Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness

Introduction

A Makkan surah describing the characteristics of a person who denies the faith or its real purpose.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

107:1. Have you considered the person who denies the faith or its real purpose?

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

107:2. It is he who pushes aside the orphan,

 فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ 

107:3. And does not urge others to feed the needy.

 وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

107:4. So woe to those who pray,

 فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ 

107:5. But are heedless of their prayers.

 الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

107:6. Those who are all show,

 الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ 

107:7. And forbid the common kindness.

 وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ 

Commentary

Throughout the teachings of the Holy Quran, service to mankind is a running theme. At many different places God specifically mentions the help of the disadvantaged elements in the society. In fact it will not be a stretch to say that Islam promotes a welfare society. All members of the society are responsible for taking care of each other in time of their need. This aspect of the Faith is so dominant that God rejects the worship of those who are negligent of this duty.

God draws our attention towards the person who is openly rejecting Faith. This rejection is not in terms of his professing the Faith as this person is busy in salat (prayer) openly and all can see him. He is a believer and a Muslim if you ask him. Yet God is declaring him a non-believer. The reason for this denouncement by God is the actions of this person. He is identified as the one who does not help the orphan. He in fact shows his contempt by driving them away from himself.

Orphan is the direct translation of the word “yateem.” An orphan is a person whose parents have passed away. When this happens to a minor or a child, his social support is lost. Until there is some support system for him, he is not going to do well in life. The holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) was an orphan himself. His family was able to provide support for him until he grew up. But he had a special affinity for orphans. Throughout the holy Quran and in the narrations of the Prophet, care of the orphans has been stressed over and over again.

In a larger sense anyone who does not have a leader or guide in life can also be considered an orphan. Many young children go astray because their parents are unable to provide them guidance and training due to their own circumstances or inabilities. In such cases it is the responsibility of the society to provide for the needs of these children who are orphans in a metaphorical sense.

Caring for the poor and the hungry is important for any society. The importance of this is highlighted by pointing out this in the 3rd verse. The above two values are so important to God that he denounces those who are negligent in this duty, even when they are busy in salat.

Salat is considered to be a central tenant of the religion of Islam. Generally speaking the rituals of worship carry the greatest importance in any religion. In this chapter of the Holy Quran, God has set this priority right. Salat and other rituals worship is of no importance to God unless the believer is also engaged in the service of God’s creation.  In fact God expresses his displeasure for those who only focus on the worship and forget helping those in need.

According to God, the salat of such people is only a show. It has no significance. These people have not understood the real significance of salat. God did not need for us to bow before him five times a day. It does not benefit him in any way. He is above all this. So what is the purpose of salat? According to God the real purpose of salat is to develop an understanding of the purpose of creation and religion. It is a tool for training of the believers. The real purpose is serving the creation of God. Balance between worship and service has to be maintained. (Islam is a religion of moderation and middle way, “Ummatun wasatan”)

If salat is not accompanied by good works then it is only a show.

The last verse once again addresses the miserly behavior of these people. They refuse to participate in the common kindness and are averse to helping  even by lending trivial items of daily use.

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