Thursday 30 January 2020

Selected Verses from Quran: Do not Usurp the Property of the Orphans

Islam lays down very strict instructions for dealing with the properties of the orphans, specially those whose parent died while their children were still in their infancy and had not attained adulthood. In fact Islam regards taking an orphan’s wealth unlawfully and those who do it will taste the fire of hell. Therefore the guardians of orphans must take special care in taking and are warned against usurping their wealth, if the fear Allah and believe in the Day of Judgement. 

وَاٰ تُوا الۡيَتٰمٰٓى اَمۡوَالَهُمۡ​ وَلَا تَتَبَدَّلُوا الۡخَبِيۡثَ بِالطَّيِّبِ وَلَا تَاۡكُلُوۡۤا اَمۡوَالَهُمۡ​ اِلٰٓى اَمۡوَالِكُمۡ​ؕ اِنَّهٗ كَانَ حُوۡبًا كَبِيۡرًا‏‏  

"To orphans restore their property (when they reach their age) nor substitute (your) worthless things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by mixing it up) with your own. For this is indeed a great sin." (Surah 4 An Nisa: 2)

Allah directs the guardians of the orphans to spend out of the latter's property while they are still minors, and to restore it to them when they attain majority.

The order not to exchange the bad for the good has several meanings. On the one hand, it means that one should not replace honest by dishonest living. At the same time, it also means that one should not exchange one's own property which is of little value for the more valuable property of the orphans.

This verse should also be read inn conjunction with verse 220 of Surah II al Baqarah:
(Their bearings) on this life and the Hereafter. They ask thee concerning orphans. Say: "The best thing to do is what is for their good; if ye mix their affairs with yours they are your brethren; but Allah knows the man who means mischief from the man who means good. And if Allah had wished He could have put you into difficulties: He is indeed Exalted in Power Wise." 
Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Justice to orphans is enjoined, and three things are particularly mentioned as temptations in the way of a guardian: (I) He must not postpone restoring all his ward's property when the time comes; (2) If there is a list of property, it is not enough that that list should be technically followed: the property restored must be of equal value to the property received: the same principle applies where there is no list. (3) If property is managed together, or where perishable goods must necessarily be consumed, the strictest probity is necessary when the separation takes place, and this is insisted on. 

Explanation Professor Ghamidi:
The actual words are: خَبِیۡث and طَّیِّب. Just as these are used for what is evil and good in the moral sense, they are also used for what is defective and good in the material sense.

The actual words are: وَ لَا تَاۡکُلُوۡۤا اَمۡوَالَہُمۡ اِلٰۤی اَمۡوَالِکُمۡ. The preposition اِلٰی is related to ضَمًّا or some similar word which has been suppressed as per linguistic principles.

The whole verse means that guardians of the orphans should return their wealth to them and should not think of devouring it themselves. They should know that unjustly consuming the wealth of orphans is like filling one’s belly with fire. So no one should try to swap his poor merchandise and assets for their good ones. Neither should a person try to benefit from their wealth while mixing it with his own feigning administrative ease. If such intermingling needs to be done, then it should only be for the orphans’ welfare and well-being and not to usurp their wealth.

Continuing with the same theme, the verse 6 of Surah 4 An Nisa further explains the responsibilities of the guardians:

وَابۡتَلُوا الۡيَتٰمٰى حَتّٰىۤ اِذَا بَلَغُوا النِّكَاحَ​ ۚ فَاِنۡ اٰنَسۡتُمۡ مِّنۡهُمۡ رُشۡدًا فَادۡفَعُوۡۤا اِلَيۡهِمۡ اَمۡوَالَهُمۡ​ۚ وَلَا تَاۡكُلُوۡهَاۤ اِسۡرَافًا وَّبِدَارًا اَنۡ يَّكۡبَرُوۡا​ ؕ وَمَنۡ كَانَ غَنِيًّا فَلۡيَسۡتَعۡفِفۡ​ۚ وَمَنۡ كَانَ فَقِيۡرًا فَلۡيَاۡكُلۡ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ​ ؕ فَاِذَا دَفَعۡتُمۡ اِلَيۡهِمۡ اَمۡوَالَهُمۡ فَاَشۡهِدُوۡا عَلَيۡهِمۡ​ ؕ وَكَفٰى بِاللّٰهِ حَسِيۡبًا‏  

"Test the orphans until they reach the age of marriage, and then if you find them mature of mind hand over to them their property, and do not eat it up by either spending extravagantly or in haste, fearing that they would grow up (and claim it). If the guardian of the orphan is rich let him abstain entirely (from his ward's property); and if he is poor, let him partake of it in a fair measure. When you hand over their property to them let there be witnesses on their behalf. Allah is sufficient to take account (of your deeds)."

When orphans approach their majority their mental development should be watched so as to determine to what extent they have become capable of managing their own affairs.

Two conditions have been laid down for handing over the charge of their properties to such people. The first of these is the attainment of puberty, and the second is that of mental maturity - i.e. the capacity to manage their affairs in a sound and appropriate manner. There is full agreement among Muslim jurists with regard to the first condition. As for the second condition, Abu Hanifah is of the opinion that if an orphan does not attain mental maturity after he has attained puberty, the guardian of the orphan should wait for a maximum of seven years after which he should hand over the property to its owner regardless of whether he has attained maturity or not. According to Abu Yusuf, Muhammad b. al-Hasan and Shafi'i, maturity is an indispensable pre-condition for the handing over of property. If one were to apply the doctrine of the latter jurists it would probably be more appropriate to refer particular cases to a judge under Islamic law. If the judge is convinced that the person concerned lacks maturity he should make adequate arrangements for the supervision of that person's financial affairs. (For a more complete study of the subject see Jassas, vol. 2, pp. 59 ff.; Ibn Rushd, Biddyat al-Mujtahid, 2 vols., Cairo, Al-Maktabahal-Tijariyahal-Kubra, n.d., vol. 2, pp. 275ff.-Ed.)

The guardian is entitled to remuneration for his service. The amount of this remuneration should be such as is deemed to be fair by neutral and reasonable people. Moreover, the guardian is instructed that he should take a fixed and known amount by way of remuneration, that he should take it openly rather than secretly, and that he should keep an account of it.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
It is good to take human witnesses when you faithfully discharge your trust; but remember that, however fully you satisfy your fellow-men when you give your account to them, there is a stricter account due from you to Allah. If you are righteous in Allah's eyes, you must follow these stricter standards.

I have resisted the temptation to translate "next to kin," as this phrase has a technical meaning in Indian Law, referring to certain kinds of heirs, whereas here the people meant are those whose inheritance is to be divided. The shares are specified. Here the general principles are laid down that females inherit as well as males, and that relatives who have no legal shares, orphans, and indigent people are not to be treated harshly, if present at the division.

Explanation Professor Ghamidi:
Translation: "And keep evaluating them until they reach marriageable age.Then if you find them capable, hand over their wealth to them, and do not devour it by squandering it and consuming it hastily fearing that they would soon come of age. And the [guardian of the orphan] who is rich should abstain [from his wealth] and he who is poor should benefit [from it in lieu of his service] according to the norms [of society]. Then when you hand over their wealth to them, call in witnesses; And [remember that] God alone suffices to take account of all your actions."

by entrusting them with some small or heavy responsibilities, they should keep judging whether the orphans have developed in them the ability to bear their responsibilities and an appreciation of matters. The reason is that sexual maturity does not necessarily entail intellectual maturity. In all such matters, this principle should be kept in consideration.

The guardians are advised here that though charging for a service they offer is not prohibited yet if they are well-off, they should not take anything from the orphans in return for their service, and if they are poor, they can take their due according to the norms of the society. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
… Norms (مَعْرُوْف) means to benefit in a sensible manner from the wealth of the orphans in a way that is congruous with the nature of obligations, status of the property, general circumstances and the standard of living of the guardian. It should not be the case that a sane person should start speedily devouring and consuming the wealth of an orphan thinking that he would soon reach the age of maturity. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 2, 255).
They should remember that one day they will have to present this account before Allah also Who hears and knows all; so nothing can be concealed from Him.

These are not the only verses about the rights of orphans and showing kindness to them. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran:
(2:83), “…..and (you shall do) good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans….” It has been explained by exegetes that orphans are mentioned right after the parents and the kin because when going outside the circle of relatives; the orphans are the most deserving of kindness. It is because they are deprived of a father who is the guardian, protector and bread-earner of the family. Next, the Quran (76:8) describes the righteous people as those who give food to the orphans – “And they give food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive.” In Chapter 4 verse 127, Allah calls to justly treat the orphan children. 
Therefore, the Islamic community should be raised with a thought of justice and equity towards the orphans. May Allah help us understand Qur'an and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'an

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
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Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the Sūrahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. 
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given in each page. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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