[Tafsir of al-Ma'un taken from a number of traditional sources]
Al-Ma'un Helping Others
In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
1 Have you seen him who denies the deen?
2 He is the one who harshly rebuffs the orphan
3 and does not urge the feeding of the poor.
4 So woe to those who pray,
5 and are forgetful of their prayer.
6 Those who show off
and deny help to others.
Al-Iklil of as-Suyuti:
He only has one page on this sura. This is very much a tafsir bi'r-riwaya. As-Suyuti (d. 911/1505) was a famous Egyptian Shafi'i scholar. He takes a very simple approach, looking for any judgements contained in the ayats or any hadiths about it. He starts with the meaning
2. "Harshly rebuffs" means "he is hard to him and wrongs him," according to Ibn Abi Hatim.
4. "those who are forgetful of their prayer." The Prophet said that "they are those who delay the prayer beyond its time." (at-Tabari, at-Tabarani and Abu Ya'la from the hadith of Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas. Al-Firyabi has it mawquf and al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi considered it sound.) Mus'ab, Sa'd's son, asked him about this, "Which of us does not forget? Which of us does not have his self speak to him?" He replied, "That is not what it is about. It is about missing the time." (Ibn Abi Hatim) Abu'l-'Aliyya said, "It is reciting this and that, looking to his right and his left."
6 "those who show off" criticises showing off.
7. "deny help to others." This is encouragement for making the 'ariyya - the loan of the use of something. An-Nasa'i transmitted from Ibn Mas'ud, "We considered the ma'un in the time of the Messenger of Allah to be the lending of a bucket or pot." Al-Bazzar added, "Or an axe." Ibn Abi Hatim transmitted it with "Loans means pots, scales, and buckets." Ibn Jarir said, "We said that denying help was to refuse to lend a bucket and the like." Ibn Abi Hatim transmitted from the hadith of 'A'id ibn Rabi'a an-Namiri said that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "So not deny help." They asked, "And what is denying help?" He said, "It is in [lending] stones, iron and water." Sa'id ibn Mansur reported that Ibn 'Abbas said, "That it is the lending of things." It is, however, reported from 'Ali that it is refusing to pay zakat. Ibn 'Umar said, "Ma'un is the property whose right is paid." 'Ikrima said, "The head of ma'un is the zakat on property and the least of it is a shovel, bucket and needle.' Muhammad ibn Ka'b said that is an act of charity (ma'ruf).
Ibn Juzayy is a little earlier than as-Suyuti. He was from Granada and a Maliki (d. 741/1340). His tafsir is entitled at-Tahsil fi 'Ulum at-Tafsir (Making Things Easy in the Sciences of Tafsir). Instead of immediately starting with the meanings, he begins by telling us when it was sent down, and then deals with each individual ayat:
The first three ayats are Makkan and the rest Madinan. It has 7 ayats. and it was sent down after al-Takathur.
"Have you seen him who denies the deen?" It is said that this was sent down about Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan ibn Harb. It was said that it is general. Here the deen can mean the religion or the repayment.
"He is the one who rebuffs the orphan" i.e. repels him with harshness. This repelling can be in not feeding him and not being good to him or about his property and rights. This is stronger criticism than "and does not urge feeding the poor". He does not feed him "properly". This sentence is the apodosis of "Have you seen?" because its meaning is: "Inform me". It is as if it is a question. The meaning is: look at the one who denies the deen and you will find these ugly questions and evil actions. That is because the deen moves the one who has it to do good actions and abandoning evil actions. So the aim of the words is to censure the rejectors and their states, who were doing all of these things.
"So woe to those who pray, who are forgetful of their prayer" It is said that this was sent down about 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul, the famous hypocrite in Madina. According to this, half of the sura is Makkan and half of it is Madinan. Abu Zayd as-Suhayl said that. That is because that the mention of Abu Jahl and other rejectors comes mostly in the Makkan suras. Unmindfulness in the prayer and showing off in it are part of the attributes of those who were in Madina, especially according to the words of the one who says that it is about 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy. It is also said that it is all Makkan, which is the most well known view. According to this, the end of it was sent down about a man who became Muslim in Makka and did not have sound belief. It is also said that it is Madinan and that unmindfulness of the prayer means abandoning it and delaying it beyond its time. 'Ata' ibn Yasar said, "Praise be to Allah who said, 'unmindful of their prayer' and did not say 'in their prayer.'"
"those who show off" It comes from showing off, i.e. their prayer is to show off to people, not for Allah.
"and deny help" He describes them as being miserly and not helping people. Four things are said about ma'un. The first is that it is zakat. The second is that it means wealth in the dialect of Quraysh. The third is that it is denying water. The fourth is that it refers to what people give to one another, like vessels, axes, buckets and scissors. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was asked, "What is it lawful to refuse to give?" He replied, "Water, fire, salt," and it adds in some versions, "needles and yeast."
Ahkam al-Qur'an: Qadi Ibn al-'Arabi
"The Judgements of the Qur'an" This is clearly about legal rulings as is the casee with many tafsirs. Qadi Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 543/1148) came from Seville and was qadi there for the Murabitun, and finished his life in Morocco after the Muwahhidun came to power where he eventually died.
There are three points in "those who are forgetful of their prayer".
1. Forgetfulness is abandoning, and that can be either intentional or unintentional. It is is intentional, that is deliberate, If it is unintentional, it is forgetfulness (sahw) for which there is no responsibility.
2. It is impossible for the forgetful person to be responsible because he does not understand the requirement. If it is asked, "How can the one who does not understand criticism be criticised or the one who is not responsible be charged with responsibility?" there are two aspects to the answer. One is that if the person had an intention to leave the prayer, he is censured when the time of the prayer comes, whether if he was heedless at that actual moment or if it is simply his habit to omit it. Then censure is always connected to him. This does not include the one who overlooks something in his prayer.
3. It is impossible to be completely free of forgetfulness. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forgot in his prayer as did the Companions. If someone does not ever forget in his prayer, that is a person who does not reflect and does not understand his recitation. His concern is for the number of rak'ats. This is a man who eats the husk and leaves the core. The only thing that made the Prophet forget in his prayer was reflecting on what was greater than it. O Allah, may a person who forgets in his prayer not be the one who turns to the whispering of shaytan when he tells him, "Remember this. Remember that," until he does not remember how much he has prayed.
"Those who show off and deny help to others."
Ibn Wahb said that Malik said that these are the hypocrites who make a show of their prayer. A hypocrite shows people that he is praying in obedience to Allah, but he is praying out of taqiyya (dissimulation). A fasiq prays so that he will be accepted as someone who prays.
The reality of riya' is to seek this world by worship. Its basis is to seek to enjoy a position in people's hearts. The beginning of it is good reputation, and he desires to obtain rank and praise by that. The second level is showing off by wearing short clothes and coarse clothes to give an appearance of asceticism in this world. The third is to show off by verbal expression by displaying anger against the people of this world and admonition while he actually regrets not having wealth and their worship. The fourth is making a public display of the prayer and sadaqa or making the prayer appear good so that people will see it. It is also making the prayer long.
"deny help to others" has 3 points.
1. The first is the definition of the word. Ma'ün is derived from the verb help (a'ana). It means to assist with strength, tools and means to make something easy.
2. The second point refers to the positions of scholars on it. Scholars have 6 views on the meaning of ma'ün.
1. Malik says that it refers to zakat, and that it means that the hypocrite refuses to pay it. Abu Bakr ibn 'Abdu'l-'Aziz reported that Malik said, "I have heard that this is meaning of the words of Allah, 'So woe to those who pray, who are forgetful of their prayer. Those who show off and deny help to others.' The hypocrite is the one who, when he prays, does so to show off. If he misses the prayer, he feels no regret. They refuse to pay the zakat which Allah has obliged on them." Zayd ibn Aslam said, "If the prayer had been lightened for them like zakat, they would not have prayed."
2. Ibn Shihab says that it means wealth.
3. Ibn 'Abbas said that it is what people lend to one another.
4. It is pots, buckets, axes and the like.
5. It is water and pasturage.
6. It is water alone.
3. The third point is that since it is clear the ma'un is part of help, that is why the commentators have mentioned all types of help. The greatest of them is zakat. The level of censure is compensurate with the extent of refusal to pay. Lending something is not a personal obligation, but a general one, and Allah knows best.
"Woe" can only be used for someone who denies the obligation, and that is how they define it.
Al-Qurtubi (d. 671/1273), as his name shows, was from Cordoba. He is a famous mufassir and his 20 volume tafsir is called al-Jami' li-Ahkam al-Qur'an. He delights in the meanings of the various qira'at and the diversity of views of different commentators which produce layered meanings. As the title implies, he particularly concentrates on the legal rulings in the text.
He says that there are six points in this sura.
"The one who denies the deen" is the one who denies that there will be repayment and reckoning in the next World. There is disagreement about whom it was revealed. It is reported from Ibn 'Abbas that it was revealed about al-'As ibn Wa'il as-Sahmi. Al-Kalbi and Muqatil also said that. It is reported that ad-Dahhak said, "It was revealed about a man of the hypocrites." As-Suddi said that it was revealed about al-Walid ibn al-Mughira. It is also said that it was revealed about Abu Jahl. Ad-Dahhak also said that it was revealed about 'Amr ibn A'idh. Ibn Jurayj said it was about Abu Sufyan who used to slaughter a camel every week. When an orphan asked him for some of it, he hit him with a stick, Ibn 'Abbas says that it means he drives the orphan away from what is his right. Qatada said he wrongs him. The Prophet said about the orphan, "If someone takes care of a Muslim orphan until he becomes independent, the Garden is mandatory for him."
2. "He does not does not urge the feeding of the poor" because of his miserliness and denying the final repayment in the Next World. That is like the words of Allah, "nor did he urge the feeding of the poor." (69:34). Censure is not general and so it does not apply to someone who is unable to do it. Rather it is those who were miserly and made excuses for themselves. They say, as in Yasin (36:47), "Why should we feed someone whom, if He willed, Allah would feed Himself?" This ayat was revealed about those people. It means: They do not do it when they are able to do, and they do not urge if when they are unable to do it.
3. Then about "woe to those who pray" ad-Dahhak reported from Ibn 'Abbas that this is about the one who prays without hoping for a reward, and if he leaves off doing it, he does not fear a penalty for not doing it. He also said that it is those who delay the prayer beyond its time." Ibrahim said that it is delaying it beyond the time, saying that "sahun" means "missing the moment". Abu'l-'Aliyya said that they do not pray the prayer at its time and do not fully complete the ruku' and prostration."
This also refers to the words of Allah, "An evil generation succeeded them who neglected the prayer." (19:59) Ibrahim also said that it refers to someone who, when he prostrates, moves his head as if he were turning. Qutrub says, "He does not recite nor remember Allah." The reading of 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud had "those who are diverted from their prayer" (lahün instead of sahün). Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas said that it refers to delaying it beyond its time because they think little of doing so.
Ibn 'Abbas said that it is the hypocrites who abandon the prayer secretly while they pray it openly. They are described in "When they get up to pray, they get up lazily, showing off to people, and only remembering Allah a little." (4:142) This indicates that the hypocrites are meant here. Ibn Wahb reported that from Malik. Ibn 'Abbas pointed out that if it had been about the believers, Allah would have said, "those who are heedless in their prayer." 'Ata' said, "Praise be to Allah! He said 'of their prayer' and not 'in their prayer!'" Az-Zamakhshari discussed this difference and says that "of" means about doing it, and lack of concern for it, which is the action of the hypocrites or the impious Muslims. "In' is forgetfulness which occurs due to the whispering of shaytan or the chatter of the self of which no one is free. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, forgot in his prayer and this is why fuqaha' have established the topic of the prostration of forgetfulness.'
[Then he quotes Ibn al-'Arabi in the Ahkam, already mentioned.]
4. The fourth point is on "those who show off." This is the point of Ibn al-'Arabi about the reality of showing off. He points out that he already mentioned the reality and rules of hypocrisy in other suras.
5. The fifth point is that a man is not showing off by displaying righteous action if it is obligatory. It is part of the right of obligations to made public and well known since the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "There is no veiling in the obligations of Allah" because they are the signs of Islam and hallmarks of the deen, and because someone who abandons them deserves to be censured and hated. So one removes suspicion by making them public. If the actions are voluntary, then a person should conceal those actions because he is not censured for leaving them or suspect in that. If he displays them with the intention that he will be imitated, then it is good. Showing off is when he intends to show them so that people will see him and praise him for righteousness. It is reported from one of them that he saw a man in a mosque who performed the prostration of thankfulness and made it long. He remarked, "How much better this would be if it had been done in your house!" He said this because he noticed in him the showing off and the desire for reputation.
The sixth point is about ma'un, and he says that there are 12 views about it:
1. Zakat on property as related by Ibn 'Abbas, 'Ali and Malik. What is meant is that the hypocrite refuses to pay it. Malik said, "I have heard that the words of Allah (quoting the ayat) mean that when the hypocrite prays, he prays to show off. If he misses the prayer, he does not regret it. Their denial of help means the zakat which Allah has obliged on them."
2. It means "wealth" in the dialect of Quraysh. Ibn Shihab and Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab stated that.
3. It is a generic noun for all household tools, like axes, pots, fire and the like. Ibn Mas'ud said that and it is also reported from Ibn 'Abbas.
4. Az-Zajjaj, Abu 'Ubayd and al-Mubarrad said that in the Jahiliyya ma'un designated all that contains some use, even an axe, pot, bucket and flint, and anything else which has a use, small or large. They said that ma'un in Islam is obeidence and zakat.
5. It is a loan ('ariyya). That is also reported from Ibn 'Abbas.
6. It is all forms of charity (ma'ruf) which people give to one another. Muhammad ibn Ka'b and al-Kalbi said that.
7. It is water and pasturage.
8. It is just water. Al-Farra' said that he heard some Arabs use ma'un to mean water.
9. It is refusing hand over to someone his right. 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar said that.
10. It is the yield from the use of property, derived from ma'n (scarce) which means what is scarce. At-Tabari related that as did Ibn 'Abbas. Qutrub said that the root of ma'ün is scantness, ma'n. The Arabs say, "His property is ample, not scant (ma'na)." Allah referred to zakat, sadaqa and similar charity as ma'un becaue it is a little taken from a lot. Some people say that the root of ma'un is ma'üna, as al-Jawhari says. Ibn al-'Arabi says that ma'ün is a passive form from a'ana, yu'in, and 'awn means helping with strength, tools and the means to bring something about.
11. It is obedience and submission. Al-Akhfash reported a verbal usage of it when referring to a camel.
12. It is said that it is what unlawful to refuse, like water, salt and fire because 'A'isha said, "I said, 'Messenger of Allah what is it unlawful to refuse?' He replied, "Water, fire and salt." I said, "Messenger of Allah, I understand water, What about fire and salt?' He said, ''A'isha, if someone gives fire, it is as if he were giving as sadaqa all that is cooked with that fire. If someone gives salt, it is as if he is giving as sadaqa for all that is made tasty by that salt. If someone gives a drink of water when there is water available, it is as if he had set free sixty souls. If he gives a drink of water where there is no water available, it is as he gave life to soul. Whoever gives life to a soul, it is as if he had given life to all mankind." Ath-Tha'labi mentioned this in his tafsir and Ibn Majah transmitted it in the Sunan. There is some looseness in its isnad.
Al-Mawardi said that it is possible that it is helping with what is easy to do but which Allah has made heavy. Allah knows best. 'Ikrima was asked, "Will someone who refuses any goods to use have woe?" "No," he replied, but whoever combines all three will have woe: abandoning the prayer, showing off, and being miserly with help."
That is more applicable to the hypocrites because they have all three of these attributes. Allah says, "When they get up to pray, they get up lazily, showing off to people, and only remembering Allah a little." (4:142) and He says, "They only give reluctantly." (9:54) These are their states. It is unlikely that all of these will exist in a true Muslim. If some of them exist, he is rebuked: denying help when he is asked and abandoning the prayer, and Allah knows best. It is an ugly denial in good character when that is not necessary. Allah knows best.
This Ruh al-Bayan is not the famous one, by one by a Turkish Shaykh, Isma'il Baqqi al-Burusawi, (d. 1123/1711). This is more of a Sufi tafsir.
"He does not urge": He does not encourage his family and other wealthy people. If he does not encourage others, how can be himself do it? "Feeding of the poor" ascribes "feeding" to the poor and indicates that the poor have a right and share in the property of the wealthy and that he is denying the poor his right to which he is entitled: this is extreme miserliness and hard-heartedness. If someone says, "A person may not encourage in many states and that is not considered a sin, so how can he be blamed for it?" The answer is, "Because his lack of urging it is due to his lack of belief in the reward. So his lack of urging indicates his miserliness and denying charity to the needy. This is why it is followed by "woe", because it denotes denial of the deen.
Forgetfulness is negligence. There are two types of that. One is that it does not have a cause and is not a result of something else, like a madman cursing a person. The second is that it is due to a cause, like someone drinking wine and then doing something objectionable which he did not intend to do. The first is overlooked but he is punished for the second. Part of it is what Allah has censured in this ayat. By "being forgetful of their prayer," what is meant is abandoning it, lack of concern for it, and paying little attention to it. That is the action of the hypocrites and believers who are fasiq. Anas said, "Praise be to Allah who said, 'unmindful of their prayerŐ'and did not say 'in their prayer.'" If He had said, "in their prayer", forgetfulness afflicts them while they are praying, either by the whispering of Shaytan or the chatter of the nafs, and a Muslim is not free of that and it is extremely difficult to be free of it. When this ayat was revealed, the Prophet said, "This is better for you than each of you being given the equivalent of the entire world."
Was there any forgetfulness (sahw) on the part of the Prophet? Yes, as he said, "They distracted us from the 'Asr prayer," meaning on the day of the Battle of the Ditch. "May Allah fill their hearts with fire!" He also forgot the Fajr prayer on the night when he overslept. He prayed Dhuhr with two rak'ats and then said the salam. Abu Bakr said to him, "You prayed two rak'ats." He stood and prayed two rak'ats. His forgetting in what we mentioned was not like the forgetfulness of the rest of people. The Prophet was constantly in absorption and attraction. He said, "My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep." In it he indicates forgetfulness due to witnessing the subtle meanings of the prayer and heedlessness to its secrets and knowledges, Ibn Mas'ud recited lahun in place of sahun. If an intelligent person misses the prayer inasmuch as it is part of ascent and intimate conversation, he must not be careless in it by fiddling with the beard and clothes nor yawning a lot and looking about and the like. Some of those who pray do not how how much they have done or recited.
"Show off" They show off their actions to people so that they see them and are praised for them. Then one must combine the reality and the metaphor because praise is not connected to simply seeing something. It is applied to metaphors in general or to gnosis. It says in al-Kashshaf: "If a righteous action is fard, part of the right of obligations is that they are made public and known since the Prophet said, "There is no veiling in the obligations of Allah" because they are the signs of Islam and hallmarks of the deen, and because someone who abandons them deserves to be censured and hated. So he removes suspicion by making them public. If it is voluntary, then he should conceal them because he is not censured for leaving them or suspect in it. If he displays them with the intention that he will be imitated, then it is good. Showing off is when he intends to show them so that people will see him and praise him for righteousness." [Qurtubi]
It is difficult to avoid showing off because it is more hidden than the tiny black ant in a dark night on a black stone. The difference between the show off and the hypocrite is that the hypocrite conceals disbelief and makes a show of faith. The show off displays increased humility and the signs of righteousness so that those who see him will believe that he is one of the people of righteousness. The reality of showing is to seek this world through worship. It indicates that a person who attributes his actions and advancement to himself shows off.
"Denies help" From ma'n, which is the scant thing. Zakat is called ma'un because it is 2.5% of property which is little from a lot. Abu'l-Layth said, "Ma'un means wealth in the dialect of the Abyssinians."
The meaning is: they refuse to pay zakat, as is indicated because it follows mention of the prayer. Or it refers to what people normally lend to one another. If there is lack of concern for orphans and the poor, that comes from lack of belief in the reward and as such deserves censure and rebuke. Even more worthy to rebuke is lack of concern for the prayer which is the pillar of the deen and showing off which is a branch of kufr and refusing zakat which is the supporting arch of Islam and constitutes bad behaviour with people. How many do you see among those call themselves Muslim? Indeed, there are scholars among them who are like this. What a misfortune!
What is meant by what people normally lend to one another is what they lend to help one another, lending things like axes, pots, buckets, needles, plates, spindles, fire, water, and salt and the like, even if your neighbour asks to cook in your oven or leave his goods with you for a day and a half. 'A'isha said, "Messenger of Allah, what is it unlawful to refuse?' He replied, "Water, fire and salt." I said, "Messenger of Allah, I understand water, What about fire and salt?' He said, 'Humayra', if someone gives fire, it is as if he were giving as sadaqa all that is cooked with that fire. If someone gives salt, it is as if he is giving as sadaqa for all that is made tasty by that salt. If he gives a drink of water where there is no water, it ia as he gave life to soul. " This is in the Kashf al-Asrar. It is forbidden to refuse thee things in the Shari'a when they are borrowed because of need. It is ugly in good character when it is not a case of need.
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