Abrogation (Naskh) in the Quran and the wisdom behind abrogation

Abrogation (Naskh) in the Quran

This issue is very important. For, the enemies of the Quran try to deceive the Muslims who are not aware of naskh (abrogation) and want to steal their belief.  

For instance, they say,

“In verse 240 of the chapter of al-Baqara of the Quran which you believe in, the women whose husbands died are ordered to wait for one year before marrying again but they are ordered to wait for 4 months and 10 days in verse 234 of the same chapter. Which one is true? It is impossible to apply both orders at the same time; then, these verses are contradictory.”

They present some nonsense like the one above as if they are true and try to deceive the poor Muslims who are not aware of the Quranic sciences and who have never heard the word abrogation, let alone knowing what it is.

Both the person who tries to deceive Muslims and the Muslim who does not know about the issue are responsible. For, he is obliged to know his book and the issues in it. Maybe his heart has to struggle with these kinds of doubts since he has not fulfilled his responsibility and has not been interested in his holy book. 

If he knew that the period of iddah for the women whose husbands died was one year in the first years of Islam, that this decree was replaced by the decree that determined it as 4 months and 10 days and that the decree which is valid today is 4 months and 10 days, his heart would not be harmed by doubts.

We will deal with the issue in detail and by giving examples. Thus, we will prevent one of the tricks of missionaries and munafiqs:

Naskh lexically means to replace something by something else. In religious terminology, it means the replacement of a religious decree and order related to worshipping or a transaction by another decree and order afterwards. This deed is called naskh (abrogation), the new decree is called nasikh (abrogator) and the verse whose validity has been annulled is called mansukh (abrogated), which is no longer valid.   

Naskh is not in question in basic beliefs, news and stories. It is in question in orders and prohibitions. For, if the decree of a verse in which some news, a story and basic beliefs are mentioned had been abrogated, the claim that there are contradictions in verses would be meaningful and it would mean to tell lies; it is impossible for Allah to tell lies. 

Imam Qurtubi states the following regarding the issue:

“All scholars must know naskh with its evidences. Only brainless and ignorant people reject naskh. To deduce a decree from the verses of decree in the Quran and to know halals and harams can only be possible by knowing naskh. Those who do not know it are deprived of the knowledge that naskh exists in the Quran as all Islamic scholars agree on it.”

It is stated in verse 106 of the chapter of al-Baqara that naskh exists in the Quran as follows:

“None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar...”

The following is stated in verse 101 of the chapter of an-Nahl:

“When We substitute one revelation for another and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages) they say "Thou art but a forger": but most of them understand not.”

Wisdoms Behind Naskh (Abrogation)

What are the wisdoms behind naskh (abrogation)?

There are many wisdoms behind abrogation. When we learn them, we will learn that the existence of abrogation in the Quran is not a defect; maybe, non-existence of abrogation would be a defect.

We are going to overcome the tricks of those who try to show abrogation as a defect in the Quran.

Let us analyze the wisdoms behind abrogation it items:

Wisdoms behind Naskh (Abrogation)

1-) It is known that Islamic decrees aim to meet the needs of humanity. These needs can change as place and time change. For instance, when a decree is necessary, Allah orders a decree to meet that need. Then, when that need is no longer valid, He annuls that decree and sends a better decree for His slaves. It is easier and more appropriate for His slaves.

It is like an expert doctor changing the drugs he gives to his patient based on the course of the illness. Yes, all prophets were sent as doctors of heart and educators of people. The shari'ah of every prophet was sent down by Allah gradually is based on the needs of the people. Sometimes a drug given to a patient for treatment at a certain time can be harmful for him at some other time; similarly, a decree that is useful for people for a certain time can be harmful to them later. It is a necessity of Allah's wisdom and mercy to remove such a decree.

2-) Allah educated the Arab nation gradually in 23 years, which is quite a short period of time.
This education would not be possible even in a few centuries for some other nations that did not accept the Quran as their guide. One of the secrets of the success of this education is as follows: Allah sent them decrees based on their abilities and strength. Allah annulled the previous decree and introduced a new one.  

If Allah had given them hard orders before their belief became perfect, they would not have been able to fulfill them and they would probably have been deprived of belief.  

Let us think about this: If alcohol had been prohibited abruptly in a community where people drank all the time, how many people would have obeyed this prohibition?

Would those who did not obey this prohibition not have exited Islam?

Therefore, alcohol was prohibited in four stages. That is, alcohol was prohibited when people reached the level of perfection in which they poured the alcoholic drinks into the streets when it was prohibited; streets looked like streams of alcoholic drinks when drinking alcohol was prohibited. 

This is the way chosen by Allah for the education of nations and individuals. Then, why can people not understand the replacement of a decree by another one by Allah while man changes and becomes perfect and the universe changes?

Thus, naskh does not take place because Allah, who sent the Quran, does not know that the last decree He sent was perfect. Allah made Muslims perfect through stages. If the hard orders had been sent down at once, Muslims would not have been able to obey them. 

The fact that daily prayers were ordered to be performed one and a half years before the Migration is an evidence for it. Can people say, "Why did Allah not order prayers at once and why did He wait so much?" Definitely not! For, it is a necessity of the wisdom of Allah, who has pre-eternal knowledge, to order it later.

3-) Let us think of a tobacco addict. He has become like nicotine storage. You say to him,

“Give up smoking, which is harmful to your body because smoking means gradual suicide. It is like stabbing yourself slowly not suddenly.” Even if you made a doctor tell him, this, it would be difficult for him to give up smoking at once.

Even a doctor himself cannot give smoking, which is a small habit, though he knows how harmful it is. Think of an alcoholic person. To tell him, "give up drinking" would be like telling him, "change your nature". 

It is not possible to remove bad habits that have penetrated into people's blood all of a sudden.

They can be removed through gradual education, which is what the Quran did through abrogation. To do the contrary, would be like sending a person who is under atmospheric pressure up to a height of twenty thousand feet all of a sudden, which would cause him to die.

Why do the words of the verses that were abrogated still exist in the Quran?

Thank God, I have believed that abrogation is right and it is a necessity of divine wisdom for abrogation to exist in the Quran. However, I still have a question in my mind. If you answer it, I will definitely believe that the Quran is Allah's pre-eternal word. My question is this: 

Why are the abrogated verses still kept in the Quran though the decrees of the verses were annulled? Would it not have been better if those verses were removed when their decrees were annulled?

We can answer this question in two ways:

1-) The Quran can be read both to learn and apply the decrees it includes and with the intention of worshipping to gain rewards. Though their decrees were annulled, the verses themselves were kept in the Quran because they are read with the intention of worshipping to gain rewards.

2-) The verses of abrogation were sometimes sent to mitigate a heavy decree that was present in a previous verse like decreasing the period of iddah for a woman whose husband died to 4 months and 10 days.

The reason why this verse was not removed is to remind people the heaviness of the previous decree and the bounty of mitigation by Allah for His slaves.

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