Naskh as a Term
While the word naskh was used to also mean Takhsees by the Sahabah, naskh as abrogation only was first defined by Imam Al-Shaf’iee and that is the definition being used here[2, p. 234].
Span and Scope
Allah Tala created Adam (peace and blessings be on him) with knowledge. Every human being is not only bound by the First Pledge but also born in Fitrah. It is therefore a simple deduction that the universal principles of belief, also known as ‘Aqeeda, are not time and space bound and they remain the same from the first man Adam (peace and blessings be on him) to the last person. These principles include belief in Oneness of God, Prophethood and Afterlife. These principles were held at the start of time when mankind was just one family, then grew into villages and towns, and dispersed into various geographical locations, climates, customs, languages and races. The ’Aqeeda remained the same with passage of time and with evolution of mankind into countries and continents, regardless of human progress in various disciplines and sciences. The unchangeable universal principles also include certain social norms like marriage only between a man and a woman, truth as virtue, lying as a sin, homosexuality as a sin, to cite a few examples. However, there are areas of laws which required a change due to the growth and conversion from one family into towns and countries with diverse climates, customs, cultures, languages and races. One such example of evolution is that of abrogation of marriage between siblings within the only family that existed, then later having two or more sisters as wives as in the time of Prophet Jacob (peace and blessings be on him), and then the need to abrogate even that for the betterment of the family itself.
The Quran - the Abrogator
Allah, the Most Exalted finally sent Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) as the last messenger for all of mankind at a time when mankind was ready to take the set of laws and its principles in their final, perfect form and yet suitable for all nations till the end of life on earth. It was done by no one but Allah Tala Who is the All-Knowing and the All-Wise. The Most Merciful also did this in the most compassionate way. A token of such compassion from Allah Tala is that He did not keep the entirety of previous scriptures in their original complete forms to make it easy for mankind to accept what needed to be abrogated from them. The Holy Quran is the greatest blessing for mankind revealed to the best and the greatest man, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him). The Quran acts as an abrogating tool for all prior divine laws which are not in conformity with its laws, (Qadhi, Abu Ammar Yasir. (1999), p. 246).
All earlier prophets were sent to their own small towns, communities or nations and were given need-based laws to address actual problems that they were facing at their time. If the community was not facing a certain problem, there was no need to give out the law. After all, law is not for the sake of law. It is for the betterment of faith, life, lineage, intellect and property. Also, the task of a Messenger was to reform a society and not to destroy it. So, it is beneficial to start the reformation of individuals and societies with the acceptance and implementation of the most critical laws and then moving forward towards the least even within the lifespan of a single prophet. For example, there was no need to speak about homosexuality as a sin prior to the nation of Lot. Prophet Adam was not commanded for the prohibition of marriage between siblings as that would have ended mankind right then with only one family! The law of prohibition of marriage with two sisters was introduced in Torah, given to Moses, while permitted earlier in Prophet Jacob’s time. These examples are just to illustrate the evolution and refinement process of the Shar’iah with mankind’s change from small communities into countries and continents but they are not necessarily examples of abrogation.
Abrogation - a component of Reformation
Islam seeks for a total change of an individual and society from within and out. Belief has no value if it is just a lip service. It calls for soundness of hearts from its followers to succeed in this life and the perpetual life of joy to come. It seeks reformation, not condemnation. That is why, at the outset of the mission of his prophethood, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him), as an example, forbad visits to graves to ensure the fundamental axiom of Oneness of God had become rooted into the hearts of the early converts and that an essential mass of the community had taken shape to inspire, follow, obey and exemplify to keep that axiom firm in the hearts and minds of Muslims to come. When it had become clear to the adherents that it is shirk to revere and seek help from the dead, it was abrogated. Naskh in itself is just a component and not the whole in the beautiful reformation process given to us by The Most Merciful through its manifestation in the final Messenger (peace and blessings be on him). To illustrate the compound nature of reformation beyond abrogation, consider the aspect of step-wise refinement and implementation as exemplified in the method of prohibition of alcohol. The principle of step-wise refinement still exists today within the bounds of Islamic Law. For example, if a woman accepts Islam, but her husband remains a non-Muslim, the change methodology encourages the new sister to not take a sudden turn to cause a greater harm to her social, emotional, economic and family aspects of life.
Jewish Falsity & Their Dilemma
Marriage with two sisters was permitted in the time of Prophet Jacob (peace and blessings be on him) but was then forbidden in The Torah, (Bible, Leviticus 18:18) (Chabad.org).
Rabbinical Judaism responds to their dilemma of this change and their rejection of Naskh by saying that Prophet Jacob (peace and blessings be on him) had the Torah with him which he did not reveal to the people and he knew the commandment, but still violated it. They, therefore, claim that while the laws of G-D did not change, it is the prophets who sinned. What a horrible allegation against the Prophets of God.
They, therefore, use the same false logic to find another way to reject the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him), even though they know from The Torah, that he is their promised Prophet (peace and blessings be on him).
Those who refute naskh imply that its acceptance demonstrates a weakness in God and shows that He does not know what is good for people by changing laws. It, therefore, according to them, reflects indecisiveness of Allah Tala (Suyuti, p. 1]. Such arguments against naskh are fallacious. As we have shown above that naskh is a small but important component of the beautiful step-wise reformation methodology of Islam from the dawn of mankind. There is a beauty in every aspect of the Islamic Shariah. But only the ones with insight (basirah) can see and appreciate it.
Qadhi, Abu Ammar Yasir. (1999). An Introduction to The Sciences of The Quran.
Al-Hidayah Publishing and Distribution. Birmingham, UK.
Suyuti, Jalaluddin. Translated into English by Fareed, Muneer.
Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran. PDF download from