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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 39 (Verses 282 to 283)



Section/Ruku 39 [Verses 282 to 283]: Contracts and evidence:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

282 O you who believe, when you contract a debt for a fixed time, write it down.
a And let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; nor should the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so let him write. And let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should observe his duty to Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it. But if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness.b And call to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two womenc from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the one may remind the other.d And the witnesses must not refuse when they are summoned. And be not averse to writing it whether it is small or large along with the time of its falling due. This is more equitable in the sight of Allah and makes testimony surer and the best way to keep away from doubts. But when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, there is no blame on you in not writing it down. And have witnesses when you sell one to another. And let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witnesses.e And if you do (it), then surely it is a transgression on your part. And keep your duty to Allah. And Allah teaches you. And Allah is Knower of all things.

283 And if you are on a journey and you cannot find a scribe, a security may be taken into possession.a But if one of you trusts another, then he who is trusted should deliver his trust, and let him keep his duty to Allah, his Lord. And conceal not testimony. And whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful. And Allah is Knower of what you do.

 2. Commentary:

282a. The subject of usury, which is connected with the lending and borrowing of money and trading in general, brings us to the subject of contracts. If Islam enjoins charity and prohibits usury, it requires at the same time that the greatest precautions must be taken for safeguarding property rights. A noteworthy thing about this is that the Arabs were quite an ignorant people, among whom writing was very rare. Even then they were required to put down all their transactions, great or small, in writing, except in hand-to-hand dealings. [Back to verse 282]

282b. These words form the basis of the guardian and ward law, as they point out when a guardian may be appointed for one who is not able to manage his own property. The word which I have translated as weak really signifies one too young (i.e. a minor) or one too old (Bd). Thus a guardian may be appointed not only when the owner is a minor, but also when his understanding is not sound on account of age or any other reason. [Back to verse 282]

282c. As women did not take much part in business, and were therefore unable to understand the transaction, two women are required instead of one man. [Back to verse 282]

282d. The personal pronoun huma may refer either to the testimony of the two witnesses or the two women. Reminding here stands for making up the deficiency of the other’s memory.

The Holy Qur’an does not say that no case should be decided except on the testimony of two witnesses, but requires ordinarily the calling of two witnesses at the time of the transaction, so that the deficiency of one may be rectified by the other. Cases may be decided on circumstantial evidence as well, which is sometimes stronger than the evidence of witnesses. The Holy Qur’an itself speaks of Joseph’s innocence being established on circumstantial evidence (12:26, 27). [Back to verse 282]

282e. They must not be made to suffer loss in their own business. In other words, their convenience must be kept in view, and they should be paid. [Back to verse 282]

283a. This does not mean that a security cannot be taken in any other case. On the other hand, the words that follow show that security may be taken when the lender does not trust the debtor.

It further shows that advantage can be derived by the lender from the movable or immovable property which has been given into his possession as a security for the debt. Thus land mortgaged for a debt may be cultivated, or house-property may be rented or used. This is made clear in a saying of the Prophet: “The mortgaged animal may be used for riding, when it is mortgaged, on account of what is spent on it, and the milk of the milch animal may be drunk when it is mortgaged, and the expenditure shall be borne by him who rides (the animal) and drinks the milk” (B. 48:4). [Back to verse 283]



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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 39 (Verses 282 to 283)

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