“Surely, those who unjustly eat up the property of the orphans, they eat up only a fire into their bellies, and they will be burned in the blazing fire.”
Lesson: Misappropriation of the Property of the Orphans
The ayah carries a severe warning for those who pilfer or dispose off the property of orphans unlawfully. It declares, “Surely, those who eat up the property of the orphans unjustly, they only eat fire into their bellies, and soon they shall enter a blazing Hell.”
This ayah equates the property of the orphan with the fire of Hell. Many commentators have interpreted this metaphorically, that is, eating the property of the orphans unjustly is like stuffing one’s stomach with fire because this is what is going to happen to him ultimately in the Hereafter. But, those with deeper insights and proofs do not support the presence of some figure of speech here. According to them, whatever is eaten up from the property of the orphan unlawfully is, in reality, nothing but fire even though it may not look like fire at that time. This is like somebody saying that the match box in his hand has fire, or the piece of arsenic, a killer. Obviously, handling a match box does not burn the hand, nor does arsenic kill a man by simple handling, not even by putting it in the mouth. However, a slight friction reveals that somebody who called the match box a fire was right; and similarly, once the arsenic goes down the throat, we know that the one who called arsenic a killer was true.
Common generalizations of the Qur’an also support the view that whatever deeds, good or evil, man is doing, these very deeds are the trees, the flowers and the fruits of Paradise, or the embers of Hell – even though their form here is different, but these will come forth on the Day of Doom transformed in their true forms. The Qur’an says in Surah al-Kahf Ayah 49 on the Day of Doom, they shall find what they did – present! In other words, the punishment and the reward they shall see will be, in reality the result of their own deeds.
It appears in some narrations that those who devour the orphan’s property unjustly will be raised on the Day of Doom in a state that flames of fire will be seen coming out from inside their bellies through their mouths, nostrils, ears and eyes.
And the Prophet sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam said that a set of people will be raised on the Day of Doom with their mouths, nostrils, ears and eyes.
And the Prophet said that a set of people will be raised on the Day of Doom with their mouths erupting with fire. His Companions asked as to who these could be. He said, “Have you not read it in the Qur’an? (which says) Those who eat up the property of the orphans unjustly.” [Ibn Katheer, v. 1, p. 456]
The gist of the meaning of the ayah is that the property of the orphan eaten up unjustly will be in reality, the fire of Hell, though it may not be sensed as fire at that time. It is for this reason that the Prophet has given very instructions to observe most stringent precaution in this matter. Abu Hurayrah radhiAllahu anha narrates that the Prophet said, “I warn you to abstain from the property of the two weak – the woman and the orphan.” [Ibn Katheer, v.1, p. 456]
(Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani)