I came across this Qudsi (holy) Hadeeth, narrated by Anas ibn Maalik (RA) and reported by An-Nasaa'i and Ibn Mardaweh, in which is told the story of mandating the prayer during the Night And Ascension Journey (Al-Israa' wal-Mi`raaj). It tells of how the mandate of the prayer started out being for 50 prayers. The Prophet (PBUH) took it and left. He was stopped by Moses (PBUH) who said to him that Muslims will not be able to fulfill such mandate and advised him to go back to God and ask Him for an easing. This went on a couple of times until the number of required prayers was reduced to five. Moses still thought that five would be too hard on Muslims. Other versions of this Hadeeth say that the Prophet (PBUH) felt awkward to go back one more time. This version of the Hadeeth, however, tells a different ending.
In this version of the Hadeeth, God says to the Prophet (PBUH) that He wouldn't
ثم ردت إلى خمس صلوات، ثم أتيت موسى، قال: فارجع إلى ربك فاسأله التخفيف، فإنه فرض على بني إسرائيل صلاتين، فما قاموا بهما! فرجعت إلى ربي، فسألته التخفيف، فقال: إني يوم خلقت السماوات والأرض فرضت عليك وعلى أمتك خمسين صلاة، فخمس بخمسين، فقم بها أنت وأمتك، فعرفت أنها من الله تعالى صرى
...Then it was reduced to five prayers. Then I went to Moses. He said, "Go back to your Lord and ask Him to ease. He mandated two prayers on the children of Israel and they did not fulfill them!" The Prophet (PBUH) continues, "So I went back to my Lord and asked Him to ease. He said, 'I, when I created the heavens and the earth, have mandated on your community fifty prayers. So, five will be like fifty. Establish them , you and your community.' I knew then that it was firmly fixed
This story is often quoted by pro-abrogation scholars as evidence that abrogation of God's commands has taken place. Yet, none of them have quoted this version of the Hadeeth, to the best of my knowledge. Why not? At first blush, it seems to support their argument.
This version of the Hadeeth makes it clear, IMHO, that the command was not issued until the very end. That is because it was only then that a command language was used, i.e., "So, establish them, your and your community." Prior to this, there was no equally explicit command.
This view of mine is supported by other versions of this Hadeeth in which God explains why He would not reduce any further. For example, the version reported by Al-Bukhaari and also narrated by Anas ibn Maalik (RA). In it, God says,
هي خمس وهي خمسون، لا يبدل القول لدي
"It is five and it is fifty. My word is not changeable
Indeed, His word is not changeable, even by Him! What may look to some like abrogation, isn't. It's the same command, but they did not get it at first.
This is not an easy thing to grasp. No wonder many people did not. But because God's command came to a sealed finality with the Quran, it is impossible to have any thing within it or after it that would change it.