August 10th, 2010

The Quranic principle of abrogation

Anyone who hopes to engage in discussion with Muslims must be aware of the concept of the later Quranic verses abrogating the earlier verses.

Particularly at an "Islam outreach event", the Muslim leader will focus on all the kind and gentle things Muhammad said while he was in Mecca.

Of course, while Muhammad was in Mecca, he had no power, so he had to appeal to the local Jewish and pagan tribes with smooth, kind words that he hoped would lead to their acceptance of his new "religion".

It's at that time Muhammad said a lot of nice things about Jews, Christians and Muslims being one community of believers and there being no compulsion in religion and a few other platitudes that were rendered meaningless by the hate-filled rhetoric he later espoused.

If you are familiar with the principle of abrogation and the later verses which clearly contradict the earlier verses, you'll be able to effectively refute the Muslim leader and help raise public awareness of the true dangers of Islam.  Here's an example of how such a conversation might play out:

(As always, establish that the Quran is eternal and unchangeable, Muhammad is the standard for humanity for all time, etc.)

EW: In my study of your faith, one thing that has stuck out to me is verse 2:106, which states that, "Nothing of our revelation, even a single verse do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we bring in place one better or the like thereof"

This strikes me as kind of strange, particularly in light of verses like 6:115, which states that, "Perfected is the Word of thy Lord in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words", and 10:64, which says, "There is no changing the Words of Allah".

So 2:106 seems to be saying that sometimes earlier verses are abrogated, while 6:115 and 10:64 say that the words of the Quran can never be changed.  That doesn't really make sense to me, and seems to be a clear contradiction.  What is your personal explanation of this issue?

Dr. Naik:  (He'll likely go the "This wasn't in reference to earlier Quranic verses, but was actually referring to differences betweeen the Quran and the Bible.  As Muhammad was given the responsibility of sharing God's last, true message with mankind, some of the words of the Quran differed from the words of the Bible.  So no, the later verses of the Quran do not abrogate the earlier verses).

EW: That seems like a reasonable response, but I personally find it unacceptable, and here's why:
You earlier told us of a few verses that showed Muhammad didn't believe in forcing anyone to follow his religion.

You included verses such as these:

2:256 There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing.

16:82 But if they turn away from you, O Prophet remember that your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message entrusted to you.

6:107 Yet if God had so willed, they would not have ascribed Divinity to aught besides him; hence, We have not made you their keeper, nor are you of your own choice a guardian over them.

4:79-Say to everyone of them, 'Whatever good betides you is from God and whatever evil betides you is from your own self and that We have, O Prophet sent you to mankind only as a messenger and all sufficing is God as witness. Whoso obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys God. And for those who turn away, We have not sent you as a keeper."

Those verses are nice.  You earlier confirmed that the hadith collection of Sahih Bukhari is the second most important book in Islam.  Let's take a look at what Bukhari had to say:

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260:

Narrated Ikrima:

Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "

So Muhammad said, "If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him". 

Obviously, this contradicts verse 16:82, which says that, "But if they turn away from you, O Prophet remember that your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message entrusted to you".

Let's take a look at a few more hadith from Bukhari:

Volume 9, Book 83, Number 37

"By Allah, Allah's Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate."

Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57:

Narrated 'Ikrima:

Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

These ahadith clearly contradict any verses that deal with the "lack of compulsion in Islam".  If the punishment for leaving a religion is death, it's impossible to claim that membership in that religion is strictly voluntary.

I'd also like to take a look at Muhammad's treatment of Abu Sufyan, a man who was fiercely opposed to Islam.

Muhammad said, “Woe to you, Abu Sufyan, isn’t it time that you recognize that I am Allah’s apostle?” He (Abu Sufyan) answered, “As to that I still have some doubt.” I (the narratory) said to him, “Submit and testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the apostle of Allah before you lose your head,” so he did so. (Ibn Ishaq 814)

"Submit and testify that Islam is true or I'll cut off your head".

I'm not sure I can think of anything more compulsory than that.  In light of these later sayings of the Prophet, we must conclude that the earlier verses that deal with there being no compulsion in religion have now been abrogated and rendered meaningless for a Muslim.  Since this is the case, why have you repeated these verses as though they carry any significance for a Muslim?

Dr. Naik: (He'll probably go the "fake hadith" route, Quran is more important than the hadith collections, etc.  If so, remind him that he earlier confirmed that the hadith collection of Bukhari is the second most important book in Islam, Quran 4:80 says that, "Whoever obeys the prophet obeys Allah, etc.)

I think this approach is effective, and even if it isn't "devastating", it'll allow people to realize that Muhammad, a "beautiful pattern of conduct", had people killed for leaving his religion.

Obviously, a Westerner is going to have a hard time believing Muhammad could have been a legitimate "man of God" if he had people killed for refusing to accept his particular belief system.

As always, the most important thing is raising awareness of the more unseemly aspects of Muhammad's character.