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 Post subject: Key Questions
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2013, 05:37 
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In no particular order, each post will pose a bottom-line question where a 'verdict' is needed after considering all the evidence and analysis. The verdict is of course our opinion, but it should be what we believe in our heart of hearts. Within each post, the answer, argument for the answer, and links to relevant posts should be included.

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 Post subject: List of Key Questions
PostPosted: 29 Oct 2013, 05:40 
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Question 1:

Was any verse revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) and recited as part of the Quran at some point, but later not included in the text of the Quran? The cause could be abrogation or being caused to be forgotten.

Question 2:

There is more than one interpretation of 2:106, including different meanings for its words. In our view, what is the single most plausible interpretation of the verse, in brief, specific, and complete terms?

Question 3:

Are there cases where a hadeeth (spoken words by the Prophet PBUH that explicitly set a rule) was later abrogated? If so, what is a crisp reason why such abrogation is possible for a hadeeth and not possible for a Quranic verse?

Question 4:

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?

Question 5:

How could the majority of renowned scholars, who had access to the same evidence that we studied here, all arrive at the same wrong conclusion?

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 Post subject: Q1: Verses that are gone
PostPosted: 31 Oct 2013, 21:12 
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Pragmatic wrote:
Question 1:

Was any verse revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) and recited as part of the Quran at some point, but later not included in the text of the Quran? The cause could be abrogation or being caused to be forgotten.

The only way to know that is to have indisputably authentic, unambiguous, authoritative text that says so. There is none. Therefore, my humble conclusion is that it did not happen. See these relevant posts for more details:


Pragmatic: I agree with the answer. Authenticity is the only relevant point here, and the threshold for authenticity should be the same as what was applied to the actual Quranic verses. None of the above alleged cases comes even close to that, and verses 87:6-7 do not imply that verses were forgotten.

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 Post subject: Q2: The most plausible interpretation of 2:106
PostPosted: 23 Nov 2013, 20:17 
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Pragmatic wrote:
Question 2:

There is more than one interpretation of 2:106, including different meanings for its words. In our view, what is the single most plausible interpretation of the verse, in brief, specific, and complete terms?

To properly answer this question, one ought to examine the following sub-questions first:

  • What does ما ننسخ mean?
    I have no doubt, based on Arabic grammar and vocabulary, that it means "If We ever make changes."

  • What does آية mean?
    I have no doubt, based on Arabic vocabulary and Quranic references, that it means "an attention-drawing sign." That can be any wonder from God, including a verse from the Quran or a verse from prior scriptures.

  • What does من آية mean?
    I am confident, based on Arabic grammar, that it means "any sign" and not "from a verse."

  • What does the construct ما ... من mean?
    I have no doubt, based on Arabic grammar, that it means "If ever...any".

  • What does ننسها mean?
    I have no doubt, based on Arabic grammar, that it means "We cause it to be forgotten."

  • Is it ننسها or ننسأها?
    I am confident, based on the preserved script of the Quran, that it is نُنسِها (We cause it to be forgotten). See this post for more details.

  • What does بخير منها mean?
    I find it much more likely that it means "with what is better than it", rather than "with something good out of it."

  • The pattern of folding-then-unfolding.
    I am convinced, based on the repeated use of this pattern in the Quran, that it applies too to 2:106. The result of that observation is that "with one better" refers to to signs that have been updated, while "one similar" refers to signs that have been forgotten. The significance of that sorting is that the Quran is not just a replacement of prior scriptures, but is superior to them and has authority over them.

  • Why does 2:106 end the way it does?
    IMHO, to show that the statement 2:106 makes should not be cause for denying the Quran.

  • Why does 2:106 use heteronyms?
    IMHO, to make a general statement stating one of God's consistent practices (Sunna). By stating it as a principle, it answers the question raised in its context and many more.

    The use of heteronyms leads to multiple interpretations, all of which were intended, IMHO. The union of all these interpretations makes the general statement about God's consistent practice of updating some of His signs or causing some of them to fade away.

  • Does the context of 2:106 dictate its interpretation?
    IMHO, yes. Verse 2:106 is not an isolated verse, even as it states a general principle. It comes in a context. The question raised in its context is answered by any legitimate interpretation of it. But the abrogation doctrine, IMHO, makes an unwarranted extrapolation of the statement 2:106 makes in answer to the question raised in its context.

    If that sounds like a contradiction of what I just said in answering the previous sub-question about heteronyms, then please notice the subtle difference. The pro-abrogation folk have a legitimate cause for their claim, based on the literal wording of 2:106. Their interpretation is born by the literal text. But it is an unwarranted generalization, IMHO, because it is one thing to abrogate prior scriptures or laws and it is another thing altogether for the same scripture or law to abrogate itself. The latter contention affronts one's natural sensibilities and therefore begs substantiation. The pro-abrogation scholars have acknowledged that the burden of proof of the doctrine is on them. We argue in this project that no convincing substantiation of the abrogation doctrine has been offered. Furthermore, we show that no case cited for evidence supporting the abrogation doctrine has garnered unanimous agreement nor has irrefutable rationale.

  • Why doesn't 2:106 state a reason for the statement it makes?
    IMHO, because the reason depends on the sign undergoing changes, therefore the reason will be specific while the principle remains general.

The context of 2:106 tells of the envy suffered by the disbelievers among the People of the Book when they learned about the new revelation they are required to obey (the Quran) and that it was revealed to an Arab. Verse 2:105 responds to the latter and verse 2:106 answers the former. Both answers are given as general principles. The first answer does not specifically say why Muhammad in particular was chosen for the final Message. Likewise, verse 2:106 does not specifically say why the Torah was no longer to be followed. That point is explained elsewhere in the Quran.

IMHO, the most plausible interpretation of 2:106 is the following. To deniers of the Quran's authority over prior scriptures: Know that if or whenever God makes changes to any of His signs, or cause any of them to be forgotten, He would always replace it with an even more impressive sign, or one similar. The Quran is such an impressive sign. This should not come as a surprise to anybody, or be cause for skepticism, since God can do whatever He wills.

You may wish to study this topic for much more details.

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 Post subject: Q3: Abrogation of hadeeths
PostPosted: 17 Dec 2013, 22:50 
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Pragmatic wrote:
Question 3:

Are there cases where a hadeeth (spoken words by the Prophet PBUH that explicitly set a rule) was later abrogated? If so, what is a crisp reason why such abrogation is possible for a hadeeth and not possible for a Quranic verse?


Indeed, there have been several instances of a hadeeth commanding one thing then a subsequent hadeeth commanding something incompatible or explicitly revoking the previous command. Abu-Bakr Al-Hamdaani did a marvelous job identifying a host of these occurrences.

There are two reasons, IMHO, for this:

  1. The first command was for a specific lesson to be learned. Then when the lesson was learned, the command was revoked. An excellent example of this is the command not to visit graves when Muslims were still new to the faith and have not yet relinquished their pre-Islam habits.

    Many scholars regard such situation as abrogation, and argue that the same thing happened in the Quran. I beg to differ, because such command is contingent. Indeed, in the example of visiting the graves, if Muslims ever revert to pre-Islamic customs when visiting the graves, then the prohibition is re-activated. A command reactivated is not abrogated. It would be abrogation if the prohibition of visiting the graves is never again effected, regardless of the practices of Muslims visiting the graves. I doubt that any scholar would so argue.

  2. The Prophet (PBUH) realized, or was instructed by God, that his earlier command needed to change or be revoked. Al-Hamdaani cites many such examples, not all of them I would consider abrogation though. Please refer to the topic "Can the Quran abrogate a Sunna" for a discussion of those cases.

The reason abrogation can occur in the Sunna but not in the Quran is that the law-giver in the Sunna, unless it explicitly states that it is a divine command, was a human being capable of being right or wrong, while the law-giver of the Quran is infallible and has all-encompassing knowledge.

The reason I am confident that abrogation did happen in the Sunna is because the Prophet (PBUH) said so unambiguously, e.g., with words like "I had previously ordered you to ... but now you may..."

The reason I am confident that abrogation did not happen in the Quran is because neither God nor the Prophet (PBUH) have ever said so. We humans have no other way of knowing that.

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 Post subject: Q4: Most challenging abrogation claim
PostPosted: 21 Dec 2013, 19:49 
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Pragmatic wrote:
Question 4:

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, 5:5/6:121, 4:11-12/2:180, 2:286/2:284, 8:66/8:65, 58:13/58:12, 73:20/73:1-4, [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):

  1. People who will comply and offer the token charity. Like Ali (RA). He gets the reward.
  2. People who would like to comply but simply can't. God forgives them.
  3. People who did not comply for a variety of reasons and felt bad about it. God pardoned them.
  4. 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.

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 Post subject: Q5: How can all those scholars be wrong?
PostPosted: 11 Jan 2014, 16:39 
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Pragmatic wrote:
Question 5:

How could the majority of renowned scholars, who had access to the same evidence that we studied here, all arrive at the same wrong conclusion?

We discussed this very question in the topic "How did this happen?". And we concluded that there are probably three broad categories of factors involved:

  1. Conformity: The tendency to conform with the status quo. This can be cultural or willful. The latter is a self-imposed rule out of personal wants or fears.
  2. Yielding to precedence. This is a scholarly rule, like in a legal system.
  3. Bundling: The conflation of one issue into another.

I'd summarize my guesses of an answer to this puzzling question as a combination of the following factors:

Conformity:

  • People's tendency to see things through the prism of their culture, environment and experiences. They rarely rise above that and be the independent, free agent that God created. Not because they don't want to or because they can't, but because they never think of it.

  • Critique viewed as disrespectful. This is a common misconception and is part of the culture of that part of the world. But the Sahaaba critiqued each other and corrected each other and so did the earlier Salaf. With later generations, critique became less socially acceptable.

  • People's tendency to trust their elders. After all, isn't that why the elders are in the position of responsibility they are in? You go to a doctor because you trust he can heal you. You attend school because you trust the teacher can teach you what you don't know. Similarly, people take the word of their religious scholars in matters of religion.

    But all of these trusted people are human and therefore can err. We ought to trust them but we ought also to review what they tell us and not take it for granted. As the American saying goes, "Trust, but verify!"

  • Peer pressure. It is an unfortunate part of belonging to a community. And it works.

Following the precedence:

  • People's tendency to follow established norms, go with the flow and be agreeable. Nobody naturally wants to be controversial or the odd man out. It's not out of hypocrisy; it's out of their desire to belong to their communities and be accepted and approved. This has a shade of conformity as well.

  • Resistance to change. This is particularly salient with conservatives, which most of the Salaf were. Conservatives view change as unsettling and stirring up trouble. The pro-abrogation scholars may have thought that challenging the abrogation doctrine would stir up more trouble than they can manage.

  • Fear of disunity. Dispute over the cornerstone of the religion, the Quran, must have been viewed as cause for disunity at a time when unity was badly needed.

Bundling:

  • Defending the faith. The early Muslims were confronted by clever arguments, primarily from the Jews of the time, that the Quran could not possibly abrogate the Torah because that would imply that God realizes new ideas (البداء) :astaghfir: Muslims rushed to defend God and the Quran by formulating the abrogation doctrine. In doing so, they dug a hole for themselves. I don't know why it didn't occur to any of them that the reason the Quran abrogates the Torah is because the original Torah was lost after centuries of manual editing and alteration by the rabbis and scribes. God has committed Himself to guiding humanity. Therefore, He sent His message one last time, the Quran, to all humanity and vowed to preserve it forever Himself.

    Pragmatic: This is an important point. Basically throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • Pragmatic: Affording a low priority to the subject. Scholars who had "bigger fish to fry" may have not seen the abrogation doctrine as worth challenging. A scholar who opines about dozens of issues may gloss over some of them that they do not see as important if the prevailing opinion sounds OK. In particular, and I have Al-Shafii in mind in particular, if a scholar is going to be assertive about issues that they feel are critical, they may choose not to invest credibility capital in being contrarian in other, less critical issues. This doesn't mean they disagreed but said they agreed. It just means that they focussed on on what they thought was more important and had a blanket acceptance of the conventional wisdom about the rest of the issues.

  • Semantic ambiguity! The word Naskh is a heteronym. Its use by the Sahaaba was for all its linguistic meanings. But subsequent scholars limited its use to only one: abrogation, and thus made unwarranted conclusions from some narrations.

Are these reasons legitimate? Do they justify the creation and maintaining of the abrogation doctrine? IMHO, they are all understandable but none of them is legitimate. Because the end result is the annulment of some rulings of God, without clear authority from Him or from His Messenger, and based solely on human interpretation.

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