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Mecca was the scene of a radical socioeconomic change involving the transition from a partly Bedouin to an urban society. Its leading tribe
the Quraysh was becoming mercantile as a result of the control it exercised on the caravans. The caravan trade extended from the west
coast of Arabia from the Yemen in the south to Damascus and Gaza in the north. Southward, the trade-route continued into Ethiopia and by
the use of monsoons to India. Northward, the eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire was eager for the products of orient. Perhaps the
struggle between the Persians and the Byzantines had diverted trade from the Persian Gulf to western Arabia. Certainly by 610 the trade
through Mecca had become very lucrative and the people of Mecca were gaining their livelihood almost exclusively through the mercantile
economy. The chief entrepreneurs had become wealthy merchants and they thought of making largest profit for themselves. The capital
upon which they operated had been originally the common property of the clan; but they conveniently forgot this. Instead of looking after
the weaker members of the tribe, as nomadic code prescribed, the Quraysh were now intent on making money at the expense of some of the
tribe’s poorer members. The great merchants were not willing to use their wealth to help the poor or the unfortunate and were niggardly and
selfish. There was a widening gap between the settled, wealthier people and the poor nomads. The tribal transition involved both
psychological and social tensions. Traditional loyalties were strained and old values downgraded. Tribal solidarity which formed basis for
survival in desert life and physical courage a prerequisite for prestige and leadership in a nomadic society give way in a capitalistic society
to individual initiative, industry and wealth.
Material prosperity had led to an excessive valuation of wealth and power and to a belief that human planning could achieve almost
anything. The nomadic Arabs had believed that human planning was overruled not by a deity but by the operation of an impersonal Time or
fate; but the Quran combated this belief by stating that God was not only all powerful but also good and merciful.
Since an individual’s health requires that his physical needs be reasonably met, a society’s health requires that material goods be widely
distributed and wealth is in easy circulation. The main points of Muslim economics cluster around her concern that the wealth of her people
be widely shared. As opposed to socialism and communism, the Quranic method of distribution of wealth is primarily voluntary with the
exception of poor tax. The voluntary distribution of wealth is consistent with the general concept of freedom of action in Islam.
Islam does not oppose the profit motive or economic competition. Indeed, the Prophet himself was a businessman by profession. It does not
discourage a man from working harder than his neighbor nor object to his being rewarded with a larger income. It simply insists that
acquisitiveness and competition be balanced by fair play and compassion. Since human nature automatically takes care of the former, it
falls to social laws to safeguard the latter. The Poor Due (zakah) which provides for the annual distribution of one-fortieth of what one
possesses to the poor is Islam’s basic device for institutionalizing regard for others, but it is supplemented by a number of other important
measures. The Quran enjoins Muslims to practice voluntary charity beside zakah, has proposed such forms of different kinds of atonements
that the flow of wealth is turned towards the poor. As a final point deserving mention in the economic area, Islam lays down the principle
that unearned money is not one’s own. This is aimed at sleeping partners and all who live on inheritance without themselves contributing to
society. Every time a Muslim lifts a morsel of food to his mouth he should be able to answer affirmatively the question, “Have I contributed
to the human enterprise sufficiently to deserve what I am now receiving?”
These are the basic principles of Muslim economics and nowhere did Muhammad’s democratic thunder speak with greater force or clarity
than in this area. Finding men ground under the tyranny of vested interests, he propounded measures that broke the barriers of economic
caste and enormously reduced the injustices of special privilege. (The translation of the Quran is presented in bold letters and the
explanation in parentheses.)
(6:141) For it is He who has brought into being gardens - [both] the cultivated ones and those growing wild [The mention of gardens
serves here to illustrate the doctrine that everything living and growing - like everything else in the universe - owes its existence to God
alone, and that it is, therefore, blasphemous to connect it causally or devotionally with any other power, be it real or imaginary.] - and the
date-palm, and fields bearing multiform produce, and the olive tree, and the pomegranate: [all] resembling one another and yet so
different! Eat of their fruit when it comes to fruition, and give [unto the poor] their due on harvest day. And do not waste [God’s
bounties]: verily, He does not love the wasteful!
PARABLE OF THE RICH AND POOR MAN (God’s grace is the source of all riches)
The parable of the rich man and the poor man is built around the theme of faith in God versus an undue attachment to the life of this world.
(18:32-44) And propound unto them the parable of two men, upon one of whom We had bestowed two vineyards, and surrounded
them with date palms, and placed a field of grain in-between. Each of the two gardens yielded its produce and never failed therein
in any way, for We had caused a stream to gush forth in the midst of each of them. And so [the man] had fruit in abundance. And
[one day] he said to his friend, bandying words with him, “More wealth have I than you, and mightier am I as regards [the number
and power of my] followers!” And having [thus] sinned against himself, he entered his garden, saying, “I do not think that this will
ever perish! And neither do I think that the Last Hour will ever come. But even if [it should come, and] I am brought before my
Sustainer, [I.e., for judgment.] I will surely find something even better than this as [my last] resort!” And his friend answered him in
the course of their argument: “Will you blaspheme against Him who has created you out of dust, and then out of a drop of sperm,
and in the end has fashioned you into a [complete] man? But as for myself, [I know that] He is God, my Sustainer; and I cannot
attribute divine powers to any but my Sustainer.” [I.e., I cannot associate in my mind wealth or poverty with any power or creative
cause other than Him.] And [he continued:] “Alas, if you had but said, on entering your garden, “Whatever God wills [shall come to
pass, for] there is no power save with God!” Although, as you see, I have less wealth and offspring than you, yet it may well be that
my Sustainer will give me something better than your garden – just as He may let loose a calamity out of heaven upon this [your
garden], so that it becomes a heap of barren dust or its water sinks deep into the ground, so that you will never be able to find it
again!” And [thus it happened:] his fruitful gardens were encompassed [by ruin], and there he was, wringing his hands over all that
he had spent on that which now lay waste, with its trellises caved in; and he could but say, “Oh, would that I had not attributed
divine powers to any but my Sustainer!” – for now he had nought to succor him in God’s stead, nor could he succor himself. For
thus it is: all protective power belongs to God alone, the True One. He is the best to grant recompense, and the best to determine
what is to be.
(34:1) All praise is due to God, to whom all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth belongs; and to Him will be due all praise
in the life to come.
(42:12) His are the keys of the heavens and the earth: He grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever
He wills: for, behold, He has full knowledge of everything. [I.e., He knows not only what every human being deserves, but also what is
intrinsically - though not always perceptibly - good and necessary in the context of His plan of creation. Moreover, all that exists belongs to
Him alone, and man is allowed no more than the usufruct of what is commonly regarded as “property”.]
(42:24-28) Do they, perchance, say, “[Muhammad] has attributed his own lying inventions to God”? But then, had God so willed,
He could have sealed your heart [forever]: for God blots out all falsehood, and by His words proves the truth to be true. Verily, He
has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men]; and it is He who accepts repentance from His servants, and pardons bad deeds,
and knows all that you do, and responds unto all who attain to faith and do righteous deeds; and [it is He who, in the life to come,]
will give them, out of His bounty, far more [than they will have deserved], whereas for the deniers of the truth there is [but]
suffering severe in store. For, if God were to grant [in this world] abundant sustenance to [all of] His servants, they would behave
on earth with wanton insolence: [This passage connects with, and elucidates, the statement in the preceding verse that God “responds
unto all who attain to faith and do righteous deeds” - a statement which, at first glance, seems to be contrary to the fact that whereas many
wrongdoers prosper and are happy, many righteous people suffer hurt and deprivation. In reply to this objection, the above verse points
elliptically to man’s innate “greed for more and more” (see 102:1), which often causes him to become “grossly overweening whenever he
believes himself to be self-sufficient” (96:6). To counteract this tendency, the Quran stresses again and again that God’s response to the
righteous - as well as to wrongdoers - will become fully evident only in the life to come, and not necessarily in this world, which, after all,
is only the first, short stage of man’s existence.] but as it is, He bestows [His grace] from on high in due measure, as He wills: for,
verily, He is fully aware of [the needs of] His creatures, and sees them all. And it is He who sends down rain after [men] have lost all
hope, and unfolds His grace [thereby]: for He alone is [their] Protector, the One to whom all praise is due. [This reference to the
symbol of life-giving rain connects with the preceding statement that “He bestows His grace in due measure, as He wills”.]
(57:7) Believe in God and His Apostle, and spend on others out of that of which He has made you trustees: [Implying that all that
man possesses is but held in trust from God, since all that is in the heavens and on earth belongs to Him, whereas man is allowed only its
usufruct.] for, those of you who have attained to faith and who spend freely [in God’s cause] shall have a great reward. (57:11) Who
is it that will offer up unto God a goodly loan, which He will amply repay? [Or, all that man may do selflessly, for the sake of God
alone.] For, such [as do so] shall have a noble reward. (57:18-19) Verily, as for the men and women who accept the truth as true [Or:
who give in charity] and who [thus] offer up unto God a goodly loan, they will be amply repaid, and shall have a noble reward [in
the life to come]. For, they who have attained to faith in God and His Apostle - it is they, they who uphold the truth, and they who
bear witness [thereto] before God: [I.e., by their readiness for any sacrifice.] [and so] they shall have their reward and their light! But
as for those who are bent on denying the truth and on giving the lie to Our messages - it is they who are destined for the blazing
(As an example of false pride and exulting in riches, see the legend of Qarun in the chapter of Moses)
(20:131) And never turn your eyes [with longing] towards whatever splendor of this world’s life We may have allowed so many
others [The above injunction condemns envy in general, thus rendering this expression as “so many others”.] to enjoy in order that We
might test them thereby: for the sustenance which thy Sustainer provides [for you] is better and more enduring. [Implying that
whatever God grants a person is an outcome of divine wisdom and truly appropriate to that person. Alternatively, the phrase may be
understood as referring to the life to come and the spiritual sustenance, which God bestows upon the righteous.]
(39:49-52) Now [thus it is:] when affliction befalls man, he cries out unto Us for help; but when We bestow upon him a boon by Our
grace, he says [to himself], “I have been given [all] this by virtue of [my own] wisdom!” [I.e., my prosperity is due to my own ability
and shrewdness.] Nay, this [bestowal of grace] is a trial: but most of them understand it not! The same did say [to themselves many
of] those who lived before their time; but of no avail to them was all that they had ever achieved: for all the evil deeds that they had
wrought fell [back] upon them. And [the same will happen to] people of the present time who are bent on wrongdoing: all the evil
deeds that they have ever wrought will fall [back] upon them, and never will they be able to elude [God]! Are they, then, not aware
that it is God who grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever He wills? In this, behold, there are
messages indeed for people who will believe!
(42:48) If they turn away [from you, O Prophet, know that] We have not sent you to be their keeper: you are not bound to do more
than deliver the message [entrusted to you]. And, behold, [such as turn away from Our messages are but impelled by the weakness
and inconstancy of human nature: thus,] [Man is, as a rule, absorbed in a pursuit of material goods and comforts, the achievement of
which he identifies with “happiness”; hence, he pays but scant attention to spiritual aims and values, and the more so if he is called upon to
abandon his selfish pursuits in favor of the - to him as yet hypothetical - life in the hereafter.] when We give man a taste of Our grace, he
is prone to exult in it; [I.e., when God bestows on him a measure of material benefits, man tends to exult in this success as such,
attributing it exclusively to his own ability and cleverness (see 41:50).] but if misfortune befalls [any of] them in result of what their
own hands have sent forth, then, behold, man shows how bereft he is of all gratitude! [I.e., instead of remembering his past happiness
with gratitude, he calls the very existence of God in question, arguing that if God did really exist, He could not possibly have permitted so
much misfortune and unhappiness to prevail in the world: a fallacious argument as it does not take the reality of the hereafter into account
and is, moreover, based on a concept of God in terms of purely human feelings and expectations.]
(89:15-16) But as for man, [Implying that man does not, as a rule, bethink himself of the hereafter, being concerned only with this world
and what promises to be of immediate advantage to him.] whenever his Sustainer tries him by His generosity and by letting him enjoy
a life of ease, he says, “My Sustainer has been [justly] generous towards me”; [I.e., he regards God’s bounty as something due to him.]
where as, whenever He tries him by straitening his means of livelihood, he says, “My Sustainer has disgraced me!” [I.e., he regards
the absence or loss of affluence not as a trial, but as an evidence of divine injustice - which, in its turn, may lead to a denial of God’s
The hundred-second surah, at-takathur (greed for more and more), is an early Meccan surah with one of the most powerful, prophetic
passages of the Quran, illuminating man’s unbounded greed in general and, more particularly, the tendencies which have come to dominate
all human societies in our technological age.
In the name of God, the most gracious, the dispenser of grace: (102:1-8) You are obsessed by greed for more and more until you go
down to your graves. [The term takathur bears the connotation of “greedily striving for an increase”, i.e., in benefits, be they tangible or
intangible, real or illusory. In the above context it denotes man’s obsessive striving for more and more comforts, more material goods, and
greater power over his fellow-men or over nature, and unceasing technological progress. A passionate pursuit of such endeavors, to the
exclusion of everything else, bars man from all spiritual insight and, hence, from the acceptance of any restrictions and inhibitions based on
purely moral values - with the result that not only individuals but whole societies gradually lose all inner stability and, thus, all chance of
happiness.] Nay, in time you will come to understand! And once again: Nay, in time you will come to understand! Nay, if you could
but understand [it] with an understanding [born] of certainty, you would indeed, most surely, behold the blazing fire [of hell]! [In
which you find yourselves now - i.e., the “hell on earth” brought about by a fundamentally wrong mode of life: an allusion to the gradual
destruction of man’s natural environment, as well as to the frustration, unhappiness and confusion which an overriding, unrestrained pursuit
of “economic growth” is bound to bring - and has, indeed, brought in our time - upon a mankind that is about to lose the remnants of all
spiritual, religious orientation.] In the end you will indeed, most surely, behold it with the eye of certainty: [I.e., in the hereafter,
through a direct, unequivocal insight into the real nature of one’s past doings, and into the inescapability of the suffering which man brings
upon himself by a wrong, wasteful use of the boon of life.] and on that Day you will most surely be called to account for [what you did
with] the boon of life!
(19:73-82) As it is, whenever Our messages are conveyed to them, in all their clarity, those who are bent on denying the truth are
wont to say unto those who have attained to faith: “Which of the two kinds of man is in a stronger position and superior as a
community?” [This is an allusion to two kinds or types of human society, characterized by their fundamentally different approach to
problems of faith and morality. This parabolic “saying” of the unbelievers implies, in the garb of a rhetorical question, a superficially
plausible but intrinsically fallacious argument in favor of a society that refuses to submit to any absolute moral imperatives and is
determined to obey the dictates of expediency alone. In such a social order, material success and power are usually seen as consequences of
a more or less conscious rejection of all metaphysical considerations - and, in particular, of all that is comprised in the concept of God-
willed standards of morality - on the assumption that they are but an obstacle in the path of man’s material success. It goes without saying
that this attitude (which has reached its epitome in the modern statement that “religion is opium for the people”) is diametrically opposed to
the demand, voiced by every higher religion, that man’s social life, if it is to be a truly “good” life, must be subordinated to definite ethical
principles and restraints. By their very nature, these restraints inhibit the unprincipled power-drive which dominates the more materialistic
societies and enables them to achieve - without regard to the damage done to others and, spiritually, to themselves - outward comforts and
positions of strength in the shortest possible time: but precisely because they do act as a brake on man’s selfishness and power-hunger, it is
these moral considerations and restraints - and they alone - that can free a community from the interminable, self-destructive inner tensions
and frustrations to which materialistic societies are subject, and thus bring about a more enduring state of social well-being. This, in short,
is the elliptically implied answer of the Quran to a rhetorical question placed in the mouths of “those who are bent on denying the truth”.]
And yet, how many a generation have We destroyed before their time - [people] who surpassed them in material power and in
outward show! [Or abundance of property.] Say: “As for him who lives in error, may the Most Gracious lengthen the span of his
life!” [Or grant him a respite, so that he might have a chance to realize the error of his ways and to repent: thus, every believer is enjoined
to pray for those who are sinning.] [And let them say whatever they say] [This interpolation refers to, and connects with, the “saying” of
the deniers of the truth mentioned in verse 73 above.] until the time when they behold that [doom] of which they were forewarned -
whether it be suffering [in this world] or [at the coming of] the Last Hour -: for then they will understand which [of the two kinds
of man] was worse in station and weaker in resources! [An expression which, in this context, denotes both material resources and the
ability to utilize them towards good ends] And God endows those who avail themselves of [His] guidance with an ever-deeper
consciousness of the right way; and good deeds, the fruit whereof endures forever, are, in thy Sustainer’s sight, of far greater merit
[than any worldly goods], and yield far better returns. [Which are better in thy Sustainer’s sight as regards merit, and better as regards
returns] And have you ever considered [the kind of man] who is bent on denying the truth of Our messages and says. “I will surely
be given wealth and children”? [This is a further illustration of the attitude described in verses 73-75: namely, the insistence on material
values to the exclusion of all moral considerations, and the conviction that worldly “success” is the only thing that really counts in life. As
in many other places in the Quran, this materialistic concept of “success” is metonymically equated with ones absorption in the idea of
“wealth and children”.] Has he, perchance, attained to a realm, which is beyond the reach of a created being’s perception? [In this
context, the term al-ghayb, denotes the unknowable future.] - or has he concluded a covenant with the Most Gracious? Nay! We shall
record what he says, and We shall lengthen the length of his suffering [in the hereafter], and divest him of all that he is [now]
speaking of: [A metaphor based on the concept of one person’s taking over what once belonged to, or was vested in, another.] for [on
Judgment Day] he will appear before Us in a lonely state. [I.e., bereft of any extraneous support, and thus depending on God’s grace and
mercy alone.] For [such as] these have taken to worshipping deities other than God, hoping that they would be a [source of] strength
for them. [This refers to the type of man spoken of in the preceding passage as well as in verses 73-75: people who worship wealth and
power with an almost religious devotion, attributing to these manifestations of worldly success the status of divine forces.] But nay! [On
Judgment Day] these [very objects of adoration] will disavow the worship that was paid to them, and will turn against those [who
had worshipped them]!
(34:34-39) For [thus it is:] whenever We sent a warner to any community, those of its people who had lost themselves entirely in the
pursuit of pleasures would declare, [It denotes “one who indulges in the pursuit of pleasures”, i.e., to the exclusion of all moral
considerations: see 11:116.] “Behold, we deny that there is any truth in [what you claim to be] your message!” - and they would add,
“Richer [than you] are we in wealth and in children, and [so] we are not going to be made to suffer!” [Implying, firstly, that the only
thing that really counts in life is the enjoyment of material benefits; and, secondly, that a materially successful life is, by itself, an evidence
of one’s being “on the right way”.] Say: “Behold, my Sustainer grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto
whomever He wills: but most men do not understand [God’s ways].” [And foolishly regard riches and poverty as indications of God’s
favor or disfavor. Indirectly, this statement refutes the belief held by many people in the present as well as in the past that material
prosperity is a justification of all human endeavors even at the expense of environment or spirituality.] For, it is neither your riches nor
your children that can bring you nearer to Us: only he who attains to faith and does what is right and just [comes near unto Us];
and it is [such as] these whom multiple recompense awaits for all that they have done; and it is they who shall dwell secure in the
mansions [of paradise] - whereas all who strive against Our messages, seeking to defeat their purpose, shall be given over to
suffering. Say: “Behold, my Sustainer grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever He wills of His
servants; [I.e., God’s promise to the righteous that they would attain to happiness in the life to come neither precludes nor implies their
being wealthy or poor in this world.] and whatever it be that you spend on others, He [always] replaces it: for He is the best of
providers.” [I.e., either with worldly goods, or with inner contentment, or with spiritual merits]
(42:19-22) God is most kind unto His creatures: He provides sustenance for whomever He wills - for He alone is powerful,
almighty! To him who desires a harvest in the life to come, We shall grant an increase in his harvest; whereas to him who desires
[but] a harvest in this world, We [may] give something thereof - but he will have no share in [the blessings of] the life to come. [I.e.,
whereas those who live righteously and turn their endeavors towards spiritual ends are sure to receive in the hereafter more than they are
hoping for, those who strive exclusively after worldly rewards may - but not necessarily will - achieve something, and not necessarily all,
of their aims, without having any reason to expect “a share in the blessings” that await the righteous in the hereafter.] Is it that they [who
care for no more than this world] believe in forces supposed to have a share in God’s divinity, [I.e., do they believe that circumstantial
phenomena like wealth, power, luck, etc., have something divine about them? - the implication being that belief in such forces is usually at
the root of men’s pursuance of exclusively worldly ends.] which enjoin upon them as a moral law something that God has never
allowed? [I.e., which cause them to abandon themselves with an almost religious fervor to something of which God disapproves - namely,
the striving after purely materialistic goals and a corresponding disregard of all spiritual and ethical values. For the rendering of din, in this
context, as “moral law”, see 109:6.] Now were it not for [God’s] decree on the final judgment, [I.e., that His final judgment shall be
postponed until the Day of Resurrection.] all would indeed have been decided between them [in this world]: [I.e., God would have
made a clear-cut distinction, in this world, between those who look forward to the hereafter and those who care for no more than worldly
success, by granting unlimited happiness to the former and causing the latter to suffer: but since it is only in the hereafter that man’s life is
to be truly fulfilled, God has willed to postpone this distinction until then.] but, verily, grievous suffering awaits the evildoers [in the life
to come]. [In that life to come,] you will see the evildoers full of fear at [the thought of] what they have earned: for [now] it is bound
to fall back upon them.
(9:75-79) And among them are such as vow unto God, “If indeed He grant us [something] out of His bounty, we shall most certainly
spend in charity, and shall most certainly be among the righteous!” But as soon as He has given them [aught] out of His bounty,
they cling to it niggardly, and turn away in their obstinacy [from all that they have vowed]: whereupon He causes hypocrisy to take
root in their hearts, [therein to remain] until the Day on which they shall meet Him - [I.e., until their resurrection. Thus, the Quran
states that it is excessive love of worldly possessions which gives rise, in a certain type of man, to the attitude of mind described as
“hypocrisy” - and not vice versa (see also 29:11). See in this connection the Prophet’s saying: “The mark of the hypocrite is threefold:
when he speaks, he lies; and when he promises, he breaks his promise; and when he is trusted, he betrays”.] because they have failed to
fulfill the vow which they had made unto God, and because they were wont to lie. [I.e., to themselves, trying to find excuses for their
breaking their vow.] Do they not know that God knows [all] their hidden thoughts and their secret confabulations, and that God
knows fully all the things that are beyond the reach of human perception? [It is these hypocrites] who find fault with such of the
believers as give for the sake of God [Regarding the rendering of sadaqat as “that which is given for the sake of God”, see 9:58.] more
than they are duty-bound to give, as well as with such as find nothing [to give] beyond [the meager fruits of] their toil, and who
scoff at them [all]. God will cause their scoffing to rebound on themselves, and grievous suffering awaits them. [There are many
authentic Traditions to the effect that the hypocrites at Medina used to deride the offerings, which the believers brought to the Prophet (as
head of the community and the state) in response to the Quranic ordinance that they should “give for the sake of God”. For instance, the
Companion Abu Masud reports: “When a man brought an ample offering, they i.e., the hypocrites would say, ‘He only wants to be seen and
praised by men’; and when a man brought an offering of a small measure (of dates or grain), they would say, ‘God does not stand in need
of such an offering’ ”. The above verse, however, does not allude merely to these historical incidents but serves to illustrate the mentality of
the hypocrite whose own insincerity colors his view of all other people.]
(4:36-37) Verily, God does not love any of those who, full of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner; [nor] those who are niggardly,
and bid others to be niggardly, and conceal whatever God has bestowed upon them out of His bounty; and so We have readied
shameful suffering for all who thus deny the truth.
(17:100) Say: “If you were to own all the treasure-houses of my Sustainer’s bounty, lo! you would still try to hold on [to them]
tightly for fear of spending [too much]: for man has always been avaricious [whereas God is limitless in His bounty].” [I.e., since
man is, by his very nature, dependent on material possessions, he instinctively tries to hold onto them; God, on the other hand, is self-
sufficient and, therefore, above all need of placing any limits on His bestowal of bounty.]
(36:47) Thus, when they are told, “Spend on others out of what God has provided for you as sustenance,” [The ethical importance of
this “spending on others” is frequently stressed in the Quran, and is embodied in the concept of zakah, which denotes purifying dues or, in
its broader sense, charity.] those who are bent on denying the truth say unto those who believe, “Shall we feed anyone whom, if
[your] God had so willed, He could have fed [Himself]? Clearly, you are but lost in error!”
(89:17) But nay, nay, [O men, consider all that you do and fail to do:] you are not generous towards the orphan, (89:18) and you do
not urge one another to feed the needy, (89:19) and you devour the inheritance [of others] with devouring greed, (89:20) and you
love wealth with boundless love!
The hundred-seventh surah, al-maun (assistance) was revealed in the early years of the Prophet’s mission, is derived from the word al-
maun occurring in the last verse. In the name of God, the most gracious, the dispenser of grace: (107:1-7) Have you ever considered
[the kind of man] who gives the lie to all moral law? [I.e., who denies that there is any objective validity in religion as such and, thus, in
the concept of moral law, which is one of the primary connotations of the term din - see 109:6. Some commentators are of the opinion that
in the above context din signifies “judgment”, i.e., the Day of Judgment, and interpret this phrase as meaning “who calls the Day of
Judgment a lie”.] Behold, it is this [kind of man] that thrusts the orphan away, and feels no urge to feed the needy. Woe, then, unto
those praying ones whose hearts from their prayer are remote - [Lit., “who are knowingly unmindful of their prayers”.] those who
want only to be seen and praised, and, withal, deny all assistance [to their fellow-men]! [The term al-maun comprises the many small
items needed for one’s daily use, as well as the occasional acts of kindness consisting in helping out one’s fellow-men with such items. In
its wider sense, it denotes aid or assistance in any difficulty.]
(68:17-35) [As for such sinners,] behold, We [but] try them [I.e., by bestowing on them affluence out of all proportion to their moral
deserts.] as We tried the owners of a certain garden who vowed that they would surely harvest its fruit on the morrow, and made no
allowance [for the will of God]: [I.e., they resolved upon their objective without the reservation, “if God so wills”: which points to the
first lesson to be derived from this parable.] whereupon a visitation from thy Sustainer came upon that [garden] while they were
asleep, so that by the morrow it became barren and bleak. Now when they rose at early morn, they called unto one another, “Go
early to your tilth if you want to harvest the fruit!” Thus they launched forth, whispering unto one another, “Indeed, no needy
person shall enter it today [and come] upon you [unawares]!” [Ever since Biblical times it has been understood that the poor have a
right to a share in the harvest of the fields and gardens owned by their more fortunate fellow-men (see 6:141 - “give unto the poor their due
on harvest-day”). The determination of the “owners of the garden” to deprive the poor of this right is the second type of sin to which the
above parable points: and as it is a social sin.] - and early they went, strongly bent upon their purpose. But as soon as they beheld [the
garden and could not recognize] it, they exclaimed, “Surely we have lost our way!” - [and then,] “Nay, but we have been rendered
destitute!” Said the most right-minded among them: “Did I not tell you, ‘Will you not extol God’s limitless glory?’ ” [This is
obviously a reference to their failure to realize that nothing can come about unless the Almighty so wills (verse 18).] They answered:
“Limitless in His glory is our Sustainer! Verily, we were doing wrong!” - and then they turned upon one another with mutual
reproaches. [In the end] they said: “Oh, woe unto us! Verily, we did behave outrageously! [But] it may be that our Sustainer will
grant us something better instead: [Namely, His forgiveness.] for, verily, unto our Sustainer do we turn with hope!” Such is the
suffering [with which We try some people in this world]; [This connects with the first clause of verse 17 above.] but greater by far will
be the suffering [which sinners shall have to bear] in the life to come - if they but knew it! For, behold, it is the God-conscious
[alone] whom gardens of bliss await with their Sustainer: or should We, perchance, treat those who surrender themselves unto Us
as [We would treat] those who remain lost in sin? [This is the earliest occurrence of the term muslimun (sing. muslim) in the history of
Quranic revelation. Throughout this work, the terms muslim and islam in accordance with their original connotations, namely, “one who
surrenders or has surrendered himself to God”, and “man’s self-surrender to God”; the same holds good of all forms of the verb aslama
occurring in the Quran. It should be borne in mind that the “institutionalized” use of these terms - that is, their exclusive application to the
followers of the Prophet Muhammad - represents a definitely post-Quranic development and, hence, must be avoided in a translation of the
(2:188) And devour not one another’s possessions wrongfully, and neither employ legal artifices [Lit., “and do not throw it to the
judges” - i.e., with a view to being decided by them contrary to what is right.] with a view to devouring sinfully, and knowingly,
anything that by right belongs to others. [Lit., “a part of other people’s possessions”.]
(4:29-32) O you who have attained to faith! Do not devour one another’s possessions wrongfully - not even by way of trade based on
mutual agreement - and do not destroy one another: for, behold, God is indeed a dispenser of grace unto you! [The believers are
prohibited from devouring another person’s possessions wrongfully even if that other person - being the weaker party - agrees to such a
deprivation or exploitation under the stress of circumstances. This reading logically connects, moreover, with verse 32 below, which
admonishes the believers not to covet one another’s possessions.] And as for him who does this with malicious intent and a will to do
wrong - him shall We, in time, cause to endure [suffering through] fire: for this is indeed easy for God. If you avoid the great sins,
which you have been enjoined to shun, We shall efface your [minor] bad deeds, and shall cause you to enter an abode of glory. [I.e.,
paradise. However, it may also denote not the place but the manner of “entering” - in which case the above phrase may be rendered thus:
“We shall cause you to enter upon your afterlife in a state of glory”.] Hence, do not covet the bounties which God has bestowed more
abundantly on some of you than on others. Men shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit from
what they earn. Ask, therefore, God [to give you] out of His bounty: behold, God has indeed full knowledge of everything.
(3:180) And they should not think - they who niggardly cling to all that God has granted them out of His bounty - that this is good
for them: nay, it is bad for them. That to which they [so] niggardly cling will, on the Day of Resurrection, be hung about their
necks: for unto God [alone] belongs the heritage of the heavens and of the earth; and God is aware of all that you do. [This is an
allusion to the way of life of the unbeliever, characterized by extreme attachment to the material things of this world - a materialism based
on a lack of belief in anything that transcends the practical problems of life.]
(92:5-11) Thus, as for him who gives [to others] and is conscious of God, and believes in the truth of the ultimate good - [I.e., in
moral values independent of time and social circumstance and, hence, in the absolute validity of what may be described as the moral
imperative.] for him shall We make easy the path towards [ultimate] ease. But as for him who is niggardly, and thinks that he is self-
sufficient, and calls the ultimate good a lie - for him shall We make easy the path towards hardship: and what will his wealth avail
him when he goes down [to his grave]? (92:14-21) and so I warn you of the raging fire - [the fire] which none shall have to endure
but that most hapless wretch who gives the lie to the truth and turns away [from it]. For, distant from it shall remain he who is
truly conscious of God: he that spends his possessions [on others] so that he might grow in purity - not as payment for favors
received, [Lit., “no one having with him any favor to be repaid”. In its widest sense, projected towards the future, the phrase implies also
the expectation of a reward.] but only out of a longing for the countenance of his Sustainer, the All-Highest: and such, indeed, shall in
time be well-pleased.
AL-HUMAZAH (the slanderer, 104)
The hundred-fourth surah, AL-HUMAZAH (the slanderer), taking its conventional name from a noun occurring in the first verse, this surah
seems to have been revealed towards the end of the third year of Muhammad’s prophethood.
In the name of God, the most gracious, the dispenser of grace: (104:1-9) Woe unto every slanderer, fault-finder! [I.e., everyone who
maliciously tries to uncover real or imaginary faults in others] [Woe unto him] who amasses wealth and counts it a safeguard, [This
repetitive interpolation is necessary because the blameworthy attitude spoken of in verses 2-3 belongs to a category entirely different from
the two mentioned in verse 1.] thinking that his wealth will make him live forever! [This is a metonym for the tendency to attribute an
almost religious value to the acquisition and possession of material goods and facilities - a tendency which precludes man from giving any
real importance to spiritual considerations (see 102:1).] Nay, but [in the life to come such as] he shall indeed be abandoned to crushing
torment! [One of several metaphors for the otherworldly suffering comprised within the concept of “hell” (see 15:43-44).] And what
could make you conceive what that crushing torment will be? A fire kindled by God, which will rise over the [guilty] hearts: [I.e.,
originating in their hearts - thus clearly alluding to the spiritual nature of the fire in the sinners’ belated realization of their guilt.] verily, it
will close in upon them in endless columns! [Lit., “in extended columns”, i.e., overwhelming with despair.]
(6:152) And [in all your dealings] give full measure and weight, with equity: [This refers metonymically to all dealings between men
and not only to commercial transactions: hence the interpolation of “in all your dealings”.] [however,] We do not burden any human
being with more than he is well able to bear; [The meaning is that God does not expect man to behave with “mathematical” equity -
which, in view of the many intangible factors involved, is rarely attainable in human dealings - but expects him to do his best towards
achieving this ideal.]
(17:35) And give full measure whenever you measure, and weigh with a balance that is true: this will be [for your own] good, and
best in the end. [The above injunction applies not merely to commercial transactions but to all dealings between man and man.]
(55:5-9) [At His behest] the sun and the moon run their appointed courses; [Lit., “according to a definite reckoning”.] [before Him]
prostrate themselves the stars and the trees. And the skies has He raised high, and has devised [for all things] a measure, so that
you [too, O men,] might never transgress the measure [of what is right]: weigh, therefore, [your deeds] with equity, and cut not the
measure short!
(83:1-6) Woe unto those who give short measure: those who, when they are to receive their due from [other] people, demand that it
be given in full - but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due! [This passage does
not, of course, refer only to commercial dealings but touches upon every aspect of social relations, both practical and moral, applying to
every individual’s rights and obligations no less than to his physical possessions.] Do they not know that they are bound to be raised
from the dead [and called to account] on an awesome Day - the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds?
(For the corrupt practices of people of Madyan, see the chapter on pre-Islamic Arabian prophets)
The verse 2:275 prohibits the taking of interest. Up to the last century this verse was taken as binding for all loans though often there were
informal understandings about gifts which the borrower would make to the lender as an expression of his appreciation. Gradually with the
advance of capitalism throughout Muslim countries in the nineteenth century this verse came to be reinterpreted to mean that interest
should not be charged on loans used for the relief of human needs but that this restriction did not apply to loan for business purposes. As
the latter were designed to bring profit to the borrower, it was felt that the Quran could not have intended that the lender be excluded from
this profit. With this interpretation it is the prevailing Muslim view that there is no incompatibility between Islam and compassionate
(30:39) And [remember:] whatever you may give out in usury so that it might increase through [other] people’s possessions will
bring [you] no increase in the sight of God. [This is the earliest mention of the term and concept of riba in the chronology of Quranic
revelation. In its general, linguistic sense, this term denotes an “addition” to or an “increase” of a thing over and above its original size or
amount. In the terminology of the Quran, riba signifies any unlawful addition, by way of interest, to a sum of money or 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 is 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”. 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 (see 2:281). The Companions had no opportunity to ask him about the legal implications of the relevant injunction -
so much so that even Umar ibn al-Khattab is reliably reported to have said: “The last of the Quran that was revealed was the passage on
riba; and, behold, the Apostle of God passed away without having explained its meaning to us”. Nevertheless, the severity with which the
Quran condemns 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 this term is used in the Quran 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
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 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. 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, mans social and
technological development - and, thus, his economic environment - is subject. Hence, while the Quranic 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 want of a better word, may be rendered as “usury”. In the present instance, no clear-cut
prohibition is as yet laid down; but the prohibition appearing in 2:275, is already foreshadowed by the reference to the immoral hope of
increasing one’s own substance “through other people’s possessions”, i.e., through the exploitation of others.]
(3:130) O you who have attained to faith! Do not gorge yourselves on usury, doubling and re-doubling it - but remain conscious of
God, so that you might attain to a happy state. [The best explanation of the above is the one offered by Qiffal (as quoted by Razi): Since
it was mainly through usurious gains that the pagan Meccans had acquired the wealth which enabled them to equip their powerful army and
almost to defeat the poorly-armed Muslims at Uhud, the latter might have been tempted to emulate their enemies in this respect; and it was
to remove this temptation - from them as well as from later generations of believers - that the prohibition of usury was once again stressed
through revelation.]
(2:275-281) Those who gorge themselves on usury behave but as he might behave whom Satan has confounded with his touch; [The
subject of usury connects logically with the preceding long passage on the subject of charity because the former is morally the exact
opposite of the latter: true charity consists in giving without an expectation of material gain, whereas usury is based on an expectation of
gain without any corresponding effort on the part of the lender.] for they say, “Buying and selling is but a kind of usury” - the while
God has made buying and selling lawful and usury unlawful. Hence, whoever becomes aware of his Sustainer’s admonition, and
thereupon desists [from usury], may keep his past gains, and it will be for God to judge him; but as for those who return to it - they
are destined for the fire, therein to abide! God deprives usurious gains of all blessing, whereas He blesses charitable deeds with
manifold increase. And God does not love anyone who is stubbornly ingrate and persists in sinful ways. Verily, those who have
attained to faith and do good works, and are constant in prayer, and dispense charity - they shall have their reward with their
Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. O you who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God,
and give up all outstanding gains from usury, if you are [truly] believers; [This refers not merely to the believers at the time when the
prohibition of usury was proclaimed, but also to people of later times who may come to believe in the Quranic message.] for if you do it
not, then know that you are at war with God and His Apostle. But if you repent, then you shall be entitled to [the return of] your
principal: [I.e., without interest.] you will do no wrong, and neither will you be wronged. If, however, [the debtor] is in straitened
circumstances, [grant him] a delay until a time of ease; and it would be for your own good - if you but knew it - to remit [the debt
entirely] by way of charity. And be conscious of the Day on which you shall be brought back unto God, whereupon every human
being shall be repaid in full for what he has earned, and none shall be wronged. [According to the uncontested evidence of Ibn Abbas,
the above verse was the last revelation granted to the Prophet, who died shortly afterwards.]
(2:282-284) O you who have attained to faith! Whenever you give or take credit for a stated term, set it down in writing. [The above
phrase embraces any transaction on the basis of credit, be it an outright loan or a commercial deal. It relates to both the giver and taker of
credit, and has been rendered accordingly.] And let a scribe write it down equitably between you; and no scribe shall refuse to write as
God has taught him: [I.e., in accordance with the laws promulgated in the Quran.] thus shall he write. And let him who contracts the
debt dictate; and let him be conscious of God, his Sustainer, and not weaken anything of his undertaking. [Thus, the formulation of
the undertaking is left to the weaker party, i.e., to the one who contracts the debt.] And if he who contracts the debt is weak of mind or
body, or is not able to dictate himself, then let him who watches over his interests dictate equitably. [If he is physically handicapped,
or does not fully understand the business terminology used in such contracts, or is not acquainted with the language in which the contract is
to be written. The definition “weak of mind or body” (lit., “lacking in understanding or weak”) applies to minors as well as to very old
persons who are no longer in full possession of their mental faculties.] And call upon two of your men to act as witnesses; and if two
men are not available, then a man and two women from among such as are acceptable to you as witnesses, so that if one of them
should make a mistake, the other could remind her. [The stipulation that two women may be substituted for one male witness does not
imply any reflection on woman’s moral or intellectual capabilities: it is obviously due to the fact that, as a rule, women are less familiar
with business procedures than men and, therefore, more liable to commit mistakes in this respect.] And the witnesses must not refuse [to
give evidence] whenever they are called upon. And be not loath to write down every contractual provision, [I.e., all rights and
obligations arising from the contract.] be it small or great, together with the time at which it falls due; this is more equitable in the
sight of God, more reliable as evidence, and more likely to prevent you from having doubts [later]. If, however, [the transaction]
concerns ready merchandise which you transfer directly unto one another, you will incur no sin if you do not write it down. And
have witnesses whenever you trade with one another, but neither scribe nor witness must suffer harm; [E.g., by being held
responsible for the eventual consequences of the contract as such, or for the non-fulfillment of any of its provisions by either of the
contracting parties.] for if you do [them harm], behold, it will be sinful conduct on your part. And remain conscious of God, since it
is God who teaches you [herewith] - and God has full knowledge of everything. And if you are on a journey and cannot find a
scribe, pledges [may be taken] in hand: but if you trust one another, then let him who is trusted fulfill his trust, and let him be
conscious of God, his Sustainer. And do not conceal what you have witnessed for, verily, he who conceals it is sinful at heart; and
God has full knowledge of all that you do. [Lit., “do not conceal testimony”. This relates not only to those who have witnessed a
business transaction, but also to a debtor who has been given a loan on trust - without a written agreement and without witnesses - and
subsequently denies all knowledge of his indebtedness.] for, verily, he who conceals it is sinful at heart; and God has full knowledge of
all that you do. Unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. And whether you bring into the open what is in
your minds or conceal it, God will call you to account for it; and then He will forgive whom He wills, and will chastise whom He
wills: for God has the power to will anything.
The third pillar of Islam is charity. Material things are important in life, but some people have more than others. Why? Islam is not con-
cerned with this theoretical problem. Instead, it turns to the practical question of what should be done about the situation. Its answer is
simple. Those who have much should help lift the burden of those who are less fortunate. It is a principle twentieth century democracy has
reached in its concept of the welfare state. Muhammad instituted it in the seventh by prescribing a graduated tax on the haves to relieve the
circumstance of the have-nots. The figure he set was two and one-half per cent. Compare with the tithe of Judaism and Christianity (which
being directed more to the maintenance of religious institutions than to the direct relief of human need is not strictly comparable), this looks
modest until we discover that it refers not just to income but to holdings. Poorer people owe nothing, but those in the middle and upper
income brackets must annually distribute among the poor, one-fortieth of the value of all they possess. And to whom among the poor
should this money be given? This too, characteristically, is prescribed: to those in direst need; to slaves in the process of buying their
freedom; to debtors unable to meet their obligations; to strangers and wayfarers. The Quran employs the laws of inheritance (see below)
and charity as means of distribution of wealth. The charity can be in the form of Zakah or obligatory tax or Sadaqah.
In Islamic law, zakah denotes an obligatory tax, incumbent on Muslims, which is meant to purify a person’s capital and income from the
taint of selfishness (hence the name). The proceeds of this tax are to be spent mainly, but not exclusively, on the poor. Whenever this term
bears the above legal implication, it is translated as “the purifying dues”. When this term is used in reference to the children of Israel, it
obviously implies only acts of charity towards the poor and it is more appropriate to translate it as “almsgiving” or “charity”. This latter
rendering is adopted in all instances where the term zakah, though relating to Muslims, does not apply specifically to the obligatory tax as
such, e.g., in 73:20, where this term appears for the first time in the chronology of revelation.
The term sadaqat (sing. sadaqah is rendered here as “offerings given for the sake of God”, since there is no English equivalent for. This
comprises everything that a believer freely gives to another person, out of love or compassion, as well as what he is morally or legally
obliged to give, without expecting any worldly return: that is, charitable gifts and deeds of every description (which is the primary meaning
of sadaqat - e.g., in 2:263 and 264), as well as the obligatory tax called zakah (“the purifying dues”, because its payment purifies, as it
were, a person’s property from the taint of selfishness).
(41:6-8) Say you, [O Prophet:] “I am but a mortal like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is the One God: go, then,
straight towards Him and seek His forgiveness!” And woe unto those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, [and] those who do
not spend in charity: for it is they, they who [thus] deny the truth of the life to come! [But,] verily, they who have attained to faith
and do good works shall have a reward unending! [Belief in God’s oneness and charitableness towards one’s fellow-men are two
cardinal demands of Islam. Conversely, a deliberate offence against either of these two demands amounts to a denial of man’s responsibility
before God and hence, by implication, of a continuation of life in the hereafter. For the rendering of zakah, in this context, as “charity”, see
2:43. The application of this term to the obligatory tax incumbent on Muslims dates from the Medina period, whereas the present surah is a
Meccan revelation.)]
(3:92) [But as for you, O believers,] never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish
yourselves; and whatever you spend - verily, God has full knowledge thereof. [The Quran reminds the believers that their faith in God
cannot be considered complete unless it makes them conscious of the material needs of their fellow-beings (see 2:177).]
(70:24-25) And in whose possessions there is a due share, acknowledged [by them], for such as ask [for help] and such as are
deprived [of what is good in life]; [And do not or cannot beg]
(31:2-5) These are messages of the divine writ, full of wisdom, providing guidance and grace unto the doers of good who are
constant in prayer and dispense charity: [The term az-zakah seems to have here its more general meaning of “charity” rather than the
legal connotation of “purifying dues” (see 2:43), the more so as the above passage has a close inner resemblance to 2:2-4, where “spending
on others out of what We provide as sustenance” is described as one of the characteristics of the God-conscious.] for it is they, they who in
their innermost are certain of the life to come! It is they who follow the guidance [that comes to them] from their Sustainer; and it
is they, they who shall attain to a happy state!
(25:67) And who, whenever they spend on others, are neither wasteful nor niggardly but [remember that] there is always a just
mean between those [two extremes]. [A call to generosity and, at the same time, to moderation (see 2:143 – “We have willed you to be a
community of the middle way”]
(47:36-38) And withal, He does not demand of you [to sacrifice in His cause all of] your possessions: [Although the life of this world is
“but a play and a passing delight”, God does not want to deprive the believers of its rightful enjoyment: and so He expects them to sacrifice
only a small part of their possessions in His cause. This passage evidently foreshadows the imposition of the obligatory annual tax called
zakah (“the purifying dues”), amounting to about 2.5 percent of a Muslim’s income and property. The proceeds of this tax are to be utilized
in what the Quran describes as “the cause [lit., “way”] of God”, i.e., for the welfare of the community; and its spiritual purpose is the
purification of a Muslim’s possessions from the blemish of greed and selfishness. It is to be noted that the payment of zakah was made
obligatory at the very beginning of the Medina period, that is, at approximately the same time as the revelation of the present surah.] [for,]
if He were to demand of you all of them, and urge you, [to divest yourselves of all your possessions.] you would niggardly cling [to
them], and so He would [but] bring out your moral failings. [The implication is that since “man has been created weak” (4:28), the
imposition of too great a burden on the believers would be self-defeating as it might result not in an increase of faith but, rather, in its
diminution. This passage illustrates the supreme realism of the Quran, which takes into account human nature as it is, with all its God-
willed complexity and its inner contradictions, and does not, therefore, postulate a priori an impossible ideal as a norm of human behavior.
See 91:8, which speaks of man’s personality as “imbued with moral failings as well as consciousness of God”.] Behold, [O believers,] it is
you who are called upon to spend freely in God’s cause: but [even] among you are such as turn out to be niggardly! And yet, he
who acts niggardly [in God’s cause] is but niggardly towards his own self: for God is indeed self-sufficient, whereas you stand in
need [of Him]; and if you turn away [from Him], He will cause other people to take your place, and they will not be the likes of you!
(17:25-30) Your Sustainer is fully aware of what is in your hearts. If you are righteous, [He will forgive you your errors]: [This
interpolation gives the meaning of the above elliptic sentence.] for, behold, He is much forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and
again. And give his due to the near of kin, [In this instance, “his due” evidently refers to the loving consideration due to ones relatives;
those of them who are in a state of want are included in the subsequent mention of the needy.] as well as to the needy and the wayfarer,
[Regarding this expression, see 2:177.] but do not squander [your substance] senselessly. [For no good purpose or spending without a
righteous purpose in a frivolous cause. If a man were to spend all that he possesses in a righteous cause, it could not be termed squandering;
but if he spends even a small amount in a frivolous cause, it is squandering.] Behold, the squanderers are, indeed, of the ilk of the satans
- inasmuch as Satan has indeed proved most ungrateful to his Sustainer. [Since squandering - in the sense explained in the preceding
note - implies an utter lack of gratitude for the gift of sustenance bestowed by God upon man, the squanderers are described as being of the
ilk [lit., “brethren”] of the satans.] And if you [must] turn aside from those [that are in want, because you yourself are] seeking to
obtain thy Sustainer’s grace and hoping for it, [I.e., because you are yourself in want, and therefore unable to help others.] at least
speak unto them with gentle speech. And neither allow your hand to remain shackled to your neck, [A metaphor signifying
miserliness and, in particular, unwillingness to help others.] nor stretch it forth to the utmost limit [of your capacity], lest you find
yourself blamed [by your dependants], or even destitute. Behold, thy Sustainer grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant
measure, unto whomever He wills: verily, fully aware is He of [the needs of] His creatures, and sees them all.
(64:16-18) Remain, then, conscious of God as best you can, and listen [to Him], and pay heed. And spend in charity for the good of
your own selves: for, such as from their own covetousness are saved - it is they, they that shall attain to a happy state! If you offer
up to God a goodly loan, He will amply repay you for it, and will forgive you your sins: for God is ever responsive to gratitude,
forbearing, knowing all that is beyond the reach of a created being’s perception as well as all that can be witnessed by a creature’s
senses or mind - the Almighty, the Wise!
(2:215) They will ask you as to what they should spend on others. Say: “Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your
parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full
knowledge thereof.”
(30:37-39) Are they, then, not aware that it is God who grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever He
wills? In this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who will believe! Hence, give his due to the near of kin, as well as to the
needy and the wayfarer; this is best for all who seek God’s countenance: for it is they, they that shall attain to a happy state!
whereas all that you give out in charity, seeking God’s countenance, [will be blessed by Him:] for it is they, they [who thus seek His
countenance] that shall have their recompense multiplied!
(2:219-220) And they will ask you as to what they should spend [in God's cause]. Say: “Whatever you can spare.” In this way God
makes clear unto you His messages, so that you might reflect on this world and on the life to come. And they will ask you about
[how to deal with] orphans. Say: “To improve their condition is best.” And if you share their life, [remember that] they are your
brethren: [The implication is that if one shares the life of an orphan in his charge, one is permitted to benefit by such an association - for
instance, through a business partnership - provided this does not damage the orphan’s interests in any way.] for God distinguishes
between him who spoils things and him who improves. And had God so willed, He would indeed have imposed on you hardships,
which you would not have been able to bear: [but,] behold, God is almighty, wise! [I.e., by putting you under an obligation to care for
the orphans, and at the same time prohibiting you from sharing their life]
SPENDING IN GOD’S WAY (parable of sprouting grain)
(2:254) O you who have attained to faith! Spend [in Our way] out of what We have granted you as sustenance before there come a
Day when there will be no bargaining, and no friendship, and no intercession. And they who deny the truth - it is they who are
evildoers! [I.e., the Day of Judgment. The “spending in God’s way” relates here to every kind of sacrifice in God’s cause, and not merely
to the spending of one’s possessions.] (2:261) The parable of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain
out of which grow seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is
infinite, all-knowing.
AVOID HURTING FEELINGS OF NEEDY (parable of smooth rock)
One important area of moral psychology concerns the inherent selfishness of human. Even if an action seems selfless, such as donating to
charity, there may still be a selfish reason such as experiencing power over other people. This is called psychological egoism where self-
oriented interests motivate human actions. Psychological altruism, on the other hand maintains that humans have an inherent capacity to
show benevolence to others. The following Quranic verses appeal to instinctive human benevolence and altruism.
(2:262-264) They who spend their possessions for the sake of God and do not thereafter mar their spending by stressing their own
benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy] shall have their reward with their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and
neither shall they grieve. A kind word and the veiling of another’s want [Lit., “forgiveness”, in this context as “veiling another’s
want”.] is better than a charitable deed followed by hurt; and God is self-sufficient, forbearing. O you who have attained to faith!
Do not deprive your charitable deeds of all worth by stressing your own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy], as does
he who spends his wealth only to be seen and praised by men, and believes not in God and the Last Day: for his parable is that of a
smooth rock with [a little] earth upon it - and then a rainstorm smites it and leaves it hard and bare. Such as these shall have no
gain whatever from all their [good] works: for God does not guide people who refuse to acknowledge the truth.
(2:265-267) And the parable of those who spend their possessions out of a longing to please God, and out of their own inner
certainty, is that of a garden on high, fertile ground: a rainstorm smites it, and thereupon it brings forth its fruit twofold; and if no
rainstorm smites it, soft rain [falls upon it]. And God sees all that you do. Would any of you like to have a garden of date-palms and
vines, through which running waters flow, and have all manner of fruit therein - and then be overtaken by old age, with only weak
children to [look after] him - and then [see] it smitten by a fiery whirlwind and utterly scorched? In this way God makes clear His
messages unto you, so that you might take thought. O you who have attained to faith! Spend on others out of the good things which
you may have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad
things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that God is self-sufficient, ever to be
(2:268-269) Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and bids you to be niggardly, whereas God promises you His
forgiveness and bounty; and God is infinite, all-knowing, granting wisdom unto whom He wills: and whoever is granted wisdom
has indeed been granted wealth abundant. But none bears this in mind save those who are endowed with insight.
(2:270-271) For, whatever you may spend on others, or whatever you may vow [to spend], verily, God knows it; and those who do
wrong [by withholding charity] shall have none to succor them. If you do deeds of charity openly, it is well; but if you bestow it
upon the needy in secret, it will be even better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. And God is aware of all that
you do.
(2:272) It is not for you [O Prophet] to make people follow the right path, since it is God [alone] who guides whom He wills. And
whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God’s
countenance: for, whatever good you may spend will be repaid unto you in full, and you shall not be wronged. [In the early days after
his migration to Medina, the Prophet - faced by the great poverty prevalent among his own community - advised his Companions that
“charity should be bestowed only on the followers of Islam” - a view that was immediately corrected by the revelation of the above verse.
The Prophet thereupon explicitly enjoined upon his followers to disburse charities upon all who needed them, irrespective of the faith of
the person concerned. The above verse lays down an injunction binding upon all Muslims that the charity - or the threat to withhold it -
must never become a means of attracting unbelievers to Islam: for, in order to be valid, faith must be an outcome of inner conviction and
(2:273-274) [And give] unto [such of] the needy who, being wholly wrapped up in God’s cause, are unable to go about the earth [in
search of livelihood]. [I.e., those who have devoted themselves entirely to working in the cause of the Faith - be it by spreading,
elucidating or defending it physically or intellectually - or to any of the selfless pursuits extolled in God’s message, such as search for
knowledge, work for the betterment of man’s lot, and so forth; and, finally, those who, having suffered personal or material hurt in such
pursuits, are henceforth unable to fend for themselves.] He who is unaware [of their condition] might think that they are wealthy,
because they abstain [from begging]; [but] you can recognize them by their special mark: they do not beg of men with importunity.
And whatever good you may spend [on them], verily, God knows it all. Those who spend their possessions [for the sake of God] by
night and by day, secretly and openly, shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall
they grieve.
(24:61) [All of you, O believers, are brethren: hence.] [The innermost purport of this passage is a stress on the brotherhood of all
believers, expressed in a call to mutual charity, compassion and good-fellowship and, hence, the avoidance of all unnecessary formalities in
their mutual relations.] no blame attaches to the blind, nor does blame attach to the lame, nor does blame attach to the sick [for
accepting charity from the hale], and neither to yourselves for eating [whatever is offered to you by others, whether it be food
obtained] from your [children’s] houses, [The expression “your houses” implies in this context also “your children’s houses”, since all
that belongs to a person may be said to belong, morally, to his parents as well.] or your fathers’ houses, or your mothers’ houses, or your
brothers’ houses, or your sisters’ houses, or your paternal uncles’ houses, or your paternal aunts’ houses, or your maternal uncles’
houses, or your maternal aunts’ houses, or [houses] the keys whereof are in your charge! [I.e., for which you are responsible] or [the
house] of any of your friends; nor will you incur any sin by eating in company or separately. But whenever you enter [any of these]
houses, greet one another with a blessed, goodly greeting, as enjoined by God. In this way God makes clear unto you His messages,
so that you might [learn to] use your reason.
(58:11) O you who have attained to faith! When you are told, “Make room for one another in your collective life”, do make room:
[Lit., “in the assemblies (al-majalis)”. Although it is frequently assumed that this refers to the assemblies held by the Prophet, when his
followers would throng around him in their eagerness the better to hear what he had to say, or - more generally - to congregations in
mosques, etc., in later times. The plural noun majalis is used here in a tropical or metaphorical sense, denoting the totality of men’s social
life. Taken in this sense, the “making room for one another” implies the mutual providing of opportunities for a decent life to all - and
especially to the needy or handicapped - members of the community.] [and in return,] God will make room for you [in His grace]. [This
verse indicates that if one widens the means of happiness and well-being of God’s creatures, God will widen for him all that is good in this
life and in the hereafter. Hence, no reasonable person could ever restrict (the purport of) this verse to merely making room for one another
in an actual assembly.] And whenever you are told, “Rise up [for a good deed]”, do rise up. [Whenever you are called upon to do a
good deed, respond to this call.]
(58:12-13) O you who have attained to faith! Whenever you [intend to] consult the Apostle, offer up something in charity on the
occasion of your consultation: this will be for your own good, and more conducive to your [inner] purity. [The term “the Apostle” is
used in the Quran not merely to designate the unique person of the Prophet Muhammad but also the sum-total of the teachings conveyed by
him to the world. This is evident from the many Quranic exhortations, “Pay heed unto God and the Apostle”, and, more specifically (in
4:59), “if you are at variance over any matter, refer it unto God (i.e., the Quran) and the Apostle (i.e., his Sunnah)”, which latter is but
meant to elucidate the former. Taken in this sense, the above reference to a “consultation with the Apostle” obviously applies not only to his
person and his contemporaries, but rather to his teachings in general and to believers of all times and environments. In other words, every
believer is exhorted to “offer up something in charity” - whether it be material alms to a needy person, or the imparting of knowledge to
such as may be in need of enlightenment, or even a mere word of kindness to a weak human being - whenever he intends to immerse
himself in a study of the Apostle’s teachings or, as the Quran phrases it, to “consult” him who has conveyed the divine writ to us.] Yet if
you are unable to do so, [know that,] verily, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. [Lit., “if you do not find”, anyone on whom
to bestow charity at that particular moment, or have - for whatever reason - no opportunity to exercise it.] Do you, perchance, fear lest
[you may be sinning if] you cannot offer up anything in charity on the occasion of your consultation [with the Apostle]? But if you
fail to do it [for lack of opportunity], and God turns unto you in His mercy, remain but constant in prayer and render [no more
than] the purifying dues, and [thus] pay heed unto God and His Apostle: for God is fully aware of all that you do. [Purifying dues or
the obligatory tax (zakah) which is meant to purify a believer’s possessions and income from the taint of selfishness: implying that one’s
inability to do more by way of charity does not constitute a sin]
(4:38) And [God does not love] those who spend their possessions on others [only] to be seen and praised by men, the while they
believe neither in God nor in the Last Day; and he who has Satan for a soul-mate, how evil a soul-mate has he! [An allusion to 2:268,
where Satan is spoken of as “threatening you with the prospect of poverty and bidding you to be niggardly”, the implication being that
those who obey him have Satan for their soul-mate.]
(9:53-55) Say: “You may spend [anything], willingly or unwillingly, [pretending that you do it for the sake of God:] it shall never be
accepted from you - for, verily, you are people bent on iniquity!” [I.e., “it shall never be acceptable to God”: an allusion to the readiness
on the part of many hypocrites to contribute financially to “good causes”, ostensibly for the sake of moral considerations but, in reality,
only to be seen and praised by men (see 2:264 and 4:38).] For, only this prevents their spending from being accepted from them: they
are bent on refusing to acknowledge God and His Apostle, and never pray without reluctance, [I.e., when they participate in acts of
worship they do it only for the sake of outward conformity, and not out of inner conviction.] and never spend [on righteous causes]
without resentment. Let not, then, their worldly goods or [the happiness which they may derive from] their children excite your
admiration: God but wants to chastise them by these means in this worldly life, and [to cause] their souls to depart while they are
[still] denying the truth. [For which sin they will have to suffer in the life to come. See also 3:178 and 8:28.]
DISTRIBUTION OF CHARITY (eight categories)
(9:58-60) And among them are such as find fault with you [O Prophet] concerning [the distribution of] the offerings given for the
sake of God: [Since there is no English equivalent for the term sadaqat (sing. sadaqah), rendered here as “offerings given for the sake of
God”. In the context of the above verse, this term refers to the funds thus collected and administered by the Muslim community or state.
When these funds are disbursed for the purposes stipulated in verse 60, they assume once more - this time in relation to the recipients - the
aspect of charitable gifts.] if they are given something thereof, they are well-pleased; but if they are not given anything thereof, lo!
they are consumed with anger. And yet, [it would be but for their own good] if they were to content themselves with what God has
given them and [caused] His Apostle [to give them], and would say, “God is enough for us! [A typically Quranic construction meant to
bring out the fact that the real giver is God, and that the Apostle is His instrument. Although this passage relates, primarily, to the
hypocrites at Medina and the historical situation obtaining at the time of the expedition to Tabuk, the import of these verses goes beyond
the historical occasion of their revelation, describing as it does the attitude and mentality of hypocrites of all times, and everywhere.
Consequently, we may assume that the reference, in this context, to “God’s Apostle” is not confined to the person of the Prophet
Muhammad but implies, metonymically, the Law of Islam as revealed through him - and, thus, to every government that holds authority by
virtue of that Law and rules in accordance with it.] God will give us [whatever He wills] out of His bounty, and [will cause] His Apostle
[to give us, too]: verily, unto God alone do we turn with hope!” The offerings given for the sake of God are [meant] only for the
poor and the needy, and those who are in charge thereof, [I.e., the officials entrusted with the collection and administration of zakah
funds.] and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and [for] those who are over-
burdened with debts, and [for every struggle] in God’s cause, and [for] the wayfarer: [this is] an ordinance from God - and God is
all-knowing, wise. [These eight categories circumscribe all the purposes for which zakah funds may be expended. By “those whose hearts
are to be won over” are apparently meant such non-Muslims as are close to understanding and, perhaps, accepting Islam, and for whose
conversion every effort should be made, either directly or indirectly (i.e., by means of the widest possible propagation of the teachings of
Islam). As regards the expression “for the freeing of human beings from bondage”, which relates both to the ransoming of prisoners of war
and to the freeing of slaves, see 2:177. The people who are “overburdened with debts” contracted in good faith, which - through no fault of
their own - they are subsequently unable to redeem. The expression “in God’s cause” embraces every kind of struggle in righteous causes,
both in war and in peace, including expenditure for the propagation of Islam and for all charitable purposes. Regarding the meaning of
“wayfarer”, see 2:177.]
(63:9-11) O you who have attained to faith! Let not your worldly goods or your children make you oblivious of the remembrance of
God: for if any behave thus - it is they, they who are the losers! And spend on others out of what We have provided for you as
sustenance, before there come a time when death approaches any of you, and he then says, “O my Sustainer! If only Thou would
grant me a delay for a short while, so that I could give in charity and be among the righteous!” But never does God grant a delay to
a human being when his term has come; and God is fully aware of all that you do.
A glaring economic curse in Muhammad’s day was primogeniture (the right of first born son) where the eldest son had the exclusive right
to inherit his father’s estate. By restricting inheritance to the eldest son this worked as obvious hardship on the other children and
concentrated wealth in a limited number of enormous estates. The Quran abrogates the law of primogeniture. According to the Old
Testament, at the father’s death the eldest son gets twice the inheritance as compared to his younger brother. If there are no sons, only then
the property passed to his daughters. The Quran reversed this system by requiring that inheritance be divided among all children -
daughters as well as sons - it insured a more even distribution of economic opportunity among descendants and saw to it that whatever
financial concentrations may have accumulated in a lifetime would be dispersed thereafter instead of accruing more and more.
The Jewish and Islamic legal systems differ dramatically in their approach to rights to inheritance. In general, the Islamic law offers an
intricately specified system of inheritance rights in contrast to the vague outlines that comprise Jewish inheritance law. In particular, the
two laws differ in that Islamic law provides specific shares of property for women in their spouses’ and relatives’ estates, while Jewish law
allows women to inherit only in very limited circumstances.
(2:180-182) It is ordained for you, when death approaches any of you and he is leaving behind much wealth, to make bequests in
favor of his parents and [other] near of kin in accordance with what is fair: this is binding on all who are conscious of God. [The
word khayr occurring in this sentence denotes “much wealth” and not simply “property”: and this explains the injunction that one who
leaves much wealth behind should make bequests (to give by will) to particularly deserving members of his family in addition to - and
preceding the distribution of - the legally - fixed shares mentioned in 4:11-12. This interpretation of khayr is supported by sayings of
Aishah and Ali ibn Abi Talib, both of them referring to this particular verse. Other commentators claim that no one could bequeath anything
to a legal heir and no decrease or increase could be made in the shares fixed by the laws of inheritance. If that is the case, then why parents
are specifically mentioned in above verse as parents, children and spouses are the direct legal heirs of the deceased. The Holy Prophet
limited bequest to one-third of the property only.] And if anyone alters such a provision after having come to know it, the sin of acting
thus shall fall only upon those who have altered it. Verily, God is all-hearing, all-knowing. [I.e., after the testator’s death – after having
heard it, the sin thereof is only upon those who alter it: that is, not on anyone who may have unwittingly benefited by this alteration.] If,
however, one has reason to fear that the testator has committed a mistake or a [deliberate] wrong, and thereupon brings about a
settlement between the heirs, he will incur no sin [thereby]. Verily, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. [I.e., a settlement
overriding the testamentary provisions which, by common consent of the parties concerned, are considered unjust]
(5:106-108) O you who have attained to faith! Let there be witnesses to what you do when death approaches you and you are about
to make bequests: [I.e., between you and your heirs - when death approaches any of you, at the time of making a bequest will.] two
persons of probity (integrity) from among your own people, or - if the pangs of death come upon you while you are traveling far
from home - two other persons from [among people] other than your own. [It signifies here from among your own people, i.e., from
among the Muslim community.] Take hold of the two after having prayed; and if you have any doubt in your mind, let each of them
swear by God, “We shall not sell this [our word] for any price, even though it were [for the sake of] a near kinsman; and neither
shall we conceal aught of what we have witnessed before God - or else, may we indeed be counted among the sinful.” But if
afterwards it should come to light that the two [witnesses] have become guilty of [this very] sin, then two others - from among those
whom the two former have deprived of their right [I.e., from among the rightful heirs of the deceased.] - shall take their place and
shall swear by God, “Our testimony is indeed truer than the testimony of these two, and we have not transgressed the bounds of
what is right - or else, may we indeed be counted among the evildoers!” Thus it will be more likely that people will offer testimony
in accordance with the truth - or else they will [have cause to] fear that their oaths will be refuted by the oaths of others. Be, then,
conscious of God, and hearken [unto Him]: for God does not bestow His guidance upon iniquitous folk.
The primary government unit of pre-Islamic Arabia was the tribe. The tribes were either settled tribes or nomads (Bedouins). In that
system, the wife was regarded as property and women had no property or inheritance rights. However, there were exceptions to this rule.
The Prophet’s first wife was a successful business woman who had inherited a large fortune from her late husband. The Prophets replaced
the tribe with the family as the primary social unit and adopted the system for inheritance for both men and women. When a Muslim dies,
the first order of the business is paying for the funeral expenses, debts and execution of his will. The remaining estate is then distributed
amongst the heirs. The Quran contain only three verses (4:11-12 and 4:76), which gives specific details of inheritance shares. (4:7-9) Men
shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave
behind, whether it be little or much - a share ordained [by God]. And when [other] near of kin and orphans and needy persons are
present at the distribution [of inheritance], give them something thereof for their sustenance, and speak unto them in a kindly way.
[I.e., people who do not have any legal claim to the inheritance, but nevertheless deserve to be considered.] And let them stand in awe [of
God], those [legal heirs] - who, if they [themselves] had to leave behind weak offspring, would feel fear on their account - and let
them remain conscious of God, and let them speak [to the poor] in a just manner. (4:33) And unto everyone have We appointed
heirs to what he may leave behind: parents, and near kinsfolk, and those to whom you have pledged your troth: [I.e., wives and
husbands.] give them, therefore, their share. Behold, God is indeed a witness unto everything.
(4:34) Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the
latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. [The above expression signifies “he undertook the maintenance of the
woman” or “maintained her” and combines the concepts of physical maintenance and protection as well as of moral responsibility.]
In the notes on verses 4:11-12, which spell out the legal shares of inheritance due to the next of kin, no attempt has been made to analyze
all the legal implications of this ordinance. The laws of inheritance are the subject of a special, and very elaborate, branch of Islamic
jurisprudence, and their full elucidation would go far beyond the scope of explanatory notes which aim at no more than making the text of
the Quran accessible to the understanding of the non-specialized reader.
SHARES OF SONS AND DAUGHTERS (No living spouse or parents of deceased)
The Quran required that daughters be included in inheritance – not equally but to half the proportion of sons because unlike the sons they
are not required to carry economic responsibility for their households. (4:11) Concerning [the inheritance of] your children, God
enjoins [this] upon you: The male shall have the equal of two females’ share; [The direct heirs of a deceased are children (descendents),
spouses and parents (ascendants). Brothers, sisters, aunts and uncle are not considered as primary heirs. Islamic law lays the burden of
maintenance of the family on the male (4:34) and therefore, the guiding principle is that the son inherits a share equivalent to that of two
daughters. For example, if there is one son and a daughter, the son shall get two-third and daughter shall get one-third of shares. If there is
one son and two daughters, the son shall inherits half and daughters the remaining half. If there is only a son then the whole property shall
be given to him, or divided equally if there is more than one son. Parents have a choice to bequeath up to one-third of the property to any
deserving person including daughters. In Islamic countries today, the reality of women’s lives often does not reflect their rights to inherit
and own property under religious law. Since most women are economically dependent upon men, they are easily coerced by their male
relatives into turning over to them any inherited wealth in return for a guarantee of their continued support.]
FOR DAUGHTERS ONLY (No living son or parents of deceased)
If the deceased parent is survived by only one daughter, she takes one-half of the estate. If there are no sons but more than one daughter, the
surviving daughters share two-third of the estate equally among themselves.
(4:11) but if there are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what [their parents] leave behind; [Females in this
context refers to daughters. If the deceased leaves no sons but only daughters, whether they are two or more, they shall inherit two-third
and the remaining one-third shall be divided among the other relatives.] and if there is only one daughter, she shall have one-half
thereof. [The other half shall be divided among the other relatives.]
(4:11) And as for the parents [of the deceased], each of them shall have one-sixth of what he leaves behind, in the event of his having
[left] a child; [If deceased has living parents and a child or children, whether they are only daughters, sons or only one son or daughter,
each of the parents is entitled to one-sixth of the inheritance and remaining two-third is divided among children.]
but if he has left no child and his parents are his [only] heirs, then his mother shall have one-third; [The shares of the father is not
mentioned under these circumstances. The father in fact inherits as a residuary. A residuary heir gets whatever remains of the inheritance
after the sharers have been allocated their shares.]
and if he has brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have one-sixth after [the deduction of] any bequest he may have made, or
any debt [he may have incurred]. [If the deceased has brothers and sister, the share of mother is reduced to one-sixth.] As for your parents
and your children - you know not which of them is more deserving of benefit from you: [therefore this] ordinance from God. Verily, God is
all-knowing, wise.
Islamic law provides both husband and the wife with a definite portion of each other’s estates and then divides the rest of the estate among
other relatives of the deceased spouse.
(4:12) And you shall inherit one-half of what your wives leave behind, provided they have left no child; [The other half to her
relatives.] but if they have left a child, then you shall have one-quarter of what they leave behind, after [the deduction of] any
bequest they may have made, or any debt [they may have incurred]. [If deceased women left some children either from same husband
now living or from ex husband then the husband gets one-fourth of shares and her children get the rest.]
The widow has right to her deferred dowry, one year maintenance and also to her Quranic share of her husband.
(4:12) And your widows shall have one-quarter of what you leave behind, provided you have left no child; [the other three-quarter to
his relatives.] but if you have left a child, then they shall have one-eighth of what you leave behind, after [the deduction of] any
bequest you may have made, or any debt [you may have incurred]. [The widow with children shall inherit one-eight and rest will be
divided among children as described in verse 11 above.]
(2:240) And if any of you die and leave wives behind, they bequeath thereby to their widows [the right to] one year’s maintenance
without their being obliged to leave [the dead husband’s home]. [The question of a widow’s residence in her dead husband’s house
arises, of course, only in the event that it has not been bequeathed to her outright under the provisions stipulated in 4:12.] If, however, they
leave [of their own accord], there shall be no sin in whatever they may do with themselves in a lawful manner. And God is almighty,
wise. [For instance, by remarrying in which case they forgo their claim to additional maintenance during the remainder of the year.]
SHARES FOR BROTHERS AND SISTERS (If deceased has no direct heirs)
(4:176) They will ask you to enlighten them. [I.e., about the laws of inheritance mentioned in the next sentence] Say: “God enlightens
you [thus] about the laws concerning [inheritance from] those who leave no heir in the direct line: If a man dies childless and has a
sister, she shall inherit one-half of what he has left, [The sister shall inherits one-half. If the widow is alive, she shall have one-quarter
and the other heirs will share remaining inheritance.] just as he shall inherit from her if she dies childless. [If the husband of the childless
women is alive, he will be entitled one-half and her relative will inherit the other half.] But if there are two sisters, both [together] shall
have two-thirds of what he has left; [Again one-fourth for the widow, two-third for the sisters and rest to the other heirs.] and if there are
brothers and sisters, [The expression ikhwah comprises either brothers, or sisters, or brothers and sisters.] then the male shall have the
equal of two females’ share.” God makes [all this] clear unto you, lest you go astray; and God knows everything.
(4:12-13) And if a man or a woman has no heir in the direct line, but has a brother or a sister, then each of these two shall inherit
one-sixth; but if there are more than two, [This passage refers to half-brothers and half-sisters. The inheritance of full brothers and
sisters is dealt with in verse 176).] then they shall share in one-third [of the inheritance], [If there are any other heirs, they shall get
shares out of the remaining inheritance; otherwise the deceased has the right to make his will for the rest of the property.] after [the
deduction of] any bequest that may have been made, or any debt [that may have been incurred], neither of which having been
intended to harm [the heirs.] [This refers to bequests and fictitious debts meant to deprive the heirs of their legal shares. According to
several authentic Traditions, the Prophet forbade, in cases where there are legal heirs, the making of bequests to other persons in excess of
one-third of one’s estate (Bukhari and Muslim). If, however, there are no near of kin legally entitled to a share of the inheritance, the
testator is free to bequeath his fortune in any way he desires.] [This is] an injunction from God: and God is all-knowing, forbearing.
These are the bounds set by God. And whoever pays heed unto God and His Apostle, him will He bring into gardens through which
running waters flow, therein to abide: and this is a triumph supreme. And whoever rebels against God and His Apostle and
transgresses His bounds, him will He commit unto fire, therein to abide; and shameful suffering awaits him. [This severe punishment
has been promised for breaking the laws of inheritance.]
The pre-Islamic system of inheritance was confined to agnate relatives of the deceased and females were excluded. Agnate is defined as a
person related through male descent or on the father side. The majority Sunni view is that the Quranic laws of inheritance are to be
superimposed upon the framework that already existed in pre-Islamic Arabia.
THE NAMED TAKERS: In the Sunni School, the named takers include: (a) five primary heirs of the deceased who are never excluded
from succession by any other relative of the deceased. These are the descendant’s father, mother, son, daughter and spouse. (b) Siblings,
half siblings, agnatic granddaughters, agnatic grandparents of the descendent. The shares of a brother and sisters of the descendent is zero if
the descendent is survived by a son or father.
MALE AGNATIC RELATIVES AS RESIDUARY TAKERS: Any part of the estate that is not distributed to the specified takers according
to the Quranic formula will pass to male agnatic relatives. The male agnates take under the rule that one nearer in degree to the descendent
excludes one more remote in degree (i.e., the son takes priority over the father who in turn takes priority over the brothers who in turn takes
priority over the paternal uncles).
DISTANT KINDRED: If there are no surviving blood relatives among the named takers or the descendant’s male agnatic relatives, all other
blood relatives (male and female), known as distant kindred are allowed to take.
Since the Quran does not expressly state the shares of the agnate relatives, the Shia School declares that since the old agnatic customary
system had not been endorsed by the Quran it must be rejected and replaced by the new Quranic law. The Shia takers appear in three
categories. (1) Parents, spouse, lineal descendents. (2) Grandparents and siblings and siblings’ issue. (3) Uncles and aunts and their
descendents. If there are survivors in the first category, they share the estate to the exclusion of those in the categories 2 and 3, and
survivors in the second category preempt the takers named in category three. The Shia laws of inheritance are less discriminatory to the
female heirs as compared to Sunni laws. For example, if a decedent is survived by an agnatic grandfather, his wife and his daughter. In
Sunni system the estate will be divided as follows: three-eights to the grandfather, one-eighth to the wife, and one-half to the daughter.
Under the Shia system, the wife and daughter, as the closer relatives, would share the estate equally to the exclusion of the grandfather.