Knowledge of naskh is of great importance to the scholars of fiqh (Islaamic law) and tafseer (explanation of the Qur’aan), in order that application of Islaamic 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 Someone who is ignorant of repealed laws may try to apply them and end up doing haraam acts and calling others to haraam.
Thus, it was reported that once ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib, 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!” 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:
- A clearly worded narration from the Prophet (ﷺ) or one of his companions (sahaabee). For example, the Prophet (r) 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).”
One of the sahaabah by the name of Salamah ibn al-Akwa‘ reported that when the verse,
“And the redemption for those who have difficulty with (fasting) is the feeding of a poor person,”
was revealed, whoever wanted to stop fasting would redeem himself, until the verse after it was revealed and replaced it:
“Whoever among you who witnesses the (beginning of) the month should fast (the month).”
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 hadeeth wherein the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
“ Whip whoever takes intoxicants (each time he is caught) and on the fourth time kill him.”
The sahaabah were 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by unanimous agreement (ijmaa‘), but the law was not applied because it was known to all of them that the Prophet (ﷺ) repealed it.
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, Shaddaad ibn Aws reported that at the time of the conquest of Makkah (8AH/630 CE), the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
“ The cupper and the cupped have both broken the fast.”
On the other hand, Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) was cupped while fasting and while he was in ihraam. Some versions of this report also mentioned that it took place during the Farewell Pilgrimage (10 AH/632 CE).
Naskh cannot be determined by ijtihaad (reasoning in the absence of clear evidence), nor by the opinion of a Qur’aanic commentator, nor solely by the apparent contradiction of texts.
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