Transitional, Final, Naasikh and Mansook Commands

As has been indicated earlier in other articles, the Qur-aan was revealed not only for providing the final guidance for humankind from Allaah SWT, but also for helping the society change to a desired state from their current state and to guide a movement to accomplish that task. Changing a society completely from a deeply ingrained way of life to a totally different way of life is not a task that can happen overnight just because guidance has been revealed. It takes much painstakingly hard work to gradually transform from the current to the desired state. To help in this transformation and ease the transition so that the change is not too big and too sudden to be practical for human beings, Allaah SWT gave some interim transitional commands that were replaced with permanent commands as soon as the society was ready to take the next steps. The most well known example of such transition is that for the consumption of alcohol.

Also at the beginning, a movement needs very extraordinary people who possess special strength, commitment, dedication, endurance and courage. Initially, very stringent steps are needed to break away from the pressures of the society, current lifestyle, and the status quo, and a really great devotion to establish new relationships, paradigms and life patterns. Hence, in the early days of the Islamic movement, the demands from early Muslims about special night prayers were quite heavy. Later on, when an excellent team of dedicated Ŝaĥaabah had come into existence with close, devout relationship with Allaah SWT, and the new comers to the movement could be safely absorbed into an established mode of life, the requirements were relaxed.

The Qur-aan, being the complete and preserved record of the revelations from Allaah SWT, contains the transitional commands as well as the final commands. A person who studies the Qur-aan to understand the desired state in which Allaah SWT wants to see individuals and society, must know the difference between the transition and the final desired state. Not knowing what is just an interim state and what is the desired state may cause a person to be confused or to draw wrong conclusions.

Naasikh and Mansookh

Some people use the Qur-aanic terminology of Naasikh and Mansookh to describe this characteristic of the commands in the Qur-aan, where Naasikh (abrogator) means the command that abrogated the earlier command called Mansookh (abrogated). The Qur-aan has used this terminology to describe a special role that Islam, as revealed to our Prophet ŜA‘WS, had played in relation to existing beliefs and practices of the Jews and the Christians (the people with the Book).

As you know, there has been a natural progression and evolution in the commands of Allaah as they were given to the followers of various prophets and messengers in the past. As the human society was evolving, Allaah SWT was adjusting his commands accordingly to the needs of the people at their specific stage in the evolutionary process of maturity. Our Prophet was sent as the last prophet of Allaah because humanity had matured to a level that the final guidance could be given without any need for future changes or updates. On top of that, the followers of the previous prophets had invented their own Bid‘ah, changed the teachings of the prophets, lost some of the teachings or their meaning, etc. Now it was the job of our Prophet ŜA‘WS to present Islam in its pure and final form. Consequently, Islam changed some of the commands that were given to the people of the Book in the past because they were transitional for their stage of the evolution and now the stage was set for the final version. It rejected all the Bid’ah or wrong practices introduced and invented by the people of the Book and it restored some of the teachings that were ignored, forgotten or thrown away. When the Prophet ŜA‘WS implemented any of these changes from the previous practices of the people of the Book, the Jews used to create a lot of noise, raise objections and wonder: When Muslims believe that Moosa (Moses) ‘Alayhi-salaam (‘AS) was the messenger of Allaah and that Towraat (Torah) was revealed by Allaah, then why is Islam changing the established teachings of Jewish religion, instead of following them? How can Allaah command differently at different times? Allaah SWT responded to their propaganda and attacks in the following verse:
We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allaah has power to do everything? Al-Baqarah 2:106

The context of the Qur-aan determines very clearly that this comment is not a general statement to be applicable to everything. Rather, it is specifically applicable to the reformation and purification of the teachings of the previous religions through the Qur-aan and that this comment was made in response to the Jewish attacks. It came in the context of the responses to Jewish propaganda and appropriate advice to the Muslims in relation to that propaganda.

Hence, we have used the words transitional and final commands for the evolution of the commands within the Islamic movement.

Relevance of Transitional Commands

There are two extremist views about the transitional commands. One extremist view is that because these commands are still mentioned in the Qur-aan, depending upon one’s circumstances, they can be acted upon. Taking this approach carte blanche is extremely dangerous. This is an approach that has potential to destroy the religion altogether. It leaves people to decide which command they should follow rather than following the decision of Allaah Who already has given the final command.

The other extreme is the view that transitional commands are invalid altogether. They are not applicable in any circumstances. This view is overlooking an important reality. Our Ummah is currently far away from many essential very basic commands. Reconstructing the Ummah and bringing it back on track will require some interim or transitional phases, however, brief they might be. Their approach in fact deprives the Ummah any chance of getting back on track from the current deplorable condition. The reason is that no matter what, the whole Ummah cannot become organized like the community of Ŝaĥaabah over night. Re-establishing the Islamic institutions, state, Khilaafah, and Islamic economic, political and social system will need going through transitional stage. Otherwise it will never happen.

The balanced approach in this respect is two fold:

Individually, every existing Muslims must follow the final commands. There is no excuse or reason for them not to do so. Nothing else will be acceptable from them. However, a person now converting to Islam, may have to be taken through some brief transition period. The life style of a person cannot be changed overnight. The person needs to be handheld and brought to the desired level of performance over a planned course of action and timetable. This is in the spirit of the directions that the Prophet gave to Mu’aadz Ibn Jabal while sending him to Yemen:
You will come to the people of Scripture, and when you reach them, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them Salaah to be performed five times every day and night. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them Ŝadaqah (i.e. Zakaah) to be taken from the rich amongst them and given to the poor amongst them. And if they obey you in that, then be cautious! Don't take their best properties (as Zakaah) and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person as there is no barrier between his invocation and Allaah. Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbaas in Bukhaari 5:634

Collectively, establishment of Jama‘ah, unity, state, Khilaafah, Ĥudood, justice system, economic system, foreign policy, etc, all will have to be done through an evolutionary process with a pre-determined plan and strategy so that it can be achieved at a accelerated pace within the shortest period of time according to the wisdom learned from the methodology used by the Prophet during his original movement. Otherwise, if we keep fighting over Naasikh and Mansookh or demand full implementation on day one, as some people expect it to be done, we will remain in our current condition, never being able to come out.

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