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THE PRINCIPLES OF HERMENEUTICS
THE PRINCIPLES OF HERMENEUTICS
[The Following is taken from The Hanbali Text Society and is therefore according to the hanbali madhhab.]
It cannot be lost to anyone that it is important to understand revelation to know how to access the meanings of the revelation. Failure to do so will result in tampering with the text and making the Qur’an an enemy to one who does not understand it clearly with insight. The word tafsir, derives from the word fassara, which entails the meaning of, ‘explaining, elucidating, bringing out the meaning of something.’ In a nutshell, this is hermeneutics, [ Hermeneutics, in its’ linguistic sense in the English language, is defined as, …interpretation, especially of Scripture… the Concise Oxford Dictionary, p. 467 ] ‘how we understand and interpret texts of revelation in context and without distorting the meanings that the Revealer of Revelation, Allah, has given to us.’ Distortion of revelation leads to Divine Judgement, as we have been told, Those who pervert the truth in Our Signs are not hidden from Us. Is the one that will be thrown into the Fire better than or the one who will be safe on the Day of Resurrection? [Surat ul-Fussilat, ayah 40] And the unbelievers say, ‘Why hasn’t the Qur’an been sent down all at once?’ We have sent it down stage by stage so that we strengthen your heart with it and We brought it with gradual recitation. And they will not bring you any saying but We shall bring you the truth and better understanding. [Surat ul-Furqaan, ayaat 32-33] The Prophet Muhammad SAW proclaimed, The Qur’an is either a proof for you or against you. [Collected in Sahih ul-Jaami` and classified as sahih. [Surat ul-Israa’, ayah 105-106] ] By giving a careful contemplation to this text, we can easily come to an understanding that we need to access the text in how it was meant to be understood.
o o o o IMPORTANT POINTS BEFORE HEADING TO HERMENEUTICS THE FIRST TWO TYPES OF AYAAT DECISIVE OR CLEAR PASSAGES (MUHKAMAAT) ALLEGORICAL PASSAGES (MUTASHAABIHAAT)
o o o o PASSAGES ON HAQIQAH PASSAGES ON MAJAAZ PASSAGES THAT ARE CLASSIFIED AS HAQIQAH PASSAGES THAT ARE CLASSIFIED AS MAJAAZ
o INDEPENDENT, CLEAR PASSAGES FROM AMBIGUITY (MUBAYYIN)
The Nass The Zaahir The `Umum
o PASSAGES THAT ARE ELUCIDATED BY OTHER TEXTS (MUJMAL) o EXAMPLES OF MUJMAL TEXTS
o PASSAGES OF NASKH (ABROGATION) o ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF NASKH (ABROGATION)? o IS THERE AN NASKH (ABROGATION) FOR EVERY SINGLE THING? o WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE QUR’AN? o COULD ALLAH ORDAIN SOMETHING ONE MOMENT BUT THEN ABROGATE IT RIGHT AFTER? o WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS THAT WE COULD LOOK FOR TO TELL WHEN SOMETHING IS ABROGATED?
o PASSAGES ON AMR o EXAMPLES OF THE AMR
Wujub Nadab Ihaanah Ibaahah Ikraam
o PASSAGES ON NAHY o EXAMPLES OF THE NAHY
Tahrim Karaahah Tahqir Irshaad Tasabbur
o o o o
PASSAGES ON `AAM EXAMPLES OF THE `AAM PASSAGES ON KHAAS EXAMPLES OF THE KHAAS
IMPORTANT POINTS BEFORE HEADING TO HERMENEUTICS
There is no approaching of falsehood from before it or from behind it. It is revelation sent down from the All Wise, the Praiseworthy. [Surat ul-Fussilat, ayah 42] We sent it down in truth and in truth did he descend. And we did not send you except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner. It is a Qur’an that we have sent down to you at intervals so that you might recite it to people at intervals, revealed in stages. The reason why we have had to quote these ayaat is that whatever we find in the Qur’an that may seem to be contradictory or opposite to what we understood, have to be looked at again. Due to the fact that the Qur’an is revelation, obviously there would be nothing wrong with it. Rather that there must be other ayaat that lend to the meaning of the one that we understood, perhaps our understanding is at fault or maybe a hadith explaining the reason for the revelation of the ayah can better elucidate the meaning. Over all, enjoy the Words of Allah, reading and studying it, rather than mouthing it. The point of Hermeneutics is not so much looking for proof-texts (verses to argue with and win over an opponent), but examining and understanding the texts in their context.
THE FIRST TWO TYPES OF AYAAT
In the beginning of our series of lectures, the first thing that we would like to speak about is the ayaat that are called muhkamaat and the ayaat that are called mutashaabihaat. These are mentioned by name in the Qur’an, where Allah SWT says, It is He who sent down to you the Book, in which some verses have clear meaning, they are the substance of the Book, and others are those meanings of which there is doubt. Those in whose hearts is a disease perversely persue doubtful ones, desiring deviation and searching for their own point of view of it, and its’ meaning is known only to Allah. [Surah Aali `Imraan, ayah 7] The ayah previously gives us a striking example of these two types of ayaat. Now we would like to understand their significance in somewhat more detail.
DECISIVE OR CLEAR PASSAGES (MUHKAMAAT)
Al-Qaadi Abu Ya`laa RH [458 AH/1066 AD. A major Hanbali scholar, absolute mujtahid inside of his school, a contemporary of Shaikh ul-Islam `Abdul Qaadir al-Jilaani al-Hanbali RH and one of the trainers of Shaikh ulIslam Ibn ul-Jawzi RH. He wrote numerous works in the science of foundations, hermeneutics and the others. His title, al-Qaadi, the Judge, was bestowed on him due to his mastery of fiqh as well as tafsir and the disciplines of the Qur’an. His mastery over fiqh was revolutionary and his 50 volume set written on the functions of the Islamic domain is legendary. ] states the following: The Muhkam is the explained ayah…because Allah named the muhkamaat the substance of the Book and the substance of the thing is the foundation
which nothing is given preference to other than it. So if is necessary to know that the Muhkam is not in need of something else for explanation, but it is the foundation in itself and it is not other than what we have mentioned. [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, p. 213] The following ayaat would fall under this classification, O believers! Khamr [We have kept the word Khamr in the text, as it signifies anything that covers or fogs the senses or numbs the mind according to the statement of Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA in his own tafsir, Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 131under the same ayah.], gambling, idols and divining arrows are only unclean things, a work of Shaitan, so abstain and avoid it so that you will be successful. [Surat ul-Maa’idah, ayah 90] You are forbidden to eat the dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which any name has been invoked other than Allah at the time of slaughtering and that which dies by strangling and that which is beaten to death, that which died of a fall, that which is gored to death and what has been eaten by wild animals… [Surat ul-Maa’idah, ayah 3] It can be seen from these that the import of these ayaat is clear, although perhaps certain parts of the passage may need clarification. Nonetheless, this is a clear and decisive ayah regarding food and eating habits.
ALLEGORICAL PASSAGES (MUTASHAABIHAAT)
Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudaamah RH states that the Mutashaabihaat ayaat have the following meanings: Shaikh ul-Islam Ibn `Aqil RH [513 AH/1119 AD. One of the great Hanbali authorities of his age and a master in theology and hermeneutics, having written three books on the subject as well as a 200 volume digest on fiqh.] mentioned, The mutashaabih are those types of ayaat which have meanings that are not known to others besides the `ulama who know how to investigate them, for example the ayaat that on the surface seem to contradict eachother. And example is His statement, This is a Day when they shall not be able to speak. [Surat ulMursalaat, ayah 35] And Allah says in another place, Woe be to us! Who has resurrected us from our place of rest? [Surah Yaa Sin, ayah 52] And there are other passages like this one. Others also state, that the mutashaabih are the disjointed letters that appear at the beginning of those surahs that have them and the other things are not. It is also mentioned that the muhkamaat are the promises and the threats, the haraam and the halaal and that mutashaabih are the stories of the past nations. And the truth and the most preponderant view is that the mutashaabih are the ayaat that speak of the Attributes of Allah, mighty and Majestic. [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, pgs. 213-215] An example of answering and using allegorical passages, in which there is difficulty in discerning their meaning, is a question that was brought to Ibn `Abbas RAA which he answered effectively. We will use that for the purpose of our lecture for its’ benefit is priceless. A man came to Ibn `Abbas RAA and said, ‘O Ibn `Abbas! I find things in the Qur’an that differ and contradict with me and something has come into my heart.’ Ibn `Abbas RAA said, ‘Have you rejected or belied the verses?’ The man said, ‘It is not rejection, but contradiction in myself.’ Ibn `Abbas RAA said, ‘Tell me what is troubling you.’ The man then began by saying, ‘Listen to what Allah said, ’…there shall be no relationships among them, nor will they ask after one another. [Surat ul-Mu’minun, ayah 101]
‘And Allah has also said,’ And they will face one another, asking questions. [Surat ut-Tur, ayah 25] ‘And Allah said in another ayah,’…And they will not be able to conceal anything from Allah. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 42] ‘He said at another point,’ Then there has not remained any fabrication for them but to say, ‘By Allah, our Lord, We were not idol worshippers.’ [Surat ul-An`aam, ayah 23] ‘So they have already concealed something from Him in this ayah and look at the words,’ He has raised high its’ vault and made it perfect. And He has made its’ night dark and its sunshine bright. And after that He spread out the Earth.[Surat un-Naazi`aat, ayaat 28-30] ‘Now Allah has mentioned in this ayah the creation of the sky before the Earth, then He said in another ayah,’Say, ‘Do you disbelieve in Him who made the Earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him? That is the Lord of all Creation. And He placed therein anchors of mountains rising above it and put blessings therein and ordained therein provisions for its’ inhabitants. All of this in four days complete, this is for the enquirers. Then He turned towards the sky when it was smoke, then He said to it and the Earth, ‘Both of you are to come willingly or unwillingly.’ They said, ‘We come willingly.’ Then he completed them as seven skies in two days and He sent to each heaven the commands of its’ own function. [Surah Fussilat (Ha Mim Sajdah), ayaat 9-12] ‘Here in this ayah, He mentioned the creation of the Earth before the sky. Then He says,’And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 96; Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 100] And Allah is Dominant, Wise. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayaat158 & 165] And Allah is Hearing and Seeing. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 134] ‘So was He this way once, or has He always been so?’ Ibn `Abbas RAA said, ‘What would you like me to do?’ The questioner (the man) then said, ‘Please inform me of their meaning, so that I can accept it and be at peace.’ Ibn `Abbas RAA then began to answer the question,‘As far as this ayah, …there shall be no relationships among them, nor will they ask after one another, [Surat ul-Mu’minun, ayah 101] ‘this is in reference to the first blowing of the Horn,’ And the Horn will be blown and all who are in the skies and the Earth will swoon, except whom Allah wills [Surat uz-Zumar, ayah 68] ‘So when this happens…there shall be no relationships among them, nor will they ask after one another, then when the Horn is blown again, they will stand, And they will face one another, asking questions. [Surat ut-Tur, ayah 25] ‘In looking at the statement,‘…By Allah, our Lord, We were not idol worshippers.’[Surat ul-An`aam, ayah 23] ‘as well as the other one,…And they will not be able to conceal anything from Allah. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 42] ‘This refers to the fact that on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will forgive the People of Sincerity of their sins and He will not harm them regarding the sin and He does not forgive shirk. When the idol worshippers see that, they will say to one another, our Lord forgives sins but does not forgive shirk. Come, let us say that we are people of sins but not idol worshippers.
As far as when they try to conceal, then a seal will be put on their mouths, then, Today We shall set a seal on their mouths and their hands will speak to Us and their feet will bear witness of what they used to do.[Surah Yaa Sin, ayah 65] [This is the second part of the events of the Day of Resurrection and that this ayah is the first in the series: On the day that their tongues, hands and feet will bear witness against them as to what they used to do [Surat un-Nur, ayah 24]] ‘And once that happens, then the idol worshippers will know that nothing is concealed in the sight of Allah! And due to this, Allah says of them,’ On that day, those who disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger will wish that the Earth would be levelled after burying them in it. And they will not be able to conceal anything from Allah. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 42] ‘As far as the statement, He has raised high its’ vault and made it perfect. And He has made its’ night dark and its sunshine bright. And after that He spread out the Earth. [Surat un-Naazi`aat, ayaat 28-30] ‘Then it should be known that the creation of the Earth was in two days before the creation of the sky, then he turned towards the sky and formed them in two other days. Then He looked to the Earth, then made it spread out and egg-shaped and the water and pastures grew from it, in addition to the fact of making cracks in it where rivers flow. There were also the valleys, mountains, hills, sand and dirt, all of which were made in the last two days. ‘So due to that, the Exalted One says, He has raised high its’ vault and made it perfect. And He has made its’ night dark and its sunshine bright. And after that He spread out the Earth. [Surat unNaazi`aat, ayaat 28-30] ‘As well as His Words, Say, ‘Do you disbelieve in Him who made the Earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him? That is the Lord of all Creation. And He placed therein anchors of mountains rising above it and put blessings therein and ordained therein provisions for its’ inhabitants. All of this in four days complete, this is for the enquirers. [Surah Fussilat (Ha Mim Sajdah), ayaat 9-11] ‘Then we look at the next ayaat,’ And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 96; Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 100] And Allah is Dominant, Wise.[Surat un-Nisaa’, ayaat158 & 165] And Allah is Hearing and Seeing. [Surat un-Nisaa’, ayah 134] ‘Indeed Allah affirms Himself with that and has named Himself with that. And He does not impute or ascribe that to anyone else, But Allah using the verb kaana is stating that He is azali (Pre-Eternal) as well.’ After all of this, Ibn `Abbas RAA then said, ‘Remember what I have said you and you should know that whatever appears contradictory to you from the Qur’an like what I have related to you, then indeed Allah did not abandon anything except thing of what He intended to be revealed, but people sometimes just don’t know. So do not let yourself hold contradictions about the Qur’an, for indeed it is from Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic.’ [This passage is taken from the book, al-Faqih walMutafaqqih, V. 1, pgs. 55-61]
In our first Chapter, we covered the importance of learning hermeneutics and the use of it in practical every day circumstances. We also attempted to explain that misinterpretation of the Qur’an and not taking recourse to its’ verses in the most correct manner would result in Divine Judgement. Finally, we attempted to give examples of two types of verses that we would encounter when reading the Revelation of Allah. This lesson is to focus on the next two types of texts, those two being haqiqah and majaaz.
PASSAGES ON HAQIQAH
This type of ayaat have to do with a meaning that is present only on the surface without recourse to another meaning. This is actually the reality of the thing. Imaam Khatib al-Baghdaadi RH [392-462 AH/1002-1070 AD. The great scholars of Baghdaad, he wrote numerous texts, one of his famous being, the Book of the Jurist and the One studying to be a jurist. This is of great importance as it showed the great source text analysis of the early Islamic community. He was famous for his memory, having learned over 100,000 ahaadith by heart. ] stated: The haqiqah is the foundation, source or root in the language and its’ limit is any term employed without extension or transfer of the meaning. [Al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, p. 64] Imaam Ibn Badraan RH [d. 1346 AH/1927 AD. One of the Hanbali scholars of the age, he came to the madhhab while in Syria studying Shaafi`ii fiqh. He learned much of his Islamic knowledge through the ancient kuttaab system of teaching and his family still carry on this tradition. His fame is mostly due to the fact of his writing small but easily accessible books for the students of knowledge, facilitating their easy understanding of more complex areas of the Islamic sciences. ] defined it as: This is where the thing is named by its’ form, so this is the form of the affair or the thing present, meaning its’ (reality) haqiqah…[Al-Madkhal, p.176]
PASSAGES ON MAJAAZ
These are passages that are classified as figurative, indicating a meaning other than that on the surface. This is usually a meaning, extension of a phrase or word in Arabic for use in a wider, figurative sense. Imaam Khatib al-Baghdaadi RH stated, The majaaz is any term employed which can have an extended meaning to it…majaaz is in the Arabic language and its’ customs, for something is named as something else when it has a majaaz for it or it has a reason and some of the speech has been deleted in order to facilitate abbreviation when the evidence remains clear. Mujaahid said that Ibn `Abbas was named ‘al-Bahr (the Ocean),’ due to the abundance of his knowledge. [Al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, p. 65-66] Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudaamah RH stated majaaz as, It is the expression used in other than its’ original meaning in a sound manner or way. [Rawdat un-Naadhir wa Junnat ulMunaazir, V. 1, p. 206]
But even in spite of these passages, there have been some who would deny the existence of majaaz in the Qur’an. Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH, however, puts things in perspective: And all of that is majaaz, for it is the use of the term in other than its’ subjected meaning or place. Those that hinder and prevent that are arrogant and stubborn. And those who were safer would say, ‘I do not call it majaaz.’ So they tend to dispute about the use of an expression, not the benefit of the use of and the elucidation of the meaning of it. [Rawdat un-Naadhir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, p. 206] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali RH, draws our attention to the following point, The Qur’an does contain passages that are haqiqah and majaaz, in clear contradiction to those people-those being the Zaahiriyyah and the Rawaafid-who forbid and hinder from the possibility of majaaz taking place in the Qur’an. [Al-Madkhal, p. 197]
PASSAGES THAT ARE CLASSIFIED AS HAQIQAH
The passages that are haqiqah are of course many, but the aim in this session is not to quote all of them, but rather to quote a sample of them so that the reader may commit themselves to research in his or her own time. Here are some examples of haqiqah ayaat, The Possessor of the Majestic Throne.[Sometimes the word `Arsh in Arabic is also translated canopy or crown, both of which are valid meanings. However, we have chosen to keep the word Throne in English, not for any particular correctness, but for the familiarity that English speaking Muslims have with this word being used in the manner above. ][Surat ul-Buruj (85), ayah 15] Thus we know that Allah has a Throne, in fact it is a true and real throne. We know this due to these other passages, And you will see the angels surrounding the Throne, from all around, giving glory to the praise of their Lord.[Surat uz-Zumar (39), ayah 75] Those who bear the Throne and those around it glorify and praise their Lord and believe in Him and ask forgiveness for those who believe. [Surah Ghaafir (40), ayah 7] When looking at these passages, it is clear that the Throne is a created object, also known as a concrete noun. If it was not a concrete noun, there would be nothing for the angels to bear, nor to be gathered around on the Day of Resurrection. Thus these passages establish something that exists, is real and can only be held upon the meaning that appears for that thing. Thus no one could declare this haqiqah ayah to be a majaaz, or metaphor. The only way to declare an ayah as majaaz that for all intents and purposes appears to be a haqiqah would be to fulfil one or all of the following conditions, 1. There are other ayaat or texts that support and render the expression necessary to be held in a metaphorical sense. 2. There is a custom in the language for such usage and the ayah is clearly in the context of that. 3. The haqiqah (reality) can be known by the validity of the majaaz (figurative) use of its’ expression. Thus an example would be that it is valid to use the expression, ‘lion’ for the brave man, in knowing that the expression, ‘lion,’ has a haqiqah (reality) in referring to the predatory animal and a majaaz (metaphor) in the brave man. [These conditions have been lifted from al-Madkhal, by Imaam Ibn Badraan alHanbali RH, pp. 170-183 ] [What is this telling us is that the haqiqah (reality) and the majaaz (metaphor) have to have a connection that is supported by the language and consistent, or a metaphor cannot be proclaimed. Also, Imaam Ibn Badraan RH gave an important point, that being that every haqiqah does not necessarily have
a metaphor but every metaphor most certainly has a reality that it has derived from, for without the reality, there could have been no metaphor made from it and brought into the language.]
PASSAGES THAT ARE CLASSIFIED AS MAJAAZ
There are many passages that could be classified as majaaz [The majaaz passages themselves have many types and subdivisions, some `ulama counting as many as 24 different subcategories of majaaz. Perhaps in looking at this, one can truly appreciate the magnificence of the Qur’an and the Lord who revealed it to humanity so that they might take heed.], but we would like to suffice with just a few of them, so that the reader and researcher may feel inspired to embark upon a greater odyssey in reading the Qur’an. And spread out the wing of humility towards them. [Surat ul-Israa’ (17), ayah 24] Imaam Najm ud-Din at-Tufi RH [D. 716 AH/1316 AD. One of the premier Hanbali professors of law in his age and an enemy to cults and doctrinal errors, he was one of the chief judges on the tribunals designed to root out major doctrinal errors in Damascus as well as greater Syria. He was one of the towering personalities in fiqh as well as hermeneutics of legal judgement, theory and practice. ] said of this ayah, The wing is a reality for the bird and things having bodies. But the meanings and inorganic bodies cannot be described with that. [Sharh ul-Mukhtasar Rawdah, V. 2, p. 28] And enquire of the town where we were as well as the caravan in which we came. [Surah Yusuf (12), ayah 82] Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA comments, …(enquire of the town) means, ask the people of the town.[Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 256] Imaam at-Tabari RH concurs, It is saying, ask the people who are present there. [Jaami` ul-Bayaan] Imaam al-Qurtubi RH stated, …(Enquire of the town) means the people… [Jaami`u Li-Ahkaam ilQur’an] Imaam Najm ud-Din at-Tufi RH stated, …(the town) means, the people, for inanimate objects do not comprehend, nor do they answer. [Sharh ul-Mukhtasar Rawdah, V. 2, p. 28-29] Then he found a wall that wanted to fall down, so he set it straight. [Surat ul-Kahf (18), ayah 77] Again, if we look at the import of the ayah, the words yuridu an yanqadda mean, ‘it wanted to fall down.’ Thus the wall would be held to have a will of its’ own or an ability to cause itself to fall or move or sway. But is there another meaning that exists? Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA thinks so when he explains the ayah as, …(it wanted to fall) means that it was falling down. [Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 316] Imaam al-Qurtubi RH [d. 671 AH/1273 AD. A major Maaliki jurist and champion of the Orthodox creed, his commentary and linguistic approach to rulings in the Qur’an have made his Jaami`u Li-Ahkaam il-Qur’an a classic among the students of knowledge and a legend amongst the ranks of the scholars. He is part of the rich Islamic legacy that once existed in Spain. ] agreed when he said, It means it was close to falling. This is majaaz. [Jaami`u Li-Ahkaam il-Qur’an]
Imaam Najm ud-Din at-Tufi RH said about this desiring wall, The wall does not have a will of its’ own, for the fact is that will is a reality from the specific characteristics of the animal or the human being. This statement is only an indirect expression that it was close to toppling down. [Sharh ulMukhtasar Rawdah, V. 2, p. 28] Imaams Jalaal ud-Din as-Suyuti [849-911 AH/1445-1505 AD. A major Shaafi`ii scholar of hadith and a Shaikh ul-Islam of his time, he wrote more than 600 books. He lived a life of piety and avoiding the people, focusing on writing and perfecting scholarly works. His books span areas of medicine and astronomy to issues dealing with differences of opinion between the scholars of his own madhhab and others.], Jalaal ud-Din alMahalli and Ahmad as-Saawi [d. 1241 AH/1847 AD. Erudite and precise Maaliki commentator on the Qur’an from the fold of al-Azhar Academy. ] RHM state that the passage means, It was close to falling down. [Haashiyah `alaa Jalalayn, V. 3, p. 27] …Or if any one of you comes from al-ghaa’it… [Surat un-Nisaa (4), ayah 43] In its’ original linguistic sense, the word ghaa’it suggests a low part of the earth or a depression made in the Earth. Thus the ayah would seem on its’ import to suggest that whenever someone comes from a lower place, be it a valley, a pit as in mining or some other depression or low elevation of land, it would be necessary to renew wudu. But is there another sense that this word represents besides what is immediately apparent? We shall attempt to answer this question through going to the words of the Orthodox theologians and masters. Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA [68 AH/687 AD. A commentator on the Qur’an and a major linguist in the Arabic language, this noble scholar studied the meanings of the Qur’an 3 times over with the Prophet Muhammad SAW, his first cousin, verse by verse. His explanation of the Qur’an is seen as one of the most authentic from the first century of the Islamic calendar. ] said that this ayah means: From a place where one does excretion. [Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 93] Imaam al-Qurtubi RH said about this passage: The origin of the word ghaa’it is a depression made in the earth…the Arabs intended by this designation the places where people relieve themselves, hidden from the eyes of people. Thus the excretion that comes from the human being was named this by association. [Jaami`u Li-Ahkaam il-Qur’an, V. 1] Imaam Abu Ja`far at-Tabari RH [280 AH/922 AD. A theologian and master of hermeneutics, he wrote the largest extent commentary on the Qur’an, Jaami` ul-Bayaan Fi Tafsir il-Qur’an, which swelled to 40 volumes. Modern additions, using smaller print, have been able to bring it down to 30 volumes. Some have also printed two volumes at a time in one book, bringing it to 15 volumes. It is filled with history, linguistic analysis as well as ahaadith that explain verse by verse many of the passages in the Qur’an. ] stated the following: …So and so has come from al-Ghaa’it, meaning by that that he relieved himself in the depression made in the Earth. [Jaami` ul-Bayaan, V. 1] And the recompense of a sin is a sin like it. [Surat ush-Shuraa (42), ayah 40] Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA said that this passage means, The recompense of an injury is an injury like it. [Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 515] Imaams ash-Shaafi`ii, Abu Hanifa and Sufyaan ath-Thawri RHM stated that this ayah means, In regards to injuries where the injured could seek equity from the offender. [Jaami`u Li-Ahkaam ilQur’an]
Imaam Abu Ja`far at-Tabari RH said, The recompense of the one who did the sin is to be punished by what Allah had made mandatory in that affair. And even though the punishment is from Allah who had made it compulsory for him, to the offender it is bad or evil. [Jaami` ul-Bayaan] Imaam Najm ud-Din at-Tufi RH gives us the following point to keep in mind, The second use of the word sin in the ayah is a metaphorical one. [Sharh ul-Mukhtasar Rawdah, V. 2, p. 28-29] Whosoever transgresses against you, likewise transgress against him in the same way. [Surat ulBaqarah (2), ayah 194] Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA, in explanation of the ayah, said that the meaning is: Whoever initiated against you with fighting in the Sacred Precincts, then begin to fight them back. [Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 33] Imaam at-Tabari RH says that this ayah means, Whoever transgresses against you in the Sacred Precinct and they initiate the fighting with you, then fight them…O believers, whoever of the idol worshippers violates against you in My Sacred Precinct, then you are to commit the likeness of what they did therein… [The Imaam is drawing us to the point that the ayah is in regards to those that are attacked in the Sacred Precinct. If the initiation of the combat begins there, even though it is sacred and hallowed land, the believers are told to defend themselves and move against them only with the amount of force that would be needed to subdue them. This conversation is from the issues of battlefield combat and is not the main focus of this discussion. For further details, one can look under the Books of Combat or the Rules of Engagement in the ancient texts of fiqh. ] [Jaami` ul-Bayaan, V. 1] Indeed those who annoy Allah and His Messenger, Allah has cursed them in this life and the Hereafter.[Surat ul-Ahzaab (3), ayah 57] Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din states the ayah to mean, …(Indeed those who annoy Allah) means His Friends and Saints… [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, p. 206] Imaam Ahmad as-Saawi RH says, …(Indeed those who annoy Allah and His Messenger) in regards to Allah has the meaning of transgressing His boundaries and in regards to His Messenger it is to be taken on its’ outward import. [Haashiyah `alaa Jalalayn, V. 3, p. 355] And Yusuf said to the one of the two whom he considered would be saved, mention me in the presence of your Lord. But Shaitan made him forget to mention Yusuf in the presence of his Lord, then Yusuf stayed in prison for a number of years. [Surah Yusuf (12), ayah 42] Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas RAA says about the passage under discussion, …(Mention me in the presence of your Lord) means, mention me in the presence of your master, the King. [Tanwir ul-Maqbaas, p. 251] Thus lord, in this context, did not mean Allah SWT, but it was an angelic messenger delivering His message or proclaiming. It was also used with regard to a King, namely the ruler of Egypt. There are a few other passages as well that convey the same use of the word Lord, He said, O my Lord! How will I have a son when old age has come to me and my wife is barren. He said, Likewise Allah does what he wills. So he said, My Lord! Make a sign for me. He said, your token is that you will not speak to people for three days but with signals, and remember your Lord much and praise Him at all times. [Surah Aali `Imraan (3), ayaat 40-41]
She said, O my Lord! How will I have a son when no man has touched me? He said, Allah creates what he wills…[Surah Aali `Imraan (3), ayah 47] In these passages, the lord referred to was none other than the Angel Jibril AS. Not for one moment would anyone think that the Angel Jibril AS had divinity or some likeness with Allah, but the majaaz was used in this passage to refer to him in that sense. In closing, we would like to say that the Qur’an is a revelation that has an ocean of meanings and shades of reality and perception. Those who would try to limit it or somehow weaken its’ profound discourse have to rediscover their love for the Revelation of Allah and the Message therein to humanity. Indeed the Praise is for Allah who has made this endeavour of ours a labour of love and the research in it that which is a delight for the heart and the eye and a tranquillity of the soul.
In Chapter 2, we spoke of ayaat that are held on their present, surface meaning (haqiqah) as well as those that are figurative or metaphorical (majaaz). What we would now like to speak about is the mubayyin and the mujmal ayaat.
INDEPENDENT, CLEAR PASSAGES FROM AMBIGUITY (MUBAYYIN)
These are passages that are clear in and of themselves and do not need clarification from other ayaat. Imaam al-Khatib al-Baghdaadi RH stated: The mubayyin is what is independent in and of itself in revealing the intent of what is being said and not in need of going to other texts to know the intent. [al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, pp. 74-78] Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudaamah RH said that the mubayyin: …is what benefits of itself without other possibilities and bearings. [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, p. 506] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali RH states of the Mubayyin: It is the opposite of the mujmal, and it can be said that it is an expressed text on a meaning without returning to any other likeness. Al-Aamidi says, ‘the mubayyin is speech that is independent in itself from need of explanation. And it does not need to be explained when it is related, as the mujmal and others do.’ [al-Madkhal, p. 266] There are three forms of mubayyin texts that exist.[ This information is taken from Imaams Muwaffaq udDin (Rawdat un-Naazir, V. 1, pp. 505-524); Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali (al-Madkhal, pp. 263-270), al-Khatib alBaghdaadi (al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, pp. 74-78). ] They are as follows, with textual examples:
A nass is what benefits in and of itself in its own meaning and is not in need of recourse to other texts. Thus it is clear and explicit in its’ meaning and cannot be interpreted any other way. Do not take a life that Allah has forbidden except with a right due to it. [Surat ul-Israa’ (17), ayah 33] In this passage, we have been given an explicit command not to kill human life except when conditions exist that would merit that. There would be no way to misconstrue the text unless with wilful intent. And do not come near the property of the orphans. [Surat ul-Israa’ (17), ayah 34] The property of the orphans is to remain preserved, as we have been told not to even come near it. Such a passage is warning enough for any average person thinking clearly.
A Zaahir text is one where it can hold two judgements, one of them stronger in meaning than the other. Thus it is generally clear and open, but could have another possible application. However, the most clearly and obviously understood meaning must be taken and acted upon as it has the most precedence over any second possible meaning when supporting evidence is compared. An example of an attempt at this was the exchange between the two Imaams Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shaafi`ii RHM. The Prophet Muhammad SAW is reported to have said, We do not have the likeness of the sin of the one who seeks the return of a gift. It is like the dog returning to its’ vomit. [Collected by Imaams Ahmad al-Bukhaari, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasaa’ii, Ibn `Adi, ad-Daaraqutni, as-Suyuti and an-Nabahaani and classed by them as sahih] Imaam ash-Shaafi`ii took what he thought was the zaahir of the text and concluded that although it is not sunna to give take back a gift, it is allowable. For it is not impermissible for a dog to return to its’ own vomit, nor is it hindered from doing so. Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal RH took exception to this position, believing that taking back a gift given was impermissible. The Imaam based this position on the fact that the first part of the hadith states the likeness of the sin, then not long after mentions the sin, that being seeking the return of the gift. And due to the fact that the Lawgiver (Allah SWT) has negated sin from Himself and not affirmed it in His Law, it could not be the case that it would be allowed in the matter of gifts, which asking for them to be returned to the bearer would be a sin. It is with this understanding that Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal RH ruled the matter to be impermissible. In the Qur’an, Allah SWT has told us, Forbidden to you is dead meat…[Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 3]
The `Umum are passages that are all-encompassing and explicit in their general sense in such a way as that they cannot be used in any other sense, unless clear evidence is brought that would show that they were restricted in some way. `Umum passages usually refer to the noun or subject in question in the definite, indicating all or most, the form that general passages most often appear in. Here are some examples: And kill the idol worshippers wherever you find them. [Surat ut-Tawba (9), ayah 5] And do not take the Jews and Christians as friends. [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 51] The fornicator may not marry any except a fornicatress or an idol worshipper. And a fornicatress may not marry any except a fornicator or an idol worshipper. Such a thing has been made impermissible for the believers. [Surat un-Nur (24), ayah 3] There is also a hadith from the Prophet SAW that goes with it, The two eyes fornicate, the two hands fornicate, the two feet fornicate and the private parts fornicate. [Related by Imaams Ahmad and atTabaraani]
PASSAGES THAT ARE ELUCIDATED BY OTHER TEXTS (MUJMAL)
Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH said that the mujmal passages are: Those passages, in which their meanings are not absolutely understood. It is said that it is when there are two matters conceivable, where one of them does not have superiority over another. An example of this is the shared expressions used, like the expression al-`Ain, which is shared between gold and the discerning eye and other than those two. There is also the word qar’, used for both the monthly cycle and the purification in between it. [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, pp. 516-517] Shaikh ul-Islam Sulaimaan an-Najdi RH [1275 AH/1859 AD. Shaikh ul-Islam for his time and for the Ottoman Hanbalis, he was a theologian, jurist, poet, warrior and one of the renewers of Islam in his time. He wrote some three different works as well as numerous commentaries on the Hanbali fiqh texts in his time. ] warned those who tamper with mujmal expressions: If you had considered the expression very carefully, you would have known that you had interpreted the expression on other then its’ meaning and it is indeed incredible that you have left the clear expression and went to a mujmal expression [as-Sawaa`iq ul-Ilaahiyyah, pp. 23-24] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali RH stated: The mujmal in the lexical sense is the expression yielding two possible ways that it could be held…this happens in nouns, like al-`Ain, yielding a number of meanings, such as insight, a spring of water and gold. And there is the word al-Qar’, which can yield the meanings of the monthly cycle and the purity in between it. [al-Madkhal, pp. 263-264]
EXAMPLES OF MUJMAL TEXTS
To give us an understanding of what exactly mujmal texts are, we would like to provide some examples that will help you in your endeavours. After each passage, we will try to leave you with a question to solve or a text to research to clarify the passage given. The food of the People of the Book is lawful for you and yours for them. [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 5] By reading this on its’ outward import, it would seem that it is permissible to eat all of what the People of the Book prepare. This would include, in addition to the meats that we have in common with Jews, alcohol, which is also consumed by Jews during commemoration of the Sabbath between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday. Your mothers have been made forbidden for you. [Surat un-Nisaa’ (4), ayah 23] Has speaking to our mothers also been made impermissible? What of keeping family relations, buying them gifts, befriending them, obeying them and other actions? This ayah appears to be indicating an unrestricted sense about our mothers. And divorced women shall wait for a period of three quru’. [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 228] Let us return to the words of the rightly guided `ulama, who made particular reference to this verse. Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH said of the word qar’, the singular form of quru’, which is used in the ayah: There is also the word qar’, used for both the monthly cycle and the purification in between it. [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, pp. 516-517]
Imaam Ibn Badraan RH, as we remember earlier, also says, And there is the word al-Qar’, which can yield the meanings of the monthly cycle and the purity in between it. [al-Madkhal, pp. 263-264] This is very important, as when a woman begins the process of divorce, do we start calculation from each monthly cycle, or each time of purity in between the monthly cycle? Is there is verse or hadith that could provide insight into the matter? And they will be given a taste from a boiling `ain [Surat ul-Ghaashiyah (88), ayah 5] And you will see it with the certainty of the `ain. [Surat ut-Takaathur (102), ayah 7] Are these texts referring to `ain in the sense of a spring of water, an actual eye socket or gold? What textual or contextual understandings could assist us? Could both texts above have the same meaning or do they carry considerably different meanings? So marry women of your choice, two and three and four. [Surat un-Nisaa’ (4), ayah 3] In first reading this passage, it would appear that someone would be allowed to marry two, three and four wives all at once. Thus polygamy in this passage would be unlimited for whoever was able to do so. But is this the case? Is there anything in this passage that would suggest otherwise? Are there any other supporting texts that would limit the unlimited statement that this ayah has seemed to put forward?
In Chapter 3, the mubayyin (clear and unambiguous) and mujmal (that which is elucidated by other texts) were examined, in which we benefited from greatly. One of the most important types of texts that we would now like to use and understand is that of naskh. This very word contains some of the bedrock that our creed is based upon in Islam. We then would like to define the principle, then give examples of it.
PASSAGES OF NASKH (ABROGATION)
The word naskh originates from the Arabic word, nasakha, meaning to ‘abrogate, invalidate, revoke, supersede, repeal, replace or withdraw.’ This is the purely linguistic meaning of the word. In the Shari`a it carries specific implications that should be known by the believer, so as to effectively implement the knowledge. Imaam al-Khatib al-Baghdaadi RH defines this word, In the Revealed Law, naskh has the same meaning as one of the forms of naskh in the Arabic language, this being the present, established judgment being superseded by a judgement coming after, for if this had not happened, the first judgement would have remained in place. [al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, pp. 80-81] Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH stated, Naskh in the Revealed Law has the meaning of when the ruling on something is removed or eliminated. So the removal of the established, present judgement in speech is superseded by speech that revokes and unbinds it. [Rawdat un-Naazir wa Junnat ul-Munaazir, V. 1, pp. 218-219] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali RH informs us, Naskh in the language of the Shari`a is the elimination of the present established ruling by way of a text like it that revokes and loosens it. [al-Madkhal, pp. 214-215] The foundation for what naskh represents has not been set. In addition to that, there is another point to also keep in mind. The science of abrogation has two forms, the naasikh and the mansukh. The mansukh is the thing that has been abrogated or is no longer binding and the naasikh is the thing that has abrogated the mansukh or rendered it no longer binding. We will try to use this vocabulary throughout so as to familiarise the reader with it. Allah has indeed stated in His Revelation that abrogation takes place. Let us listen to Him explain this situation, Allah wipes out what He wills and establishes what He wills. And He possesses the substance of the Book. [Surat ur-Ra`d (13), ayah 39] Whatever verse We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is able to do all things? [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 106] And when We change one verse in place of another-and Allah knows best what He has sent downthey say, ‘You are a forger.’ On the contrary, but most people do not know. [Surat un-Nahl (16), ayah 101]
From this we then know that Allah abrogates some of His Revelation in place of others and most people truly do not understand the affair at hand. We will, insha’allah, visit this principle further later.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF NASKH (ABROGATION)?
If someone looks carefully into the issue of abrogation, they can see that there are different forms of abrogation. Imaams al-Khatib al-Baghdaadi [Al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, pp. 80-85], Ibn `Atiyyah alAndalusi[Mawsu`at ut-Tafaasir Fil-Muharrir il-Wajiz, p. 122 ] [d. 541 AH/1146 AD. A high ranking Maaliki scholar of Spain, hailing from the city of Granada, he wrote an authoritative tafsir that is still used today by students in the Muslim world and the West.], al-Hussain al-Baghawi,[ Mawsu`at ut-Tafaasir Fil-Ma`aalim it-Tanzil, p. 56] [d. 516 AH/1122 AD. Given the name ‘Reviver of the Sunna,’ this high ranking Shaafi`ii scholar was known for his strictness in applying Islam, humility with the laity as well as upright character in narrating ahaadith and exegesis of the Qur’an.] Ibn al-Jawzi, [d. 597 AH/1201 AD. A Shaikh ul-Islam of his time and one of the senior Hanbalis of Iraq, this Orthodox master of all disciplines had lectures attended by some 100,000 or more people every week. He was indeed a sign of Allah and a lover of his Lord. He was also one of the best students of Imaam `Abdul Qaadir al-Jilaani RH. While in his youth, he memorised more than 100,000 ahaadith and the Qur’an in his youth. A direct descendant of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr RAA and a best friend to Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH, he brought over 10,000 people into Islam with his hands. He wrote over 300 books and was a senior theologian of high standing in the seminary that he founded.] [Mawsu`at ut-Tafaasir Fi Zaad il-Masir fi `Ilm it-Tafsir, pp. 80-81] Muwaffaq ud-Din, al-`Izz ibn `Abdus-Salaam,[ 660 AH/1262 AD. A Shaikh ul-Islam of his time and a reviver of Islam in his time, this Damascene heresiographer and master senior theologian is one of the great spiritual fathers of Muslim Orthodoxy.] [Mawsu`at ut-Tafaasir Fi Tafsir ilQur’an, pp. 35-36] Najm ud-Din at-Tufi [Sharh Mukhtasar Rawdah, V. 2, pp. 320+] and Ibn Badraan [alMadkhal, pp. 214-222] all say that Naskh has three types:
1. Abrogation of the ruling on an issue, but the preservation of its’ wording in the text. This means that a particular verse has been abrogated by way of its’ judgement, but the verse or verses remain established in the text and are not removed. …the bequest is to go to the parents and next of kin… [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 180] So when we look, in the beginning of Islam, the will and bequests went for the parents and the next of kin. But some time later, that was abrogated by, There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest related kin…[Surat un-Nisaa’ (4), ayah 7] This ayah then made it necessary for the parents as well as other members in the family to be entitled to a share in the inheritance. There is also the passage, And those of you who die and leave wives behind should bequeath for their wives a year’s maintenance and residence without turning them out… [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 240] In the Days of Jaahiliyyah, when a husband used to die leaving a wife behind, she would remain in the family home for one year before leaving the residence. She would have to be supported with maintenance as well as given board for that time. She could also not be re-married in that time. Allah allowed this practice to continue until it was time to be abrogated, at which time He said, [Mawsu`at ut-Tafaasir Fi Zaad il-Masir fi `Ilm it-Tafsir, pp. 148-149; Mawsu`at ut-Tafaasir Fil-Ma`aalim it-Tanzil, pp. 138-139]
And those of you who die and leave wives behind them shall wait four months and ten days… [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 234] This allowed the mourning period to be shorter, the wife to re-marry sooner as well as her to leave the residence if she chooses.
2. The wording of a ruling in the text is abrogated, but the ruling remains in place and in effect. Thus, a verse would be revealed, but then its’ wording in the text would be lifted while the ruling and meaning remained established in the hearts of the Muslims. An example of this is what took place with regard to the verse of stoning. The first text revealed regarding adultery was, So restrain them to their homes until death overtakes them. [Surat un-Nisaa’ (4), ayah 15] This was making reference to adulterous people and what should be done. These people were not allowed to mix in the community nor among other believers and were only allowed out for their basic necessitates. They would remain in a state of exile until Allah SWT would send down further legislation on the issue at a time that He willed. When the rule was sent, it was the following, The man and woman that commit adultery, both of them should be stoned to death. [Collected by alBukhaari, V. 12, pp. 128-131, Muslim, hadith #1691] But the text of this ruling was lifted and left in the hearts of the Muslims. Allah knew that the Muslims would always remember this ruling and that the Ummah would be infallible in preserving this principle. This principle on the punishment for adultery was so widespread, that it would become mass transmitted. It is of course truly miraculous that this rule was preserved, but Allah would know this, as he promised that this Ummah was infallible in its’ unity, And whoever follows a path other than that of the Messenger and the believers, we will turn him over to what he is on and roast him in the Fire. And what an evil home coming that is! [Surat unNisaa’ (4), ayah 115] The Prophet Muhammad SAW said about this Ummah, ‘You must stay with as-Sawaad ul-A`zam (the Great Majority).’ [Majma` az-Zawaa’id, V. 1, pg 179, al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak, V. 4, pg 430 alBaihaqi in al-Madkhal, pgs. 34 and 35, Tarikh Baghdaad, V. 13, pgs. 307 and 311 and al-Faqih walMutafaqqih, V. 1, pgs. 179 and 180. Also taken from al-I`tisaam, V. 2, pgs. 458+; Faid ul-Qaadir, V. 5, p. 347 and classed by them as hasan] ‘Whatever the Muslims see as good, Allah indeed sees it as good. And whatever the Muslims see as sin, Allah indeed sees it as sin.’ [Ahmad in his Musnad, V. 1, p. 379, Majma` az-Zawaa’id, V. 1, pp. 88, 177 and 178] Although Allah abrogated the text of the ruling, he kept it among the body of the Muslims as a mass transmitted fact as well as in our history books.
3. The final type of ruling is the abrogation of the ruling as well as its’ wording in the text. In this case, the actual verse or verses are lifted and their judgement is also no longer applied. An example of this type of abrogation is when the Prophet Muhammad SAW, received his revelation in the Sunna to face Masjid al-Aqsaa. When the time came, he was ordered by Allah with the following ayah that abrogated the one before, So turn your face in the direction of the Sacred Masjid wherever you are, turn your face in its’ direction. [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 144] The general revelation for the Messenger of Allah SAW in the beginning was to inform the people not to associate facing a direction with salvation. For this reason, in prayer he chose to face Masjid alAqsaa. Then after this incident, the ayah above took effect.
IS THERE AN NASKH (ABROGATION) FOR EVERY SINGLE THING?
Indeed, abrogation is only in things such as halaal, haraam, and blameworthy customs and so on. There is no abrogation in doctrine, for example the Unicity of the Lord, the infallibility of the prophets and so on. Thus, the principle of the Oneness and Unicity of Allah was never different. It has always remained the same, And We sent to every nation a messenger stating, ‘Worship Allah and avoid false gods…’[Surat un-Nahl (16), ayah 36] When we think of certain essentials of faith such as Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, Salvation, the Day of Resurrection and other such time honoured truths, these do not fall under the umbrella of things that can be abrogated for later generations.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE QUR’AN?
At this point, someone could ask, how could the Qur’an have abrogation if it is the Word of Allah? Could it not just be stated once and then that is it? These questions are valid, but an important point has to be kept in common. Allah has revealed these particular laws in a way that is called progressive revelation. This is where He has revealed a series of laws over time as the people were ready and could bear the matter. There are examples, not just in the Qur’an, but in previous revealed laws of abrogation in the messages of the prophets before, such as a. The children of the Prophet Adam AS were allowed to marry amongst themselves, but among us today, such a thing is classed as incest and impermissible. Why? Due to abrogation. b. The Prophet Ya`qub AS married two sisters, something expressly forbidden to Muslims, but this was before this principle was abrogated. c. Prostration as a form of greeting was allowed in the times of the prophets of old, but is impermissible in the Shari`a of all times given by the Prophet Muhammad SAW. We should then understand that abrogation is as ancient as revelation itself, without any doubt. It should not be a point of doubt, but rather something that increases our faith, as it rightly demonstrates and shows Allah as the Lord and Creator of History and Knower of all.
COULD ALLAH ORDAIN SOMETHING ONE MOMENT BUT THEN ABROGATE IT RIGHT AFTER?
Allah has used this very method to test many of the righteous throughout history. This is a fact and one of the best examples of that is the following story of the Prophet Ibrahim AS with his son, …He said, ‘O my son. I see in a dream that I am slaughtering you. What do you think?’ He said, ‘O father! Do what you have been commanded and if Allah wills you will find me patient. Then when they both submitted to the matter and he laid him on his forehead, We called out to him, ‘O Ibrahim!’ You have fulfilled the dream! Indeed We do reward those who do righteousness. That was truly a clear test and We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. [Surat us-Saafaat (37), ayaat 102-107] You should notice that the Prophet Ibrahim AS had been ordered to sacrifice his son, but before he could do it, he had passed the test and the command was repealed. Thus the point of the command was not the order itself but the willingness to obey and heed the order. And this is most assuredly how we should try to conduct ourselves, sacrificing in all ways and manners possible.
WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS THAT WE COULD LOOK FOR TO TELL WHEN SOMETHING IS ABROGATED?
There are some signs that indicate abrogation that will help us in our journey down the road of hermeneutics. In finding two passages that order two things, or perhaps one forbids something and another seems to permit it, to understand what is naasikh and what is mansukh, we should look for the following signs, 1. That the wording actually states it or calls for it. In the Qur’an, we have this in an example from the Prophet `Isa AS to the Children of Israel, And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you part of what was forbidden you and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. [Surah Aali `Imraan (3), ayah 50] The same ruling exists in the ahaadith as when the Prophet SAW said, I used to forbid you from visiting the graves. Now do so! [Collected by Imaams Muslim, hadith #977, Abu Dawud and atTirmidhi who classed it as sahih] 2. If the statement is being related, the narrator should mention the time of his/her hearing it, so that one may actually ascertain the status of naasikh or mansukh. So if someone were to say, ‘I heard it said on the Day of the Conquest of Makkah,’ we would know for a surety that this ruling would abrogate what came before it. 3. The Ummah must agree that particular ruling is mansukh (abrogated) and that the new ruling is naasikh (abrogating and superseding it). 4. The actual narrator states the naasikh and the mansukh. For example, there is the hadith of Salamah ibn al-Akwa` where he said,
The Messenger of Allah allowed us the dispensation of mut`ah (marriage while on war) in the year of the campaign of Awtaas three times, then he forbid us. [Collected by Imaam Muslim, hadith #1,404 and classified as sahih] 5. One of the texts has a clear indication that it is more recent than the other. One such text would be the following, Freedom from all obligations is declared by Allah and His Messenger to those of the idol worshippers whom you made a treaty. [Surat ut-Tawbah (9), ayah 1] In the ahaadith, it could be an example where one of the narrators knew the Prophet SAW longer than the other or where one of the companions only knew him a short time and died or the other may have only heard a partial conversation. And as a last point, but certainly not the least, is that if you are unsure, ask and find out so that you might be enriched and learn. Do not make a judgement if you are unsure or the texts do not seem absolutely unambiguous. We should always be sincere in prayer in asking for the help of Allah and His Safety from going astray. When we approach the Qur’an, we should do so in a state of reverence, hoping to understand the revelation at a deeper level. And may Allah make us of those who truly implement his word.
In our last Chapter, Allah brought us great benefit in learning the passages on Naskh (abrogation), that we might understand what we may and may not use as evidence. Although it was most assuredly difficult and challenging to our minds in looking to understand and interpret revelation as Allah has revealed it, we were pleased and happy with the information that was presented by the scholars quoted. Our last part in this series is going to focus on four different passages, those being the amr (order), the nahy (prohibition), the `aam (general) and the khaas (the specific or restrictive)
PASSAGES ON AMR
The word amr derives from the root, a-ma-ra, which denotes the meaning of ‘to command, to denote, to bid or to order.’ If someone should read a passage that is amr in form, this has to do with the stating of an explicit command that someone is to do. This command is unequivocal and there is no doubt in the command being stated. Imaam al-Khatib al-Baghdaadi RH says about this type of passage, The amr is the statement that someone uses to command or urge those besides him. [al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, pp. 67-8] According to Shaikh ul-Islam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH, amr in the Shari`a carries the meaning of, The action being urged or called upon by with a statement by way of strong emphasis. [Rawdat unNaazir wa Junnat ul-Munaaazir, V. 1, pp. 542-43] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali RH defined it as, The use of a statements such as, ‘Do this…’ or ‘know this…’ or ‘strike this…’ ‘leave!’ or ‘roll’ which denotes the imperative. [al-Madkhal, pp. 223-24]
EXAMPLES OF THE AMR
When we look at the passages of amr, we realise that the scholars of Islam down through the ages have catalogued a large number of them. There are some 11 or more subtypes of the amr. However, as brevity is the point of these lectures, we will mention five of them so that the believer may strengthen his/her faith with the basic and most commonly encountered types.
This is an amr passage where the command is of a compulsory nature where obedience of some sort is sought from the one being commanded. Some examples of this would be, So establish the prayer from mid-day until the darkness of the night… [Surat ul-Israa’ (17), ayah 78] So establish the prayer… [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 43]
This is a command that bears upon being praiseworthy and highly recommended. This is something where there is tremendous benefit attached to the command. …And the slaves you own that seek manumission, give it to them… [Surat un-Nur (24), ayah 33]
Ihaanah is where the command bears on humiliation due to disobedience and disloyalty. So enter the Fire with the other nations from amongst the jinn and the humans that passed away before you…[Surat ul-A`raaf (7), ayah 38] So taste the blazing punishment…[Surat ul-Anfaal (8), ayah 50]
A command that is permissible to undertake is called ibaahah, where the one called to something has the choice of whether or not they will carry out such an action as commanded. …Eat and drink but do not waste…[Surat ul-A`raaf (7), ayah 31] …And when you finish the ihram, then hunt… [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 2]
The ikraam is a command of honour, where the one being ordered is receiving some great honour or majestic station in what he is being commanded. It could be something of tremendous value or an honorary station. Please study the following texts, …Enter it (the Paradise) in peace and security. [Surat ul-Hijr (15), ayah 46] Enter the Paradise. You will neither have any fear, nor grieve. [Surat ul-A`raaf (7), ayah 49]
PASSAGES ON NAHY
Nahy focuses on the point of something that has been forbidden or commanded against. The root word, nahaa in the language will inform the reader that its’ usage has to do with ‘forbiddance, prohibition, restraint and calling away from an action.’ Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH stated, The nahy is something where a command is being given to abstain from something in very strong language, that usually bears on strict prohibition. [Rawdat unNaazir, V. 1, pp. 604-612]
Imaam Ibn Badraan RH describes nahy as, The word or statement carrying the meaning that one is to abstain from an action by way of emphasis and command. An amr is different, as it is seeking for an action to be done, not for it to be abstained from or called away from at all. [al-Madkhal, pp. 232-233]
EXAMPLES OF THE NAHY
As with the amr, there are numerous examples of nahy, but for the sake of brevity, we will only give a few so that the believer may understand the most basic type that they will encounter. What follows below are a few examples of nahy, so that the reader may familiarise her/himself with the general form that they occur in when reading the Qur’an (or even the Sunna).
This is a passage that indicates impermissibility in the prohibition and that punishment will result if the act is done. Do not take a life that Allah has forbidden except with a right due to it. [Surat ul-Israa’ (17), ayah 33] And do not marry those whom your fathers married before you. [Surat un-Nisaa’ (4), ayah 22] And leave off whatever remains of riba (usury). [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 278]
Karaahah is an action that is best to be left, although it is permissible. Thus the command to leave it is recommended, rather than bearing on compulsory. And Allah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths…and protect your oaths.[Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 89]
Those being given this order are being told to avoid humiliation as well as destruction. And do not strain your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to the groups of them. [Surah Taa Haa (20), ayah 131]
A prohibition that is given on the basis of assisting us in guidance is called Irshaad. Here is an example, And do not ask about things that if they were revealed would harm you. [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 101]
This is a passage calling for patience and to not lose hope. Here is an example, And do not mourn and lose hope. [Surat ut-Tawbah (9), ayah 40]
PASSAGES ON `AAM
When asked about the nature of the `aam, we may say that these are passages that have to do with general texts. Imaam al-Khatib al-Baghdaadi RH counsels us, The `aam is the passage that appears in the definite form and appears to have no exception to it. [al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, V. 1, pp. 70-74] Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH stated, This is speech that is general on a subject. [Rawdat un-Naazir, V. 1, pp. 7-9] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-Hanbali RH explained, The `aam is the passage that is absolute and understood in its’ absolute sense. [al-Madkhal, pp. 237-46]
EXAMPLES OF THE `AAM
Consider the following texts given and think of their implications if we take them and bear them on their full sense. Think of what conclusions would result. And do not marry the idol worshipping women…[Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 221] And the male and the female thief cut their hands. [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 38] And I do not find in that which was revealed to me anything forbidden to eat for the one who desires to eat it…[Surat ul-An`aam (6), ayah 145]
PASSAGES ON KHAAS
Khaas (specific passages) are called by this designation. These are verses or statements that actually restrict or limit the nature of other passages that would be described as `aam. Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Din RH, when explaining the khaas, said, The khaas restricts the `aam (general) wordings. [Rawdat un-Naazir, V. 2, pp. 61-61] Imaam Ibn Badraan al-HanbaliRH, when comparing the `aam and the khaas, explained, The `aam (general) is like mentioning the words, the men and the khaas (specific or restricted) is like mentioning Zaid and `Amru or this man. And the passages that are restricted clarify the intent of a statement or expression. [al-Madkhal, pp. 246-50]
EXAMPLES OF THE KHAAS
An `aam passage is, And do not marry the idol worshipping women… [Surat ul-Baqarah (2), ayah 221] But consider the following text a few surahs later, Lawful for you in marriage are the chaste women from those who were given the Book before you. [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 5] This passage clearly is restricting the one before it, for we know that Christian women do worship idols. But those that are chaste from amongst the women of the People of the Book, excluding all other kaafir and unbelieving women, are permissible to marry. The second `aam passage quoted above, And the male and the female thief, cut their hands. [Surat ul-Maa’idah (5), ayah 38] But this passage was restricted by the hadith where the Prophet SAW stipulated, There is no cutting of the hand except in what amounts to a fourth of a dinar. [Musnad of Ahmad, V. 6, pp. 36, 80,.81 and 104 and classed by the Imaam as sahih] And we must also recollect the passage that was quoted as a third evidence under the section of `aam passages, And I do not find in that which was revealed to me anything forbidden to eat for the one who desires to eat it… [Surat ul-An`aam (6), ayah 145] But we should also remember that the rest of the verse is restrictive, …unless it is an animal that died of itself, running blood, meat of the pig… [Surat ul-An`aam (6), ayah 145] In addition to this, there is the further prohibition against predatory animals as well as birds with fangs as mentioned by the Prophet SAW in sound transmissions. [Collected by al-Bukhaari and Muslim] What we should do after thinking and reflecting on all of this is that we should become renewed and invigorated for the sake of Allah. We should praise Allah that we have been able to look at and benefit together from His Words and to understand it from a deeper level.
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