Command to Fulfill Obligations
In Surah an-Nisa emphasis has been laid on mutual dealings, particularly on rights servants of Allah have on each other. Then in it there are details of the rights of the husband and the wife, the rights of orphans and the rights of the parents and other relatives. In the very first sentence of Surah al-Ma’idah, there appears the instruction to stand by all dealings made and pledges given.
يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ أَوْفُواْ بِالْعُقُودِ
“O you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations.”
Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that a man came to Abdullah bin Mas`ud radhiAllahu anhu and said to him, “Advise me.” He said, “When you hear Allah’s statement, يَـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ then pay full attention, for it is a righteous matter that He is ordaining or an evil thing that He is forbidding.”
The word affu is from the word wafa which means to fulfill a promise or responsibility. Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and others said that “…..Fulfill (your) obligations…..” means treaties. It is an agreement or pact that a person makes with another. Any promise that one makes with another and intents to fill it.
Now, we have to determine the nature of contracts meant here.
Nature of Contracts
The interpretations of commentators appear to be different, though outwardly only. Some say that it refers to the Covenant of Allah under which His created beings are bound to believe in and obey Him or they refer to pledges Allah has taken from His created beings regarding His revealed injunctions of things lawful and unlawful. This was reported by ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu. Others say that here it means the contracts people enter into with each other, such as, the contract of marriage and the contract of buying and selling. Commentators ibn Zayd and Zayd ibn Aslam have taken this very line of interpretation. Still others take contracts to mean sworn alliances and pacts which the tribes of jahililyyah entered into with each other for mutual assistance when needed. There is no contradiction or difference in what they have said. Instead, all these varied contracts come under the Qur’anic word, “al-uqud”, appearing in this ayah and the instruction to fulfill all of them comes from the Qur’an itself.
Therefore, Imam Raghib al-Isfahani has said that all kinds of contracts and binding agreements are included under the imperative of this word. He further divides these into three kinds as given below:
1. The Covenant which human beings have with their Creator who is Lord of all the worlds, such as, the pledge to believe in Him, to obey Him, or to observe the restrictions imposed by Him or matters and things lawful and unlawful.
2. The vow or promise or commitment one enters into with one’s own self.
3. The contract the one human being enters with another which includes all contracts which bind two person or two groups or parties or governments.
So, in the light of this ayah, strict adherence to all permissible provisions and conditions which have been mutually agreed upon is mandatory and all parties must observe and fulfill these. This covers all international pacts and treaties between governments, bilateral agreements, all commitments, alliances, charters between groups and parties, also all sorts of contracts and deals between two human beings ranging from marriage, business, partnership, leasing, gift deed to many other bi-partite human dealings. Please note that the restriction of ‘permissible’ imposed a little earlier has a reason, for entering into a contract against the dictates of the Shari’ah, or accepting it, is not permissible for anyone.
[SOURCE: Tafseer ibn Katheer and Maroof-ul-Qur’an]