Verses from Surah al-Isra’ (26-39)

[26] And render the kinsman his right,53 and the meek and poor, and the wayfarer. And squander not squanderingly.54


53. Rendering of rights to the kin should begin with the nearest, then reach out those who are farther, and so on. In a hadith of Bukhari and Muslim the Prophet said, “Whoever wishes that his provision be increased and his life prolonged, may join the kindred (i.e., do good to them)” – Ibn Kathir.

And, one ramification of the usage of the term “his right” is that if a person happens to be disabled, then his cost of living will be divided between the well-to-do members of the extended family. If they all happen to be of equal economic strength, then the costs will be divided over them equally (Shafi`). In other words, in Islam it is not the state which is responsible for the disabled, rather the family and tribe. If the state does it, then, that eases the situation, but the care of the sick and the permanently disabled is primarily the duty of the kin (Au.).

54. The textual “tabdhir” has been explained as “israf” which is to spend, as Ibn Mas`ud and others have said, in wrong places and on wrong occasions, in short, in sinful affairs (Ibn Jarir). It is reported by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that the Prophet passed by Sa`d while he was making his ablution. He remarked, “Why Israf, O Sa`d?” Sa`d asked, “Is there Israf in ablution also?” He replied, “Yes, even if you are at a running spring” (Zamakhshari). Nevertheless, Ibn ‘Abbas has said, if someone spent all his wealth in an affair that has Allah’s approval, it will not be considered as Israf. But if he spent a handful on a wrong cause, it would be Israf (Ibn Kathir). One of the Salaf was chided for spending heavily in a good cause. He was told, “There is no good in Israf.” He replied, “There is no Israf in good” (Zamakhshari).

Qurtubi has another point to bring out. He says that the Prophet himself spent off all that he possessed, ending up tying stones to his stomach to support his back. Many of his Companions also followed the example and spent off all that they had in good causes. But the Prophet did not reproach them, although, apparently, the Qur’an recommends a middle course. That goes to show that the Qur’anic injunction is for ordinary men. Those who have the strength to spend away everything they posses, and bear the consequences patiently, have the permission to do it.

Hence, Ibn Kathir adds, the hadith in the Sahihayn in which the Prophet instructed Asma’ bint Abi Bakr in words, “Spend: this way and that way. Do not save back, or Allah will save back on you. And do not count, or Allah will count on you.” The Sahihayn have another report which says, “There is not a day in which the creation do their morning but two angels come down from the heaven, one of them saying, ‘O Allah! Bestow on the bestower.’ The other says, ‘O Allah! Destroy (the wealth of) he who holds back.’”

[27] Verily, squanderers are brothers of the Satans; and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.55


55. That is, to spend on wrong causes, or excessively on right causes when there is no need, is to be ungrateful to the Lord (Thanwi).

[28] And even if you have to turn away from them, seeking your Lord’s mercy which you expect (to come by), then say to them gentle words.56


56. Such as, to say, ‘I am hoping for something to come my way. When that happens maybe I will be able to help you’ (Ibn Jarir).

Mawdudi elaborates on the spirit behind the injunction to spend: “The contents of (verses 26 and 27) above require that man should not consider his wealth to be exclusively meant for himself. Instead, after moderately meeting with his own needs he must spend it on his relatives, neighbors, and other human beings who are in need of it. Man’s social life should also be permeated with a spirit of sympathy and recognition of the rights of others and a spirit of mutual cooperation. Relatives should be especially helpful towards each other. The ‘haves’ should extend to the ‘have-nots’ whatever aid they may be in a position to provide. If a traveler arrives in a city, town or village, he should find himself in the midst of hospitable people who are ready to act as his host and entertain him. The concept of the rights of others should be so pervasive that a person should consider those among whom he lives to have claims against him and his resources.

“If a person helps others, he should do so with a feeling that he is merely discharging the obligations he owes them rather than burdening them with a debt of gratitude. And whenever a person is unable to be of any service to someone who is in need of it, he should seek the latter’s indulgence at his inability to do so, and should pray to God to bless him with the means that will enable him to serve him.”

[29] And neither tie your hands to your neck, nor outspread them wholly, or you will sit back blamed and denuded. 

[30] Surely, your Lord outspreads providence unto whom He will or restricts; surely, He is well-knowing and well-seeing of His slaves.57


57. That is, Allah bestows and withdraws His favors following His knowledge and wisdom. A hadith reports Allah (swt) as saying, “There are some among My slave to whom nothing suits but poverty. If I were to provide him, it will lead to destruction of his religion. While, among My slaves there are some whom nothing suits but affluence. If I impose poverty on him, it will lead to corruption in his religion” (Ibn Kathir).

[31] And slay not your children for fear of want: We shall provide for them and for you (as well); surely, slaying them was a major error.58


58. Accordingly, the Sahihayn have a hadith which reports that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas`ud asked the Prophet, “Messenger of Allah! Which is the most serious sin?” He replied, “That you should declare Allah’s equal while He created you.” He asked, “Which one after that?” He answered, “That you should kill your child out of fear that he will share your food.” He asked, “Which one after that?” He replied, “That you should commit fornication with the neighbor’s daughter” (Ibn Kathir).

[32] And go not near adultery;59 verily, it is an indecency, and an evil way.60


59.Zina” of the original is for any unlawful sex between a man and woman. It denotes both fornication as well as adultery (Au).

60. Ibn Abi Dunya has a hadith which says, “There is no sin greater – after association with Allah – than the drop of semen that a man places in a womb that is not lawful to him.” And Imam Ahmed has a report that once a young man went to the Prophet and asked that he be allowed fornication. The people began to rebuke him. But the Prophet (saws) told him to get near. He made him sit before him and asked, “Do you approve of it for your mother?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course, no one will approve of that for his mother. Will you then approve of it for your daughter?” He said, “No by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course, no one will approve of it for his daughter. Will you then approve of it for your sister?” He said, “No, by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course, no one will approve of that for his sister. Will you then approve of it for your paternal aunt?” He said, “No, by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “Of course, no one will approve of that for his paternal aunt. Will you then approve of it for your maternal aunt?” He said, “No, by Allah, Messenger of Allah, may I sacrifice my life for you.” He said, “And no one will approve of that for his maternal aunt.” Then he placed his hand on his breast and supplicated, “O Allah, forgive him his sins, cleanse his heart and protect his private parts.” The man returned. And it is reported that thereafter such a thought never occurred to him again (Ibn Kathir).

[33] And slay not a soul that Allah has forbidden, save by right.61 Whoever is slain unjustly, surely we have given his heir an authority.62 But let him not exceed in slaying;63 surely, he is helped (by the law).64


61. Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah and others have said that there are three “rights” by which a man’s life becomes lawful to be taken: (i) deliberate murder, (ii) unlawful sexual intercourse, and (iii) apostasy (Ibn Jarir). And a hadith says, “The destruction of the world is lighter with Allah than the murder of a Muslim” (Ibn Kathir).

62. The textual word is Sultan. Ibn ‘Abbas, Dahhak and others, have understood it as the choice the closest of heir has between three options: life for life, blood-wit, or forgiveness. That is his Sultan (Ibn Jarir).

It might also be noted that he alone has the right, and no one else on his behalf. For example, if someone else murdered the murderer, the second murderer will face the law of retaliation, even if the heir (one who had the Sultan) said that it was he who had asked the second murderer to murder the first murderer (Alusi).

63. Who is meant by the words “let him not…”? The answer given by some of the Salaf is that since the revelation of this verse took place in Makkah, it was the Prophet who was meant, and, after him, his successors. They were not to allow retaliation except in just measure. However, a second opinion is that it is the heir who is meant by the words, “let him not.” That is because this Surah is Makkan. Muslims had no political power there, in fact, no power at all. They could be killed by Makkans at will. Naturally, they wished to retaliate. They were told that the heir had the authority. But he was not to exceed in slaying, or kill other than the murderer as they would do in pre-Islamic times. (Also, they were not to torture the murderer before killing him). This was the opinion of Hasan, Dahhak and some others (Ibn Jarir, Shawkani).

For laws pertaining to Qisas, (the law of just retribution) see note 365 of Surah al-Baqarah of this work.

64. That is, the heir will be helped by the authorities in his efforts to seek justice. This is how Qatadah understood this part of the verse (Ibn Jarir).

[34] And go not near the wealth of the orphan save in a fair manner,65 until he attains his full strength.66 And fulfill the covenant; surely, (every) covenant  will be questioned thereof.


65. It is said that in view of this verse, the Companions were so careful about treatment of the orphans that they would not share their food, drink or mount, until Allah revealed verse 220 of Surah al-Baqarah. It said, “And they ask you about the orphans. Say, ‘The best thing (for them) is (promotion of) their welfare. However, if you mingle (your food, drink and other things) with theirs, then, (that is alright, for) they are your brothers. And Allah knows the corrupt from the well-meaning’” (Ibn Jarir). The Prophet, however, had warned Abu Dharr against going near the orphan’s wealth. He told him, “O Abu Dharr! I find you weak. And I wish for you what I wish for myself. Never be an Amir over even two people. And never accept the charge of an orphan’s wealth” (Ibn Kathir).

66. For explanation of the term “ashudd”, see note 281 of Surah Al-An`am of this work.


[35] And fill up the measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is better and fairer in determination.67


67. Ibn ‘Abbas used to say that he heard the Prophet (saws) say, “A man does not have power over an unlawful thing, yet avoids it merely in fear of Allah, but Allah gives him in this world itself what is better for him than that” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). Qurtubi narrates it as a truncated report coming from Hasan.

[36] And do not indulge in what you have no knowledge of;68 indeed, the hearing, the sight, and the heart – all of them shall be questioned of its (acts).


68. That is, do not say, “I saw” if you have not seen, or “I heard” when you have not heard (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). A Sahih hadith says, “It is enough of a lie for a man to say, ‘People say (so and so).’” That is, one may not pass on what he hears without first checking its authenticity (Au.). Mawdudi adds: “The purpose of this Qur’anic verse is that people should be guided by knowledge rather than conjecture both in their individual and collective lives. In an Islamic society, this direction found its reflection in ethics and law, in politics and administration, and in arts, sciences and education; in short in all spheres of human life. The perspective ensured that human thought and action were made safe from the many evil consequences which ensue from relying on guesswork and conjecture instead of knowledge.”

[37] And walk not in the earth exultingly;69 you will neither tear apart the earth, nor attain the mountains in height.


69. Before falling victim to pride, one might fear what happened to someone of a previous nation. The Prophet said in a hadith of Muslim, “While a man was strutting on the earth proud over a pair of new shrouds when the earth split and he shall be sinking until the Day of Judgment.” Another hadith says, “Whoever humbled himself for Allah, will be raised by Him. He might be insignificant in his own eyes, but great in the eyes of the people. And whoever waxed proud, Allah will bring him down. He might be a great man in his own eyes, but worthless in the eyes of the people. Indeed, he might be more hateful to them than a dog or a swine” (Suyuti declared a similar hadith Sahih in his Jami` but Munawi demonstrates that it is weak: Au.). Abul Bakhtari once saw a man of ‘Ali’s family wax proud in his walk. He told him, “Man! The one because of whom you receive respect, did not walk like that.” The man gave up. And Bazzar has a report which reports the Prophet as having said, “When my Ummah learns to walk proudly, and the Romans and Persians are its servants, then Allah will impose some of them over others (as tyrants)” – Ibn Kathir.

[38] These are things whose evil is detestable unto thy Lord.70


70. The consequences of breaking Allah’s laws have not been stated here. Hadith does it. For example, a hadith in Bayhaqi as well as in several other collections says, “Licentiousness never appeared in a people, to the extent that they did them openly, but they were visited by diseases unknown to their forefathers. They never cheated in weights and measures but they were overtaken by starvation, hunger and the tyranny of the rulers. They never refused to pay the Zakah but rains were held back from the heavens. If not for animals, they would never have received rains. They never broke Allah’s and His Messenger’s covenant but Allah imposed their enemies on them who took away what they possessed. And, never did it happen that their rulers did not judge by Allah’s laws, but Allah turned them on against each other” (Alusi).


(To be continued)

[39] This is of what Allah has revealed unto you of the wisdom. And set not up with Allah another deity or you will be hurled into Jahannum, blamed and rejected.

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