October 21, 2017

The Koran and Abrogation: The Two Faces of Islam

 

Matt Recker

Quran 9:5: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (Yusuf Ali)

Another reason for the seemingly two faces of Islam, one peaceful and the other violent, is The Qur’an teaching called the doctrine of abrogation. Simply stated, abrogation means that later pronouncements of the Prophet Muhammad declare null and void his earlier pronouncements. (See Quran 2:106; 16:101; 13:39 and 17:86). In abrogation, Muhammad writes, “we substitute something better or similar” (Quran 2:106).

Abrogation teaches that an earlier verse in the Koran is cancelled by verses given later in Muhammad’s life. This means that not all verses in the Koran are equal. Verses given later in Muhammad’s life abrogate or render void earlier verses. Earlier verses written by Muhammad when he was in Mecca were given when he was politically weak. At that time, he was more inclined toward compromise. Later, when he was in Medina and then returned to Mecca, he gained strength and fought against those who disagreed with him. Toward the later part of his life, Muhammad teaches that God commanded him to fight.

What complicates this is that the Koran is not ordered chronologically but according to the length of the chapters. It is impossible to know by simply reading the Koran what verses cancel other verses.

We do know that Surah 9 is a later chapter in the history of Muhammad. Muslim scholars agree that Muhammad received this passage in 631, the year before his death. He received it upon his return to Mecca when he was at his strongest. Surah 9 clearly abrogates earlier chapters like Surah 2:256 which says, “let their be no compulsion in religion.” Sarah 9 is often called “The Surah of the Sword.” It advocates the mayhem and murder of Jihad we are seeing around the world. It cancels out any verses that speak of toleration or compassion to non-Muslims. For Muslims practicing radical violence and Jihad, this Surah shows that the unbelief, idolatry, and a refusal to submit to Allah of infidels is worse than killing them.

One verse from this chapter is Surah 9:5, which says, “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” In this verse, Muslims are commissioned to fight in order to establish Islam on the earth.

“According to Ibn Kathir in his commentary on Chapter 9:5, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first caliph, used this and other verses to validate fighting anyone who either did not pay religious taxes to the Muslims or convert to Islam… He testified that Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim, an authentic transmitter of hadiths, said that the verse of the sword ‘abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term.’”[1]

This verse abrogates peaceful verses and gives Muslims the right to kill non-Muslims solely on the basis of their refusal to accept Islam. If non-Muslims do not convert to Islam, they can be slain. For a Muslim obeying Surah 9, this is not terrorism, it is obedience to the Prophet Muhammad bringing justice to the world.

In order to understand the seemingly two faces of Islam, one must grasp the teaching of abrogation, which gives Muslims justification for violent warfare.

Matt Recker is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in New York City.

  1. http://www.meforum.org/1754/peace-or-jihad-abrogation-in-islam, accessed December 4, 2015 []


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