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Al-Mizan Tafseer

In The Name of Allah, the Beneficent and the Most Merciful


Volume 4: Surah Baqarah, Verses 282-283

O you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and the scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so he should write; and let him who owes the debt dictate, and he should be careful of (his duty to) Allah, his Lord, and not diminish anything from it; but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding, or weak, or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you approve of the witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the (second) one of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned; and disdain not of writing it (whether it is) small or large, with its fixed time; this is more equitable with Allah and assures greater accuracy in testimony, and the nearest (way) that you may not entertain doubts (afterwards) ; except when it is ready merchandise which you give and take among yourselves from hand to hand, then there is no blame on you in not writing it down; and have witnesses when you trade with one another; and let no harm be done to the scribe or to the witnesses; and if you do (it) then surely it will be a transgression in you, and fear Allah; and Allah teaches you; and Allah knows all things (282). And if you are on a journey and you do not find a scribe, then (there may be) a security taken into possession; but if one of you trusts another, then he who is trusted should deliver his trust, and let him fear Allah, his Lord; and do not conceal testimony, and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful; and Allah knows what you do (283).


QUR’AN: 0 you who believe! when you deal with each other in contracting a loan...and Allah knows all things:

"at-Tadayun" is to give a loan to another; “al-imlal” and “al-imla” both mean ‘to dictate’; “al-bakhs” is to diminish, to do justice; “as-sa’mah” is to be fed up; to disdain; “al-mudarrah” on the paradigm of “al-mufa‘ilah” from “ad-darar” (harm) means to harm one another; “al-fusuq” is transgression, refusal to obey; ,”ar-rihan" has also been recited as ar-ruhun both are the plurals of ar-rahn (the thing mortgaged, pawned or deposited as security).

“And let him who owes the debt dictate . . . but if he who owes the debt is unsound in understanding. . ." The whole phrase “he who owes the debt” has been repeated here instead of using a pronoun. It was done to remove any possible misunderstanding, as a pronoun could easily be mistaken to refer to the “scribe” mentioned in the preceding sentence.

"...or (if) he is not able to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate..." The manifest and separate pronoun “huwa”( translated here as “himself”) has been included in the sentence to show that in this particular case the debtor and his guardian both have the right to dictate. In the first two situations, when the debtor is deficient in understanding or is weak (in body or mind), the guardian has total authority, and the debtor himself cannot deal in his own affairs. But in this third situation when the debtor is, for any reason, unable to dictate himself, then the guardian shall have joint authority to do so. Therefore, this pronoun has given the following meaning to the phrase: “what such a debtor himself can do, he should do it ; but what he is unable to do, his guardian shall do it".

“. . . so that if one of the two errs, the (second) one of the two may remind the other”: In this sentence a word, hadhar is understood before "an"; together they literally mean, “lest one of the two errs. . .”; the words, “one of the two” have been repeated in this sentence. While at first glance it would appear that the second phrase could be replaced by a pronoun, the fact is that the two phrases do not have the same significance. The first phrase (if one of the two errs) refers to either of the two without pointing to a particular woman; the second phrase (the one of the two may remind. . .) points particularly to the second who has not erred. That is why we have added the word (second) in its translation.

“And fear Allah”; The believers should guard themselves against disobeying the orders and prohibitions promulgated in this verse. “And Allah teaches you”; it is an independent sentence, not connected with the preceding one, “and fear Allah”. The sentence describes the grace of Allah bestowed on the believers. In this respect it is like the words of Allah in the verse of inheritance: Allah makes it clear to you lest you err (4:176). Allah in both these sentences shows that He has bestowed His bounties upon the believers by teaching them the rules of religion and by instructing them as to what they were allowed to do and what not.

Some people have said that the sentence, “and fear Allah, and Allah teaches you”, were connected to each other. According to them, they show that there is a relation of cause and effect between the two - when people fear Allah then Allah teaches them.

Comment: The principle mentioned above is correct in itself, and is supported by other verses of the Qur’an and by traditions. But this verse has nothing to do with that principle. The second sentence begins with “and”; if it had wanted to enunciate that principle, the word “and” would not have been there; the sentence would have been like this: “and fear Allah, He will teach you”. Moreover, the said interpretation is not supported by the context; if we accept it then the end of the verse will be quite irrelevant to the main topic of the verse.

The above-mentioned reconstruction of the verse gives us another argument against that interpretation. Had that meaning been correct, the divine name, Allah, would not have been repeated in “and Allah teaches you”, a pronoun would have been more appropriate.

In these three consecutive short sentences, the divine name, Allah, has been repeated three times. It was necessary in the first sentence, “and fear Allah”; it had to be repeated in “and Allah teaches you”, because it was an independent sentence; and in the last sentence, “and Allah knows all things”, the name gives the proof of this statement - He knows all things because He is Allah.

The two verses contain nearly twenty basic rules concerning loan, mortgage, evidence, etc. There are numerous traditions about these and related topics. But the proper place to go into these details are the books of jurisprudence. Therefore, we shall not quote them here.

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