Doctrine of Abrogation [Islam]

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The doctrine of abrogation is the concept that Allah revealed a later verse (surah) in the Quran that abrogates (or cancels out) an earlier verse in the Quran.

An older verse may be abrogated and substituted with a new verse if the verses are contradictory, and the one that replaces it is better than the one it is replacing. The doctrine is conceived as a theoretical tool used to resolve contradictions in Quranic verses, as well as the hadith literature. Two surahs form the foundation of this doctrine:

2:106: “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?”

16:101: “When We substitute one revelation for another, – and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages),– they say, “Thou art but a forger”: but most of them understand not”

For example, some Islamic scholars have suggested that surah 3:85 abrogates surahs 2:62 and 5:69. Surahs 2:62 and 5:69 seem to say that non-Islamic righteous people of other faiths will be rewarded by Allah in the Hereafter. However, surah 3:85 says that only Muslims who follow Islam will be accepted in the Hereafter. Clearly both views cannot be true and thus Surah 3:85 abrogates 2:62 and 5:69. In a same light, one surah of the Quran says that wine has “some profit” (2:219) for mankind although in another it is declared an “abomination, of Satan’s handwork” (5:90). This too is considered a clear case of abrogation. Exactly what surahs in the Quran have been abrogated has been a matter of much discussion and disagreement among Muslim exegetes and scholars alike. Disagreement aside, Muslims believe that Allah has power over all things including his eternal revelation.


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