2 - Al Baqara (The cow)

5 Tafsir(s) related to verse 2.282

Al-Jalalayn

O you who believe, when you contract, when you are dealing with, a debt, such as in prepayment for (future) delivery of goods or a loan, one upon another for a stated, a known, term, write it down, as confirmation and security against any dispute; and let a writer write it, the contract of debt, down between you justly, accurately, not increasing or decreasing the amount or the terms; and let not any writer refuse to write it down, if he is requested for such a task, as God has taught him (the kāf of ka-mā, ‘as’, is semantically connected to the verb ya’ba, ‘refuse’), that is, just as He has given him the advantage of knowing how to write, he should not be niggardly in this respect; so let him write (repeated for emphasis), and let the debtor dictate, to the one writing the contract, for he is the one being witnessed, and must be fully aware of his obligations; and let him fear God his Lord, when dictating, and not diminish anything of it, of the debt due. And if the debtor be a fool, a squanderer, or weak, not up to dictating on account of old age or immaturity, or unable to dictate himself, on account of being dumb, or not knowing the language and so forth, then let his guardian, the one in charge of his affairs, be it a parent, an executor, a custodian or an interpreter, dictate justly. And summon to bear witness, the debt, two witnesses, men, mature Muslim free men; or if the two, witnesses, be not men, then one man and two women, to bear witness, such witnesses as you approve of, on account of their piety and probity; the number of women is because of the fact, so that if one of the two women errs, forgets the testimony, given their lesser astuteness and accuracy; the other, the one remembering, will remind her (read fa-tudhakkira or fa-tudhkira), the one that has forgotten — the ‘reminding’ clause is the reason [for the choice of two women], that is to say, so that she may be reminded if she errs or strays into error, because this [forgetfulness] is the cause of it (a variant reading [for an, ‘that’] has the conditional in, ‘if’, with [the verb inflected as] tudhakkiru, ‘she will remind’, making it a new sentence, the response to which [follows]); and let the witnesses not refuse, whenever (the mā of idhā mā, ‘whenever’, is extra) they are summoned, to bear witness and take responsibility for the testimony; and be not disdainful, lazy, to write it down, that which you have witnessed in truth (for this frequently occurred), be it, small or great, a little or much, with its term, that is, the date on which it is due (ilā ajlihi is a circumstantial qualifier referring to the [pronominal suffix] hā’ of taktubū-hu, ‘you write it down’); that, writing down, is more equitable, more just, in God’s sight, more upright for testimony, that is to say, [that is] more helpful in summoning witness, because it contains the reminder; and nearer, closer to attaining [the desired state] that you will not be in doubt, with regard to the amount and the due dates; unless it be, [that] there is, trade carried out there and then (tijāratun hādiratun: a variant reading has tijāratan hādiratan, in which case the nominal sentence is missing its subject, and must be the pronoun for tijāra, ‘trade’, that is, hiya, ‘it [fem.

Al-Qushairi

O you who believe, when you contract a debt, one upon another for a stated term, write it down; and let a writer write it down between you justly; and let not any writer refuse to write it down, as God has taught him; so let him write, and let the debtor dictate; and let him fear God his Lord, and not diminish anything of it. And if the debtor be a fool, or weak, or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate justly. And summon to bear witness, two witnesses, men; or if the two be not men, then one man and two women, such witnesses as you approve of, so that if one of the two women errs; the other will remind her; and let the witnesses not refuse, whenever they are summoned; and be not disdainful to write it down, small or great, with its term; that is more equitable in God's sight, more upright for testimony, and nearer, that you will not be in doubt, unless it be trade carried out there and then that you give and take between you, then you will not be at fault if you do not write it down. And take witnesses when you are trading with one another. And let not either writer or witness be pressed; and if you do, that is sinfulness in you. And fear God. God teaches you and God knows all things. * And if you are upon a journey, and you do not find a writer, then a pledge in hand. But if one of you trusts another, let him who is trusted, deliver his trust, and let him fear God his Lord. And do not conceal the testimony; whoever conceals it, his heart is sinful; and God knows what you do.

God (s) has commanded creatures to act with sincerity (ṣidq). He taught them the particulars of their transactions with one other, and to adopt cautiousness and witnessing so that no injury will occur between them. That is in accordance with His mercy towards them and follows from His kindness to them, so that they will not argue with one another. He commanded the strengthening of rights in writing and taking witnesses. The command to witnesses is to take on the responsibility and execution of the task.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Necessity of Writing Transactions That Take Effect Later on

This Ayah is the longest in the Glorious Qur'an. Imam Abu Ja`far bin Jarir recorded that Sa`id bin Al-Musayyib said that he was told that the Ayah most recently revealed from above the Throne -- the last Ayah to be revealed in the Qur'an -- was the Ayah about debts.

Allah's statement,

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ

(O you who believe! When you contract a debt for a fixed period, write it down) directs Allah's believing servants to record their business transactions when their term is delayed, to preserve the terms and timing of these transactions, and the memory of witnesses, as mentioned at the end of the Ayah,

ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَـدَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ

(that is more just with Allah; more solid as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves.)

The Two Sahihs recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah's Messenger came to Al-Madinah, while the people were in the habit of paying in advance for fruits to be delivered within one or two years. The Messenger of Allah said,

«مَنْ أَسْلَفَ، فَلْيُسْلِفْ فِي كَيْلٍ مَعْلُومٍ، وَوَزْنٍ مَعْلُومٍ، إِلَى أَجَلٍ مَعْلُوم»

(Whoever pays money in advance (for dates to be delivered later) should pay it for known specified measure and weight (of the dates) for a specified date. )

Allah's statement,

فَاكْتُبُوهُ

(write it down) is a command from Him to record such transactions to endorse and preserve their terms. Ibn Jurayj said, "Whoever borrowed should write the terms, and whoever bought should have witnesses.'' Abu Sa`id, Ash-Sha`bi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Al-Hasan, Ibn Jurayj and Ibn Zayd said that recording such transactions was necessary before, but was then abrogated by Allah's statement,

فَإِنْ أَمِنَ بَعْضُكُم بَعْضًا فَلْيُؤَدِّ الَّذِى اؤْتُمِنَ أَمَـنَتَهُ

(Then if one of you entrusts the other, let the one who is entrusted discharge his trust (faithfully).)

Allah's statement,

وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُم كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ

(Let a scribe write it down in justice between you) and in truth. Therefore, the scribe is not allowed to cheat any party of the contract and is to only record what the parties of the contract agreed to, without addition or deletion. Allah's statement,

وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَن يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ

(Let not the scribe refuse to write, as Allah has taught him, so let him write) means, "Those who know how to write should not refrain from writing transaction contracts when asked to do so.'' Further, let writing such contracts be a type of charity from the scribe for those who are not lettered, just as Allah taught him what he knew not. Therefore, let him write, just as the Hadith stated,

«إِنَّ مِنَ الصَّدَقَةِ أَنْ تُعِينَ صَانِعًا، أَوْ تَصْنَعَ لِأَخْرَق»

(It is a type of charity to help a worker and to do something for a feeble person.)

In another Hadith, the Prophet said,

«مَنْ كَتَمَ عِلْمًا يَعْلَمُهُ، أُلْجِمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِلِجَامٍ مِنْ نَار»

(Whoever kept knowledge to himself will be restrained by a bridle made of fire on the Day of Resurrection.) Mujahid and `Ata' said that if asked to do so, "The scribe is required to record.''

Allah's statement,

وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ رَبَّهُ

(Let him (the debtor) who incurs the liability dictate, and he must have Taqwa of Allah, his Lord) indicates that the debtor should dictate to the scribe what he owes, so let him fear Allah,

وَلاَ يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئاً

(And diminish not anything of what he owes,) meaning, not hide any portion of what he owes.

فَإن كَانَ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا

(But if the debtor is of poor understanding) and is not allowed to decide on such matters, because he used to waste money, for instance,

أَوْ ضَعِيفًا

(Or weak), such as being too young or insane,

أَوْ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُ أَن يُمِلَّ هُوَ

(Or is unable to dictate for himself) because of a disease, or ignorance about such matters,

فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ

(then let his guardian dictate in justice.)

Witnesses Should Attend the Dictation of Contracts

Allah said,

وَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ شَهِيدَيْنِ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ

(And get two witnesses out of your own men) requiring witnesses to attend the dictation of contracts to further preserve the contents,

فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ

(And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women) this requirement is only for contracts that directly or indirectly involve money. Allah requires that two women take the place of one man as witness, because of the woman's shortcomings, as the Prophet described. Muslim recorded in his Sahih that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«يَا مَعْشَرَ النِّسَاءِ تَصَدَّقْنَ وَأَكْثِرْنَ الْاسْتِغْفَارَ، فَإِنِّي رَأَيْتُكُنَّ أَكْثَرَ أَهْلِ النَّار»

(O women! Give away charity and ask for forgiveness, for I saw that you comprise the majority of the people of the Fire.)

One eloquent woman said, "O Messenger of Allah! Why do we comprise the majority of the people of the Fire'' He said,

«تُكْثِرْنَ اللَّعْنَ، وَتَكْفُرْنَ الْعَشِيرَ، وَمَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ، أَغْلَبَ لِذِي لُبَ مِنْكُن»

(You curse a lot and you do not appreciate your mate. I have never seen those who have shortcoming in mind and religion controlling those who have sound minds, other than you.) She said, "O Messenger of Allah! What is this shortcoming in mind and religion'' He said,

«أَمَّا نُقْصَانُ عَقْلِهَا، فَشَهَادَةُ امْرَأَتَيْنِ تَعْدِلُ شَهَادَةَ رَجُلٍ، فَهَذَا نُقْصَانُ الْعَقْلِ، وَتَمْكُثُ اللَّيَالِي لَا تُصَلِّي وَتُفْطِرُ فِي رَمَضَانَ، فَهَذَا نُقْصَانُ الدِّين»

(As for the shortcoming in her mind, the testimony of two women equals the testimony of one man, and this is the shortcoming in the mind. As for the shortcoming in the religion, woman remains for nights at a time when she does not pray and breaks the fast in Ramadan)

Allah's statement,

مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَآءِ

(such as you agree for witnesses) requires competency in the witnesses. Further, Allah's statement,

أَن تَضِلَّ إْحْدَاهُمَا

(so that if one of them errs) refers to the two women witnesses; whenever one of them forgets a part of the testimony,

فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الاٍّخْرَى

(the other can remind her) meaning, the other woman's testimony mends the shortcoming of forgetfulness in the first woman.

Allah's statement,

وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَآءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ

(And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called) means, when people are called to be witnesses, they should agree, as Qatadah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas stated. Similarly, Allah said,

وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَن يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ

(Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him,

«أَمَّا نُقْصَانُ عَقْلِهَا، فَشَهَادَةُ امْرَأَتَيْنِ تَعْدِلُ شَهَادَةَ رَجُلٍ، فَهَذَا نُقْصَانُ الْعَقْلِ، وَتَمْكُثُ اللَّيَالِي لَا تُصَلِّي وَتُفْطِرُ فِي رَمَضَانَ، فَهَذَا نُقْصَانُ الدِّين»

(As for the shortcoming in her mind, the testimony of two women equals the testimony of one man, and this is the shortcoming in the mind. As for the shortcoming in the religion, woman remains for nights at a time when she does not pray and breaks the fast in Ramadan)

Allah's statement,

مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَآءِ

(such as you agree for witnesses) requires competency in the witnesses. Further, Allah's statement,

أَن تَضِلَّ إْحْدَاهُمَا

(so that if one of them errs) refers to the two women witnesses; whenever one of them forgets a part of the testimony,

فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الاٍّخْرَى

(the other can remind her) meaning, the other woman's testimony mends the shortcoming of forgetfulness in the first woman.

Allah's statement,

وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَآءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ

(And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called) means, when people are called to be witnesses, they should agree, as Qatadah and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas stated. Similarly, Allah said,

وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَن يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللَّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ

(Let not the scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him, so let him write.)

Some say that this Ayah indicates that agreeing to become a witness is Fard Kifayah (required on at least a part of the Muslim Ummah). However, the majority of the scholars say that the Ayah,

وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَآءُ إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ

(And the witnesses should not refuse when they are called) is referring to testifying to what the witnesses actually witnessed, thus befitting their description of being `witnesses'. Therefore, when the witness is called to testify to what he witnessed, he is required to give testimony, unless this obligation was already fulfilled, in which case such testimony becomes Fard Kifayah. Mujahid and Abu Mijlaz said, "If you are called to be a witness, then you have the choice to agree. If you witnessed and were called to testify, then come forward.'' It was reported that Ibn `Abbas and Al-Hasan Al-Basri said that the obligation includes both cases, agreeing to be a witness and testifying to what one witnessed.

Allah's statement,

وَلاَ تَسْـَمُواْ أَن تَكْتُبُوهُ صَغِيرًا أَوْ كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ

(You should not become weary to write it (your contract), whether it be small or large, for its fixed term) perfects this direction from Allah by commanding that the debt be written, whether the amount is large or small. Allah said,

وَلاَ تَسْـَمُواْ

(You should not become weary) meaning, do not be discouraged against writing transactions and their terms, whether the amount involved is large or small. Allah's statement,

ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللَّهِ وَأَقْوَمُ لِلشَّهَـدَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ

(that is more just with Allah; more solid as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves) means, writing transactions that will be fulfillled at a later date is more just with Allah meaning better and more convenient in order to preserve the terms of the contract. Therefore, recording such agreements helps the witnesses, when they see their handwriting - or signatures - later on and thus remember what they witnessed, for it is possible that the witnesses might forget what they witnessed.

وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ

(And more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves) meaning, this helps repel any doubt. Since if you need to refer to the contract that you wrote and the doubt will end.

Allah's statement,

إِلاَ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَـرَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلاَّ تَكْتُبُوهَا

(save when it is a present trade which you carry out on the spot among yourselves, then there is no sin on you if you do not write it down) indicates that if the transaction will be fulfilled immediately, then there is no harm if it is not recorded.

As for requiring witnesses to be present in trading transactions, Allah said,

وَأَشْهِدُواْ إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ

(But take witnesses whenever you make a commercial contract. )

However, this command was abrogated by,

فَإِنْ أَمِنَ بَعْضُكُم بَعْضًا فَلْيُؤَدِّ الَّذِى اؤْتُمِنَ أَمَـنَتَهُ

(Then if one of you entrusts the other, let the one who is entrusted discharge his trust (faithfully).)

Or, it could be that having witnesses in such cases is only recommended and not obligatory, as evident from the Hadith that Khuzaymah bin Thabit Al-Ansari narrated which Imam Ahmad collected. `Umarah bin Khuzaymah Al-Ansari said that his uncle, who was among the Prophet's Companions, told him that the Prophet was making a deal for a horse with a bedouin man. The Prophet asked the bedouin to follow him so that he could pay him the price of the horse. The Prophet went ahead of the bedouin. The bedouin met several men who tried to buy his horse, not knowing if the Prophet was actually determined to buy it. Some people offered more money for the horse than the Prophet had. The bedouin man said to the Prophet, "If you want to buy this horse, then buy it or I will sell it to someone else.'' When he heard the bedouin man's words, the Prophet stood up and said, "Have I not bought that horse from you'' The bedouin said, "By Allah! I have not sold it to you.'' The Prophet said, "Rather, I did buy it from you.'' The people gathered around the Prophet and the Bedouin while they were disputing, and the bedouin said, "Bring forth a witness who testifies that I sold you the horse.'' Meanwhile, the Muslims who came said to the bedouin, "Woe to you! The Prophet only says the truth.'' When Khuzaymah bin Thabit came and heard the dispute between the Prophet and the bedouin who was saying, "Bring forth a witness who testifies that I sold you the horse, '' Khuzaymah said, "I bear witness that you sold him the horse.'' The Prophet said to Khuzaymah, "What is the basis of your testimony'' Khuzaymah said, "That I entrusted you, O Messenger of Allah!'' Therefore, the Messenger made Khuzaymah's testimony equal to the testimony of two men. This was also recorded by Abu Dawud and An-Nasa ®299؛. Allah's statement,

وَلاَ يُضَآرَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلاَ شَهِيدٌ

(Let neither scribe nor witness suffer (or cause) any harm) also indicates that the scribe and the witness must not cause any harm, such as, when the scribe writes other than what he is being dictated, or the witness testifies to other than what he heard or conceals his testimony. This is the explanation of Al-Hasan and Qatadah.''

Allah's statement,

وَإِن تَفْعَلُواْ فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ

(But if you do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you) means, "If you defy what you were commanded and commit what you were prohibited, then it is because of the sin that resides and remains with you; sin that you never release or rid yourselves from.''

Allah's statement,

وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ

(So have Taqwa of Allah) means, fear Him, remember His watch over you, implement His command and avoid what He prohibited,

وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ

(And Allah teaches you. ) Similarly, Allah said,

يِـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إَن تَتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّكُمْ فُرْقَانًا

(O you who believe! If you have Taqwa of Allah, He will grant you Furqan (a criterion to judge between right and wrong)) 8:29, and,

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ وَءَامِنُواْ بِرَسُولِهِ يُؤْتِكُمْ كِفْلَيْنِ مِن رَّحْمَتِهِ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ نُوراً تَمْشُونَ بِهِ

(O you who believe! Have Taqwa of Allah, and believe in His Messenger, He will give you a double portion of His mercy, and He will give you a light by which you shall walk (straight)) 57:28.

Allah said;

وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

(And Allah is the All-Knower of everything) stating that Allah has perfect knowledge in all matters and in their benefits or repercussions, and nothing escapes His perfect watch, for His knowledge encompasses everything in existence.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

From this it is deduced that the term for a debt must be specified.

This warns against a common practice: friends and relatives do not put debt agreements into formal writing, for such a thing, according to them, shows lack of trust. Allah admonishes that agreements concerning debt and business should be recorded and testified by witnesses in order to keep the affairs of the people clean. A Tradition of the Holy Prophet says that three kinds of the people cry out to Allah for help but are not answered: first, those who have ill tempered wives but do not divorce them; second, those who are entrusted with the property of orphans but return it to them before they attain maturity; third, those who lend money to others without any document or evidence.

"From among you": from among the Muslims. Imam Abu Hanifah, holds the opinion that the non-Muslims also can be made the witnesses.

As the establishment of the truth of a case depends to a great degree on the reliability of witnesses, a very high standard of qualification is demanded of them. Only those persons who are known to lead respectable lives and bear good moral character and are honest should be made the witnesses.

Even in the case of those transactions which are carried out on the spot in everyday business, it is better to record them; nevertheless there is no harm if commercial transactions carried on daily between neighbouring traders are not recorded.

It implies two things. No one should be forced to become a scribe or a witness against his will, and no one should harass the scribe or the witness just because he gives true evidence against the interests of a party.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

Allah then taught them what they ought to learn in their dealings, saying: (O ye who believe!) in Allah and His Messenger (when ye contract a debt for a fixed term, record it) i.e. the debt (in writing. Let a scribe record it in writing between you) the indebted person and the creditor (in (terms of) equity) justice. (No scribe should refuse to write) the contract between the creditor and the debtor (as Allah hath taught him) how to write, (so let him write) the contract without addition or omission, (and let him who incurreth the debt dictate) i.e. the indebted person should explain to the scribe the debt he owes, (and let him observe his duty to Allah his Lord) let the indebted person fear his Lord, (and diminish naught thereof) and not diminish any amount of debt he owes upon dictation. (But if he who oweth the debt is of low understanding) is ignorant of dictation, (or weak) unable to dictate, (or unable himself to dictate) does not know how to dictate to the scribe, (then let the guardian of his interests dictate) the guardian of his wealth who is the creditor (in (terms of) equity) without any addition. (And call to witness) for your rights, (from among your men, two witnesses) from among your free, Muslim men who are of good character. (And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and two women, of such as ye approve as witnesses) from among people who are reliable in their witness, (so that if the one erreth (through forgetfulness)) so that if one of the women forgets (the other) who did not forget (will remind her. And the witnesses must not refuse) to give witness (when they are summoned) to court. (Be not averse) disinclined (to writing down) i.e. the debt (whether it be small or great, with (record of) the term thereof. That) i.e. that which I mentioned regarding the writing down of the debt (is more equitable) more correct and fairer (in the sight of Allah and more sure for testimony) clearer for the witness when he gives his testimony if he happens to forget, (and the best way of avoiding doubt between you) concerning the debt and the fixed term of its payment; (save only in the case when it is actual merchandise which you transfer among yourselves from hand to hand.