In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 188
Previous ayaat dealt with the commands related to fasting, we learned the rulings, the prohibitions, the permissions and exemptions. In the present ayah, acquiring haram or unlawful wealth has been forbidden.
If one is commanded to leave the halal [allowed] in fasting, how can one indulge in the haram [impermissible]?
Notice, the correlation between the ayaat. While fasting, we are commanded to leave the halal [allowed]. If one trains himself and practices self-discipline to keep away from the permissible acts while fasting, it will be easier for him to stay away from the impermissible during other days of the year. It is also said that mentioning halal earning right after fasting indicates that one should break their fast with halal meal only. It means that the food should be halal as well as the means by which it has been acquired. It should not be stolen or bought from haram money. We have studied previously that pursuing halal leads to acceptance of prayers and supplications. He who bears the rigors of fasting throughout the day but ends up breaking his fast with haram will not find his deed accepted in the Sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Considering this, how can people plan their iftaars in restaurants and cafés where there are no quiet or clean areas to pray? Why for the pleasure of taste, we compromise on our worship? What about the lavish iftaar parties hosted in the homes? If one is missing their prayers, after staying hungry the entire day then such a fast is not acceptable. What about the free intermingling between opposite genders at such gatherings?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
The ayah forbids the acquisition and use of wealth and property by unlawful means.
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “This ayah is about the indebted person when there is no evidence of the loan. So he denies taking the loan and the case goes to the authorities, even though he knows that it is not his money and that he is a sinner, consuming what is not allowed for him.”
The Background of Revelation
This ayah was revealed in the background of a particular event which relates to a land dispute between two Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. The case came up for hearing before the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The plaintiff had no witnesses. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked the defendant to take an oath in accordance with Islamic legal norm. He was all set to take the oath when the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam recited the following ayah before him as a matter of good counsel:
“Indeed, those who exchange the covenant of Allah and their oaths for a small price will have no share in the Hereafter.” [Aal-‘Imran 3: 77]
When the Companion heard this ayah warning those who usurp someone’s property through a false oath, he abandoned his intention to take that oath and surrendered the land to the plaintiff.
Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
أَلَا إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ، وَإِنَّمَا يَأْتِينِي الْخَصْمُ، فَلَعَلَّ بَعْضَكُمْ أَنْ يَكُونَ أَلْحَنَ بِحُجَّتِهِ مِنْ بَعْضٍ فَأَقْضِيَ لَهُ، فَمَنْ قَضَيْتُ لَهُ بِحَقِّ مُسْلِمٍ فَإِنَّمَا هِيَ قِطْعَةٌ مِنْ نَارٍ، فَلْيَحْمِلْهَا أَوْ لِيَذَرْهَا
“I am only human! You people present your cases to me, and as some of you may be more eloquent and persuasive in presenting his argument, I might issue a judgment in his benefit. So, if I give a Muslim’s right to another, I am really giving him a piece of fire; so he should not take it.”
The scholars have said, “Do not dispute when you know that you are being unjust.”
Qatadah said, “O son of Adam! Know that the judge’s ruling does not allow you what is prohibited or prohibit you from what is allowed. The judge only rules according to his best judgment and according to the testimony of the witnesses. The judge is only human and is bound to make mistakes. Know that if the judge erroneously rules in someone’s favor, then that person will still encounter the dispute when the disputing parties meet Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala on the Day of Resurrection. Then, the unjust person will be judged swiftly and precisely with that which will surpass whatever he acquired by the erroneous judgment he received in the life of this world.”
It teaches us that the judgment of the authorities does not change the reality of the truth. It is the matter of who presents their case more skillfully. Every person should keep his accountability in the Hereafter in mind and live an honest life. Paltry gains of this world for the price of Hellfire are not a good bargain. If the judge was honest and gave his verdict based on the evidence presented to him, then he is free from blame. However, the person who deceived the court will acquire the evil burden.
The ayah also teaches us that we should be vigilant about fulfilling our desires. What means do we acquire to get that which we desire? Is it through a haram [impermissible] way? For example, marriage is a natural desire but how does one pursue this need? Is it through haram relationships and dating or through the permissible way? Likewise, how does one earn their wealth and promotion at work? Does one believe in cut-throat competition and crushing their colleagues to reach to the top? Does one think of cunning ways to deceive others and earn more money? What about bargains and price negotiations, what is the intention behind it?
If there is a delay in marriage or becoming rich, let it be, but please do not risk your future by falling in haram. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has informed us that whatever has been written for us will reach us. No one can prevent it. Therefore, we should abstain from pursuing impermissible paths.
Haram brings blessings; haram produces evil.
We should remember the questions that each one of us will be asked on the Day of Judgment: in what endeavors did we spend our youth; from where we earned our wealth, where did we spend our wealth; and much did we act on our knowledge. Knowing what is right and wrong, and not acting on that knowledge is dangerous.
This ayah also serves as a warning to those who adulterate products and then sell them such as medicines, spices, and other food items. And also to those who charge a high price for inferior items. As now businesses have moved online, those who ship products different from those shown in the glossy pictures should fear their Hereafter, and avoid making sinful sales.
Sometimes, one’s rights are usurped by bringing loss upon them, for example in gambling and interest-based banking. As a result of these illegal means of earning money, some individuals grow as parasites while the whole community is thrown into poverty. Even if such transactions were to be carried out by a mutual consent of the parties involved, such transactions shall not be permissible because they are nothing but a formalized crime against the entire community.
If anyone succeeds in grabbing something belonging to somebody else through a court by means of fraud, false witness or oath, the curse of having done that will weigh heavy on his shoulders and he should, thinking of the ultimate accountability in the Hereafter and appearance in the court of Allah, the All-knowing, the All-Aware, leave it off.
At several places in the Quran abstention from the unlawful and acquisition of the lawful has been stressed upon in different ways. It has also been pointed out in an ayah that human deeds and morals are enormously affected by eating what is lawful. If one does not eat and drink halal things, it will corrupt their morals and deeds. A great portion of the teachings of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has been devoted to the task of saving his Ummah from the unlawful and calling it to the lawful.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated from the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that he said: There are four traits, if there are in you and you have nothing else in the world, they shall suffice you. Those four traits are: guarding a trust, telling the truth, good morals and being particular in eating what is qaleel [less].
It is said that Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas radhiAllahu ‘anhu requested the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to pray for him so that he may become of those whose prayers are accepted. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: O Sa’ad! Make what you eat permissible and pure, and you shall become one whose prayers are responded to. And by Him in whose hands rests the life of Muhammad, when the servant of Allah slips a morsel of what is haram into his stomach, no deed of his is accepted for the next forty days. And a person whose flesh is made of unlawful acquisitions, for that flesh the fire of Hell is the only recipient.
‘Abdullah ibn Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: By him in whose hands rests my life, no servant of Allah becomes a Muslim unless his heart and tongue become Muslim and until his neighbors are secure from his distressing deeds. And when a servant acquires the unlawful and then gives it in charity, that is not accepted; and if he spends out of it, it stays deprived of blessings; and if he leaves it behind for his inheritors, it becomes his means to enter Hellfire. Surely, Allah Almighty does not help an evil wash off another evil, but He does help the washing away of an evil deed with a good deed.
In a sermon, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “O Emigrants, I seek the refuge of Allah Almighty against five traits of character lest they should grow into you: firstly, against immodesty, for when immodesty prevails in a people they are hit by plagues, epidemics and ever-new diseases not even heard of by their elders; and secondly, against cheating in weights and measures, for when this disease grips a people, they are hit by famine, price-hikes, rigorous labor and over-work and oppressive rulers; and thirdly, against non-payment of Zakah, for when people do not pay Zakah, rains are stopped; and fourthly, against the religious apathy of people, for when a community breaks its covenant with Allah and His Messenger, then Allah Almighty makes alien enemies sit over them who snatch away what belongs to them without any justification; and fifthly, against the apathy of ruling authority, for when the rulers of a people fail to decide matters in accordance with the Book of Allah because the injunctions revealed by Allah Almighty do not suit their fancies, then Allah Almighty causes mutual hatred and disputations descend upon them.”
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us and all Muslims the most perfect ability to stay safe against such unfortunate happenings, aameen.
[Ahadeeth taken from the exegesis: Maarif-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]
DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 188