An-Nisa · Juz 4 · Qur'an Tafseer

Lessons From Surah an-Nisa Ayah 5 – 6 [Part 1]

Lesson 1: Do Protect What You Own

These ayaat affirm the role of property in man’s economic effort which gives him the desire to protect it. Then, at the same time, the general weakness shown in the protection of properties has been corrected. There are people who, giving in to natural love, hand over properties to inexperienced minor children and ill-informed women which usually results in wastage of the property and the quick poverty which follows in its wake.

Lesson 2: Do Not Hand Over Properties to the Feeble-Minded

Abdullah ibn Abbas says, “The guidance the Qur’an gives in this ayah is: Do not, by handing over all your property to the feeble-minded children and women, become dependent on them. Since Allah has made you the guardian and the manager, you should, rather, hold the property in your safe custody and keep spending from it as necessary in order to feed and clothe them. And should they, even then, demand to take possession of the property, explain to them honestly, fairly and reasonably in a way which neither breaks their heart nor causes the property to be wasted. For instance, say something like: All this is there for you. Just grow up a little more and you will have it all.”

Based on this tafseer of ibn Abbas, the sense of the ayah covers all women, children and others who are feeble-minded and inexperienced, to whom it is dangerous to hand over properties since it may result in their loss, irrespective of the fast that they may be one’s own children, or orphans, or the fact be that the property may belong to such children and orphans themselves, or to the guardians. The same tafseer has been reported from Abu Musa al-Ashari and the renowned mufassir, al-Tabari also holds the same view.

The context of the earlier and later ayaat, may though lead one to particularize this command too with orphaned children, yet the generality of words remains there as such and which includes all children, orphans and non-orphans. And perhaps, the form of address in “amwalukum” (your properties) may have the special wisdom that it is inclusive of the properties of the guardians as well as that of the orphans. The suggestion is that the properties of the orphans, until such time that they become mature and discerning, remain under the guardian’s safe custody and responsibility as if these properties, so to say, were like their own. It will be recalled that the fact of the matter that the properties of the orphans have to be given only to them – has been made very clear in ayah 2, “and give the orphans their property”. After this, there remains no reason for any doubt.

Protecting property is necessary. Wasting it is a sin. A person killed while defending his property is a shaheed (martyr). This is similar to being killed in defence of one’s life which makes one deserving of the great reward of shahadah (martyrdom). The Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “ Whoever is killed while protecting his property is a shaheed (that is, he is counted among Muslim martyrs  in terms of Divine reward). [Bukhari, v.1, p. 337 – Muslim, v.1, p. 81] 

He has also said, “For a good man, his good and clean property is the best asset of his life.” [Mishkat, p. 326]

Yet another saying of his is, “Being rich is not harmful for one who fears Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.” [Mishkat, p. 491]

The last two ahadith quoted above tell us that the wealth possessed by a righteous and God-fearing person is not harmful for him because such a person, by virtue of being God-fearing, will abstain from spending it in what is sinful. The anti-wealth teachings of many Muslim saints and mystics apply to none but those who spend their lustily-earned wealth for sinful purposes and thus go on to make it the cause of their punishment in the Hereafter.

Also, since man is naturally inclined to abandon, once he is rich, all concerns of moderation in his spending, as well as the very anxiety to see that he stays safe against other sins – that is why staying away from wealth has been considered desirable. May Allah bless our earlier people; they would earn, more or less, as needed, were grateful to Allah and ended up being happy that they succeeded in saving their skins from being ultimately ‘audited’ for the whats and hows and whereas of spending their wealth, if they had it. But, in our time, people do not care much about matters of faith; they are more attracted to material things; they are all too ready to abandon their faith at the slightest provocation, not because there is some discomfort involved. Rather, they would do that lest they go against fragile fashion, or trend, or some borrowed norm of contemporary society.

Therefore, it is important that people earn lawfully and conserve their earning. For such people, the Porphet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “Poverty can take one to the point of being a disbeliever.” [Mishkat, p. 439]

Sufyan al-Thawri radhiAllahu anha elaborates this by saying, “Previously, owning and keeping wealth was not considered good, but today, this wealth is a shield of the true Muslim.”

He also said, “Whoever has any of this (wealth) in his hands should make it serve him well for these are times when, in the event of some need, one is likely to first ‘spend’ his faith in order to take care of that need. (i.e. the desire to fulfill one’s need has become more important than the obligation to follow one’s faith).” [Mishkat, p. 491]

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