al-Ma'un · Juz 30 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah Al-Ma’un Ayaat 1 – 2

Period of Revelation: 

Makkan

Theme and Subject Matter:

It talks about the morals a person develops when he refuses to believe in the Hereafter and the state of those hypocrites who apparently are Muslims, but they pray only to show it off to others. They are heedless in their prayers; repel the orphans; do not feed the poor and refrain from doing small acts of kindness.

Ayaat 1 – 2

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala begins the Surah by asking His Messenger ﷺ,

أَرَءَيْتَ الَّذِى يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

“Have you seen him who denies Ad-Deen?”

Apparently, the words are directed to the Prophet ﷺ, but Quran’s style is that on such occasions it generally addresses every intelligent and thinking person. The word ‘Araayata’ mentioned in the ayah means seeing with the eyes as well as knowing, understanding and considering something deeply. For example, “Do you know the kind of person who belies the rewards and punishment?” or “Have you considered the state of the person who belies the Judgment?”

The purpose is not to ask whether someone has seen such a person or not, but to invite the listener to consider as to what kind of character is produced in a person who denies the judgment of the Hereafter. It urges the listener to know such a person so that he understands the moral significance of belief in the Hereafter.

Here the word ‘Deen’ means the Hereafter, the Recompense, and the Final Reward.

فَذَلِكَ الَّذِى يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ

“That is he who repulses the orphan.”

meaning, he is the one who oppresses the orphan and does not give him his just due. He does not feed him, nor is he kind to him.

The letter ‘Fa’ in the beginning of the sentences expresses the meaning of a whole sentence, “If you do not know, then know that it is indeed he who….”

The sentence ‘yadu’ul yateem’ has several meanings:

1. Depriving the orphan of his rights and evicting him from his father’s heritage.
2. Repelling the orphan when he asks help. Showing no compassion towards him. And if he still persists in his entreaties in the hope for mercy, he drives him away and out of sight,
3. Ill-treating the orphan. 

The person misbehaving with an orphan does not consider it an evil which he must he give up, but he persists in it with full satisfaction, thinking that the orphan is a helpless, powerless creature. He feels there is no harm if an orphan’s rights are tyrannically taken away or if injustice is shown.

In this connection, Qadi Abul Hasan al-Mawardi has related a strange incident in his Alam an-Nubuwwat. Abu Jahl was the testator of an orphan. The child one day came to him in the condition that he had no shred of a garment on his body and he implored him to be given something out of his father’s heritage. But the cruel man paid no attention to him and the poor child had to go back disappointed.

The Quraysh chiefs said to him out of fun: “Go to Muhammad and put your complaint before him. He will recommend your case before Abu Jahl and get you your property.” The child not knowing any background of the nature of the relationship between Abu Jahl and the Prophet ﷺ and not understanding the motive of the mischief-mongers, went straight to the Prophet ﷺ and apprised him of his misfortune.

The Prophet ﷺ immediately arose and accompanied the child to the house of Abu Jahl, his bitterest enemy. Abu Jahl received him well and when the latter told him to restore to the child his right; he yielded and brought out whatever he owed to him. The Quraysh chiefs were watching all this earnestly in the hope that an interesting altercation would take place between them. But when they saw what actually happened they were astounded and went to Abu Jahl and taunted him saying that he too perhaps had abandoned his religion.

He said, “By God, I have not abandoned my religion, but I so felt that on the right and left of Muhammad there was a spear which would enter my -body if I acted against what he desired.” 

This incident not only shows what was the attitude and conduct of the principal chiefs of the most civilized and noble tribe of Arabia towards the orphans and other helpless people in those days but it also shows what sublime character the Prophet possessed and what impact it had even on his bitterest enemies.

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