Tafsir of Surah al Mutaffifin - The Skimpers (Surah 83)

by 'Abdur-Rahmân ibn Nâsir as-Sa'dî

Translated by Abû Rumaysah

  1) Woe to the skimpers! 2) Those who, when they take a measure from people, exact it in full, 3) but when they give by measure or weight, defraud them. 4) Do they not think that they will be resurrected 5) [to render account] on a Grave Day: 6) a Day when man will stand before the Lord of the worlds?  

“Woe,” a word indicating punishment and destruction[1] “to the skimpers,” Allah proceeds to explain who they are by saying, “those who, when they take a measure from people, exact in full,” without any loss, “but when they give by measure or weight,” if they give people what they are rightfully owed by measure or weight, “defraud them,” giving them less than their due, either by using defective scales and measures, or by not filling them or by other means. This amounts to stealing the property of another and being unjust. Now, if this is the threat directed to those who give people less than what is due them, what then of a person who takes their property by force, or actually steals it? Surely he is more deserving of this threat?

This noble verse proves that just as man takes his due from people, it is upon him to give them their due in wealth and any other dealings. The generality of this principle also covers matters such as debating and writing; each party is always desirous of presenting its case and its evidences, but it is also obligatory upon it to fairly present the evidences of its opponent and to investigate his evidences just as it investigates its own. In this way the justice of that person becomes clear, his lack of partisanship, his humility and his intelligence. We ask Allah for divine accord to every good.

Then Allah proceeds to threaten the skimpers, to express amazement at their state and their persistence in what they are doing, “Do they not think that they will be resurrected [to render account] on a Grave Day: a Day when man will stand before the Lord of the worlds?” It was lack of faith in the Last Day that led them to skimp, otherwise, had they believed in it and had they the certainty that they were soon to stand before their Lord who would judge them for every small and great deed, they would have refrained from their iniquity and repented.[2]

  7) No indeed! The record of the dissolute is in Sijjin. 8) What will make you realise what Sijjin is? 9) It is a register indelibly inscribed. 10) Woe, that Day, to the deniers: 11) those who deny the Day of Judgement, 12) and no one denies it save every sinful transgressor. 13) When Our Signs are recited to him, he says, ‘Fables of the ancient!’ 14) No indeed! Rather, what they have earned has rusted up their hearts. 15) No indeed! That Day, they will be veiled from their Lord. 16) Then they will roast in the Blazing Furnace. 17) Then they will be told, ‘This is what you used to deny.’  

“No indeed! The record of the dissolute,” this is general for all types of wicked people: the disbelievers, the hypocrites and the iniquitous, “is in Sijjin,” proceeding to explain what this is: “What will make you realise what Sijjin is? It is a register indelibly inscribed,” mentioning therein their vile deeds. Sijjin is a constricted and confined place and it is the opposite of `Illiyyin which is the place for the record of the righteous as will be mentioned later. It is also said that Sijjin is the lowest part of the seventh earth, the place of the wicked and their place of residence when they are resurrected. “Woe, that Day, to the deniers:” then proceeding to explain who they are with His words, “those who deny the Day of Judgement,” the Day of Recompense, the Day in which Allah will judge man for his deeds.“And no one denies it save every sinful” i.e. committing many sins “transgressor,” transgressing the limits of Allah, overstepping the lawful and trespassing into the unlawful. It is this person whose enmity leads him to denial and whose arrogance leads him to reject the truth, hence Allah says, “When Our signs,” directing towards the truth and proving the truth of what the Messengers came with “are recited to him,” he denies them and obdurately rejects them and “says, ‘Fables of the ancient!’” fabrications concocted by the earlier generations and tales of nations long-gone; not from Allah.

As for the one who is just and desires to attain the manifest truth, such a person will not deny the Day of Judgement because Allah has erected clear evidences and signs pointing to its reality, such signs as would lead a person to have certain knowledge of it, such signs that would lead his spiritual sight to see it in the same manner that his physical sight sees the sun. “No indeed! Rather, what they have earned has rusted up their hearts,” However the person whose deeds have rusted up his heart and whose sins have hemmed him in, is veiled from the truth[3] “No indeed! That Day, they will be veiled from their Lord,” a fitting recompense, he will be veiled from Allah just as his heart was veiled from the Signs of Allah in this world. “Then” in addition to this severe punishment “they will roast in the Blazing Furnace. Then they will be told,” by way of censure and rebuke, “‘This is what you used to deny.’” Three punishments have been mentioned here: the punishment of Hell, the punishment of rebuke and blame, and the punishment of being veiled from the Lord of the worlds. This last punishment is the greatest of the three for it includes His being displeased and angry with them.

One also understands from this verse that the believers will see their Lord on the Day of Judgment in Paradise. They will take delight in looking on at Him and this delight will supersede all other delights in Paradise. They will rejoice at His discourse with them and feel extreme joy at His closeness. This has been mentioned by Allah in a number of verses in the Qur’an and there are concurrent ahadith concerning it from the Messenger of Allah (SAW).

These verses serve to warn one against sins because they show that sins, little by little, rust the heart and veil it until its light is extinguished, its spiritual sight dies, and it views reality in its opposite light such that it sees falsehood as truth and truth as falsehood – this is one of the greatest punishments of sin.

  18) No indeed! The record of the righteous is in `Illiyyin. 19) What will make you realise what `Illiyyun is? 20) It is a register indelibly inscribed, 21) which those brought near [to Allah] will witness.  

“No indeed! The record of the righteous is in `Illiyin,” after mentioning that the record of the wicked is in the lowest and most confined of places, Allah mentions that the record of the righteous is in the highest and vastest of places. “What will make you realise what ‘Illiyun is? It is a register indelibly inscribed, which those brought near [to Allah] will witness,” the noble Angels, the souls of the Prophets, the Sincerely Truthful and the Martyrs. Allah will laud them by mentioning them in this Exalted Company. `Illiyun is a term referring to the highest part of Paradise.

  22) The righteous will be in bliss: 23) [seated] on couches, gazing [in wonder]. 24) You will recognise blissful radiance on their faces. 25) They will be given the choicest sealed nectar to drink, 26) the last residue of which is musk* - for this let the contenders compete. 27) It is mixed with [the water of] Tasnim, 28) a spring from which those brought near [to Allah] drink.  

“The righteous will be in bliss,” after mentioning their record, Allah mentions that they are in bliss and this term encompasses the bliss of heart, soul and body, “[seated] on couches,” lined with fine, decorative sheets “gazing [in wonder],” at the joys Allah has prepared for them, looking on at the face of their Noble Lord. “You” who are looking at them “will recognise blissful radiance on their faces,” brought about by delight followed by delight, joy followed by joy and pleasure followed by pleasure. All these matters serve to give light, radiance and beauty to the face. “They will be given the choicest sealed nectar to drink,” the purest and sweetest of drinks “the last residue of which is musk,” it is possible that the word khitam refers to the fact that this drink is sealed so that nothing can enter it that would diminish its purity or lessen its taste. This seal is musk. It is also possible that it mean that the last residue at the bottom of the cup containing this drink is pure musk as opposed to the murky fluid that is commonly found in the bottom of cups in this world. “For this,” eternal bliss, the extent of which is known to Allah Alone, “let the contenders compete!” by rushing to perform such deeds as would lead to it. This goal is most deserving of our expending our most precious commodities in acquiring and being the aspiration of the best of people! “It” this drink is “is mixed with [the water] of Tasnim, a spring from which those brought near [to Allah] drink,” unadulterated with anything else. Tasnim is the best drink of Paradise, and it is drunk in its unadulterated state by Those Brought Near who have the best standing among creation. It is mixed with other liquids, such as pure wine, for the People of the Right.

After having mentioned the recompense of the wicked and the recompense of the righteous and the vast gulf between the two, Allah proceeds to mention some of the actions of the wicked in this world,

  29) Indeed, those who worked evil would laugh at those who believed, 30) winking at one another when they passed by them. 31) When they returned to their families, they would return ridiculing them.** 32) When they saw them, they would say, ‘This lot are truly misguided,’ 33) though they were not sent to be guardians over them.  

“Indeed, those who worked evil would laugh at those who believed,” mockingly, “winking at one another when they passed by them,” deriding them and putting them down. Yet despite this, you would see the believers having peace of mind and content, the thought of fear not even crossing their minds. “When they returned to their families,” in the morning or evening, “they would return ridiculing them,” happy and exultant. This attitude shows the extremes to which they had deceived themselves: their evil behaviour coupled with a sense of total security in this world as if Allah had promised them felicity! “When they saw them, they would say, ‘This lot are truly misguided,’” they had adjudged themselves to be guided and the believers misguided thereby lying against Allah and speaking about Him without knowledge. “Though they were not sent to be guardians over them,” over the believers, committed to assessing and safeguarding their deeds, such that they could accuse them of misguidance. They did what they did because of their obdurate rejection, their arrogance and their playing games. They have no support for their claims and no proof. This is why their recompense in the Hereafter is of the same type as their deeds.

  34) This Day those who believed are laughing at the disbelievers, 35) [sitting] on couches, gazing [in wonder]. 36) Have the disbelievers [not] been rewarded for what they used to do?  

“This Day those who believed are laughing at the disbelievers,” when they see them in the midst of torment, the lies they had concocted shown to be idle fancy. The believers, on the other hand, are in total comfort and beatitude, “[sitting] on couches,” decorated “gazing [in wonder],” at the joys Allah has prepared for them, looking on at the face of their Noble Lord. “Have the disbelievers [not] been rewarded for what they used to do?” are they not requited with a recompense of the same type as their deeds? They would laugh at the believers in this world and accuse them of misguidance, so the believers shall laugh at them in the Hereafter when they see their torment, a torment which is the punishment of their own straying and misguidance. Yes, indeed, the disbelievers are rewarded for what they used to do: justice and wisdom from Allah.

Allah is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.


Endnotes

* or: ‘Its seal is of musk...’

** or: “they would return rejoicing,” i.e. at their own disbelief.

1. Ibn `Abbas said, ‘Wayl refers to a valley in Hell in which flows the pus of the denizens of the Fire.’ [Qurtubi]

2. Ibn Majah records, that `Abdullah ibn `Umar said that the Prophet (SAW) said:

  “O Muhajirun, you may be afflicted by five things; Allah forbid that you should live to see them: If fornication should become widespread, you should realise that this has never happened without new diseases befalling the people, which their forebears never suffered. If people should begin to cheat in weighing out goods, you should realise that this has never happened without drought and famine befalling the people, and their rulers oppressing them. If people should withholdzakat, you should realise that this has never happened without the rain being stopped from falling; and were it not for the animals’ sake, it would never rain again. If people should break their covenant with Allah and His Messenger, you should realise that his has never happened without Allah sending an enemy against them, to take some of their possessions by force. If the leaders do not govern according to the Book of Allah, you should realise that this has never happened without Allah making them into groups and making them fight one another.”

3. Muslim records, that Hudhyafah ibn al-Yaman reports that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said,

  “Trials and tribulation will be presented to the heart [one after another] in the same way that the mat is knitted together, reed by reed. Any heart that accepts them will have a black spot form on it. Any heart that rejects them will have a white spot put on it until the hearts end up being one of two types: a black heart, murky and like an overturned vessel: it does not know the good and does not reject the evil, [all it seeks] is that which its base desires seek; and a white heart which will not be harmed by trials for as long as the heavens and the earth remain.”

Nasa’i records, that Abu Hurayrah reports that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said,

  “When a servant commits a sin a black spot stains his heart, if he asks for forgiveness and repents, his heart will be polished of it; if he; however, repeats the sin, the black spot will grow until it covers his heart, and this is the rust that Allah, Most High, mentions, ‘No indeed! Rather what they have earned has rusted up their hearts.’”


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