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 Post subject: How did this happen?
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2011, 19:56 
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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) The creation of the doctrine.

(B) The persistence of the doctrine.

(C) The expansion 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 :astaghfir: , 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.

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 Post subject: Re: How did this happen?
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2011, 05:44 
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Great topic and definitely needed for completion of this research.

One point that may be inserted here, and which continues to puzzle me, is how is it that so many scholars could not see the obvious? The refutation of most abrogation claims is remarkably easy. This failure to get the obvious is at sharp odds with the linguistic prowess of the scholars at the time and their analysis in other matters was generally high caliber.

Pragmatic wrote:
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.

These two points are linked together IMHO. I don't know if the Jews at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) have used the term Badaa' when they rejected the Quran, at which time verse 2:106 was revealed, but either it was their argument all along, or they thought of it as an argument after they heard 2:106 usage of the word naskh. It was that which prompted the fellows of Ibn Mas`ood, in my estimation, to formulate the abrogation doctrine as a way to explain 2:106 and at the same time rebut the Jews.

Pragmatic wrote:
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

I'm not sure this is true. Recall that the umbrella claim about the sword verse was advocated by many of the Tabi`een (second generation).

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 Post subject: Re: How did this happen?
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2011, 06:06 
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One aspect of this study ought to be the historical factors that may have given rise and/or support to the abrogation doctrine. Was the abrogation doctrine politically motivated?

You raised a couple of excellent points, Pragmatic, about this, when you wrote,

Pragmatic wrote:
7. How did this happen:
...
  • Reactionary Bias: The enemies of Islam attacked the notion of abrogation in principle, and that led to a reaction of Muslims to defend the notion and to shy away from questioning it. The irony is that the enemy attacks were against the Torah being abrogated, something that is not controversial in Islam and has nothing to do with the abrogation doctrine as it evolved.

  • Unity Pressure: In abrogation and in other theological issues, there is a strong tendency of scholars to seek unity and resist dissent, in order to avoid Fitna. This created pressure on everyone to conform to the abrogation doctrine once it took hold. Slanderous attacks were made against anyone who disagreed, and that can result in serious bias in the scholarly peer system, both in terms of which opinions get to be expressed and which opinions get to be cited, thus creating a self-fulfilling consensus.

I think that these two points are on the positive side. However, there is also a cynical side, I hate to say, and there is also a naive side, for lack of a better word. I'd like to discuss all those sides, as well as other historical or political factors that may have influenced the formation and persistence of the abrogation doctrine.

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 Post subject: Re: How did this happen?
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2011, 06:14 
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Linguistic wrote:
I think that these two points are on the positive side. However, there is also a cynical side, I hate to say, and there is also a naive side, for lack of a better word. I'd like to discuss all those sides, as well as other historical or political factors that may have influenced the formation and persistence of the abrogation doctrine.

I agree that there were some political motivations for the abrogation doctrine in the early days. This will be a tricky line to pursue, though.

It is arguable that once the dictatorship (inherited leadership) took hold in early Islam some 30 years after the death of the Prophet (PBUH), the religious opinions may well have been tinted by the biases of the regime. A blatant case in point is the opinion that obeying the leader is a requirement even if the leader is unjust. It is very difficult to treat this opinion as a neutral scholarly conclusion not affected by what would please the leader at the time.

The case of the abrogation doctrine is more subtle. One may suspect that the absolute authority of the Quran was an inconvenient issue for a leader who wants to do something against the explicit instructions of the Quran, so lessening such authority by opening the door to the possibility of abrogation would be one way to legitimize circumventing the Quran. However, to make such an assertion without being speculative about it is no easy task. If we can make it, then that's great. If we cannot make it using the rigorous standards used in our other arguments, then I think we are better off not going this route, except maybe as a point of discussion for the sake of completeness.

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 Post subject: Re: How did this happen?
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2011, 06:27 
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Linguistic wrote:
One point that may be inserted here, and which continues to puzzle me, is how is it that so many scholars could not see the obvious? The refutation of most abrogation claims is remarkably easy. This failure to get the obvious is at sharp odds with the linguistic prowess of the scholars at the time and their analysis in other matters was generally high caliber.

Indeed, this is a true mystery. The widow verses are an ultimate case in point.

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 Post subject: Re: How did this happen?
PostPosted: 25 Jan 2014, 18:19 
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Arab Poet Ali ibn Al-Jahm was a simple Bedouin. One day he attended the court of caliph Al-Mutawakkil and said this poem in praise of him:

أنت كالكلب في حفاظك الود...وكالتيس في قراع الخطوب

Translation: "You are like a dog in its loyalty and like a goat in its courage against danger."

The caliph's entourage were incensed and wanted to grab Ibn Al-Jahm by the collar! But Al-Mutawakkil told them to leave him alone. He understood what Ibn Al-Jahm meant and that he didn't know any better way to express it.

But then he did something quite smart: He asked his entourage to give Al-Jahm residence by the shores of the Tigris river. And the man stayed there for six months when the caliph invited him back to say more poetry. This time he said:

عيون المها بين الرصافة والجسر...جلبن لي الهوى من حيث لا أدري

Translation: The beautiful eyes of cows walking between street and bridge, brought to me feelings of love from whence I don't know!

I tell this story to illustrate a point. People are largely products of their culture, environment and experiences. It is rare that anybody rises above that and assumes his or her independent free agent potential that God created. It is not that they couldn't or wouldn't, it's that it doesn't even occur to them. Most people will not think outside the box, but it is a box they put themselves in willingly.

Not until they encounter other cultures, environment or experiences. IMHO, it is the primary reason God encourages us in the holy Quran to "get to know each other",


One of such people was Imam Ash-Shaafi`i, may God bless his soul. He was famous for going against the established rulings, even those rulings established by the Sahaaba! He was even asked about that and his reply was, "They were men and we are men."

And when he moved from Mecca to Egypt and settled there until he died, he changed his rulings on almost all issues he had previously examined! It's not because he was impressionable; he simply had a different perspective.

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