Definition of abrogation
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Author:  Linguistic [ 16 Oct 2017, 04:19 ]
Post subject:  Re: Definition of abrogation

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,
  1. الإزالة (Removal), as in نسخت الشمس الظل (the sun removed the shade) and نسخت الريح آثار الأقدام (Wind removed foot tracks).
  2. 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.

Author:  Linguistic [ 21 Oct 2017, 04:19 ]
Post subject:  Re: Definition of abrogation

In his linguistic discussion, Professor Ali Hasaballah, in his book أصول التشريع الإسلامي, pages 210-215, explains how a general statement may be later confined to some of its individuals. He mentions several items among which are,

  1. Dependent clauses, which he says are five types,

    1. Connected exception, as in

      It excludes people coerced into apostasy from the generality of disbelievers.
    2. A partial apposition, as in

      It excludes those who cannot afford the pilgrimage journey from the generality of people obligated to perform the religious pilgrimage.
    3. Adjectives, as in

      It excludes non-believing women from the generality of women eligible for a Muslim to marry.
    4. Condition, as in

      It excludes prohibited foods from the generality of foods believers can eat.
    5. Terminus, as in
    It excludes people to whom God has not yet sent a Messenger from the generality of God's punishment of disbelievers.

  2. Connected, independent clauses, as in

    It excludes the sick and the travelers from the generality of people required to fast in Ramadan.

  3. Separate, independent clauses, as in

    Which states a generality of wills to parents and relatives. Then inheritance verses (4:11-12, etc.) were revealed and the Prophet (PBUH) said,

    إن الله أعطى كل ذي حق حقه، فلا وصية لوارث

    "God has given every eligible [heir] their due, so no will to an heir."
    Which excluded parents and relatives from a will if they already inherit by inheritance law.

    That one is particularly relevant to the subject of abrogation as it excludes the claim of abrogation of 2:180 by the Sunna.

The above discussion is largely agreed on by the scholars of foundations. The reason I mention all that is because it excludes many things from what abrogation may cover. Yet, many abrogation claims have been made by not noticing the above patterns.

Author:  Linguistic [ 22 Oct 2017, 20:05 ]
Post subject:  Re: Definition of abrogation

Most pro-abrogation scholars have defined "conditions" that qualify a ruling to be an abrogation of a prior ruling, as opposed to being an elaboration of it. One such condition they all seemed to agree on is that the new ruling came after a sufficient period of time from the former ruling that allows people to comply with it and the new ruling came before the need for it arose.

I don't know about you, but that sounds a lot to me like a change of mind!

Anyway, Hasaballah, in his book أصول التشريع الإسلامي, page 74, gives a couple of good examples of new legislation that came right after the need for it arose,

  • The prophet (PBUH) sent out scouts to report to him about what Quraysh may be planning for attacking Muslims. That mission ended in a battle that took place during a sanctified month. Muslim fighters decided, without prior permission from the Prophet (PBUH) that it was okay. They won the battle and had booty and prisoners of war. When they returned to Medina, the Prophet could not decide what to do with the booty or the POWs. The fighters began to regret their action and fellow Muslims blamed them. Then this verse was revealed,

  • Sa`d ibn Ar-Rabee` died and left a wife and two daughters. His brother, the girls uncle grabbed the entire estate! The mother came to the prophet (PBUH) complaining. The Prophet told her that God will decide on that matter. Then verse 4:11 was revealed,

  • Khawla bint Tha`laba came complaining to the Prophet (PBUH) that her husband has sworn off sex with her as though she was his mother, an Arabic expression called Azh-Zhahaar. The Prophet (PBUH) said to her "I haven't been ordered anything in situations like yours, and I don't see for you but that you've become untouchable!" Shortly thereafter, these verses were revealed,

Author:  Linguistic [ 23 May 2018, 21:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: Definition of abrogation

Pragmatic wrote:
I feel that it is very compelling that the meaning of naskh in 2:106 is "invalidate", "annul", or "withdraw the divine authority", especially given the context of 2:105. The other use of the verb in the Quran in 22:52 also means annul or invalidate, and that one has not been disputed.

I had a thought, months ago, about the significance of the words مكان آية (in the place of another sign) in 16:101. Here is that thought.

The object of change/abrogation in 2:106 is آية (sign/verse...), but the object of change/substitution in 16:101 is مكان آية (the place of a sign/verse...). This means to me that what is replaced is not the verse or sign but its placement. In particular, I can think of three interpretations of such replacement:

  1. Substituting the Qibla (direction of prayer) from Jerusalem to Mecca. This is supported by the circumstances of revelation as mentioned in exegesis books, although these circumstances have not been substantiated by authentic narrations.

  2. Substituting the divine authority of the Torah with the divine authority of the Quran. This is what you meant in the quote above, right? This is backed up by much evidence from the Quran, such as

    which clearly says that God will transfer His Message from people who mess with it to people who will honor it! Which leads to the last interpretation,

  3. Substituting the placement of God's Message from the Israelites to the Arabs. This is the most likely interpretation in my view. It is what caused the envy of the Israelites, which God describes in 2:105 and throughout Chapter 2.

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