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> Chapter 83 (Al-Tatfif - Default in
Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 83 (Al-Tatfif - Default in Duty)
of Chapter 83 (At-Tatfif - Default in Duty) of the Holy
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
01. Woe to the cheaters!
This chapter, At-Tatfif (Default in Duty), is an early Makkan revelation. In the last chapter, Al-Infitar (The Cleaving), mention was made of the recording of goodness and evil and the resulting division of two classes of people - the righteous and the wicked. We are now provided with a further description of these two groups.
1. Woe to the cheaters
Mutaffifin (cheaters) refers to all those who give less than they should whether it pertains to their duties to Allah or to their fellow human beings. More is said of them in the following verses:
2. Who, when they take the measure (of their dues) from men, take it fully,
The above is a most beautiful explanation of the fulfilment of our duties to Allah and to His servants for, as far as the usurpation of rights is concerned in this world, this is the root from which all other branches grow - the selling of inferior products for the highest possible price. In other words, the seller tries to make a fool of the buyer whilst the latter endeavours to get the best commodities at the lowest price.
In short, each party tries to outsmart the other and every trick is employed and this happens at every level of trading - from the meat shops, to the market stalls, to the jewellery stores. In the modern world, advertisements and packaging are the vehicles of widespread fraudulent practices for here overblown claims are made concerning products in attractive advertisements but when the buyer examines the products he has bought he realises that he has been taken in.
Contrast this attitude with that of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who, even before his prophetic appointment, had gone to Syria on trading journeys for Lady Khadijah (rta) whose goods were entrusted to him for this purpose. His practice was to inform the seller of the exact condition of his goods - if they were first-class, he sang their praises; if they contained certain defects, he apprised him of it with the result that people soon grew to trust him to such an extent that all his goods were sold out in quick time.
Such, too, was the noble example that was passed on to those who enjoyed his company. Once a young boy approached a Companion of the Holy Prophet with a horse and offered to sell it to him at a certain price. The Companion told the youth: "Walk the horse."
The young boy obeyed, whereupon the Companion said: "Son, you do not know the true value of your horse. This animal is worth a hundred more dirhams (gold coins) than you are asking."
He then asked the boy to show him how the horse trotted. When he saw how well it did, he added another hundred dirhams to the price. After that, he requested him to make the horse canter. The youth did accordingly and on seeing the evidence, the Companion of the Holy Prophet added another hundred dirhams to the price with the following explanation: "Young man, this horse was worth more than you asked but you did not know that. I, however, do not want to take unlawful advantage of your ignorance." And, so, paying several times more than the asking price, he bought the horse.
This is indeed a sublime and highly exalted example of righteousness, but, at least in our dealings we should not give less than what the commodity deserves for, if we like to be paid in full for our goods, why should we not treat others in the same manner?
We must remember that the measuring and weighing mentioned in these verses are not limited to grain and merchandise or to the measuring of liquids, but, in fact, cover all our rights and obligations in social intercourse. The withholding of true measure is a bane in every branch of everyday life. Others demand their rights from us and if they should fall short, they are quick to complain and become angry and even quarrel. But when it comes to returning us the favour, they show not the slightest desire to do so. What happens with us also finds a counterpart in the Government Service. People quarrel for wages and travelling allowances but, in return, they fail to perform their duties adequately to the Government or to the public. For example, a government health officer may take his wife in his car for an evening drive and then make a claim for travelling expenses by falsely stating that he had gone on a particular assignment in a certain village whilst on duty. This is indeed fraud and corruption.
Similarly, a wife demands her rights from her husband who in turn expects the same from her but neither is concerned with his or her obligations to the other. And the same obtains with parents and children, as well as friends, relatives and neighbours. If we are ill or experiencing some kind of sorrow or mourning, we expect them to offer their help and condolence and we make a million complaints if they fall short in the slightest manner. But when they are in the same position we show not the least inclination to return the favour and devise countless excuses not to be there with them. In other words, when others fall short in their obligations to us, we carp and cavil and make all kinds of complaints but we do not apply the same scrutiny to our own deeds. In fact, instead of carping and making ourselves soldiers of the Almighty as far as the performance of other people's duties go, we should be examining our own actions to see whether we are fulfilling our duties to others as we ought to or not, for we shall be questioned only for what we are responsible.
This same attitude extends to our duties to Allah, Most High, also. We hope for every favour and kindness from Him but we openly fall short in our duties to Him. If, perchance, we suffer a Divinely-ordained misfortune, we forget totally His limitless favours and mercies to us night and day, and Allah forbid, we are ready to do battle with Him. On the other hand, we do not analyse our deeds to discover to what degree we are obedient to Him. Indeed, how true are the words of the Almighty that He revealed to us in the above verses concerning the plight of the defaulters. He tells us further that such people do not remember that they have to die and will have to stand in the presence of their Lord and give an account of their deeds.
4. Do they not think that they will be raised again,
By calling the Day of Resurrection yaumin 'azim (a mighty day), the intention is to emphasise the fact that it will be a day of unsurpassable glory and honour when all will have to stand in the presence of the Lord of all the worlds and render account. The Lord of all the worlds has promised that on that day everyone will receive the bounty of His Providence with justice and equity. No one will be accorded special privileges on that day, whether high or low, or rich or poor. On the other hand, all will be treated with justice for that will be the Day of Judgement and He will be the Master and the Lord of all - high or low alike.
7. Nay, surely the record of the wicked is in the prison.
Sijjin (in the measure of fa'il, that is, intensive) is derived from sijn and means a prison, which the Holy Quran itself goes on to explain:
8. And what will make thee know what the prison is?
From the above it seems that the reference is to a book which is connected with a prison, that is, a register in which the names of the evil-doers are inscribed together with their misdeeds. In other words, they will be in prison because of their wrong-doings, with their names and the nature of their crimes recorded in a book.
So, when the names and the misdeeds of the transgressors are recorded in the official registry of the prison, there can be no doubt that these people are really serving a sentence in jail for, in any case, their condition and treatment will be in accordance with what is recorded in the official book. And this is a prison which they brought upon themselves because of their actions.
In this world, whoever obeys the Divine commands of the Lord so as to use his talents and capabilities on the path of moderation and so willingly puts a restraint on his passions and protects himself from extremes, will be rewarded with progress and perfection. However, if man does not voluntarily restrain or "imprison" his low desires and becomes immoderate in his behaviour because of slavery to his animal passions, then Divine authority itself consigns him to a prison as a form of punishment. But bear in mind that the purpose underlying this Divine action is to reform the sinner and not merely to punish him.
The same obtains with worldly governments which institute laws that serve to regulate the behaviour of man, or, in other words, they put him in a prison, so to speak. Those who obey these laws, or observe the restraints put on them, will be honoured as peaceful, law-abiding and respectable citizens. On the other hand, those who do not observe these checks and balances and so break the laws of the land will be sent by the government into another kind of prison, which, this time, is an enforced punishment - a jail house - with the twin objectives of punishment and reformation.
The same lot will befall those who disobey the Divine Law and do not subject their passions to the dictates of Allah's commands and so transgress the limits of moderation. In the Hereafter, Allah will relegate them to a sijjin (prison) in order to reform them through punishment.
10. Woe on that day to the rejecters!
Whether a person rejects the day of Resurrection as a matter of belief or belies it through his actions is all the same for both parties, in effect, fall into the same category, that is, of deniers. Those who deny it by means of actions are people who openly profess with their tongues that they believe in the truth of the day of Resurrection but when it comes to their actions, it is a different matter. So, for both these classes of rejecters, that day will be a day of regret and destruction as the following verses further explain:
12. And none gives the lie to it but every exceeder of limits, every sinful one;
That is, every sinner who is disobedient to the laws of Allah and who transgresses beyond limits, in fact rejects the belief in the day of Resurrection by his very actions and this denial can assume several forms.
Firstly, when the belier hears Allah's revelation being recited, he scoffs contemptuously at it and regards it as mere stories from ancient times. That is, in his opinion, the age in which such preaching used to be effective has long since gone. This, he asserts, is now the era of knowledge, advancement and enlightenment, so he does not want to be bothered by what he considers to be fables and meaningless babble suited for a bygone era. Not only does he have no faith in the words of Allah, but he goes beyond that to the point of scornfully rejecting it, and, regarding it as a deception from the past, he adopts an attitude of total indifference to it and thus is completely unconcerned about the responsibility for his actions. This is the attitude of many of today's so-called fashionable and sophisticated gentlemen who seem enamoured of the latest trends and fashions.
In the second group are to be found those who believe in the revelation of Allah, but they feel that it applies only to those who lived in the past and not to them, and so they never examine their actions in the light of the Quranic verses. To this party belong not only the common people but also the learned ones ('ulama) and there are many of this ilk among them. For example, when the Holy Quran speaks of the sin of ascribing partners to Allah, people of this group feel that these verses refer only to the idolaters of Makkah and they never think that these threats and warnings could extend to them and their polytheistic behaviour. When the Holy Quran warns of the consequences of opposing the Truth, again they limit the application to the rejecters in the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) whilst day and night they engage in deeds that are tantamount to rejection of the Truth and they never ever feel perturbed by the threats of punishment contained in these verses. In fact, such people, by their conduct, relegate the whole of the Quran to the category of "tales of the ancients."
It is indeed a mighty blessing of the Mujaddid of the Age, the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, that he proved the practical relevance of the Holy Quran to the present age and thus people came to understand and appreciate the fact that the Holy Quran is the Book of guidance for us today as it was for those in the past, and that our faith and deeds are to be measured in the light of the guidance found in its pages. Otherwise, the religious leaders of today (maulvis) would have left no stone unturned in their attempt to treat the verses of the Holy Quran as "stories of those of yore."
Today, whatever pleasure we experience when reading the Holy Quran, every single verse of which we regard as life-giving, comes as a direct result of our conviction that it has a direct bearing on our lives. Today, we believe in its threats and promises and expect their fulfilment in the same way as the early Muslims believed and hoped and feared when it was first revealed. Thus, the Holy Quran is for us a living book.
It is indeed quite true that if we do not put the teachings of the Holy Quran into practice in our daily lives we will never understand its deeper meanings nor benefit from its guidance. In order to derive joy and ecstasy from reading and practising the Holy Quran, we must let it enter and pervade our lives and then its bounties and blessings will descend upon us. In short, those who consider the verses of the Holy Quran as "stories of the ancients" are not only those who regard religion as so many tales of the past, but also included in this category are those who limit the teachings of the Holy Book to people who lived in the past and consider themselves as exempt from every restraint the Divine Law imposes on them and who appear to be blissfully unconcerned about every promise or warning.
14. Nay, rather, what they earned is rust upon the hearts.
This verse effectively refutes the wrong notion that the verses of the Holy Quran are "stories of the ancients." Instead, it says that the evil deeds of people produce a rust which settles on the heart and kills their conscience and so they feel not the slightest twinge of fear regarding the responsibilities for their actions. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was once questioned on the nature of this rust and he explained it thus:
"When a servant commits a sin, a black spot forms on his heart. If he repents, his heart becomes clean, but if he does not, and sins again, then another spot falls on his heart until ultimately his whole heart becomes black."
So, when a man's heart becomes black because of his evil deeds, then his conscience dies and no preaching or advice directed to his intellect makes any impression on him, for the innate feeling of accountability for his deeds gradually diminishes until it disappears completely.
15. Nay, surely they are that day debarred from their Lord.
That is, they will be deprived of Allah's Rububiyyat (Providence) on which man depends for his progress, perfection and nourishment of every kind. In other words, the door to all manner of advancement and excellence will be closed to them. The very veil that hung between them and their Lord in this life will be made manifest to them in the next life. Further, they will have no share in the limitless bounties of their Lord, neither will they be able to catch even a glimpse of His resplendent glory, a sight of which produces in man a feeling of happiness, contentment and ecstasy, which is above every other boon of which the human mind can conceive. The veil that covered the eye of every evil-doer and blocked his sight in this life is the same one which will prevent him from seeing the countenance of his Lord in the Hereafter. The eye of the heart which could not see Allah in this life will be veiled from seeing Him in the next life, and that person will end up being a most unfortunate one. So that We may try them thereby. And whoever turns away from the reminder of his Lord, He will make him enter into an afflicting chastisement (72:17).
16. Then they will surely enter the burning Fire.
That is, they have been cut off from the Providence of Allah. In other words, on the one hand they have been deprived of all kinds of advancement and excellence. On the other hand, there is the punishment and pain of the hell which their low passions and base desires created for them.
How frightful then is the result of this record in the prison.
17. Then it will be said: This is what you gave the lie to.
They will be told that this is the consequence of their actions - a consequence which they deliberately ignored when they were engaged in unlawful actions.
18. Nay, surely the record of the righteous is in the ('illiyyin) highest places.
'Illiyyin means the most exalted stations or people of the noblest rank. A further description is given in the following verses:
19. And what will make thee know what the highest places are?
From this it appears that 'illiyun refers to a book that is connected with high places or to people of aristocratic status. In other words, it is the register of exalted people. Now, it is clear that a person whose name and deeds are found in the same book in which elevated places or the names of royal personages are inscribed will find himself in the same elite company or in the same lofty places as them. These are the ones who restrained their desires and passions in this life in obedience to the Divine Law of the Almighty and whose behaviour followed the line of balance and moderation. The result of their self-restraint is progress and excellence, lofty ranks and exalted places in which to reside, and progress which knows no end. Indeed, they will advance to higher and yet higher stations.
21. Those drawn near (to Allah) witness it.
The meaning is that in this register of the names of the nobility, in which the names of the righteous will be written, there will also be found those who are closest in rank (muqarrabun) to Allah, Most High. And as their names are in this book, they will become the inheritors of everlasting happiness. In this life, if a citizen is fortunate enough to have his name included in the list of the aristocracy, he will not be able to contain himself for joy. Just imagine how boundless will be his delight if he should find his name among the courtiers of Allah, or among those who are drawn close to Him!
22. Surely the righteous are in bliss
This is the couch or throne of honour. Just as in this world a seat of honour in the Court is an indication of closeness to the king, so, too, in the Hereafter, for the righteous there will be reserved in the Court of Allah thrones which are far superior in honour to a mere seat or chair in this life. Is there anything else to inspire more delight in the heart of man? However, this is not all. Such will be the good fortune of the pious that they will also be graced with a sight of Allah's glorious countenance. Of all the blessings mentioned here for the righteous, the supreme rapture will be a sight of the True Beloved. The sight that will meet their eyes as is implied in the word yanzurun (viewing) is a vision of the Divine Glory and its attendant grandeur and magnificence.
24. Thou recognisest in their faces the brightness of bliss.
When man's heart and mind experience a feeling of happiness, then this radiance of joy shines on his face.
25. They are given to drink of a pure drink, sealed.
Rahiq means something to drink, or pure wine which does not bring any stupor of drunkenness, or which is free of impurities or harmful things. That wine is, in fact, the love for Allah. Love is here compared to wine. Just as wine vivifies all the faculties of man, and when he is under its influence he works with single-mindedness of purpose and great determination in whatever work he is performing, and oblivious of all extraneous concerns, he devotes his strength and ability to his chosen task, in the same way, love incorporates a similar kind of intoxication. And this intoxication stimulates the spirit and energies of man, and in order to win his beloved he forgets everything else and focuses all his energies in that direction.
However, just as the physical wine of this world contains within it a harmful influence, that is, after a great surge of energy there is a hangover and consequent weakness and depression, and after strength, inertia sets in, in the same way, the love of this world's life leads finally to a condition of decadence. The fervour of love abates after a while. Indeed, many a time it is replaced by hatred and enmity. Thus, the love of this world embodies a kind of intoxication that causes much damage to man. On the other hand, the love of Allah contains no such stupefying quality. Indeed, it produces an intoxication that never subsides and its influence on the natural capacities of man is firm and constant. The enthusiasm and energy that the love of Allah imparts to the talents of man never abates but rather, day by day, they increase in vigour. In the same way, the goblet of love that the true servant will receive as a reward from on High for his love for Allah will be free from all sickening stupor or harm or decay.
The use of the word "sealed" means that it will be the exclusive gift for the righteous servant just as a sealed package is specially for the person to whom it is sent. And this matter assumes more significance if it comes from the King, for it then becomes an occasion for limitless honour.
Thus, whatever cup is bestowed to the servant from the King's court will be sealed. That is, it will be only for him, and the measure of that cup will be in direct proportion to the degree of love and sincerity that the servant possessed in his heart for his Creator. In whatever way the connection of every heart with its True Beloved is unique, so, too, will be the cup of Allah's love to the servant. It will be specially for him and for that reason it will be sealed.
The Holy Quran also states that the seal will be of musk. Whenever Allah exalts a servant through His love for him, although that servant keeps the love as safely hidden from others as he could because he does not like anyone to have the slightest knowledge of his love and sincerity, in the same way, Allah's cup of love will be sealed when the servant receives it. It will be concealed from the world and will be vouchsafed specially to him.
However, since the seal will be of musk, it will consequently give off its fragrance profusely. There is a sign in this that however hidden the secret of Allah's love may be, its perfume will continue to spread. In this world also, if a dutiful servant attains a measure of love for and closeness to the Almighty, then his fragrance will ultimately be diffused far and wide.
26. ... And for that let the aspirers aspire.
The meaning is that in this world every man who likes something displays a deep desire for it and makes every attempt to fight and even compete for it. This vying evinces itself in several directions: competition for the latest in fashions, for jewellery, for trade or for the acquisition of wealth. Sometimes it is revealed in the ambition to gain high status or honour.
Allah, Most High, advises man that if there is something worth vying for, then that something should be intoxication in the love of his Creator as well as striving to attain the most exalted of stations. If he has to compete, then he should compete for something that will bring him perpetual benefit for there is no benefit in striving for temporary possessions.
27. And it is tempered with water coming from above,
Tasnim comes from sanam (hump of a camel). This is derived from sanima: to be tall, or to be raised high, and so the sanam (hump) of anything is its highest part. This tasnim means that kind of water which flows on the righteous from high above. The receiving of those cups by those who are true lovers of the Almighty - cups which are mixed with tasnim - points to the fact that love for Allah possesses an intrinsic quality that ennobles and elevates. After a person drinks this water he receives a life that is more virtuous than the previous one. The uplifting quality of this water means that in the measure man drinks or will drink this water, in the same proportion he will continue to inherit the blessings of high rank and advancement. And just as there is no limit to those cups, the progression of his advancement and high rank will have no end.
It is related in a hadith that, in heaven, a righteous servant will notice a lofty position and will plead with his Lord for that position, promising that if he is given it he will not ask for anything beyond that. But when he is given it by his Lord, he will discern another station higher than this one and he will begin to yearn for it. He will make the same promise as before but when he is blessed with acceptance of his second request he will espy yet another more elevated position and will wish to attain that one, too. In short, he will continue making steady and continuous progress and will ascend to higher and higher places as the Holy Quran assures us: But those who keep their duty to their Lord, for them are high places, above them higher places, built (for them), wherein rivers flow. (It is) the promise of Allah. Allah fails not in (His) promise (39:20).
The reason he will promise to desire nothing else after his request is fulfilled is that man's vision is limited. He will see a high position and will think that there can be nothing beyond that. But when he gains that peak he will realise that there is a loftier summit that makes his present position look low and inferior and so he will wish to attain this new height for this is in accordance with the demands of his inner God-given nature (fitrah) and it is also a great boon from his Lord Who continues to make him ascend from one stage to another.
29. Surely those who are guilty used to laugh at those who believe.
This is the ultimate in mockery. Those worshippers of this world's life who themselves are continuously engaged in all kinds of filthy pursuits laugh scornfully and tauntingly at the poor Muslims and even wink and raise their eyebrows at them in contempt. They possess not the slightest bit of humanity or nobility and so feel no shame whatever for their own actions. Nay, on the other hand, they audaciously assume an air of superiority over others!
31. And when they returned to their people, they returned exulting.
That is, when they are in the company of their close ones they perversely boast how they had taunted and ridiculed the believers and made fun at their expense. In other words, they take pride in their own unworthiness and feel proud about it, too. But that is not all. They go so far as to pass a sentence of unbelief (takfir) against the believers, as the next verse reveals:
32. And when they saw them, they said: Surely these are in error.
In other words, they accuse the Muslims of being misguided and even pronounce them unbelievers.
33. And they were not sent as keepers over them.
The question arises: Who gave them the right to label the Muslims as unguided and outside the pale of the faith? Allah alone knows who is on the wrong path and who is an unbeliever. It is not the business of men to go about issuing proclamations of heresy against others, willy-nilly. The following incident related in a hadith of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) will serve to highlight the error of this practice. Once, a Companion of the Holy Prophet killed a certain person in a battle even though the person, just before he was killed, had pronounced the shahadah (testimony of faith). When the Holy Prophet was informed of this incident he was very grieved and sought an explanation from the Companion who proffered the excuse that the person had declared himself a Muslim only through fear of losing his life and was, in fact, a pagan. This reply made the Holy Prophet very angry and he asked him:
"Did you tear open his heart to see (whether he was a Muslim or not)?"
How noble a guidance! Would that our present-day religious leaders take a warning from this!
Allah, Most High, asks: "Have you been appointed as guards and watchmen over them, that is, the believers, that you have arrogated to yourselves the authority to issue the pronouncement of unbelief against them?"
And the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) inquired: "Have you burst open their hearts to see what is in them so that you can make a decision as to who is a Muslim and who is not?"
Unfortunately, our religious leaders reply to this in this way: "If we give up the practice of issuing edicts of unbelief, then what weapon will we have at our disposal to keep Muslims on the right path?"
May Allah bless our religious leaders with the understanding to take a warning from the following verses:
34. So this day those who believe laugh at the disbelievers.
These words are used metaphorically. In fact, the word "laugh" is not employed in the literal sense for even in this world a believer does not laugh at a disbeliever but instead feels sympathy for him and learns from his predicament. What is meant here is that on that day, those people who, in their pride and contempt, scoff at the believers, will find the tables turned against them in that their very condition, which they brought upon themselves by their own doings, will be such as to excite laughter and even scorn. In other words, the result will be that those who ridiculed the Muslims will suffer a fate of abasement and will themselves become the laughing stock of all and sundry. The next verse clearly explains the true nature of this laughter:
35. On raised couches, gazing.
The believers will be sitting on couches of honour, gazing at the abject and lamentable plight of those who, in the life of this world, used to jeer at them. In other words, the very state of affairs - their honour vis-à-vis the humiliation of their erstwhile tormentors - will speak for itself against the latter's unwarranted mockery. The laughter inherent in the changed circumstances of the persecutors will embody a deep truth as Allah says:
36. Surely the disbelievers are rewarded as they did.
Whatever recompense they will receive will be in accordance with their actions. Thus, whatever takes place on that day (of Judgement) will be based strictly on the principles of justice and equity.
of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat
> Chapter 83 (Al-Tatfif - Default in