Errors in English Translations of the Quran


Do The Verses of The Quran Abrogate Each Other?

There are schools of thought that have committed the travesty of allowing the Quran – regarded as the definitive word of God – to be abrogated (replaced, overridden) by the hadith and the sunna.

Though in his footnote, Yusuf Ali refers to the other meaning of the word AYAH, and the different interpretation of the verse, by translating the word as “revelations,” he affirms the traditional position known as “abrogation” of one revelation by another revelation. A few scholars, as we say, have gone so far as to use hadith to abrogate the Quran; a more common view, however, is that certain verses in the Quran either have been removed or some verses cancel each other’s judgment out. We reject these contentions.

! Disputed passage: The traditional commentaries and translations render 2:106 to justify abrogation in the Quran, thereby justifying the rejection of many Quranic verses.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that God hath power over all things? (2:106) Nothing of our revelation (even a single verse) do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things? (2:106) Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things? (2:106) We do not duplicate (or abrogate) any sign or cause it to be forgotten, unless we produce a better, or at least an equal one. Do you not know that God is Omnipotent? (2:106)



Ayaat, the plural of aya, is used in the Quran to mean both a) signs/miracles and b) verses/revelations of the Quran itself. Since verses of the Quran are considered to be miracles/signs, the plural form occasionally conveys both meanings simultaneously.

A single verse of the Quran is not deemed to be a miracle since some short verses of the Quran (for instance: 55:3; 69:1; 74:4; 75:8; 80:28; 81:26) are not unique and can be found in daily conversations of Arabic-speaking people. In fact, the Quran determines the minimum unit of miraculous nature as a chapter (10:38), and the shortest chapters consist of 3 verses (103; 108; 110). Therefore, only the plural form of aya, that is ayaat, can be used as reference to the verses/revelation of the Quran.

However the singular form, aya, in all its 84 occurrences in the Quran is always used to mean sign or miracle. Therefore, we choose to translate the singular form aya in verse 2:106 as “sign,” rather than as “verse (of the Quran).”

By declaring the word of God to be vague and ambiguous, early scholars opened the gate for unlimited abuse and distortion. Furthermore, by distorting the meaning of 2:106, they claimed that many verses of the Quran had been abrogated (amended) by other verses or hadiths. By this “abrogation theory,” they amended verses which they did not understand, or which did not suit their interests, or which contradicted their hadiths. Repeating the same error committed by the Children of Israel (2:85), Muslims fulfilled the prophetic description of their action in 15:91-93. Some of them abrogated 5 Quranic verses, some 20 verses and some 50. Below, you’ll find an extreme (and bizarre) example of an abrogation based on the supposed “authority” of 2:106 as interpreted in the orthodox manner.

The verse that was abrogated by a goat!

Some fabricated hadiths claim that the prophet Muhammad stoned a particular couple to death for illicit sexual relations. This punishment, we believe, would have been in conflict with 24:2 of the Quran, which sets out a separate penalty for adultery, and makes no mention whatsoever of capital punishment.

Since hadith-manufacturers realized that hadiths were not enough to abrogate the clear verses of the Quran, they went so far as to fabricate a “verse” supporting stoning and attributed it to God. “Al-shaykhu wa al-shaykhatu iza zanaya farjumuhuma nakalan bima kasabu…” They tried to inject the stoning penalty for adulterers into the Quran!

When they failed, they fabricated stories which only the people who are described in 10:100 of the Quran (those who believe without understanding and comprehending) could accept. According to the story, the ‘stoning verse’ was recorded in the Quran during the time of Muhammad; but just after his death, a goat entered the house of the prophet’s wife Aisha and ate the page on which that verse was inscribed. Thus, we are assured, the “stoning verse” had been abrogated physically!

This story can be found in the so-called authentic hadith collections, such as Ibn Maja, Nikah, 36/1944 and Ibn Hanbal, 5/131,132,183; 6/269.

How could a verse of a perfect scripture be abrogated by a goat? As an answer to this question, Ibn Qutayba, a proponent of hadith and sunna, in his classic book entitled “Solving the Contradictions Among Hadiths” puts forward the contention that “the goat is a holy animal.” And he asked a counter question: “Why not trust in God’s power? As He destroyed the people of Aad and Thamud, He is also able to destroy His revelations by using even a goat!”

How Much of the Quran Can/Should we Understand?

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