MODERN CHARGES OF ABROGATION
WE have shown in a previous chapter that Muhammad not only acknowledged the Bible to be the uncorrupted word of God, but he also urged upon the Jews and Christians of his day the duty of obeying its precepts. He himself, we have seen, decided certain controversies concerning food and the punishment of adulterers by a reference to the Torah, thus affording clear and convincing proof that no abrogation of the Jewish Scriptures had taken place as a result of his preaching of the Qur'an. Yet, despite these facts, there are not wanting Muslims who, despairing of proving the corruption of the Bible, strive to justify their rejection of its teachings by urging that it has been abrogated. When pressed for reasons for this extraordinary repudiation of the teaching of their Prophet, they refer us to three verses of the Qur'an which, they allege, prove that the Bible has been abrogated by the latter book.
It will now be our duty to examine these passages in the light thrown upon them by the standard Muhammadan commentators of the Qur'an; and we shall have no difficulty in showing that this charge, like that of ‘corruption’, is without the slightest foundation.
The first of the three passages which are supposed to teach the abrogation of the Bible by the Qur'an is Surah an-Nahl 16:101, where we read, ‘And when we change one verse for another, and God knoweth best what He revealeth, they say, “Thou art only a fabricator”. Nay, but most of them have no knowledge.’ A reference to the standard commentaries of the Qur'an will show that this passage has no reference whatever to the Bible. On the contrary, it refers solely to the Qur'an, and to the abrogation of certain Qur'anic precepts by later ones. Thus in the Tafsiru'l-Jalalain we read,
قالوا أي الكفار للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إنما أنت مفتر كذاب تقوله من عندك بل أكثرهم لا يعلمون حقيقة القرآن وفائدة النسخ.
‘They, that is the infidels, said to the Prophet, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, “Thou art only a forger, thou speakest (these things) from thyself.” But most of them do not know the truth of the Qur'an and the benefit of abrogation.’ It is clear from these words of the Jalalain that the Qur'anic abrogation of one command by another called forth the derisive taunts of the unbelievers that the Prophet himself was the author of the new legislation.
Both in the Tafsiru'l-Qadari (vol. 2, p. 581) and the Tafsir Mada'ihi'l Qur'an (p. 280) exactly the same explanation is given. The famous exegete Qadi Baidawi is even more explicit in his comment upon the passage. He writes as follows:
قالوا أي الكفار إنما أنت مفتر متقّول على الله تأمر بشيء ثم يبدو لك فتنهى عنه
‘They, that is the infidels, said, “Thou art only a forger, ascribing thy words to God. Thou commandest something, and afterwards forbiddest it.”’ Qadi Baidawi here makes it perfectly clear that the passage refers to the commands of the Qur'an, and has nothing whatever to do with the Torah and Injil. Another passage often quoted to prove the abrogation of the Bible is the 106th verse of Surah al-Baqarah. It runs as follows: ‘Whatever verse we may annul or cause to forget, we will bring a better or its like.’ This verse, like the one previously examined, has reference to the Qur'an and not to the Bible. A few quotations from the standard commentaries of the Qur'an will make this clear.
In the Tafsiru'l-Jalalain, for example, we read,
ولما طعن الكفار في النسخ وقالوا إنّ محمداً يأمر أصحابه اليوم بأمر وينهى عنه غداً فنزل مَا نَنسَخْ
‘And when the unbelievers taunted (Muhammad) concerning abrogation, and said, “Verily Muhammad commands his companions a certain thing to-day and forbids it to-morrow,” 44 then came down the words, Whatever verse we may annul.’ With regard to the words, ‘Cause thee to forget,’ the same commentators say,
أي نُنْسِكها ونمحيها من قلبك 45
‘That is, will cause thee (O, Muhammad) to forget it, and will blot it out of thy heart.’ From these words of the Jalalain it is clear that the words of the passage under discussion refer, not to the Torah or Injil, but to the words of Muhammad himself. God would abrogate, and, in certain cases, cause Muhammad to forget, what had previously been revealed to him. The whole matter, as explained by the Jalalain, is perfectly easy of comprehension. Muhammad frequently had reason to reverse certain commands and prohibitions which he had laid upon his followers with regard to Jihad, the Qibla and so on. These changes called down upon him the ridicule of the unbelievers in the words quoted by the Jalalain. In reply it is stated that God would bring a better verse than the one abrogated. This is the unanimous view of Muslim exegetes, as will be seen from the quotations given below.
Qadi Baidawi 46 comments thus,
نزلت لما قال المشركون أو اليهود ألا ترون إلى محمد يأمر أصحابه بأمر ثم ينهاهم عنه ويأمر بخلافه
‘(This verse) came down when the polytheists or the Jews said, “Do ye not see Muhammad, he commands a certain thing to his followers, and afterwards forbids them it, and commands the very opposite.”’
In the Tafsiru'l-Qadari, p. 26, it is said that the passage means,
" جوکچھ منسوخ کردیا ہم نے آیات قرآن سے ۔۔۔۔ لاتے ہیں ہم بہتر اُس منسوخ کی ہوئی آیت جیسے کہ دس کافروں کے ساتھ ایک غازی کا مقابلہ منسوخ کردیا اور دوکافروں کے ساتھ مقرر کیا۔۔۔ اورجیسے قبلہ کوبیت المقدس سے کعبہ کی طرف پھیردیا
‘Whatever verse we abrogate from the Qur'an, we will bring a better than such abrogated verse, as, for example, the command for one Muslim warrior to fight ten infidels was abrogated, and the command given for one Muslim warrior to fight (only) two infidels; and as, for example, the changing of the Qibla from Jerusalem to the Ka'aba (at Mecca).’
In the Tafsiru'r-Raufi, p. 114, it is said that the words mean,
"جوکچھ موقوف کرتے ہیں ہم آیتوں سے قرآن شریف کے"
‘Whatever we abrogate of the verses of the noble Qur'an.’
The Urdu commentator of the Qur'an, 'Abdu'l-Qadir, writes thus: 47
"جوموقوف کرتے ہیں ہم کوئی آیت قرآ ن کی موافق مصلحت وقت کے یا بھلادیتے ہیں اُس آیت کو دلوں سے تولاتے ہم یعنی بھیج دیتے ہیں ہم اُس سے اچھی جیسے کہ لڑائی میں اول حکم تھا کہ دس کافروں سے ایک مسلمان لڑے۔ پھر حکم ہواکہ دوکافروں سے ایک مسلمان لڑے۔ یہ آسانی ہوئی مسلمانوں پر۔ برابر اس کے آیت بھیجتے ہیں جیسے کہ پہلے حکم تھا کہ بیت المقدس کی طرف سجدہ کروپھر مکے کی طرف نماز کا حکم ہوا۔
‘Whatever verse of the Qur'an we abrogate according to the exigencies of the time or cause to forget from the heart, then we will bring, that is send, a better than it; as, for instance, at first in war the command was that one Muslim should fight ten infidels, afterwards the command was given that one Muslim should (only) fight two infidels, which was easier for the Muslims. “We send a verse equal to it” may be instanced by the command which at first existed to bow towards the holy temple at Jerusalem, whereas the command was afterwards given to say the prayers in the direction of Mecca.’
From the comments of the great Muhammadan scholars quoted above it is clear that the verse under discussion refers explicitly and solely to the Qur'an. It has no reference whatever to the Bible. There is no passage anywhere in the whole Qur'an which teaches that the Bible has been abrogated by the Qur'an; but Muslim scholars state that no less than 225 different passages of the Qur'an have been abrogated by later passages of that book. Yet Muslims still continue to read the whole Qur'an, including these abrogated portions; hence, even if it could be shown that the commands of the Bible had been abrogated, that would be no excuse for Muslim to neglect to read that Book, which is admittedly a divine revelation. lt would still remain an historical record of unique value and importance.
Before we leave this subject it might be well to call the reader's attention to one other passage of the Qur'an in which the subject of abrogation is mentioned.48 lt reads as follows: ‘We have not sent any apostle or prophet before thee, but when he recited, Satan injected some desire; but God shall abrogate that which Satan had suggested.’ In this passage abrogation is said to take effect on those portions of Scripture which were of Satanic origin, and in illustration of the passage, the Muslim commentators tell a strange story of Muhammad being deceived by Satan into uttering blasphemy, for which he afterwards grieved sorely until consoled by God by the revelation of this verse. We give below the comment 49 of the famous exegete, Qadi Baidawi: ‘It is said that he (Muhammad) wished that, in order to win the faith of his people, there would descend upon him some verse which would establish friendship between him and them; and he continued to do so until, when he was present in a meeting of the idolators, there came down upon him Surah An-Najm 53, and he began to recite it. And when he arrived at the words “Manat the third besides,”50 Satan whispered to him and placed upon his lips, and he said, “These (Arabian goddesses) are the exalted swans, and verily their intercession is to be hoped for.” Then the infidels' rejoiced thereat, and when he bowed in worship they joined in his prostrations at the end of the recital, so much so that there remained in the Masjid not a believer or an idolator who did not prostrate. Afterwards Gabriel admonished him, at which he became sorrowful, and then God comforted him with this verse.’ This extraordinary story, which is related in many Muslim books, makes it plain that, in one instance at least, the words abrogated were the words of Muhammad uttered under the instigation of Satan!
This completes the list of passages in the Qur'an in which the subject of abrogation is mentioned, and we leave the impartial reader to judge as to how far they prove the abrogation of the Bible. Far from abrogating the Torah and Injil, Muhammad repeatedly described the Qur'an as
مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ
‘confirmatory of what was before it.’ 51 lt is obvious, however, that the Qur'an cannot both confirm and abrogate the Bible, and; seeing that Mubammad taught the Jews and Christians of his day the duty of obeying their Scriptures, it is not difficult to see which of the two words represents the real teaching of the Qur'an. The matter is so clear that many candid Muslims freely admit that the Bible has not been abrogated. Thus, commenting on the words, ‘If they observe the Torah and Injil and what hath been sent down to them from their Lord, they shall surely have their fill of good things from above them and from beneath their feet.52 Muhammad 'Abdul-Hakim Khan says 53:—‘Then how absurd is the opinion expressed so often by Muhammadans, and on their authority by Christians, that the Holy Qur'an abrogates the preceding Scriptures. Nowhere does the Holy Qur'an contain a single word that may express the abrogation of the Pentateuch or of the Gospel or of other Scriptures; but it repeatedly claims to be a confirmation of their teachings. Abrogation it affirms of devilish inspiration only.’ The founder of Aligarh College, the late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, says: 54 Those who imagine it to be a part of the Muhammadan creed that one law has totally repealed another are utterly mistaken; and we do not believe that the Zabur (Book of Psalms) abrogated the Torah (Pentateuch), that the Zabur in turn gave way to the Injil (New Testament), and that the New Testament was suppressed by the Holy Qur'an. We hold no such doctrine, and if any ignorant Muhammadan should assert to the contrary, he simply knows nothing whatever about the doctrines and articles of his faith.
There is one other aspect of this matter which may be referred to before we bring this chapter to a close. It is this: abrogation can never apply to facts. A command may conceivably be abrogated, but a fact of history is always a fact. What is true to-day, cannot be false to-morrow. The great Muslim scholar acknowledges this where he says: 55
لا يقع النسخ إلا في الأمر والنهي
‘Abrogation can only take place in relation to commands and prohibitions.’ Mazhari says the same:
النسخ إنما يعترض على الأوامر والنواهي دون الأخبار
‘Abrogation only happens in connection with commands and prohibitions—never with facts.’ If, therefore, the Injil states explicitly, as it does, that the Lord Jesus Christ offered His life upon the cross as an atonement for sin, and rose alive again on the third day; then such an historical fact can never be abrogated. It will always be true that Jesus died and rose again.
We have seen that the Qur'an contains no hint that the Bible has been abrogated. The latter Scripture is still more explicit, and states in unequivocal language that the Gospel dispensation will continue till the end of time. Thus we read ‘The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever.’ 56 Again the Messiah Himself says, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.’ 57 Further it is stated in the Injil concerning the kingdom which Christ came to establish upon earth that ‘of his kingdom there shall be no end’ (Luke 1:33). How then could the Christian dispensation be abrogated by the coming of Islam? Such an idea is contrary to the teaching of both the Qur'an and the Bible.
46. Tafsir, p. 22.
47. Tafsir, p. 17.
48. Qur’an Al-Hajj 22:52.
49. Tafsir Baidawi p. 447.
50. Qur’an An-Najm 53:20
51. Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:46.
52. Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:66.
53. Tafsir p. 213.
54. Mohomedan Commentary of the Holy Bible, p 268.
55. Itqan, p. 22.
56. Isaiah 40:8
57. Matthew 24:35.