A Debate that I Lost - The last verse of the Quran
Sometime ago, while socializing with a group of Muslims, I became involved in a debate with one of them, who happened to be a Muslim scholar. It all started when he objected to my referral to the Quranic verse 5: 3 as the last revealed verse. He insisted that I was wrong and quoted some references to prove his point. Although he appeared to be sure I still didn’t believe his claims because they seemed to defy commonsense. When I went home, the first thing I did was to look at those references quoted by the Muslim scholar and, to my surprise, he was absolutely correct. The Muslim scholars, who rarely agree on anything, were in full agreement on that one! There are a few verses that were revealed after verse Q.5:3, therefore, this verse cannot be described as the last revealed of the Quran.
The verse, or rather part of verse, I was referring to is this one:
Q.5:3 (…This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion….)
The above statement is a part of a long verse in surat Almaeda (chapter 5) and is one of those popular verses that many Muslims tend to know by heart. It also has a special significance because it was revealed during Mohammed’s last pilgrimage, known to Muslims as hijatul wadaa, or the farewell pilgrimage. Indeed, Mohammed died three months later, and the verse could have made a perfect finish to his career, had he stopped revealing more.
I spent all my years as a Muslim assuming that the above verse was the last to be revealed from the Quran. My assumption was not based on historical evidence but on logical conclusion, which explains how I got it wrong; I applied common sense to where it didn’t belong. According to the above verse, Allah states that He had perfected, completed and chosen Islam as a religion for Muslims. I thought that such a clear statement means that no further revelations were needed. In fact, any further revelations would contradict the above verse and make it meaningless. And that is exactly the situation now; the words ‘perfected’ and ‘completed’ seem have lost their meanings because Allah continued to reveal more!
That debate took place years after I already left Islam, but the blunder, on its own, is a good enough reason for any thinking Muslim to leave Islam. My friend had the habit of claiming victory in all debates anyway; I certainly couldn’t disagree with his claim on that one, but that was a debate I was happy to lose.
One might think that the ‘extra’ verses that were revealed had only symbolic value and did not affect the core issues of Islam, like halal (allowed) and haram (prohibited) issues. I am afraid that is only a wishful thinking and is far from true. Let us have a look at some of the verses that were added to the Quran after Allah declared that it was completed.
According to Bukhari, Ibn Abbas believed that verse Q.2:278, which deals with usury (riba), was the last of the Quran:
“Q.2: 278. O you who believe! Be afraid of Allâh and give up what remains from Ribâ (usury) if you are believers”
Both Bukhari and Muslim report that Baraa Ibn Azzeb believed that verse Q.4: 176, which deals with inheritance, was the last of the Quran:
“Q.4: 176. . They ask you for a legal verdict. Say: "Allâh directs about Al¬Kalâlah (those who leave neither descendants nor ascendants as heirs). If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister, but no child, she shall have half the inheritance. If (such a deceased was) a woman, who left no child, her brother takes her inheritance. If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance; if there are brothers and sisters, the male will have twice the share of the female. (Thus) does Allâh makes clear to you (His Law) lest you go astray. And Allâh is the All-Knower of everything."
While Abu Ubayd, in his book ‘Fadael al Quran’ claims that verse Q.2: 282 from surat Al Bakara, which is the longest verse in the Quran and sets the rules of borrowing, was the last to be revealed:
“Q.2: 282. O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down. Let a scribe write it down in justice between you. Let not the scribe refuse to write ….”
The above were only three contenders for the title of the last verse of the Quran, all of them were revealed after Allah stated that He perfected and completed the religion!
My explanation is that Allah, after he completed the Quran, remembered a few more things which he added later.
All humans do it, don’t they?