Opinion of Imam Al-Shafeiy
We know that the great Imam Al-Shafeiy "الشافعي" was pro-abrogation. His opinion about the wisdom of abrogation was quoted in volume 1 of this book
, item 382, page 270. Like many writings of Muslim scholars, a good part of the statement is preaching and supplication. May God reward him for the substantial body of knowledge he contributed. Here is a translation of the quote:
"God has created all creatures according to His prior knowledge of what He wanted out of creating them and out of them. There is no second guessing of His judgment. He is quick in His accounting.
And He sent down the Book explaining everything and as guidance and mercy, and decreed in it duties that He fixed, and others that He abrogated, as a mercy to His creation, by easing things on them and leaving them some room, adding to what He initially had given them of blessings, and rewarded them for observing the rules He fixed on them with His paradise and escape from His torment. Thus His mercy has surrounded them in what He fixed and what He abrogated. Praise Him for His blessings."
When it comes to the details, Imam Shafeiy held three restrictive views regarding abrogation:
- He was the first notable scholar to assert that exception and elaboration do not constitute abrogation, and to articulate that "lifting of the ruling of a text" is a requirement for abrogation (item 99 on page 75).
- He required that a replacement be there if an abrogation is to be claimed (item 273 on page 183).
- He disallowed abrogation of the Quran by the Sunna or by any means other than the Quran itself (item 291 on page 197).
In some of
the non-Muslim literature, Imam Al-Shafeiy is given the major credit for establishing the intellectual basis for theological sciences in Islam. His role in the abrogation doctrine is considered paramount, whereas Imam Abu-Haneefa who preceded him and employed a broader use of abrogation is given far less 'credit'. Perhaps it is because Al-Shafeiy's definition of abrogation is really that of annulment, while Abu-Haneefa covers many reconciliation techniques under the umbrella of the term 'abrogation'.
The interesting angle that is postulated in this literature is that Al-Shafeiy was reacting to a culture where tradition was treated as a source of Islamic jurisprudence, and traditions had varied according to the different municipalities of the centers of Islam. He was adamant that the only real sources are the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet
(PBUH), as the word Sunna at the time was used to cover tradition of Sahaba and those who came after them as well. His influence was decisive in both restricting what Sunna meant and in elevating its role.
Therefore, Al-Shafeiy's main efforts can be seen as attempts to restrict something that has gone out of control, and to put discipline in it. His views on abrogation may be viewed in the same light since the notion had been expanded as well by the Hanafi school. This may explain the rather unusual dichotomy that Al-Shafeiy pioneered in insisting that Quran abrogates Quran and Sunna abrogates Sunna but no cross abrogation of any kind
is allowed (although the author on page 100 says that Al-Shafeiy doesn't explicitly say that Quran cannot abrogate Sunna, but that he says explicitly that Sunna cannot abrogate Quran). Precluding that Quran could abrogate Sunna is a somewhat unusual condition for someone who believes in the principle of abrogation in the first place, and it can be seen as an attempt to preempt relegating the Sunna to being less authoritative, something Al-Shafeiy was keen on avoiding. Disclaimer:
The last three paragraphs in this post are based on non-Muslim analysis of events, and should be viewed in this light.