What is the wisdom of abrogating a command before it can be acted on?: Imam al-Shinqitee

In a session of tafsir delivered at his home which was recorded by his son and subsequently transribed, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee discussed the following question:

هل يجوز النسخ قبل التمكن من الفعل أو لا يجوز ؟ والجماهير من العلماء على أنه جائز وواقع ، ومن أمثلته نسخ خمس وأربعين صلاة ليلية الإسراء بعد أن فرضت خسمسين ، ونُسخ منها خمس وأربعين بينما أُقرت خمساً ، ومن أمثلته قوله جل وعلا في قصة ذبح إبراهيم لولده : <  وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ > [الصفات 108] ؛ لأنه أمره أن يذبح ولده ، ونسخ هذا الأمر قبل التمكن من الفعل ، والتحقيق أن هذا جائز وواقع ، ولا شك أن فيه سؤالاً معروفاً وهو أن يقول طالب العلم : إذا كان الحكم يشرع ويُنسخ قبل العمل فما الحكمة في تشريعه الأول إذا كان ينسخ قبل العمل به ؟  ـ

Is the abrogation of a command before it is able to be carried out possible or impossible? The majority of the scholars hold the position that it is possible and that it actually happens, and one of the examples of this is the abrogation of forty-five prayers on the night of the Night Journey after fifty had been made obligatory and forty-five of them were abrogated, leaving only five remaining. And another example of this is Allah’s statement regarding the story of Ibrahim’s sacrificing his son:

وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ

And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice [37:107]

For Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, but He abrogated this command before Ibrahim was able to enact it. So the conclusion is that this is both possible and it occurs. And undoubtedly there is a well-known question regarding this, which is that the student of knowledge asks, “If a ruling is legislated and then abrogated before being acted upon, then what is the reasoning in its being legislated in the first place if it is abrogated prior to being carried out?”

فالجواب : أن التحقيق أن حكمة التشريع منقسمة قسمة ثنائية فهي دائرة بين الامتثال والابتلاء ، فإذا نسخ الحكم بعد العمل به فحكمته الامتثال ، وقد امتثل ، وإذا نسخ قبل العمل به فحكمة تشريعه الأول الابتلاء ، وهو اختبار الخلق هل يتهيؤون للامتثال وقد وقع الابتلاء ، وقد نص الله عز وجل في قصة إبراهيم على أن الحكمة في أمره بذبح ولده – مع أن الله يعلم أنه لا يمكّنه من ذلك – هي الابتلاء هل يتهيأ ويطيع ربه فيذبح ثمرة قلبه كما قال جل وعلا : < فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ > ؛ أي : تله للجبين لينفذ فيه الذبح حتى قال له ربه : <  وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَن يَا إِبْرَ‌اهِيمُ * قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّ‌ؤْيَا > [الصفات 104-105] ، وقال : <  وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ > ، ثم إنّ الله نصّ على أنّ الحكمة الابتلاء بقوله : <  إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ > [الصفات 106] . ـ

So the response is this: the reality is that the reasoning for divine legislation is divided into two categories and it alternates between 1) compliance and 2) trial. So if a ruling is abrogated after it has been enacted, then the reasoning for that ruling was compliance, and it has been obeyed. But if it was abrogated before it was enacted, then the reasoning behind legislating it in the first place was for the purpose of a trial, which is a test for the created beings: are they prepared to comply with the command or not? And so a trial has occurred.

And in the story of Ibrahim, Allah specified that the reasoning for His commanding Ibrahim to sacrifice his son was for the purpose of a test – would he be prepared and obey his Lord or not? This was in spite of the fact that Allah knew that he would not be capable of carrying that out. So he was in the process of sacrificing his dearly-beloved son, as Allah said:

فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ

And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead [37:103]

– meaning: Ibrahim put his son down on his forehead in order to thereby carry out the sacrifice – until his Lord said to him:

وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَن يَا إِبْرَ‌اهِيمُ * قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّ‌ؤْيَا

We called to him, “O Ibrahim, * You have fulfilled the vision.” [37:104-105]

And He said:

وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ

And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice [37:107]

Then Allah specified that the reasoning behind this command was for the purpose of a trial, according to His statement:

إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَهُوَ الْبَلَاءُ الْمُبِينُ

Indeed, this was the clear trial [37:106]

[Majaalis Ma’a Fadheelah al-Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Jankee al-Shinqitee pg. 224-225]

See also: A Primer on Abrogation: al-Zarkashi

See also: Two Qur’anic proofs that Ismaa’eel is the sacrificed son: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Ibn al-Qayyim on the Wisdom and Benefits of the Creation of the Shayaateen

See also: “Except the people of Yunus”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Words for those in the midst of long-suffering: Ibn al-Jawzi

For another excerpt from the same book, see also: The Three Categories of Tawheed according to the Qur’an: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Does the term “al-Mushrikoon” include the Ahl al-Kitaab? – Imam al-Shinqitee