Abrogation (Islam)

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As an abrogation ( Arabic نسخ nas ch , DMG nasḫ ) in Islamic jurisprudence and Koran exegesis the abolition of a normative provision of the Koran or the Sunna by another, temporally subsequent provision from the Koran or Sunna. The abrogant provision is called nāsich (ناسخ / nāsiḫ ), the abrogated determination as mansūch (منسوخ / mansūḫ ). The use of abrogation is considered to be a method of harmonizing conflicting text documents whose date is known. Within Islamic scholarship, however, there is no consensus as to whether and to what extent abrogation may be used to resolve contradictions. In fact, several modern Islamic thinkers have completely rejected the idea of ​​abrogation.

Arabic abrogation literature

Independent Arabic works were written early on that deal with abrogation and have the formula an-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ ("The Abrogant and the Abrogate") in the title. One of the first relevant compilations is the Kitāb an-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ by Qatāda ibn Diʿāma as-Sadūsī (d. 736). More comprehensive treatises on the doctrine of abrogation were later written by an-Nahhās (d. 950), Abū l-Qāsim Hibatallāh ibn Salāma (d. 1019), ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Baghdādī (d. 1037), Makkī Ibn Abī Tālib (d. 1045) , Ibn al-ʿArabī al-Maʿāfirī (d. 1148), al-Hāzimī (d. 1188), Ibn al-Jschauzī (d. 1201), Abū ʿAbdallāh Shuʿla (d. 1258) and Ibn al-Bārizī (d. 1338 ). Since the doctrine of abrogation is a part of Islamic legal theory ( Usūl al-fiqh ), it is also dealt with in the manuals for this discipline.

In some later works on the doctrine of abrogation, such as that of Ibn al-ʿArabī, in addition to the abrogation itself, various related legal-theoretical problems are dealt with, for example the position of the pre-Islamic legislation mentioned in the Koran and Sunna ( šarʿ man qabla-nā ), which was questionable whether it continues to apply or whether it has been abolished by Islam.

Textual basics

The basis for the argument with abrogation in the solution of collisions between legal provisions in the Koran and Sunna are the traditions according to which provisions were revised several times during the prophetic work of Muhammad by later ones, as well as two Koran verses that explicitly justify such norm changes. As can be seen from the first verse, such changes in norms met with criticism in the context of Muhammad:

"If we exchange one verse for another - and God knows best what he sends down - then they say:" You're just making that up! "But most of them have no knowledge"

- Sura 16 : 101, translation by Hartmut Bobzin (2010)

Another verse of the Quran 2: 106 emphasizes the benefits of such changes in revelation:

“If we ( nansaḫ ) erase a verse ( āya ) or leave it to be forgotten, we bring a better one than it or one that is like it. Don't you know that God is capable of all things? "

- Sura 2: 106, translation by Hartmut Bobzin (2010)

The Muslim scholars saw these two verses as clear evidence that the abrogation of earlier norms was due to the actions of God himself, and based on them the doctrine that in the event of conflicting provisions, the most recent is the final one. They justified this with the verb form nansaḫ (“we redeem / abrogate”) in the latter verse of the Koran.

The decision about the cancellation of certain verses by others requires knowledge of the chronology of the suras and verses . The knowledge about this was collected in the early 8th century and fixed in writing in separate works on the occasions of revelation ( Asbāb an-nuzūl ) of the various verses. Although there are different views regarding the chronology of different parts of the Koran, the chronological classification of the Koran norms, which are discussed as cases of abrogation, does not seem to cause any difficulties.


Well-known examples of abrogation according to the classical teaching are:

  • the gradual introduction of the ban on wine in the Koran from a mere mention of wine ( sura 16 : 67) through a temporary ban ( sura 4 : 43) to an unlimited ban ( sura 5 : 90).
  • the determination of the direction of prayer to Mecca by Sura 2 : 144, after Sura 2: 115 had previously allowed praying in all directions for a while. Such an abrogation is said to have already adopted ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās , al-Hasan al-Basrī and Mālik ibn Anas .
  • the abrogation of the commandment to make a will ( waṣīya ) for the benefit of parents and relatives (2: 180) through the verses on the inheritance of duties (Sura 4:11, 12, 176). This view of the doctrine is also already transmitted by al-Hasan al-Basrī. According to al-Hasan, other oath obligations, as they are named in Sura 4:33, are said to have been abrogated by the verse about the compulsory inheritance.
  • The abolition of the provision in Sura 2: 240, according to which widows have the right to one year financial support and accommodation in the house of their ex-husband after the death of their husband, by introducing a shortened waiting period ( ʿidda ) of four months and ten days in Sura 2 : 234 as well as through the revelation of the inheritance rules in sura 4. Such a cancellation was accepted by the majority of Muslim scholars.

The doctrine of abrogation with regard to dealing with non-Muslims became particularly important. Here, early on, some scholars took the view that the sword verse (9: 5) and the verse that calls for a fight against the Ahl al-kitāb ( Sura 9 : 29), all other verses that lead to peaceful behavior to exhort the unbeliever ( Sura 8 : 61; Sura 29 : 46).

Abrogation categorizations

Differentiation according to the types of text involved

A basic distinction is made between four types of abrogation, depending on the types of text involved:

  • Abrogation of the Koran by the Koran. This is the normal case of abrogation.
  • Abrogation of the Sunnah by the Sunnah. An example of this is the subsequent permission to visit graves .
  • Abrogation of the Koran by the Sunna. For example, Hibatallāh ibn Salāma said that the statement “He has forbidden you only dead things ( al-maita ), blood ( ad-dam ) and meat from pigs” in sura 2: 173 partly through the hadith: “We are two dead animals and two types of blood are allowed, namely grasshoppers and fish (sc. as the two dead animals) and liver and spleen (sc. as the two bloody things) “was abrogated. However, this form of abrogation is only possible in the opinion of the Hanafites and some Zahirites , and only if the Sunnah is secured by a hadith that is transmitted mutawātir , i.e. via numerous Isnad chains. The Shafiites and Hanbalites, on the other hand, completely reject this form of abrogation.
  • Abrogation of the Sunnah by the Koran. In contrast to al-Shafid, most Muslim scholars believed this form of abrogation to be possible. Well-known examples of this form of abrogation are the change of the Qibla from Jerusalem to a phase in which one could pray in all directions, to Mecca through verses 2: 115 and 2: 144, the replacement of the Ashura fast by Ramadan - Fasting at 2: 185 and the lifting of the ban on sexual intercourse on Ramadan nights at 2: 187.

It was discussed whether the Koran and Sunna could also be abrogated by an Idschmāʿ . While some Hanafis and Muʿtazilites answered in the affirmative, according to the prevailing opinion, neither Idschmāʿ nor Qiyā's Koran or Sunna can abrogate.

The three forms of abrogation of Quranic verses

In the case of the abrogation of verses from the Koran, three different forms were distinguished and discussed individually, depending on the extent of the abrogation:

  1. Abrogation, which only affects the legal validity ( ḥukm ) of Quranic verses, but not their text ( nasḫ al-ḥukm dūna t-tilāwa ). This form of abrogation is the real subject of the abrogation literature.
  2. Abrogation, which affects both the legal validity and the text ( tilāwa ) of Quranic verses ( nasḫ al-ḥukm wa-t-tilāwa ). The doctrine of this kind of abrogation is based on the Koranic statements in sura 87 : 6-7 that God will not let Mohammed forget anything of the revelation text , "except what God wants" ( illā mā šāʾ Allāh ), as well as in sura 17 : 86 that God can take away what he has revealed. These statements were related to certain parts of the Qur'an that were said to have been lost. This includes in particular parts of Sura 33 , which in its original form should have contained 200 verses, not 73, as in the official Koran edition, which was created by Uthman ibn Affan .
  3. Abrogation, which only affects the text of Quranic verses, but not their legal validity ( nasḫ at-tilāwa dūna l-ḥukm ). An example of this is the stoning verse , which, although it is not in the Koran, is used as a justification for the punishment of stoning an adulterous person.

One problem in which both the second and the third type of abrogation were discussed was the delimitation of the milk relationship, which justifies a marriage ban . According to a hadith which is traced back to Aisha bint Abi Bakr , the Koran originally issued such a ban on marriage only after ten attested weaning sessions ( raḍaʿāt maʿlūmāt ). This rule was later abrogated by another verse that required a minimum of five weaning sessions. Aisha is quoted as saying that the verse about the five weaning sessions was recited after the Messenger of God had died. A large number of Muslim scholars, especially Shafiites and Zahirites , now assumed that the second type of abrogation was present with regard to the verse on the ten weaning sessions, while the third type of abrogation was present with regard to the verse on the five weaning sessions. Accordingly, they taught that five weaning sessions were necessary to justify a marriage ban. The Malikites saw it differently, however. They said that both verses to which Aisha was referring were invalidated in terms of their legal validity, namely by the regulation in Sura 4:23, which does not specify the number of required weaning sessions. Accordingly, they taught that breastfeeding once is enough for the marriage ban to apply.

Later restriction of the abrogation principle in the Koran

Later Muslim scholars were considerably more reserved about the doctrine of abrogation, especially against the background that the Koran repeatedly emphasizes that God's word is immutable, for example in the following passage: “And left what you learned from your Lord's scriptures (as revelation ) has been entered! There is no one who can change his words. And you will find no refuge besides him ”(18:27; compare 6:34 and 115, 17:77, 33:62, 35:43, 50:29).

Rejection of individual verses

Ibn al-ʿArabī differentiated in his work on the doctrine of abrogation, which deals with the Koran from front to back, between those Koran verses that are abrogated and those that are only specified ( taḫṣīṣ ) by a later verse. In several cases in which earlier scholars had assumed an abrogation, he rejected this assumption and insisted that the later verse was not an abrogation, but only a restriction ( istiṯnāʾ ). An example is Quran verse 4: 146, in which he emphasizes that he does not cancel the statement of the preceding verse 4: 145, according to which the hypocrites are to be banished to hell, but only restricts it to the extent that those hypocrites are excluded who repent and repent.

Ibn al-Jschauzī also tried to restrict the application of the abrogation principle. For example, he rejected the view of Hibatallāh ibn Salāma, according to which the call in verse 2: 109 that Muslims should forgive the Ahl al-kitāb should be abolished by the sword verse, arguing that verse 2: 109 with the expression “Until God comes with his command” already has a time limit that no longer makes abrogation necessary. The doctrine that the sword verse also nullifies the Koran verse 29:46 ("And do not argue with the people of the Scriptures otherwise than in the best way"), he rejected with the argument that the dispute ( ǧidāl ) is not a fight ( qitāl ) exclude and therefore the verse does not need to be abolished.

Various modern Islamic scholars such as Raschīd Ridā and Abū l-Aʿlā Maudūdī took similar cautious positions towards abrogation . Sayyid Qutb , in his Qur'an commentary on Fī ẓilāl al-Qurʾān (“In the shadow of the Qur'an”), opposed the traditional view that the regulation on blood revenge in sura 2: 178 was abrogated by sura 5:45, and argued that the Both verses of the Koran refer to different issues: Sura 2: 178 to personal retribution and Sura 5:45 to collective retribution. However, he did not turn against the doctrine of abrogation in general, as is clear from his commentary on Quran verse 16: 101, which is usually used to justify the doctrine of abrogation. Here he writes: “But the unbelievers understand none of this. So it is not surprising that they failed to get the sense of the abrogation of one verse by the other and accused the Prophet of being an inventor when in fact he was the most honorable and trustworthy person they knew. That is why the verse says: 'Indeed most of them have no knowledge' (16: 101). "

Complete rejection by modern Islamic scholars

Various modern Islamic thinkers have completely rejected the doctrine of abrogation. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, for example, said that there can only be abrogation in interreligious relationships: the Koran actually repeals earlier religious laws. A similar view was held by Muhammad al-Ghazālī , who concluded his discussion of the theory of abrogation with the words: "Undoubtedly the Koran abrogates the earlier Sharia ... but there is not a single contradiction in the Koran." Some modern Shiite scholars also consider the abrogation to be null and void with the Argument that it implies a "senseless overturning" of values.

A particularly sharp critic of the doctrine of abrogation was Muhammad Asad (1900-1992). He expressed in his commentary on the Qur'an that Sura 2: 106 to a "erroneous interpretation" ( erroneous interpretation led) in many Muslim theologians. The reason for this is that when interpreting the word Āya in this verse , they oriented themselves to its restricted sense as a “Koranic verse”. This led them to the conclusion that certain verses of the Koran had been "abrogated" by others on God's command. Muhammad Asad considered this conclusion to be fanciful because it was based on the image of a human author correcting the proofs of his manuscript and replacing one passage with another. He also argued that there was "not a single reliable tradition" that the Prophet ever declared a verse to be abrogated.

In Muhammad Asad's opinion, the doctrine of abrogation arose from the inability of the early commentators to reconcile the various passages of the Koran. You would have therefore declared these verses "abrogated". The arbitrariness of their approach also explains why the advocates of the doctrine of abrogation do not agree on the number of abrogated verses and the type of abrogation in the individual verses. The actual principle that is laid down in Sura 2: 106 is the replacement ( supersession ) of the biblical order ( dispensation ) by that of the Koran. One can only recognize this principle, however, if one understands the word āya in the verse as a “message” and reads together the verse with the preceding verse (Sura 2: 105) in which the Ahl al-kitāb are reprimanded for that they do not accept the good that is sent down to them from their Lord.


Arabic works on abrogation (chronological)
  • Qatāda ibn Diʿāma : Kitāb an-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ . Ed. H. Ṣ. aḍ-Ḍāmin. 2nd edition Muʾassasat ar-Risāla, Beirut, 1985.
  • Abū ʿUbaid al-Qāsim ibn Sallām: Kitāb an-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ. Ed. with a Commentary by John Burton. Cambridge: EJW Gibb Memorial Trust 1987.-Ed. Muḥammad al-Mudaifir. Riyadh 1990. Digitized
  • Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad an-Naḥḥās: an-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ fi l-Qurʾān al-karīm Ed. Shaʿbān Muḥammad Ismāʿīl. Cairo: Maktabat ʿĀlam al-Fikr, 1986.
  • Abū l-Qāsim Hibatallāh ibn Salāma: Kitāb al-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ . Maktabat al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī, Cairo 1379 H./1960 AD Digitized - digitized manuscript from the 18th century
  • ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Baghdādī : al-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ. Ed. Ḥilmī Kāmil Asʿad ʿAbd al-Hādī. Amman 1987. Digitized
  • Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib al-Qaisī: al-Īḍāḥ li-nāsiḫ al-Qurʾan wa-mansūḫi-hi wa-maʿrifat uṣūlihi wa-ḫtilāf an-nās fīhi. Ed. Aḥmad Ḥ. Farḥāt. Ǧidda: Dār al-Manāra 1986. Digitized
  • Ibn al-ʿArabī al-Maʿāfirī : An-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ fī l-Qurʾān al-karīm. Ed. ʿAbd al-Kabīr al-ʿAlawī al-Madġarī. Rabat 1988. Digitized
  • Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Ḥāzimī: Kitāb al-Iʿtibār fi n-nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ min al-āṯār . 2nd edition Dāʾirat al-maʿārif al-ʿUṯmānīya: Haidarābād 1359h. Digitized
  • Ibn al-Ǧauzī : al-Muṣaffā bi-akuff ahl ar-rusūḫ min ʿilm an-nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ . Ed. H. Ṣ. aḍ-Ḍāmin. Beirut 1989. Digitized
  • Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad Shuʿla al-Mauṣilī al-Ḥanbalī: Ṣafwat al-rāsiḫ fī ʿilm al-mansūḫ wa-n-nāsiḫ. Ed. Muḥammad Ibrāhīm ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Fāris, Cairo 1995. Digitized
  • Hibatallāh ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn al-Bārizī: Nāsiḫ al-Qurʾān al-ʿazīz wa-mansūḫu-hū . Ed. H. Ṣ. aḍ-Ḍāmin. Beirut 1989.
Secondary literature
  • Daniel Brown: The Triumph of Scripturalism: The Doctrine of Naskh and its Modern Critics. In: EH Waugh, FM Denny (Eds.): The Shaping of an American Discourse. A Memorial to Fazlur Rahman. Atlanta 1998. pp. 49-66.
  • John Burton: The Sources of Islamic Law. Islamic theories of abrogation. Edinburgh 1990.
  • John Burton: "Abrogation" ( Memento of March 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) in Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān . General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC. Brill, 2006. Brill Online.
  • A. Th. Khoury: Article Abrogation. In: Khoury, Hagemann, Heine: Islam-Lexikon. Freiburg 2006.
  • Birgit Krawietz: Hierarchy of Legal Sources in Traditional Sunni Islam. Berlin 2002.
  • Harald Löschner: The dogmatic foundations of šīʿitic law. Carl Heymanns, Cologne a. a., 1971. pp. 81-84.
  • David Powers: The Exegetical Genre nāsikh al-Qur'ān wa mansūkhuhu. In A. Rippin (Ed.): Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1988. pp. 117-138.
  • Andrew Rippin: Abrogation. In Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Gudrun Krämer , Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online, 2013. Online version

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Krawietz: Hierarchy of Legal Sources . 2002, pp. 161f.
  2. Cf. ʿAbd al-Kabīr al-ʿAlawī al-Madġirī : An-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ fī l-Qurʾān al-karīm. Part 1 ad-Dirāsa. Rabat 1988. p. 200.
  3. See the alternative translation by Rudi Paret in the Corpus Coranicum : Sura 2: 106 .
  4. See Burton: The sources of Islamic law . 1990, p. 82.
  5. See Hans-Thomas Tillschneider: Types of historical-exegetical tradition. Forms, functions and genesis of the asbāb an-nuzūl material. Wuerzburg 2011.
  6. See Löschner: The dogmatic foundations of šīʿitic law. 1971, p. 82.
  7. Cf. Makkī Ibn-Abī-Ṭālib al-Qaisī: al-Īḍāḥ li-nāsiḫ al-Qurʾan wa-mansūḫi-hi wa-maʿrifat uṣūlihi wa-ḫtilāf an-nās fīhi. Ed. Aḥmad Ḥ. Farḥāt. Ǧidda: Dār al-Manāra 1986. p. 131.
  8. See R. Peters: Waṣiyya. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition . Volume XI, pp. 171b-172b. Here p. 171b.
  9. Cf. Makkī Ibn-Abī-Ṭālib al-Qaisī 142.
  10. Cf. Ibn-al-ʿArabī: An-Nāsiḫ wa-ʾl-mansūḫ 141.
  11. See Burton: The sources of Islamic law . 1990, p. 57f.
  12. See e.g. B. already Qatāda: K. an-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ . 1985, p. 42.
  13. On this, see Krawietz 165.
  14. Cf. Krawietz 165f.
  15. Cf. Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal : Musnad No. 5690. Online version ( Memento from June 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Cf. Hibatallāh al-Baġdādī: Kitāb al-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ . 1960, p. 15.
  17. Cf. Krawietz: Hierarchy of Legal Sources . 2002, p. 166f and al-Bārizī: Nāsiḫ al-Qurʾān . 1989, p. 21f.
  18. Krawietz: Hierarchy of Legal Sources . 2002, p. 167.
  19. Cf. Ibn al-Bārizī: Nāsiḫ al-Qurʾān al-ʿazīz wa-mansūḫu-hū . 1989, p. 20.
  20. Cf. Krawietz 168.
  21. See Burton: The sources of Islamic law . 1990, pp. 41-43 and Krawietz 170.
  22. Cf. Ibn al-Bārizī 19f.
  23. See Burton: The sources of Islamic law . 1990, pp. 41-54.
  24. See Brown: The Triumph of Scripturalism. 1998, p. 54.
  25. Cf. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim . Kitāb ar-Raḍāʿ. Bāb at-Taḥrīm bi-ḫams raḍaʿāt .
  26. See J. Schacht, J. Burton: Raḍāʿ. Chapter 1, Legal aspects. in The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition . Volume VIII, pp. 361a-362b. Here p. 362a.
  27. Cf. ʿAbd al-Kabīr al-ʿAlawī al-Madġirī: An-Nāsiḫ wa-l-mansūḫ fī l-Qurʾān al-karīm. Part 1 ad-Dirāsa. Rabat 1988. p. 198.
  28. Cf. Ibn-al-ʿArabī: An-Nāsiḫ wa-ʾl-mansūḫ 188.
  29. Cf. Ibn al-Ǧauzī: al-Muṣaffā . P. 15
  30. Cf. Ibn al-Ǧauzī: al-Muṣaffā . P. 39.
  31. See Rippin: Abrogation. In: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE.
  32. See Johannes MS Baljon: Modern Muslim Koran Interpretation: (1880-1960) . Brill, Leiden, 1961. p. 49.
  33. See the English translation of his Koran commentary In the shade of the Qur'an . Volume XI: Sūrahs 16-20: Al-Naḥl-Ṭā Hā. Islamic Foundation , Markfield, 2005. P. 76 Digitized .
  34. See Brown: The Triumph of Scripturalism. 1998, p. 57.
  35. Quoted in Brown: The Triumph of Scripturalism. 1998, p. 59.
  36. See Löschner: The dogmatic foundations of šīʿitic law. 1971, p. 83.
  37. a b Muhammad Asad: The Message of the Qurʾān . Dar al-Andalus, Gibraltar, 1980. pp. 22f.