Nasikh and Allah’s Progressive Revelation
“Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things? – The Qur’an (2:106)
To outsiders, it would seem that Islam teaches two opposite things:
- Tolerance towards non-Muslims.
- Holy war against non-Muslims.
The Angel Gabriel came down from time to time to reveal verses of the Qur’an over a period of about 22 years. This progressive revelation related to what was occurring in Muhammad’s life at the time.
Muhammad’s life can be divided into two parts. The early (tolerant) years in Mecca and the later (aggressive) years in Medina. The revelations that Muhammad received in Medina sometimes clashed with the revelations he received while in Mecca.
Then Allah revealed how to justify this apparent inconsistency in the Qur’an with Surah 2:106. This verse caused some parts of the Qur’an to be abrogated, or abolished by verses that were “better” or “similar.”
In practice, whenever a verse in the Qur’an contradicts another, the newer revelation overrode the previous one. The new revelations cancel out the old ones.
Therefore, the older verses which stated that “there is no compulsion in Islam” no longer has authority because it has been mansookh (canceled) by revelations that came later, such as the “verse of the sword” (Surah 9:5).
This principle is known as nasikh. It means that Allah led Muhammad in a progressive revelation. Nasikh is widely accepted in Islam.
If there was no nasikh, then there would never have been an Islamic jihad to conquer the world, since Muhammad’s followers would have stayed with the Mecca ideals.
Also, without nasikh, there is no way to interpret the Qur’an. Should a person simply choose the verses he likes best, throwing out the others? Which example of Muhammad should be followed? He did more than preach peace in Mecca. He also went to Medina and declared war on the unbelievers. Should a person only follow half of his example?
The Seal of the Qur’an
“Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them and seize them, confine them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush.” – The Qur’an (9:5)
The last words of the Qur’an are sometimes referred to as the Seal of the Qur’an. While this surah is not the final verse in the book, it is the most recent. Many Islamic scholars have said that it overrules (abrogates) all other verses that seem to contradict it, but this is still being debated.
Many scholars have stated that this verse refers to a defensive stance, taken only when Islam is first attacked.
Surah 9:5 is also referred to as the “Verse of the Sword” and it exhorts the faithful to fight against the unbelievers.
Those that finally submit to Islam will gain peace.