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Surah al-Mutaffifin (No. 83: 'The Defrauders')

Verses 1-6

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

وَيْلٌ لِلْمُطَفِّفِينَ

Woe to the defrauders who use short measures, (83:1).

الَّذِينَ إِذَا اكْتَالُوا عَلَى النَّاسِ يَسْتَوْفُونَ

who, when they measure from the people, take the full measure (83:2).

وَإِذَا كَالُوهُمْ أَوْ وَزَنُوهُمْ يُخْسِرُونَ

but reduce when they measure or weigh for others. (83:3).

أَلَا يَظُنُّ أُولَٰئِكَ أَنَّهُمْ مَبْعُوثُونَ

Do they not think that they will be resurrected (83:4).

لِيَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ

on a tremendous day, (83:5).

يَوْمَ يَقُومُ النَّاسُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

a day when mankind will stand before the Lord of all the worlds? (83:6).

1. Deviant Beliefs

In His Scripture, Allah shows His satisfaction with whoever He desires to reward by saying ‘Blessed be...'1 (tuba) which conveys the sense of a pleasant life that Allah has prepared for those who believe and do righteous deeds, and this includes happiness in this world and the Hereafter. In contrast to this, the Qur'an uses the expression 'Woe to...' for those towards whom Allah desires to display His anger and threaten them thereby.

Usually, the Qur'an uses it to threaten the polytheists,2 the disbelievers3 and the deniers4 - namely those who have deviant beliefs. But it also, uses this expression for those whose behaviour astray, including 'the defrauders,' scandalmongers and slanderers,5 and sinful liars.6

2. Fraudulent Ways In Weighing And Measuring

Some people think that fraud in weighing and measuring is a trivial thing when compared to the major sins, in that this kind of fraud may only involve a small amount of money that no one will miss. But the verses of the Qur'an that harshly rebuke this fraud contain a severe threat against it, which begins with invoking ‘woe’. And this expression is usually reserved for major sins, such as denying the Day of Resurrection:

“Woe to the deniers on that day!” (al-Mursalat, 77:15).

From this, we know that Allah places great importance on the rights of people (haqq al-nas), to the extent that he made the prohibition of this sin a fundamental part of the mission of prophet Shu'ayb (‘a), when he said to his people:

''O my people! Observe fully the measure and the balance, with justice, and do not cheat the people of their goods, and do not act wickedly on the earth, causing corruption.” (Hud, 11:85).

And contravening this divine commandment was one of the causes of the ruin of his people. This shows us that spreading corruption in the land is a grave offense that tantamount to disbelieving in Allah, and this is why both are punishable by death, subject to proper jurisprudential conditions.

3. Ill-Gotten Wealth

Those people who cheat others shall suffer the consequences of consuming illegal wealth. The Prophet (S) mentioned one such consequence when he was explaining the effects of forbidden acts on nations: 'Do not cheat in measuring or else you will be denied vegetation and suffer droughts.7 And perhaps they are threatened with afflictions to warn them of the harmful effects of consuming illicit gains. Many people give little consideration to this because their effect is not immediately visible as it is with drinking alcohol. So, there are some people who are very careful when it comes to avoiding alcohol, but not when it comes to illicit wealth!

In the same vein, Imam al-Husayn (‘a) also, rebukes those who consume ill-gotten wealth, which drives them towards this evil outcome, by saying: 'They have filled their bellies with ill­gotten gains.’8

4. Defrauders

The defrauders, as the verse describes them, combine the quality of selfishness and coveting benefits for themselves with that of dishonesty and fraud in business; so, that when they measure for themselves, they make sure that they receive their full due without any shortfall:

“who, when they measure from the people, take the full measure,” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:2).

but they shortchange others when measuring for the latter:

“but reduce when they measure or weigh for them.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:3).

Both of these qualities are morally repugnant, even if the first does not by itself necessarily reach the level of prohibition, but the condemnation is on their combination in the form of loving oneself while betraying others.

It is worth noting that the verse calls those harmed by this practice 'people' rather than singling out Muslims, for instance, to show that such deceit is immoral with any of Allah's servants.

5. Other Forms Of Fraud

Even though this verse is addressing those who cheat people through measures and weights, the spirit of the verse can include anyone who violates the rights of others in their dealings; such as someone who agrees to perform a task in a certain way but when it comes to it, he does not perform the task as agreed; or someone who wrongly seizes the property of others.

6. The Word ‘Think’

It is as though someone who commits a sin - in practice - does not even think about the Day of Judgment, because any reasonable person would consider potential harms and see them as necessary to avoid when he sees that he might be exposed to danger!

The verse alludes to this level of thought, saying:

“Do they not think that they will be resurrected.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:4).

Although some have interpreted the word 'think' (zann) here to signify 'certain knowledge' (yaqin), as in Allah's saying:

“those who know (zann) that they will encounter their Lord” (al-Baqarah, 2:46).

It has been narrated about this from 'Ali (‘a) in Tafsir al-'Ayyashi: 'They are certain that they will be resurrected; from them, zann is certainty.’9

7. Sinning In Private

The single solution to prevent someone from all sins - even in private - is what the Qur’an mentions in these verses; remembering that they will one day stand completely exposed before the Lord of the Worlds:

“a day when mankind will stand before the Lord of all the worlds,” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:6).

whereby there will be no meaning to doing things in private because there will be no such thing as privacy! Everything that a servant does in private is still visible to Allah, and that is why this verse exhorts him to remember that he will one day stand before the Lord of the Worlds to dissuade him from defrauding others, as he might believe that the person he is defrauding will not notice.

Verses 7-17

كَلَّا إِنَّ كِتَابَ الْفُجَّارِ لَفِي سِجِّينٍ

No indeed! Tbe record of the vicious is Indeed, in Sijjin. (83:7).

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا سِجِّينٌ

And what will show you what is Sijjin? (83:8).

كِتَابٌ مَرْقُومٌ

It is a book inscribed. (83:9).

وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ

Woe to the deniers on that day, (83:10).

الَّذِينَ يُكَذِّبُونَ بِيَوْمِ الدِّينِ

who deny the Day of Retribution; (83:11).

وَمَا يُكَذِّبُ بِهِ إِلَّا كُلُّ مُعْتَدٍ أَثِيمٍ

and none denies it except every sinful transgressor. (83:12).

إِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتُنَا قَالَ أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ

When Our signs are recited to him, he says, 'Myths of the ancients!' (83:13).

كَلَّا بَلْ ۜ رَانَ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

No indeed! Rather their hearts have been sullied by what they have been earning. (83:14).

كَلَّا إِنَّهُمْ عَنْ رَبِّهِمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ لَمَحْجُوبُونَ

No indeed! They will be veiled from their Lord on that day. (83:15).

ثُمَّ إِنَّهُمْ لَصَالُو الْجَحِيمِ

Then they will Indeed, enter hell, (83:16).

ثُمَّ يُقَالُ هَٰذَا الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ

then told, 'This is what you used to deny!'(83:17).

8. Sijjin

Allah's devices for accounting are of the utmost in precision and scope; so, the records of evil deeds are described as:

a. A book (kitab):

“...a book inscribed.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:9).

b. That it is in the Sijjin, which is a repository that contains all the judgments against the sinners, whether this place refers to the different levels of Hell or something else. The name 'Sijjin' is the emphatic conjugation of the word 'prison' (sijin), and is the opposite of the place where the book of the righteous resides, namely the 'lliyyin’. This second meaning applies if Allah's words 'a book inscribed' are not intended as a description for the Sijjin. If they are, however, then the Sijjin is the encompassing book.

9. Sullied Heart

These verses draw a connection between denying the resurrection and being absorbed by sin, insofar as amassing sins sullies one's heart and thereby veils you from even the clearest realities, including the Resurrection. So, sometimes a person will deny it, and at other times he will dismiss the signs of Allah as

“…myths of the ancients!” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:13).

And we can find support for this interpretation in what we read in the verse

“Then the fate of those who committed misdeeds was that they denied the signs of Allah and they used to deride them.” (ar-Rum, 30:10).

Thus, habitual sinners do not enjoy the blessing of a sound faith, because this soundness could fade and 'what they have been earning' reaches the extent that the Qur'an says:

“No indeed! Rather their hearts have been sullied by what they have been earning. (al-Mutaffifin, 83:14).

It is known that when a person's heart, which is the seat of their being, is tainted and sullied, then the servant will go to even greater extremes in the sins he commits.

10. Tainted Heart

A tainted heart is a stage of decline that results when a servant persists in earning that which does not please his Master, so, let those who sin persistently - even if their sins are small - beware of a tainted heart. This stage will take hold suddenly, like a rock splitting open on the final strike. It has been narrated in a tradition: 'When a servant commits a sin, we inscribe a black mark upon his heart; if he repents, desists and seeks forgiveness his heart will be wiped clean; but if he returns [to his sin], then the mark will grow until it consumes his entire heart... that is the taint (rin) that Allah mentions in the Qur’an.’ 10

There are other matters connected to people's hearts that fall within the context of a taint or sully. Some say that this taint is the heart blackening from sins. But being shut (tab’) is worse than being sullied, it means that his heart is closed completely;

“they are the ones on whose hearts Allah has shut.” (Muhammad, 47:16).

This is also, called sealing (khatm) the hearts;

“Allah has set a seal on their hearts.” (al-Baqarah, 2:7).

11. The Word “Kalla”

When the Qur'an employs the words 'No indeed!' (kalla), this has several connotations worthy of attention; it is but a single word and yet sometimes it implies repudiation (rad’), sometimes negation (nafi), and yet other meanings still. It has a unique meaning for every context in which it is used!

In the verse:

No indeed! Rather their hearts have been sullied ......” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:14).

we could say that this implies repudiating them for uttering falsehoods, namely calling Allah's signs myths, as if it is used in the same way as 'hush!' when you wish to silence someone and belittle them. And they only utter these things because of the taint that has infected their hearts.

As for in the verse:

“No indeed! They will be veiled from their Lord on that day.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:15).

This is a repudiation of that, which causes hearts to be sullied, which in turn causes them to deny the truth in this fashion in this world, and veil them from their Lord in the hereafter.

Meanwhile, in the verse:

“No indeed! The record of the vicious is Indeed, in Sijjin.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:7).

This is a repudiation of their fraudulent business practices and their disregard for the Day of Recompense.

12. The Veiling

Even though people will have the veils removed from them on the Day of Resurrection, and the manifestations of Allah's majesty and perfection are visible to them - to the extent that they become desperate to speak to their Master - the Qur'an describes them as

“ ... veiled from their Lord on that day.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:15).

This is being veiled from proximity to Divine Mercy, as is clarified by another verse elsewhere:

“and Allah will not speak to them nor will He look at them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them.” (Ale 'lmran, 3:77).

So, this type of veiling remains with them throughout the Resurrection, just as it was with them in the abode of this world; it remains even when all the other veils have been removed from them in the Isthmus (barzakh) and during the Resurrection.

Verses 18-28

كَلَّا إِنَّ كِتَابَ الْأَبْرَارِ لَفِي عِلِّيِّينَ

No indeed! The record of the pious is Indeed, in llliyun. (83:18).

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا عِلِّيُّونَ

And what will show you what is Illiyun? (83:19).

كِتَابٌ مَرْقُومٌ

It is a written record. (83:20).

يَشْهَدُهُ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ

It witnessed by those brought near. (83:21).

إِنَّ الْأَبْرَارَ لَفِي نَعِيمٍ

Indeed, the pious shall be amid bliss, (83:22).

عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ يَنْظُرُونَ

observing, on couches. (83:23).

تَعْرِفُ فِي وُجُوهِهِمْ نَضْرَةَ النَّعِيمِ

You will perceive in their faces the freshness of delight (83:24).

يُسْقَوْنَ مِنْ رَحِيقٍ مَخْتُومٍ

as they are served with a sealed wine, (83:25).

خِتَامُهُ مِسْكٌ وَفِي ذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَتَنَافَسِ الْمُتَنَافِسُونَ

whose seal is musk - for such let the aspirers vie - (83:26).

وَمِزَاجُهُ مِنْ تَسْنِيمٍ

and whose seasoning is from Tasnim, (83:27).

عَيْنًا يَشْرَبُ بِهَا الْمُقَرَّبُونَ

a spring where those brought near drink. (83:28).

13. ‘Illiyyin’: An Exalted Direction

The record of the pious is in a location that stands in contrast to that which houses the record of the vicious; it is in an exalted direction, called 'llliyyin’, which is described in a prophetic tradition: 'Elevated ('illiyyiin) in the seven heavens beneath the Throne."11 But, like the Sijjin, it is beyond human comprehension, which is why Allah uses the phrase 'and what will show you...? This is in addition to the fact that the determinations written in both are neither open to doubt nor at risk of harm; they are 'inscribed' (marqum) because their author -namely, Allah and His angels - lacks nothing in wisdom or precision. The same expression is used to describe the Sijjin but Allah has described the book of the pious here as being witnessed by a group of 'those brought near' (muqarrabin), which has been explained to mean the angels brought near,12 but also, as the elite of Paradise's inhabitants who have been given the right to view the records of the pious.13

14. Those Brought Near

It is also, possible that the pronoun in the verse:

“it is witnessed by those brought near.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:21).

refers to the Almighty Himself [i.e. 'He is witnessed by those brought near.'] So, 'those brought near' are a group of people from whom all the veils have been lifted, such that they are worthy of witnessing Allah's divine majesty, and their level is above that of the pious (abrar) and the angels; they are the companions of that spring

“ .... where those brought near drink.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:28).

And whose Lord quenches them with 'a pure drink.’:

“Their raiment will be fine green silk and gold embroidery. Bracelets of silver will they wear. Their Lord will slake their thirst with a pure drink.” (al-Insan, 76:21).

15. Tasnim

The inhabitants of Paradise do not all occupy a single level of divine blessings; the pious are in bliss, but those brought near are in another category of bliss, so, that the drink represented by the wine of Paradise that is prepared for them is different to the drink of the pious. The drink of the pious is seasoned with Tasnim:

'and whose seasoning is from Tasnim'(al-Mutaffifin, 83:27).

while the drink of those brought near is Tasnim itself:

'a spring where those brought near drink'(al-Mutaffifin, 83:28).

and their drink is not of such a quantity that it can be measured in cups, it is an abundantly flowing spring from which they drink directly. As for the rest of their special qualities, none can comprehend them save he who has reached the stations of looking at His noble countenance.

16. Bliss

The sensible delight (na'im hissi) enjoyed by the inhabitants of Paradise are reflected in their faces in the form of freshness and blissfulness:

“You will perceive in their faces the freshness of delight” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:24).

and they are in a relaxed state, watching as all the different types of bliss that unfold around them:

“observing, on couches” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:23).

and this could include looking towards Divine Beauty (jamal ilahi). From this, we can know that not every kind of bliss is a delight (bahja). After all, worldly people have so, much enjoyment, and yet to them apply Allah's words:

“his shall be a wretched life.” (Ta Ha, 20:124).

Therefore, the type of bliss that the Lord of the Worlds unfurls is that which brings familiarity and felicity in both worlds, not just the comfort enjoyed by the wealthy inhabitants of this world.

17. A Sealed Wine

The sealed heavenly wine in Paradise is sealed with sweet-scented musk:

“whose seal is musk …...” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:26).

- which is unlike that used to seal the wine vessels of this world, such as clay, in order to keep them pure and unadulterated.

On this basis, we can say that the starting point of this otherworldly bliss is that someone who wants to enjoy the pleasures of union with the Divine in this world must protect them from contamination by their well-known impurities; ostentation (riya'), listening to hearsay, neglecting one's duties, vying for superiority and other such things.

18. Wine And Tasnim

The varying levels of bliss in Paradise should motivate its inhabitants to compete with one another in attaining the utmost degree therein:

“...for such let the aspirers vie”(al-Mutaffifin, 83:26).

And this is something they can only do in the life of this world, for today is a day of striving without accounting, while tomorrow is a day of accounting without striving!

So, what is the difference between the wines that flow beneath the inhabitants of Paradise - which the Qur’an usually describes as one of the rivers of Paradise - and the drink of Tasnim? There are two opinions:

a. First that it is a special drink found only in the highest reaches of Paradise.

b. Second, that it is a river that flows through the heavens and overflows into the cups of the inhabitants of Paradise.14

19. Competition

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with competition; it only becomes blameworthy if it is for the wrong reasons. After mentioning some of the bliss found in Paradise, the Master calls people to compete in pursuit of those things that will help them earn it, showing that this kind of competitiveness is a praiseworthy!

Of course, any competition for an infinite prize - like that of Paradise - has no winner or loser, because the prize of this competition is not limited so, as to induce animosity between the competitors. But still, any competition is always a race, because each competitor wants to reach the finish line before his opponents, and this means people must move quickly along the race route!

Verses 29 - 36

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أَجْرَمُوا كَانُوا مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يَضْحَكُونَ

Indeed, the transgressors used to laugh at the believers, (83:29).

وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِهِمْ يَتَغَامَزُونَ

and when they passed them by they would wink at each other, (83:30).

وَإِذَا انْقَلَبُوا إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِمُ انْقَلَبُوا فَكِهِينَ

and when they returned to their folks they would return rejoicing, (83:31).

وَإِذَا رَأَوْهُمْ قَالُوا إِنَّ هَٰؤُلَاءِ لَضَالُّونَ

and when they saw them, they would say, 'Indeed, those have gone astray!', (83:32).

وَمَا أُرْسِلُوا عَلَيْهِمْ حَافِظِينَ

Though they were not sent to watch over them. (83:33).

فَالْيَوْمَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنَ الْكُفَّارِ يَضْحَكُونَ

So, today the believers will laugh at the disbelievers, (83:34).

عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ يَنْظُرُونَ

observing from couches: (83:35).

هَلْ ثُوِّبَ الْكُفَّارُ مَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

Have the disbelievers been requited for what they used to do? (83:36).

20. The Disbelievers

Instead of saying 'the disbelievers,' the Qur'an says 'the transgressors.' This indicates that the reason they harass the believers is their transgressing disposition that follows from their disbelief, as a disbelieving person might only disbelieve in matters of faith.

For this reason, we say: That if this disposition is present in the personality of someone who professes Islam outwardly, it could lead to the same acts that emanate from a disbeliever, such as mocking the faithful and other acts mentioned in these verses.

21. The Habits Of The Disbelievers

The disbelievers have no logic with which to argue, rather their habit is to mock:

“Indeed, the transgressors used to laugh at the believers” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:29).

and make derisive signals -

“ …… they would wink at each other” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:30).

- and gather together on the basis of falsehood and ridiculing the faithful:

“……… they would return rejoicing' (al-Mutaffifin, 83:32).

And they look down upon the believers without any evidence of their own correctness:

“ ... they would say, 'Indeed, those have gone astray!" (al-Mutaffifin, 83:32).

But all of this will be reversed on the Day of Resurrection, so, that the inhabitants of Paradise will have these positions in relation to the inmates of Hellfire, while they live in the bliss of Paradise, reclining on thrones; their condition shall be as the Qur'an describes it:

“So, today the faithful will laugh at the disbelievers,” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:34).

except that this time the derision will be appropriate and approved by the Lord of the Worlds.

22. Harassment By The Disbelievers

These verses, which describe how those disbelievers who transgress treat the faithful, prepare the believers to endure various kinds of harassment; mocking, derisive gestures, false accusations and others, and also, leave no room for them to expect any compliment or approval from the disbelievers.

The fact that these persons not only hold on to erroneous beliefs but are also, oppressive and unjust leaves no room for these two groups to come together, save that one submits to follow the religion of the other. This is especially true when we see that the verse emphasizes the ‘harmful ignorance’ (jahl murakkab)15 of the transgressors, in that the latter describe the faithful as being astray –

“ ... they would say, 'Indeed, those have gone astray!" (al-Mutaffifin, 83:32).

while they are themselves the very epitome of people who have gone astray! But how Allah refutes them and how harshly He derides them while defending His friends (awliya’), saying:

“Though they were not sent to watch over them.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83:33).

This carries the meaning that you have nothing to do with our rightly guided servants!

23. Delayed Punishment

Some people in this world are hasty to see the wrongdoers receive their deserving deserts, while the truth is that their affair is in Allah's hands and there is no risk of it being forgotten. It is in His hands that the fates of the wrongdoers and their victims rest; it is He who will judge between them about that in which they differed.

And hence, however much their punishment is delayed, there shall be a day in which the Lord of the Worlds cries out:

'Have the disbelievers been requited for what they used to do?" (al-Mutaffifin, 83:36).

As though Allah wants to show his faithful awliya the terrible vengeance He has wrought against the wrongdoers, to appease them for what they suffered at the latter's hands during their lives in this world.

  • 1. Surah ar-Ra'd:
    “(As for) those who believe and do good, a good final state shall be theirs and a goodly return.” (13:29).
  • 2. See Surah Fussilat:
    'And woe to the polytheists' (41:6).
  • 3. See Surah Ibrahim:
    'And woe to the disbelievers of a severe punishment' (14:2).
  • 4. See Surah at-Tur:
    'Woe to the deniers on that day' (52:11).
  • 5. See Surah al-Humazah:
    'Woe to every scandal-monger and slanderer' (104:1).
  • 6. See Surah al-Jathiyah: '
    Woe to every sinful liar' (45:7).
  • 7. Al-Kafi 2/374.
  • 8. Tuhaf al-’Uqul, 240.
  • 9. Tafsir al-’Ayyashi, 1/44.
  • 10. Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur 6/ 325.
  • 11. Majma’al-Bayan 10/692.
  • 12. Al-Mizan Fi Tafsir Al-Qur’an 20/235.
  • 13. Al-Mizan Fi Tafsir Al-Qur’an 20/235.
  • 14. Bihar al-Anwar, 8/115.
  • 15. This phrase “jahl murakkab” refers to ignorance of someone who is in the position of leadership, propagating his falsehood and misleading the others. [Note of Al-Islam].