Promised Messiah(as), Hazrat Hakeem Maulvi Noor-ud-Deen(ra) also remarked that there was no Nasakh within the Qur’an:

ہاں یہ بات کہ (قرآن مجید میں) نسخ ہے یا  نہیں؟  اس کے متعلق جہاں تک میرا فہم ہے میں یہی کہوں گا کہ آج تک کوئی ایسی آیت نظر نہیں آئی جو منسوخ اور موجود فی القرآن ہو۔ حضرت نبی کریم صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم یا ابو بکر و عمر رضی اللہ تعالی عنہم کی زبان سے بھی کوئی ایسا لفظ مروی نہیں جس سے ایسی آیات کا موجود فی القرآن ہونا پایا جاتا ہو۔  (حقائق الفرقان، زیر آیت ۲:۱۰۷، جلد ۲، صفحہ ۲۱۶)

There is the matter of whether there is Nasakh (abrogation) in the Holy Qur’an or not. About this, my understanding of it is such that I will say that up to now I have not seen any verse that is abrogated and yet remains within the Holy Qur’an. Neither the Holy Prophet(sa), nor Abu Bakar(ra) or Umar(ra) ever stated anything that supports the idea that such verses are part of the Holy Qur’an. (Haqaiqul Furqan, Hazrat Hakim Maulvi Noor-ud-Deen, under 2:109. Vol. 3, pg. 216)

Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Deen Mahmood Ahmad(ra) also stated the same:

میں جب تفسیریں دیکھتا ہوں  اور ان میں نسخ کی بحث پڑھتا ہوں تو مجھے تو ایک بھی آیت ایسی نظر نہیں آتی جو منسوخ ہو (تفسیر کبیر، حضرت مرزا بشیر الدین محمود احمد، زیر آیت ۲:۱۰۷، جلد دو، صحفہ ۹۸، پہلی کالم)

When I read the different discussions about Nasakh in various commentaries, I do not find even one verse that is abrogated. (Tafseer-e-Kabeer. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Deen Mahmood Ahmad, under 2:107, vol. 2 pg. 98 first column)

Qazi Muhammad Nazeer Sahib Lyalpuri, a scholar of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, showed conclusively how even these five verses are not abrogated, resolving the supposed contradictions between them and other verses of the Holy Qur’an.[1]

Thus, there is no true abrogation in the Qur’an. The verses that are claimed to have been abrogated have only been done so for lack of knowledge on how to reconcile different verses with each other.

Keeping this in mind, we can easily give a different interpretation to the verses of the Qur’an that have been alleged to support this type of Nasakh.

Explanation of the Verses of the Holy Qur’an that Supposedly Support the Theory of Abrogation

There are generally three verses of the Holy Qur’an presented as proof-texts by proponents of the theory of abrogation.

First Verse

مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا ۗ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

[2:107] Whatever Sign We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than that or the like thereof. Dost thou not know that Allah has the power to do all that He wills?

This verse speaks of the abrogation of certain signs, and also of certain signs being forgotten.

Firstly, this verse is not speaking about the Holy Qur’an. As the contexts shows, Allah is speaking about the previous scriptures (such as the Torah and the Injeel):

مَّا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَلَا الْمُشْرِكِينَ أَن يُنَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَخْتَصُّ بِرَحْمَتِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ

[2:106] They who disbelieve from among the People of the Book, or from among those who associate gods with Allah, desire not that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord; but Allah chooses for His mercy whomsoever He pleases; and Allah is of exceeding bounty. They who disbelieve from among the People of the Book, or from among those who associate gods with Allah, desire not that any good should be sent down to you from your Lord; but Allah chooses for His mercy whomsoever He pleases; and Allah is of exceeding bounty.

Thus, the meaning is that Allah sometimes abrogates certain verses of older scriptures and their teachings and brings something better in place of them. Or those eternal and pure teachings of previous scriptures that had been forgotten or practically abandoned by their followers, have been re-introduced by the Holy Qur’an.[2]

The word Aayat (sign or verse) doesn’t only refer to the verses of previous scriptures. The word has also been used to refer to all previous heavenly signs and revelations given to previous peoples and recorded in their scriptures:

سَلْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَمْ آتَيْنَاهُم مِّنْ آيَةٍ بَيِّنَةٍ ۗ وَمَن يُبَدِّلْ نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ

[2:212] Ask of the children of Israel how many clear Signs We gave them. But whoso changes the gift of Allah after it has come to him, surely, then, Allah is severe in punishing.

Therefore, it could also mean that the heavenly signs granted to Islam are such that are different and indeed superior to those granted to previous nations.

Aayat also means general natural phenomena in which Allah has placed lessons for us:

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ

[3:191] In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding;

The verse could thus mean that Allah brings us to greater understanding of natural phenomena as time progresses and their connection with spiritual phenomena. Or that the understanding of the connection between physical and spiritual laws that had been forgotten by previous peoples have been revived through the Islamic teachings.

Second Verse

وَإِذَا بَدَّلْنَا آيَةً مَّكَانَ آيَةٍ ۙ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُنَزِّلُ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُفْتَرٍ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

[16:102] And when We bring one Sign in place of another — and Allah knows best what He reveals — they say, ‘Thou art but a fabricator.’ Nay, but most of them know not.

This verse could also be related to the verses of the previous scriptures. The meaning of the verse would thus be that when We (Allah) substitute one teaching of a previously revealed scripture with a new teaching of the Holy Qur’an, those that believe in the previous scriptures accuse you (O Muhammad(sa)) of forgery.

Even if this verse is exclusively directed towards the Aayaat received by the Prophet Muhammad(sa), it still doesn’t prove that there is abrogation of verses within the Holy Qur’an.

Ayat also has the meanings of argument:

وقوله تعالى: إِنَّ فِي السَّماواتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَآياتٍ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ [الجاثية/ 3] ، فهي من الآيات المعقولة التي تتفاوت بها المعرفة بحسب تفاوت منازل الناس في العلم (المفردات في غريب القرآن)

“And the words of Allah: “Surely in that heavens and the earth there are Aayaat for the believers” (Al-Jaathiya/3) are from amongst the argumentative and logical arguments that people understand to different degrees owing to differences in levels of knowledge.” (Al-Mufradat Fi Gharib-il-Qur’an, Imam Raghib)

and miraculous sign:

والآيَةُ: الرِّسالَةُ، وتُسْتَعْملُ بمعْنَى الدَّليلِ والمُعْجِزَةِ. (تاج العروس)

Ayat: Prophethood, and it is used to denote argument and miracle (Taj-ul-Uroos)

With the meaning of “argument” in the context of the Aayaat received  by the Prophet Muhammad(sa), the meaning comes in line with another verse of the Holy Qur’an, that states that Allah explains the Qur’an in various ways but this only increases the aversion of the disbelievers to it:

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِيَذَّكَّرُوا وَمَا يَزِيدُهُمْ إِلَّا نُفُورًا

[17:42] We have explained the truth in this Qur’an in the various ways that they may be admonished, but it only increases them in aversion.

Thus, the meaning of the verse would be “When we bring one argument in place of another (to better explain the truth of Islam), they claim that you are a fabricator”.

The meaning of miracle can also apply to this verse in the sense of the lifting of certain punishments or problems from the disbelievers that they were afflicted with for having rejected Allah and His Messenger. This lifting of the punishment is for a short amount of time to facilitate their repentance. Allah mentions this phenomenon in other verses as well:

وَلَوْ يُعَجِّلُ اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ الشَّرَّ اسْتِعْجَالَهُم بِالْخَيْرِ لَقُضِيَ إِلَيْهِمْ أَجَلُهُمْ ۖ فَنَذَرُ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ [] وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنسَانَ الضُّرُّ دَعَانَا لِجَنبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّهُ مَرَّ كَأَن لَّمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَىٰ ضُرٍّ مَّسَّهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْمُسْرِفِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ []

[10:12] And if Allah were to hasten for men the ill they have earned as they would hasten on the acquisition of wealth, the end of their term of life would have been already brought upon them. But We leave those who look not for the meeting with Us to wander distractedly in their transgression.

[10:13] And when trouble befalls a man, he calls on Us, lying on his side, or sitting, or standing; but when We have removed his trouble from him, he goes his way as though he had never called on Us for the removal of the trouble that befell him. Thus it is that the doings of the extravagant are given a fair appearance in their eyes.

وَلَوْ رَحِمْنَاهُمْ وَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِم مِّن ضُرٍّ لَّلَجُّوا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ [] وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَاهُم بِالْعَذَابِ فَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَمَا يَتَضَرَّعُونَ [] حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَابًا ذَا عَذَابٍ شَدِيدٍ إِذَا هُمْ فِيهِ مُبْلِسُونَ []

[23:76] And if We had mercy on them and relieved them of their affliction, they would still persist in their transgression, wandering blindly.

[23:77] We did seize them with punishment, but they humbled not themselves to their Lord, nor would they supplicate in lowliness.

[23:78] Until, when We open on them a gate of severe chastisement, behold, they are in despair thereat.

Thus, the meaning of the verse would be when the disbelieves are told that the problems they were facing in their lives was because of rejecting the messenger of Allah and then some would see at times that their problems had disappeared or lessened despite having not accepted the Messenger, they called the Prophet Muhammad(sa) a forgerer.

It should also be noted that the verse does not have to apply to the revelation of the Holy Qur’an at all. The Prophet Muhammad(sa) received revelations and inspiration that were not part of the Holy Qur’an. The Qur’an mentions that his every word and action was inspired:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ [] إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ []

[53:4] Nor does he speak out of his own desire.

[53:5] It is nothing but pure revelation that has been revealed by God.

It even mentions a revelation regarding a household matter without mentioning its content-matter:

وَإِذْ أَسَرَّ النَّبِيُّ إِلَىٰ بَعْضِ أَزْوَاجِهِ حَدِيثًا فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَتْ بِهِ وَأَظْهَرَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ عَرَّفَ بَعْضَهُ وَأَعْرَضَ عَن بَعْضٍ ۖ فَلَمَّا نَبَّأَهَا بِهِ قَالَتْ مَنْ أَنبَأَكَ هَٰذَا ۖ قَالَ نَبَّأَنِيَ الْعَلِيمُ الْخَبِيرُ

[66:4] And when the Prophet confided a matter unto one of his wives and she then divulged it, and Allah informed him of it, he made known to her part thereof, and avoided mentioning part of it. And when he informed her of it, she said, ‘Who has informed thee of it?’ He said, ‘The All-Knowing, the All-Aware God has informed me.’

This inspiration and revelation would at times change according to the necessities of the time. For example, the Prophet Muhammad(sa) initially disallowed offering prayers in graveyards, but later it was allowed once he was certain that it wouldn’t become a means to idolatry:

حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ يُونُسَ، حَدَّثَنَا مُعَرِّفُ بْنُ وَاصِلٍ، عَنْ مُحَارِبِ بْنِ دِثَارٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ بُرَيْدَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ ثَلاَثٍ وَأَنَا آمُرُكُمْ بِهِنَّ نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ زِيَارَةِ الْقُبُورِ فَزُورُوهَا فَإِنَّ فِي زِيَارَتِهَا تَذْكِرَةً وَنَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنِ الأَشْرِبَةِ أَنْ تَشْرَبُوا إِلاَّ فِي ظُرُوفِ الأَدَمِ فَاشْرَبُوا فِي كُلِّ وِعَاءٍ غَيْرَ أَنْ لاَ تَشْرَبُوا مُسْكِرًا وَنَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ لُحُومِ الأَضَاحِي أَنْ تَأْكُلُوهَا بَعْدَ ثَلاَثٍ فَكُلُوا وَاسْتَمْتِعُوا بِهَا فِي أَسْفَارِكُمْ (سنن ابو داود، کتاب الاشربة، باب فِي الأَوْعِيَةِ، حدیث ۳۶۸۹)

Narrated Buraydah ibn al-Hasib(ra):

The Prophet(sa) said: I forbade you three things, and now I command (permit) you for them. I forbade you to visit graves, now you may visit them, for in visiting them there is admonition. I forbade you drinks except from skin vessels, but now you may drink from any kind of vessels, but do not drink an intoxicant. I forbade you to eat the meat of sacrificial animals after three days, but now you may eat and enjoy it during your journeys. (Sunan Abu Dawood, the Book of Drinks, Chapter: Regarding vessels, Hadith # 3689)

These changes would be seen as a forgery on the part of the disbelievers, whereas Allah states that all such changes were brought about by His will and according to His wisdom.

Third Verse

يَمْحُو اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِندَهُ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ

[13:40] Allah effaces what He wills and established what He wills, and with Him is the source of all commandments.

The same explanation for the previous verses can be given here as well.

The context of this verse[3] reveals that it is not speaking about the abrogation of the verses of the Holy Qur’an. Rather, it is a response to a demand on part of the disbelievers to see a sign of punishment, something that the Holy Qur’an mentions in other places as well:

وَيَسْتَعْجِلُونَكَ بِالْعَذَابِ ۚ وَلَوْلَا أَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى لَّجَاءَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ وَلَيَأْتِيَنَّهُم بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ

[29:54] They ask thee to hasten on the punishment; and had there not been an appointed term, the punishment would have come upon them. And it shall surely overtake them unexpectedly, while they perceive not.

Allah states that the Prophet Muhammad(sa) cannot bring such a sign of his own accord. Rather, Allah has decreed a term for every punishment. And such punishments are contingent upon the continued evil practices and rejection of the messenger. If the disbelievers repent, then Allah will terminate the decreed punishment:

وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنتَ فِيهِمْ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

[8:34] But Allah would not punish them while thou wast among them, and Allah would not punish them while they sought forgiveness.

Or, if they continue in their evil deeds, then the decree of punishment and final destruction will remain in effect.

Explanation of Certain Narrations of Companions that State that Verses of the Qur’an are Abrogated

There are several narrations from companions such as from Ibn-e-Umar(ra) that have referenced certain verses of the Holy Qur’an as having been abrogated:

حَدَّثَنَا عَيَّاشُ بْنُ الْوَلِيدِ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الأَعْلَى، حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ، عَنْ نَافِعٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ أَنَّهُ قَرَأَ ‏{‏فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مَسَاكِينَ‏}‏ قَالَ هِيَ مَنْسُوخَةٌ‏.‏ (صحیح بخاری، کتاب التفسیر، حدیث ۴۵۰۶)

Narrated Nafi`:

Ibn `Umar recited: “As an expiation, the feeding of the needy” and added, “This Verse is abrogated.”  (Sahih Al-Bukhari, The Book of Commentary, Hadit # 4506)

The companions never took the meaning of Nasakh in the sense of the scholars that came after them. Meaning, they never thought that any Hukum (order) contained in any verse of the Holy Qur’an was ever completely abrogated and invalidated by another verse.

They used the word Nasakh in its linguistic sense. Thus, their statements that certain verses of the Qur’an abrogated others were only in the sense of explaining that certain verses limited others in their scope or clarified the context in which a certain verse would be applied. In this sense, certain verses “abrogated” others, not in the sense of removing the validity of their orders, but in the sense of clarifying and limiting their scope in certain situations.

For example, Hazrat Ibn-e-Abbas(ra) stated:

حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الْمَرْوَزِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ الْحُسَيْنِ بْنِ وَاقِدٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ يَزِيدَ النَّحْوِيِّ، عَنْ عِكْرِمَةَ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، ‏] وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ [ الآيَةَ فَنُسِخَ وَاسْتُثْنِيَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ ‏]وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ اللاَّتِي لاَ يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحًا ‏[‏ الآيَةَ 

(سنن ابو داود، كتاب اللباس، باب فِي قَوْلِهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ‏]وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ ‏[، حدیث ۴۱۱۱)

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas(ra):

The verse: “And say to the believing women that they should lower gaze was abrogated, and an exception was made by the verse: “Such elderly women as are past the prospect of marriage.” (Sunan Abu Dawood, the Book of Clothing, Chapter: Regarding The Statement Of Allah: And Tell The Believing Women To Lower Their Gaze, Hadith # 4111)

It’s clear that in his mind, both verses were still valid in their own contexts, with the second verse only mentioning an exception to the previous Hukum.

Hazrat Shah Walilul-lah Mudaddith Dehlvi in his commentary Al-Fauzul Kabeer writes about these types of narrations:

“What is known from the investigation made into the speech of the Companions and the Followers (Tabi’een) is that they used the word abrogation in its grammatical or literal sense, namely the removal of one thing by another, and not in the sense taken by the technicians (later scholars).” (Al-Fauz al-Kabir fi Usul Al-Tafsir, Eng. Trans. By G.N Jalbani, chapter 2: part 3 (Abrogation), pgs. 29-30)

In conclusion, there is no abrogation within the text of the Holy Qur’an. Each verse and ruling are valid within their own context for all time.

Other Narrations about Nasakh and Nisyaan

The companions which mentioned certain verses as once being part of the Quran and then were removed, if accepted as true, is due to their own personal error. There is no consensus or widespread belief to be found amongst the thousands of companions in this regard who were well-acquainted with the revelation of the Qur’an and the order of its verses. It’s possible that what they thought were verses of the Qur’an were actually Ahadith or teachings of previous scriptures.

Likewise, those narrations where it is mentioned that certain verses were completely forgotten by all the companions are not reliable. If such a thing happened there would be a large number of independent narrations about it from hundreds of companions from whose memories these verses were suddenly stricken.

Conclusion

The Holy Qur’an is a perfect, complete book. Each verse is valid and will continue to be so until the end of time. There is no Nasakh of any Hukum in its text.

_________

References:

[1] Magazine Al-Furqan. Jan. 1958 – There is no verse of the Holy Qur’an that is Abrogated. https://www.alislam.org/alfurqan/1958-01.pdf. Accessed May 23 2019.

[2] See Tafseer-e-Kabeer, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Deen Mahmood Ahmad. Under 2:107.

[3]

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلًا مِّن قَبْلِكَ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَذُرِّيَّةً ۚ وَمَا كَانَ لِرَسُولٍ أَن يَأْتِيَ بِآيَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۗ لِكُلِّ أَجَلٍ كِتَابٌ

[13:39] And, indeed, We sent Messengers before thee, and We gave them wives and children. And it is not possible for a Messenger to bring a Sign save by the command of Allah. For every term there is a divine decree.

يَمْحُو اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيُثْبِتُ ۖ وَعِندَهُ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ

[13:40] Allah effaces what He wills and established what He wills, and with Him is the source of all commandments.

وَإِن مَّا نُرِيَنَّكَ بَعْضَ الَّذِي نَعِدُهُمْ أَوْ نَتَوَفَّيَنَّكَ فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْكَ الْبَلَاغُ وَعَلَيْنَا الْحِسَابُ

[13:41] And whether We make thee see the fulfilment of some of the things with which We threaten them or whether We make thee die, it makes little difference, for on thee lies only the delivery of the Message, and on Us the reckoning.