Monday, October 22, 2012

Tafsir Surah al-Nisa’ verse 58: Fulfill your trusts


Surah al-Nisa’:58
{Verily Allah commands you to
fulfill your trusts to those whom it is due }.[1]
Surah al-Nisa’:58
By S. Z. Chowdhury
Autumn 2003.
Imam al-Baydawi writes the following about this verse in his commentary of the Qur’an:[2]
{ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤدُّواْ ٱلأَمَـٰنَـٰتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا } خطاب يعم المكلفين والأمانات، وإن نزلت يوم الفتح في عثمان بن طلحة بن عبد الدار لما أغلق باب الكعبة، وأبى أن يدفع المفتاح ليدخل فيها رسول الله وقال: لو علمت أنه رسول الله لم أمنعه فلوى علي كرم الله وجهه يده وأخذه منه وفتح، فدخل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وصلى ركعتين فلما خرج سأله العباس رضي الله عنه أن يعطيه المفتاح ويجمع له السقاية والسدانة. فنزلت فأمره الله أن يرده إليه، فأمر علياً رضي الله عنه أن يرده ويعتذر إليه، وصار ذلك سبباً لإِسلامه ونزل الوحي بأن السدانة في أولاده أبداً { وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُواْ بِٱلْعَدْلِ } أي وأن تحكموا بالإِنصاف والسوية إذا قضيتم بين من ينفذ عليه أمركم، أو يرضى بحكمكم ولأن الحكم وظيفة الولاة قيل الخطاب لهم. { إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ } أي نعم شيئاً يعظكم به، أو نعم الشيء الذي يعظكم به فما منصوبة موصوفة بيعظكم به. أو مرفوعة موصولة به. والمخصوص بالمدح محذوف وهو المأمور به من أداء الأمانات والعدل في الحكومات. { إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعاً بَصِيراً } بأقوالكم وأحكامكم وما تفعلون في الأمانات..
“…this is a general communication of the legislator for those legally responsible before and and related to all matters of the law [...] {and when you rule amongst the people do so with justice} meaning to rule with fairnrss and equality…ruling is linked to those in authority and it is said the communication is addressed to them…”


Notes:
This verse along with others in ths Surah are often regarded by scholars to be strong evidences for the imposition of a leader (ra’is) or ‘Imam’[3] who must rule the common people with the laws of Allah (SWT) related to both their temporal affairs as well as their religious affairs. Several points are are highlighted by the verse:
Point One:
1. Allah (SWT) has commanded the Muslims denoted here by the 2nd person (mukhatab) plural pronoun ‘kum’ which specifies the audience being addressed. Hence the command (amr) is singled out for Muslims; it is therefore they who must heed it. The other point is that ruling here is specific to a group of people from amongst the Muslims and not all people which are the rulers (al-umara’) as mentioned by al-Tabari in his tafsir through a number of chains of transmission (al-isnad):
“Musa ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Masruqi related to me that: Abu Usama related to us from Abu Makin from Zayd ibn Aslam who said this verse {Allah orders you to fulfill all the trusts to those whom it is due} came down regarding those in authority.
Abu Kurayb related to us that: Ibn Idris related to us that: Layth said to us from Shahr who said: this verse was revealed specifically regarding the rulers…
Abu Kurayb related to us that: Ibn Idris related to us that: Isma’il from Mus’ab b. Sa’d who said: ‘Ali (ra) said: ‘words that hit the mark is that the Imam must rule with what Allah has revealed and to fulfill the trusts [to those whom it is for]. If he does that, then he has the right to be obeyed and listened to by the people as well as for them to respond if he needs them..’”[4]
حدثني موسى بن عبد الرحمن المسروقي، قال: ثنا أبو أسامة، عن أبي مكين، عن زيد بن أسلم، قال: نزلت هذه الآية: { إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤدُّواْ ٱلأَمَـٰنَـٰتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا } في ولاة الأمر.
حدثنا أبو كريب، قال: ثنا ابن إديس، قال: ثنا ليث، عن شهر، قال: نزلت في الأمراء خاصة { إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤدُّواْ ٱلأَمَـٰنَـٰتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُواْ بِٱلْعَدْلِ }.
حدثنا أبو كريب، قال: ثنا إدريس، قال: ثنا إسماعيل، عن مصعب بن سعد، قال: قال عليّ رضي الله عنه: كلمات أصاب فيهنّ حقّ على الإمام أن يحكم بما أنزل الله، وأن يؤدّى الأمانة، وإذا فعل ذلك فحقّ على الناس أن يسمعوا وأن يطيعوا وأن يجيبوا إذا دعوا
Thus, the command to rule and have political authority is for none but the Muslims.
Point Two:
 2. The command of Allah (SWT) is regarding fulfilling the “trusts” (amanat) of the people. This fulfilment must reside within every matter concerning the Muslims, in other words it is a general address (khitab amm) which is indicated by the attachment of the definite article ‘al-’ to the plural noun (amanat) known grammatically as the ‘lam al-jins’.[5]
            This responsibility of fulfilling the trust hence includes all matters as pertinently summarised by Imam al-Qurtubi in his Tafsir:
“al-Hafiz Abu Nu‘aym [al-Asbahani] mentioned in Hilyah [al-Awliya’]: and as for they (i.e. the companions) who said that the verse is in the general meaning (‘ammah) they are the majority such as al-Bara’ b. ‘Azab, ibn Mas‘ud, ibn ‘Abbas and Ubay b. Ka‘b who said: The trust is regarding every matter (kullu shay’) such as the Ablution, the Prayer, the Zakah, Sexual Intercourse (al-janabah), Fasting, Scales and Measurements (al-kayl wa ’l-wuzn) as well as Deposits (wada’i‘)….”[6]
ذكره أبو نعيم الحافظ في الحلية. وممن قال إن الآية عامة في الجميع البراء بن عازب وابن مسعود وابن عباس وأبي بن كعب قالوا: الأمانة في كل شيء في الوضوء والصلاة والزكاة والجنابة والصوم والكيل والوزن والودائع، وقال ابن عباس: لم يرخّص الله لمعسر ولا لموسر أن يمسك الأمانة.
Imam Ibn al-Jawzi is also emphatic about the general applicability of this verse stating:
“The third point is that the verse was revealed with general applicability which has been related form Ubayy Ibn Ka‘b, Ibn `Abbas, al-Hasan and Qatada. It was also preferred by al-Qadi Abu Ya‘la. Know that the occasion for the verse (sabab) being revealed does not restrict the general applicability of its ruling. It is general in all areas such as deposits and other things related to fulfilling the trusts…”[7]
والثالث: أنها نزلت عامة، وهو مروي عن أبي بن كعب، وابن عباس، والحسن، وقتادة، واختاره القاضي أبو يعلى. واعلم أن نزولها على سبب لا يمنع عموم حكمها، فإنها عامة في الودائع وغيرها من الأمانات
Imam al-Razi in his monumental tafsir (‘commentary’) entitled Mafatih al-Ghayb confirms this same point:
“[…] he then commanded the believers in this verse to fulfil the trusts given to them in all affairs regardless of whether these matters are related to religious doctrines and opinions or worldly matters and communal relations…”[8]
اعلم انه سبحانه لما شرح بعض أحوال الكفار وشرح وعيده عاد إلى ذكر التكاليف مرة أخرى، وأيضا لما حكى عن أهل الكتاب أنهم كتموا الحق حيث قالوا للذين كفروا: هؤلاء أهدى من الذين آمنوا سبيلا،أمر المؤمنين في هذه الآية بأداء الأمانات في جميع الأمور، سواء كانت تلك الأمور من باب المذاهب والديانات، أو من باب الدنيا والمعاملات، وأيضا لما ذكر في الآية السابقة الثواب العظيم للذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات، وكان من أجل الأعمال الصالحة الأمانة لا جرم أمر بها في هذه الآية
 Point Three:
3. Indeed, the command is given to all the Muslims but the complete and satisfactory fulfillment of these trusts cannot be realised unless a leader, ruler or Imam is in place to fully execute everything necessary to maintain these trusts which would require the requisite systems, structures and so on
This is what is termed in fiqh as the duty of ‘appointing an Imam’ (nasb al-imam). The reasoning is as follows: The fulifilment of all trusts and duties is an obligation which cannot be realised except with an Imam/khalifah (which would require the necessary systems, etc.) hence because of the principle: ma la yatimmu ’l-wajib illa bihi fa huwa wajib (‘that which is essential for the completion of a wajib itself becomes a wajib’) the imposition of a khalifahbecomes an obligation (meaning the system, i.e. the khilafah). The latter becomes necessary to realise the former. The reason being is that the means and the end both fall under the original or same command/obligation (asl al-wajib) and do not constitute two separate commandment.[9]
            Moreover, the command for those in authority to execute the Islamic rulings with justice is actually an implicit command to have them present otherwise the duty commanded to them would be superfluous.
Point Four:
4. The value of the command is said to be that of an obligation (wujub) because of two indications (qara’in): [1.] no other, group, faith or people have been discharged with this duty by Allah (SWT) except the Muslims who must execute it on behalf of the general people – Muslim or otherwise.[10] [2.] The other reason is that the duty to live by the laws and injuctions of Islam is an obligatory matter and not an optional matter and so if Allah commands the Muslims to follow something obligatory (and not optional) it indicates that the value of the command is an obligation.
 Point Five:
5. Allah (SWT) warns that if and when the Muslims rule the people, they must do so with justice (an tahkamu bi ’l-adl). This command is connected to a condition (yuallaqu maa ’l-shart)[11] and such a command entails it must be repeated or continual so long as that condition persisits; and the condition mentioned in the verse is the existence of Muslim rule (idha hakamtum), thus Muslims must regulate the affairs of the people with full Justice, fairness and equity everytime and whenever they rule. Imam al-Shawkani mantions this point:
“[…] and some such as the Hanafiyyah and Shafi’iyyah argued that the form which necessitates repetition [of a command] is that it has to be connected to a condition or an attribute…”[12]
…ويحتمل انهم ارادوا ما ذهب اليه بعض الحنفية والشافعية من ان الصيغة المقتضية للتكرار هي المعلقة على شرط او صفة
“…when it connects to a condition or an attribute…”[13]
…اذا كان معلقا على شرط او صفة

Point Six:
6. The word ‘adl (‘justice’) here in the verse refers to every judgment from the Book of Allah and the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saw). Imam al-Shawkani states in his masterpeice on Usul al-Fiqh:
“The word ‘adl means any decision of the government based on the Book of Allah (Glorified is He) and the sunnah of His Messenger (saw) and not any judgment based purely on human opinion because that amounts to nothing of the truth. If however, there is no evidence found by that government directly from the Book of Allah or the sunnah of his Messenger then there is no problem if the ruler makesijtihad so long as he is aware of the ruling of Allah (Glorified is He)…”[14]
والعدل: هو فصل الحكومة على ما في كتاب الله سبحانه وسنة رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم، لا الحكم بالرأي المجرد، فإن ذلك ليس من الحق في شيء، إلا إذا لم يوجد دليل تلك الحكومة في كتاب الله ولا في سنة رسوله، فلا بأس باجتهاد الرأي من الحاكم الذي يعلم بحكم الله سبحانه، وبما هو أقرب إلى الحق عند عدم وجود النص،
The famous classical scholar of Baghdad Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Khazin in his commentary writes:
“Allah’s saying {and when you rule amongst the people do so with justice} meaning Allah has commanded you to rule by justice so it is a duty upon the ruler to give the right to those it is due and the root of justice is equality and fairness in all things and so anything that is removed from oppresson and aggression is called justice…”[15]
وقوله تعالى : ( وإذا حكمتم بين الناس أن تحكموا بالعدل( يعني وإن الله يأمركم أن تحكموا بين الناس بالعدل فيجب على الحاكم أن يأخذ الحق ممن وجب عليه لمن وجب له وأصل العدل هو المساواة في الأشياء فكل ما خرج عن الظلم والاعتداء سمي عدلاً
Point Seven:
“And Allah’s saying {surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent} meaning the excellent thing he is admonishing you about is fulfilling the trusts and ruling with justice {surely Allah is Seeing, Hearing} meaning He the Most High hears what you say and sees what you do so when you rule He hears the rulings you issue and when you fulfill the trusts that are due he sees your actions…”[16]
وقوله تعالى: { إن الله نعما يعظكم به } أي نعم الشيء الذي يعظكم به وهو أداء الأمانات والحكم بالعدل { إن الله كان سميعاً بصيراً } يعني أنه تعالى سميع لما تقولون وبصير بما تفعلون فإذا حكمتم فهو يسمع حكمكم وإذا أديتم الأمانة فهو يبصر فعلكم.
Not ruling by the the sacred Shari’ah as revealed by Allah through the Qur’an and the sunnah of His beloved does not go unnoticed. Allah is absolutely aware of whether those charged in authority amongst us are ruling with Islam or not. But this great bounty and excellence Allah admonishes the Muslims with has been unheeded and as a result utter powerlessness, humiliation, disunity and poverty has stricken the ummah. The only way to reverse this is work to revive that system – which is the just khilafah system – that would ensure not only will the entirety of the sacred laws of the Shari’ah be implemented but the trusts too in all affairs of life will be fulfilled and the rights to all citizens given where they are due.
And Allah knows best.
Abundant peace and blessings upon out Prophet, His family and all his Companions.


[1] This is considered to be one of the “mother verses” (ummahat al-ayat) related to the topic of Ahkam (‘rulings’) as described by Imam al-Qurtubi:
“[...] this verse is one of the mother verses regarding Islamic rulings comprising all aspects of the religion and its law…” al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 1:911.
الأولى؛ قوله تعالى: { إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤدُّواْ ٱلأَمَانَاتِ } هذه الآية من أمّهات الأحكام تضمنّت جميع الدَّين والشرع.
[2] See al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 1:220.
[3] The words ‘Imam’, ‘Amir’, ‘Sultan’, ‘Khalifah’ and ‘Ra’is’ are interchangeable in Arabic and many narrations from the Prophet (SAW) establish their synonymity.
[4] al-Tabari, Jami’ al-Bayan, 8:489-490.
[5] See Sharh ibn Aqil ala Alfiyyah ibn Malik, 1:162. So in Surah ‘Asr:2 where Allah says: (Verily man is in loss) and the term “man” (al-insan) includes all human beings; the letter ‘lam’ denoting the ‘complete inclusion of the genus’ (li-istighraq al-jins).
[6] al-Qurtubi, al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 1:911. The greater portion of the Mufassirun are in agreement that the verse is general in its signification and thus includes all trusts and duties, see for example, ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, p.294; al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashaf, 1:456; al-Razi,Mafatih al-Ghayb, 10:132-137; al-Nasafi, Madarik al-Tanzil,p.233; al-‘Izz ibn. ‘Abd al-Salam,Tafsir al-Qur’an, p.108; al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 1:220 as mentioned above where he writes that because the fact of ruling is connected to the office of the governors, the command in the verse is hence addressed to those in power (li-anna ’l-hukm wazifah al-walat wa qila al-khitab lahum); al-Baghawi, Maalim al-Tanzil, 1:443-444; al-Shawkani where he comments that although the verse was revelaed regarding ‘Uthman b. Talhah: “what is considered is the general wording not the specificity of the cause” (al-itibar bi-umum al-lafz la bi-khusus al-sabab), p.391 and Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi in Mahasin al-Ta’wil, 5:1331 also concurs. Moreover, See Abu Nu‘aym, Hilyah al-Awliya’.
[7] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, p.294.
[8] al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 10:132-137.
[9] See al-Zaydan, al-Wajiz fi Usul al-Fiqh, pp.299-300 for more on the principle.
[10] The general rule according to the majority of the scholars of Usul al-Fiqh is that a command (amr) retains the value of an obligation or an emphatic request unless indications (qara’in) demand otherwise, see al-Zaydan, al-Wajiz, p.294; al-Shawkani, Irshad al-Fuhul fi Tahqiq al-Haqq min Ilm al-Usul, p.59; al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam of ibn Hazm, 3:263; and al-Musawwadah fi Usul al-Fiqh by ibn Taymiyyah, p.5.
[11] Similarly, a command must be repeated if it is connected to an ‘attribute’ (sifah) or ‘cause’ (sabab), e.g. Allah (SWT) says: ﴾Perform the prayer at the decline of the Sun [Bani Isra’il:18]﴿. Thus, whenever the sun sets, the specified time of the prayer arrives and one must hence pray at that time, al-Shawkani, Irshad al-Fuhul, pp.98-99 & al-Zaydan, al-Wajiz, p.279.
[12] al-Shawkani, Irshad al-Fuhul, pp.98-99.
[13] al-Shawkani, Irshad al-Fuhul, p.100.
[14] al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, 2:369.
[15] al-Khazin, Tafsir Lubab al-Ta’wil fi Ma‘ani al-Tanzil, p.549, comm. 4:58.
[16] al-Khazin, Tafsir Lubab al-Ta’wil fi Ma‘ani al-Tanzil, p.550, comm. 4:58.

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