There are basically four different types of naskh which can take place between the two sources of divine law, the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. The first is the naskh of the Qur’aan by the Qur’aan. In this type of naskh, a Qur’aanic verse containing a law is superseded by another Qur’aanic verse containing a new law. An example can be found in the verses on immoral women. The early law was stated in the Qur’aan as follows:
“And for those of your women who have illicit relations, seek four witnesses among you. If they bear witness, confine the women in houses until they die or until Allaah makes another way for them.”
This law was abolished and replaced by the following law of lashing:
“Lash both the fornicator and the fornicatress one hundred times each.”
The second type is naskh of the Qur’aan by the Sunnah. There is controversy as to whether this category exists. Those who affirm it give as an example of it the verse on wills, wherein Allaah instructs the believers as follows:
“It is prescribed for each of you to have a bequest for your parents and relatives if any of you nears death and leaves wealth.”
This early law was replaced by the inheritance laws and repealed by the hadeeth in which the Prophet (r) said,
“ Verily Allaah has given every one with a right his rightful (share in the inheritance) so there is no bequest for one who inherits.”
The third is the naskh of the Sunnah by the Qur’aan; that is, the abolition and replacement of an Islaamic law which the Prophet (ﷺ) taught by the law in a verse revealed in the Qur’aan. An example of this type of naskh is when prayer in the direction of Jerusalem was abolished. Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem, following the example of the Prophet (r) until they emigrated to Madeenah. After their settling in Madeenah, Allaah revealed the verse,
“So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haraam (Makkah) and wherever you all may be, turn your faces toward it.”
The Prophet’s wife ‘Aa’ishah also reported that the fasting of ‘Aashooraa’ (the 10th of the month of Muharram) used to be compulsory until the verses of Ramadaan were revealed. After that, whoever wished to fast ‘Aashooraa’ did so.
When the Prophet (ﷺ) migrated to Madeenah, he found the Jews fasting on that day in commemoration of Prophet Moosaa’s deliverance from Pharaoh in Egypt. The Prophet (ﷺ), under divine guidance, ordered the Muslims to do so also, but no Qur’aanic revelation was revealed concerning it. However, during the second year after the Hijrah, Allaah revealed the following verse,
“Ramadaan is the month in which the Qur’aan was sent down…so whoever among you witnesses the (beginning of) the month should fast it.”
The fourth type of naskh is that of the Sunnah by the Sunnah. This type of naskh involves the annulment of a law found only in the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) by a later law expressed in the Sunnah. An example of this type of naskh can be found in the following statement of the sahaabee Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullaah: “ The latter of the Messenger of Allaah’s (ﷺ) two commands was to not make wudoo’ after (eating) things touched by fire.”
In the early period of Islaam, the Prophet (ﷺ) had commanded his followers to make wudoo’ before praying if they had eaten cooked food, but in the later period he told them that it was no longer necessary to do so.
The naskh of either the Qur’aan or the Sunnah by ijmaa‘ (unanimous agreement of the scholars) or qiyaas (analogous deduction) cannot occur, as neither ijmaa‘ or qiyaas are of divine origin. Both ijmaa‘ and qiyaas are the result of human intellectual effort, therefore, their conclusions are subject to error. So even though ijmaa‘ and qiyaas are considered to be two of the sources of Islaamic law (fiqh), they are not considered to be a part of Sharee‘ah (divine law). However, they may be used when applying the Sharee‘ah to circumstances not specified in the Qur’aan or Sunnah. Within the Qur’aan itself, naskh may occur in three different forms in relation to the recitation of the abrogated verse and validity of the abrogated law contained in the verse.
1. Naskh of the Verse and the Law
In the first form, not only is the law abolished and a new law put in its place, but also the verse which contained the old law is removed by divine decree from the Qur’aan itself. An example of this form can be found in the following statement of ‘Aa’ishah: “Among the revelations was the law that suckling ten distinct times by a wet nurse made marriage to her and her relatives prohibited, as in the case of the real mother’s relatives. It was then replaced by the law of five distinct sucklings which was recited among the verses of the Qur’aan until shortly before the death of Allaah’s Messenger (ﷺ).” This type of naskh is extremely rare.
2. Naskh of the Verse Alone, Not the Law
In this case, Allaah had the verse removed from the Qur’aan and its recitation stopped without replacing the law. This type of naskh is also uncommon, though not as uncommon as the first form. Among the few examples of this type is the verse on stoning the adulterers, which was reported by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, the second Caliph.
“If the elder man and woman commit adultery, stone them absolutely.”
This verse is not in the final form of the Qur’aan which the Prophet (ﷺ) left, but the law of stoning the adulterer to death was applied by the Prophet (ﷺ) himself on a number of occasions and is well recorded in hadeeth. It was also the practice of all the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after him.
3. Naskh of the Law Alone, Not the Verse
This is the most common form of naskh, whereby a law contained in a verse is annulled by a new law in a new verse, but the old verse is left in the Qur’aan. A clear example of this form of the abrogation of the law in the following verse:
“For those among you who die and leave behind wives, the bequest instruction for your wives is that they be looked after (from your wealth) for a year without being expelled (from their dwellings).”
This verse was superseded by a later verse which stated,
“For those among you who die and leave behind wives, let them (the wives) stay by themselves for four months and ten days (i.e., without remarrying).”
THE TYPES OF REPLACEMENT
When a law was repealed, it was replaced by another law or not replaced at all. In the cases when it was replaced, the new law may either be less difficult, of similar difficulty, or more difficult. Thus, there are exactly four ways in which a law may be annulled with respect to its replacement.
1.Naskh Without Replacement
An example of this type was the repeal of sadaqah (a charitable gift for the poor) before private consultations with the Prophet (r). Allaah commanded the believers as follows:
“O you who believe! If you wish to consult the Messenger in private, you should give some charity before your private consultation.”
Later, He released them from the obligation, saying,
“Are you afraid to give sums of charity before your private consultations? If then you do not do so and Allaah forgives you, you should establish regular prayer, pay zakaah and obey Allaah and His Messenger.”
2. Naskh by an Easier Law
This type of naskh occurred in relation to the laws of fasting. Ibn ‘Umar reported that when the following verse was revealed:
“O you who believe: Fasting has been made com-pulsory for you in the same way that it was made for those before you,”
food, drink, and intercourse were forbidden to them once they prayed the night prayer or went to sleep until the next sunset. Then Allaah revealed the verse,
“Going to your women at night has been made lawful for you during the period of fasting.”
3. Naskh by a Similar Law
An example of this kind of naskh is the change of the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Makkah by the verse,
“So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haraam, and wherever you all may be, turn your faces toward it.”
4. Naskh by a More Difficult Law
A good example of this kind of naskh is the repeal of the law allowing those who did not want to fast to feed a poor person instead. The law which replaced it made fasting compulsory for all who were physically able.
THE WISDOM OF NASKH
There is no doubt that the replacement of some laws with others was done for good and important reasons, as none of Allaah’s action are in jest or without a purpose. Some of these reasons He has described, and others are obvious and deducible from His actions; however, there are others unknown to us and beyond our comprehension.
Allaah’s being is unknown to us and beyond our comprehension. Allaah’s knowledge has no limits and includes all, so man cannot reasonably hope to grasp in totality the supreme wisdom behind Allaah’s actions.
In the case of naskh, it is possible to deduce the following principle reasons for it occurrence:
- It is means of looking after the welfare of mankind by the evolution of divine laws to a stage of completion consistent with the development of human society.
- It is used to test the believers with a variety of situations in which they are required to closely follow certain specific laws, while in others they are required not to follow them. This type of variation tests the willingness of the believers to submit to Allaah’s commands as well as their faith in Allaah’s wisdom.
- It also shows that Allaah desires good and ease for the Islaamic nation. Naskh which repeals a law with one more difficult gives the believers an opportunity to earn a greater reward; the divine principle being that the greater the difficulty the greater the reward. On the other hand, naskh which replaces a law with an easier one gives the believers a break and reminds them of Allaah’s wish of good for them.
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