Al-Baqarah · Juz 3 · Qur'an Tafseer

The Necessity of Writing down Financial Transactions

bismillah

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 282 [Part 1]

This is the longest ayah of the Qur’an and the last to be revealed. Reflect on the sequence of the Qur’an, the initial ayaat were about Tawheed [Monotheism], compassion and building a stronger Muslim community. Until the people were informed of the purpose of their lives, and cleansed of their evil traits, they were not burdened with heavy commands. When a Muslim community was established, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed an ayah that dealt with the financial matters.

Today, we live in the days where the written word is all the rage. Go back to fourteen hundred years ago where almost the entire business was conducted verbally. The principle of writing and retaining business documents did not exist. It was then that the Qur’an first pointed out its importance.

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“O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write (it) between you in justice. Let no scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him. So let him write and let the one who has the obligation dictate. And let him fear Allah, his Lord, and not leave anything out of it. But if the one who has the obligation is of limited understanding or weak or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate in justice.

And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses – so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her. And let not the witnesses refuse when they are called upon.

And do not be (too) weary to write it, whether it is small or large, for its (specified) term. That is more just in the Sight of Allah and stronger as evidence and more likely to prevent doubt between you, except when it is an immediate transaction which you conduct among yourselves. For (then) there is no blame upon you if you do not write it. And take witnesses when you conclude a contract.

Let no scribe be harmed or any witness. For if you do so, indeed, it is (grave) disobedience in you. And fear Allah. And Allah teaches you. And Allah is Knowing of all things.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 282]

The word tadayantum [تَدَايَنتُم] is from the root dal-ya-noon and it means “obedience, submissiveness, taking or receiving a loan or borrowing upon credit.” From the same root is the word bidayneen [بِدَيْنٍ].

The word ajalin [أَجَلٍ] is from the root hamza-jeem-lam and it means “assigned or decreed term or period.”

The word musamman [مُّسَمًّى] is from the root seen-meem-wau and it means “mark of identification by which one is recognized or something that is fixed.” For example, the name of a person is specified and fixed. Likewise, the transaction should be fixed and specified that on this day the shipment will be made or these are the terms of this trade.

The word yaba [يَأْبَ] is from the root hamza-ba-ya and it means “to refuse, refrain or abstain.”

The word walyumlili [وَلْيُمْلِلِ] is from the root meem-lam-lam and it means “to dictate.”

The word walyattaqi [وَلْيَتَّقِ] is from the root wau-qaf-ya and it means “to protect, to save or to preserve.”

The word yabkhas [يَبْخَسْ] is from the root ba-kha-seen and it means “to diminish, to lessen or to make defective.”

The word safihan [سَفِيهًا] is from the root seen-fa-ha and it means “to be foolish, less of judgment or unwise.”

The word yastati’u [يَسْتَطِيعُ] is from the root Ta-wau-ayn and it means “to be able or have the power.”

The word tabaya’tum [تَبَايَعْتُمْ] is from the root ba-ya-ayn and it means “selling or buying, exchange of property.”

The word yudarra [يُضَارَّ] is from the root dad-ra-ra and it means “to injure, to hurt or to harm.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down.” Notice that the address begins with “O you who have believed.” We have mentioned earlier that while every word of the Qur’an must be read and understood carefully when any ayah begins with “O you who have believed,” we must be more alert. This is a direct command from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for the believers.

In the ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala directs His believing servants to record their business transactions when their term is delayed. This is to be done in order to preserve the terms and timing of these transactions and the memory of witnesses. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “that is more just in the Sight of Allah and stronger as evidence and more likely to prevent doubt between you.”

The Two Saheehs recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “Allah’s Messenger came to Madinah, while the people were in the habit of paying in advance for fruits to be delivered within one or two years. The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

مَنْ أَسْلَفَ، فَلْيُسْلِفْ فِي كَيْلٍ مَعْلُومٍ، وَوَزْنٍ مَعْلُومٍ، إِلَى أَجَلٍ مَعْلُوم

‘Whoever pays money in advance (for dates to be delivered later) should pay it for known specified measure and weight (of the dates) for a specified date.’”

“Write it down…” mentioned in the ayah is a command from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to record such transactions to endorse and preserve their terms. Ibn Jurayj said, “Whoever borrowed should write the terms, and whoever bought should have witnesses.” Abu Sa’eed, Ash-Sha’bi, Ar-Rabi’ bin Anas, Al-Hasan, Ibn Jurayj and Ibn Zayd said that recording such transactions was necessary before, but was then abrogated by Allah’s statement, “And if one of you entrusts another, then let him who is entrusted discharge his trust (faithfully),” (2: 283). It should be remembered to become trustworthy we must instill taqwa [Allah-consciousness] in ourselves. Nothing can stop a man from committing a wrong except the fear of God.

Two Principles of a Debt Transaction

Two principles have been stated here:

  1. A written document should be prepared if the payment is deferred so that there are no misunderstandings or fasad [trials/arguments] later.
  1. In cases of deferred payments due date of the payment should be determined. It is not permissible to defer the payment for an indefinite period of time because this can open the doors of dispute. Therefore, the Muslim Jurists have stressed that the decided time limit should not have any ambiguity. It should specify the exact date and month.
Responsibilities of a Scribe

Since writing was not common in those days (and even today, the majority of world’s population does not know how to write), it was possible for the scribe of the agreement to write down what was not intended, thereby causing undue loss or gain to one or the other party. Therefore, it was said, “And let a scribe write (it) between you in justice,” and in truth. The scribe must not cheat any party of the contract and only record what the parties of the contract agreed to, without addition or deletion.

He should be impartial and free from prejudice leaving no doubt or concern for others. He should not incur a permanent loss of the Hereafter for the vanishing gains of this world.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala adds, “Let no scribe refuse to write, as Allah has taught him, so let him write.” It means that those who know how to write should not refrain from writing transaction contracts when asked to do so. The scholars commented that the scribe should consider writing such contracts a type of charity from their side for those who are unlettered. It is because being educated and knowing how to write is nothing but a favor from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He taught man what he knew not.

[Tafseer Surah Al-Alaq Ayaat 1-5]

Lessons:

-We learn that when are assigned the task to write down a contract we must be honest. Honesty and trustworthiness is a trait highly valued in businesses, personal relationships and in the Sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

-We should acknowledge that knowledge is a favor of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Therefore, as a gratitude for this favor we should share our knowledge with others without earning money over it. Consider it a charity especially when you do not have material wealth to give away. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala taught us how to write and communicate, we should also ask Him to grant us Hikmah and decisiveness, and make us stronger in our knowledge. Allahumma aameen.

In ahadeeth we learn,

إنَّ مِنَ الصَّدَقَةِ أَنْ تُعِينَ صَانِعًا، أَوْ تَصْنَعَ لِأَخْرَق

“It is a type of charity to help a worker and to do something for a feeble person.”

The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also said,

مَنْ كَتَمَ عِلْمًا يَعْلَمُهُ، أُلْجِمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِلِجَامٍ مِنْ نَار

“Whoever kept knowledge to himself will be restrained by a bridle made of fire on the Day of Resurrection.”

[Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayaat 174 – 176]

Therefore, if someone is asked to scribe then he must not refuse to do so.

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]

 

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