Reflection No. 281 on Q 5:3 – The Perfection of Religion
Al-yawma akmaltu lakum dīnakum wa-atmamtu ‘alaykum ni ‘matī
wa-radhītu lakumul-Islāma dīna
This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you
and chosen for you Islam as a religion.
(Sūratul Mā’idah, No.5, Āyat 3)
What day is this which combines such important achievements? The perfection of religion, completion of favors and Allah being pleased with Islam as the religion. It is obvious that this verse does not refer to an ordinary day, or even a day of small happenings. Something big must have occurred on that day to have brought down such a verse.
It is necessary to search history and traditions to find out exactly what happened on this day. Some commentators of the Quran have suggested it may be the Day of ‘Arafah of the last Pilgrimage. But nothing happened on that day to warrant such a declaration. Or they say it could have been the day of the conquest of Mecca, or the day when Sūratul Barā’at was revealed telling the polytheists they could no longer worship at the Ka‘ba, or even the day when the Prophet started preaching God’s word? None of these suggestions are plausible. The verse was revealed near the end of the life of the Prophet (s) and all these events happened much earlier.
According to numerous traditions found in Shia and Sunni books this day refers to the day of Ghadīr, when the Prophet (s) declared Imam Ali (a) as his successor.
It was the day when religion was perfected – the announcing of the successor paved the way for the future of the religion. Without that what would happen after the death of the Prophet? Religion was perfected through the appointing of those who would safeguard its integrity and guide the believers.
It was the day when God completed His favors through the appointing of a leader who would continue to guide towards Him. Sending of the Prophets and the Imams as practical guidance for humanity is part of the lutf of Allah, his grace on mankind that ensures that maximum opportunities are available for success of the human being.
It was the day when God was pleased with Islam as the religion for mankind. It was complete and perfect, and would be a light for all times to come.
After this verse was revealed the Holy Prophet (s) said: Allah Akbar at the perfection of religion and completion of favors and the pleasure of the Lord at my Prophethood and the Wilayah of Ali after me. Then he said the famous statement: Of whosoever I am the Master Ali is also his Master.
Many scholars of the Ahl Sunnah have narrated that this verse was revealed on the day of Ghadīr. Among them are well known scholars such as Ibn Jarīr Tabarī in his book Wilayah, Ibn Kathīr Demishqī in his Tarikh, Jalāluddin Suyūtī in his Tarīkh al-khulafa and Al-Ghazāli in his book Sirrul ‘Ālamin. Āyatullāh Amīnī, in his monumental work Al-Ghadīr has included the names of 110 companions of the Prophet (s) who have narrated the Hadith of Ghadīr. Modern day scholars have tried to diminish the significance of the Event of Ghadīr. Abdullah Yusufali, for instance, in the footnote to the above passage writes: ‘The last verse revealed chronologically, marking the approaching end of Mustafa’s ministry in his earthly life’ (Footnote 696, p. 240). Seyyed Hossein Nasr et al in their The Study Quran begin the commentary on Q 5:3 by saying: ‘According to most commentators, this verse was revealed as the Prophet was delivering his Farewell Sermon on Mt. ‘Arafāt, which occurred on a Friday during his final pilgrimage’ (p. 274) Later on they mention that according to early Shiite traditions, the passage refers to the event of Ghadīr. Interestingly, they avoid quoting the renowned Shiite Quran Commentator Sayyid ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī who explains with proofs in his Al-Mīzān that ‘the verse was revealed on the day of Ghadīr Khumm, the 18th day of Dhil-hijjah, the year 10 AH’ (v. 9, p. 240).
Recite this passage on the upcoming day of Ghadīr, and on other days to remind yourself of the blessings and favor of the Almighty manifested through the Wilayah of Ali Ibn Abu Talib (a). It is an immense honor and privilege to be from his followers.
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Abdullah Yusufali, The Glorious Qur’an: Translation and Commentary, MSA, 1977;
S H Nasr (Ed.), The Study Quran, HarperOne, 2015, S.M.H.
Tabātabā’ī, Al-Mīzān, WOFIS, 1974.