Knowledge of Naskh


بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

الحمد الله


Knowledge of naskh is of great importance to the scholars of fiqh (Islamic law) and tafsīr (explanation of the Qur’ān), in order that application of Islamic laws does not become confused. Someone who is ignorant of repealed laws may try to apply them and end up doing haraam acts and calling others to ḥarām. Thus, it was reported that once ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib رضي الله عنه, the fourth Caliph, passed by a judge and asked him if he knew in which laws naskh had occurred. The man replied, “No.” ‘Alee said to him, “You have perished and caused others to perish!”[1] However, it should be noted that the number of authentic cases of naskh are few and far between. There are only three reliable ways to identify these cases:

1. A clearly worded narration from Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلم or one of his companions . For example, Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلم was reported to have said,

“ I used to forbid you from visiting graves, but (now) you should visit them, as

surely they are reminders (of the next life).” [2]

One of the Ṣaḥābah by the name of Salamah ibn al-Akwa‘ رضي الله عنه reported that when the verse,

وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُطِيقُونَهُ فِدْيَةٌ طَعَامُ مِسْكِينٍ

“And the redemption for those who have difficulty with (fasting) is the

feeding of a poor person,”[3]

was revealed, whoever wanted to stop fasting would redeem himself, until the verse after it [4] was revealed and replaced it:

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

“Whoever among you who witnesses the (beginning of) the month

should fast (the month).”[5]

2. The unanimous agreement of early Muslim scholars on both the law which was replaced and the one which replaced it. That is, their recognition of the fact that an abrogation took place and not their agreement to abrogate a divine law. An example of this can be found in a ḥadīth wherein Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلمsaid,

“Whip whoever takes intoxicants (each time he is caught) and on the fourth time

kill him.” [6]

The Ṣaḥābah رضي الله عنهمwere unanimous on the fact that the one who took intoxicants was no longer to be executed. They did not repeal the law by unanimous agreement (ijmā ‘), but the law was not applied because it was known to all of them that Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلمrepealed it.[7]

3. Reliable historical knowledge of a law being put into practice during an earlier historical period, then a later law appears to clearly contradict it. For example, Shaddād ibn Aws رضي الله عنه reported that at the time of the conquest of Makkah (8AH/630 CE), Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلمsaid,

“The cupper and the cupped[8]have both broken the fast.” [9]

On the other hand, Ibn ‘Abbās رضي الله عنهما reported that Rasūl Allāh صلى الله عليه و سلمwas cupped while fasting and while he was in iḥrām. [10]Some versions of this report also mentioned that it took place during the Farewell Pilgrimage (10 AH/632 CE).33 [11]

Naskh cannot be determined by ijtihād (reasoning in the absence of clear evidence), nor by the opinion of a Qur’ānic commentator, nor solely by the apparent contradiction of texts. And indeed, Allāh سبحانه و تعالى knows best.

[1] Quoted by as-Suyūtī in al-Itqān, vol. 3, p. 59.

[2] Reported by Buraydah and collected by Muslim (Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, vol. 2, pp. 463-4, no. 2131), Abū Dāwūd (Sunan Abū Dāwūd, vol. 2, p. 919, no. 3229), an-Nasā’ī and Aḥmad.

[3] Sūrat al-Baqarah (2):184

[4] Sūrat al-Baqarah (2):185

[5] Collected by al-Bukhārī (Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhārī , vol. 6, p. 27, no. 34) and Muslim (Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, vol. 2, p. 555, nos. 2547-8). It should be borne in mind that the Ṣaḥābah (RAA) used the word naskh for a broader category of changes to an existing law than the word came to mean among scholars of later generations. For the Ṣaḥābah, naskh included takhsīs (specification) as well as complete abrogation. Therefore, the general permission for anyone who cared to feed a poor person instead of fasting was cancelled. However, the permission still stands for the aged and the chronically ill, as Ibn ‘Abbās رضي الله عنهما noted in Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 6, pp. 26-7, no. 32.

[6] Collected by Aḥmad. and by Abū Dāwūd (Sunan Abū Dāwūd, vol. 3, pp. 1252-3, nos. 4467-70) and authenticated by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥiḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd, vol. 3, p. 848, nos. 3763-4.

[7] The consensus on this issue was reported by at-Tirmidhī in his book al-‘Ilal. Sunan Abū Dāwūd vol. 3, p. 1252, footnote no. 3903

[8] Cupping is a practice of drawing blood to the surface of the skin by making an incision and

creating a vacuum at the point. It is done for medicinal purposes.

[9] Collected by Abū Dāwūd (Sunan Abū Dāwūd, vol. 2, p. 650, no. 2363), at-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah and Aḥmad, and authenticated by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥiḥ Sunan Abī Dāwūd, vol. 2, p.451, no. 2075.

[10] Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 3, p. 91, no. 159.

[11] See Fatḥ al-Bārī, vol. 4, p. 210.


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