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Naskh – Abrogation in the Quran (1)

تاريخ الاعداد: 7/3/2024 تاريخ النشر: 7/3/2024

Haidar Hobbollah


Transcripted and translated by Sayyid Ali Imran


This is a transcription from the first 2 Uṣūl lessons of Shaykh Haider Hobbollah on the topic of Naskh al-Quran, delivered in fall of 2022.


The lessons we are beginning this term are on a topic that appears within the broader topic of Ḥujjīyyah al-Qurān. In the first lesson, we will give an introduction to what we will be exploring during this series.

All of us know that the most important source of Islamic law is the Quran – although a few scholars in the modern era have tried to argue that the Quran is not a source of law, rather it simply contains advisory commands, but we are not interested in entertaining these opinions in our series.

Despite the fact that the Quran is a source of the Sharī‘ah, there are still many important discussions regarding it. Some jurists have divided the sources of law into Quran, Sunnah, the intellect, and consensus, and each of these four sources has its own chapters in the books of legal theory. However, what we find is that very few Muslim legal theorists have discussed the Quran in their books as an independent and separate chapter.

Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī (d. 1111 CE) in his al-Mustaṣfa has a chapter on the Quran, likewise al-Shātībī (d. 790/1388) in his al-Muwāfaqāt has a discussion on the Quran. Shaykh Bahā’ī in his Zubdat al-Uṣūl and Fāḍil Tūnī (d. 1071/1660) in the third section of his al-Wāfīyah has a chapter on the Quran, although it is very brief. Shaykh Muẓaffar (d. 1964) and others have also a chapter on the Quran in their books of legal theory.

A second group of scholars, which are the vast majority, do not have a separate section on the Quran in their books of legal theory. Most legal theorists divide their books into discussions of semiotics and other matters. Because the discussion on semiotics is inclusive of both the Quran and Sunnah, they do not see a need to discuss the Quran separately. Later, they get into a specific discussion on the Sunnah and solitary reports.

For example, Abu Bakr al-Jassās (d. 370/981) in his Usul al-Fiqh, or Sayyid al-Murtaḍa (d. 436/1044) in his al-Dharī‘ah, Abu Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī al-Mu‘tazali (d. 436/1044) in his al-Mu‘tamad, Abu Bakr al-Sarakhsi (d. 483/1090) in his al-Muḥarrar fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh, Shaykh Ṭūsī in his al-‘Uddah, ‘Allāmah Ḥillī in his Tahdīb al-Uṣūl and many others, all have a discussion on semiotics and linguistics, and they assume it is inclusive to both the Quran and Sunnah. Thereafter they discuss the Sunnah separately due to the topic of solitary reports.

Some scholars do end up discussing some matters of the Quarn in some other sections when it is needed. For example, Shaykh Mufīd (d. 1022 CE) in his al-Tadhkira has a small section called ‘Anwā’ Uṣūl Ma’ani al-Quran, or many Uṣūlī scholars after the emergence of the Akhbāris opened a discussion on the binding force of the prima-facie meaning of the Quran. Likewise, some scholars also discussed the issue of naskh (abrogation) and Qirā’āt in some of their discussions in Ḥujjah, but not as extensively as exegetes and scholars of ‘Ulūm al-Qurān. Or some scholars open a discussion on the Zāhir and Bāṭin of the Quran when it comes to the topic of whether a person can intend two meanings with one word. When it comes to the chapter of contradiction, a discussion on conflicts between the apparent meaning of the Quran and Sunnah is entertained there.

The point we are trying to make is that most scholars of Uṣūl did not really dedicate a separate chapter called the Quran in their books and then have all these discussions under that chapter. They discussed topics about the Quran which they believed were relevant in various places of their book.


Topics of the Quran

When we gather all the topics of discussion on the Quran in Islamic literature, we can divide them into two categories:

1) Ontological

2) Epistemic – Probativity

The Muslims have also done this discussion for the Sunnah. In other words, they first study the nature of the Sunnah, what exactly is it, and then they have a second discussion on the probativity of it, and its extent.

The first discussion on the Quran has to do with its creation. What type of creation is it? Is it pre-eternal or created? The discussions of the Ash’arī and Mu’tazalī on the Speech of the Quran are all ontological discussions and are important. The discussion of I’jāz is also ontological; what is the miracle of the Quran? The reality of revelation, the words of the Qurān are also ontological discussions. Even discussions on the compilation of the Quran have to do with the first category. We can outline a list of some very pertinent topics related to the Quran that have not been given their due diligence in the books of Uṣūl in the seminary:

1) Is the revelation of the Quranic text divine or were only meanings revealed to the Prophet (p), and the words are his (p)?

2) Is the Quran the written compiled text (naṣṣ and tadwīn) or is it an oral speech (khiṭāb)? Whatever position we take, it has an impact.

3) Does the text of the Quran have Iṭlāq Zamānī and Makāni or not? Is it absolute in nature both from the perspective of time and place, or is there historicity in the Quran?

4) Does the Quran have a Ẓāhir and a Bāṭin? This is one of the most important discussions and can have a direct impact on the Sharī‘ah law as well.

5) Does the Quran just speak about universals or does it also go into details? Some have proclaimed that the Quran speaks about universals and principles – it is ijmālī – and the Sunnah speaks about tafṣīl – is this really true?

6) Naskh (abrogation) – it is this topic that we will be discussing in our series.

7) Does the order of the Quran have any impact on our understanding?

8) Stories of the Quran; are they real or imaginary? Can we use these stories for deriving Sharī‘ah law?

9) Is the Naṣṣ (text) of the Quran really Qaṭ’ī (certain) or is it also Ẓannī (speculative)?

10) The Qirā’āt of the Quran; the importance of this discussion is well known.

11) Signification of the Quranic text and the prima-facie of it. This is the famous Akhbārī and Uṣūlī debate; can we even understand the Quran?

12) What is the relationship of the Quran with other sources of knowledge?

13) Do asbāb al-nuzūl change the meaning of the Quran?

14) What method are we supposed to use for the Ayāt al-Aḥkām – is there a method or is there nothing unique about those verses compared to the rest of the Quran?

15) Muhammad Shahrūr’s discussion on Hudūd al-Quran – the limits of the Quran.

There are some other discussions too that can be added, but these are some of the most important ones.

What is the point of gathering all these topics and discussing them in so much detail? The intention is to revive the Quran in Uṣūl al-Fiqh. Focusing on the Quran also helps us strengthen our understanding of the Quran as a source of religious thought.

In our discussions, we will not be talking about everything to do with the Quran. We will be discussing those topics that have a direct impact on ijtihād. However, because the topics are so diverse, some have to do with just the intellect, some are historical, some are a combination etc. we do not have any single methodology, it will depend on the nature of the topic. Furthermore, we are not discussing matters that are taken for granted, like Prophethood of the Prophet, the infallibility of the Prophet, the miracle of the Quran etc. We are going to take those matters for granted, and we will be talking about naskh as our very first topic for discourse.



Naskh is one of the important discussions in Quranic sciences as well as the Sunnah. In fact, it is one of the most controversial topics too. Muslim scholars have studied this topic in a lot of detail and have written numerous books on it. In contemporary times, this topic of naskh has once again become important for three reasons:

1) If we believe in naskh, like majority of the Muslims believe, then that means we cannot derive a religious law before figuring out whether the verse is abrogated or not. This means knowing the Nāsikh and Mansūkh is a condition of ijtihād and tafsīr.

Qurṭubī in his tafsīr writes:

مَعْرِفَةُ هَذَا الْبَابِ أَكِيدَةٌ وَفَائِدَتُهُ عَظِيمَةٌ، لَا يَسْتَغْنِي عَنْ مَعْرِفَتِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ، وَلَا يُنْكِرُهُ إِلَّا الْجَهَلَةُ الْأَغْبِيَاءُ، لِمَا يَتَرَتَّبُ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ النَّوَازِلِ فِي الْأَحْكَامِ، وَمَعْرِفَةِ الْحَلَالِ مِنَ الْحَرَامِ. رَوَى أَبُو الْبَخْتَرِيِّ قَالَ: دَخَلَ عَلِيٌّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ الْمَسْجِدَ فَإِذَا رَجُلٌ يُخَوِّفُ النَّاسَ، فَقَالَ: مَا هَذَا؟ قَالُوا: رَجُلٌ يُذَكِّرُ النَّاسَ، فَقَالَ: لَيْسَ بِرَجُلٍ يُذَكِّرُ النَّاسَ! لَكِنَّهُ يَقُولُ أَنَا فُلَانُ ابْنُ فُلَانٍ فَاعْرِفُونِي، فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَيْهِ فَقَالَ: أَتَعْرِفُ النَّاسِخَ مِنَ الْمَنْسُوخِ؟! فَقَالَ: لَا، قَالَ: فَاخْرُجْ مِنْ مَسْجِدِنَا وَلَا تُذَكِّرْ فِيهِ. وَفِي رِوَايَةٍ أُخْرَى: أَعَلِمْتَ النَّاسِخَ وَالْمَنْسُوخَ؟ قَالَ: لَا، قَالَ: هَلَكْتَ وَأَهْلَكْتَ!. وَمِثْلُهُ عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا.

Knowledge of this discussion is very important, and its benefits are great. The scholars are not needless of its knowledge, and no one rejects this except the ignorant and stupid ones, due to the implications it has on divine law, and knowledge of the ḥalāl and ḥarām.

Abū al-Bakhtarī narrates and says: ‘Alī – may Allah be pleased with him – entered the mosque and there was a man admonishing people. He (‘Alī) said: What is this? The people said: A man who is reminding the people. He said: He is not doing anything of the sort, but only announcing to the people that he is such and such a man and the son of such and such and asking them to recognize and remember him.” Calling the man to his side, he asked: “Do you know the injunctions which have been abrogated (nāsikh) and those which have abrogated (mansūkh) the earlier ones?” When he confessed that he did not, the Khalifah turned him out of the mosque, and ordered him to never preach there.

And in another version of this report: Do you know the nāsikh and mansūkh? He said: No. He said: You are destroyed and have destroyed (others).

And a similar narration has been transmitted by Ibn ‘Abbās.1

Another narration we find is from Ḥudhayfa who said:

قال حذيفة : إنما يفتي الناس أحد ثلاثة : من يعلم ما نسخ من القرآن ، أو أمير لا يجد بدا ، أو أحمق متكلف

The only ones who issue legal rulings to the people are one of the following three types: 1) someone who knows which parts of the Qur’an have been subject to naskh, 2) a ruler who cannot find any alternative, or 3) an imbecile who fancies himself as being qualified.

2) The second reason why naskh is an important discussion is to resolve issues of contradiction. Contradictions between Quran and Quran, Sunnah and Sunnah, or Quran and Sunnah. One of the solutions to resolve contradictions is to apply the concept of nāsikh and mansūkh.

3) The first two perspectives are related to exegesis and understanding; however this third perspective has a theological aspect. This theological aspect is not a recent issue, rather it existed even at the time of the Prophet (p) and one of the prominent examples is the change of the Qibla where the Jewish community questioned the wisdom of God and the legitimacy of Islam, as to how God can simply change a ruling like that.

Some scholars believe the entire discussion of naskh is false and that some classical scholars created it to solve some apparent contradictions in the Quran. The first issue was that the Quran has some contradictions in it, and the second issue was taḥrīf, meaning the Quran does have some extent of taḥrīf and some verses are missing, therefore some classical scholars came up with the idea of naskh to say those verses were abrogated and they called it naskh al-tilāwah or naskh al-ḥukm wa al-tilāwah.

In response to these scholars, a group of scholars, and particularly in contemporary times, decided to negate the idea of naskh altogether. Shaykh Hādi Ma‘rifat in his final opinion, not in his al-Tamhīd, Sayyid Murtaḍa ‘Askarī, ‘Abid al-Jabrī in his La Naskh fī al-Qurān, Sayyid Balāghi in his Ḥujjat al-Tafsīr, Muḥamamd Hijāz al-Saqqa in La Naskh fī al-Qurān. Sayyid Khū’ī also negates it but in his own unique way in his al-Bayān.

However, the vast majority of Muslim scholars do accept naskh today.


Table of Contents

Below is the order in which we will be moving forward with our discussion:

1) Concept of Naskh

We have to differentiate between naskh and takhṣīṣ, taqyīd, ḥukūmah and other similar jargon. How did the classical and contemporary scholars deal with the issue of naskh? This is important because earlier Muslim scholars defined naskh in a very expansive way which also included takhṣīṣ, taqyīd, ḥukūmah etc. In fact, Sayyid Khū’ī deals with many of the verses that are considered nāsikh and mansūkh in his al-Bayan and reconciles them by saying they are either ḥukūmah, takhṣīṣ or taqyīd.

If you notice, in the Shi’a seminary we have not studied naskh in a serious way in any course or subject. When you look at the Sunni madrassahs you will notice until today that it is a very important subject. This is probably because their process of ijtihād is far more connected with the Quran than ours.

2) Is naskh even rationally possible or not? What are the justifications for it, and what is the wisdom behind it? This has both a theological aspect and also a legal theory aspect.

3) If naskh is possible, did it actually occur or not? The majority of the scholars believed in it and we will analyze their opinions and the opinions and arguments of those who rejected its occurrence. As for those who believe in naskh, what are the criteria that they gave to identify an abrogated verse?

4) What are the types of Naskh:

i) There is a famous 3-fold division amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah from the perspective of that which is abrogated (mansūkh): Naskh al-Ḥukm, al-Ḥukm wa al-Tilāwah, and just Naskh al-Tilāwah

ii) A division from the perspective of both the nāsikh and the mansūkh: Naskh al-Kitāb with al-Kitāb, Naskh al-Sunnah with al-Kitāb, Naskh al-Kitāb with al-Sunnah, Naskh al-Sunnah with al-Sunnah. Over here we will discuss whether naskh can happen after the demise of the Prophet (p), or whether a solitary report can do naskh of the Quran or not etc.

iii) A division from the perspective of ontology: Naskh al-Takwīnī and Naskh al-Tashrī‘ī – we will discuss very briefly the notions of Bada’ in this section.

iv) A division from the perspective of the contents of the verses: From the perspective of the content: Naskh al-Tashrī‘ and Naskh al-Khabarī. For example, if Allah (swt) informs us of a news (khabar) or some information in a verse, can He abrogate that piece of information? This may surprise some, even though a few scholars have entertained this, such as perhaps in one verse Musa (a) is being told one thing, but in another verse he (p) is being told another thing.


Naskh – Abrogation in the Quran (1) – Iqra Online