An-Nisa · Juz 4 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 5 – 6 [Part 3]

Lesson 6: The Prohibition of Undue Spending from the Property of Orphans

The Ayah instructs that the property of the orphans should not be handed over to them until a certain degree of understanding and experience is perceived in them. Naturally, for this purpose, one will have to wait for some more time. In that case, it was probably that the guardian of the orphan could commit an excess against the interests of the orphan. So, the ayah goes on to say:

وَلاَ تَأْكُلُوهَآ إِسْرَافاً وَبِدَاراً أَن يَكْبَرُواْ

“And do not consume it extravagantly and hastily lest they should grow up.”

Here, the guardians of the orphans have been prevented from two things:

Firstly, from spending out of their property extravagantly; spending over and above normal needs; and

Secondly, from starting to spend out from their property way before the need to do so, as if in a hurry, thinking of the near future when their wards would grow up and their property would have to be given to them and the guardians control will be over.

Lesson 7: The Orphan’s Guardian (if needy) can Take Out Some of His Expenses from the Orphan’s Property

Does a person, who spends his time and labor in the upbringing of an orphan and is devoted to the protection of his property, have the right to take an honorarium for his services from the property of the orphan?

The rule is given towards the later part of the ayah when it is said وَمَن كَانَ غَنِيّاً فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ  “and whoever is rich he should abstain”. It means that a person who is self-sufficient should not take any payment for his services from the property of the orphan because this service is an obligation on him. receiving payment for it is not permissible.

Then it was said, وَمَن كَانَ فَقِيراً فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ “and whoever is poor he should consume in fairness”. It means that the guardian of an orphan who is poor and needy and has no other source of income, he can consume a reasonable amount from the property of the orphans for his sustenance in a measure that is just about right to cover his basic needs.

Lesson 8: Having Witnesses while Handing Over Property

The ayah concludes with,

فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَلَهُمْ فَأَشْهِدُواْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ حَسِيباً 

 “when you hand over to them their property (after having gone through the period of test and trial), have (some reliable and pious people as) witnesses upon them (so that there is no dispute later). And (remember that) Allah is sufficient for reckoning (for He has a count of everything within His sight)”.

Lesson 9: Payment for Services Rendered to Country or Community

The contextual extension of the ayah yields an important juristic rule and principle. It concerns people who supervise Awqaf (religious endowments, trusts and estates) or manage mosques and religious schools or head institutions of Muslim states or hold charge of similar other services rendered for the country and community, services the rendering of which is known in Islamic terminology as fard alal-kifayah (an obligation which, if discharged by some, will absolve others).

For these gentlemen too, the superior and more meritorious conduct, if they have sufficient assets to take care of the necessary expenses needed to maintain their family, is that they should not take anything from these institutions or from the public exchequer of the government. But, should it be that they do not have funds of their own to sustain themselves and they devote their earning time to such service-oriented activities, then, they have the right to take such funds from these institutions in proportion to their need.

Please do notice the condition which is “in proportion to need”. A lot of people fix an insignificantly monthly emolument shown on paper to satisfy legal requirements but they go on spending by various other means on their person and on their family recklessly, much much beyond it. There is just no remedy for this lack of caution except the fear of Allah.

The last words of the ayah, وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ حَسِيباً  “and Allah is sufficient for reckoning” invite everyone, masses or classes, to realize that the man who stays untouched by unlawful acquisitions will be the man who fears the final accounting by Allah. And the ability to do so comes from Allah!

(Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani)

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