In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms.
That the earlier Makkan revelation of ”tolerance” has been abrogated by the later Madinan revelation of “intolerance.”
The Qur’an 2:106 and 16:101 is the basis for the supposed abrogation in the Qur’an. Qur’an 2:106 which reads: “Whatever message We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or one like it” does not refer to the Qur’anic verses; it refers to the Jewish law, as the context shows. The Jews “could not accept a new revelation which was not granted to an Israe-lite,” notes Muhammad Ali
“This is plainly stated in vv. 90 and 91…Their objection was: Why was another revelation sent down to Muham-mad, and why was a law containing new commandments promulgated? …. The answer is given partly in v. 105, and partly in the verse under discussion. In the former of these they are told that Allah chooses whom He pleases for His revelation. In the latter, that if one law (i.e. the Jewish law) was abrogated, one better than it was given through the Holy Prophet. It should be noted that the new law is here stated to be better than the one abrogated or like it. It is a fact that though the law of the Qur’an is decidedly superior to and more comprehensive than the previous laws in most respects, yet there are many points of likeness in the two. Hence the words one like it are added.
…. The old law had been partly forgotten, and what remained was now abrogated to give place to one better and in certain matters one like it. It will thus be seen that the reference here is to the abrogation of the Jewish law, the statement being really an answer to the objection of the Jews.
That some of the Qur’anic verses were abrogated by others, though a generally accepted doctrine, is due to a misconception of the words of this verse. The word ayat occurring here has been wrongly understood to mean a verse of the Qur’an. Similar words occur elsewhere: “And when We change one message (ayat) for another message (ayat), and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say thou art only a forger” (16:101). This is a Makkan revelation and it is an undisputed fact, admitted by all upholders of abrogation in the Qur’an, that there was no abrogation at Makkah, because the details of the law were not revealed there. Therefore the word ayat, occurring there twice, could only mean a message or a communication from God, and the first message meant the previous scriptures and by the second message was meant the Qur’an.
The interpretation adopted by the commentators generally is not based on any saying of the Prophet; it is their own opinion. Nor is there a single report traceable to the Prophet that such and such a verse was abrogated. A companion’s opinion that he considered a certain verse to have been abrogated by another could not carry the least weight. It was the Prophet only on whose authority any verse was accepted as being a part of the Holy Qur’an, and it was he only on whose authority any verse could be considered as having been abrogated. But there is not a single hadith of the Prophet speaking of abroga-tion.
Another consideration which shows the erroneousness of the doctrine that any verse of the Qur’an was abro-gated by another is the hopeless disagreement of the upholders of this view. In the first place there is no agreement as to the number of the verses which are alleged to have been abrogated; while some accept no more than five verses to be abrogated, others carry the number to hundreds. This shows that the view is based simply on conjecture. Secondly, if one commentator holds a certain verse to be abrogated, another calls this an erroneous view. In Bukhari especially do we find op-posite views cited side by side. What happened really was this that when a commentator could not reconcile one verse with another, he held the verse to be abrogated by the other, but another who, giving deeper thought was able to effect a reconciliation between the two, rejected abrogation. This seems to be the basis on which the theory of abrogation of Qur’anic verses rests, and this basis is demolished by the Holy Qur’an when it says: “Do they not then meditate on the Qur’an? And if it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy” (4:82). There are no discre-pancies in the Qur’an, and it is want of meditation on it that is responsible for the theory of abrogation.”1
“The words “or cause to be forgotten”–(2:106), cannot refer to the Qur’an at all because no portion of it could be said to have been forgotten so as to require a new revelation in its place. There is no point in supposing that God should first make the prophet forget a verse and then reveal a new one in its place. Why not, if he really had forgotten a verse, remind him of the one forgotten? ….That the Prophet never forgot what was recited to him by the Holy Spirit is plainly stated in the Qur’an: “We shall make thee recite, so thou shalt not forget”–(87:6) …..It was a miracle indeed that he never forgot any portion of the Qur’an, though other things he might forget, and it is to his forgetfulness in other things that the words except what Allah pleases, in the next verse (87:7), refer.* On the other hand, it is a fact that parts of the older revelations had been utterly lost and forgotten, and thus the Qur’an was needed to take the place of that which was abrogated, and that which had been forgotten by the world.”2
*(The Prophet’s forgetfulness in daily matters is not without its benefit. Two occasions of the Prophet’s forgetfulness that proved beneficial to Muslims, (1) Upon given the night in Ramadan when the first Revelation of the Qur’an came–known as the night of Qadr, and which Muslims observe as the 27th night–the Prophet came out to inform his followers but found two of them quarreling. Because of this the Prophet forgot the date and told the Muslims to search for this night in one of the odd night in the last ten days of Ramadan. This is a blessing in that Muslims instead of observing one night observes at least five [or the full ten]. (2) It was once pointed out to the Prophet that he offered one less rakah [sequence] in his prayer. To rectify this mistake the Prophet made two sijdahs [prostrations] and the usual two salaams [recitals to the right and left shoulders, respectively]. This is a blessing to Muslims. But for the Prophet’s forgetfulness, Muslims making similar mistakes would have been at a loss as to how to correct their error of forgetfulness. Perhaps these instances of the Prophet’s forgetfulness are of Divine artistry for the benefit of Muslims).
If the later Madinan verses abrogate the earlier Makkan verses–which would mean that “tolerance” was “abrogated by “intolerance,” how can any critic account for this later Madinanverse which says:
“And if anyone of the idolaters seek thy protection,
protect him till he hears the word of Allah, then
convey him to his place of safety. This is because
they are a people who know not”
As pointed out this is a Madinan sura, “revealed in the ninth year of the Hijrah,” as Muhammad Ali notes. Muslims could not be instructed to give idolaters “protection’ and safe escort to their “place of safety” if “tolerance” was “abrogated by “intolerance.”” It is clear from this verse that the Prophet was never ordered to kill anyone on account of his religion.
Sura 9:5 saying, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them,” does not refer to all idolaters.
“The clear exception of the last verse (9:4) shows that by the idolaters here are meant, not all idolaters or poly-theists wherever they may be found in the world, not even all idolaters of Arabia, but only those idolatrous tribes of Arabia assembled at the pilgrimage who had at first made agreements with the Muslims and then viola-ted them.
The exception here has given rise to much miscon-ception. It is thought that it offers to the disbelievers the alternative of the sword or the Qur’an. Nothing is farther from the truth. The injunction contained in the first part of the verse establishes the fact that the whole verse relates to certain idolatrous Arab tribes who had broken their engagements with the Muslims, and who had now been apprised of a similar repudiation by the Muslims. The order to kill them and to make them prisoners and to besiege them and ambush them amounts clearly to an order to fight against them, as it is in war only that all these things are made lawful. They had so often broken their word that they could no more be trusted.….The subject is further clarified in the next verse and the following section.” (And the next verse says: “And if anyone of the idolaters seek thy protection, protect him till he hears the word of Allah, then convey him to his place of safety. This is because they are a people who know not” (9:6).
“This verse leaves no doubt that the Prophet was never ordered to kill anyone on account of his religion. “You shall give him a safe conduct that he may return home again securely in case he shall not think fit to embrace Muhammadanism” (Sale).” (M. Ali comm.1033-1035).
Again, if Madinan verses abrogated Makkan verses how can it be accounted for the Madinan verses which says:
“There is no compulsion in religion”
“Allah forbids you not respecting those who fight you not
for religion, nor drive you forth from your homes,
that you show them kindness and deal with them justly.
Surely Allah loves the doers of justice”
(Qur’an 2:256; 60:8).
The claim that “tolerance” was “abrogated by “intolerance”” is baseless. If Islam had required all idolaters and disbelievers to be killed, the Prophet would not have granted a general amnesty to them when he conquered Makkah. (Especially Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, who tore open the body of Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle, ripped out his liver, and chewed it). Neither would ‘Umar nor Salahuddin Ayyube (Saladin) have spared the Jews and Christians when they conquered Jerusalem.
Tolerance was never abrogated by intolerance. Later Madinan revelations of “retribution” did not abrogate earlier Makkan revelations of “compassion.”
In the human sphere, a nation that is perceived as evil is first requested by the World body–the UN–to change its policy on its own. Failing to comply, the nation is subjected to the second step of sanctions. And followed, if need be, by the third stage of military action against it.
Allāh is Just; He does not punish a people for its evil without first sending a messenger, to admonish them to reform to good-ness: “And We destroyed no town but it had (its) warners–To remind. And We are never unjust”–(Qur’an 26:208-209. Also 28:59).
At Makkah the Idolaters not only rejected Prophet Mohammad’s “compassion” with persecution but pursued him to Madinah to annihilate him. Hence, they entered the second phase of their war against peace –to be threatened with punishment. Yet, they were heedless. Therefore, the third phase –that of force–became necessary.
Makkan “compassion” did not change to Madinan “retribution”: the method of approach changed to suit the prevailing atmosphere. The Qur’anic message is both “compassion” and “retribution” –compassion to those who refrain from transgress-ion and retribution against transgressors. Parent’s have both “softness” and “hardness” of hearts: exercising one or the other depending upon the child’s behavior–whether the child is obedient or delinquent. One does not abrogate the other.
There are no “discrepancies” in the Qur’an, only a lack of meditating on it.
Since Islam declares through the Qur’an that there is no compulsion in religion: every person is at liberty to follow his own inclinations-(Qur’an 2:256; 6:107; 9:6; 10:99-100; 17:7; 18:6, 29; 42:15; 50:45; 76:3; 109:1-6); Allah has created man and woman and multiplied from them-(4:1); made us into different tribes and nations and of colors and languages that we may know one another-(5:48; 30:22; 49:13); sent messengers to all nations-(10:47); to protect the polytheist-(9:6); every people has rites and ceremonies-(22:67); charity is for the poor and needy, the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransoming of slaves, etc;-(2:177; 9:60); to give justice even if it be against ones’ own parents or self-(4:135); to believe in all prophets and revelations-(3:83; 4:163-164); not to revile other gods -(6:108); if Allah did not repel some people by others, monasteries, and churches, and synagogues, and mosques would have been pulled down-(22:40); that all religions are for Allah-(8:39); to make peace even in the face of possible deception by the enemy-8:61-62– it cannot then be said that there is “intolerance” in Islam.
Allāh speaking about abrogation and changing of message refers to the replacing of laws/messages of Scriptures previous to the Qur’an (see QUR"AN-ABROGATION).
Regarding Sura 9:29 where Allāh reveals: “Fight those who believe not in Allāh, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which Allāh and His Messenger have forbidden, Nor follow the Religion the Religion of Truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.”
Muhammad Ali explains:
“….this verse introduces the subject of fighting with the followers of the Book. Though the Jews had for a long time assisted the idolatrous Arabians in their struggle to uproot Islam, the great Christian power, the Roman Empire, had only just mobilized its forces for the subjection of the new religion, and the Tabuk expedition followed, which constitutes the subject-matter of a large portion of what follows in this chapter. As the object of this Christian power was simply the subjection of the Muslims, the words in which their final vanquishment by the Muslims is spoken of are different from those dealing with the final vanquishment of the idolatrous Arabians. The Qur’an neither required that the idolaters should be compelled to accept Islam, nor was it in any way its object to bring the Christians into subjection. On the other hand, the idolaters wanted to suppress Islam by the sword, and the Christians first moved themselves to bring Muslim Arabia under subjection. The fate of each was, therefore, according to what it intended for the Muslims. The word jizyah is derived from jazå, meaning he gave satisfaction, and means, according to LL, the tax that is taken from the free non-Muslim subjects of the Muslim Government whereby they ratify the compact that ensures them protection; or, according to AH, because it is a compensation for the protection which is guaranteed them, the non-Muslim subjects being free from military service.
The phrase ‘an yad-in has been explained variously. The word yad (lit., hand) stands for power or superiority, the use of the hand being the real source of the superiority of man over all other animals, and the apparent meaning of the phrase is in acknowledgement of your superiority in protecting their lives, etc. (AH). It may also be added that the permission to fight, as given to the Muslims, is subject to the condition that the enemy should first take up the sword, Fight in the way of Allåh against those who fight against you (2:190). The Holy Prophet never overstepped this limit, nor did his followers. He fought against the Arabs when they took up the sword to destroy the Muslims, and he led an expedition against the Christians when the Roman Empire first mobilized its forces with the object of subjugating the Muslims. And so scrupulous was he that, when he found that the enemy had not yet taken the initiative, he did not attack the Roman Empire, but returned without fighting. Later on, however, the Roman Empire, like the Persians, helped the enemies of Islam and fomented trouble against the newly established Muslim Kingdom, as a result of which both these empires came into conflict with the Muslims and, notwithstanding the fact that both the Persians and the Romans were very powerful nations with unlimited resources and strong military organizations, and that they both tried at one and the same time to subjugate Islåm, the result was what is predicted here in clear words — they were both reduced to a state of subjection by an insignificant nation like the Arabs.”
(Muhammad Ali’s translation of the Qur’an can be viewed on-line: www.muslim.org).
There is intolerance in Judaism and Christianity, see the many topics on JESUS.
1. Muhammad Ali, Qur’anic comm; 152.
2. Muhammad Ali, The Religion of Islam, pp. 38, 39, 40.