The theory of abrogation of the Qur’an by the Qur’an itself has a long history in Islamic tradition and continues to find wide-ranging currency in preaching nowadays. A literary analysis of the text shows the theory to be without foundation, however. It is thus a total nonsense when, by virtue of a manifestly erroneous traditional interpretation, this theory is exploited nowadays by some people in order to abrogate all the Qur’an’s open, tolerant verses in favour of the most combative and exclusivist ones
Today’s jihadist violence is fuelled by a literalistic reading of the Qur’an, at the heart of which lies the abrogation issue. According to such a reading, the more conciliatory verses, which order the Prophet to show patience, tolerance and forgiveness towards unbelievers (polytheists or peoples of the Book i.e. Jews and Christians), would have been abrogated by other, later verses that give the order to fight or kill them. These include the famous “sword verse”: “Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way, God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. And if any of the idolaters seeks of thee protection, grant him protection till he hears the words of God; then do thou convey him to his place of security – that, because they are a people who do not know” (Qur’an 9:5; see, also, verses 12, 14, 29, 36, 111 and 123 of the same sura).