Waqar Akbar Cheema
The article is about examining details of the saying of ‘Aisha of which a narration mentioned in Sahih Muslim has been used by critics to cast aspersions on the completeness of Qur’anic preservation in writing after the Prophet. Cross examining various narrations of ‘Aisha’s report on five-sucklings as proof required to establish foster relationship it has been shown that the odd narration does not raise any question about the impeccability of the Qur’anic preservation.
Reading the following narration one falls for the impression against the stability and completeness of the Qur’anic transmission from Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to the generations of Muslims after him. It is thus found in the hadith collection of Muslim b. Hajjaj al-Nishapuri (d. 261/875);
عن عبد الله بن أبي بكر، عن عمرة، عن عائشة، أنها قالت: ” كان فيما أنزل من القرآن: عشر رضعات معلومات يحرمن، ثم نسخن، بخمس معلومات، فتوفي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، وهن فيما يقرأ من القرآن “
Narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr, on the authority of ‘Amrah [bt. ‘Abdul Rahman], on the authority of ‘Aisha who said: it had been revealed in the Holy Qur’an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur’an (and recited by the Muslims).
This narration has been used by orientalists and critics to suggest that the received text of the Qur’an is incomplete. Naturally, this contradicts the Muslim position that nothing with regards to Qur’an was or could be changed after the Prophet (ﷺ), not even by the way of abrogation.
Scholars have generally responded to this problem in different ways the upshot of which is that the ruling of five suckles establishing the foster relation was revealed but the verse containing that was abrogated from ritual recitation towards the very end of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) life which was loosely put as in this report.
2. Critical analysis of the report
Every narration in hadith corpus comes in two parts; the chain of narrators (isnad) through which it is related and its actual content (matn). A critical analysis of both the segments of the narration is a must before grading it as reliable or otherwise. In fact, the two could well be intertwined.
2.1 Isnad analysis
Ordinarily a hadith reported in Sahih Muslim is considered beyond reproach. While generally true, it is not the case for all that is mentioned in every single one of narrations included in this celebrated work. This is especially true for hidden defects concerning certain peripheral aspects of some of the reports. The instant issue is just a case in point.
This report from the Prophet’s (ﷺ) beloved wife ‘Aisha has come to us through at least three narrators from ‘Aisha’s student ‘Amrah bt. ‘Abdul Rahman (d. 98/716-717);
i) Yahya b. Sa‘id al-Ansari (d. 144/761-762)
ii) Qasim b. Muhammad b. Abu Bakr (d. 106/725)
ii) ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr Muhammad (d. 135/752-753)
Narrations of the report through each of these narrators are discussed below.
2.1.1 Yahya b. Sa‘id
Yahya b. Sa‘id never reports the words under consideration. It is recorded in Sahih Muslim as well.
عن يحيى وهو ابن سعيد، عن عمرة، أنها سمعت عائشة، تقول: – وهي تذكر الذي يحرم من الرضاعة قالت عمرة: فقالت: عائشة – «نزل في القرآن عشر رضعات معلومات، ثم نزل أيضا خمس معلومات»
Narrated on the authority of Yahya b. Sa‘id, on the authority of ‘Amrah [bt. ‘Abdul Rahman], that she heard ‘Aisha say when she was mentioning what kind of breastfeeding makes a person a Mahram – Ten definite breastfeedings were revealed in the Qur’an, then five definite breastfeedings were revealed too.
All the sources that record this report through Yahya b. Sa‘id do it without the endings words under discussion. In fact some add words that are instructive with regard to the present discussion.
With al-Shafi‘i (d. 204/820) Yahya’s narration ends with the words:
فكان لا يدخل على عائشة إلا من استكمل خمس رضعات
No one could come in the presence of ‘Aisha [by the token of foster relation] except if he had completed five suckles.
Abu ‘Awana (d. 316/928) and Abu Nu‘aim’s (d. 430/1068) narrations have it as:
حدثني يحيى بن سعيد، عن عمرة، عن عائشة، قالت: «أنزل في القرآن عشر رضعات معلومات، وأنزل بعد خمس» كانت عائشة تفتي بذلك
Related Yahya b. Sa‘id, on the authority of ‘Amrah [bt. ‘Abdul Rahman], on the authority of ‘Aisha that she said: It had been revealed in the Qur’an that ten definite sucklings [made marriage unlawful] and subsequently it was revealed that five definite sucklings [did so]. ‘Aisha used to opine thus.
2.1.2 Qasim b. Muhammad’s report
Another narrator from ‘Aisha’s student ‘Amrah – Qasim b. Muhammad – also does not have these words. In fact in his report ‘Aisha herself clarifies that what she mentioned was revealed and then abrogated. Ibn Majah (d.273/887) reports:
عن عبد الرحمن بن القاسم، عن أبيه، عن عمرة، عن عائشة، أنها قالت: كان فيما أنزل الله من القرآن ثم سقط، «لا يحرم إلا عشر رضعات، أو خمس معلومات»
Narrated on the authority of ‘Abdul Rahman b. al-Qasim, on the authority of his father [Qasim b. Muhammad], on the authority of ‘Amrah, on the authority of ‘Aisha that she said: One of the things that Allah revealed in the the Qur’an and then abrogated was that nothing makes marriage prohibited except ten sucklings or five definite (sucklings).
2.1.3 ‘Abdullah b. Abu Bakr’s report
It is only through ‘Abdullah b. Abu Bakr and none other that we get this report with the words.
فتوفي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، وهن فيما يقرأ من القرآن
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) died and it still in what was recited as Qur’an. 
Not only is this an odd addition, even ‘Abdullah b. Abu Bakr’s narrations are not consistent on this. Al-Tirmidhi (d. 279/892) records:
وقالت عائشة: «أنزل في القرآن عشر رضعات معلومات، فنسخ من ذلك خمس، وصار إلى خمس رضعات معلومات، فتوفي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم والأمر على ذلك»
حدثنا بذلك إسحاق بن موسى الأنصاري قال: حدثنا معن قال: حدثنا مالك، عن عبد الله بن أبي بكر، عن عمرة، عن عائشة بهذا
‘Aisha said: “What was revealed in the Qur’an was ten definite sucklings, five were abrogated from that, so it became five definite sucklings. Then the Messenger of Allah died while the matter had remained like that.
It was thus related to us by Ishaq b. Musa al-Ansari who said: Ma‘n [b. ‘Isa] related to us: Malik related to us, on the authority of ‘Abdullah b. Abu Bakr, on the authority of ‘Amrah, from ‘Aisha.
2.1.4 Inadvertence on the part of a narrator
The above analysis clearly shows that the words “Allah’s Messenger died and it was recited in the Qur’an” are an odd addendum to the report of ‘Aisha mentioned only in a narration through ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr. Another narration from ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr which has been recorded by al-Tirmidhi does not have these words. Moreover, other narrations of the report that come from Yahya b. Sa‘id and Qasim b. Muhammad do not have any such suggestion. Not only is this an odd addition, it even contradicts reports from Qasim b. Muhammad which is explicit in mentioning that both the ten-suckling and five-suckling things had been abrogated.
In this connection al-Tahawi (d. 321/933) noted:
أن القاسم بن محمد في الحفظ والإتقان فوق عبد الله بن أبي بكر، لا سيما وقد وافقه على ما روى من ذلك يحيى بن سعيد وهو فوق عبد الله بن أبي بكر أيضا.
In retention and comprehension Al-Qasim b. Muhammad was better than ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr especially as his report was in confirmation of what was reported from Yahya b. Sa‘id who was likewise better than ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr.
Likewise he observed:
وهذا ممن لا نعلم أحدا رواه كما ذكرنا غير عبد الله بن أبي بكر وهو عندنا وهم منه
This is something we do not know from any other narrator except Abdullah b. Abi Bakr and to us it is only an inadvertence on his part.
Al-Jassas (d. 370/980) and Ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 453/1148) also confirmed that it involves mistake on the part of a narrator. 
2.1.5 Reality of the matter: Paraphrase of ‘Aisha’s opinion
Comparing narrations through Yahya b. Sa‘id and ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr it is easy to see the intended meaning simply was that ‘Aisha held that foster relation was established only through five definite suckles. This fact was put differently in various narrations as “‘Aisha opined thus,” and that “no one could come in the presence of ‘Aisha by the token of foster relation except if he had completed five suckles” as in narrations of Yahya b. Sa‘id, and “the matter remained like that till the death of the Prophet,” as in the narration of ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr.
These details also tell us that the final statement in all these narrations was not actually part of the saying of ‘Aisha, as some authors seem to take for granted,  rather it had come from later narrators by the way of qualifying ‘Aisha’s opinion. Naturally, these later narrators had not been around when the Prophet (ﷺ) passed away.
Instructively, towards the end of a report that Ibn Juraij narrates from Nafi‘ from Salim b. ‘Abdullah, it says:
قال: زعموا أن عائشة قالت: ” لقد كان في كتاب الله عز وجل: عشر رضعات، ثم رد ذلك إلى خمس، ولكن من كتاب الله ما قبض مع النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم “
Ibn Juraij said: They held that ‘Aisha said, “Verily ten sucklings were mentioned in the Qur’an (as proof of foster relations). Subsequently, it was changed to five sucklings. It was in the Book of Allah but (the part of it that) was abrogated while the Prophet (ﷺ) was alive.”
This is clear in dispelling the doubt that arises due to inadvertence in the narration of the report given in Sahih Muslim etc.
2.2 ‘Aisha herself had no idea of such a verse
Moreover, Aisha lived long after the demise of the Prophet (ﷺ) and was there when Abu Bakr, her father, got the first official copy of the Quran prepared and even when ‘Uthman disseminated multiple copies of the Qur’an yet we do not find even a weakest of the suggestions that she or another companion of the Prophet (ﷺ) ever mentioned that a verse and that too one with a legal ruling had been missed out. Had ‘Aisha known of it she would have made every effort to register it for it would been the ultimate proof on the issue on which other Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) differed with her.
2.3 Even a single instance of suckling proves foster relation
While the hadith under considerations affirms that there was gradual change in the ruling as to what degree of suckling proved foster relation. At first it was ten suckles which was then changed to five suckles. Some reports suggest it was first changed from ten suckles to seven suckles and then to five suckles. Finally, it was ruled that any number of suckling instances within infancy would establish the foster relation.
‘Abdul Razzaq (d. 211/827) relates that Ibn Juraij said:
أخبرني عبد الكريم، عن طاوس قال: قلت له: إنهم يزعمون أنه لا يحرم من الرضاع دون سبع رضعات، ثم صار ذلك إلى خمس، فقال طاوس: «قد كان ذلك فحدث بعد ذلك أمر جاء التحريم، المرة الواحدة تحرم»
‘Abdul Karim informed me that he mentioned to Tawus: People say foster relation was not established except if suckling had taken place seven times, and then it was changed to five. Tawus said: It used to be so but then it was ruled that even a single instance of suckling proved foster relation
In another report:
عن طاووس قال : اشترط عشر رضعات ثم قيل : إن الرضعة الواحدة تحرم
Tawus said: At first ten sucklings was stipulated and then it was said that even a single a single suckling established foster relations.
Al-Jassas too recorded a similar report from Ibn ‘Abbas:
عن طاوس عن ابن عباس أنه سئل عن الرضاع فقال إن الناس يقولون لا تحرم الرضعة ولا الرضعتان قال قد كان ذاك فأما اليوم فالرضعة الواحدة تحرم
Tawus mentioned that Ibn Abbas was asked about his take on foster relations as people said that one or two sucklings did not make (marriage) unlawful (through foster relations). He said: It used to be like that but now even a single suckle makes unlawful.
Other reports clearly mention how authorities such as ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar and Sa‘id b. al-Musayyib flouted ‘Aisha five-suckling opinion on the issue highlighting that it went against the general natural of the Qur’anic injunction (Qur’an 4:23).
While we know that ‘Aisha was one of the people who had stuck to the five-suckles opinion, these reports help up see the context in which ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr sought to qualify the mention of ‘Aisha’s opinion with the claim that it had never been abrogated. Unfortunately, one of the two narrations of his assertion to this effect reached us in words that made it controversial requiring the instant clarification.
It may quickly be added that wisdom behind this gradual change in the ruling was that in Arabia back then fostering other’s children was a normal practice and as it had implication on possible future marriages so the command was made strict only gradually so as not to cause much consternation in the society and to prepare them for the final ruling.
3. Summary and conclusion
The narration of the hadith of ‘Aisha which prima facie suggests that there used to be some mention of five suckles establishing the foster relations in the Qur’an till the very end of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) life is actually an odd narration involving an inadvertence on the part of a narrator who had not been consistent on this point. In fact he and other narrators of the report of ‘Aisha only meant to qualify that ‘Aisha subscribed to five-suckles opinion. The erring narrator made an attempt at further qualifying it with the assertion that it had been so till the end of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) life implying that the opinion ‘Aisha stuck to was valid and had not been abrogated despite a number of Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) and their well-known students claiming so.
Fortunately, we have other narrators giving us the same information and other reports giving us the larger context whereby we can ascertain what was actually said and why. It then helps us see the reasons for the inadvertence. The said information confirms that there was no such verse in the Qur’an especially not that anyone, including ‘Aisha, thought was due to be recited even after the Prophet (ﷺ).
All this clarifies that the narration under consideration, when critically examined, does not cast any doubt whatsoever on preservation of Qur’an.[divider]
References & Notes:
 Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Translation by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1978) Vol.2 Hadith 3421
Another translation goes as;
“Among the things that were revealed of the Qur’an was that ten definite breastfeedings make a person a Mahram, then that was abrogated and replaced with five definite breastfeedings, and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) passed away when this was among the things that were recited of the Qur’an.”
See, Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Translation by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 2007) Hadith 1452 (24) 
 Burton, John, The Collection of the Qur’an, (London: Cambridge University Press, 1977) 111
 Al-Baghdadi, Riadh Hussain ‘Abd al-Latif al-Ta’i, Marwiyyat Naskh al-Tilawah – Jam‘a wa Dirasah, (Amman: al-Athariyya, 2014) 188-189
 Fatoohi, Louay, Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law, (Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 2013) 302-303
 Critique methodology in traditional hadith science is based on solid rational grounds. On this see, al-‘Awni, Hatim Sharif, Al-Usus Al-ʿAqliyyah li Manhaj Naqd Al-Muhaddithin, (Cairo: Markaz Ihya’ lil-Buhuth wa al-Dirasat, 2020); for sections most relevant to the analysis that follows in this article, see pp. 91-148 (sections 4 and 5).
 Al-Shawkani, Muhammad b. ‘Ali, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu‘a fi al-Ahadith al-Mawdu‘a, Edited by Al-Mu ‘allami al-Yamani, (Beirut: DKI, 1995) 8 (intro)
 The truth is that Muslim b. Hajjaj himself never suggested that every single narration in his work was authentic to the letter. In fact in his introduction to the work he himself mentioned that he would point to certain defects in specific narrations of the reports. See, Sahih Muslim, Translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 2007) Vol.1, 42 (Intro.)
A contemporary authority on hadith Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwama discusses the fact and methodology of Muslim b. Hajjaj in presenting narrations defective in certain details thereof in a dedicated treatise; Min Manhaj al-Imam Muslim fi ‘Ard al-Hadith al-Mu‘allal fi Sahihihi (On the Methodology of Imam Muslim in Presenting Defective Narrations in his Sahih). He qualifies his study with over twenty examples from this wonderful hadith collection. He argues that the claim of the authenticity of the narrations in Sahih Muslim and the consensus on it is for the collectivity of narrations in every chapter of the work and not for each of them in all their respective details.
Further, Muhammad ‘Awwama points out that whenever the defect or point of concern is in the content of a narration Muslim b. Hajjaj brings the narration with the defect first and follows it with the narration free from it. On the other hand when the defect is in the chain of narrators he brings the defective narration latter. See, ‘Awwama, Muhammad, Min Manhaj al-Imam Muslim fi ‘Ard al-Hadith al-Mu‘allal fi Sahihihi, (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2017) 22-24
In the subject case too we find Muslim b. Hajjaj quoting the ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr’s narration of the report first and that of Yahya b. Sa‘id latter, alluding to the problem with uncorroborated words in the former.
 Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 1452 (25) [3598-3599];
 al-Shafi‘i, Muhammad b. Idris, al-Musnad (tartib al-Sindi), Edited by Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari (Beirut: DKI, 1951) Hadith 67; al-San‘ani, ‘Abdul Razzaq, al-Musannaf, (Dabhel: Majlis al-‘Ilmi, 1983) Hadith 13913; al-Jawzjani, Sa‘id b. Mansur, al-Sunan, (Bombay: Dar al-Salafiyya, 1982) Hadith 976; Abu ‘Awana, al-Mustakhraj, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifa, 1998) Hadith 4422; al-Tahawi, Abu Ja ‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 1994) Hadith 2065-2066, 4567- 4568; al-Fakihi, Abu Muhammad, al-Fawa’id, (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Rushd, 1998) Hadith 31; al-Daraqutni, Abu al-Hasan, al-Sunan, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publications, 2004) Hadith 4384; al-Baihaqi, Abu Bakr, al-Sunan al-Kubra, (Beirut: DKI, 2003) Hadith 15620
 al-Shafi‘i, al-Musnad, Hadith 67; al-Baihaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Hadith 15621
 Abu ‘Awana, al-Mustakhraj, Hadith 4423; al-Asbahani, Abu Nu‘aim, al-Musnad al-Mustakhraj ‘ala Sahih Muslim, (Beirut: DKI, 1996) Hadith 3400
 Ibn Majah, al-Sunan, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishers, 2009) Hadith 1942; classified as sahih by al-Albani and Shu‘aib al-Arnaut; see also; al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 2064, 4561; ; al-Fakihi, al-Fawa’id, Hadith 30
 al-Sajistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 2007) Hadith 2062; al-Nasa’i, Abu ‘Abdul Rahman, al-Sunan, Edited by ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghoddah (Aleppo: Maktab al-Matbu‘at al-Islamiyya, 1986) Hadith 3307; Malik b. Anas, al-Muwatta, (Abu Dhabi: Mo’assasa Zayd bin Nahyan, 2005) Hadith 540/2253; al-Darimi, al-Musnad, (Riyadh: Dar al-Mughni, 2000) Hadith 2299; Ishaq b. Rahawayh, al-Musnad, (Madina: Maktaba al-Iman, 1991) Hadith 1007; al-Shafi‘i, Muhammad b. Idris, al-Musnad, Hadith 66; al-Tahawi, Abu Ja‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 2063, 4566; al-Fakihi, al-Fawa’id, Hadith 32; al-Busti, Ibn Hibban, al-Sahih, (Beirut: Al-Resalah Publishers, 1988) Hadith 4221-4222; al-Baihaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Hadith 15619
 Al-Tirmidhi, Abu ‘Isa, al-Jami‘ al-Kabir – Sunan al-Tirmidhi, (Beirut: Al-Resalah Publishers, 2009) Vol.3, 9 Hadith 1184;
 Al-Sindi, Abu al-Hasan, Hashia ‘ala Sunan Ibn Majah, (Beirut: Dar al-Jil, n.d.) Vol.1, 598; see also, al-Qurtubi, Abu al-‘Abbas, al-Mufhim lima Ashkal min Talkhis Kitab Muslim, (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1996) Vol.4, 185
Whether the five-suckling thing was abrogation in recitation i.e. from the text of the Qur’an alone or the ruling too was abrogated is a point of contention among scholars. Hanafis and Malikis hold that the ruling itself was abrogated. Shafi‘is and Hanbalis, on the other hand, say that it was abrogated only in recitation and that it is a proof of their position that foster relation is established through five-suckling only. No doubt some early scholars did subscribe to the five-suckling view, it is presumptive to say that it was revealed as Qur’an and then abrogated in recitation. Narrations of the hadith to this effect only affirm the change of ruling from ten-suckling to five-suckling and not that five-suckling was then read in Qur’an as well. At the most some reports use the word “nazal” (lit. revealed) in mentioning the shift to five-suckling which is obviously not the same as being from Qur’an for the Prophet’s (ﷺ) instructions otherwise too had the divine sanction through revelation.
 al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Vol.11, 490
 al-Tahawi, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Vol.5, 311-312
 Al-Jassas, Abu Bakr, al-Fusul fi al-Usul, (Kuwait: Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, 1994) Vol.2, 268; Al-Maliki, Ibn al-‘Arabi, ‘Ardah al-Ahwadhi bi Sharh Sahih al-Tirmidhi, (Beirut: DKI, 1997 ) Vol.5, 92
 Fatoohi, Louay, Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law, 303
 Al-San‘ani, ‘Abdul Razzaq, al-Musannaf, Hadith 13928; al-Albani says if the person saying this is Salim the report is sahih, if it is Ibn Juraij it is truncated (munqati‘). See al-Albani, Nasir al-Din, Sahih Sunan Abu Dawud, (Kuwait: Mo’assasa Gheras, 2002) Vol.6, 304 Hadith 1600. This, however, is not a foregone conclusion. Even if Ibn Juraij said it, and it appears more likely, it is quite possible that he got it from people who had learnt from ‘Aisha as we know he had taken from some of ‘Aisha’s pupils including Nafi‘.
 Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim, (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath, 2006) Vol.1, 68
 Al-Kashmiri, Anwar Shah, al-‘Arf al-Shadhi Sharh Sunan al-Tirmidhi, (Beirut: Dar al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 2004) Vol.2, 396
 Al-San‘ani, ‘Abdul Razzaq, al-Musannaf, Hadith 13916
 Ibn Abi Shaiba, al-Musannaf, Edited by Muhammad ‘Awwama (Beirut: Dar Qurtuba, 2006) Hadith 17314
 Al-Jassas, Abu Bakr, Ahkam al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1405 AH) Vol.3, 67
 Al-San‘ani, ‘Abdul Razzaq, al-Musannaf, Hadith 13911, 13921; al-Jawhari, ‘Ali b. al-Ja‘d, al-Musnad, (Beirut: Mo’ssasa Nadir, 1990) Hadith 2614; al-Marwazi, Muhammad b. Nasar, al-Sunnah, (Beirut: Mo’ssasa Kutab al-Thaqafiyya, 1408 AH) Hadith 309; al-Baihaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Hadith 15644