Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Is half the Qur’an already fully detailed?

Further thoughts by a former Muslim

Mutee'a Al-Fadi

As a former devout Muslim who lived most of his life defending the religion of Islam, and following the prophet of Islam, I find it truly hurtful when I read some of the apologetics and responses offered to Muslims by Islamic websites concerning important issues against Islam. In this article, Lord willing, I plan on discussing an example of such classical Islamic responses that do not provide any logical explanation or satisfaction in meeting the needs of those beloved Muslims who are seekers of the truth.

The article I am referring to is titled “Rebuttal to Jochen Katz’s Article: Is half the Qur’an already fully detailed? Verses in conflict with the theory of a piecemeal descent of the Qur’an” and was written by Mr. Bassam Zawadi. In this article, Mr. Zawadi attempts to refute an article by Jochen Katz which raises a sincere concern on the issue of the claimed piecemeal descent of the Quran.1

The standard Muslim understanding is that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad piecemeal over the course of 23 years. Each sura or (or part of a sura) was given at a certain point in time and into specific circumstances in the life of Muhammad or the Muslim community. In particular, the suras are classified as Maccan or Madinan based on whether they were given before or after the hijrah.

Mr. Katz observed that there are a number of verses in the Qur’an that claim that the Qur’an is an explanation of everything, and that these verses are, quite surprisingly, from the Maccan period, when the Qur’an was far from complete and many essential instructions of Islamic law were still missing. These are the verses he referred to:

Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding. It (the Quran) is not a forged statement but a confirmation of the Allah's existing Books (the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel) and other Scriptures of Allah) and a detailed explanation of everything and a guide and a Mercy for the people who believe. S. 12:111 Al-Hilali & Khan

One day We shall raise from all Peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves: and We shall bring thee as a witness against these (thy people): and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims. S. 16:89 Y. Ali

And after discussing the problems these verses caused, he summarized the matter by posing the following questions:

A. If the Qur'an was already "a detailed explanation of everything" at the time these particular verses were revealed, what purpose does the rest of the Qur'an serve? Why was the Qur'an not finalized at that time? What more is there to add to a book that is already "a detailed explanation of everything"? Is at least a third of the Qur'an merely redundant repetition?

B. However, if the Quran was NOT YET "a detailed explanation of everything" at the time this claim was made, then the author of the Qur'an made statements that are clearly false. "God revealed" (?) something that was wrong -- at least it was wrong for some time, maybe even for several years until the Quran finally became complete and fully detailed and an explanation of everything. In other words, for at least ten years the Qur'an contained these statements that were false until the book was finally completed.

As a former Muslim, as someone who lived and practiced Islam, I can assure you that verses such as these used to give me the false assurance that what I believed in was complete and true, just as any of you who are reading this article, and may even be seeking the truth. However, the article by Mr. Katz addressed some serious issues that we must examine with sincerity and with an open heart and open mind. After all, it is our eternity and final destination that is at stake.

When I read Mr. Zawadi’s response I was surprised as to why Mr. Zawadi ignored all of these valid points listed in Mr. Katz’s article, and rather brushed off the real issues with “a matter of fact” generic rhetoric concerning the seriousness of the claim in Q.12:111 and 16:89.

Summary of Bassam Zawadi’s Article2

Mr. Zawadi of the “” website responded back to Mr. Katz article by indicating that the intend of both verses Q.12:111 & 16:89 was to make a general statement about the Quran being an explanation of all things, not just things which were revealed before and up to the point when these verses were revealed, but rather, things that will be revealed thereafter. He further asserts that the general statement made in these verses is made concerning the Quran and the Qur’anic Surahs (chapters) which were defined by the Prophet of Islam.

In addition, Mr. Zawadi constructed a misguided comparison to a Bible verse. Mr. Katz is going to answer to that part himself (*). I will focus on the quranic matters in my response.

Unfortunately the above was the chief argument made in Mr. Zawadi’s rebuttal as the key response to the claim raised by Mr. Katz. Such an abridged response by Mr. Zawadi disturbed me, to say the least, since it did not offer any clear or sincere explanation to his readers, in particular, to those who are seekers of the truth.

My Response

Due to the lack of any substance in the rebuttal provided by Mr. Zawadi, I found it necessary to respond to his article with the hope to provide our Muslim readers with a clearer explanation of the danger posed by the claim of Q.12:111 & 16:89 concerning the Quran being a “complete explanation.”

In light of the preceding discussion I would like to ask my readers, especially those who are Muslims, some very serious questions that demand an answer:

  1. Was the Quran COMPLETE when Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 were revealed?
  2. How can the Quran be complete when these verses were revealed while it was at most two third its current verse count?

In examining the chronological order of revelation3 in the Quran one can easily discover that at the time when Q.16:89 came into existence, more than one third of the Quran was not revealed yet. Another astonishing fact is that the unrevealed portion of the Quran contains many vital commands and virtues which are necessary to complete the faith of any Muslim (according to Islamic teachings).

Ibn ‘Abbas in his exegesis of this verse stated:4

{It is no invented story} the Qur'an is not an invented story {but a confirmation of the existing Scripture} a confirmation of the Torah, the Gospel and all the others scriptures; it confirms the profession of monotheism and other legal rulings . . .  {and a detailed explanation of everything} a detailed explanation of the lawful and the unlawful, {and a guidance} from error {and a mercy} preventing from chastisement {for folk who believe} in Muhammad (pbuh) and in the Qur'an which was revealed to you from your Lord, and Allah knows the secrets of His Book. (Bold and underlined emphasis mine)

So did al-Zamakhshari in his commentary of Q.12:111:5

The Quran was a confirmation of the divine books which were revealed before it and a complete explanation of everything needed in the religion (of Islam), as it is the law up on which the sunnah (traditions) and the majority (of religious opinions) are based. (Translation is my own, bold and underline emphasis mine)

As for Q.16:89, al-Tabari comments:6

{We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things} – the verse states: Oh’ Muhammad, this Quran was sent down to you as an explanation to all that people need to know concerning what is lawful and unlawful, and reward and punishment. (Translation and emphasis mine)

In the following section I will share with you a few examples of such legal matters and ask you to judge for yourself if the Quran indeed served as a complete legal explanation even though many vital rulings (below) were not in existence when Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 were revealed:

1.  The confirmation of Muhammad’s sins being forgiven by Allah:7

“That Allah may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfill His favour to thee; and guide thee on the Straight Way” – Q.48:2 Yusuf Ali

2.  The nullification of adoption by way of Muhammad’s marriage to his adopted son’s wife:8

“Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled.” Q.33:37 Yusuf Ali

3.  The command that the Quran can not be touched by unclean people:

“Which none shall touch but those who are clean” – Q.56:79  Yusuf Ali

4.  The allowance for Muslims to sleep with their wives in Ramadan after breaking the fast:

“It is made lawful to you to go into your wives on the night of the fast; they are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them” – Q.2:187 Shakir

5.  Divorce matters:9

“A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold Together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you, (Men), to take back any of your gifts (from your wives), except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah. If ye (judges) do indeed fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah, there is no blame on either of them if she give something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by Allah; so do not transgress them if any do transgress the limits ordained by Allah, such persons wrong (Themselves as well as others).” - Q.2:229 Yusuf Ali

“And when you have divorced women and they have ended-- their term (of waiting), then do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree among themselves in a lawful manner; with this is admonished he among you who believes in Allah and the last day, this is more profitable and purer for you; and Allah knows while you do not know.” – Q.2:232 Shakir

6.  The command for a widow to wait for a specified period of time before remarriage:

“If any of you die and leave widows behind, they shall wait concerning themselves four months and ten days: When they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and reasonable manner. And Allah is well acquainted with what ye do.” – Q.2:234 Yusuf Ali

7.  Inheritance matters:

“In what your wives leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a child, ye get a fourth; after payment of legacies and debts. In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to any one). Thus is it ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, Most Forbearing.” – Q.4:12 Yusuf Ali

8.  The prohibition of non-Muslims from entering all Islamic mosques:

“The mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as believe in Allah and the Last Day, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, and fear none (at all) except Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance.” – Q.9:18 Yusuf Ali

9.  The provision to allow the testimony of one man equal the testimony of four men in the case of a husband making an accusation against his wife’s indecent conduct:10

“As for those who accuse their own spouses, without any other witnesses, then the testimony may be accepted if he swears by GOD four times that he is telling the truth.” – Q.24:6 Khalifa11

10.  The specific instructions concerning the wives of the prophet:

“O wives of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word.” – Q.33:32 Shakir

“It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as handmaidens): and Allah doth watch over all things.” – Q.33:52 Yusuf Ali

11.  The instructions for both men and women on how to resolve some of their marital problems:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).” – Q.4:3412 Yusuf Ali

“If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men's souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practice self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” – Q.4:128 Yusuf Ali

12.  Correcting the theology of Christians concerning the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ (according to Islamic teachings):13

“O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity": desist. It will be better for you, for Allah is one Allah. Glory be to Him, (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.” – Q.4:171 Yusuf Ali

13.  The command not to befriend the Christians and Jews:

“O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.” - Q.5:51 Shakir

14.  The prohibition of drinking and gambling:

“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination, of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.” – Q.5:90 Yusuf Ali

15.  The prophecy concerning the defeat of the Persians by the Romans:14

“The Roman Empire has been defeated. In a land close by; but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious. Within a few years. With Allah is the Decision, in the past and in the Future: on that Day shall the Believers rejoice” – Q.30:2-4 Yusuf Ali

As we can see from the list above, many of these issues can impact the faith and deeds of any Muslim who is completely dependant on his or her good works to secure God’s mercy and hope for paradise.15

Another crucial topic that needs to be addressed in this article, and is greatly affected by the assertion in Q.12:111 and Q.16:89, is the claim that Islam is the ONLY acceptable religion to God.

In Sura Q.3:85 we read the following definitive statement:

“And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.” -  Q.3:85 Shakir

In commenting on this verse, Ibn ‘Abbas said:16

{And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers} he will be among the duped because he will miss Paradise and all that is in it and dwell in hell with all that is in it. (Bold emphasis mine)

Al-Baidawi also stated in his commentary:17

{And whoever desires a religion other than Islam} it means those who believe in other than the oneness of God and do not submit to his commands, and seeking other gods beside him. (Translation mine)

The question then which begs an answer is this: how could anyone have known this decision by Allah when it was not yet revealed at the time Q.12:111 & Q.16:89 were in existence? What happened to those who died believing in Moses or Jesus before the command in Q.3:85 was unveiled? In fact, we find in the Qur’an a promise and an assurance given to all believing people that whoever believes in Allah, and the last day, and does good, does not need to fear or shall not grieve, even if they were Christians or Jews or Sabians.

“Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good-- they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.” – Q.5:69 Shakir

Ibn ‘Abbas in his exegesis of this verse noted:18

“{Lo! those who believe} in Moses as well as in all the prophets and Scriptures and die in this state, no fear shall come to them nor will they grieve, {and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans} . . . {whosoever} of the Jews, Sabaeans or Christians {believeth in Allah and the Last Day} in resurrection after death, and if the Jews repent of Judaism, the Sabaeans of their religion and the Christians of Christianity {and doeth right} sincerely between him and his Lord {there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve} about that which they have left behind; it is also said that this means: they shall not fear when others so fear nor shall they grieve when others do; it is also said that this means: they shall not fear when death is slain nor grieve when the Fire is closed. (Bold emphasis mine)

Once again we find ourselves in an awkward position in trying to understand the purpose behind the revelation of Q.12:111 & Q.16:89 when so many valid questions remain unanswered. For instance: how would these groups of people (the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabaeans) have known that their only hope and assurance of paradise is dependant on their surrender of their previous religion, and on accepting Islam when in fact this very assurance was not even revealed to them until later time after Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 were in effect.

Another dilemma: How could anyone test Muhammad’s prophethood and verify his message in order to believe in him as a messenger of god in accordance to Q.3:81 (below) since it was revealed after Q.12:111 & Q.16:89 and not before them:19

“And when Allah made a covenant through the prophets: Certainly what I have given you of Book and wisdom-- then a messenger comes to you verifying that which is with you, you must believe in him, and you must aid him. He said: Do you affirm and accept My compact in this (matter)? They said: We do affirm. He said: Then bear witness, and I (too) am of the bearers of witness with you.” – Q.3:81 Shakir

Further more, up until Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 were revealed, Islam never taught that Jesus was not crucified:

“And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the messenger of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure.” – Q.4:157 Shakir

How then can the Christians who died before verse Q.4:157 was revealed be at fault for not knowing of such a claim by the god of the Quran? Or how can they know the claim concerning Muhammad being the one whom Jesus prophecied about his coming after Jesus’ time?20

“And when Isa son of Marium said: O children of Israel! surely I am the messenger of Allah to you, verifying that which is before me of the Taurat and giving the good news of a Messenger who will come after me, his name being Ahmad, but when he came to them with clear arguments they said: This is clear magic.” – Q.61:6 Shakir

The preceding argument leads us to believe that in no way the Quran would have been complete at the time of Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 due to the overwhelming evidence supported by the many verses presented above. As a result, one can assume:

  1. The author of the Quran messed up by making such claim in Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 at a time when the Quran was not even close to being a complete book. Hence, Muhammad was not a prophet, or

  2. The Quran was completed at the time of Q.12:111 and Q.16:89 and it was Satan who revealed the additional chapters to confuse Muhammad’s followers. If you believe that this claim is quite a stretch, then let us examine the following verse:

“Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but; when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitan21 (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allah abolishes that which Shaitan (Satan) throws in. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.”22 Q.22:52 Hilali/Khan

Judging by these evidences, one must take a moment to ask oneself:

  1. How can one trust the Quran to be a divine book, when it makes inaccurate claims?
  2. How can we be sure that parts of the Quran were not fabricated or inspired by Satan as stated in verse Q.22:52?
  3. How can Allah and his prophet allow others to continue to live in false beliefs by revealing Q.12:111 & Q.16:89 prematurely prior to issuing any warnings to them or correcting their theology (as in the case of Christians)?
  4. Assuming Muhammad would have died immediately after Q.12:111 or Q.16:89, what would have happened to the rest of the Islamic teachings?
  5. Actually, how can we be sure that Muhammad didn’t die before the Qur’an was completed?23 After all, there are still plenty of questions that are not answered by the Qur’an.

Mr. Zawadi, as a former Muslim, I can relate to you and our other Muslim readers. I understand that you are finding yourselves placed in a very puzzling dilemma when trying to deal with these serious questions. Therefore, I extend an invitation to you to consider seeking the truth by asking the TRUE God to reveal Himself to you and to guide your search for Him, in order that you can secure eternal life.24 To Him be the Glory. Amen.


1 For a complete background on this issue, see this article. To read the full argument made by Jochen Katz, read his article here.

3 For a review of a chronological order of revelation in Quran, see these pages (1, 2).

7 For more on the subject of Muhammad's sinfulness, see this article. That this verse announces the forgiveness of all of Muhammad's sins is the standard Muslim interpretation. However, when we examine this verse more closely, it does actually not say that Muhammad's sins are forgiven. For a detailed discussion, see this article.

8 For more on this subject, see these articles (1, 2).

9 For more in-depth discussions on Islam and Divorce, see this article.

10 Contrast this with Biblical teachings concerning legal testimony against an unfaithful woman (Numbers 5:11-31). In addition, the Bible teaches that the testimony of at least two people is a must to carry out a judgment against anyone (Numbers 35:29-31).

12 For an in-depth analysis of  Sura 4:34 and wife beating, see this article.

13 For more in depth study on the deity and person of Christ, see these articles.

14 For the refutations of this claim concerning the defeat of the Romans and their later victory over the Persians, see this article.

15 For more discussion on Islamic Salvation by Works, see this dictionary entry.

19 Contrast this with Jesus who began His ministry by proclaiming His message of repentance first, declaring the purpose of His mission to save the lost, proving His authority and His divine power, announcing clearly that He is “the Way”, inviting everyone to accept Him, and completing His purpose by fulfilling his promise to die on the cross and rise again from the dead to save people from their sin if they accept Him after He has completed His earthly ministry. For more on this, read: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

20 For more on the claims concerning Muhammad in the Bible and the refutations of this claim, see this article.

21 Shaitan is one of many names used in the Quran for Satan. Another important name is Iblis. For more on the Islamic and Christian views on Satan, see these articles (1, 2).

22 For more on the reason this verse was revealed and the related “Satanic Verses” episode, see this article.

23 For more on the incident concerning the poisoning of Muhammad, see these articles (1, 2).

24 John 3:16