Objections to ‘Abrogations in the Qur’an’ by Mufti Muhammed Taqi Usmani

“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah” (Qur’an 2:2)

I recently have made an entry titled: “Is abrogation in the Qur’an a false doctrine?”

You may find that here:https://primaquran.com/2020/07/22/why-abrogation-in-the-quran-is-a-false-doctrine/

After looking at the concept of abrogation it was concluded that this is unsound doctrine. I personally have concluded that the doctrine of abrogation was not something I would wish to place my faith in.

However, I take seriously the comments and suggestions by you, the respected readers.  One of the comments directed me to the following link:

http://www.ilmgate.org/abrogation-in-the-quran/

Now please do forgive me if I sound arrogant in saying what follows, but I hope it is understood that I cannot possibly respond to every particular claim of abrogation that the so-called ‘traditionalist’ would want to put forward.

This is why I have requested and will continue to request for an ‘agreed-upon list’ of those verses that are claimed to be examples of abrogation.

However, as Muhammed Taqi Usman is the grand mufti of Pakistan (with a population of 177 million) and a man with quite an impressive resume, please see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Taqi_Usmani

I thought I would take a look at his article and then make some comments.

After reading through his entry several times I did not feel that the entry of the respected Mufti showed cogent arguments.

Peppering one’s arguments and imposing suppositions is the mark of someone desperate to prove a case rather than provide meaningful dialogue.

For example, Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usman says:

Whoever studies this verse with an UNBIASED MIND shall deduce that abrogation had continued according to clear injunctions of the Quran itself.”

I feel statements like this are meant to shut down conversation than to promote fruitful discussion and dialogue.

The fact that he chooses the word ‘unbiased’ was disappointing. The reason being is that none of us is without bias!

Note*  the term unbiased means:

having no bias or prejudice; fair or impartial”

Now I want you to think about the sincerity of employing such a term coming from someone who is upholding generations of scholarship that have championed the concept of abrogation.

Do we really think the respected Mufti himself is free from bias here?

I have noted two interesting points that I think that you, the truth seeker, the reader should ponder.

1) The lack of citation in classical works.

2) No definite number of abrogated verses given.

In fact, in “traditional” Islam I was under the impression that a person needed to have sound knowledge before they spoke on the matter.

So one wonders, why doesn’t Mufti Taqi Usman give us a definite number of agreed-upon verses that have been ‘abrogated’?

We would be well within our right to ask the following:

How many indeed are “abrogated”?
Where is such a list?
Is there a now agreed upon consensus?

Also, the article stated that

The fact of the matter, however, is that this viewpoint is weak and to adopt it one would have to draw FAR-FETCHED meanings in order to explain some verses, meanings that do not conform to the principles of exegesis (tafsir).”

This is another conversation killer.

Because now any and all attempts by myself to show his examples are not cases of ‘abrogation’ would be seen as “far-fetched”.

It would seem that a scholar of his caliber may have offered, ‘How else would we understand it’.  This would give the other side (to which I belong to) a fair chance.

So If your looking for a conversation killer, look no further than statements like that.

In fact, once we hop back on ‘the merry go round of abrogation’ we will find that examples he may think are cases of abrogation others would disagree with.

In fact, he himself states,

Then, amongst the latest of the scholars, Shah Wali Allah made a detailed analysis of all those nineteen verses and accepted only five of them to be abrogated ones. As for the rest of them, he preferred the commentaries and explanations according to which the verses would not be considered abrogated. The arguments given by Shah Wali Allah about many of these verses are the most appropriate and acceptable, YET SOME OF THEM MAY BE DISPUTED.”

Maybe Shah Wali Allah would counter Mufti Taqi Usman and say, ‘my opponent’s arguments are ‘FAR-FETCHED’!

Allah knows best and Allah’s help is sought.

We could surmise that classical scholars who had the backing of powerful military states would wonder if people like our respected Mufti Taqi Usman were simply ‘watering down Islam’ by not admitting that the ‘verse of the sword’ in Surah 9 has come along and abolished Qur’an 2:256 among others.

In fact, they may accuse this particular scholar of being ‘a modernist wearing the garb of traditionalism!

Allah knows best.

I also found it interesting that Mufti Muhammed Taqi Usman says,

Once it becomes clear to them that it is in fact not a fault but conforms to the will of Allah, they will adopt the same meanings to SUCH VERSES as are OBVIOUS and COMMONLY ADOPTED.”

As I said, I would be most interested to see such a list of ‘such verses’ that are ‘obvious’ and ‘commonly adopted’ wouldn’t you?

Also, he states:

It is sometimes argued that it appears against Divine Expediency that a verse of the Quran should remain only as a sacred relic for recital and not be practiced upon.”

Notice the argument against a non-entity. Who is the author talking about? Where are the quotations?

To me, it does not seem like an argument that someone of the caliber of the esteemed Mufti would invent a possible fictitious adversary and argue against it.

Also note this is not my argument at all. I have stated:

#2) The ruling is voided but the text remains. Why? Well, if I may be blunt simply for decoration. It is there so you can get blessings for reciting it. But this obviously makes little sense when you look at Example #3. Where the ruling remains but the text is omitted. What would be the point of that?  Reference:  https://primaquran.com/2020/07/22/why-abrogation-in-the-quran-is-a-false-doctrine/

So all I have stated is that when one looks at the various ‘modes of abrogation’ which is not even agreed upon, one will see that there are inconsistencies, that when applied to the other ‘modes’ simply don’t add up.

This was not answered at all. Instead, a theological supposition was introduced; which is the following statement:

Moreover, can anyone claim that he knows the wisdom behind all actions of ALLAH or that he understands the expediency behind every Quranic verse and its revelation? If such a claim is not true, and it certainly is not true, HOW CAN ONE DENY AN ORDER OF ALLAH simply because one does not know the expediency behind it while its enforcement has been justified based upon religious principles?”

Since when did tafsir, fiqh, and doctrine become a ‘denial of an order from Allah’?

It would be mighty arrogant of me to claim a position, and then say that those who are against my positions are in effect against an order from Allah (swt)! 

Wouldn’t you need to first prove that these doctrines are from Allah (swt) before we claim people are going against them?

Now let me turn my attention to two examples that Mufti Muhammed Taqi Usman brought up as strong cases for abrogation.

Please keep in mind the educational background and training of Mufti Muhammed Taqi Usman which far exceeds my own!

I think that Muhammed Usman would not ‘bring a knife to a gunfight’.  This is an English idiom that means ‘would not come lightly prepared.’

In other words, I think that Muhammed Taqi Usman would do his best to respect scholarship and bring two points that he thinks should stick. He would bring his strongest arguments. So let us look at his best examples.

Example 1)  The Night Prayer

“Oh, you wrapped up! Keep vigil in the night, but not all night, half of it or a little less.” (Qur’an 73:1-3)

This is supposed to have been abrogated by:

“Your Lord does know that you stand forth (to prayer) nigh two-thirds of the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, and so does a party of those with you. But Allah does appoint night and day in due measure He knows that you are unable to keep count thereof. So He has turned to you (in mercy): read whatever you can of the Qur’an as much as may be easy for you. He knows that there may be (some) among you in ill-health; others traveling through the land, seeking of Allah’s bounty; yet others fighting in Allah’s Cause, read, therefore, as much of the Qur’an as may be easy (for you); and establish regular Prayer and give regular Charity; and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan. And whatever good you send forth for your souls you shall find it in Allah’s Presence,- yea, better and greater, in Reward and seek the Grace of Allah: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur’an 73:20)

The ‘traditionalist’ believe that in the first verses quoted, ‘prayer and reading the Qur’an was made obligatory upon the Blessed Messenger (saw).

Then this was ‘abrogated’ by the second verse quoted.

Yet, nothing of the kind takes place.  The verse in (Qur’an 73:20) actually confirms and not supersedes the earlier command. It is still telling the Blessed Messenger (saw) as well as the believers to do what they can.

The fact that Allah (swt) mentions forgiveness shows that the command is still valid.

*note:  In verse 73:20 Allah (swt) mentions “those who would be sick, journeying, fighting in the way of Allah.”

1) Why would he mention those upon whom a ‘night vigil’ would be particularly difficult if the objective was to abolish the command in total?

2) If the reason to abolish is for these three categories than why would abolish it for all?

3) Furthermore, those three categories are not constant states, so why abolish it at all?

The verses in 73:1-3 and 73:20 can be understood in light of the following:

“Establish regular prayers – at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony. And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for you: soon will your Lord raise you to a Station of Praise and Glory! (Qur’an 17:78-79)

In verse 79 we have the Arabic word ‘nafilatan’ or supererogatory act of worship.

All that 73:20 does is introduce a dispensation or a ‘rukhsa’ as it is called in Arabic. This dispensation is for those traveling, sick, on a security watch or combat etc..

In verse 73:20 Allah (swt) consoles the Blessed Messenger (saw) and/or the believers for not being vigilant in doing at least some worship in the night hence the expression ‘he has turned to you in forgiveness‘.  So Allah (swt) is simply saying to them, ‘So recite what is easy from it’.

In fact, our Lord is soo full of mercy, love, and respite He (swt) says it twice in the same verse: “So recite what is easy from it.”

 

Example 2) Fighting Fewer Enemies

“O Prophet, urge the believers to battle. If there are among you twenty [who are] steadfast, they will overcome two hundred. And if there are among you one hundred [who are] steadfast, they will overcome a thousand of those who have disbelieved because they are a people who do not understand. Now has Allah lightened your burden, for He knows that there is a weakness in you. So if there be of you a steadfast hundred they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a thousand (steadfast) they shall overcome two thousand by permission of Allah. Allah is with the steadfast. (Qur’an 8:65-66)

So what Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usman says is that verse 66 is supposed to have ‘abrogated’ verse 65.

Ibn Hazm is among the scholars who say that verse 66 does not abrogate verse 65. Source: ( Ibn Hazm, Al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam, IV, pp, 89-92)

Khudari who agrees with Ghazali also does not agree that this is a case of abrogation. He suggests that verse 8:66 introduces a rukhsa (concession).

Source: (Al-Ghazali, Nazarat fi al-Qur’an, p. 210: Kaifa Nata ‘amal ma’a al-Qur’an. pg 83.)

What we notice is that when you read the verses carefully Allah (swt) is not giving an imperative but rather providing information.

We notice that when looking at various translations we can see that in context the statement in verse 66 is dependent upon the situation; and the state of the believer’s faith.

http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/8/66/

Addressing another misconception is the idea that these verses somehow give the Muslim army an excuse to escape. There is no verse on fighting that focuses on when escape becomes legal!

In fact with in the same chapter of the Qur’an we find the following:

“Oh, you who believe! When you confront those who disbelieve marching to battle, do not turn your backs to them.” (Qur’an 8:15)

“Oh, you who believe! When you confront a group (of your enemies) stand firm and remember Allah much that you may prosper.” (Qur’an 8:45)

Both of these verses order the Muslims to always stand their ground when fighting the enemy.

However, if we are to believe that verse 8:66 ‘abrogated’ verse 8:65 than it would mean that the verse itself would have to ‘abrogate’ 8:15 and 8:45. No one has said that 8:66 has abrogated those two verses!

“And when Saul set out with the army, he said: Lo! Allah will try you by (the ordeal of) a river. Whosoever, therefore, drinks thereof he is not of me, and whosoever taste it not he is of me, save him who takes (thereof) in the hollow of his hand. But they drank thereof, all save a few of them. And after he had crossed (the river), he and those who believed with him, they said: We have no power this day against Goliath and his hosts. But those who knew that they would meet Allah exclaimed: How often a small group overcame a mighty host by Allah’s Leave? Allah is with the steadfast.” (Qur’an 2:249)

With due respect to the Mufti of Pakistan, I do not think any of the explanations provided are ‘FAR-FETCHED meanings in order to explain some verses’. 

Reliance is upon Allah (swt).

More ‘far fetched’ is to continue to uphold ‘the doctrine of abrogation’ in light of the obvious inconsistencies, disparate narratives, and total lack of consensus among the scholars on this issue.

In fact, one can say my objection is not to the respected Mufti at all. One can say this objection is leveled against the centuries of scholars who have upheld this very tenuous doctrine.

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the straight path. May Allah (swt) guide us to a course that is straight and just.

 

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Objections to ‘Abrogations in the Qur’an’ by Mufti Muhammed Taqi Usmani

  1. Ammar

    Thanks for article Jason.

    I have same opinions about the two quoted “examples” of abrogation.
    One question though, where did u get the translation of 73:20 from. It seems different to the one quran.com

  2. I basically have always had this niggling doubt at the base of my skull about “abrogation” (but I’m not a trained scholar so who cares, right?). Every example I’ve always seen in support of the doctrine is less an instance of something being obliterated and then replaced (literally what the word means) than a case of a concept or injunction remaining but with modification or specification (takhsīs, if I recall the technical terminology correctly).

    To your knowledge, do classical Mu`tazilīs like Imām Abū Bakr al-Jassās subscribe to this, in my humble and unqualified opinion, untenable doctrine?

    • “To your knowledge, do classical Mu`tazilīs like Imām Abū Bakr al-Jassās subscribe to this?”
      A resounding No! No he does not.

      I guess the doctrine of abrogation wouldn’t be so problematic if it was minor rulings being negated by other minor rulings, but we are getting into issues of stoning people for adultery based upon oral traditions that supposedly abrogate decisive text in the Qur’an.

      The same goes for the ‘no compulsion in religion’ being abrogated so now you can compel people!

      With there truly being no consensus on the issue, and everyone not coming to an agreed upon number of what abrogates what it should be a matter of time for more ‘mainstream’ scholars distance themselves from the doctrine.
      Allah (swt) knows best.

    • Rider

      Abrogation in the Qur’an was never a controversial topic. There have always been differences in opinion about specific examples but the outcome was never significant.

      But today abrogation has become an important topic to talk about for secularists. They have created the narrative that the Qur’an says certain things and that traditional Muslims believe that these things are abrogated by ahadith. Most important example is death penalty for apostasy. They claim that 2:256 contradicts this ruling and that it is established by hadith only. Indeed they are wrong.

      • “Most important example is death penalty for apostasy. They claim that 2:256 contradicts this ruling and that it is established by hadith only. Indeed they are wrong.”

        The idea that it is established by the Holy Qur’an is most certainly wrong as well. We have went over this already I believe, and anyone is willing to comment on THAT ARTICLE about Apostasy and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, most welcome.

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