In the midst of a discussion urging people not to be hasty or eager to issue legal rulings, ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the following narration about naskh – frequently translated as “abrogation” – and then added some valuable commentary afterwards:
وقال ابن وهب : حدثنا أشهل بن حاتم عن عبد الله بن عون عن ابن سيرين قال : قال حذيفة : إنما يفتي الناس أحد ثلاثة : من يعلم ما نسخ من القرآن ، أو أمير لا يجد بدا ، أو أحمق متكلف ، قال : فربما قال ابن سيرين : فلست بواحد من هذين ، ولا أحب أن أكون الثالث ـ
… ibn Sireen said: Hudhayfah said,
The only ones who issue legal rulings to the people are one of the following three types: 1) someone who knows which parts of the Qur’an have been subject to naskh, 2) a ruler who cannot find any alternative, or 3) an imbecile who fancies himself as being qualified.
The sub-narrator said: I think ibn Sireen said, “I am neither one of the first two, and I would not like to be the third.”
قلت : مراده ومراد عامة السلف بالناسخ والمنسوخ رفع الحكم بجملته تارة وهو اصطلاح المتأخرين ، ورفع دلالة العام والمطلق والظاهر وغيرها تارة ، إما بتخصيص أو تقييد أو حمل مطلق على مقيد وتفسيره وتبيينه حتى إنهم يسمون الاستثناء والشرط والصفة نسخا لتضمن ذلك رفع دلالة الظاهر وبيان المراد ، فالنسخ عندهم وفي لسانهم هو بيان المراد بغير ذلك اللفظ ، بل بأمر خارج عنه ، ومن تأمل كلامهم رأى من ذلك فيه ما لا يحصى ، وزال عنه به إشكالات أوجبها حمل كلامهم على الاصطلاح الحادث المتأخر . ـ
I [ibn al-Qayyim] say: What Hudhayfah and indeed what most of the salaf mean when they talk about naasikh and mansookh – “abrogating” and “abrogated”, respectively – is sometimes that the entire ruling has been lifted – and this is how the later scholars use these terms -, or sometimes the salaf used it to mean that the general nature and applicability of an ayah or its most immediately apparent meaning or some other quality has been lifted. This could take place due to some type of specification, delimitation, interpreting a general text according to what another more detailed text indicates, an interpretation of it or due to its ruling having been clarified elsewhere. In fact, they would even refer to exceptions, conditions, or further descriptions of a ruling [revealed after the initial ruling] as naskh due to the fact that these things entail some lifting of the most immediately apparent meaning of the original text and a clarification of its meaning. So in the understanding of the salaf, and in fact in their language as well, the term naskh referred to a clarification of the intended meaning of something that was not present in the initial text but instead came in a later separate command.
So whoever ponders their statements will see numerous examples of this usage, too many to count, and understanding this will remove much confusion that would of course arise if he were to try to understand their usage of the term naskh according to the terminology used by the later scholars.
[I’lam al-Mawqi’een 1/28-29]
See also: A Primer on Abrogation: al-Zarkashi [forthcoming, inshaAllaah]