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23. COMMENTARY OF SŪRAT AL-MĀ‘ŪN (Q. 107) This sūrat al-Mā‘ūn (Qur’ān, chapter 107) was a Makkan one, revealed in in Makkah, before the Prophet’s migration to Madinah. It consists of seven verses. The commentary of this chapter is as follows: َ َ‫لَ َي ُحض‬ َ َ ‫َ َو‬.َ‫كَالَّذِيَ َي ُدعََ ْال َيتِي ََم‬ ََ ِ‫َ َف َذل‬.َ‫ين‬ َِ ‫ْتَالَّذِيَ ُي َك ِّذبََُ ِبال ِّد‬ ََ ‫أَ َرأَي‬ َ .‫ُون‬ ََ ‫ص ََلت ِِه َْمَ َساه‬ ََ ‫َالَّذ‬.‫ين‬ ََ ِّ‫صل‬ َِ ‫امَ ْالمِسْ ك‬ َِ ‫َعلَىَ َط َع‬ َ ََْ‫ِينَ ُه َْمَ َعن‬ َ ‫َََ َف َويْلََل ِْل ُم‬.‫ِين‬ َ )7-1:‫ُون‬ ََ ‫ُونَ( ْال َماع‬ ََ ‫ُونَ ْال َماع‬ ََ ‫َ َو َيمْ َنع‬.‫ُون‬ ََ ‫ِينَ ُه َْمَي َُراء‬ ََ ‫الَّذ‬ Have you seen him who denies the Recompense? That is he who repulses the orphan (harshly), And urges not on the feeding of the needy, So, woe to those performers of Ṣalāt (prayers) (hypocrites), Those who delay their Ṣalāt, Those who do good deeds only to be seen (of men), And withhold al-Mā‘ūn (small kindness like salt, sugar, water) (Q. 107:1-7) (The Noble Qur’ān: Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) The name of the surah, namely al-Mā‘ūn, is translated by Pickthall, Ali, and Asad as “small kindness,” “the neighbourly needs,” and “assistance” respectively. The commentary: َِ ‫ْتَالَّذِيَ ُي َك ِّذبََُ ِبال ِّد‬ ‫ين‬ ََ ‫أَ َرأَي‬ Have you seen him who denies the Recompense? M.M. Pickthall: “Hast thou observed him who belieth religion?” A.Y. Ali: “See you one who denies the Judgment (to come)?” M. Asad: “Hast thou ever considered [the kind of man] who gives the lie to all moral law?” As the term dīn means “religion, recompense and judgment” each of the above translators used one of them, except Asad, who translates it “all moral law” and explains his reason, namely, “that there is any objective validity in religion as such and, thus in the concept of moral law (which is one of the primary connotation of the term dīn…. Some commentators


are of the opinion that in the above context dīn signifies ‘judgement’, i.e. the Day of Judgment, and interpret this phrase as meaning ‘who calls the Day of Judgment a lie.’” (M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’ān, p. 979, n.1) Who were they who denied the Recompense or Judgement intended in this surah? (1) al-‘Āṣ ibn Wā’il al-Sahmī, according to Ibn ‘Abbās, al-Kalbī, and Muqātil; (2) al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīrah, according to al-Suddī; (3) ‘Amr ibn ‘Ā’id, according to al-Ḍaḥḥāk; (4) an unidentified hypocrite, also according to al-Ḍaḥḥāk, and Ibn ‘Abbās (5) Abū Sufyān, according to Ibn Jurayj; he slaughtered a camel every week (?), and one day an orphan begged him for meat, but Abū Sufyān hit him with his stick, so, the above surah (chapter) was revealed; (6) Abū Jahl, according to unidentified mufassir (Qur’an commentator). َ‫كَالَّذِيَ َي ُدعََ ْال َيتِي َم‬ ََ ِ‫َف َذل‬ That is he who repulses the orphan (harshly) M.M. Pickthall: “That is he who repelleth the orphan” A.Y. Ali: “Then such is the (man) who repulses the orphan (with harshness)” M. Asad: Behold, it is this [kind of man] that thrusts the orphan away,” Al-Ḍaḥḥāk reported from Ibn ‘Abbās: he is the one who neglects the orphan and deprives him from his right. Qatādah: he is the one who subjugates and wrongs him. They said that the Arabs in pre-Islamic Arabia did not give share of inheritance. They said inheritance was only for persons “who stab with spearheads and strike with swords”, namely, for males only, not for females and children. The Prophet mentions the merit of taking care of the orphans. He said: َ‫ْنَإِلَىَ َط َعا ِم َِهَ َو َش َر ِاب َِهَ َح َّتى‬ َِ ‫ْنَمُسْ لِ َمي‬ ََ ‫ض ََّمَ َيتِيمًاَ َبي‬ َ ََْ‫َمن‬ )‫تَلَ َُهَ ْال َج َّن َُةَ ْال َب َّت ََةَ(رواهَالطبراني‬ َْ ‫َ َو َج َب‬،ُ‫ِيَ َع ْنه‬ ََ ‫َيسْ َت ْغن‬ Whoever takes care of an orphan of Muslim parents with his foods and drinks until he satisfies with it


Allah would definitely make Paradise indispensable for him. (Reported by al-Ṭabrānī) A similar ḥadīth was also reported by Imām Aḥmad. َِ ‫امَ ْالمِسْ ك‬ ‫ِين‬ َِ ‫لَ َي ُحضَ َعلَىَ َط َع‬ َ َ ‫َو‬ And urges not on the feeding of the needyَ M.M. Pickthall: “And urgeth not the feeding of the needy” A.Y. Ali: “And encourages not the feeding of the indigent” M. Asad: “and feels no urge to feed the needy” This verse means that the person does not urge people on feeding the poor because he himself is miser and does not believe in recompense, that good and evil deeds will be rewarded and punished respectively. People will enter Hell because, among other things, as mentioned in the Qur’ān, )33:‫ِينَ(الحاقة‬ َِ ‫عامَ ْالمِسْ ك‬ َِ ‫َولَ َيحُضََ َعلىَ َط‬ … and he urged not on the feeding of the needy (Q. 69:34) Those stingy people who ignored the poor, when they were asked the motive of ignoring them, their answer would be َ)37:‫ّللا َُأَ ْط َع َم َُهَ(يس‬ ََّ َ‫أَ ُن ْط ِع َُمَ َمنََْلَوََْ َيشا َُء‬ … Shall we feed those whom, if Allah willed, He (Himself) would have fed...َ(Q. 36:47) َ ََ ‫ص ََلت ِِه َْمَ َساه‬ ‫ُون‬ ََ ‫َالَّذ‬.‫ين‬ ََ ِّ‫صل‬ َ ََْ‫ِينَ ُه َْمَ َعن‬ َ ‫ َف َويْلََل ِْل ُم‬. So, woe to those performers of Ṣalāt (prayers) (hypocrites), Those who delay their Ṣalāt M.M. Pickthall: “Ah, woe unto worshippers, Who are heedless of their prayer” A.Y. Ali: “So woe to the worshippers, Who are neglectful of their prayer ” M. Asad: “Woe, then, unto those praying ones, whose hearts from their prayer are remote” Ibn ‘Abbās reported by al-Ḍaḥḥāk -: They are people who pray without expecting reward from their prayer, and do not fear of any punishment by neglecting it. They are people who delay the time of prayer. They are hypocrites who


pray just to be seen. Ibn ‘Abbās says further that the term wayl (woe) here means “a severe punishment in Hell.” َ Al-Ḍaḥḥāk also as well as Ibrāhīm reported by al-Mughīrah: they delay the times of prayers, they neglect them. Ibrāhīm also: those who prostrate in prayer but they raise their heads and turned them. Abū ‘l-Āliyah: they do not pray on time, and they do not perform bowing and prostration completely in their prayer. Quṭrub: They neither read the Qur’ān, nor remember Allah. ََ ‫ِينَ ُه َْمَي َُراء‬ ‫ُون‬ ََ ‫الَّذ‬ Those who do good deeds only to be seen (of men) M.M. Pickthall: “Who would be seen (at worship)” A.Y. Ali: “Those who (want but) to be seen (of men)” M. Asad: “those who want only to be seen and praised” The showing off is either orally or by action. Orally by showing resentment against people whose concern is on worldly matters (‫)أهل َالدنيا‬, and showing admonition and regret of missing good deeds and obedience. Showing off by action is in performing the prayer and in giving charity, or praying better to be seen by people. A man was said to have performed a long grateful prostration in the mosque, and it was said to him that performing this long prostration at home would have been better to avoid showing off. ََ ‫ع‬ ‫ون‬ َُ ‫ُونَ ْال َما‬ ََ ‫َو َي ْم َنع‬ And withhold al-Mā‘ūn (small kindness like salt, sugar, water) M.M. Pickthall: “Yet refuse small kindness!” A.Y. Ali: “But refuse (to supply (even) neighbourly needs.” M. Asad: “and, withal, deny all assistance [to their fellowmen]. Asad explains the meaning of the term al-mā‘ūn as follows: “The term al-mā‘ūn comprises the many small items needed for one’s daily use, as well as the occasional acts of kindness consisting in helping out one’s fellow-men with such


items. In its wider sense, it denotes “aid“ or “assistance” to people who need help. Al-Qurṭubī mentions twelve views on this last verse, as follows: 1. Al-mā‘ūn is the zakat of wealth, according to ‘Ali, and Ibn ‘Abbās according to al-Ḍaḥḥāk. They are the hypocrites. The hypocrites pray in hypocrisy. Mālik said that if they miss the prayer they would not regret for it. They refuse to pay the zakat (the obligatory charity). Zayd ibn Aslam said that if the prayer could be performed secretly like paying zakat, those hypocrites would not have done it. AlṬabarī included those who said that al-mā‘ūn was the zakat Ibn ‘Umar, Qatādah, al-Ḥasan, and Sa‘īd ibn Jubayr. 2. Al-mā‘ūn is the wealth in the Quraysh language, according to Ibn Shihāb and Sa‘īd ibn al-Musayyab. 3. Al-mā‘ūn is household utensils, such as axes, the cooking pots, fire, etc., according Ibn Mas‘ūd and Ibn ‘Abbās 4. Al-mā‘ūn in pre-Islamic Arabia is any useful thing, such as an axe, a cooking pot, a leather bucket, a flint, anything big or small. 5. Al-mā‘ūn is something borrowed, according to Mujāhid, and reported from Ibn ‘Abbās. 6. Al-mā‘ūn is anything people are occupied with among themselves (‫) ْال َمعْ رُوفَُ َ ُكل َُه َالَّذِي َ َي َت َعا َطاَهُ َال َّناسَُ َفِي َما َ َب ْي َنهُم‬, according to Muḥammad ibn Ka‘b and al-Kalbī. 7. Al-mā‘ūn is water and pastureََ)ُ ‫ل‬ َ َ ‫َ( ْال َما َُءَ َو ْال َك‬ 8. Al-mā‘ūn is water only. 9. Al-mā‘ūnَ is the truth, the right thing ( ‫ق‬ َِّ ‫)َ ْال َح‬ 11. Al-mā‘ūn is using the benefit of wealthَ ‫َ( ْالمُسْ َت َغلَ َمِنَْ َ َم َناف َِِع‬ َََََ)‫ال‬ َِ ‫ْاْلَم َْو‬ 11. Al-mā‘ūn is obedience 12. Al-mā‘ūn is probably something light and easy but made heavy and difficult by Allah, according to al-Māwardī. Another view is that al-mā‘ūn are three things which have to be shared with people, namely: water, salt, fire, including


(water of) the well. Ibn ‘Abbās mentioned the different views of people about the meaning of al-mā‘ūn: zakat, obedience, and borrowed objects. ‘Ikrimah the mawlā (freed slave) of Ibn ‘Abbās said that the maximum of al-mā‘ūn is the zakat, and its minimum are borrowed objects. He was asked whether the woe was to any person who withholds (refuses) al-mā‘ūn. He replied that he was, if he combined the three things mentioned in this sūrah, namely, he neglected the prayer, he was a hypocrite, and was stingy with his wealth. The following Qur’ānic verses mentioned these qualities of the hypocrites: َ َ‫اس‬ ََ ‫نَال َّن‬ ََ ُ‫َوإِذاَقامُواَإِ َلىَالصََّلَِةَقامُواَ ُكسالىَيُراؤ‬ َ )132:‫ِيَل َ(النساء‬ َ ً ‫لَ َقل‬ َ َّ ِ‫ّللاَإ‬ َََّ َ‫ُون‬ ََ ‫َولَ َي ْذ ُكر‬ And when they stand up for the prayer, they stand with laziness and to be seen of men, and they do not remember Allah but little (Q. 4:142) (43َ:‫ُون َ)التوبة‬ ََ ‫كاره‬ َ َّ ِ‫ونَإ‬ ََ ‫َولَ ُي ْن ِف ُق‬ ِ َ‫لَ َو ُه َْم‬ … and that they offer not contributions but unwillingly (Q. 9:54) We have seen how mufassirīn (Qur’ān commentators) give deeper and boarder meanings of the above verses. (CIVIC, 17 February, 2017) :‫المراجع‬ ‫َالمكتبةَالشاملة‬ )‫َهـ‬311َ.‫تفسيرَالطبريَ(ت‬ َ َ َ َ َ َ َ )َ‫َهـ‬671َ.‫تفسيرَالقرطبىَ(ت‬ )‫َهـ‬773َ.‫تفسيرَابنَكثيرَ(ت‬ َ)‫َم‬667َ-َ616َ/َ‫َهـ‬66َ-َ‫َقَهـ‬3(َ‫تفسيرَابنَعباس‬ )‫م‬1331-1261َ/َ‫َهـ‬731-676(َ‫تفسيرَالخازن‬ The Noble Qur’ān: Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Muhammad Asad. The Message of Islam. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall. The Glorious Qur’ān. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. The Meaning of the Holy Qur’ān.َََََ


a Friday khutbah/sermon delivered at CIVIC, Canberra, on 17 February, 2017

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