The Incompleteness and Incoherence of the Qur'an

The Qur'an, in many places, claims for itself complete, exhaustive knowledge. The Qur'an asserts that it basically lacks nothing as far as faith and religious knowledge is concerned. A careful analysis of the following verses demonstrates that the Qur'an's self-assessment is that it is a fully detailed revelation:

And there is no animal in the earth, nor bird that flies on its two wings, but (they are) communities like yourselves. We have NOT NEGLECTED ANYTHING in the Book. Then to their Lord they will be gathered. S. 6:38 Maulana Muhammad Ali

Shall I seek a judge other than Allah, when He it is Who has sent down to you the Book FULLY EXPLAINED? ... S. 6:114 M.M. Ali

The likeness of the life of the present is as the rain which We send down from the skies: by its mingling arises the produce of the earth- which provides food for men and animals: (It grows) till the earth is clad with its golden ornaments and is decked out (in beauty): the people to whom it belongs think they have all powers of disposal over it: There reaches it Our command by night or by day, and We make it like a harvest clean-mown, as if it had not flourished only the day before! Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who reflect. S. 10:24 Yusuf Ali

In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a narrative which could be forged, but a verification of what is before it and a distinct explanation of all things and a guide and a mercy to a people who believe. S. 12:111 Shakir

Ibn Kathir comments on the last of the above quoted verses:

<and a detailed explanation of everything> Meaning the allowed, the prohibited, the preferred and the disliked matters. The Qur'an deals with the acts of worship, the obligatory and recommended matters, forbids the unlawful and discourages from the disliked. The Qur'an contains major facts regarding the existence and about matters of the future in general terms or in detail. The Qur'an tells us about the Lord, the Exalted and Most Honored, and about His Names and Attributes and teaches us that Allah is glorified from being similar in any way to the creation. Hence, the Qur'an is...

<a guide and a mercy for the people who believe.> with which their hearts are directed from misguidance to guidance and from deviation to conformance, and with which they seek the mercy of the Lord of all creation in this life and on the Day of Return. We ask Allah the Most Great to make us among this group in the life of the present world and in the Hereafter, on the Day when those who are successful will have faces that radiate with light, while those whose faces are dark will end up with the losing deal. This is the end of the Tafsir of Surah Yusuf; and all the thanks and praises are due to Allah, and all our trust and reliance are on Him Alone. (Source)

Yet another verse of the Qur’an states:

... And thee [too, O Prophet,] have We brought forth to bear witness regarding those [whom thy message may have reached], inasmuch as We have bestowed from on high upon thee, step by step, this divine writ, TO MAKE EVERYTHING CLEAR, and to provide guidance and grace and a glad tiding unto all who have surrendered themselves to God. S. 16:89 Asad

M.M. Ali has an interesting note here:

89b. Brinkman says: "If the Qur'an explains everything and is a guidance, what need is there for the Sunnah?" ... (Source)

Indeed, a very good question, one which Ali doesn't sufficiently answer. See the rest of his note. One online Shia commentary writes:

The Holy Prophet, who came with the book (a guide, a mercy and glad tidings to those who submit themselves to Allah) explaining all things, is a witness over all the witnesses. In addition to verses mentioned in the commentary of verse 84 of this surah, please refer to Bani Israil: 71 and An Nur: 24. (Pooya/M.A. Ali English Commentary; Source)

Ibn Kathir states:

<And We revealed the Book (the Qur'an) to you as an explanation of everything,> Ibn Mas`ud said: "[Allah] made it clear that in this Qur'an there is COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE AND ABOUT EVERYTHING." The Qur'an contains all kinds of beneficial knowledge, such as reports of what happened in the past, information about what is yet to come, what is lawful and unlawful, and what people need to know about their worldly affairs, their religion, their livelihood in this world, and their destiny in the Hereafter. (Source)

Two more verses from the Qur'an:

He does propound to you a similitude from your own (experience): do ye have partners among those whom your right hands possess, to share as equals in the wealth We have bestowed on you? Do ye fear them as ye fear each other? Thus do we explain the Signs in detail to a people that understand. S. 30:28

A Scripture whereof the verses are expounded, a Lecture in Arabic for people who have knowledge, S. 41:3 Pickthall

The Quran even claims to be its own best explanation or tafsir:

And no question do they bring to thee but We reveal to thee the truth and the best explanation (waahsana tafseeran) (thereof). 25:33 Y. Ali

The cumulative effect of all these passages has led many Muslims to the conclusion that all one needs is the Qur'an, which in turn has led to a steady rise of "Qur'an only" Muslims. There are several distinct groups of "Qur'an only" Muslims, but they all have this in common: they reject the assertion that the hadiths and sirah literature are necessary and vital for a proper understanding of the Qur'an. Note, for instance, the statements of the following Muslim writer regarding 16:89:

There cannot be any words clearer than this. When He says "liKULLI Shai’iw" that means EVERYTHING. If the Qur’an itself is supposed to explain everything, what does it mean to explain the Qur’an by other books? In other words, the above verse is saying that there is NOTHING that is not explained by the Qur’an. The Muslim who says that "not everything is in the Qur’an", must sit down and contemplate on these Ayaats and reflect on the logical consequences of his statement.


The Muslim, when confronted with these Ayaat, adopts a more defensive approach and revises his earlier statements by saying "Yes, the Qur’an is complete and has everything and is easy to understand, but it LACKS DETAILS. And to get the details we must resort to the books of Hadith". The Qur'an again refutes this statement...

The discussion should end here for if the Qur’an is COMPLETE, and EASY and has DETAILS of everything that we need for Guidance, then there is no need to look at another book for Guidance. I must add here that people should be encouraged to talk with each other and share ideas - the problem occurs when individual's ideas are taken as sources of Guidance in ADDITION to the Qur’an. This is exactly what Allah tells them:

"Is it not enough for them that We have revealed to you the Book, which is recited to them? Most surely there is a mercy in this and a reminder for a people who believe" (29:51)

The Muslim, however, refuses this "Mercy" and ties himself up in shackles of Hadith and tradition, and insists that the Book of Allah is not enough for him. With all of the above evidence, he still cannot give up Hadith. In the following chapters we will look at some of the other arguments put forth by the proponents of Hadith. (Source)

To read further articles written by like-minded Muslims please consult the following:

These Muslims are quite similar to Protestant Christians and their belief in the Holy Bible as the sole, infallible, rule of faith which is completely sufficient to fully equip believers. But there is a major difference between the two groups and the claims of the Holy Bible regarding its own sufficiency with the claims of the Qur'an.

As we saw from the foregoing citations, the author of the Qur'an makes the bold assertion that the Qur'an is a fully detailed, exhaustive book. And herein is where the Muslims are in a major dilemma. We have demonstrated in a number of articles, that the Qur'an is far from being exhaustive and that it lacks essential details, making it quite unintelligible for the person who has no recourse to Islamic history and/or Muslim commentaries.

But the moment one consults sources outside of the Qur'an in order to make sense of it is the moment the Muslim faces an irreconciliable contradiction since this negates the Qur'an's claim of being complete. Note the problem as we break it down for all to see:

  1. The Qur'an says it is a fully detailed record. Therefore, to consult sources outside of the Qur'an is to falsify its claim of completeness.
  2. Yet there are many stories and instructions which the Qur'an does not fully expound upon, making it necessary for a person to consult other sources besides the Qur'an.
  3. But the moment a person goes outside of the Qur'an to fill in the details he or she inevitably ends up refuting the assertion made by the Qur'an that it is an exhaustive record.

Here is just one example of what we mean. The Qur'an, in 4:12 and 176, refers to a kalalah: The Arabic word kalalah left many Muslims baffled:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
'Umar delivered a sermon on the pulpit of Allah's Apostle, saying, "Alcoholic drinks were prohibited by Divine Order, and these drinks used to be prepared from five things, i.e., grapes, dates, wheat, barley and honey. Alcoholic drink is that, that disturbs the mind." 'Umar added, "I wish Allah's Apostle had not left us before he had given us definite verdicts concerning three matters, i.e., how much a grandfather may inherit (of his grandson), the inheritance of Al-Kalala (the deceased person among whose heirs there is no father or son), and various types of Riba (usury)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 69, Number 493)

Narrated Al-Bara' ibn Azib:
A man came to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Apostle of Allah, they ask thee for a legal decision about a kalalah. What is meant by kalalah? He replied: The verse revealed in summer is sufficient for you.
I asked AbuIshaq: Does it mean a person who dies and leaves neither children nor father? He said: This is so. The people THINK it is so. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 18, Number 2883)


20 There is disagreement about the meaning of the word Kalalah. According to some, it denotes those who die leaving no lineal heirs, neither issue nor father or grandfather. Others, however, see it as referring to those who die without issue, regardless of whether succeeded by father or grandfather. The relevant verse in the Qur'an is found in Surat al Nisa, 4:176. And it was on the basis of this verse that Abu Bakr ruled as he did. Abu Bakr's reasoning was that the verse specifies that the sister of the Kalalah is to receive a half of the inheritance; and if the father had been alive, the sister would not have inherited from the Kalalah at all. Thus, while the Qur'an does not specify the matter; it is fairly clear that the implied meaning is that the Kalalah is one who dies leaving no lineal heirs in either direction. (Ed.) (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Therefore, to read the Qur'an alone leaves one confused about many of its instructions and stories. But to consult sources other than the Qur'an falsifies the Qur'an in its claim to be complete. Either way, the Muslim is in a situation which he/she cannot resolve. This does not only apply to the "Qur'an only" camp, but it is a dilemma also for those Muslims who follow both the Qur'an and Islamic traditions, whether Sunnis or Shias.

Unlike the Qur'an which claims to be a fully detailed scripture, the Holy Bible does not claim to be an exhaustive book. It claims to be a SUFFICIENT record as far as faith and morals are concerned. The Holy Bible gives us all the things which are necessary to believe in for salvation and to live in a manner completely pleasing to God:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:30-31 NIV

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be COMPETENT, EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK." 2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV

"His divine power has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires... And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:3-4, 19-21 NIV

Hence, it would be a major error for a Muslim to try to turn this argument against the Holy Bible on the basis that it does not exhaustively record all that God has said or done through his prophets/messengers, or for not containing all information. The Holy Bible, unlike the Qur'an, never claims for itself complete, exhaustive knowledge. It claims to be completely sufficient for equipping the man or woman of God.

One could easily design many different criteria for evaluating the Qur'an and the Bible, or any other religious scripture for that matter. The demand for logical consistency is certainly a reasonable criterion for any book that claims to be divine revelation, whether or not this book explicitly claims to be without contradictions. To demand that the number of words in each chapter must be a prime number would be an entirely arbitrary and unreasonable criterion. The Bible and the Qur'an are very different books, and besides some foundational criteria that apply generally to each book claiming to be revelation of absolute truth (e.g., logical consistency, historical accuracy when speaking about historical events, etc.) it is important to check whether each book satisfies at least its own, internal criteria, i.e. the claims it makes about itself. Evaluating the Qur'an by the criterion of completeness is fully appropriate since it is taking serious a claim made by the Qur'an about itself. Attacking the Bible for not being completely exhaustive in everything would mean to impose an arbitrary and unjustified demand on it.

Sam Shamoun

The Incompleteness and Incoherence of the Qur'an
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