Surah Al-Baqarah (275-286)
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَوا لَا يَقُومُونَ إِلَّا كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنْ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللَّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا فَمَنْ جَاءَهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ فَانتَهَى فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُوْلَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ يَمْحَقُ اللّهُ الْرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَاللّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتَوُاْ الزَّكَاةَ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ ( 275- 277 )
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَذَرُواْ مَا بَقِيَ مِنَ الرِّبَا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُواْ فَأْذَنُواْ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُؤُوسُ أَمْوَالِكُمْ لاَ تَظْلِمُونَ وَلاَ تُظْلَمُونَ وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَى مَيْسَرَةٍ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللّهِ ثُمَّ تُوَفَّى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ (278-281)
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنتُمْ بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُبْ بَيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلَا يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلْ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلَا يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإِنْ كَانَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُ أَنْ يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُوا شَهِيدَيْنِ مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّنْ تَرْضَوْنَ مِنْ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَنْ تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَى وَلَا يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَاءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُوا وَلَا تَسْأَمُوا أَنْ تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلَّا تَرْتَابُوا إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلَّا تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُوا إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلَا يُضَارَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلَا شَهِيدٌ وَإِنْ تَفْعَلُوا فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمْ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (282)
وَإِن كُنتُمْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ وَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ كَاتِبًا فَرِهَانٌ مَّقْبُوضَةٌ فَإِنْ أَمِنَ بَعْضُكُم بَعْضًا فَلْيُؤَدِّ الَّذِي اؤْتُمِنَ أَمَانَتَهُ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلاَ تَكْتُمُواْ الشَّهَادَةَ وَمَن يَكْتُمْهَا فَإِنَّهُ آثِمٌ قَلْبُهُ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ (283)
لِّلَّهِ ما فِي السَّمَاواتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُواْ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (284)
آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَآ أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ (285-286)
[On the other hand], those who devour interest1 will rise up on the Day of Judgment like the man whom Satan has driven to madness by his touch.2 This is because they claim that trading is like interest and how strange it is that Allah has permitted trading and forbidden interest.3 [No doubt, God has prohibited it]. Consequently, he who received this warning from the Almighty4 and desisted, then whatever he has taken in the past belongs to him. [No action shall be taken against him], and his fate is in the hands of Allah.5 And those who commit [the offence even after this warning] will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein forever.6 [On that Day] God will blot interest7 and increase charity,8 and [in reality], God does not like the ungrateful and the usurper of rights. Those who profess faith and do good deeds, adhere to the prayer and pay zakah, will be rewarded by their Lord and will have nothing to fear or to be sorrowful about. (275-77)
O you who believe! Fear Allah and give up what remains of your interest. But, if you do it not, beware of war from Allah and His Prophet.9 And if you repent, then you can have your principal amount. Neither will you be allowed to deal unjustly nor will you be dealt with unjustly. And if the borrower is in difficulty grant him respite until it is easy for him to repay and if you write off [the debt], it is better for you, if you only knew.10 And fear the day when you shall all return to God. Then every soul shall be paid back for what it did and none shall be wronged (278-281)
O you who believe! [maters of lending and borrowing shall continue; so] when you acquire a loan for a fixed period, record it in writing, and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and he who can write should not refuse to write; in fact, just as Allah has taught him to write, he also should write for others; and the one who has acquired the loan should have [the document] written down11 and fearing Allah his Lord, he should not make any reduction in it. If he on whom rests the responsibility of writing is indiscreet or feeble or unable to have it written, then let his guardian do so with justice. And call in two male witnesses from among your men, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women from among your likable people so that if one of them gets confused, the other reminds her.12 And witnesses must not refuse when they are summoned. And whether the loan is big or small, be not negligent in documenting the deal up to its period. This is more just in the sight of Allah, it ensures accuracy in testifying and is the most appropriate way for you to safeguard against doubts. But if it be an everyday transaction, it does not matter if you do not write it down. And call in witnesses also if you sell or purchase anything, and let no harm be done to the scribe or the witness. And if you do so, then this will be a transgression which will cling to you.13 And fear Allah, and [do understand that] Allah is teaching you. He has knowledge of all things.14 (282)
And if you are in a journey and a scribe is not available, a loan can be taken by placing something in possession of the lender against the loan.15 Then when circumstances are such that people can trust one another, the lender should return the thing entrusted to him and he should keep fearing Allah his Lord16 [and should call in people to bear evidence on this matter], and do not conceal evidence [in whatever form it is], and [remember that] whoever conceals it, his heart will become sinful17, and [remember that] God knows whatever you do. (283)
18To God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth; [so you too O Israelites shall one day be returned to Him] and whatever is in your hearts whether you reveal it or hide it, God will bring you to account for it. Then He will forgive whom He wants to [according to His law] and punish whom He wants to, and God has power over all things. (284)
[If you19 do not believe this then it is you alone who will face its consequences]. Our messenger has professed faith in20 what has been revealed to him by His Lord, and so do those who follow [him]. All these professed faith in God and His angels and His books and His messengers.21 [They affirm:] “We do not discriminate against any of God’s messengers”22, and they said: “We heard and have obeyed”.23 Lord! We seek Your forgiveness,24 and [know that] to You shall we return – [This is a fact that] God does not burden a person beyond his capacity. [It is His law that] he alone will get what it earned and he alone will pay for what he did25 – Lord, take us not to task if we forget or lapse into error,26 and Lord, do not lay on us a burden such as You laid on those before us.27 And Lord, do not burden us with what we cannot bear.28 And pardon us, and forgive us our sins, and have mercy upon us. You alone are our Lord and help us against these disbelievers29 [who are confronting us as enemies].” (285-286)
(Translated from Ghamidi’s al-Bayan by Shehzad Saleem)
1. The Qur’anic word used is ربوا. In the English language, it is called interest. It implies a fixed increase which a lender demands from the borrower just because he has given him the permission to use his money for a certain period. Whether a loan is acquired for personal, business or welfare purposes, the real meaning of riba is not ascertained on these bases. It is an indisputable fact that in the Arabic language the word riba, irrespective of the aim of the lender and the condition of the borrower, just implies a pre-determined increase acquired on a loan. Consequently, the Qur’an (30:39) itself has clarified this fact: during its own period of revelation, lending on interest for business purposes was quite rampant and these loans were given with the intention of prospering through the wealth of others. The words used are لِيَرْبُوَا فِي أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ (that it may increase on other people’s wealth). They are not only inappropriate for application to interest-based loans given to the poor for their personal use, but are also clearly indicative of the fact that interest based loans were generally given for business purposes and in this way they “increased through other people’s wealth” according to the Qur’an.
Here, it should be borne in mind that interest pertains only to those transactions in which a commodity is borrowed for the purpose of “using it up” whereby the borrower would be burdened to recreate it in order to return it to the lender. If any additional amount is demanded over and above it, then this no doubt is injustice as affirmed both by reason and revelation. On the contrary, transactions in which the commodities and items in question are “used” rather than being “used up” relate to lease, and the money demanded by the owner on providing this service, which is termed as rent, can in no way be objected to.
2 . It is evident from these words that Satanic touches are of the reasons which make a person mad. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while explaining this aspect writes:
The effects of evil spirits on the righteous are not beyond the fact that they be tested or harmed in some way. However, people who have evil souls, just as their hearts are in the grasp of Satan, similarly sometimes their mind and intellect too are under his control and in outer appearance also they become mad – tearing their clothes, swooning, aimlessly moving around here and there with disheveled hair and distraught countenance. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 631)
3 . The reason why devourers of interest will be raised up on the Day of Judgment as madmen owes itself to their expression of amazement on the fact that the Almighty has not prohibited trading while He has prohibited interest, whereas there is no difference between the two. They maintain that if a trader can demand profit on his capital, why can’t a lender on interest demand profit on his capital. According to the Qur’an, only a madman can give such an insane statement and such insanity demands that its reward be no different than insanity itself. So in accordance with the law of similarity between the deed and its reward, such people would be raised up as madmen on the Day of Judgment.
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while commenting on this expression of amazement of interest-devourers, remarks:
It is evident from the objection raised by the interest devourers that the breed of people who regard interest and trading as analogous to one another is not very rare after all. It was found even in olden times. The Qur’an has not even commented on this foolish objection since its baseless nature is self-evident and only sheds light on the insanity of those who raise it. A trader invests his capital in a trade which is in demand from the people. He makes his merchandise available to people through hard work and by taking a lot of risk. These people, in the first place, were not in a position to produce this merchandise themselves, and, if, they were able to, then it was only at a heavy cost. Moreover, a trader spews his capital in the open market for competition and his profit is determined by the low and high trends of the market itself. He may end up losing all his money due to these trends and he may be able to make some profit. So his hands are tied in this enterprise as he cannot earn a single penny of profit in selling his merchandise until his invested capital enters the market after being exposed to the risks and fluctuations of the market forces and after once again providing service to the society.
So how can the enterprise of a trader, who takes risk and provides service to the society when he invests his capital, be compared to that of an interest-devourer whose enterprise is mean, callous, cowardly and hostile to humanity in its very nature. He is a person who is not willing to take the slightest risk with his capital but is very eager to extort profit. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 632)
4 . The Qur’anic words used are فَمَنْ جَاءَهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِ. The verb for the word مَوْعِظَةٌ is masculine because the feminine gender of مَوْعِظَةٌ does not connote actual femininity and for such words, a verb can be used to convey the meaning regardless of the gender. The implication of the words is that no one should consider this lightly. It is an admonishment from God. Ignoring it would lead its addressees to great danger.
5 . That is no action will be taken against them in this world. However, as far as the Hereafter is concerned, their matter rests with God. The reason is that to escape the punishment of the Hereafter it is not enough that a person merely desist from taking interest. The Almighty will also see a person’s inner motives and what was done to atone for previous sins.
6. The reason for this punishment is that it is evident from their own attitude that they were not willing to follow this directive of the Almighty. This is outright disbelief and shall be punished in the very manner disbelievers are punished.
7. That is on the Day of Judgement, the devourers of interest will feel ashamed and be regretful. They will see that the millions they earned in the previous world are of absolutely no worth to them there.
8. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have explained this as per a narrative in Tirmadhi (No. 662): The Almighty accepts charity and takes it from His right hand. Then He nourishes His creation in the very manner a person nourishes his young goat until to God a mouthful given by a person becomes [as large as the] mountain of Uhud.
9. The words are tantamount to an ultimatum. In other words, those who will still not comply with this directive will face army action for this rebellious attitude. It is evident from this that persistence in taking interest is such a big crime that its perpetrators can be taken to task for committing treason.
10. This verse provides further evidence on the fact that in the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, loans would generally be given for trade and business purposes. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi comments on this verse in the following words:
Today some naive people claim that the type of interest which prevailed in Arabia before the advent of Islam was usury. The poor and the destitute had no option but to borrow money from a few rich money-lenders to fulfill their personal needs. These money-lenders exploited the poor and would lend them money at high interest rates. It is only this type of interest which the Qur’an has termed as riba and forbidden. As far as commercial interest is concerned, it neither existed at that time nor did the Qur’an prohibit it.
The verse categorically refutes this view. When the Qur’an says that if the borrower is in difficulty, he should be given respite until he is able to pay back his debt, it clearly points out that in those times even the rich used to acquire loans. In fact, if the style and stress of the verse are correctly understood, it becomes clear that it was mostly the rich who used to procure loans. Indeed, there was a strong chance that the borrower would find himself in difficulty even to pay the original amount. The money-lender, therefore, is directed to give him more time and if he forgoes the original amount it would be better for him. The words of this verse strongly indicate this meaning. The actual words of the verse are: وَإِنْ كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَى مَيْسَرَةٍ. The particle of condition ِانْ (if) is not used for general circumstances, but, in fact, is used for rare and unusual circumstances. For general circumstances the particle اِذَا (if) is used. In the light of this, it is clear that the borrower in those times was generally affluent (ذُوْمَيْسَرَة), but in some cases was poor or had become poor after acquiring the loan and in that case, the Qur’an has directed the money-lenders to give them a time rebate. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 638-639)
He has concluded this discussion by saying:
Obviously, the affluent would have turned to the money-lenders not to fulfill their personal needs, but, of course, their business needs. So what is the difference between these loans and the commercial loans of today. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 639).
11. The Qur’anic word used is فَلْيُمْلِلْ. One of its forms is إِمْلاَ. It is common in Arabic that if three identical letters consecutively exist at the end of a word, the last letter is changed to the letter ى in order to make the word light. In the Qur’an, يَتَسَنَّى and يَتَصَدَّى are examples of this.
12. The following aspects of the principle of bearing witness mentioned in this verse should remain clear:
Firstly, the verse has nothing to do with the bearing of witness over an incident. It explicitly relates to testifying over a document. It is very evident that in the second case witnesses are selected by an external agency, while in the first case the presence of a witness at the site of an incidence is an accidental affair. If we have written a document or signed an agreement, then the selection of witnesses rests upon our discretion, while in the case of adultery, theft, robbery and other similar crimes whoever is present at the site must be regarded as a witness. The difference between the two cases is so pronounced that no law about one can be deduced on the basis of the other.
Secondly, the context and style of the verse is such that it cannot relate to law or the judicial forums of a state. It is not that after addressing a court of law that it has been said that if such a law suit is presented before them by a claimant, then they should call in witnesses in this prescribed manner. On the contrary, this verse directly addresses people who borrow and lend money over a fixed period. It urges them that if they are involved in such dealings, then an agreement between the two parties must be written down, and to avoid disputes and financial losses only witnesses who are honest, reliable and morally sound should be appointed. At the same time, their personal involvement and occupations should be suited to fulfill this responsibility in a befitting manner. Precisely for this reason, Muslims are directed to primarily appoint two male witnesses and in their absence one male and two female witnesses so that if a lady used to the serene surroundings of her house finds herself overwhelmed in the hostile atmosphere of a court room, another lady is present alongside her to protect the evidence from doubt and ambiguity. The verse does not mean and should not be taken to mean that a law-suit will only stand proven in court if at least two men or one man and two women bear witness to it. It is merely a guidance for the general masses in their social affairs and counsels them to abide by it so that any dispute can be avoided. It is for their own benefit and welfare that this procedure should be undertaken. In no way should this bearing of witness be taken to mean that it is a statutory count for a testimony which a court must follow. Consequently, about all similar directives the Almighty says that this procedure is nearer to justice, protects the testimony and safeguards people from doubts.
13. The Qur’anic words used are فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ. As per the linguistic principles of Arabic the ب after فُسُوقٌ incorporate in these words the meaning of clinging.
14. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi has summarized the directives mentioned in this verse in his Tadabbur-i Qur’an in the following words:
i. Whenever a loan is acquired for a certain period, the transaction should be written down in the form of a document.
ii. This document should be written down in a just manner by some scribe in the presence of both the parties. He should not be fraudulent in writing this down. A person who knows how to write should not refuse if he is called upon to do so. The skill of writing is a blessing of Allah, and, in gratitude to this, a person should help others whenever the need arises. The need for this piece of advice arose because in those times very few people knew how to write. Formal and legal documentation and registration had not begun and neither was its inception an easy affair.
iii. The responsibility of writing down the document rests on the borrower. The document should state the name of the person from whom he has borrowed, and like the person who has been entrusted with the responsibility of writing down, he too should uphold the virtue of piety in this affair, and in no way try to damage the parties involved.
iv. If the borrower is naïve, feeble or is not in a position to write down the document, then his guardian or attorney should have it written down on his behalf with justice and fairness.
v. Two male witnesses should testify over this document. The words used are مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ (from among your men), which imply two things simultaneously: firstly, the witnesses should be Muslims and known to the parties involved. The second thing which is specified in this regard is that the witnesses should be honest and trustworthy and of sound character.
vi. If two male Muslims having the said qualities are not available, then one man and two women can be selected to fulfill this responsibility. The requirement for two women is because if one of them commits an error the other may correct her. This is not because women are inferior, but because this responsibility is not very suited to their temperament and general sphere of interests and the environment they are used to. Consequently, the shari’ah has given them some relief and assistance in it. This topic is discussed in detail in Surah Nisa.
vii. People who have borne witness to a document should not desist from giving their testimony when they are called upon to do so because bearing witness to a truth is a great social service also, and as witnesses to the truth, it is a responsibility of the ummah imposed on it by the Qur’an.
viii. If the loan, whether it be small in amount or large, is acquired for a period and is not an everyday loan, one must not show aversion to writing it down. People who ignore this by considering it a burden, sometimes get involved in severe disputes which produce far reaching results merely because of this slackness.
ix. All these directives are in accordance with justice, and they safeguard testimonies and protect people from doubts and disputes. So it is necessary to follow them for the general well-being of the society.
x. Everyday loans and transactions are not required to be written down.
xi. Witnesses, however, should be called upon important deals and transactions to resolve any disputes that may arise.
xii. It is not proper for a party to harm the scribe or the witness if a dispute arises. Scribes and witnesses do a great social service, and if they are harmed, honest and cautious people will start avoiding these responsibilities and, except for professional witnesses, people will have difficulty in finding witnesses who are reliable. In present times, the reason honest and serious minded people avoid these responsibilities is that whenever some dispute arises in such an affair, the witnesses have to face a lot of trouble and discomfort. They become the targets of defamation, suffer monetary losses and even get killed. The Qur’an has stopped people from such excesses and warned that this is not a small offence that may be forgiven. It is a transgression which will cling on to them, and they will not be able to save themselves from its evil consequences. This is nothing but an effort to raze down the foundation of the pillar of bearing witness to the truth – the very objective of this ummah. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 640-642)
15. The Qur’anic words used are فَرِهَانٌ مَّقْبُوضَةٌ. They can be treated as an inchoative whose enunciative has been suppressed and they can be regarded as an enunciative whose inchoative has been suppressed. I have adopted the second of the two options and translated it accordingly.
16. It is evident from this that this permission to the lender to accept such pledges is strictly dependent on the fact that the lender does not find himself in a trustworthy situation. As soon such a situation arises, the Almighty has directed the lender to return the pledged item and call in witnesses over the transaction of loan. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
When circumstances arise that people can start trusting one another and the lender does not have a valid reason to distrust the borrower, he should return the pledged item and if he wants, for his own satisfaction, he can adopt the method on which he has been guided earlier in the verse. Examples of these circumstances are that his journey ends, scribes become available to document the transaction and in the presence of people known to him the loan becomes a verifiable transaction. Here the pledged items are called “a trust” from which it is evident that these items lie with the lender as a trust which he must safeguard, and it is prohibited to gain any benefit from them. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 643)
17. The implication is that this sin is not one which will merely effect the outward appearance of a person. The effect will reach the heart and make it sinful too. Hence the sin should not be ignored by regarding it to be a trivial one.
18. This is the end of this great surah which begins by disowning the Israelites and culminates in a prayer through the tongue of the new ummah which has been instituted from the Ishmaelites who have professed faith in the Prophet (sws). Like Surah Fatihah, its revelation from God is tantamount to the glad tidings that this prayer will be accepted by Him. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, while explaining this prayer, writes:
Not only is the heavy responsibility which the ummah has been burdened with very evident from every word of this prayer, also evident is the acknowledgement which is the very essence of faith and the appeal to be shielded from the pitfalls which were instrumental in leading other nations astray. Also present in it is a request to be helped in difficulties which may be encountered and to be forgiven for sins committed. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), 645)
19. In this last section, after unveiling the truth on Jews in a manner that they were not left with an excuse to deny it and the institution of a new ummah, the surah has reverted to what it discusses in the very beginning: Only those people will receive guidance from this book who are fearful of the Lord. This is the very message of the surah, and is brought out by the Qur’an by mentioning it at the beginning and the end of the surah.
20. It is evident from these words that a messenger is the foremost and the greatest believer of what he brings forth from the Lord.
21. All these articles of faith have already been mentioned in verse 177. The purpose they are mentioned here is pointed out in the succeeding verses: This new ummah has professed faith in the complete guidance provided by the Almighty. It is not like the Jews who professed faith in part of it while rejecting the other.
22. The address in this verse which shifts from indirect to direct is meant to make these words an acknowledgement and not merely a fact.
23. These words actually bring out in contrast with what the Jews would say: “we heard and we disobeyed” (2:93).
24. The Qur’anic word used is غُفْرَانَكَ. It is the object of an ellipsed verb. The elliptical style used here points at the disturbed state of mind of the person who utters this prayer, and the placement of the prayer right after a person’s resolve to hear and obey the Almighty shows that a person cannot have the courage to bear any responsibility imposed on him by his Lord if he does not have the Almighty’s support to forgive him of his blemishes.
25. In between the prayer, this parenthetical sentence is to assure and give glad tidings to the Muslims that the new responsibility which is being imposed on the ummah is not beyond its capacity and every person will be held accountable for it as regards the extent of his faith and deeds. Neither will a person be held accountable for something which was beyond his control, nor will the faith and deeds of a person be of any benefit or harm for others. Whatever a person will sow, it will reap. Whatever bad deed he does, he alone will pay for it.
26. Even though such blemishes should be forgiven, a request for their forgiveness is an expression of great humility from the person which hopefully will earn him further blessings and favours of the Almighty.
27. This burden refers to the overly strict directives of the Jewish Shari’ah which became part of it because of the arrogant and rebellious attitude of the Jews. They became a wrath of God to them when they were not able to bear them.
28. This is a request to be protected from trials which are beyond one’s capacity which could be faced by the Ishmaelites while discharging their responsibility of witnesses to the truth.
29. This refers to those among the Jews who after being convinced of the truth and after fully recognizing the Prophet (sws), not only did not profess faith in him but also became his inveterate foes.