The Quran

Commentaries for 4.37

An Nisa (The women) - النساء

4.37 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(Who are avaricious) by concealing the traits and description of Muhammad as mentioned in their Scripture. These are Ka'b Ibn al-Ashraf and his companions (and enjoin avarice) concealment (on others, and hide that which Allah hath bestowed upon them) they hide that which Allah exposited to them in their Scripture (of His bounty) of the traits and description of Muhammad. (For disbelievers) for the Jews (We prepare a shameful doom) through which they will be humiliated;
4.37 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
Those (alladhīna, the subject) who are niggardly, in their duty, and bid other people to be niggardly, in the same, and conceal what God has bestowed upon them of His bounty, in the way of knowledge and property: these are the Jews (the predicate of the [said] subject is [an implied] lahum wa‘īdun shadīd, ‘for them there is a promise of severe punishment’). And We have prepared for those that disbelieve, in this and other matters, a humbling chastisement, one of humiliation.
4.37 Kashani - Kashani
Those who are niggardly, at the first instance by withholding their perfections and forms of knowledge in the hideaways of their innate dispositions and the mattamores of their natural impulses, failing to manifest them by working with them at the [right] moment; then [they are niggardly] by failing to procure the rights of those to these are due and do not consecrate their attributes and essences to the annihilation in God because of their love for them; nor do they expend of the substance of their knowledge and character traits and perfections on the deserving, in the way mentioned; and bid other people to be niggardly, inducing them to states like theirs, and conceal what God has bestowed upon them of His bounty, in the way of the affirmation of the Oneness, gnoses, [virtuous] character traits and realities in the recesses of preparedness and the darknesses of faculty, as though non-existent. And We have prepared for those that disbelieve, those who are veiled from the Truth, a humbling chastisement, in the light of their disgraced countenances and disfigured attributes.
4.37-39 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Censure of Stingy Behavior
Allah chastises the stingy behavior of those who refuse to spend their money for what Allah ordered them, such as being kind to parents and compassionate to relatives, orphans, the poor, the relative who is also a neighbor, the companion during travel, the needy wayfarer, the slaves and servants. Such people do not give Allah's right from their wealth, and they assist in the spread of stingy behavior. The Messenger of Allah said,
«وَأَيُّ دَاءٍ أَدْوَأُ مِنَ الْبُخْل»
(What disease is more serious than being stingy) He also said,
«إِيَّاكُمْ وَالشُّحَّ، فَإِنَّهُ أَهْلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ، أَمَرَهُمْ بِالْقَطِيْعَةِ فَقَطَعُوا، وَأَمَرَهُمْ بِالْفُجُورِ فَفَجَرُوا»
(Beware of being stingy, for it destroyed those who were before you, as it encouraged them to cut their relations and they did, and it encouraged them to commit sin and they did.) Allah said,
وَيَكْتُمُونَ مَآ ءَاتَـهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ
(and hide what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounties,) Therefore, the miser is ungrateful for Allah's favor, for its effect does not appear on him, whether in his food, clothes or what he gives. Similarly, Allah said,
إِنَّ الإِنسَـنَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ - وَإِنَّهُ عَلَى ذَلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ
(Verily, man is ungrateful to his Lord. And to that he bears witness.) by his manners and conduct,
وَإِنَّهُ لِحُبِّ الْخَيْرِ لَشَدِيدٌ
(And verily, he is violent in the love of wealth.) Allah said,
وَيَكْتُمُونَ مَآ ءَاتَـهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ
(and hide what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounties) and this is why He threatened them,
وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَـفِرِينَ عَذَاباً مُّهِيناً
(And We have prepared for the disbelievers a disgraceful torment.) Kufr means to cover something. Therefore, the Bakhil (miser) covers the favors that Allah has blessed him with, meaning he does not spread those favors. So he is described by the term Kafir (ungrateful) regarding the favors that Allah granted him. A Hadith states that,
«إِنَّ اللهَ إِذَا أَنْعَمَ نِعْمَةً عَلى عَبْدٍ،أَحَبَّ أَنْ يَظْهَرَ أَثَرُهَا عَلَيْه»
(When Allah grants a servant a favor, He likes that its effect appears on him.) Some of the Salaf stated that this Ayah 4:37 is describing the Jews who hid the knowledge they had about the description of Muhammad, and there is no doubt that the general meaning of the Ayah includes this. The apparent wording for this Ayah indicates that it is talking about being stingy with money, even though miserly conduct with knowledge is also included. The Ayah talks about spending on relatives and the weak, just as the Ayah after it,
وَالَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَلَهُمْ رِئَـآءَ النَّاسِ
(And (also) those who spend of their wealth to be seen of men, ) Allah first mentions the punished misers who do not spend, then He mentions those who spend to show off to gain the reputation that they are generous, not for the Face of Allah. A Hadith states that the first three persons on whom the fire will feed are a scholar, a fighter and a spender who shows off with their actions. For instance,
«يَقُولُ صَاحِبُ الْمَالِ: مَا تَرَكْتُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ تُحِبُّ أَنْ يُنْفَقَ فِيهِ، إِلَّا أَنْفَقْتُ فِي سَبِيلِكَ، فَيَقُولُ اللهُ: كَذَبْتَ، إِنَّمَا أَرَدْتَ أَنْ يُقَالَ: جَوَادٌ، فَقَدْدِقيل»
(The wealthy will say, "I did not leave any area that You like to be spent on, but I spent on it in Your cause.'' Allah will say, "You lie, you only did that so that it is said, `He is generous.' And it was said...'') meaning you acquired your reward in the life, and this is indeed what you sought with your action. This is why Allah said,
وَلاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَلاَ بِالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ
(and believe not in Allah and the Last Day,) meaning, it is Shaytan who lured them to commit this evil action, instead of performing the good deed as it should be performed. Shaytan encouraged, excited and lured them by making the evil appear good,
وَمَن يَكُنِ الشَّيْطَـنُ لَهُ قَرِيناً فَسَآءَ قِرِيناً
(And whoever takes Shaytan as an intimate; then what a dreadful intimate he has!) Allah then said,
وَمَاذَا عَلَيْهِمْ لَوْ ءَامَنُواْ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ وَأَنفَقُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقَهُمُ اللَّهُ
(And what loss have they if they had believed in Allah and in the Last Day, and they spend out of what Allah has given them for sustenance) This Ayah means, what harm would it cause them if they believe in Allah, go on the righteous path, replace showing off with sincerity, have faith in Allah, and await His promise in the Hereafter, for those who do good and spend what He has given them on what He likes and is pleased with. Allah's statement:
وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِهِم عَلِيماً
(And Allah is Ever All-Knower of them.) means, He has perfect knowledge of their intentions, whether good or evil. Indeed, Allah knows those who deserve success, and He grants them success and guidance, directing them to perform righteous actions that will earn them His pleasure. He also knows those who deserve failure and expulsion from His great mercy, which amounts to utter failure in this life and the Hereafter for them, we seek refuge in Allah from this evil end.
4.36-38 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
"Assahib-i-bil -janb" as used in the Text may imply an intimate friend and also a person who accompanies one at any time. For instance, he may happen to accompany one in the street, or be a fellow customer at a shop, or be a fellow passenger in the bus or in the railway train, etc. Even such a temporary neighborhood requires a civilized and noble person to treat the companion as far as possible kindly, and scrupulously avoid giving him any sort of trouble.
"To conceal the bounty of Allah" is to live in a way as if Allah has not bestowed His bounty upon him. For instance, a rich person conceals Allah's bounty, if he lives below his standard: neither spends money on his own person nor on the members of his family nor on the needy nor for any other good work. In short, his appearance would show him to be in very straitened circumstances. Obviously that is gross ingratitude to Allah.
A Tradition of the Holy Prophet says, "When Allah bestows His bounty on anyone, He likes that he should show it". That is, he should live the life of a well-to-do person who spends money on food, dress, house, furniture, etc., according to his means, and also in the way of Allah in order to show the blessing on him.
4.36-37 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
And worship God and associate nothing with Him. Be kind to parents and near kindred and to orphans and to the needy and to the neighbor who is near and to the neighbor who is a stranger and to the friend at your side and to the wayfarer and to what your right hands own. Surely God loves not the conceited and the boastful. Those who are niggardly and bid other people to be niggardly and conceal what God has bestowed upon them of His bounty. And We have prepared for those that disbelieve a humbling chastisement. And worship God: Servanthood is attaching yourself closely to the command al-ʿubūdiyyatu muʿānaqatu al-amr and separating yourself from the rebuke wa-mufāraqatu al-zajr. And associate nothing with Him: The outward form of associating another with God shirk is to believe in objects of worship other than Him iʿtiqādu maʿbūdin siwāhi while its hidden form is looking to any existing thing other than Him mulāḥaẓatu mawjūdin siwāhi. Declaring His unity is to recognize that all contingent things are brought into being by God and subsist through Him. He is the One who causes things to happen brings things forth and causes them to remain. There is not an atom a splinter a particle or the slightest trace that belongs to anyone [other than Him that has the capacity to] bring things into existence or orginate new things. The subtle forms of showing off the hidden acts of guile the secret places of pride acting to be seen by created beings seeking the pleasure of their praise and wilting at their rejection and censure-all that is hidden idolatry shirk khafī. Be kind to parents: Acting kindly iḥsān follows degrees of association for you have been commanded to observe [your parents'] rights first because they are your kin and you were raised by them and reached your full maturity and knowledge through them. When your association and companionship have become sound and good with your near kindred the poor the needy the orphans and those of their class you will be raised up from that to become worthy of His companionship سبحانه. And to the neighbor who is near and to the neighbor who is a stranger and to the friend at your side: Among your neighbors are your two angels so do not annoy them with your disobedience bi-ʿiṣyānika and observe their right in what you give them to record in your acts of kindness min iḥsānika.
If the neighbor next to your home is entitled to your kindness and the observation of his right then the neighbor next to your self nafs which is your heart qalb deserves even more that you do not neglect or disregard it and that you do not enable vile thoughts to come to it. And if this applies to the neighbor of your self then the neighbor of your heart which is your spirit rūḥ is even more deserving that you protect its right and do not enable that which is in discord with it from the familiar comforts and things close [to the lower self]. The neighbor of your spirit which is your innermost self sirr is even more deserving that you watch over its right and do not enable its absence from the homesteads of witnessing awṬān al-shuhūd at all times. The allusion in His words “And He is with you wherever you are” [57:4] is unambiguous to the hearts of those who possess realization. Those who are niggardly... In scholarly terms niggardliness is holding back from what is obligatory. According to the explanation by allusion bayān al-ishāra [niggardliness] is not showing a preference for others īthār in times of need. To bid others to niggardliness is to shield them from the sacred demands muṬālabāt al-ḥaqāÌiq by showing sympathy for them with regard to the law. For example a spiritual traveler might have stripped himself of all attachments and cut himself off from all that is not necessary but then someone advises him saying “Maybe you are not strong enough for this and with your circumstances it would be permissible and more appropriate for you to become a beggar. Maybe you should go out and ask from others. That would not be a burden on other Muslims.” And [this person] relates reports traditions and the like on this topic. If it were not for the niggardliness residing in his heart he would assist [the traveler] in the aspiration that has come to his heart instead of holding him back with his counsel. Whoever is like this quickly becomes despicable inasmuch as he has extinguished the sparks of the spiritual desire of this weak soul through what he thinks is good advice and sympathy with respect to the law.
And conceal what God has bestowed upon them of His bounty that is if God has freed them from seeking bounty by what He has granted and given them they conceal that coveting more without warrant. It is said they conceal what God has bestowed upon them of His bounty when an aspirant comes before them and asks for something that would save him and they are stingy with him in giving him guidance irshād. It is said that the niggardliness of the rich is holding back wealth niʿma and the niggardliness of the poor is holding back aspiration himma.
4.37 Wahidi - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi
(Who hoard their wealth and enjoin avarice on others…) [4:37]. Most Qur’anic exegetes said: “This was revealed about the Jews when they concealed the description of Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, and did not reveal it to people despite the fact that they had it written in their Scriptures”. And al-Kalbi said: “This refers to the Jews; they failed to be truthful to those who came to them with regard to the description of Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, despite the fact that they had it written down in their Scriptures”. Said Mujahid: “The three verses up to His saying (…when Allah is ever Aware of them) [4:39] were revealed about the Jews”. And Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn Zayd said: “This was revealed about a group of Jews who used to go to some men from the Helpers, mixing with them and giving them advice. They used to say to them: ‘Do not spend your wealth for we fear poverty for you’, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Who hoard their wealth and enjoin avarice on others)”.