In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 220
Ayah 220 features yet another question in a series of several posed by the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. This question relates to the combining of the cost of maintenance of orphans.
Since there was general lack of carefulness about the rights of orphans in pagan Arabia, as elsewhere, warning was given that consuming what belongs to the orphans is like filling bellies with embers of Hell. Consequently, the recipients of this warning were so scared that they, out of preventive measure, started preparing and storing meals given to orphans separately. In case the child ate less, food was left over and, naturally got decomposed. The reason: It was not permissible for them to use food which belonged to the orphans, nor did they have the right to give what belonged to the orphans in charity. This was a matter of sheer discomfort and a source of loss to the orphans as well.
The matter was brought to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam following which came the guidance given in this ayah.
The word tukhaliTuhum [تُخَالِطُوهُمْ] is from the root kha-laam-Ta and it means to mix, intermingle, incorporate or blend. The word laanatakum [لَأَعْنَتَكُم] is from the root ayn-noon-ta and it means to meet with difficulty, to fall into distress or to be overburdened.
About the part, “To this world and the Hereafter,” Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu commented: Meaning about the imminent demise and the brevity of this life, and the imminent commencement of the Hereafter and its continuity.
Ibn Jarir reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said when the ayah, “And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it,” [Al-Anaam 6: 152] and, “Verily, those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, they eat up only fire into their bellies, and they will be burnt in the blazing Fire!” [An-Nisa 4: 10] were revealed, those who took care of some orphans, separated their food and drink from the orphan’s food and drink. When some of the orphan’s food and drink remained, they would keep it for them until they eat it or otherwise get spoiled. This situation was difficult for them and resulted in wastage of food. Therefore, they mentioned this to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed this ayah.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us that the purpose of His commands is not to make our lives difficult but to encourage us to live an honest life. There is no harm in mixing the property of the orphans with one’s wealth as long as no one’s right was being usurped. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala strengthened the bond by calling one another “brothers”. We have mentioned in the previous ayaat that one way of attaining barakah [blessings] is by opening up our hearts to others and sharing our provision. Welfare is better served through a joint expense system. If everyone was selfish and only cared for himself then how would have our bonds of brotherhood be strengthened?
It should also be remembered that looking after the needs of an orphan is not limited to providing them with food, shelter and clothing but also raising them.
Many people believe that their responsibility ends at providing food, but in the absence of one’s parents who will do the tarbiyah of the children? Treat others’ children as you would like your children to be treated. Study the Seerah and see how Prophet’s grandfather and uncles raised him after both his parents had died.
The above permission has been hemmed by a warning that Allah watches over the performance of guardians in this matter, “And Allah knows the corrupter from the amender…” He knows who is mischievous and who is righteous. He knows our intentions. Therefore, we should not wear a garb of piety but be truly righteous in our lives.
He could have, by setting up a harder code of conduct, put the people in trouble that cook separate meals for your family and for the orphan. But, He has provided an easier code of conduct because He is All-Wise and does not obligate people with what they cannot do.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala soften our hearts and allow us to be kind and loving toward the orphans, aameen. Think of the Syrian children and many children who become orphan every day. Perhaps, there is an orphan in your family, how do you treat him/her? Let us not make our hearts constricted if we have to feed and look after another child. Let us also not forget that just as charity is not limited to material help similarly looking after orphans is not limited to food and shelter. they should be raised as one raises their children meaning they should be taught proper manners and etiquette.
We have learned previously that a kind word is better than a favor that is followed with insult. If you only wish to help others so that you can dominate or humiliate them then keep your charity to yourself. If you have been kind to someone but they have not reciprocated your favor then again check your intention. If you sincerely did it for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then you will seek reward from Him and not from the recipient of your favor.
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