Quran: Abrogation & Lie of Lost Verses
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
One of the favorite topics of missionaries is Abrogation in Qurān. Giving a notion as if abrogated verses were lost they try to put the authenticity of Qurān to doubt. Let’s today explain as to what abrogation is and what are the facts about specific narrations they bring forward?
What is abrogation and the Quranic scheme about it?
Now let me explain abrogation is and what it’s not as I know Christians normally tend to be very amazed at God abrogating His own verses. But unfortunately their amazement is only when it comes to Qurān.
Abrogation as it is in Qurān does not mean that Allah changed his mind but rather it’s like a physician changing the medicine. When some rules are abrogated and replaced by some other rules then it means that Allah in His wisdom changed the rules. It is just like ‘…
A physician prescribes a medicine for the patient in view of his present conditions, but he knows when the patient has been using it for two days, his conditions will change and require a new medicine – with this realization, he prescribes a medicine suitable for that day, but two days later, when circumstances have changed, he prescribes a new one.
The physician can easily give the patient written instructions for the whole course of treatment, with all the changes in medicine duly indicated. But this would be putting too much burden on already feeble patient and there would also be danger of harm through a possible error or misunderstanding.’ (Ma’ariful Qurān vol.1 under 2:106)
Further about abrogation Allāh Almighty says in the Qurān;
مَا نَنْسَخْ مِنْ آَيَةٍ أَوْ نُنْسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?” (Qurān 2:106)
Sometimes it was plainly told that a verse previously revealed stands abrogated and sometimes before such any announcement people were made to forget it. An account of it is given in a Hadīth which says that a person tried to recite a sūrah but he couldn’t remember it except for ‘Bismillahi Ar-Rahmān Al-Rahīm’ so next morning he came to the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) to ask about it and similarly some other people also as the same happened to them as well. So the Holy Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said in response:
نسخت البارحة‘This was abrogated yesterday.’
(Mushkil Al-Athār 5/35 Hadīth 1711. the narration is authentic. See Footnote to Al-Ittiqān section 47 p.1463 pub. Saudi Ministry of Islamic publications)
This is a manifestation how Allāh causes people to forget the previous revelations He intends not to be retained and preserved.
Having said this let’s move to the particular cases often brought forward;
1) Issue of verse about stoning (Already answered HERE)
2) Issue of verse about breastfeeding (Already answered HERE)
3) Issue of verse about Son of Adam having valleys of gold
4) Issue of verse about companions of Bir-Mauna
Issue of verse about Son of Adam having valleys of gold
The narration in Sahīh Muslim goes as:
بَعَثَ أَبُو مُوسَى الْأَشْعَرِيُّ إِلَى قُرَّاءِ أَهْلِ الْبَصْرَةِ فَدَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ ثَلَاثُ مِائَةِ رَجُلٍ قَدْ قَرَءُوا الْقُرْآنَ فَقَالَ أَنْتُمْ خِيَارُ أَهْلِ الْبَصْرَةِ وَقُرَّاؤُهُمْ فَاتْلُوهُ وَلَا يَطُولَنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ الْأَمَدُ فَتَقْسُوَ قُلُوبُكُمْ كَمَا قَسَتْ قُلُوبُ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ وَإِنَّا كُنَّا نَقْرَأُ سُورَةً كُنَّا نُشَبِّهُهَا فِي الطُّولِ وَالشِّدَّةِ بِبَرَاءَةَ فَأُنْسِيتُهَا غَيْرَ أَنِّي قَدْ حَفِظْتُ مِنْهَا لَوْ كَانَ لِابْنِ آدَمَ وَادِيَانِ مِنْ مَالٍ لَابْتَغَى وَادِيًا ثَالِثًا وَلَا يَمْلَأُ جَوْفَ ابْنِ آدَمَ إِلَّا التُّرَابُ
Abu Musa al-Ash’ari sent for the reciters of Basra. They came to him and they were three hundred in number. They recited the Qur’an and he said: You are the best among the inhabitants of Basra, for you are the reciters among them. So continue to recite it. (But bear in mind) that your reciting for a long time may not harden your hearts as were hardened the hearts of those before you.
We used to recite a sūrah which resembled in length and severity to (Sūrah) Bar’āt. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it:” If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust.”
(Sahīh Muslim, Kitūbul Zakāt, Hadīth 1740)
Certainly we do not find a sūrah with this verse this verse in the Qurān now. So what happened of it? Infact it was abrogated and another sūrah was revealed instead;
عَنْ أَنَسُ بْنُ مَالِكٍ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَوْ أَنَّ لِابْنِ آدَمَ وَادِيًا مِنْ ذَهَبٍ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُ وَادِيَانِ وَلَنْ يَمْلَأَ فَاهُ إِلَّا التُّرَابُ وَيَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَنْ تَابَ وَقَالَ لَنَا أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ سَلَمَةَ عَنْ ثَابِتٍ عَنْ أَنَسٍ عَنْ أُبَيٍّ قَالَ كُنَّا نَرَى هَذَا مِنْ الْقُرْآنِ حَتَّى نَزَلَتْ أَلْهَاكُمْ التَّكَاثُرُ
Narrated Anas bin Mālik the Messenger of Allāh (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said; “If the son of Adam were given a valley full of gold, he would love to have a second one; and if he were given the second one, he would love to have a third, for nothing fills the belly of Adam’s son except dust. And Allah forgives he who repents to Him.”
Ubai said, “We considered this as a saying from the Qur’an till the Sura (beginning with) ‘The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you..’ (102.1) was revealed.”
(Sahīh Bukhari, Kitābul Riqāq, Hadīth 5959)
Now if you compare the known part of the abrogated sūrah, ‘If the son of Adam were given a valley full of gold, he would love to have a second one; and if he were given the second one, he would love to have a third, for nothing fills the belly of Adam’s son except dust’ with Quran chapter 102 ‘The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things), Until ye visit the graves’…Both these clearly relate to man’s insatiable crave for worldly riches. It thus complies with the general principle of abrogation; ‘but We substitute something better or similar.’
Issue of verse about companions of B’ir-Mauna
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ دَعَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ قَتَلُوا أَصْحَابَ بِئْرِ مَعُونَةَ ثَلَاثِينَ غَدَاةً عَلَى رِعْلٍ وَذَكْوَانَ وَعُصَيَّةَ عَصَتْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ قَالَ أَنَسٌ أُنْزِلَ فِي الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا بِبِئْرِ مَعُونَةَ قُرْآنٌ قَرَأْنَاهُ ثُمَّ نُسِخَ بَعْدُ بَلِّغُوا قَوْمَنَا أَنْ قَدْ لَقِينَا رَبَّنَا فَرَضِيَ عَنَّا وَرَضِينَا عَنْهُNarrated Anas bin Mālik:
For thirty days Allah’s Messenger (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) invoked Allah to curse those who had killed the companions of Bir-Mauna; he invoked evil upon the tribes of Ral, Dhakwan, and Usaiya who disobeyed Allah and His Apostle.
There was reveled about those who were killed at Bir-Mauna a Quranic Verse we used to recite, but it was cancelled later on. The Verse was: “Inform our people that we have met our Lord. He is pleased with us and He has made us pleased”
(Sahīh Bukhāri, Kitābul Jihād, Hadīth 2603)
Again as the tradition clearly says the verse was abrogated. Another narration clarifies that in its stead was revealed another verse.
أنس بن مالك أن الله أنزل فيهم يعني أهل بئر معونة قرآنا : « بلغوا قومنا عنا أنا قد لقينا ربنا فرضي عنا ورضينا عنه » ثم نسخت فرفعت بعد ما قرأناه زمانا ، وأنزل الله : ولا تحسبن الذين قتلوا في سبيل الله أمواتا بل أحياء عند ربهم يرزقون
Anas bin Mālik said it was revealed in Qurān about the companions of B’ir Mauna; ‘Convey to our people that we met Allah and He was pleased with us and made us pleased’ then it was abrogated and and Allāh revealed; ‘Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.’(Qurān 3:169)
(Mushkil l-Athār 5/43 Hadīth 1718. Similar narrations have been quoted by Ibn Jarīr Tabari [7/393 Hadīth 8224]and Ibn Kathīr [2/161] under sūrah 3 ayah 169. Albāni classified it as Hasan. See Ibn Kathīr 1/455 Urdu ed.)
Clearly the abrogated verse in question and the one revealed in its stead are similar in essence as they talk about Allāh’s blessings for those martyrs. It thus agrees with the Quranic scheme of abrogation.
A statement of Ibn ‘Umar and its true meaning:
In Suyuti’s Al-Ittiqan there is statement of Ibn ‘Umar which is often used by the polemicists and they present it in a manner to make it convey what it doesn’t.
عن ابن عمر قال: ليقولن أحدكم قد أخذت القرآن كله وما يدريه ما كله قد ذهب قرآن كثير، ولكن ليقل قد أخذت منه ما ظهر.
Ibn `Umar, who said: ‘None of you should say that he has taken the whole of the Qur’an; how could he know what all of it was (before some of it being abrogated)! Substantial part of the Qur’an has passed him by (due to abrogation)! Let him say instead: ‘I have taken of the Qur’an that which (remained and) became apparent (after abrogation).”(Al-Ittiqān section 47 p.1455)
What Ibn ‘Umar wanted to highlight was the same fact mentioned above that not whole of the what was at different times revealed now remains and some of it has been taken away by the way of abrogation and removal from memory. So one can only learn what has remained of it. Infact what was made to forget could never be remembered by anyone as it is clear from the incident quoted earlier.
Therefore the way these anti-Islamic polemicists quote this narration to assert that parts of Qurān have been lost is cunning and misleading. Find a detailed discussion on this narration HERE.
The discussion above proves abrogation doesn’t cause any doubt about the preservation and authenticity of the Holy Qurān. Only such parts have been taken away which were not required to be preserved and were dropped according to the Divine plan after verses similar or better were revealed instead. Nor does it mean that Allāh changed his mind. The example of physician prescribing for the patient above clarifies it well.
Let Me Turn The Tables
Proof of abrogation from the Bible
There are many commandments in the Bible that changed. Instead of discussing them I give concrete references for abrogation declared in the Bible.
‘For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.’ (Hebrews 7:12)
Well known Christian commentator Adam Clarke writes under this verse:
‘The priesthood, therefore, being changed, Jesus coming in the place of Aaron, the law of ordinances and ceremonies, which served only to point out the Messiah, must of necessity be changed also.’
Lost books of the Bible
Infact there were many books to which even the authors of the Canonical books also referred but they are lost or atleast not in the Bible.
Some of them are:
1- The Book of the Wars of the Lord mentioned in Numbers 21:14
2- Book of Jasher mentioned in Joshua 10: 13 etc
3- Book of Nathan the Prophet mentioned in 2-Chronicles 9: 29
4- Acts of Rehoboam & Book of Shemaiah the prophet mentioned in 2-Chronicles 12:15
5- Book of the acts of Solomon mentioned in 1-Kings 11:41
6- Acts of Uzziah mentioned in 2-Chronicles 26:22
This proves that the teachings of the prophets have been lost. Do Christians have any scriptural proof or historical evidence that nothing of value has been lost in these books and their teachings and records have been preserved in their so-called canon now?
All this exposes the liars who try to put the authenticity Book of Islam to doubt while their own book of authority is in the worst condition on the very accounts they try to challenge Quran.
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!
…by Waqar Akbar Cheema