Naskh wa Mansūkh – Repeal and Replacement of Divine Laws

03/04/2009

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

الحمد الله

Divine laws were revealed by Allāh سبحانه و تعالى to His messengers عليهم صلواة و السلام for the purpose of correcting man’s beliefs about Allāh سبحانه و تعالى (‘aqīdah), his methods of worshipping Allāh سبحانه و تعالى (‘ibādah), and his social life or social conduct (mu’amalāt). Since there is only one correct belief about Allāh سبحانه و تعالى tawḥīd, whereby Allāh سبحانه و تعالى is considered as One, without partner in His essence, His attributes, His actions, and right of worship, all of the prophets invited mankind to that belief in exactly the same way.


However, in the case of methods of worship and social conduct, the same format was not used in all cases. Thus Allāh سبحانه و تعالى repealed Laws in certain conditions and this is known as Naskh. The proof of this is in the ayah,


مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا ۗ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

“Whatever verse I have abrogated or caused to be forgotten, I will bring another better than it or equal to it.”[1]

CONDITIONS FOR NASKH

For naskh to have taken place, the following three conditions must have been fulfilled:


1. The law which has been replaced has to have been a divine law. This means that the gradual prohibition of alcohol would not be classified as naskh, because each successive verse only expanded the prohibitive scope of the previous verse. The original behaviour of the people was to act as if alcohol was lawful. It was their assumption that alcohol was permissible that was gradually abolished by the three verses on this subject, not any previous statement by Allaah that liquor was permissible.


2. The proof used to replace the old law has to be a divine command which was revealed after the revelation of the old law.


3. The law which is to be replaced cannot have a specific time limit attached to it from the time of its revelation. If it has a limited time period, it simply becomes void when the time period ends, and such a process is not considered as naskh. For instance, fasting is required daily until sunset during Ramaḍān. The permission to eat at night during Ramaḍān or, after it is over, by day or night, doesn’t involve naskh.[2]


It should be noted that naskh only occurs to divine commands and prohibitions. Naskh cannot occur to statements of fact, because such statements are either true or false, so to say that a previous report has been abrogated really means it was either a deliberate lie or an error, both of which may not be attributed to Allāh سبحانه و تعالى.


Therefore, descriptions of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى’s attributes, the stories of the previous prophets and their peoples, parables and descriptions of the hereafter are all excluded from the category of naskh. Likewise, the divine promises and warnings are excluded, because Allāh سبحانه و تعالى doesn’t break His promises. Nor could one call it naskh if Allāh سبحانه و تعالى promises the believers gardens in paradise in an early verse and in a later verse promises them the pleasure of seeing Him. The promise of gardens has not been replaced by the promise of seeing Allāh سبحانه و تعالى; rather, both will happen.[3]


It should also be noted that the underlying principles of worship and moral behaviour have not changed through the ages. alāh, fasting, charity and pilgrim-age have been constant practices of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى’s religion—no matter which prophet was delivering the message—and lying, murder, adultery, cheating, etc. have been condemned by all the prophets. Therefore, the area in which naskh operates is in details of the format of a religious practice or a social law, not in the core principles.

Insha’Allah next post will discuss Knowledge of Naskh


[1] Surat Al Baqarah, ayah 106

[2] Shar al-Kawkab al-Munīr

[3] Shar al-Kawkab al-Munīr

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