Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah al-Rum (No. 30) [33 – 39]

[33] And when an affliction touches the people, they call upon their Lord repenting to Him. But when He gives taste of mercy from Him, lo, a party of them assigns associates to their Lord.44


44.Yusuf Ali comments: “It is trouble, distress, or adversity that makes men realize their helplessness and turns their attention back to the true Source of all goodness and happiness. But when they are shown special Mercy – often more than they deserve – they forget themselves and attribute it to their own cleverness, or to the stars, or to some false ideas to which they pay court and worship, wither to the exclusion of Allah (swt) or in addition to the lip-worship which they pay to Allah (swt). Their action in any case amounts to gross ingratitude; but in the circumstances it looks as if they had gone out of their way to show ingratitude.”

Imam Razi throws light on another aspect: if someone attributes his deliverance from calamity to other than Allah (swt), he commits open shirk (shirk jahiliyy). On the other hand, if someone attributed his deliverance to natural means and causes, then too, he committed shirk although of a lower order (shirk khafiyy), but shirk all the same.

For example, to say after one finds a wooden plank, that he escaped drowning because of it, or at the encounter with a ferocious animal, that it was the sudden appearance of a man which saved his life, is shirk khafiyy. Once condition being he believed the plank or the man had independent power. Indeed, if one says “Allah saved me by means of a plank, or the man,” then too it is some kind of shirk, although of a minor kind.

[34] So as to be ungrateful for what We have given them. So enjoy a little. Soon shall you know.

[35] Or, have we sent down an authority45 upon them which speaks of what they are associating with Him?


45. Qurtubi points out that technically ‘sultan’ is something by which one staves off a punishment that he is due to receive (for a wrong he committed). E.g., Allah said (27: 21): “Assuredly, I will chastise him with a painful chastisement or I will slaughter him unless he brings me a good excuse.”

[36] And, when We give the people a taste of mercy, they rejoice in it. But if an adversity touches them, as an outcome of what their own hands have forwarded, behold, they despair.46


46. After shirk jahilliyy, Allah (swt) now describes shirk khafiyy. (Razi)

[37] Have they not seen that Allah extends or restricts the provision to whomsoever He will. Surely, in that are signs for a people who believe.47


47. A believer should not look at what comes down: good or bad, plentitude or adversity, but, rather, they should see ‘who’ has sent it, viz., Allah. He should, therefore, rejoice at all events. This is the mark of a true believer. Hence, Allah (swt) ended by saying, “Surely, in that are signs for a people who believe.” (Razi)

[38] Give, therefore, the kin his right,48 as well as to the needy and the wayfarer.49 That is better for those who seek their Lord’s Countenance; and such, indeed, are the prosperers.


48. Basing his opinion on this verse, Imam Abu Hanifah has ruled that the maintenance of every kin, male or female, who cannot earn his or her own livelihood, is the responsibility (of other kin). The Shafeiyyah however see the responsibility upon the incumbent’s father. (Zamakshari, Alusi)

49. The allusion is to common charity, for deserving recipients of Zakah have already been identified by Allah (swt) elsewhere in the Qur’an. The categories named here: the kin, the poor and the wayfarer, are those whose rights are not hinged to a man’s savings reaching a certain level, as in Zakah. But rather, their rights are enduring and unconditional. One should expend on them even if he is poor, if they are poorer. (Razi)

[39] And what you give out in usury50 that it may increase upon people’s wealth, does not increase with Allah.51 But rather, that which you give out as charity by which you seek Allah’s Countennace, such indeed are the augmenters.52


50. The following is a comprehensive statement from Asad on how Islam looks at riba. He writes: “This is the earliest mention of the term and concept ofriba in the chronology of Qur’anic revelation.

In its general, linguistic sense, this term denotes an ‘addition’ to or ‘increase’ of a thing over and above its original size or amount; in the terminology of the Qur’an, it signifies any unlawful addition, by way of interest, to a sum of money for goods lent by one person or body of persons to another. Considering the problem in terms of the economic conditions prevailing at or before their time, most of the early Muslim jurists identified this ‘unlawful addition’ with profits obtained through any kind of interest-bearing loans irrespective of the rate of interest and the economic motivation involved.

“With all this – as evidenced by the voluminous juridical literature on this subject – Islamic scholars have not yet been able to reach an absolute agreement on the definition of riba: a definition that is, which would cover all conceivable legal situations and positively respond to all the exigencies of a variable economic environment. In the words of Ibn Kathir (in his commentary on 2:275), ‘the subject of riba is one of the most difficult subjects for many of the scholars (ahl al-‘ilm).’  It should be borne in mind that the passage condemning and prohibiting riba in legal terms (2: 275-281) was the last revelation received by the Prophet, who died a few days later; hence, the Companions had no opportunity to ask him about the shari’ implications of the relevant injunctions – so much so that even Umar ibn al-Khattab is reliably reported to have said, “The last [of the Qur’an] that was revealed was the passage [lit., ‘the verse’] on riba; and the apostle of God passed away without [lit., ‘before’] having explained its meaning to us’ (Ibn Hanbal, on the authority of Sa’idibn al-Musayyib).

“Nevertheless, the severity with which the Qur’an condemned riba and those who practice it, furnishes – especially when viewed against the background of mankind’s economic experiences during the intervening centuries – a sufficiently clear indication of its nature and its social as well as moral implications. Roughly speaking, the opprobrium of riba (in the sense in which the term is used in the Qur’an and in many sayings of the Prophet) attaches to profits obtained through interest-bearing loans involving an exploitation of the economically weak by the strong and the resourceful: an exploitation characterized by the fact that the lender while retaining full ownership of the capital loaned and having no legal concern with the purpose for which it is to be used or with the manner of its use, remains contractually assured of gain irrespective of any losses which the borrower may suffer in consequence of this transaction.

“With this definition in mind, we realize that the question as to what kinds of financial transactions fall within the category of riba is, in the last resort, a moral one, closely connected with the socio-economic motivation underlying the mutual relationship of the borrower and lender; and, stated in purely economic terms, it is a question as to how profits and risks may be equitably shared by both partners to a loan transaction.”

(This, perhaps, is the aspect which was not clear to Umar [ra] when he remarked that the Prophet passed away without having explained riba to full satisfaction. Extremely cautious as they were, our pious predecessors might have feared much of what we feel assured as lawful transactions, as, in their eyes, unlawful. This is evidenced by a statement of Umar (in Al-Zawajir of IbnHajr): “We had given up nine-tenth of the lawful fearing riba.” As the remarks that follow indicate, Asad himself seems to be inclined to an expanded meaning of riba, i.e., beyond simply “increase over the principle” to include “assured profits” to some at the cost of others in a partnership involving monetary transactions. The ukhuwwah of Islam, we might remind ourselves, depends to a large degree on how wealth is treated and distributed among the ikhwah: Au.).

Asad continues: “It is of course impossible to answer this double question in a rigid, once-for-all manner: our answers must necessarily vary in accordance with the changes to which man’s social and technological development and, thus, his economic environment is subject. Hence, while the Qur’anic condemnation of the concept and practice of riba is unequivocal and final, every successive Muslim generation is faced with the challenge of giving new dimensions and a fresh economic meaning to this term which, for wan of a better word, may be rendered as ‘usury’. In the present instance (which, as I have mentioned, is the earliest in the history of the Qur’an), no clear-cut prohibition is as yet laid down; but the prohibition appearing in 2:275 ff. is already foreshadowed by the reference to the immoral hope of increasing one’s own substance ‘through [other] people’s possession,’ i.e., through the exploitation of others.”

Asad’s cautious line is justified by several prophetic sayings on the topic. In brief, we might quote the following: According to a report in Ibn Marduwayh of unknown status, the Prophet (saws) said: “A time will come when tenacity will be of high order. In those times (even) a believer will hold fast to what he has in his hands and forget all about generosity, while Allah (swt) has said, ‘And forget not generosity with each other.’ The people (then would be) the worst of their kind; looking for the most desperate to trade with.” (IbnKathir at 2:237).

According to another report, he said: “The worst of the evil creations is those who would like to deal with the most desperate. Remember, trade deals with the desperate are unlawful. A Muslim is a brother unto another Muslim. He does not wrong him nor does he humiliate him. If you have something good, extend it to your brother, and not augment ruin (from your side) to add on to ruin.”(Au.).

51. Authorities such as Ibn Abbas, Sa’id b. Jubayr, Mujahid, Ibrahim, Qatadah, Dahhak and others are of opinion that the meaning is, “What you give as gifts (or as services) to people in the hope of being similarly compensated by them, is not registered as a good deed deserving to be rewarded, although not punishable.” (IbnJarir, Qurtubi, IbnKathir and others)

Ibn AbiHatim has it that Ibn Abbas said: “There are two kinds of riba: one allowed and the other disallowed. The one allowed is a man’s gift to another hoping to get something better in return.” According to Bahaqi’s report, he added that this is neither rewarded nor punished. However, Allah (swt) specifically prohibited even this through a verse (74:6) which said: “Do not do good deeds (to others) in order to gain more.” (Shawkani)

52.That is, it is these who get multiple rewards as the Prophet (saws) said in a trustworthy report: “No one spent the equivalent of a date out of his lawful earning but Allah (swt) takes it by His right hand and increases it several-fold for him as one of you looks after his foal or young camel, until the date becomes like (Mount) Uhud, larger than it.” (Razi in brief; IbnKathir)


About YMD

Past Issues