In his book, أحكام النسخ في الشريعة الإسلامية, Dr. Muhammad Wafa starts off nicely, on pages 6-26, by presenting the different definitions of abrogation that have been offered by the preceding scholars.
Before he does, he shows what the word means linguistically. He quotes the dictionary لسان العرب which gives two meanings for the word,
- الإزالة (Removal), as in نسخت الشمس الظل (the sun removed the shade) and نسخت الريح آثار الأقدام (Wind removed foot tracks).
- النقل (Transference), as in نسخت الكتاب (I copied the book) and نسخت النحل العسل (Bees transported the honey [from one cell to another]).
That establishes that the word is a heteronym, doesn't it? But only a few scholars, e.g., Al-Baaqellaani, Al-Ghazaali and Al-Aamidi understood it that way. The rest thought one semantic was literal and the other was figurative. They even commenced on a Greek-style sophisticate debate about it! Wafa comments that those argument are fruitless.
They complicated a simple issue. the word is a heteronym, so it means both semantics literally and figuratively. The only way to know which semantic is meant in a given sentence is to examine its context.
Then Wafa moved on to its conventional definition, without saying why a conventional definition should differ from the linguistic one! Shouldn't a scholar answer that question first?
Wafa expounds on all the definitions offered by scholars, six definitions in all. It is worth noting that for every definition, there have been scholars who disagreed with it and who gave their reasons for disagreement. And advocates for a given definition argued back and gave their reasons. Both sides used Greek-style paradoxes to make their conclusions.
Even the definition of abrogation is not in consensus!
Wafa chooses the definition offered by Al-Aamidi, a renowned scholar of foundations of deduction (أصول الفقه), which is:
النسخ هو خطاب الشارع المانع من استمرار ما ثبت من حكم خطاب شرعي سابق
Abrogation is an announcement from the law giver which stops the continuation of what had settled of a ruling from a previous legal announcement.
Neither Al-Aamidi, nor Wafa nor any other scholar, has offered a basis for any of the definitions they suggested. They all seem to try to find a definition that matches their belief about abrogation. The fact remains that the word naskh
, which gets translated to abrogation, is a linguistic heteronym which should not be reduced to one of its meanings without proof.
But if they accept that then they cannot convincingly promote the doctrine.
Wafa does a good job on differentiating abrogation from specification and exception, on pages 29-32.