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Last Updated: 2011/04/20
Summary of question
There are several reasons why the third ayah of Surah Al-Ma’idah cannot be about the event of Ghadir! Please share your viewpoint about this?
According to Shia scholars and Quranic commentators, “الیوم اکملت لکم دینکم” which is part of the third ayah of Surah Al-Ma’idah, has been revealed apart and separate from the rest of the ayah and is considered to describe the event of Ghadir and the caliphate of Imam Ali (as). However, this presumption seems to be irrational for four reasons: The first reason: When confronted with the question about why the beginning and end of the ayah is about haram edibles and meat, they respond that the ruling for haram edibles had been mentioned in three other ayahs before, two times in Mecca and once in Medina (An-Nahl 115, Al-Baqarah 173, Al-Ana’am 145). Therefore the completion of religion by announcing this ruling does not make sense, since it had been announced before. But the real question is that this objection applies to the caliphate and succession of Imam Ali (as) as well; that is that from the day of “انذر عشیرتک الاقربین” and the hadith of Yawm Al-Dar this issue had been mentioned, along with the ayahs we witness throughout the Quran such as the ayah of wilayah, the ayah of ulul amr, etc. Thus, the claim that the completion of religion was occasioned by wilayah is incoherent. The second reason: If we maintain that the imposition of wilayah was what completed the religion another problem will rise; that being that if the issue of wilayah was so essential and prominent, why was it postponed for so long and declared after the announcement of rulings that were way less significant?! In other words, a religion is once complete when every single component of it’s doctrine has been dictated. The last component mentioned isn’t necessarily more vital than the rest; every element plays the role of completing the whole, neither one of them is more important and the absence of any one of them will cause religion to be incomplete. No one can claim that if the last and finishing element exists without the rest of the whole, it will still be complete. Consequently, emphasizing on the fact that religion was completed by something isn’t a big deal, for it does not show the exceptionality of that issue. Just like how I mentioned before the whole as a whole is essential and usually the fundamental and prominent aspects of religion are dictated in the initial period of prophethood such as “قولوا لا اله الاّ الله تفلحوا” and what is propagated in subsequent periods is of less importance. The third reason: In the fifth ayah of Surah Al-Ma’idah we read “الْیَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَکُمُ الطیِّبَت وَ طعَامُ الَّذِینَ أُوتُوا الْکِتَب حِلُّ لَّکمْ” which refers to “الیوم” in the third ayah. In this ayah, Allah clearly states that today is the day that we have allowed the consumption of tayyibat (pure things) one of which is the food of Ahl Kitab. If we concede that the first “الیوم” refers to a completely different event there will be no pattern through the ayah and in effect, it will make no sense. Generally speaking, the Quranic ayahs will lose their consistency for not possessing a governing measure. The fourth reason: It is not true that everything mentioned in ayah three of Surah Al-Ma’idah had been announced in previous ayahs. This ayah specifically names the halal and haram edibles like “الْمُنْخَنِقَةُ وَ الْمَوْقُوذَةُ وَ الْمُترَدِّیَةُ وَ النَّطِیحَةُ وَ مَا أَکلَ السبُعُ إِلا مَا ذَکَّیْتُمْ وَ مَا ذُبِحَ عَلى النُّصبِ وَ أَن تَستَقْسِمُوا بِالاَزْلَمِ”, that which had not been mentioned in such detail before, meaning that even though all of these examples run under the general category of “میتة” or “ما اُهِلَّ لغیر الله به” this verse elaborates on these categories by fully listing their examples as the Quran never repeats something without a purpose or reason. Moreover, the next two ayahs (ayahs four and five) encompass rulings regarding edibles that were not mentioned in other ayahs (the ruling for animals hunted by hunting dogs and the food of Ahl-Kitab), keeping in mind that all of these rulings have been stated in the ayah under the category of ‘halal’ and ‘haram” edibles. Consequently, the claim that the ruling for halal and haram edibles had been dictated before and that it was nothing new is incorrect, because a few new examples have been listed in these ayahs and no inconsistency can be indicated as to these ayahs being the last revealed rulings of the religion. In light of these four reasons the verse “الیوم اکملت لکم دینکم” cannot conform to the wilayah of Imam Ali. If you find any kind of objection against these reasons please say so. Thank you very much.
Concise answer

1. The matter of the wilayah of Amir Al-Mu’mineen had been announced only in limited groups of people and certain circumstances, but was formally presented to the ummah on the day of Ghadir, which is why it is called the day of the completion of religion.

2. When the Prophet (sa) was alive the authority and burden of wilayah was on his shoulders and postponing the announcement of the wilayah of Amir Al-Mu’mineen (as) in that situation was not wrong and irrational. We cannot oppose that this issue was so important that it must have been announced to the people way before the last days of the Prophet’s life.

3. Considering the fact that the term “الیوم” in the third ayah of Surah Al-Ma’idah once refers to the despair of the kuffar and the other to the completion of religion and also that it is not reasonable for the kuffar to become hopeless because of the prohibition of haram meat and food, this term must most definitely refer to a greater and more important matter which would actually result in the kuffar’s hopelessness and the completion of religion, and that is none other than the wilayah that that guarantees the continuation of religion even after the prophet.

4. The Shia believe that even assuming that the rulings mentioned in this ayah are new and were never mentioned before, there is still no conflict between that and the verse being about wilayah.

Detailed Answer

In order to answer this question it is necessary to point out that the Shia school of thought interprets the verse “الْیَوْمَ أَکْمَلْتُ لَکُمْ دِینَکُمْ” to be the announcement of the wilayah of Amir Al-Mu’mineen (as) based on the ahadith of the Ahlul-Bayt (as)[1] whereas some ahadith with the identical meaning have been narrated in Sunni sources by famous Sunni narrators as well, such as Abu Sa`id Al-Khidri and Abu Hurairah.[2]

Although it has been immensely attempted in the Sunni school of thought to weaken the value and authenticity of these types of ahadith – and we must accept that they were evidently compelled to do so to save their own beliefs from being undermined, due to the fact that accepting hadiths of this sort basically led to the approval of Shia beliefs which was at that time – due to the strict atmosphere – considered to be kufr and shirk!

On the other hand, there have been contradicting interpretations narrated by the Sunni school of thought that do not seem to be consistent among the whole school:

1. Some of them interpret the completion of religion to be when the rulings of Hajj were concluded and the Mushrikeen were sent out of Mecca.[3]

2. A group perceives it to be an unknown day that God is only aware of.[4]

3. Most of the Sunni Scholars identify it with the day of Arafah in Hajj Al-Wida’ (the last hajj of the Prophet (saw)).

In Sahih Bukhari, it has been narrated from the second caliph: “I swear to Allah I know why and when this ayah was revealed and where the Prophet was at the time.” But instead of addressing the occasion of the revelation he simply denounces that it was the day of Arafah and that he was present.[5]

Regarding this interpretation, which must obviously be of greater value compared to the rest of the interpretations given that it is written in Sahih Bukhari, there are two viewpoints:

3-1. This interpretation merely addresses the time of the revelation as opposed to the cause and occasion of the revelation – as this facet of the matter was pointed to by the second caliph. This interpretation does not contradict Shia beliefs because this ayah might have been revealed at a time when the Prophet was initially preparing the preliminary steps for the announcement of the wilayah of Amir al-Mu’mineen (as) and we also know that the day of Ghadir and Arafah are only ten days apart, which is a practical period of time in order to prepare the Muslim society for this extremely important announcement.

There are some ahadith in Shia sources (similar to ahadith found in Sunni sources) that say this verse had been revealed on the day of Arafah, yet they name the cause of the ayah to be the issue of wilayah.[6]

3-2. However, there is another viewpoint concerning this interpretation of the ayah that not only specifies the date of the revelation – the day of Arafah – but also endeavors to alter the cause of the revelation and in other words confines the completion of religion in halal and haram rulings:

It has been narrated by Suda that this ayah was revealed on the day of Arafah and that neither a halal nor a haram precept was revealed ever after that day and that the Prophet (saw) passed away shortly afterwards in Medina.[7]

Or: that not a single wajib was dictated to the Prophet in Mecca other than salat, then after arriving in Medina rituals and obligations were gradually revealed onto him till the day of Hajj al wida’ which was what completed the religion and soon after that, the ayah was revealed.[8]

In our opinion, these interpretations are unacceptable, for a series reasons:

First, the Prophet (saw) had performed the pilgrimage of Hajj before Hajj al wida’, so it was nothing new.

Second, the performance of Hajj and the other Islamic rulings mentioned in the ayah were not that important to prevent the completion of religion without them.

Third, there is no way one can imagine that the exhibition of a set of rulings that had previously been performed, would be so significant and powerful that they would leave the kuffar in despair and make them hopeless in conducting their sinister plans against religion.

Fourth and most importantly, according to the words of Sunni scholars, the issues mentioned in the third ayah of Surah Al-Ma’idah were not the last rulings revealed down to the Prophet (saw), in fact there were other rulings revealed after that ayah as well. In effect, the theory that the completion of the rulings is what completed religion must be ruled out.

Now, we request that you pay attention to the following sentences after carefully studying the last ayahs of Surah Al-Baqarahh (275-282):

Ibn Abbas narrates that a few of these ayahs (278-281) were the last ayahs revealed to the Prophet (saw).[9]

Although, we should be careful not to fall under the impression that what he meant was simply the last ayah “وَ اتَّقُوا یَوْما ...” which does not consist of a ruling, for it has been narrated in another hadith that he himself narrates: “The last ayah revealed onto the Prophet (saw) was the ayah of riba’ (meaning the group of ayahs regarding riba’ and not the single last one)”.[10]

At the moment, we will mention two questions, answer both and after that, answer the questions you raised:

1. The closing verses of Surah Al-Baqarah, which based on the Sihah of Ahl Sunnah, are the last ayahs revealed onto the Prophet (saw) encompass a series of rulings. Now the question is, did not Sunni interpreters assert, when interpreting the third ayah of Surah Al-Ma’idah, that the rulings of Islam had been concluded and there were no more rulings left?![11]

2. Even if you believe, contrary to the ahadith, that ayah 281 is merely the last ayah revealed onto the Prophet (saw), keeping in mind that it does not include any rulings within it, our question would still be that why has it been placed between the ayahs of riba’ (275-280) and the ayahs of loan (282), which were both revealed before this ayah and then again what relation does ayah (277) that is about salat and zakat have with its surrounding ayahs concerning riba’ (this question is very similar to the question you asked about the ayah of the completion of religion)?!

As you can see, the truth is that the interpreters of the Sunni school of thought have not presented an undisputable interpretation concerning the ayah and it is for this very fact that one of the Sunni interpreters has concluded – among all the unclear and confusing assertions – that the completion of religion by the conclusion of rulings is a matter of dispute which is not so clear, in terms of it taking place on that certain day.[12]

You can see how this great Sunni interpreter, without directly and explicitly confirming the Shia view in this regard, refutes the theory that the rulings about the halal and haram edibles could occasion the completion of religion in light of the fact that the clues and reasons at hand say otherwise, a matter that you seek to prove the opposite of!

But the only objection against the Shia interpretation of the ayah is that it barely relates to the surrounding ayahs.

As you witnessed, this kind of objection among the Sunni interpretations repeats itself in other ayahs such as the closing ayahs of Surah Al-Baqarah, but what we must take under consideration is that the Quran consists of a unique order distinctive from other usual readings written by mankind which has actually kept it miraculously new and outstanding after centuries. In addition to that one of the contemporary Shia scholars thoroughly explains the reason why this segment was placed in the middle of such an ayah:

“It is possible that the ayah regarding the event of Ghadir was set in the middle of rulings about the halal and haram edibles in order to protect it from distortion, for it is very common to disguise a precious word among simple ones to avoid drawing attention (pay close attention).

The events that took place in the last hours of the Prophet’s (saw) life and the clear and uncompromising opposition of a few individuals against the Prophet (saw) writing a will to the extent of accusing the Holy Prophet (we seek refuge in Allah) of being ill and speaking unconsciously – which can be found in renowned Islamic books, both Shia and Sunni – proves how sensitive and arrogant some people were when it came to the issue of the succession of the Prophet (saw) and that they were willing to push any limit to defy it!

Don’t you think these circumstances suggest that there must have been a plan to prevent the distortion of this precious evidence, by hiding it among simple words and phrases to avoid drawing


Now, we will briefly answer your four objections:

1. Although according to both Sunni and Shia sources the wilayah of Amir al-Mu’mineen (as) was announced several times in several meetings, there were only a small group of people in every gathering and the matter of wilayah was announced in a large scale in a formal manner only and only on the day of Ghadir, which is what exactly proves why it is different and unique in comparison to the other rulings that you pointed out.

2. Wilayah was on the shoulders of the Prophet (saw) when he was alive (انما ولیکم الله و رسوله ...) and it was because of this wilayah that the religion of Islam was flawless, but what was important was for this wilayah to continue even after the Prophet passed away. This task was carried out by Imam Ali (as) which guaranteed the continuance of religion and made it truly complete.

In other words, since the starting point for Imam Ali’s (as) wilayah was when the Prophet (saw) had passed away, the delay in announcing this issue does not imply that religion was not complete before that time and what we intend to mean by the completion of religion with wilayah, is that if such an announcement would not have taken place, religion would have faced a great complications in the future.

3. There was no need for you to reflect on the term “الیوم” in the next two ayahs to prove that it means the same thing in “الْیَوْمَ أَکْمَلْت‏...”, because this term has been mentioned twice in the third ayah itself: “الْیَوْمَ یَئِسَ الَّذینَ کَفَرُوا مِنْ دینِکُم” Today the kuffar have become hopeless to stand against religion, and “الْیَوْمَ أَکْمَلْت‏ ...” today the religion is complete.

Honestly, can you truly concede to the kuffar being hopeless of standing against religion because of the imposition of the ruling of halal and haram edibles?!

Were these rulings that important to make the kuffar become hopeless on that exact day?!

The great Sunni interpreter, Fakhr Razi, has realized this truth but has tried to avoid it by saying:

“The ayah does not want to imply that that exact day made the kuffar fall in despair, so one shouldn’t object that this it does not sound reasonable, that two days earlier the kuffar were confident they could defeat religion then suddenly become hopeless (because of the rulings of halal and haram edibles)!”[14]

Then again, the same objection you’ve made applies to the interpretation of Sunni scholars. Dhahhak, renowned as one of the earliest Sunni interpreters, believes that this segment of the ayah “الْیَوْمَ یَئِسَ الَّذِینَ کَفَرُوا مِنْ دِینِکُمْ” was revealed in regards to the victory of Mecca[15], whereas both Sunni and Shia scholars agree that “الْیَوْمَ أَکْمَلْتُ لَکُمْ دینَکُم” in the other part of the ayah does not refer to the victory of Mecca.

We know that based on the Shia interpretation of the ayah that we can translate the term “الیوم” in the ayah, both times, to its original meaning, “today”, which would be the day of Ghadir.

4. The answer to the previous section along with the explicit assertions of Sunni scholars that the ayah of riba’ was the last ayah revealed unto the Prophet (saw) can clearly answer the last section of your statements. Furthermore, the novelty of the ahkam mentioned in the ayah will not affect the Shia belief of this ayah being about wilayah.

[1] Kuleini, Muhammad bin Yaqub, Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 198-199, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, Tehran, 1364.

[2] Suyuti, Jalaluddin, Al-Durr al-Manthur, vol. 2, pg. 259, Ayatullah Mar’ashi Najafi Library, Qom, 1404 (AH).

[3] Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir, Jame’ul-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol. 6, pg. 52, Dar al-Ma’rifah, Beirut, 1412 (AH).

[4] Ibid, pg. 54.

[5] Sahih Bukhari, vol. 5, pg. 186, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut.

[6] Kuleini, Muhammad bin Yaqub, Kafi, vol. 1 pg. 291, “ثم نزلت الولایة و إنما أتاه ذلک فی یوم الجمعة بعرفة”.

[7] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Quran al-Adhim, vol. 3, pg. 23, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1419 (AH).

[8] Qurtubi, Muhammad bin Ahmad, Al-Jame’ Li Ahkam al-Quran, vol. 6, pg. 61, Naser Khosro Publications, Tehran, 1364.

[9] Sahih Bukhari, vol. 3, pg. 12.

[10] Ibid, vol. 5, pg. 165.

[11] In this section of the answer, the discrepancies that can be found in Sunni books regarding this verse have been mentioned, however, the Shia also believe that after the announcement of wilayah, no other precept was revealed unto the prophet. See: Kuleini, Muhammad bin Yaqub, Kafi, vol. 1, pg. 289, hadith 4.

[12] Tabari, Muhammad bin Jarir, Jame’ul-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol. 6, pg. 52.

[13] Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 4, pp. 270-271, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, Tehran, 1364.

[14] Fakhr Razi, Mafatih al-Gheyb, vol. 11 pg. 286, Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, 1420 (AH) “أنه لیس المراد هو ذلک الیوم بعینه حتى یقال إنهم ما یئسوا قبله بیوم أو یومین”.

[15] Qurtubi, Muhammad bin Ahmad, Al-Jame’ Li Ahkam al-Quran, vol. 6, pg. 60.

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