An-Nisa · Juz 4 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 6

Topic: Giving Back the Property of the Orphans When They Reach Adulthood

“And test the orphans until they reach a marriageable age then, if you perceive in them proper understanding, hand over to them their property. And do not consume it extravagantly and hastily lest they should grow up. And whoever is rich he should abstain and whoever is poor he should consume in fairness. So, when you hand over to them their property, have witnesses upon them. And Allah is sufficient for reckoning.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,
وَابْتَلُواْ الْيَتَـمَى

“And test orphans” meaning, test their intelligence, as Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, As-Suddi and Muqatil bin Hayyan stated.

حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغُواْ النِّكَاحَ

“until they reach the age of marriage”, the age of puberty, according to Mujahid. The age of puberty according to the majority of scholars comes when the child has a wet dream. In his Sunan, Abu Dawud recorded that `Ali said, “I memorized these words from the Messenger of Allah, لَا يُتْمَ بَعْدَ احْتِلَامٍ، وَلَا صُمَاتَ يَوْمٍ إِلَى اللَّيْل “There is no orphan after the age of puberty nor vowing to be silent throughout the day to the night.” In another Hadith, `A’ishah and other Companions said that the Prophet said, “The pen does not record the deeds of three persons: the child until the age of puberty, the sleeping person until waking up, and the senile until sane.” 

Allah’s statement,

فَإِنْ ءَانَسْتُمْ مِّنْهُمْ رُشْداً فَادْفَعُواْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَلَهُمْ

“if then you find sound judgment in them, release their property to them,” Sa`id bin Jubayr said that this portion of the Ayah means, when you find them to be good in the religion and wise with their money. Similar was reported from Ibn Abbas, Al-Hasan Al-Basree and others among the Imams. The scholars of Fiqh stated that when the child becomes good in the religion and wise concerning with money, then the money that his caretaker was keeping for him should be surrendered to him.

Poor Caretakers are Allowed to Wisely Spend from the Money of the Orphan Under Their Care

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said,

وَلاَ تَأْكُلُوهَآ إِسْرَافاً وَبِدَاراً أَن يَكْبَرُواْ

“But consume it not wastefully and hastily, fearing that they should grow up.” Allah commands that the money of the orphan should not be spent unnecessarily,

إِسْرَافاً وَبِدَاراً

“Wastefully and hastily” for fear they might grow up. Allah also commands,

وَمَن كَانَ غَنِيّاً فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ

“And whoever among guardians is rich, he should take no wages,” Hence, the guardian who is rich and does not need the orphan’s money, should not take any of it as wages.

وَمَن كَانَ فَقِيراً فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

“but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable.” Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `A’ishah said, “This Ayah, وَمَن كَانَ غَنِيّاً فَلْيَسْتَعْفِفْ وَمَن كَانَ فَقِيراً فَلْيَأْكُلْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ was revealed about the guardian of the orphan and pertains to whatever work he does for the orphan’s estate.” Al-Bukhari also collected this Hadith.

Imam Ahmad recorded that Amr bin Shu`ayb said that his father said that his father told him that a man asked the Messenger of Allah , “I do not have money, but I have an orphan under my care.” The Messenger said, “Eat from your orphan’s wealth without extravagance or wastefulness, or mixing it, and without saving your money by spending his.” 

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends this ayah by saying,

فَإِذَا دَفَعْتُمْ إِلَيْهِمْ أَمْوَلَهُمْ

“And when you release their property to them.” after they become adults, and you see that they are wise, then,

فَأَشْهِدُواْ عَلَيْهِمْ

“take a witness in their presence;” Allah commands the guardians of orphans to surrender the property of the orphans who become consenting adults, in the presence of witnesses, so that none of them denies the fact that he received his money. Allah said next,

وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ حَسِيباً

“and Allah is All-Sufficient in taking account.” meaning, Allah is sufficient as Witness, Reckoner and Watcher over their work for orphans, and when they surrender their money to them, whether their property was complete and whole, or deficient and less. Indeed, Allah knows all of that.

In his Sahih, Muslim recorded that the Messenger of Allah said, “O Abu Dharr! Verily, you are weak, and I love for you what I love for myself. Do not become a leader of two nor assume guardianship of an orphan’s property.”

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