Ayah 37 begins with الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ which describes the nature of the arrogant who are stingy in giving their rights while it is obligatory to give, fail to understand their responsibilities and go on to the negative extreme of persuading others to adopt this bad habit as well either through their word or deed.
The ayah has used the word, ‘bukhl’ (niggardliness) to describe this trait of character, a word which, in the generally approved sense, is applied for shortcoming in giving financial rights. But, looking at the background of the ayah’s revelation, it becomes obvious that the word, ‘bukhl’ has been used here in its general sense which includes close-fistedness in money and knowledge both.
A narration from Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu tells us that this ayah was revealed about the Jews of Madinah. They were very arrogant, and extremely miserly. When it came to spending money, they were miserably miserly. They also concealed the knowledge they received through their Scriptures which carried the prophecies about the coming of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. These also included clear signs of his appearance. But, the Jews, despite being convinced of these prophecies, acted niggardly. They never acted to fulfill the dictates of this knowledge; neither did they pass on the message to others who could act in accordance with it.
Based on this, it is then said that people who are miserly with wealth given by Allah – in matters of knowledge and faith – are ungrateful to Allah and fail to acknowledge His blessings. For them Allah has prepared a humiliating punishment which they cannot escape.
About the merit of giving and the demerit of miserliness, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam has said:
“Every morning two angels descend. One of them says: ‘O Allah, bless him who spends in the way of good’; and the other says: ‘O Allah, send destruction on (the wealth of) the miser.” [al-Bukhari & Muslim, from Abu Hurairah radhiAllahu anhu]
“Give. Do not calculate, for Allah will then calculate in your case. And do not withhold, for Allah will then withhold in your case. And give whatever you can.” [al-Bukhari & Muslim from Asma radhiAllahu anha]
“The generous person is close to Allah, close to Paradise, close to people; while the miser is far from Allah, far from Paradise, far from people – close to the fire; and the generous ignoramus is dearer to Allah than a miserly devotee (a person who has devoted himself for worship).” [Tirmidhi]
Abu Saeed radhiAllahu anhu narrates that the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:
“Two traits cannot get combined in a true Muslim: miserliness and bad morals.” [Tirmidhi]
[Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]