Book Review: Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law by Dr. Louay Fatoohi

Supremely exalted is therefore Allah, the King, the Truth, and do not make haste with the Quran before its revelation is made complete to you and say: O my Lord! increase me in knowledge. (Holy Qur’an 20:114)

I haveImage one question to ask all of you reading this.

Why is this book not in your library?   If I had to put down a top 10 must read books on the Holy Qur’an, this easily is in that list!

As Muslims we have inherited a legacy of various sectarian and theological positions. As Muslims we are brought up to respect and revere the scholars of the past. Yet, what happens when we are troubled by a particular theological or sectarian position?

What happens when after sincere research we find ourselves questioning the legitimacy of certain sectarian, legal or theological positions held by our scholars? I went through a personal crisis in my life. A crisis in which I felt so called ‘traditional’ responses were either intellectually unsatisfying or completely inept. What is a person to do?

This book gives a robust and sound answer to a question that deeply troubled me; and I know troubles many Muslims. I’m thankful to Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate that there are narratives with in the Islamic tradition such as Dr. Louay Fatoohi presents here.

Many people, Muslim and Not-Yet- Muslim equate certain positions in jurisprudence, theology and so forth as equating Islam. Rather, what is happening is that there is a growing consciousness among Muslims that, in fact these are the views and conclusions of human beings.

Human beings who are susceptible to error and mistakes. Yet, the legacy has been that our scholastic tradition is often cloaked in an aura of unquestionable authority, without realizing that robust debate, and sharp differences of opinions of existed on a plethora of issues from the outset.

All of the great scholars have given the Muslims a great legacy, but it need not define our future.

Now with this preface aside, let me say that this was more than simply a book for me. It was more than an academic read. This book was a medicine for my heart, and a source of peace for my mind, of which I am immensely indebted to the author for.

This is not simply a book, it is a weapon! It takes a long held theological/legal position held by a majority of Muslim scholarship and systematically takes it apart, piecemeal.

The theory of abrogation is being used to cast doubt about Islam. It is being used in academic circles, and among right wing politicians with deadly force.

They ridicule (and rightly so) statements that ‘Islam is a religion of peace‘ and the Qur’an says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion(Holy Qur’an 2:256) That Muslims can only fight against those who fight us, “Fight in the name of Allah, those who fight you” (Holy Qur’an 2:190).

They than point out scholars like Ibn Hazm who say, well the infamous ‘verse of the sword’ has done away with all of that! In other words you can force your religion on others! You can also fight aggressive wars against others.

Not realizing that Ibn Hazm said this in the context of what is now Southern Spain. Ibn Hazm was making such statements in light of the fact that, 400-500km due north was a war zone.

He was trying to convince Muslim scholars of his position. He was not trying to convince Jewish or Christian scholars of his position. He could care less what they thought.

So people need to ponder. What would be the political intention behind saying verses on war abrogate verses on peace and coexistence? Think about it.

But the sad truth is that people like Dr. David Bukay in his article: “Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam” use material from Ibn Hazm to devastating effect. In fact, as more academics research this issue, they will indeed question our sincerity.

They will begin to wonder if we preach a peaceful Islam when we are the minority; but as our numbers grow, will we become more aggressive and demanding. They will cite the theory of abrogation as examples of this allowance!

Next, comes the very real and very damaging theological position that abrogation presents as regards the text of the Holy Qur’an. The position actually states (at least as it concerns Sunni Islam) that Muslims do not have the entire Qur’an in our possession, but only the Qur’an that Allah intended us to have!

Though the statement is true, ‘The Qur’an in our possession, is that which Allah intended us to have’ it is couched in deceit. The truth is the doctrine of abrogation has it that many passages of the Qur’an, were forgotten, canceled outright or even eaten by goats!

Through and through this book from beginning to end is a wake up call. It will no doubt shake up the Muslim academia from a deep slumber. This is needed for the benefit of the entire Muslim community! That is not an overstatement!

The concept of abrogation is tenuous and indefensible for a number of reasons.

If the following narration is indeed a statement of Ali,

“Ali said to Abdul Rahman “can you differentiate between abrogating and abrogated verses” Abdul Rahman said, “no.” Thereupon Ali said “You art damned and cause others to be damned.”

Than the whole of the Sunni scholarship is in a crisis. This is because none of them could agree upon which verses could actually abrogate what!

Dr. Louay Fatoohi shows the disparate reports from early scholars to the present that present a wide range of views in this regard.

The issue of stoning for adultery.

Dr. Louay Fatoohi does an excellent job of dissecting the various ahadith on the issue of stoning for adultery, and showing them to be patently absurd, when comparing them one to the other.

We have hadith in-which the 2nd Caliph of Islam (according to Sunni Islam) mentions that he should ‘write the verse of the stoning in the hadith’.

This report is flatly contradicted by another report attributed to Aisha (the wife of the Blessed Messenger) in which she claims the verse of the stoning and a verse on suckling were eaten by a domesticated animal!

The full impact of this book I feel is yet to be appreciated or felt in the larger Muslim community.

This book needs to reach as wide an audience as possible.

It has the following implications.

It challenges the dominant view that stoning is the punishment for adultery. This could end up saving lives. The Qur’an teaches us “If you save one life, its as if you saved the whole of humanity”.

It takes a powerful weapon out of the hands of our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as suspicious politicians and those intent of maligning Islam, by using the theory of abrogation.

It will make Muslims reflect on why there was so much dependence on secondary sources;such as the ahadith that promoted such views.

It will make the Muslims to reflect why such a doctrine is in reality a jumbled hodgepodge of views.

As I said at the title: Why is this book not in your library! I believe in time this book will prove a turning point in shaping the debates of the Muslim scholastic tradition to come.

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