Responses to Islamic Awareness

Thoughts On Abrogation? Think About It!

Saifullah and his co-author begin by responding to Jochen Katz's critique of abrogation in the Quran.

There are some very strange claims on abrogation of a few verses in the Qur'an made at:

The criticism is as follows:

I hope you see my problem. If God comes to the conclusion that he has to abrogate and make new orders then this is admitting that he made mistakes. It shows that what he gave before was not perfect. It could be improved.

Your scenario accuses God of making mistakes. But God is all-knowing, he is not surprised by new circumstances and new ideas. It is against the nature and attributes of God to change his mind. And clearly, if God had changed the Qur'an before he revealed it then we would never have known about the change. Because we know the abrogated and abrogating verses [at least some] therefore it is clear that you accuse God not only of changing his mind just for himself, but that he took rather long to find out that it was wrong. After all, the Qur'an is uncreated and was with God for eternity, how come he just found out that some things have to be changed after he revealed it to Muhammad?

To me, this does not make sense. It is derogatory of the holy and supreme God. It attributes mistakes to him and that he didn't know what he was doing in the first place. And then he has to abrogate to clean up the mess of wrong revelation.

That is what I cannot accept.

How do the authors respond to this allegation? Do they present a positive case for the validity of abrogation within the Quran? Well, let us read and find out:

When one studies the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, it becomes clear that omnipotent and omniscient God did make mistakes and repented. This means that the God did not know his own actions and the outcomes of the actions. Now for some fine examples. Let us first start with Old Testament. In the story of Noah(P), it is mention that:

And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground anymore for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. [Genesis 8:21]

And in the story of Moses(P), we read

And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. [Exodus 32:14]

Instead of dealing with the real issues, the authors launch an attack on the biblical usage of anthropomorphism for Deity. Hence, they have now tried to shift the argument from abrogation and its significance on the validity of the Quran to the Bible's ascription of human qualities to God. The only problem with this type of argumentation is that it can be used against the Quran since it also applies human qualities and characteristics to God.

For example, The Quran gives God a face:

Every one upon it will disappear while your Lord's face will remain full of majesty and splendor (Surat Al-Rahman 55:26,27 - T.B. Irving - The First American Version of the Quran).

The Quran gives God a hand:

The ones who swear allegiance to you merely swear allegiance to God. God's hand rests above their hands... (Surat Al-Fath 48:10).

The Quran gives God an eye:

Allah said: "Granted is thy prayer, O Moses! And indeed We conferred a favour on thee another time [before]. Behold! We sent to thy mother, by inspiration, the message: 'Throw [the child] into the chest, and throw [the chest] into the river: The river will cast him up on the bank, and he will be taken up by one who is an enemy to Me and an enemy to him: But I endued thee with love from Me: And [this] in order that thou mayest be reared under Mine eye.'" (Surat Ta-Ha 20:36-39 - King Fahd Holy Quran)

The Quran seats God on the throne:

He it is who created the heavens and the earth in six days; then He mounted the throne (Surat Al-Hadid 57:4 - M. M. Pickthall English Translation).

The Quran also attributes forgetfulness and repentance to God:

"Then Adam received commandments from his Lord, and his Lord relented towards him; for He is Oft-Repenting (Huwat Tawwaab), Most Merciful." S. 2:37

"And remember Moses said to his people: 'O my people! ye have indeed wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf; so turn (in repentance) to your Maker, and slay yourselves (the wrong-doers); that will be better for you in the sight of your Maker.' Then He relented towards you.: for He is Oft-Repenting (Huwat Tawwaab), Most Merciful." S. 2:54

"Such as took their religion To be more amusement And play, and were deceived By the life of the world." That day shall We forget them As they forgot the meeting Of this day of theirs, And as they were wont To reject Our Signs." S. 7:51

"The Hypocrites, men and women, are alike: they enjoin evil, and forbid what is just, and tighten their purse's strings. They have forgotten Allah: so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse." S. 9:67

So taste (the evil of your deeds). Forasmuch as ye forgot the meeting of this your day, lo! We forget you. Taste the doom of immortality because of what ye used to do. S. 32:14

And it will be said: This day We forget you, even as ye forgot the meeting of this your day; and your habitation is the Fire, and there is none to help you. S. 45:34

So do the hadiths:

Abu Huraira reported that they (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) said: Allah's Messenger, will we be able to see our Lord on the Day of Judgment? He said: Do you feel any difficulty in seeing the sun in the noon when there is no cloud over it? They said: No. He again said: Do you feel any difficulty in seeing the moon on the fourteenth night when there is no cloud over it? They said: No. Thereupon he said: By Allah Who is One in Whose Hand is my life. you will not face any difficulty in seeing your Lord but only so much as you feel in seeing one of them. Then Allah would sit in judgment upon the servant and would say: O, so and so, did I not honour you and make you the chief and provide you the spouse and subdue for you horses, camels, and afforded you an opportunity to rule over your subjects? He would say: Yes. And then it would be said: Did you not think that you would meet Us? And he would say: No. Thereupon He (Allah) would say: Well, We forget you as you forgot Us. Then the second person would be brought for judgment. (And Allah would) say: O, so and so. did We not honour you and make you the chief and make you pair and subdue for you horses and camels and afford you an opportunity to rule over your subjects? He would say: Yes, my Lord. And He (the Lord) would say: Did you not think that you would be meeting Us? And he would say: No. And then He (Allah) would say: Well, I forget you today as you forgot Us... (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7078)

Let us now apply the authors' statement about Yahweh to Allah and see what we get:

When one studies the Arabic scripture, it becomes clear that omnipotent and omniscient Allah did make mistakes and repented. This means that Allah did not know his own actions and the outcomes of the actions.

Terms such as God "repenting" or "regretting" are nothing more than literary devices employed to best describe God's acts in finite human language. It is not meant to convey imperfections in the character of God.

Finally, the authors conveniently neglected scores of other passages which help clarify the meaning behind God "repenting" of a certain act or "regretting" for having done something:

"At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but IF that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but IF it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it." Jeremiah 18:7-10

It is not God who changes but man who does, entailing God's response to it. This implies that God is not some distant Being totally unconcerned with his creation, but rather One who is completely involved with his creatures, constantly interacting with them. This is brought out clearly in the following passage:

"Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak to all cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word. It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings." Jeremiah 26:2-3 (cf. Jeremiah 26:13, 17-19; 36:3; 45:4)

This verse indicates that God's decrees are not necessarily final since he allows enough time for the hearers to act upon the warnings in order that God may relent from destroying them. This is because God's desire is not to destroy man, but to save him:

"As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11

This is completely unlike Allah of the Quran who not only desires to destroy man, but commands individuals to sin in order that he might destroy them:

"And when We desire to destroy a city, We command its men who live at ease, and they commit ungodliness therein, then the Word is realized against it, and We destroy it utterly." S. 17:16

The Muslim team continues their attempt of ridicule:

Oh no! that is Old Testament, cries the Christian. The New Testament has replaced all that. Yes, in the New Testament, the monotheistic and henotheistic God of Israel, Yahweh, suddenly starts to be interpreted as Trinity. So, the concept of monotheistic and henotheistic God itself got abrogated in the New Testament as the Christians allege! So we have to assume that the monotheistic and henotheistic God of Israel did not know that he was Trinity and made a serious mistake or he simply changed his mind or in the worst case scenario, he cheated the People of Israel.

The authors use straw man arguments since informed Christians that believe in the entire Bible as God's inspired Word would not say something so silly as to suggest that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. It is the same Triune God revealing himself throughout the entire Holy Bible. Hence, the assertion that the God of Israel was either an absolutely strict singularity within unity type of Being or henotheistic is both unfounded and unsubstantiated.

The problem just does not end here. Let us also see what are the problems of the Christian cry; The New Testament has replaced all that. The following essay is intended to show evidence of the concept of abrogation in the Bible both between the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Greek Scriptures (New Testament) as well as internally in the Greek Scriptures themselves.

The authors commit the fallacy of equivocation since the Quranic concept of abrogation does not exist in the Holy Bible. Christians do not believe that the Bible preexisted in heaven before the creation of the world. Rather, holy men of God guided by the Holy Spirit wrote of events as they transpired, and addressed the needs of their communities as well as predicting future events. Yet, the Quran is supposedly a replica of the Mother of the Book which has been with God before the creation of the world. (S. 43:1-4) This either implies that the Book in heaven contains both the abrogated and the abrogating verses, or that God was caught by surprise and had to update the Book. Either way, Muslims are left in a difficult position.

To begin - what is meant by the term "abrogation"? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the word Abrogate as:

ab-ro-gate: repeal, annul, abolish (a law or custom).

In the context of the will and law of God (Holy is He above all that is attributed to Him) as expressed in Scripture, it refers to the nullification of an older Law or concept in favour of a newer and more appropriate one.

It is conceivable to think that God would "annul, repeal, abolish" a previous Law and reveal something new in its place in order to meet the needs of his people. This is especially applicable in light of the fact that circumstances and customs change over a 1500 year period. But it is inconceivable to think that an eternal command would be annulled by another eternal decree as is the case with Quranic abrogation.

We might ask whether an omniscient God, if He is the one who sent Torah and Injeel, might employ such a concept as abrogation? Surely an all-knowing God would be able to impart His will in entirety without recourse to change? Doesn't the idea of abrogating, or nullifying, a previous law in light of a better one suggest that the Author is not all-knowing?

It actually implies God's concern for the changes faced by his people, entailing his response in meeting those needs. Again, it is not God who changes but circumstances and individuals that change, moving God to respond to those changes. But this is not the case with the Quran since you cannot have abrogation with eternal decrees without it implying that God was ignorant of certain situations. Did God not know what the future would unfold? If he did, why then did he have decrees that needed to be changed? Why not just keep those decrees that were applicable to the times as opposed to revealing both the abrogated and abrogating commands? Hopefully, the authors will respond this time around as opposed to evading the issue.

What these questions don't take into account, is that whilst God is all-knowing, unchanging (e.g.,Malachi 3:6, with lots of problems with the concept of Trinity), His audience, humanity, is not. The very concept that Christianity holds so dear, of the difference between the old covenantal relationship of law, as opposed to the new covenantal relationship of grace relies on the understanding that human beings as individuals and in human societies are in fact subjected to change in condition.

The authors have correctly understood the reason why God would abrogate certain commands since it is not God who changes, but society that does. In order to meet those changes God out of his love responds. The only problem is that they think that this understanding is applicable to the Quran when it is not. There is a major difference between saying that God's eternal decrees were canceled out by other eternal commands, and that certain commands which were revealed for a specific time and for a specific community were later repealed in order to accommodate the changes within society and peoples. No informed Christian believes that the Mosaic Law preexisted in heaven with God, but was revealed by God to Moses within that time period. This is not the same with the Quranic view of abrogation. Until the authors actually realize this they are bringing up irrelevant issues.

According to Matthew, Jesus(P) said:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

Presumably, the authors think that by quoting Jesus' statement on fulfilling the Law/Prophets and then demonstrating Jesus' abrogation of that very Law/Prophets will establish the case that the Holy Bible also teaches the Quranic concept of abrogation.

The authors have actually misunderstood Jesus' point in fulfilling the Law/Prophets. Fulfillment did not just entail Christ's perfect observance to the precepts of the Law, but also included the spiritual completion and perfection that Jesus gives to it. This is precisely what Jesus goes on to do in the verses that immediately follow. (cf. Matthew 5:21-48)

God's design was that the Law/Prophets would find their true completion and perfection in the Messiah. Hence, Jesus' meaning was not that he had come to fulfill in the sense that he came to obey, which he certainly did. Rather, it entailed fulfillment in the sense of both interpreting and exegeting the Law, as well as fulfilling the predictions it made about the coming Messiah:

"Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Luke 24:44

"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life." John 5:39-40

"Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believed me. For he wrote about me." John 5:45-46

"For being ignorant of the righteousness that God ascribes (which makes one acceptable to Him in word, thought and deed), and seeking to establish a righteousness (a means of salvation) of their own, they did not obey or submit themselves to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the Law- the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose in which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled.- That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him- as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him." Romans 10:3-4 Amplified Bible

In fact, the OT states that it is the Law of the Messiah in which the nations shall trust:

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruise reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope." Isaiah 42:1-4

Hence, it is the Law as interpreted by Christ that is binding on all believers. This is the sense in which Jesus fulfills the Law, in bringing it to its desired goal. In order for Christ to bring the Law to its spiritual perfection, it became necessary for him to both reinterpret and reinforce certain aspects of it, purifying it from the false interpretation that had evolved around it by the religious sects of his day.

Messianic Jew, David H. Stern, elaborates:

"It is true that Yeshua (Jesus) kept the Torah perfectly and fulfilled predictions of the Prophets, but that is not the point here. Yeshua did not come to abolish but 'to make full' (plerosai) the meaning of what the Torah and the ethical demands of the Prophets require. Thus he came to complete our understanding of the Torah and the Prophets, so that we can try to more effectively be and do what they say to be and do... The remainder of chapter 5 gives six specific cases in which Yeshua explains the fuller spiritual meaning of points in the Jewish Law. In fact, this verse states the theme and agenda of the entire Sermon on the Mount, in which Yeshua completes, makes fuller, the understanding of his talmidim (students) concerning the Torah and the Prophets, so that they can more fully express what being God's people is all about." (Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary [Clarksville, Maryland; Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996], pp. 25-26)

Furthermore, Muslim Saifullah must have been aware that the Quran also affirms that part of Jesus' mission was to abrogate certain aspects of the Law:

"(I have come to you), to attest to the Law which was before me and to make lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you..." Sura 3:50

According to Wahb bin Munabbih, Jesus came to "relieve" the Jews "of some of the hardships" which the Torah imposed on them. (Mahmoud Ayoub, The Quran and Its Interpreters, Vol. II- The House of Imran, p. 149)

Qatadah states:

"The [Law] with which Jesus came was much more lenient than that which Moses brought. The Law of Moses made unlawful for them to eat the flesh of camel, the fat covering the stomach of an animal, and some birds and fish." (Ibid.)

These commands were made lawful by Jesus according to al-Qummi (Ibid., p. 150)

In the view of Ibn Kathir, the Quranic injunction indicates "that Jesus did indeed abrogate some of the precepts of the Torah." (Ibid., p. 149)

So it is amazing for us to find him and his co-author making the following snide remark:

And surprising, Jesus(P), the omniscient Yahweh incarnate (allegedly!) suddenly had to change the Laws of Divorce, Justice and Oaths apart from changing his own mind!

Since the Quran indicates that it was the specific will of Allah for Jesus to abrogate certain aspects of the Law, does this now prove that Allah is a Being who is ignorant and needs to constantly change his mind? This is what we would be led to believe if the authors' logic were sustained.

Abrogation Of Divorce

The best examples of Jesus(P) abrogating parts of Old Testament law concern a number of statements recorded in the gospel according to Matthew. The most prominent of them would be the Law concerning Divorce.

In the Old Testament we find the following law concerning divorce:

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, (Deutronomy 24:1-2)

Now without going into the minute of this particular law of divorce, one thing becomes immediately clear. Not only is divorce permitted by God, it is legal for her to remarry.

However in the time of Jesus(P), the rules of divorce seem to have taken a U-turn.

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

Here Jesus(P) abrogated the former permission to divorce according to the husband's displeasure and strictly allowed it under one condition - adultery. He even went so far as to legislate that divorcees were not permitted to remarry, clearly abrogating the former permission. But what is the reason given for this abrogation? Had God changed His mind? Is this evidence of God not being omniscient? Or more importantly, is this evidence that in fact God was never the author of these laws? Well Jesus(P) himself explains:

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:7-9)

Jesus(P) points to the fact that God designs laws that are suitable to the needs and exigencies of the time and audience.

Had the authors done a little research into the background and culture of Jesus' day, they would have understood the reason behind Christ's statements on not just the issue of divorce, but on all the other issues as well:

David Stern comments on Matthew 19:1-9 in light of its Jewish milieu:

"The only text in the Five Books of Moses, dealing with divorce is Deuteronomy 24:1-14, and its discussion of grounds is perfunctory, Hillel and Shammai, who lived in the generation before Yeshua, took opposing sides in interpreting this passage,

'The School of Shammai say a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, as it is said, "... because he has found in her indecency in a matter." But the School of Hillel say he may divorce her even if she burns his food, as it is said, "... because he has found in her indecency in a matter." '

"Yeshua in v. 9 agrees with the strict-constructionist Beit-Shammai. But although Beit-Hillel's position became the halakhic norm, Rabbi El'azar, a member of Beit-Hillel, commented in the Gemara to this mishna, 'When a man divorces his wife, even the altar sheds tears,' citing Deuteronomy 24:13-14 as evidence (Gittin 90b). There is a Jewish tradition that in Messianic times the stricter rulings of Beit-Shammai will become the standard." (Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 59 bold emphasis ours)

One might wonder as to why there was so much confusion surrounding the issue of when was it legitimate for a person to divorce? Stern explains:

"Deuteronomy 24:1 mentions a 'writing of divorcement' (Hebrew sefer-k'ritut) but does not specify its contents or the conditions under which divorce was permitted. The rabbis call such a document a get and discuss divorce in the Talmud..." (Stern, p. 28)

Hence, Jesus was not abrogating the Mosaic Law per se, but was giving the only legitimate grounds for divorce and clearing the confusion that surrounded the issue.

Law Of Absolute Justice

In the Hebrew Scriptures it is written:

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deutronomy 19:21)

Quite a harsh law of absolute justice that was necessary due to the conditions of Moses'(P) age. But Jesus(P) was inspired by God to reveal a softer code for the believers to practice in individual relationships. By abrogating the harshness of absolute justice, Jesus(P) was inspired to encourage the believers to employ forgiveness and mercy. It is recorded he said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

It is a different story that many Christians do not practice what Jesus(P) has told them to do.

It is really disappointing to see the authors constantly taking Jesus' statements out of the intended context of the entire NT. Jesus was not nullifying the Mosaic injunction of "an eye for an eye" since the Law was given specifically to the Israelite judges who acted as God's representatives to execute judgment upon the guilty. As long as Israel was a nation under God, they were a theocratic government that enacted God's rule, insuring that the inhabitants of the land did not violate God's Law. Hence, Moses' decree was for the Israelite rulers to enforce, making sure that justice was maintained. The common person could not enact punishment upon a criminal.

Jesus was not addressing civil authorities, but his followers. Hence, what Jesus was basically saying is that we should not take the law "into our own hands," but rather be willing to forgive and love our enemies. Vengeance belongs to God. God at times enacts vengeance against the ungodly by using the very government or nation that he has established. The Apostle Paul best sums up the role of believers and their response to crimes committed against them, and the government's role in dealing with those crimes:

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hunger, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:14-21

Paul then goes on to say:

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is not authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." Romans 13:1-5

It is the government that enacts vengeance upon criminals. Believers are not to retaliate by taking justice into their own hands, but rather they are to repay evil with love. This is precisely the point Jesus was making, that believers are to love their persecutors and allow God to take vengeance upon the crimes committed against them. It has nothing to do with Jesus abrogating the Mosaic command of "an eye for an eye" etc.

Law Of Oaths

We read:

If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. (Deutronomy 23:21-23)

That is, it is permissible to make an oath for various reasons, however, the swearer must fulfil the oath he makes. In Jesus' time it became necessary for him to abrogate this permission so that the swearing of oaths became forbidden. In Matthew it is recorded:

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your `No,' `No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Was Jesus actually abrogating oaths? Let us see:

"The distinction between vows and oaths is hazy, not only to us, but also within Judaism; and the issue doesn't seem important today. The early believers understood Yeshua not as prohibiting all vows (see Acts 18:5&N, 21:23&N), but as prohibiting vain oaths- the rabbis of the time did the same. In the Apocrypha compare Sirach 23:9, 'Do not accustom your mouth to swearing oaths, and do not habitually use the name of the Holy One.' Philo of Alexandria recommended avoiding oaths entirely (Decalogue 84). The Talmud has this parallel to v. 37: 'Let your "no" and "yes" both be righteous [i.e., straightforward].' (Bava Metzia 49a)" (Stern, pp. 28-29)

Jesus was prohibiting false oaths, not oaths in general. This is similar to Jesus' teaching on praying in private to avoid hypocrisy in Matthew 6:5-6. Jesus was not condemning public prayers, since Christ himself prayed in public, but prohibiting individuals from praying to please men instead of God. Similarly, Jesus was not prohibiting all types of oaths, but any possibility of a false oath from taking place. The best way to do that is not to swear at all.

Jesus(P) Abrogating His Own Commandments

Perhaps the clearest example of God inspiring Jesus(P) to practice abrogation can be seen in the commissioning of his disciples. It is written in the New Testament that initially Jesus(P) forbade his disciples from preaching to non-Jews. He restricted their activities and commanded them to avoid Gentiles. However, due to the change in circumstances and the completion of his earthly mission, Jesus(P) abrogated this earlier law and made it not only permissible but obligatory for his disciples to reach out to a broader base.

A nice example of Jesus(P) asking his disciples to preach the lost sheep of Israel is:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)

This prohibition is reinforced by Jesus'(P) own practice:

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matthew 15:22-24)

Even though because of his mercy Jesus(P) healed the sick daughter, he made it clear that his mission was to the Jews, not to the Gentiles. Later on this was abrogated and Jesus(P) commanded his disciples to reach out to all peoples. It is recorded he said:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

This is perhaps the weakest argument the authors have thus presented. Jesus' command to his disciples in Matthew 10:5-6 did not mean that the disciples would never preach to non-Jews. Rather, it is referring to that specific missionary journey that they were embarked on. The Gospel was to be presented to the Jews first since it was the Jews who had both the covenant and the oracles of God containing the predictions that the Messiah would come to redeem them. The Gentiles had neither covenant nor prophetic scripture indicating that the Messiah was coming to redeem them. Therefore, the Gospel was to be first proclaimed to the Jews, assuring them that the promises God had made to their ancestors have now been fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. (cf. Acts 3:17-26)

After receiving the news that the Messiah had arrived, the Gospel would then be proclaimed to the Gentiles. Hence, the Gospel was to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles. It was not for the Jews only. (cf. Romans 1:16)


It is clear that the concept of abrogation: the nullifying of an older commandment or practice in favour of a newer law, is nothing new and it has been practiced by God for aeons. What we know is that the laws governing the mankind (i.e., Shariah) changes according to the needs of the society. But the concept of monotheism (i.e., Tawheed) remains the same. The Creator knows very well that his creation, the humans, need time and discipline to grow and mature, He reveals commandments and practices that help them develop both as individuals and as members of society. All Praise be to the God, Lord of the Worlds.

Actually, the only thing that has been made clear is the authors' failure to defend the concept of abrogation as understood by Muslim scholars. It is true that God abrogates previous commands in order to meet the needs of his people, but this only works if one does not assume that these commands preexisted in heaven. Therefore, the problem still remains for the authors' to solve, namely, how can eternal decrees be abrogated by other eternal decrees? Are we to assume that both the abrogated and the abrogating verses were in heaven? If so, why were they? Did God not realize that some of the commands would be nullified and if so why reveal them in the first place? Or do we assume that God was completely unaware that the commands contained in the Mother of the Book would be nullified? If so, how can God be all-knowing? If he is not, then how can he be perfect in all his attributes and qualities? Hopefully, the authors will answer these questions instead of bringing up straw men and using red herring arguments.

And Allah knows best.

Indeed God does know best. And what he does know best is best contained in the Holy Bible, God's inspired and infallible Word.

Sam Shamoun

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