𝐄𝐱𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐐𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐧’𝐬 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐛𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
There is a Hadith reported from Sayyidah Aisha (RA) which gives a notion as if some verse about five suckling was revealed and was recited till the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) which is obviously not found in any of the Quranic manuscripts known in history. The tradition goes as:
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ أَنَّهَا قَالَتْ كَانَ فِيمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ الْقُرْآنِ عَشْرُ رَضَعَاتٍ مَعْلُومَاتٍ يُحَرِّمْنَ ثُمَّ نُسِخْنَ بِخَمْسٍ مَعْلُومَاتٍ فَتُوُفِّيَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَهُنَّ فِيمَا يُقْرَأُ مِنْ الْقُرْآنِ
—‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with, her) reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur’an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur’an (and recited by the Muslims). (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 2634) —
This gives the impression that the verses was lost after the Holy Prophet (PBUH), if so, this is against the established Islamic idea that nothing was abrogated from the Quran after the Prophet and it is to-the-letter same as left by him.
Solitary reports do not prove things about Quran:
Many scholars have very strongly rejected this tradition. No doubt its chain of narrators is otherwise fine but when it comes to Quran then there must be mutawatir traditions to prove something to be a part of it. This is not the case regarding the issue in hand. It has only been reported this way so from Sayyidah Aisha (RA) through a single narrator and therefore learned scholars continue to contend the apparent meaning of this tradition.
Imam Nawawi writes in his monumental commentary of Sahih Muslim under this Hadith that scholars reject this tradition saying:
‘Quran is not proved from a solitary report (khabr wahid).’ (Sharah Al-Nawawi 5/183)
The words that attract our attention the most in this tradition are:
‘Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur’an (and recited by the Muslims).’
Now looking at the various versions of this tradition from Sayyidah Aisha we find it is only through a narrator, Abdullah bin Abi Bakr, that these words are narrated i.e. he is unique in relating these particular words. The other versions that are narrated through Qasim bin Muhammad and Yahya bin Saeed do not contain these words and as a matter of fact both of them are more reliable and trustworthy then Abdullah bin Abi Bakr as stated by Imam Tahawi in Mushkil al-Athaar 10/171.
It is narrator’s own assumption, not a fact:
Infact scholars have said this is merely an assumption on the part of the narrator Abdullah bin Abi Bakr. Imam Tahawi says;
وهذا ممن لا نعلم أحدا رواه كما ذكرنا غير عبد الله بن أبي بكر وهو عندنا وهم منه
‘This is something we do not know from any other narrator except Abdullah bin Abi Bakr and to us it is merely an assumption on his part.‘ (Mushkil al-Athaar 5/73 under Hadith 1740)
Similarly Shaykh Ibn Arabi also calls it merely an assumption on the narrator’s part in his ‘Aardha al- Ahwazi 5/92.
Even five suckling’s command was abrogated:
Infact there are solid evidences that recitation and even the injunction about five breastfeeds was also abrogated in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
In Musannaf Abdul Razzaq it is related that Sayyidah Aisha (RA) said:
لقد كان في كتاب الله عزوجل عشر رضعات ، ثم رد ذلك إلى خمس ، ولكن من كتاب الله ما قبض مع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
‘Indeed ten breastfeeds were mentioned in the Quran (as making marriage unlawful through foster relation), then it was changed by five and there was nothing but it was abrogated in the presence of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).’ (Musannaf Abdul Razzaq, Hadith 13928)
Shaykh Taqi Usmani says: ‘This tradition of Sayyidah Aisha is points that recitation of the five breastfeeds verse was abrogated before the death of the Prophet (PBUH).’ (Takmala Fath al- Mulhim 1/46)
This is true because Sayyidah Aisha lived long after the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and was there when Sayyidina Abu Bakr (RA), her father, got the first official copy of the Quran prepared and even at the time of Sayyidina Usman (RA) made multiple copies of the same. And we know Sayyidah Aisha (RA) held a very high position among the companions in matters of knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah.
Also, we know that some of the well-known recitations (qir’aats) of the Holy Quran are traced back to Sayyidah Aisha (RA) and none of them contain any such words thus the opinion of the scholars that these particular words are only an assumption on part of the narrator is further supported by this.
Even a single suckle proves foster relation:
In fact there was a gradual change in the command regarding this issue. Firstly it was said that ten breastfeeds make marriage unlawful through foster relationships. Then it was abrogated by five and at last it was said that even a single suckle within infancy proves foster relationship.
عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ أَنَّهُ سُئِلَ عَنْ الرَّضَاعِ فَقُلْت : إنَّ النَّاسَ يَقُولُونَ لَا تُحَرِّمُ الرَّضْعَةُ وَلَا الرَّضْعَتَانِ قَالَ : قَدْ كَانَ ذَاكَ ، فَأَمَّا الْيَوْمَ فَالرَّضْعَةُ الْوَاحِدَةُ تُحَرِّمُ
Narrated Tawus from Ibn Abbas that he was asked about breastfeeding, so I said: People say that one or two sucklings do not make (marriage) unlawful (through foster relations). He said: ‘It was like that but now even one makes it unlawful.’ (Ahkaam al-Quran by Jassas 4/224)
Also it is related in Musannaf Abdul Razzaq:
Tawus (d. 106 A.H. and was a pupil of many companions including Sayyidah Aisha) said that:
كان لازواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم رضعات معلومات ، قال : ثم ترك ذلك بعد ، فكان قليله وكثيره يحرم
‘Wives of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) held that a specific number of breastfeeds prove the foster relation.’ He further said: ‘Then this (opinion) was later left thus now little or more suckling makes marriage unlawful.’ (Musannaf Abdul Razzaq, Hadith 13914)
Why changes in the command?
The wisdom behind this gradual change in the commandment was that in Arabia back then fostering other’s children was a normal practice and as it had implications on possible future marriages so the command was gradually made strict not to cause much consternation in society.
All this clarifies that the tradition if critically examined, does not cast any doubt whatsoever on the Quran and its authenticity. In fact, the recitation and the command regarding five breastfeeding were abrogated. One must either follow our rules of considering different narrations or muster up the courage to challenge their rationale.
(As the real intention was not to discuss the issue of jurisprudence that how many breastfeeds prove the foster relation, the details, and further arguments can be seen in Takmala Fath al-Mulhim vol.1, commentary on Sahih Muslim by Shaykh Taqi Usmani)
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!
…by Waqar Akbar Cheema