Introduction to the Quran –
Memorization & Preservation
Memorization & Preservation
Naskh means Abrogation or Cancellation. There is difference between the concept of Naskh (Abrogation) of the commandments in the Quran vs Naskh (abrogation) of some verses, meaning part of revelation of the Quran. The former are actually the commandments in the Quran addressed at different times during the 23-year time of Quran’s revelation. Some commandments abrogated the others and there is proof for us in the Quran and the Hadith for that. However, there is no proof for the latter type of Naskh (abrogation) i.e. some ayahs (verses) that were initially part of the Quran but were later cancelled and removed permanently. Unfortunately, this latter concept has come to be formed because of some ahadith recorded in the books of tradition that mention its taking place, which I have mentioned below. The fact however is that entire Quran with all its ayahs (verses) were collected at the time of its revelation by the Prophet ﷺ and his companions and nothing is missing from it.
Naskh (Abrogation) of the commandments in the Quran
There are many instances when commandments in the Quran were either replaced by other commandments or revealed to further explain the existing ones. For instance in the following verses on fasting, the commandment was understood by the Prophet’s companions to either fast or feed poor persons: “Fast for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g., an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day).”Imam ibn Kathir comments in his Tafsir based on narrations of several companions that when 2:184 was revealed, those who did not wish to fast, used to pay the Fidyah (feeding a poor person for each day they did not fast) until the following Ayah (2:185) was revealed abrogating the previous Ayah: “…So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan, i.e., is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasting) that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number of days which one did not observe Sawm (fasting) must be made up.” The companions at first used to feed poor persons instead of fasting in lieu of 2:184 but when 2:185 was revealed it abrogated that concession and the command of 2:184 was now only limited to those who are old, sick or on a journey and therefore unable to fast. In this instance, the command was abrogated, meaning it was made more explanatory by adding exceptions. Such instance is an abrogation of commandments that Quran is replete with and numerous ahadith testify to this fact. In another instance, the following alcohol verse was revealed during Muslims early stages of learning and practicing Islam, prohibiting them from approaching the prayer while drunk: “O you who believe! do not go near prayer when you are Intoxicated until you know (well) what you say…” It is well known that many among the Companions were alcoholics and when the time of prayer was due they would join and perform in a drunken state. Therefore, the verse was revealed to prevent them from doing so yet did not put a complete prohibition on the act of drinking. After sometime, another revelation came down declaring complete prohibition on the act: “O you who believe, intoxicants and gambling, idolatrous practices, and [divining with] arrows are repugnant acts- Satan’s doing- shun them so that you may prosper.” Due to 5:90 the complete prohibition of alcohol went in to effect and it abrogated the rule in 4:43. However it’s also best to mention that a minority of Islamic scholars declare that 4:43 is still valid for those who are strong addicts and it’s very difficult for them to quit (in need to join a rehabilitation center) therefore Allah gives them a chance as he did to the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ.
Naskh (Abrogation) of the Quran verses
As for the abrogation of the verses meaning that there were verses initially part of the Quran, but have been cancelled (Naskh) and completely removed is unfortunately a misconception about the Quran. First, the divine promise of Allah ﷻ says that no one can change His words: “And recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord. There is no changer of His words, and never will you find in other than Him a refuge.” When referring to this Book i.e. the Holy Quran, Allah ﷻ makes it clear that no changes can take place in regards to His divine speech unless He Himself wills it. Therefore, many Muslim Scholars believe that no words of the Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ were ever permanently abrogated later. The following verse specifically touches on the subject of Abrogation and used as evidence by those who argue in favor of verses being abrogated: “Any Ayah (verse or message) which We cancel, abrogate, or cause to be forgotten (Naskh), We replace with a better or a similar one. Do you not know that Allah has the power over all things?” 2:106 was revealed against the background of 2:105 which mentions that the disbelievers amongst the Jews and Christians do not accept that a new revelation can be send in addition to their’s. To which Allah replied in 2:106 that He has the power to replace the previous message with a new one. The word that Allah ﷻ used in 2:106 for 'Message' or 'Revelation' in Arabic is Ayah, which many of the translators and commentators have translated as 'Verse'. Taking this restricted meaning of the term Ayah, some scholars concluded from the above passage that certain commandments of the Quran have been permanently abrogated by others or certain verses, initially part of the book, may have been completely removed by God's command. The truth is that Naskh (i.e., cancellation/abrogation of an Ayah) did not apply internally to verses of the Quran, but, rather, externally to certain previous divine revelations. There does not
exist a single reliable Tradition to the effect that the Prophet ever, declared a verse of the Quran to have been "abrogated". As for the ahadith found in the books that mention about verses that were part of the Quran and are no more are only the words of his companions. For instance, the following is narrated from Umar (r.a) who said: “…Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married person (male & female) who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah's Messenger did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book,' and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed…” This apparent confusion of a “missing verse” can also be removed if we notice that it is only a miracle that Quran remains the same around the world with its meaning unchanged for the past almost 15 centuries. Having said that it is Allah ﷻ who in His divine wisdom decided to keep whatever becomes part of the Quran and what does not. Angel Gabriel (alaihi salaam) recited the Quran with the Prophet ﷺ every year and made him memorize which he in turn memorized to his companions: "We will teach you, and you will not forget [anything of what you are taught], except what Allah may will [you to forget]..." The verses of Rajam or others, may have existed but were never chosen to become part of the Quran to begin with. As per Islamic scholars, the verse of the Rajam is not included in the recitation of the Quran but its ruling as a law remains effective. Hence, what initially never became part of the Quran cannot alleged to be “later removed” or “cancelled” by the Companions or subsequent generations.
 Al Quran 2:184
 Al Quran 2:185
 Al Quran 4:43
 Al Quran 5:90
 Al Quran 18:27
 Al Quran 2:106
 Sahih Al Bukhari - Vol. 8, Book 82, Hadith 817 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 87:6-7) - Asad Translation