When it comes to identifying the last verse of the Qur’an, scholars have shown even more disagreement and uncertainty. There are several different views, which I will review in this article.
1) Verse 2.281: After quoting verses 278-281, al-Bukhari (d. 256 H / 870 CE) goes on to say that “ibn Abbas has said that this is the last verse that was revealed to the Prophet”:
Fear the day when you shall be returned to Allah, then each soul shall be paid what it has earned, and they shall not be wronged. (2.281)
An-Nasa’i (d. 303 H / 915 CE) also said that ibn Abbas has described this verse as the last verse of the Qur’an. He also reports a similar hadith in which ibn Abbas says: “The last thing of the Qur’an to be revealed was ‘fear the day when you shall be returned to Allah.’” This view is also found in at-Tabari’s (d. 310 H / 922 CE) commentary. Some reports have claimed that this verse was revealed nine or eighty one days before the Prophet’s death.
2) Verse 2.282: It has been reported by ibn Jarir on the authority of Sa‘id bin al-Musayyab that the last verse of the Qur’an is the “verse of loan,” which is the longest verse in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! If you contract a loan for a stated term then write it down, and let a scribe faithfully write it down between you. A scribe should not refuse to write as Allah taught him, but let him write, and let he who owes the debt dictate; but let him fear Allah his Lord and not diminish anything of it. But if the debtor was a fool, weak, or cannot dictate himself, then let his agent faithfully dictate. And call to witness two witnesses from amongst your men, but if they were not two men then a man and two women, from those whom you deem fit as witnesses, so that if one of the two [women] should err, the second may remind the other. Let not the witnesses refuse when they are summoned. Do not tire of writing it, be it small or great, with its term. That is more just in the sight of God, more upright for testimony, and best for avoiding doubt, unless it is a ready-money transaction between you, which you arrange between yourselves, then it is no offence by you that you do not write it down. Have witnesses when you sell one to another, and let not either scribe or witness come to harm, for if you do it will be an abomination in you. Fear Allah, for Allah teaches you, and Allah knows all things. (2.282)
3) Verse 2.278: al-Bukhari reports a hadith that he traces back to ibn Abbas in which the latter says that “the last verse that was revealed to the Prophet is the ‘verse of usury’”:
O you who believe! Fear Allah and abandon your remaining usury, if you are indeed believers. (2.278)
It has been reported that this verse was revealed nine days, seven days, three days, or three hours before the death of the Prophet.
As-Suyuti (d. 911 H / 1505 CE) has tried to reconcile the three opinions above by suggesting that all these verses were revealed at the same time in their order in the mushaf and were the last to be revealed. Verses 2.279-2.280 both continue the discussion of usury, so 2.278-2.280 are likely to have been revealed at the same time. Being about loans, verse 2.282 may be linked to the earlier three verses on usury, but there is no reason to presume that this verse was revealed at the same time as the three on usury. Furthermore, verse 2.281, which separates the usury verses and the one on loans, is a general verse that need not be specifically linked to the subjects of usury and loans and their verses.
4) Verse 4.93: Both al-Bukhari and Muslim (d. 261 H / 875 CE) report that ibn Abbas has said that this verse is “the last that was revealed and it was not abrogated (annulled) by anything”:
He who intentionally kills a believer his recompense will be hell in which he shall dwell forever, Allah shall have wrath on him, will curse him, and will have for him a grave torment. (4.93)
5) Verse 4.167: Al-Bukhari, Muslim, an-Nasa’ i, and others report on the authority of the companion al-Bira’ bin ‘Azib that this was the last verse of the Qur’an:
They will ask you [O Muhammad!] for a ruling. Say: “Allah rules for you concerning the remote kinship. If a man dies having no children, but he has a sister, she shall have half of what he leaves, and he is her heir if she has no children. If there are two sisters, they shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves. If there are men and women siblings, the male shall get the share of two females. Allah explains to you lest you go astray; Allah knows all things. (4.176)
6) Verse 9.128-129: Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241 H / 855 CE) reported on the authority of the companion Ubay bin Ka’b that verse 9.128 was the last verse that was revealed to the Prophet:
There has come to you a Messenger from among yourselves, grievous to him is your suffering, careful over you, compassionate and merciful for the believers. (9.128)
7) Verse 18.110: At-Tabarani (d. 360 H / 970 CE) has reported on the authority of Mu’awiya bin abi Sufyan that 18.110 was the last verse to be revealed:
Say O Muhammad!: “I am only a human like you. It is being revealed to me that your Lord is only one. Let him who hopes to meet his Lord do good works and refrain from associating anyone in worshiping his Lord.” (18.110)
8) Verse 3.195: A report attributes to Um Salama, the wife of the Prophet, saying that 3.195 was the last verse:
So their Lord answered them: “I do not waste the works of a worker among you, be it male or female — one of you is from the other. Those who migrated, were expelled from their houses, were harmed in my way, fought, and were killed I shall pardon their evil deeds, and I shall enter them into gardens beneath which rivers flow. This is a reward from Allah, and Allah has the best of rewards.” (3.195)
I have not considered reports about the last chapter to be revealed, which may imply that the last verse of that chapter was the last verse of the Qur’an also. For instance, Muslim reports on the authority of ibn Abbas that chapter 110 was the last chapter revealed. Other reports name other chapters, including 5 and 48.
Let’s discuss the plausibility of the eight reports. Verse 9.128 is followed in the mushaf by a verse that clearly continues it: “But if they turn away, then say ‘Allah is sufficient for me; there is not god but Him. In Him I put my trust; He is the Lord of the mighty throne.” If either of these two verses were the last revelation, then it would have to be 9.129 not 9.128.
Verse 18.110 reminds people that while a human being, Muhammad was a prophet who receives revelation from God. It also enjoins the main message of the Qur’an, which is to combine good works with belief. So this verse is similar to other verses in the Qur’an and there is nothing in it suggesting that it is the last to be revealed. But crucially, the wording “it is being revealed to me” suggests the continuation rather than the cessation of the revelation.
Verse 3.195 is similar in subject to other verses that were revealed during the ongoing struggle of Muslims with their enemies, so I would rule it out from being the last verse of the Qur’an.
It is highly unlikely that a verse that addresses a specific legal issue was the last verse of the Qur’an. This would exclude verses 2.282, 2.278, 4.93, and 4.167.
This would leave us with verses 2.281: “Fear the day when you shall be returned to Allah, then each soul shall be paid what it has earned, and they shall not be wronged.” This verse has a reference to death and it has nothing that would rule it out from being the last verse the way we ruled out the other seven. Nevertheless, while we can confidently exclude the other seven verses, it would be unjustified to suggest that we can say with certainty that 2.281 was the last verse to be revealed. It is only a possibility.
I think it is reasonable to assume that the last verse of the Qur’an would have something linking it to the completion of the Qur’anic revelation, the imminent departure of the Prophet, or both. But this assumption is still not enough to try and identify the last verse. This view, however, might have been behind the popular belief among Muslims that this part of verse 5.3 is the last revelation: “Today I have perfected for you your religion, fulfilled on you My favor, and approved Islam as your religion.” Actually, there is no source to confirm this view. There are reports that this verse was revealed on the Day of ‘Arafa which happened to be a Friday. This is understood to be during the last pilgrimage of the Prophet, which was a few months before his death. But there are reports that explicitly state that the revelation of this verse was followed by the revelation of others, including some we discussed above, so it cannot be the last verse according to these sources. The point is that this verse could be the last one but there is no report in the old sources confirming this, although there are reports suggesting that it was one of the latest verses.
Significantly, no report that identifies the last verse of the Qur’an attributes this identification to the Prophet! Those reports trace their statements to companions of the Prophet or their successors. So the existing reports imply that either the Prophet did not recognize the last verse to be so or that he did not inform the Muslims that the Qur’anic revelation was completed. I do not find either of these implications credible. Rather, I am of the view that this information has been lost and did not survive in the available sources.