Even if people are completely convinced with our arguments against the abrogation doctrine in general and against all the abrogation claims, they will still be uncomfortable with our conclusions because so many distinguished scholars have supported the doctrine for so long. It is important that we explain how did this happen in a crisp, scholarly, and comprehensive manner. I think we can split the discussion logically into 3 parts.(A)
of the doctrine.(B)
of the doctrine.(C)
of the doctrine.
(hopefully, future books will include (D)
The demise of the doctrine.)
We have already addressed some of the key issues under different threads, and many of the books alluded to different aspects of it, but we need to put it together and research the gaps further. Here are some highlights of some of the culprits for the prevalence of the abrogation doctrine that have been discussed.1.
Linguistic issue (semantic ambiguity) that made people quote a narration to mean something other than what it was intended for. We have a number of cases from Ibn Abbas, but perhaps we can go through the cases of abrogation by Abu-Haneefa and see if "partial abrogation" which he advocated can be explained away as something other than true abrogation.2.
The unsubstantiated opinion of the companions of Ibn Masseoud that started "abrogation of the ruling but not the recitation." Al-Tabari adopted it and justified it by the (easily refutable) "verse better than a verse dilemma" and everyone afterwards followed suit by precedence. 3.
Reaction to Badaa
(change of mind) accusation. Seems to be a minor culprit during the time of the Prophet (PBUH), but more of an issue in Kufa (where Jewish influence was strong) at the time of the Hanafi school and Al-Jassas.4.
Bundling of different types of abrogation under the consensus claim. It will be useful to read original statement by key people (e.g., Al-Shafeiy and Malik) to see what exactly did they support and if we can find an explanation for that. 5.
The abrogation doctrine wasn't worth challenging. Either because there were more important issues to challenge (case in point: Al-Shafeiy), or because many of the early abrogation claims were inconsequential (including two of the big three), or because the abrogation doctrine provided a good 'reconciliation" tool when reconciliation of texts was a major activity (case in point: Abu-Haneefa). What helped this lax attitude is that abrogation is conceivable (like everything else which God can do) so whether it actually happened or not may not have seemed critical (the wholesale, and critical, abrogation claims came later).6.
The strength of precedence in Islamic scholarship. It would be great to find another example of something that persisted for a long time then was eventually overruled (which would be a precedent for what we are doing here
). Al-Shafeiy's rejection of non-prophetic sunna comes to mind.7.
Self-fulfilling consensus. The insults and peer pressure directed towards dissent, as well as dismissing opposing opinions. It would be great to find another example (not necessarily within religion) where peer pressure resulted in a false belief for a sustained period of time. We can also point out that with less peer pressure in modern times, the number of anti-abrogation scholars has exploded.8.
Bias and pressure. When a verse in the Quran proves too inconvenient for some
, the abrogation doctrine provides a convenient way of neutralizing it. This could be pressure by politics and dictators, or it could be just bias of individual scholars who may have a hawkish tilt (e.g., sword verse), holier-than-thou tilt (e.g., fate of non-Muslims verses), or male tilt (e.g., widow verses).
Of course I do not expect that we can completely explain away the accumulated support for the abrogation doctrine over 14 centuries, but if we can make a reasonable case of how a false doctrine can prevail for so long, we will have significantly improved our chances of convincing people, and also have provided a useful insight into this possibility for other long-standing false doctrines in addition to the abrogation doctrine.