Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article, "The descent of the Quran: Piecemeal or all at once?"


Bassam Zawadi



Sam Shamoun's article can be found here. One should read his article first before proceeding to read this rebuttal. 

What does Sam Shamoun do when he really wants to advance an argument even when he knows it has already been refuted? Well, he advances it anyway!

Shamoun's argument has already been refuted, and he knows it. He knows that Islam teaches that the revelation of the Qur'an occurred in two stages but simply ignores this fact. What does he argue? He argues:

The Quran nowhere says that it was revealed in two stages, one in which the entire revelation was sent down at once to the lowest heaven, and the other where only parts of it was conveyed to Muhammad.

Shamoun, after studying Islam for more than 15 years, still doesn't understand that the Qur'an is not the only source of religious authority for Muslims. Perhaps he knows this, but as usual, he is inconsistent in his methodology.

For example, Shamoun has no problem appealing to the commentary of Imam Qurtubi or Imam Tabari when they say that Paul was a disciple of Jesus. Shamoun wouldn't have the attitude:

The Quran does not say that Paul was a disciple of Jesus; hence, this is a desperate argument. 

Even though this argument has already been addressed (see here and the links at the end), I just wanted to point out how Shamoun is inconsistent in his methodology. He will appeal to Muslim commentators to prove a point when it suits him. However, when these very same commentaries can be used to refute Shamoun's argument, he will ignore them as non-authoritative.

Now, Shamoun quoted commentaries in his article that show that Ibn Abbass stated that the Qur'an was first revealed to the "Bayt al-'Izzah" (The House of Honor or Power).  This is a matter of the unseen, which Ibn Abbass would have never uttered from himself unless the Prophet (peace be upon him) told him so.

Many Muslim scholars indeed stated that if Ibn Abbass ever spoke about matters of the unseen and we don't have a hadith to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to confirm it, we don't accept his statement. However, they only said this because it was the habit of Ibn Abbass to pass off narrations from the Christians and the Jews without indicating that it was the case.

But in this situation (i.e., the Qur'an being revealed to Bayt al-'Izzah), Ibn Abbass definitely could not have taken this from the Christians or Jews since they had no clue about the Qur'an being revealed to Bayt al-'Izzah. Thus, we can safely assure ourselves that he took this from the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself.

Ibn Kathir cites the following hadith in his commentary:

The Virtue of Ramadan and the Revelation of the Qur'an in it.

Allah praised the month of Ramadan out of the other months by choosing it to send down the Glorious Qur'an, just as He did for all of the Divine Books He revealed to the Prophets. Imam Ahmad reported Wathilah bin Al-Asqa` that Allah's Messenger said:

«أُنْزِلَتْ صُحُفُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي أَوَّلِ لَيْلَةٍ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ، وَأُنْزِلَتِ التَّوْرَاةُ لِسِتَ مَضَيْنَ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ، وَالْإِنْجِيلُ لِثَلاثَ عَشَرةَ خَلَتْ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ، وَأَنْزَلَ اللهُ الْقُرْآنَ لأَرْبَعٍ وَعِشْرِينَ خَلَتْ مِنْ رَمَضَان»

(The Suhuf (Pages) of Ibrahim were revealed during the first night of Ramadan. The Torah was revealed during the sixth night of Ramadan. The Injil was revealed during the thirteenth night of Ramadan. Allah revealed the Qur'an on the twenty-fourth night of Ramadan.) (Tafsir Ibn Kathir,Source)

The above hadith is found in Musnad Ahmed, and hadith scholar Ahmad Shaakir in 'Umdat-ut-Tafseer, Volume 1, page 220, pointed out that it is an authentic narration. 

Here, we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated that the Qur'an was revealed on the 24th of Ramadan. NOW OBVIOUSLY, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions knew he received the Qur'an gradually. So OBVIOUSLY, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions weren't all morons to the extent that they believed that the entire Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) at one go and at the same time it was being revealed gradually.

Clearly, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was speaking about the Qur'an being revealed on the 24th of Ramadan, he was speaking about a revelation of a different nature (i.e., being revealed to the Bayt al-'Izzah). Shamoun already showed us how Ibn Abbass (one of the greatest commentators of the Qur'an) elaborated this point.

If Shamoun doesn't like the idea of how Muslims derive their religious teachings, that is just too bad. If Shamoun strictly believes in "Quran only," then that means that he should remove all of his arguments based upon either hadith or Muslim commentators (we estimate this to be around 90% of his arguments or possibly more).

Shamoun, near the end of his article, states: 

In fact, one of the verses expressly says that the Quran was sent down in the month of Ramadan as a guide to mankind:

Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, . S. 2:185

Instead of saying that the Quran was given to the angels in the lowest heaven in Ramadan, the passage actually claims that the book was sent down for the guidance of mankind. This certainly sounds like it was sent down to mankind in Ramadan, in seeming contradiction to the theory postulated by the above scholars. 

Shamoun is reading into the verse. The verse does not say that the entire Qur'an was revealed to mankind that night. The verse only says that the Qur'an, which is a book that contains guidance for mankind, was revealed that night. That is all. There is a big difference between saying that the Qur'an was revealed to mankind and saying that the Qur'an, which contains guidance for mankind, was revealed since the latter does not necessarily express to whom the Qur'an (which contains guidance) was being revealed. So Surah 2:185 does not say that the entire Qur'an was revealed to mankind in one night, as Shamoun alleged. It only says that the Qur'an was revealed (doesn't say to whom) and that the Qur'an contains guidance for mankind.

Once again, we expose Shamoun's double standards and poor method of argumentation. 




Shamoun tried responding here.

Shamoun said:

It therefore makes absolutely no sense to argue, like Zawadi does, that the Quran was sent down in Ramadan for the specific purpose of guiding mankind even though it wasn't given to them until much later! This is nothing more than an ad hoc explanation and only proves that Zawadi will say just about anything to get away from admitting or acknowledging the problem posed by this particular text.

What doesn't make sense? The verse tells us two relevant things about the Qur'an. First, it describes what it is, namely a book that contains guidance for mankind. Secondly, it states that it was revealed on Laylat al-Qadr. It doesn't say how it was revealed (i.e., it doesn't say that it was revealed to all mankind in its entirety on planet Earth).

Shamoun said (bold emphasis mine):

There is not the slightest hint in the above text that the phrase "as a guide to mankind" is to be separated from the first part of the verse and actually refers to a different time than the one mentioned, i.e. Ramadan. The theory that the Quran was actually not sent to mankind but to the angels in Ramadan and only later revealed to Muhammad piece by piece and that stretched out over more than twenty years has no basis in the text itself but is forced onto it from the outside. Zawadi's interpretation is eisegesis, not exegesis.

First of all, the verse nowhere in its plain reading states that the Qur'an was revealed to mankind in Ramadan. It only says that the Qur'an is a book of guidance for mankind and that it was revealed in Ramadan. That is all.

Secondly, Muslims don't believe that we interpret the Qur'an only by using other Qur'anic verses. We also interpret verses in the Qur'an by appealing to the statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions. How many times do we have to repeat ourselves to Shamoun?

Shamoun then said (bold emphasis mine):

Zawadi cites a narration from Musnad Ahmad which provides further attestation that the Quran was "revealed" or "sent down" on the 24th night of Ramadan to Muhammad, and not to the lowest heaven:

No, I did not. Here is what the narration says:

(The Suhuf (Pages) of Ibrahim were revealed during the first night of Ramadan. The Torah was revealed during the sixth night of Ramadan. The Injil was revealed during the thirteenth night of Ramadan. Allah revealed the Qur'an on the twenty-fourth night of Ramadan.)

Where does the narration say that the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad and not the lowest heaven? It does not.

Shamoun then states:

How, then, can there be a sound report which gives the exact date of the month that the Quran was "sent down" when there are other so-called authentic narrations of Muhammad where he didn't know this date because he was made to forget and even told Muslims to look for it within the last ten days of Ramadan because of it?

Moreover, in the narration of Musnad Ahmad it is the 24th night of Ramadan, while in the second set of narrations it supposedly happened in an odd night within the last seven or last ten nights of that month. Is 24 an odd number according to Islam?

First of all, it is not proven that Laylat al-Qadr has to be a specific day of Ramadan every year (e.g. Laylat al-Qadr doesn't have to be the 27th day of Ramadan every Ramadan. Sometimes it could be the 25th of Ramadan and in the next year it could be the 27th of Ramadan)

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani states:

Imam Nawawi followed the position of Imam Muzani and Imam Ibn Khuzayma that it moves around within the last ten nights. [Nawawi, al-Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 6.488]

However, it could be outside the last ten nights within Ramadan. It may even be outside Ramadan according to both early and late scholars. This has been transmitted from many of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), including Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him). It is one of the reported positions of Imam Abu Hanifa, and also of many of the great knowers of Allah, including Ibn Arabi (whose position is quoted by Ibn Abidin with support), Abu'l Hasan al-Shadhili, Sha`rani, and many others.

May Allah give us the success of following in the footsteps of the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), outwardly and inwardly, and may He make us of those whom He loves.

This is one of the many reasons why one should strive to establish the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), daily.


It has been reported that, "Once the last ten [days of Ramadan] started, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) used to spend the nights in worship, wake his family, strive, and tighten his belt." [Bukhari and Muslim] Tighten his belt refers to determination.

The established position of Abu Hanifa and his two main companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (Allah have mercy on them) is that it is specific to Ramadan. Abu Hanifa said that it is not a fixed day but, rather, it moves around in the month. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from al-Bahr and al-Kafi] As for the hadiths about it being the night of the 27th, Ibn Abidin mentions that Abu Hanifa explained them as meaning a particular year.

Ibn Abidin quotes Ibn Nujaym's Bahr al-Ra'iq that this is one transmitted position of Abu Hanifa. Another, mentioned in Qadikhan's Fatawa al-Khaniyya, one of the most important works for fatwa in the school, is that the famous transmission from Imam Abu Hanifa is that it moves around the entire year; it could be in Ramadan, and it could be in another month.

Ibn Abidin said,

"This is supported by what the Master of the Knowers of Allah Sayyidi Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi mentioned in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya,

'People differed about Laylat al-Qadr. Some said it moves around the entire year. This is my position, for I have seen it in the month of Sha`ban, and in Rabi`, and in Ramadan. I have seen it most, though, in the month of Ramadan, and, specifically, in the last nights. I saw it once in the second third of Ramadan, on an even night, and once on an odd night. Therefore, I am certain that it moves around the entire year, on both odd and even nights.'

And there are many opinions regarding this, which reach 46 different positions." [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

This is reported to be the position of Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) and other great Companions. [As mentioned by Bututi in his Kashshaf al-Qina`, and others; for the many narrations from the Companions and Followers about Laylat al-Qadr, see Ibn Abi Shayba's Musannaf]

Imam al-Nafrawi al-Maliki mentions in his al-Fawakih al-Dawani fi Sharh Risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani that the position of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i and Imam Ahmad, and the majority of the scholars is that Laylat al-Qadr is not a specific night. Rather, it moves around. (Shaykh Faraz Rabbani , When is Laylat al-Qadr?, Source)

So, as we can see, Laylat al-Qadr is not necessarily a fixed day. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) told his companions to look for it on the odd days, he could have been referring to that particular year.

When the Qur'an was revealed during Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr for that particular year was on the 24th day of Ramadan. After that, it changed.

It is also possible that after the year Allah revealed the Qur'an, Allah decided to make Laylat al-Qadr only on the odd days every year from now on (assuming that the Prophet was not only speaking about that particular year but for all years to come). These are all valid possibilities.  So, there is no necessary contradiction between the reports. Problem solved.

Shamoun said:

What is also obvious is that Zawadi thinks that narrations which were composed hundreds of years after Muhammad's death are reliable enough to explain the Muslim text, but has no problem questioning the NT documents, specifically the canonical Gospels, despite the fact that these are first-century writings which were composed within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses to Christ!

I don't doubt the NT's accuracy because I believe it was written too long after the time of Jesus. I reject it because I don't know who wrote it, and it contains mistakes. You must be out of your mind if you want me to risk burning in hell forever based on that! While in the science of hadeeth, it's a sophisticated methodology that once one studies, one can't succeed in criticizing it objectively. So Shamoun must get his facts straight.

Shamoun ends the day with his last joke:

Now what does Zawadi do when he realizes he has no rational, coherent response to the gross errors and contradictions of the Quran?

As I said before to Shamoun, I think he must apply for Jay Leno's job when he quits in a few months. BECAUSE SHAMOUN IS JUST ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS!


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