English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 83: At-Tatfif — Default in Duty (Revealed at Makkah: 36 verses)

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Introduction:

This chapter condemns those who make a default in their duties or cheat others, in particular by giving short measure; hence its name. It teaches the utmost rectitude in one’s dealings. The chapter explains the nature of the two records: that of the wicked and that of the virtuous. The guilty suffer because they defraud and cheat others. The virtuous prosper because they fulfil their duties and are true to their obligations. Its revelation belongs to the very early period at Makkah.

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Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

83:1 Woe to the cheaters,1
83:2 who, when they take the measure (of their dues) from people, take it fully,
83:3 but when they measure out to others or weigh out for them, they give less than is due!
83:4 Do they not think that they will be raised again,
83:5 to a mighty day? —
83:6 the day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds.
83:7 No, surely the record of the wicked is in the prison.2
83:8 And what will make you know what the prison is?
83:9 It is a written book.
83:10 Woe on that day to the rejectors
83:11 who call the day of Judgment a lie!
83:12 And none calls it a lie but every exceeder of limits, every sinful one;
83:13 when Our messages are recited to him, he says: Stories of the ancients!
83:14 No, rather, what they earned is rust upon their hearts.
83:15 No, surely they are that day debarred from their Lord.3
83:16 Then they will surely enter the burning Fire.
83:17 Then it will be said: This is what you called a lie.
83:18 No, surely the record of the virtuous is in the highest places.4
83:19 And what will make you know what the highest places are?
83:20 It is a written book.
83:21 Those drawn near (to Allah) witness it.
83:22 Surely the virtuous are in bliss,
83:23 on raised couches, gazing —
83:24 you recognize in their faces the brightness of bliss.
83:25 They are given to drink of a pure drink, sealed.
83:26 The sealing of it is (with) musk. And for that let the aspirers aspire.
83:27 And it is tempered with water coming from above5
83:28 a fountain from which drink those drawn near (to Allah).
83:29 Surely they who are guilty used to laugh at those who believe.
83:30 And when they passed by them, they winked at one another,
83:31 and when they returned to their people, they returned exulting.
83:32 And when they saw them, they said: Surely these are in error —
83:33 and they were not sent as keepers over them.
83:34 So this day those who believe laugh at the disbelievers6
83:35 on raised couches, gazing.
83:36 Surely the disbelievers are rewarded as they did.

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Commentary:

  1. The cheaters are not only those who cheat others by giving them less than what is their due, but also those who make a default in any of their duties. The taking of the measure and the measuring out, in the next two verses, must also be read in a general sense.
  2. This prison should not be taken as signifying a jail, for in the verses that follow the Quran itself explains what this prison is. In v. 9, it is spoken of as a written book. This written book or record, which preserves the deeds of the evildoers, is called a prison because it keeps their faculties for the doing of good shut up as within a prison, and the very consequences of their evil deeds hamper their progress. See verses 14 and 15, where the actions of the evildoers are spoken of as being rust on their hearts, and they are further referred to as being debarred from their Lord.
  3. The punishment of the wicked is here described as their being debarred from their Lord. They have no consciousness of the Higher Presence and, being thus debarred from their Lord in this life, enter the burning Fire in the next, as plainly stated in the verse that follows.
  4. Like the prison of v. 7, these are not actual places. The highest places are the records of the best deeds, which enable man to soar high and cut off the chains which bind him to low desires.
  5. The “water coming from above” (Arabic: tasnīm) signifies spiritually the knowledge of Allah, because it is from this source that those who are drawn near to Allah (v. 28) are made to drink.
  6. The laughing of the believers is not to be taken literally. It signifies only the brightness of hope in their faces. The laughing in this case simply ex­presses a condition of joy which should make one laugh. The reversal of the con­dition of the believers and the disbelievers is all that is meant.

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