Among all the abrogation claims of Quranic verses, which one is the most challenging to refute and why? What is the most compelling argument for refuting it?
In order for an abrogation case to be irrefutable, one of the following criteria must be present:
- God says so unambiguously. That never happened.
- The Prophet (PBUH) says so, unambiguously, in a narration that is indisputably authentic. There is no such narration.
Absent that, the matter is in reality a conjecture, an interpretation, and therefore can never be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
That said, there are verses where there is reasonable cause for one to think that an abrogation has happened. We show in this project that in all such cases, that reasonable cause is mitigated, sometimes easily and other times with deeper analysis.
A reasonable cause, IMHO, to think abrogation of a verse, may be one of the following.
- Two verses do seem to make conflicting statements about the same matter and the reconciliation of the two statements is not obvious.
- A verse uses a word, phrase or clause that lends itself to abrogation, such as "Today (or now) such and such is lawful to you", or "Since you have not done it, do this," or "God knew that there would be extenuating circumstances, so do this."
I consider the following cases to fit one or both of the above criteria:3:85/2:62
, [List the rest of such cases here]
See the individual topics for each one for a detailed analysis of the refutation argument(s) we offer or others have.
After considering them all, I personally have found 58:13/58:12
to be the most challenging. It fits both criteria above. But it was never high on my list because the command in it is clearly not a mandate. Interestingly enough, it was not high on your list either, Pragmatic, because you believed it applied only at the time of the Prophet (PBUH).
The challenge in this case is the following. Unlike the case of 2:187/2:183
, which is structured similarly but where the first command is not detailed, the command in 58:12 is unambiguous. And unlike the case of 73:20/73:1-4
, which is also structured similarly but where the two commands are clearly addressed to two different addressees, the commands in 58:12 and 58:13 are addressed to the same people. And unlike the case of 8:66/8:65
, which is also structured similarly, but where the two commands are contingent upon different criteria, the contingency in 58:12 (financial hardship) seems to be removed from 58:13.
That is why it took us the longest to refute. The way I finally understood these two verses allowed me to dismiss the claim of abrogation for the following reasons:
- The command in 58:12 is, and remains, a recommendation, evidenced by the words "that is better for you and more purifying". Those who did not oblige it are not in violation, because a recommendation is a command which if obliged one is rewarded but if not obliged one is not punished.
Verse 58:12 handles those who will comply with its recommendation of a token charity or would like to but cannot. By clearly making it a recommendation, it also handles those who will not comply.
- 58:13 opens up by explaining why it was revealed: to relieve the guilt Muslims felt for not complying with 58:12. That does not annul the recommendation in 58:12. No word, phrase or clause in the verse state that the prior recommendation is no longer. It only says that those who did not comply have been pardoned, confirming that the command was a recommendation only. A command not annulled is a command not abrogated.
Verse 58:13 handles those who did not comply with the recommendation in 58:12 of a token charity and felt bad about it, or deprived themselves of counsel with the Prophet (PBUH) because they couldn't afford the token.
Thus, the two verses taken together address four possibilities of reaction to the token charity request from God before one would seek private counsel with the Prophet (PBUH):
- People who will comply and offer the token charity. Like Ali (RA). He gets the reward.
- People who would like to comply but simply can't. God forgives them.
- People who did not comply for a variety of reasons and felt bad about it. God pardoned them.
- People who would not comply. They may, because it is only a recommendation.
The fact reported in the literature that no one offered the token charity but Ali, and only once, does not mean the recommendation was rescinded. It only means that Muslims chose not to go for it, especially after they were assured by 58:13 that they never had to.