In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
1. "Woe to the defrauders,"
2. "Who, when they take a measure from people, take it in full,"
3. "But when they give by measure or weight to men, they cause loss (give
less than what is due)."
4. "Do they not think that they shall be raised (to life again)?"
5. "For a Great Day"
6. "The Day when (all) mankind shall stand before the Lord of the Worlds?"
The Occasion of Revelation:
Ibn-Abbas says that when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) arrived in Medina large group of tradesmen used to deal fraudulently, then Allah sent down these verses and, thereafter, they did not commit further fraud.
Another tradition says that: a large number of the inhabitants of Medina were tradesmen at that time. They used to deal fraudulently and many of their dealings were religiously unlawful. Then, these verses were revealed and the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) recited them to the citizens of Medina. He also added: ''There are five for five." They asked him which 'five' were for which 'five'. And he answered:
"No nation broke their promise but that Allah set their enemies over them."
"No society passed Judgement without suffering excessive poverty when they were heedless of the laws of Allah."
''No nation fornicated without being faced with abundant fatality"
"No sect committed fraud save those whose crops became rotted and famine plagued them."
''No community refused paying Alms tax except that they were parched by draught."
The late Tabarsi has cited about the occasion of revelation of these verses that there was a man in Medina by the name of Abu -Jahinah who had two scales for measuring: one of them was big, which he used when he wanted to buy things, and the other was small, which was used when he used to sell things. (Then, this Sura was revealed and warned him and the likes of him).
* * * *
Woe to Those Who Deal in Fraud.
In these verses, before everything, it addresses the shortchangers and says:
"Woe to the defrauders"
This is a threat, indeed, from Allah to these arrogant, unmanly oppressors who tread on the rights of the people.
The term /mutaffifin/ is based on / tatfif/ derived from /taf/ which means 'the edge of something'; and everything which is slight or insufficient has been called / tafif / as well as a measure which is not completely full viz., the content is up to the edge, but it is not sufficiently full. Then, the different forms of this term have been used for 'shortchanging'.
The word / wayl /, here, means; 'woe, or a great misfortune, or sorrow, or death, or punishment, or a very hot site in Hell'. It is usually used when it is meant 'an evil and lowly sense or damnation'. The word is very short, but it implies many ideas.
It is noteworthy that a narration from Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) says that Allah has not used the term /wayl / 'woe', in the Qur'an, for anyone unless He has called the one a pagan, as He says: "....and woe to the Unbelievers because of the (coming) Judgement of a momentous Day",(Sura Maryam, No. 19. verse 37.).
Thus, by this narration we understand that 'dealing in fraud' is akin to 'paganism'.
"Who, when they take a measure from people, take it in full."
"But when they give by measure or weight to men; they cause loss (give less than what is due)".
Some of the commentators have understood from the above verse that /mutaffif/ 'a defrauder' is a person who takes more than his right when he buys something and gives less than what is due when he sells it, and Allah has used the word 'woe' against him, in both cases.
However, this idea is wrong because the term / yastaufun / means that they take their right fully, but, there is nothing in verse 2 which indicates that they take something more than what is their right.
In comparison with these two circumstances of when they buy something they take it in full, but, when they must give in full what is due from them, they do not and cause a loss, Allah curses them.
This is noteworthy, too, that in dealing with others, when they take their own right, it is speaking of 'measure' and they take measure in full, but when they are going to give people's rights to them, it is speaking of both 'measure and weight' and they give them less than what is their due. This difference in the usage, of the words, may be due to one of the following reasons:
The first is that, in old times when wholesale trades used to occur the buyers mostly used big measures because, scales were not big enough for weighing very heavy loads, but smaller measures were more suitable and easily available. However in selling things they had both wholesale (by measures) and retail (by weights).
The second is that for taking a share, it is more suitable to use 'measure' because, shortchanging is more easy when weighing things and provides a greater possibility to commit fraud.
This point is also notable that though the verses speak about shortchangers, undoubtedly 'fraud' must be taken, here, in a more general sense: It consists of giving short measure and short weight, but it covers much more than that. It includes any shortchanging in numericals, (the countable items which are sold one by one). Or, it may include lazy workers or employees who do their duty insufficiently: so the verses condemn even them.
Some commentators consider a broader scope for the meaning of the verses. They say that any changes in 'limits set by Allah' and any deterioration in social relations and morals may be involved. Although there is no clear implication about them in the verses, the idea is not inappropriate.
Hence, it is narrated from ' Abdullah - ibn - Mas'ud, a companion of the Prophet's (p.b.u.h.), who said: "Prayer is measurable. If one fills its measure completely (and says a prayer perfectly) Allah will give him a complete reward, but if not, Allah's word about Mutafffin (defrauders) will be against him, too."
* * * *
Then, to threaten them (the defrauders) reproachfully, it questions:
"Do they not think that they shall be raised (to life again)?"
"For a Great Day".
On the day whose account, punishment, and primary events and horrors are all great.
"The Day when (all) mankind shall stand before the Lord of the Worlds?"
That is, if they believed in the Hereafter and they knew an account will be given there, and all their deeds are recorded for the Judgement, before the Lord, and whoever has done an atom's weight of good or evil shall behold it on That Great Day, they would not commit oppression and would never tread on the rights of anyone.
Many of the commentators took the term /yazunnu/, based on the term / zann /, to mean 'conviction'. It resembles Sura Baqarah,No. 2, verse 249 which says: "...But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah said: 'How oft, by Allah's will, hath a small force vanquished a big one?'..."
A tradition from Hazrat Ali (p.b.u.h) for the commentary of the verse attests to the idea. He said about the meaning of the verse: "Do they not think that they shall be raised (to life again)", that it renders: "Are they not sure that they will be raised (to life again) ?"
It has also been narrated that he said: "There are two kinds of /zann/ 'imagination': one is 'of doubt' and the other is 'of conviction'. What are given in the Qur'an about Resurrection are those of the ' imagination of conviction' and what are given about the World are those of the imagination 'of doubt'."
It is notable that, as Raqib has said in his book Mufradat, the term /zann/ basically is a word used for that case which happens in a person's mind where there are some implications in a person's thoughts about something. If they are convincing, the knowledge and confidence rise, but if they are feeble, there will be a mere 'delusion'.
Thus, the term /zann/ 'imagination', inspite of its present day usage, has a broad meaning in the Qur'an that consists of the sense of both 'knowledge' and 'apprehension'. It has been used sometimes with the former meaning and sometimes with the latter one.
* * * *
'Dealing in Fraud' is One of the Factors of Mischief in the Land.
The Holy Qur'an frequently condemns fraud, for example, in the story of Shu'ayb in Sura Shu'ara No.26, verse 181 to 183 it says: "Give just measure, and cause no loss (to others by fraud)." "And weigh with scales true and upright". "And withhold not things justly due to men, nor do evil in the land, working mischief".
Hence, dealing in fraud unjustly, with measure or weight, is counted as working mischief in the land. This is an evidence for the idea that shortchanging is one of the aspects of social evils.
And, also, in Sura Rahman, No.55, verse 7--8, justice in weights, which should be applied by people, is counted of the Balance of the firmament which Allah raised high, where it says: "And the firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice)," "In order that you may not transgress (due) balance." This means that justice and balance of the scale should be observed seriously, because it is an important factor not only in social affairs, but it is, in fact, a part of the balance the regulation in all the world that Allah has created.
For the same reason, the great leaders of Islam have paid much attention to it. For example, Asbaq-iln-Nabatah has quoted from Hazrat Ali (p.b.u.h) that when he was on the pulpit, he said: "0 tradesmen! 'practical theology' is first then trade." And he repeated it thrice, then finally added: "A tradesman is a wicked man and a wicked man will be in Hell except for those who take their right in justice and give people's right (in full)".
Another narration from Imam Baqir (p.b.u.h.) says that when Amir-al-Moimineen Ali (p.b.u.h) was in Kufa, every morning he used to enter the markets and walk through them carrying a whip with him over his shoulder (for the punishment of the offenders). He would stand in the middle of the market and call: "O traders, fear Allah!". When people heard his voice they dropped what they were doing and listened to his words carefully. Then he said: "Ask Allah for goodness, and be easy in your dealing with people, to be blessed. And approach the customers (in dealing), and make patience a model of decorum for yourself. And restrain from swearing; and avoid telling fies. Stand against cruelty, and treat the oppressed justly. Do not approach usury. Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due: commit not evi1in the land with intent to do mischief."
And, also, as it was mentioned for the occasion of revelation of the verses, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: "No sect committed fraud save those whose crops rotted and famine plagued them."
As a consequence from the above words, we find out that the use of short weights has been one of the great factors of destruction and punishment for some of the past generations, which caused disturbances in their economical order, and the descent of Divine Punishment.
It has been emphasized even in Islamic traditions about business behaviours that believers should give others a bit more when measuring or weighing something, and take from others a bit less than that which is due. This is opposite to what is mentioned in these verses about the treatment of the defrauders, ''Who when they take a measure from people, take it in full," "But when they give by measure or weight to men, they cause loss (give less than what is due.)."
On the other hand, as it was mentioned before, 'fraud' has such a broad meaning that envelops any shortchanging in any business or problem or responsibility whether they are personal or social or Divine.
 Tafsir Fakhr-i-Razi, vol. 31, p. 88.
 Majma'-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 452.
 Usul-i-Kafi, based on Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 527
 Majma'-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 452.
 Borhan, Commmentary, vol. 4, p. 38.
 Nur-al-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 528.
 Al-Kafi, vol. 5, Chapter: 'Trade'.