75) Will it not affect the status of the Qur’an’s divinity if it is said that it became necessary to change some of the earlier injunctions of the Qur’an at a later period in time ? If the Qur’an is, indeed, from the Omniscient God would such changes have been necessary ?
In truth, the fact that some of the rulings in the Qur’an have been abrogated actually represents one of the evidences to prove its divinity. The Qur’an is the last book that has been revealed by God for the guidance of humanity. It is a book that puts forward wholly practicable methods in the moulding of an ideal society on the basis of a moral code which it, in itself, dictates. It is, in addition, a book that seeks to show how, in the process of creating an exemplary and ideal society out of nothing but the most primitive human conditions, the divine law had influenced the making of such a society in the various stages of its evolution. The Qur’an does not contain certain numbered injunctions like the Ten Commandments that were revealed by God. It is, in fact, the compendium of laws that grew with the beat and rhythm of an evolving society that would eventually result in the fruitful transformation of an entire people. In that chain of legislation, it is but natural that the rulings that came at a time of total decadence will become irrelevant when the society has gone past that stage in its evolution. It is this loss of relevance that is, in fact, implied in the term ‘abrogation.’ Consider, for instance, the verses related to the consumption of intoxicants. It must be remembered that the Qur’an was revealed to a society that virtually bathed in wine. It was not about wine, which
turned man into beast, that the Qur’an first talked to them about. The Qur’an firstly impressed upon their minds the purest conception about God and of the unflinching awareness of the Hereafter. Indeed, the Qur’an had, as the first step, sought to create a readiness in submitting one’s entire life before the Creator. It was after having created a mind-set to which the acceptance of all legislations that were confirmed to have been issued from God had become easy that the Qur’an declared: “They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say:
‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.’” (Qur’an 2:219)
This was the first stage. The Qur’an’s approach here has been to first seek to show the benefits, or otherwise, of a thing and to make it clear that the sin in it would be greater than any benefit that may accrue thereof. With this verse, the society, now trained in alienating itself from sin and in moving along the path of virtue, soon begins to free itself from the vice-like grip of intoxicants and gambling. It was then that the second verse was revealed: “O ye who believe! Approach not prayers in a state of intoxication, until ye can understand all that say …” (Qur’an 4:43)
The prayer constitutes a conservation with the Lord Creator. However, many a man approached prayer in a state of intoxication. Indeed, the degree of their slavery to intoxicants can be seen from this single fact. The Qur’an had then made the second step towards achieving the goal of a society that was free of intoxicants. Prayer must be made only with the acute awareness of that which is being said in the conservation with God; with the mind and heart solemnly influenced by that which is being uttered therein. Briefly put, therefore, prayer must never be in a state of intoxication. With the arrival of the second ruling a good section of those conscious of God were freed of their slavery to intoxicating drinks.
They resolved, thenceforth, that they would, at least, abstain from intoxicants during the times of the five daily prayers. It was then that the third ruling, which sought to fully abolish all intoxicants, was finally revealed. “O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, sacrificing to stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination – of Satan’s handiwork: Eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. Satan’s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?” (Qur’an 5:90,91) With the revelation of this verse, the other verses that were revealed earlier had now become irrelevant. They were, in fact, verses that had been revealed for the creation of an intoxicant-free society which were revealed in the two stages of the society’s evolution. It can, therefore, be said that with the coming of this verse, the other two verses had, for all practical purposes, become abrogated.
It was mentioned earlier that even this abrogation serves only to stress the divine nature of the Qur’an. Prophet Muhammad () was, himself, never one to take intoxicating drinks even before his attainment of prophethood. Even if he were to put forward a law against intoxicants which was of his own making, it would have been in a fashion that straightaway prohibited all intoxicants forthwith.
However, it is the Creator who is best aware of the intricacies as well as of the methodology of variation of the human mind. It is for that same reason that He brought a law into effect stage by stage. When such is the implementative process, therefore, it is only natural that the laws issued in the earlier stage tend to be abrogated at a later stage. This is why it has been said that the Qur’an makes it clear that these abrogations are, indeed, from Allah, the Omniscient.