Naskh (Abrogation)

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Abrogation (Naskh) refers to one Qur'anic verse superseding another, and is itself supported by Qur'anic verses and various hadith narrations. There was scholarly disagreement as to which verses were abrogated (see the article List of Abrogations in the Qur'an). Some critics point to this as a failure of the Quran and Muhammad to provide clarity on such an important matter.


The concept of Naskh, or abrogation, has traditionally been an important feature of Islam and its theology. The Qur'an is said to have been revealed by the angel Jibreel to Prophet Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years.[1][2] During those years, a lot had changed in his personal and private life.

Muhammad began as a preacher, and ended his life as the founder and Head of the first Islamic state, so it is not surprising that the style and message of later Medinan Qur'anic revelations changed and often conflicted with earlier Meccan ones.

Today's Qur'an, when read at face value with its non-chronological organization, can support any number of views on several subjects, and when read as a whole, many verses clearly contradict one another. The concept of abrogation is commonly understood to be mentioned in the Quran itself, sometimes apparently as a defence against criticism directed at Muhammad when he forgot or changed verses.

At the time of the caliphate, some scholars (particularly a preacher from Kufa, Iraq) were banned from explaining and preaching the Qur'an by early 'ilmic authority figure (usually 'Alī but sometimes also Ibn 'Abbās) because of their ignorance of the principles of naskh.[3][4]

Not all Muslims believe in abrogation, though it is the mainstream view. Nevertheless, there has never been agreement as to the scope of verses affected, nor even the precise definition of the term, such as whether it includes clarifications. The most commonly referenced application of the doctrine today is the gradual prohibition on the consumption of alcohol, though those who reject the concept of abrogation argue that alcohol was never in any way permitted. The verses about alcohol do not feature in the more limited sets of abrogated verses proposed by some scholars such as al-Suyuti (see List of Abrogations in the Qur'an).

Traditionally, abrogation is understood to be of three types: Abrogation of the verses and the ruling; abrogation of the ruling but not the verses; abrogation of the verses but not the ruling. The latter is famously proposed regarding the punishment of stoning for married adulterers, which does not appear in the Quran we have today.


Verse 2:106

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

Transliteration: Ma nansakh min ayatin aw nunsiha na/ti bikhayrin minha aw mithliha alam taaalam anna Allaha aala kulli shay-in qadeerun

Shakir: Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?

Meaning of Verse 2:106

The Meaning of Naskh

Ibn Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said that,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "Whatever an Ayah We abrogate. Also, Ibn Jurayj said that Mujahid said that,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "Whatever an Ayah We erase. Also, Ibn Abi Najih said that Mujahid said that,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "We keep the words, but change the meaning. He related these words to the companions of `Abdullah bin Mas`ud. Ibn Abi Hatim said that similar statements were mentioned by Abu Al-`Aliyah and Muhammad bin Ka`b Al-Qurazi. Also As-Suddi said that,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "We erase it. Further, Ibn Abi Hatim said that it means, "Erase and raise it, such as erasing the following wordings (from the Qur'an), `The married adulterer and the married adulteress: stone them to death,' and, `If the son of Adam had two valleys of gold, he would seek a third.'

Ibn Jarir stated that,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh) means, "Whatever ruling we repeal in an Ayah by making the allowed unlawful and the unlawful allowed. The Nasakh only occurs with commandments, prohibitions, permissions, and so forth. As for stories, they do not undergo Nasakh. The word, `Nasakh' literally means, `to copy a book'. The meaning of Nasakh in the case of commandments is removing the commandment and replacing it by another. And whether the Nasakh involves the wordings, the ruling or both, it is still called Nasakh.

Allah said next,

(or Nunsiha (cause it to be forgotten)). `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said that,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do Nansakh or Nunsiha) means, "Whatever Ayah We repeal or uphold without change. Also, Mujahid said that the companions of Ibn Mas`ud (who read this word Nansa'ha) said that it means, "We uphold its wording and change its ruling. Further, `Ubayd bin `Umayr, Mujahid and `Ata' said, `Nansa'ha' means, "We delay it (i.e., do not abrogate it). Further, `Atiyyah Al-`Awfi said that the Ayah means, "We delay repealing it. This is the same Tafsir provided by As-Suddi and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. `Abdur-Razzaq said that Ma`mar said that Qatadah said about Allah's statement,

(Whatever a verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten) "Allah made His Prophet forget what He willed and He abrogated what He will.

Allah's said,

(We bring a better one or similar to it), better, relates to the benefit provided for the one it addresses, as reported from `Ali bin Abi Talhah that Ibn `Abbas said,

(We bring a better one) means, "We bring forth a more beneficial ruling, that is also easier for you. Also, As-Suddi said that,

(We bring a better one or similar to it) means, "We bring forth a better Ayah, or similar to that which was repealed. Qatadah also said that,

(We bring a better one or similar to it) means, "We replace it by an Ayah more facilitating, permitting, commanding, or prohibiting.
The Meaning of Naskh
Tafsir ibn Kathir

Verse 13:39

Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book.

Verse 16:101

And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say: You are only a forger. Nay, most of them do not know.

Verses 17:85-86

They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration). Say: "The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)" If it were Our Will, We could take away that which We have sent thee by inspiration:then wouldst thou find none to plead thy affair in that matter as against Us,-

Verses 87:6-7

By degrees shall We teach thee to declare (the Message), so thou shalt not forget, Except as Allah wills: For He knoweth what is manifest and what is hidden.


Sahih Bukhari

The following sahih narration indicates, that there are many verses in the Qur'an that have been abrogated, but all of them had to be included.

I said to 'Uthman bin 'Affan (while he was collecting the Qur'an) regarding the Verse:-- "Those of you who die and leave wives ..." (2.240) "This Verse was abrogated by an other Verse. So why should you write it? (Or leave it in the Qur'an)?" 'Uthman said. "O son of my brother! I will not shift anything of it from its place."
They had a choice, either fast or feed a poor for every day.." and added, "This Verse is abrogated."
That he heard Ibn 'Abbas reciting the Divine Verse:-- "And for those who can fast they had a choice either fast, or feed a poor for every day.." (2.184) Ibn 'Abbas said, "This Verse is not abrogated, but it is meant for old men and old women who have no strength to fast, so they should feed one poor person for each day of fasting (instead of fasting).
"For those who can fast, they had a choice either fast, or feed a poor for every day," (2.184) was revealed, it was permissible for one to give a ransom and give up fasting, till the Verse succeeding it was revealed and abrogated it.
'Ata said: Ibn 'Abbas said, "This Verse, i.e. the Statement of Allah: "..without turning them out.." cancelled the obligation of staying for the waiting period in her dead husband's house, and she can complete this period wherever she likes
This Verse:--"Whether you show what is in your minds or conceal it.." (2.284) was abrogated
A man from the companions of Allah's Apostle who I think, was Ibn 'Umar said, "The Verse:-- ‘Whether you show what is in your minds or conceal it ...’ was abrogated by the Verse following it."

Sahih Muslim

The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur'an abrogates some part with the other.
Al-Bara' b. 'Azib reported: This verse was revealed (in this way): "Guard the prayers and the 'Asr prayer." We recited it (in this very way) so long as Allah desired. Allah, then, abrogated it and it was revealed: "Guard the prayers, and the middle prayer." A person who was sitting with Shaqiq (one of the narrators in the chain of transmitters) said: Now it implies the 'Asr prayer. Upon this al-Bara' said: I have already informed you how this (verse) was revealed and how Allah abrogated it, and Allah knows best. Imam Muslim said: Ashja'i narrated it from Sufyan al-Thauri, who narrated it from al-Aswad b. Qais, who narrated it from 'Uqba, who narrated it from al-Bara' b. 'Azib who said: We recited with the Prophet (may peace be upon him) (the above-mentioned verse like this, i. e. instead of Salat al- Wusta, Salat al-'Asr) for a certain period, as it has been mentioned (in the above-quoted hadith).
Anas b. Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) invoked curse in the morning (prayer) for thirty days upon those who killed the Companions (of the Holy Prophet) at Bi'r Ma'una. He cursed (the tribes) of Ri'l, Dhakwan, Lihyan, and Usayya, who had disobeyed Allah and His Messenger (may peace be upon him). Anas said: Allah the Exalted and Great revealed (a verse) regarding those who were killed at Bi'r Ma'una, and we recited it, till it was abrogated later on (and the verse was like this):, convey to it our people the tidings that we have met our Lord, and He was pleased with us and we were pleased with Him".
Sa'id b. Jubair reported: I said to Ibn Abbas: Will the repentance of that person be accepted who kills a believer intentionally? He said: No. I recited to him this verse of Sura al-Furqan (xix.): "And those who call not upon another god with Allah and slay not the soul which Allah has forbidden except in the cause of justice" to the end of the verse. He said: This is a Meccan verse which has been abrogated by a verse revealed at Medina: "He who slays a believer intentionally, for him is the requital of Hell-Fire where he would abide for ever," and in the narration of Ibn Hisham (the words are): I recited to him this verse of Sura al-Furqan: "Except one who made repentance." (see also Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 285)

Abu Dawud

In Surat al-Muzzammil (73), the verse: "Keep vigil at night but a little, a half thereof" (2-3) has been abrogated by the following verse: "He knoweth that ye count it not, and turneth unto you in mercy. Recite then of the Qur'an that which is easy for you" (v.20). The phrase "the vigil of the night" (nashi'at al-layl) means the early hours of the night. They (the companions) would pray (the tahajjud prayer) in the early hours of the night.
Ibn ‘Abbas said: When the opening verses of Surah asl-muzzammil (lxxiii.), were revealed, the Companions would pray as long as they would pray during Ramadan until its last verses were revealed.
Women who are divorced shall wait, keeping themselves apart, three monthly courses; and then said: And for such of your women as despair of menstruation, if ye doubt, their period (of waiting) shall be three months. This was abrogated from the former verse. Again he said: (O ye who believe, if ye wed believing women) and divorce them before ye have touched them, then there is no period that ye should reckon.

Al Muwatta

Neither the abrogating nor the abrogated verses on suckling appear in the text of the Qur'an today. This, along with the Qur'anic verse of rajm (stoning), were written on a piece of paper and were reportedly lost when a goat ate them.[5]

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Hazm from Amra bint Abd ar-Rahman that A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Amongst what was sent down of the Qur'an was 'ten known sucklings make haram' - then it was abrogated by 'five known sucklings'. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, it was what is now recited of the Qur'an." Yahya said that Malik said, "One does not act on this."
Yahya said that he heard Malik say, "This ayat is abrogated. It is the word of Allah, the Blessed, the Exalted, 'If he leaves goods, the testament is for parents and kinsmen.' What came down about the division of the fixed shares of inheritance in the Book of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted, abrogated it" ...

Ibn Majah

It was narrated that 'Aishah said: “Once of the things that Allah revealed in the the Qur'an and then abrogated was that nothing makes marriage prohibited except ten breastfeedings or five well-known (breastfeedings).” (Sahih)
Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1942


Companions of Muhammad

According to Ali, the fourth Rightly-guided Caliph, knowing the difference between abrogating and abrogated verses will save you from being damned.

Ali ['Ali ibn Abi Talib]said to Abdul Rahman “can you differentiate between abrogating and abrogated verses” Abdul Rahman said, “no.” Thereupon Ali said “Thou art damned and causeth others to be damned.”[6]

"Although the companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed naskh, and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of a particular verse, references to the generation of the companions in the naskh literature are relatively infrequent.

Ibn Salama, al-Nasikh wa ‘l-mansukh (Cairo 1315/1899), 142-3, where `Ali and Ibn ‘Abbas disagree over the abrogation of Quran 4:94; `Ali maintained that the verse was abrogated by Quran 4:115 and 4:48, while Ibn ‘Abbas held that it remained muhkama.[7]

Early Scholars

Dr David Powers notes the following regarding the highs and lows of abrogation in the Qur'an.

The number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased dramatically between the eighth and eleventh centuries (al-Zuhri mentions 42 abrogated verses, al-Nahhas 138, and Ibn Salama, 238), at which point an upper limit seems to have been reached (Ibn ‘Ata’iqi identifies 231 abrogated verses, and al-Farsi, 248).


al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505) recognised only twenty instances of true abrogation and Shah Wali Allah (d 1762) reduced that number to five.[26]

Ibn al-’Ata’iqi, on the other hand, while citing 231 instances of abrogation, appendixes the phrase wa fihi nazar, indicating doubt or uncertainty to his discussion of twenty-six verses."

[26] These figures are mentioned in Ernest Hahn, ‘Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan’s The Controversy over Abrogation (in the Qur’an)


There is also considerable disagreement over the scope of abrogation within the Qur’an itself. At one extreme, there were apparently certain people who argued that ‘the Qur’an does not contain either an abrogated or an abrogating verse’;[38] these people, according to Ibn Salama, ‘have deviated from the truth and by virtue of their lying, have turned away from God’.

At the other extreme were those scholars who maintained that any narrative, positive command, or prohibition in the Qur’an may be abrogated.[39]

[38] Ibn Salama, p. 26; cf. Al-Nahhas, pp 2-3

[39] Ibn Salama, p. 26
Dr David Powers[8]

According to Ibn Salama , those who reject abrogation have deviated from the truth. Once again, its improtant to note at the time of the caliphate, some scholars (particularly a preacher from Kufa, Iraq) were banned from explaining and preaching the Qur'ān by early 'ilmic authority figures because of their ignorance of the principles of naskh.

Modern Scholars

Naskh is a fact since Allah Most High said "We do not erase (nansakh) any aya or cause it to be forgotten (nunsiha) but bring a better one or the like of it" (2:106).

Second, the mutual abrogability of the Qur'an and the Sunna (i) is rationally possible - since the Qur'an describes the Sunna as revealed as well: "Nor does he speak of his own desire" (53:3) - and (ii) occurs in the Law, as per the abrogation of the verse of bequest (2:180) by the mass-transmitted hadith "There is no bequest for anyone who stands to inherit."

Imam al-Shafi`i famously dissented with the massive majority of the Scholars when he said that only the Qur'an abrogates the Qur'an and only the Sunna abrogates the Sunna, but his School did not follow him in this cf. Imam al-Haramayn in Mughith al-Khalq and the contemporary Shaykh Hasan Hitu in al-Wajiz fi Usul al-Tashri` al-Islami, both staunch Shafi`is.

We should be aware that in recent times the tendency has been toward minimalism, much of it a reaction to Orientalist and other attempts to construe naskh as a literary rewrite invalidating Divine origin, some Muslim revisionists even forwarding the view that there is no abrogation in the Qur'an. However, of the 60-odd teatises written on abrogation there is no precedent for such an extreme view. The number of cases hovers around 200, peaking at 247 with Ibn al-Jawzi, 214 with Ibn Hazm and 213 with Hibat Allah ibn Salama while falling to 134 with al-Nahhas and only 66 with `Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi.

The Mu`tazili grammarian and author of the Qur'anic commentary Jami` al-Ta'wil li-Muhkam al-Tanzil, Abu Muslim al-Asfahani (254-322), was reputed to have denied intra-Qur'anic naskh altogether. Al-Razi and al-Shawkani refuted him in al-Mahsul and Irshad al-Fusul respectively, but others (such as Ibn Daqiq al-`Id and the contemporary scholar `Ali Hasabullah) justified his stance as a difference in terminology only (khilaf lafzi) - due, for example, to interpreting the word aya as "(super)natural sign" or "previous Scriptures" rather than "Qur'anic verse," or a reconsideration of purported abrogation to be mere specification (ikhtisas). Hence al-Qarafi's rebuttal, when al-Razi questioned the claim of consensus on the existence of abrogation: "Agreement has indeed formed over meaning; difference is only over naming."
Abrogation and Hadith
Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, living islam, December 23, 2008

Examples of Abrogation (According to Some Scholars)

Some of the verses listed in this section were believed by some scholars to have been abrogated by Quran 9:5, known as the "verse of the sword". This view was held by those scholars, such as Ibn Salama, whose beliefs about the number of abrogated verses were at the upper end of the range. This view became less common among later scholars and was generally held by those who lived near centres of imperial power (see Jihad in Islamic Law).

This verse appears in Surah Al Taubah (Repentance), which is traditionally considered to be the closing remarks of Allah. It is also the most aggressive chapter of the entire Qur'an.

Abu Ishaq said that he heard al-Bara' b 'Azib (Allah be pleased with him) say: The last complete sura revealed (in the Holy Qur'an) is Sura tauba (i e. al-Bara'at, ix.), and the last verse revealed is that pertaining to Kalala. [i.e. 4:176]
"Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said,

I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish the prayer and pay the Zakah.

This honorable Ayah (9:5) was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolator, every treaty, and every term." Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas commented: "No idolator had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara'ah was revealed.

If they incline towards peace, you incline also

Verse 8:61

But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).

Meaning of Verse 8:61

‘This has been abrogated by the “sword verse” [Q. 9:5]’
Surat Al-'Anfāl (The Spoils of War) 8:61
Ibn Abbas in Tafsir Ibn Abbas and Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Suyuti)

Scholars on 8:61

"It is the consensus of the scholars of this Ummah that if part of the religion is Allah's and other part is not, fighting must go on until the entire religion is Allah's".[9]
Ibn Taymiyyah, ‘Governance According to Allaah’s Law in Reforming the Ruler and his Flock’
"Jihad and the rifle alone. NO negotiations, NO conferences and NO dialogue."
Join The Caravan, p.9
Imam Abdullah Azzam
"So, if the fighting stops, the disbelievers will dominate, and fitnah, which is Shirk (polytheism), will spread."
Join The Caravan, p.20
Imam Abdullah Azzam

Fight those who fight you, Allah hates aggressors

Verse 2:190

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.

Meaning of verse 2:190

this stipulation was abrogated by the verse of barā’a, ‘immunity’ [Q. 9:1], or by His saying [below]:
Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:190
Tafsir al jalayn (Suyuti)

Let there be no compulsion in religion

Verse 2:256

Some scholars considered the following verse to be abrogated, though this is not the most common view today (see Let There be no Compulsion in Religion).

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Meaning of Verse 2:256

Allah says: "There is no compulsion in religion", meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam, because it is clear and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force...hence Allah revealed this verse. But, this verse is abrogated by the verse of "fighting...Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. In the Sahih, the Prophet said: "Allah wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains", meaning prisoners brought in chains to the Islamic state, then they embrace Islam sincerely and become righteous, and are entered among the people of Paradise.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir (unabridged)

See Also


  1. Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths, Mary Pat Fisher, 1997, page 338, I.B. Tauris Publishers,
  2. Quran 17:106
  3. Powers, The Exegetical Genre nāsikh al-Qur'ān wa mansūkhuhu, ISBN 0-19-826546-8, p. 124
  4. Andrew Rippin, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 47, ISSN 0041-977X, pp. 26, 38
  5. Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal. vol. 6. page 269; Sunan Ibn Majah, page 626; Ibn Qutbah, Tawil Mukhtalafi 'l-Hadith (Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya. 1966) page 310; As-Suyuti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthur, vol. 2. page 13
  6. Annasikh-wal-Mansukh, by Abul Qasim, published by Hindia Press, Cairo, p. 6. A similar saying is found in An-Nasikh -wal- Mansukh (i.e. Abrogating & Abrogated), by Abu Ja'afar An-Nah'has, Beirut, 2003, p. 9, and Nawasikh Al-Qur'an (i.e. The Abrogating of the Qur'an), by Ibn Al-Jauzy, Beirut 2002, p. 24, and Al-Itqan Fi Ulum Al Qur'an by Al-Suyuti, II, p. 700.
  7. (referenced by A.Rippin) Abrogation and the Koran - David Bukay, School of Political Science, The University of Haifa
  8. Powers, D.S, "The Exergetical Genre nasikh al-Qur'an", pp.122-126 in Rippen, A (ed.), "Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an", Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1988
  9. Shaykh ul-Islaam Taqi ud-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah - 'The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihaad' - p.28, © Copyright 2001 Maktabah Al Ansaar Publications, ISBN: 0-9539847-5-3