Boreal

Let Me Rephrase That!

Introduction

Of all the incongruities that devotees of a religion steeped in incongruities have to accept, the concept of abrogation has to be the most outlandish. Abrogation, i.e. retraction, annulment … is common in the real world as better information replaces old information.

In the world of revealed truths i.e. immutable facts communicated to a mortal by a god, abrogation should not even be the exception, it defies logic, and there lies the incongruity, the weirdness.

For the rational mind, it is inconceivable that a god, in a book He claims to have written, in Arabic no less (classical Arabic is assumed), at the beginning of time, if not earlier, and in which He lays claim to infallibility, has to retract, annul, abolish, modify … what He said earlier.


Classical Arabic (CA), also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary text from Umayyad and Abbasid times (7th to 9th centuries). It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the direct descendent [of Classical Arabic]... While the lexis and stylistics of Modern Standard Arabic are different from Classical Arabic, the morphology and syntax have remain basically unchanged (thought MSA uses a subset of the syntactic structure available in CA). The vernacular dialects, however, have changed more dramatically ...

Tradition has it that the caliph Ali, after reading the Qur'an with errors in it, asked Abu al-Aswad al Du'ali to write a work codifying Arabic grammar. Khalil ibn Ahmad would later write Kitab al-Ayn, the first dictionary of Arabic ..."

From Modern Arabic poetry 1800-1970: the development of its forms and themes by Shmuel Moreh


The incongruity takes even more bizarre proportions when you consider that God carved His book in a tablet which He keeps close by and from which He quotes to the angel Gabriel who will then communicate to the Prophet Muhammad the latest immutable fact from on High about the observable universe and our place in it– an incontrovertible observation which God himself will later prove, by second-guessing Himself, to have been no such thing.

85:21 Yet, it is a glorious Qur’an,

85:22 In a Well-Preserved Tablet.

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43:3 We have made it an Arabic Qur’an that perchance you may understand.

43:4 And, indeed, it is in the Mother of the Book, with Us, lofty and wise.

A saying of the Prophet places the Koran on the Throne itself, in all likelihood on Allah's lap.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, 'My Mercy overpowers My Anger.'"

Bukhari 54.416

It is difficult for many to conceive of God getting it wrong with this handy flawless aide-memoire of a tablet at His disposal. Contemporary scholars, unlike their mostly Arab classical counterparts who came up with the more than two hundred abrogated verses around the eleventh century, are divided on the concept of abrogation, and the uncomfortable contradictions it entails.

The Arabs were, and most still are eminently at ease with opposites:

This people was black and white not merely in clarity, but in apposition. Their thoughts were at ease only in extremes … they never compromised; they pursued the logic of several incompatible opinions to absurd ends, without perceiving the incongruity.

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The modern potential believer is not as easily accommodating of concepts that defy common sense, as were the converts of old or those fortunate enough to have been born to believing parents and therefore benefiting from a rigorous uncompromising indoctrination into reveal truths from early childhood.


There is a very common ceremony practiced throughout most of the Muslim world called Khatmi-Qur’an. It is the ceremony to recognize and celebrate a child’s first full reading of the Koranic text in Arabic. Muslim children in traditional Islamic societies or families are expected to have read and more or less understood the Koran, in Arabic, from cover to cover before they reach the age of seven.


The difficulty in getting converts to accept the inherent absurdity of a know-it-all omnipotent god not getting it right the first, even the second time around may explain the attempt by contemporary scholars to refute the very concept as abrogation as did Muhammad Asad (1900-92) who argued that classical scholars misinterpreted passages relating to abrogation, citing verse 10:64 as evidence of the immutability of Allah's Words.

10:64 Theirs is the good news in the present life and the Hereafter. And there will be no alteration of the Words of Allah. That is the great triumph.

Not so, according to another contemporary expert by the name of Ahmad von Denffer (1949-present). For this eminent scholar, understanding abrogation is central to the correct application of Allah's laws. Denffer quotes four revelations to Asad's one, where God admits to changing His mind.

2:106 Whichever verse We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring instead a better or similar one. Do you not know that Allah has the power over all things?

13:39 Allah blots out and confirms what He pleases; and with Him is the Mother of the Book.

16:101 And if We replace a verse by another – and Allah knows best what He reveals – they say: “You [Muhammad] are only a forger.” Surely, most of them do not know.

17:86 If We please, We certainly can blot out that which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad, Moududi); then you would find no guardian to assist you against Us.

Allah even acknowledged that His changing His mind was causing problems for His Messenger whose detractors thought it strange, an omnipotent all-knowing god who could not get it right the first time. These open-minded individual reached the only possible conclusion: their kin, the first would-be Arab spokesperson for the Almighty was making it up as he went along, and told him so to his face, calling him a forger in revelation 16:101.

They knew more than Allah was willing to admit judging by the non-answer Gabriel communicated to His spokesperson in response to the forgery accusation.

16:102 Say: “The Holy Spirit has brought it down from our Lord in truth, in order to reassure the believers, as a guidance and good news to those who submit.