Tuesday 20 April 2021

Do not use your property as bait for the JUDGES with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully (other) people's property

Islam  lays a very strong emphasis on upholding of Justice to safeguard the interests of the grieved, who are usually poor or powerless to stand before the worldly demagogues. We have in the past shared many verses from Qur'an which stress of justice in the society.

Today we share yet another very important commandment from the Qur'an (verse 188 from Surah 2. Al Baqarah) which is very pertinent even to the present days as it was when it was reveled in the times of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It is very unfortunate that despite clear cut commandments from Allah, many a wealthy and power yielding Muslims resort to actions most disliked by Allah and continue to usurp other's properties by bribing the authorities and the judges.

وَلَا تَاۡكُلُوۡٓا اَمۡوَالَـكُمۡ بَيۡنَكُمۡ بِالۡبَاطِلِ وَتُدۡلُوۡا بِهَآ اِلَى الۡحُـکَّامِ لِتَاۡکُلُوۡا فَرِيۡقًا مِّنۡ اَمۡوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالۡاِثۡمِ وَاَنۡـتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ‏ 
And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities nor use it as bait for the judges with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people's property
This ayah was revealed in the background of a particular event which relates to a land dispute between two Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. The case came up for hearing before the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The plaintiff had no witnesses. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked the defendant to take an oath in accordance with Islamic legal norm. He was all set to take the oath when the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam recited the following ayah before him as a matter of good counsel:
Indeed, those who exchange the covenant of Allah and their oaths for a small price will have no share in the Hereafter.” [Aal-'Imran 3: 77]
When the Companion heard this ayah warning those who usurp someone’s property through a false oath, he abandoned his intention to take that oath and surrendered the land to the plaintiff.
One meaning of this verse is that people should not try to seek illegitimate benefits by bribing magistrates. Another meaning is that when a person is aware that the property, he claims rightfully belongs to someone else, he should not file a judicial petition either because the other party lacks the evidence to support their case or because by trickery and cunning the petitioner can usurp that property. It is possible that the judicial authority would decide the case in favour of the false claimant on the basis of the formal strength of the claim, but as this judicial verdict would merely be the result of the chicanery to which the claimant had resorted he would not become its rightful owner. In spite of the judgement of the court the property would remain unlawful for him in the sight of God. 

It has been reported in a Tradition that the Prophet said: 'I am merely a human being and you bring to me your disputes. It is possible that some of you will be more impressive in argument than others, so that 1 may give judgement in favour of one on the basis of what 1 hear. Beware that if 1 award to someone what belongs to his brother, I will have assigned to him a lump of Fire.' (Bukhari, 'Shahadat', 27; Muslim, 'Aqdiayah', 4; Abu Da'ud , 'Aqdiayah', 7; Tirmidhi, 'Ahkam', 11, 18; Nasai 'Qudat', 12, 33; 1bn Majah, 'AhkAm', 5, etc. - Ed.)

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir
Bribery is prohibited and is a Sin - `Ali bin Abu Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "This (Ayah 2:188) is about the indebted person when there is no evidence of the loan. So he denies taking the loan and the case goes to the authorities, even though he knows that it is not his money and that he is a sinner, consuming what is not allowed for him.'' This opinion was also reported from Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi, Muqatil bin Hayan and `Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam. They all stated, "Do not dispute when you know that you are being unjust.''

The Judge's Ruling does not allow the Prohibited or prohibit the Lawful - It is reported in the Two Sahihs that Umm Salamah narrated that Allah's Messenger said:
(I am only human! You people present your cases to me, and as some of you may be more eloquent and persuasive in presenting his argument, I might issue a judgment in his benefit. So, if I give a Muslim's right to another, I am really giving him a piece of fire; so he should not take it.)
The Ayah and the Hadith prove that the judgment of the authorities in any case does not change the reality of the truth. Hence, the ruling does not allow what is in fact prohibited or prohibit what is in fact allowed. It is only applicable in that case. So if the ruling agrees with the truth, then there is no harm in this case. Otherwise, the judge will acquire his reward, while the cheater will acquire the evil burden.

This is why Allah said: (And eat up not one another's property unjustly, nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully.) meaning, `While you know the falsehood of what you claim. ' Qatadah said, "O son of Adam! Know that the judge's ruling does not allow you what is prohibited or prohibit you from what is allowed. The judge only rules according to his best judgment and according to the testimony of the witnesses. The judge is only human and is bound to make mistakes. Know that if the judge erroneously rules in some one's favor, then that person will still encounter the dispute when the disputing parties meet Allah on the Day of Resurrection. Then, the unjust person will be judged swiftly and precisely with that which will surpass whatever he acquired by the erroneous judgment he received in the life of this world.''

Yusuf Ali  Explanation: Besides the three primal physical needs of man, which are apt to make him greedy, there is a fourth greed in society, the greed of wealth and property. The purpose of fasts is not completed until this fourth greed is also restrained. Ordinarily honest men are content if they refrain from robbery, theft, or embezzlement. 

Two more subtle forms of the greed are mentioned here. One is where one uses one's own property for corrupting others - judges or those in authority - so as to obtain some material gain even under the cover and protection of the law. The words translated "other people's property" may also mean "public property". A still more subtle form is where we use our own property or property under our own control - "among yourselves" in the Text - for vain or frivolous uses. Under the Islamic standard this is also greed. Property carries with it its own responsibilities. If we fail to understand or fulfil them, we have not learnt the full lesson of self-denial by fasts.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation
The actual word is: بِالۡبَاطِلِ. It implies devouring other people’s wealth through means which are against justice, honesty, fairness and against the good conventions of a society. It is this directive of the Qur’an which forms the basis of all prohibitions in Islam that pertain to economic matters. Obtaining money through illegal gratification, theft, extortion, lying, co-operation with evil, embezzlement, misappropriation, consuming unclaimed items without publicizing them, all come under it.

The sentence وَ تُدۡلُوۡا بِہَاۤ اِلَی الۡحُکَّامِ is coordinated to the previous and since it is explaining it, the particle of negationلاَ does not need to be repeated in it.

The actual words are: وَ تُدۡلُوۡا بِہَاۤ اِلَی الۡحُکَّامِ. The word اِدْلَاءٌ means “to put a bucket in a well.” It is through here the meaning of “gaining access to” was incorporated in it. It means illegal gratification and the way the Qur’an has used these words clearly shows what the essence of such gratification is.

It is a sin and an act of suppressing rights is known to a person, his intellect and nature bear witness to it, the conventions of a society corroborate it and its prohibition is accepted in all religions. So it is such a manifest reality that everyone knows about it. No one is unaware of it.

Qur'an Wiki:
Within this context of fasting and abstention from food and drink, the sūrah sounds another warning, this time against usurping other people’s possessions. The verse refers specifically to presenting false and fraudulent evidence before a judge or an arbiter in order to obtain a favourable judgement giving one the right to appropriate someone else’s property. To reinforce the sense of deterrence, the warning follows immediately after reference to the bounds set by God and the call for more consciousness and fear of Him.

Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathīr cites a report by `Alī ibn Abī Ţalĥah who quotes Ibn `Abbās, a cousin and Companion of the Prophet, as saying that the verse refers to someone owing money to another. Knowing that the creditor has no document to prove the debt, the debtor denies liability altogether. He would then put the matter before a judge, knowing very well that he is in the wrong, taking what is unlawful to him, and has no case whatsoever. He adds that Mujāhid, Sa`īd ibn Jubayr, `Ikrimah, al-Ĥasan, Qatādah, al-Suddī, Muqātil ibn Ĥayyān, and `Abd al- Raĥmān ibn Zayd ibn Aslam have all warned against contesting a dispute when one knows oneself to be in the wrong. Ibn Kathīr also refers to accounts in al-Bukhārī and Muslim in which Umm Salamah quotes the Prophet as saying: “I am only human. When you come to me for judgement, some of you may have a clearer piece of evidence, and I might be inclined to rule in their favour. If I give someone anything which is not rightly his, it would be as if I have given him a brand of fire; it is up to him to take it or leave it.”

Judges decide on prima facie evidence, and the onus of honesty is on the litigants. They are left to their own conscience.

Thus we can see how this matter is also closely linked to taqwā, or the sense of God-fearing, as was just retribution and fasting before it. These rulings represent parts of a harmonious and divinely-ordained way of life, firmly bound together in a common framework of maintaining the fear of God, or taqwā. This makes Islam a potent and well integrated system which cannot be fragmented or disconnected, taking some parts of it and discarding others. That would be a gross transgression and a most vile offence against God Almighty.

Verse By Verse Qur'an Study Circle:
At several places in the Quran abstention from the unlawful and acquisition of the lawful has been stressed upon in different ways. It has also been pointed out in an ayah that human deeds and morals are enormously affected by eating what is lawful. If one does not eat and drink halal things, it will corrupt their morals and deeds. A great portion of the teachings of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has been devoted to the task of saving his Ummah from the unlawful and calling it to the lawful.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated from the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that he said: There are four traits, if there are in you and you have nothing else in the world, they shall suffice you. Those four traits are: guarding a trust, telling the truth, good morals and being particular in eating what is qaleel [less].
It is said that Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas radhiAllahu ‘anhu requested the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to pray for him so that he may become of those whose prayers are accepted. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: O Sa’ad! Make what you eat permissible and pure, and you shall become one whose prayers are responded to. And by Him in whose hands rests the life of Muhammad, when the servant of Allah slips a morsel of what is haram into his stomach, no deed of his is accepted for the next forty days. And a person whose flesh is made of unlawful acquisitions, for that flesh the fire of Hell is the only recipient.
‘Abdullah ibn Mas’oud radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: By him in whose hands rests my life, no servant of Allah becomes a Muslim unless his heart and tongue become Muslim and until his neighbors are secure from his distressing deeds. And when a servant acquires the unlawful and then gives it in charity, that is not accepted; and if he spends out of it, it stays deprived of blessings; and if he leaves it behind for his inheritors, it becomes his means to enter Hellfire. Surely, Allah Almighty does not help an evil wash off another evil, but He does help the washing away of an evil deed with a good deed.
In a sermon, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “O Emigrants, I seek the refuge of Allah Almighty against five traits of character lest they should grow into you: firstly, against immodesty, for when immodesty prevails in a people they are hit by plagues, epidemics and ever-new diseases not even heard of by their elders; and secondly, against cheating in weights and measures, for when this disease grips a people, they are hit by famine, price-hikes, rigorous labor and over-work and oppressive rulers; and thirdly, against non-payment of Zakah, for when people do not pay Zakah, rains are stopped; and fourthly, against the religious apathy of people, for when a community breaks its covenant with Allah and His Messenger, then Allah Almighty makes alien enemies sit over them who snatch away what belongs to them without any justification; and fifthly, against the apathy of ruling authority, for when the rulers of a people fail to decide matters in accordance with the Book of Allah because the injunctions revealed by Allah Almighty do not suit their fancies, then Allah Almighty causes mutual hatred and disputations descend upon them.”

[Ahadeeth taken from the exegesis: Maarif-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani] 

From this verse, we may draw following lessons:
  • It teaches us that the judgment of the authorities does not change the reality of the truth. It is the matter of who presents their case more skillfully. Every person should keep his accountability in the Hereafter in mind and live an honest life. Paltry gains of this world for the price of Hellfire are not a good bargain. If the judge was honest and gave his verdict based on the evidence presented to him, then he is free from blame. However, the person who deceived the court will acquire the evil burden.
  • The ayah also teaches us that we should be vigilant about fulfilling our desires. What means do we acquire to get that which we desire? Is it through a haram [impermissible] way? For example, marriage is a natural desire but how does one pursue this need? Is it through haram relationships and dating or through the permissible way? Likewise, how does one earn their wealth and promotion at work? Does one believe in cut-throat competition and crushing their colleagues to reach to the top? Does one think of cunning ways to deceive others and earn more money? What about bargains and price negotiations, what is the intention behind it?
  • If there is a delay in marriage or becoming rich, let it be, but please do not risk your future by falling in haram. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has informed us that whatever has been written for us will reach us. No one can prevent it. Therefore, we should abstain from pursuing impermissible paths.
  • Haram brings blessings; haram produces evil.
  • We should remember the questions that each one of us will be asked on the Day of Judgment: in what endeavors did we spend our youth; from where we earned our wealth, where did we spend our wealth; and much did we act on our knowledge. Knowing what is right and wrong, and not acting on that knowledge is dangerous.
  • This ayah also serves as a warning to those who adulterate products and then sell them such as medicines, spices, and other food items. And also to those who charge a high price for inferior items. As now businesses have moved online, those who ship products different from those shown in the glossy pictures should fear their Hereafter, and avoid making sinful sales.
  • Sometimes, one’s rights are usurped by bringing loss upon them, for example in gambling and interest-based banking. As a result of these illegal means of earning money, some individuals grow as parasites while the whole community is thrown into poverty. Even if such transactions were to be carried out by a mutual consent of the parties involved, such transactions shall not be permissible because they are nothing but a formalized crime against the entire community.
  • If anyone succeeds in grabbing something belonging to somebody else through a court by means of fraud, false witness or oath, the curse of having done that will weigh heavy on his shoulders and he should, thinking of the ultimate accountability in the Hereafter and appearance in the court of Allah, the All-knowing, the All-Aware, leave it off.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us and all Muslims the most perfect ability to stay safe against such unfortunate happenings and that Allah may help us understand Qur'ān 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'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān 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 surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Qur'ān officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the 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. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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