Tafseer : Surah-Al-Ma’oon

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Surah-Al-Ma’oon (Helping Others):

It is said that the first half of the surah is Meccan and the second half is Madnan or it is all Makkan.

The story behind it (asbabul nuzool – reason for revelation) is that Abu Jahl had an orphan in his care – one day the orphan came with no clothes and asked him to care for him from his own wealth (orphan’s estate) but Abu Jahl refused even that.  He then went to the other Qurayshis asking for help and they said go to Muhammad as he will intercede in a way of mocking him (SAW) as they knew of Abu Jahl’s anger and animosity towards the Prophet (SAW).  The Prophet (SAW) confronted Abu Jahl and he immediately gave to the orphan. The people were wondering why he did it so quick and he said that on either sides were spears that if he didn’t do it he would be stabbed. This showed the courage of the Prophet (SAW), a miracle of Allah and similar incidents happened on other occasions.  

Allah says, “have you seen (with the eye or with the heart) who denies (from the verb to lie) the resurrection and judgement (al-jazaa wal-hisaab). Heedlessness/denial of judgement is the reason for all the wrongs in this surah. We base our affairs as if there is no hereafter. When we are reminded of it daily we are likely to act very differently.  Ara-ayta (opening words of this surah) is a style used by Allah to express amazement.  This form of speech also encourages the listener to want to listen to find out who this person is.

Allah then indicates that if you haven’t (seen) the one who denies the resurrection and judgement then these are his qualities:

  1. He is the one who repels (drives away violently) the orphan from his rights. One who consumes the wealth of the orphan is only consuming fire.  The verb is in the present tense to show a regular habit.  The orphan is the weakest in society – what kind of person abuses this trust? Literally stealing sweets from a baby.
  2. He does not urge the feeding of the needy either for himself or others. This is aimed at al-‘Aas ibn Waail or Walid ibn Mughirah. Allah doesn’t say who he doesn’t urge i.e. the one with money or the one actually feeding – this gives it the widest possible meaning as it encompasses all possibilities.  Ta’aamil miskeen literally means the food of the needy i.e. it is their right (mudaf mudaf ilayhi). A serious miser who has no mercy in that he not only doesn’t feed them himself but doesn’t encourage others to do so.
  3. Wayl – valley in hell, to those who pray and who are heedless of their prayers (not in their prayers alhamdulillah) i.e. praying out of their time.  This shows seriousness of it as who is it linked with.  This was aimed at the hypocrites of Madina who would neglect the prayer when believers were around.  If you miss the prayer, make taubah (repent) and make it up. If someone is working on making up the prayers, it has been said i.e. by Imam Saawi, that Allah will forgive the rest.  You have to take steps to make up any prayers you missed when you were under a legal duty to pray those prayers.
  4. Those who show-off i.e. doing acts for the sake of others when they should be solely and sincerely for Allah.  This is known as the hidden shirk.
  5. Denying helping others with small things which we could consider as insignificant i.e. matches, axe, cooking pot, needle etc.  This is like the old Nescafe advert where the neighbour would come over to borrow something and settle down for a cup of coffee.

All of the above are aspects of denying the day of judgement because the person doesn’t care about the commandments of Allah or the Sunnah of the Messenger.  Being gentle to orphans; feeding the poor; praying on time; doing acts with sincerity and helping others with small acts.


أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ – 107:1

Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense?

  • Ara-aita-ladhi ( أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي ) : Have you seen the one who
  • Yukadhibu-bi-deen ( يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ ) : denies the judgement/recompense

فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ – 107:2

For that is the one who drives away the orphan

  • Fa-dhalika ( لِإِيلَافِ ) : Then that
  • Al-ladhi ( قُرَيْشٍ ) : (is) the one who
  • Yadu-oo-l-yateem ( يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ ) : repulses the orphan

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ – 107:3

And does not encourage the feeding of the poor

  • Wa-la-yahuddu ( لِإِيلَافِ ) : And (does) not feel the urge
  • Ala-ta-ami ( عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ ) : To feed
  • Al-miskeen ( الْمِسْكِينِ ) : The poor

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ – 107:4

So woe to those who pray

  • Fa-wailun ( فَوَيْلٌ ) : So woe
  • lil-musalleen : to those that pray…

الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ – 107:5

But who are heedless of their prayer

  • Al-ladhina ( الَّذِينَ ) : Those who
  • Hum-an ( هُمْ عَن ) : (they) Of
  • Salathihim-Sahoon ( صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ ) : their prayers (are) neglectful

الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ – 107:6

Those who make show

[of their deeds]

  • Al-ladhina ( الَّذِينَ ) : Those who
  • Hum-yuraoon ( هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ ) : (they) make show

وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ – 107:7

And withhold [simple] assistance.

  • Wa-yamna-oona ( وَيَمْنَعُونَ ) : And they deny
  • Al-ma’oon ( الْمَاعُونَ ) : The Small Kindnesses/assitance


Tafseer of Surah-Al-Ma’oon was completed on the 1st of February 2018 at the Islamic Center Coffee Hall, Milton Keynes by Ustadh Mohamed

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