Suratul Ma’un, at face value seems as a complete departure from that subject. Having a closer and deeper look, let’s see what we discover and how Suratul Ma’un is connected.
The Surah begins; ‘Did you see the one who considers/calls the religion a lie’. “أَرَءَيۡتَ ٱلَّذِى يُكَذِّبُ بِٱلدِّينِ “
‘Then such is the one who pushes around the orphan’. “فَذَٲلِكَ ٱلَّذِى يَدُعُّ ٱلۡيَتِيمَ”
‘And he doesn’t encourage upon *the food of the Needy’. “وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ ٱلۡمِسۡكِينِ “
The word “مِسۡكِين” we translated as ‘Needy’, however the word is actually coined together from two separate words, مَسَكَ “Someone who has no means”, and سَكَنَ “Someone who doesn’t have a way to change their situation.”
In other words, they are; 1. Poor, and 2. Helpless
When you combine poverty and helplessness, then you get the word مِسۡكِين. You’re not a مِسۡكِين if you’re only poor, yet able to find a job and start earning. Neither are you مِسۡكِين if you have money, but just in a difficult tight situation. The word مِسۡكِين necessitates an impossible situation of poverty and helplessness put together. _ _ _ _ _ _ _
One thing I find very intriguing about this third Aayah of Suratul Ma’un is that I’ve never come across the exact and accurate translation of it as it should be translated. The mistranslation is in “طَعَامِ ٱلۡمِسۡكِين”, by saying ‘Feeding of the poor/needy’ If it was supposed to be “Feeding . . .” then the Arabic word would have been ‘إِطْعَامِ الْمِسْكِيْن’. The Aayah doesn’t say that.
The Aayah says طَعَام, which means “Food”, and that makes a huge difference. It changes your whole perspective completely! It’s very profound. Pay attention to this carefully, when you say, ‘You are stopping people from feeding the needy’, As opposed to saying, ‘You are stopping people from the food of the needy’.
When it’s “The food of the needy”, it’s actually their food, it belongs to them. Not you.
When you say, ‘Feeding the needy’, that suggests you are doing them a favour. That the food actually belongs to you, and you have a choice to give to the needy or not.
In this Aayah however, Allah is saying you are not doing them any favours. Rather they are in fact entitled to it, it’s theirs! This is according to Allah himself in what he says.
You’re not simply feeding them, you are giving them their own food. “طَعَامِ ٱلۡمِسۡكِين”
There’s a huge difference between “طَعَامِ ٱلۡمِسۡكِين” & ‘إِطْعَامِ الْمِسْكِيْن’
This example is one of many reasons why you can’t only rely on translations, as you miss out so much of the intended meaning. So much is lost in translation. Of course then there’s also the beauty of the Arabic language. Not just the Arabic in of itself, but of whose words the Quran is. Allah’s. _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Moving along to the next Aayah. ‘Did you see the one who considers/calls the religion a lie’. -1
‘Then such is the one who pushes around the orphan’. -2 ‘And he doesn’t encourage upon the food of the Needy’. -3 Then “فَوَيۡلٌ۬ لِّلۡمُصَلِّينَ”. ‘So then destruction for those who pray’
The word وَيْل is used in Arabic for the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you. If that’s not bad enough, the scariest thing in this Aayah is who this terrible destruction is for. لِّلۡمُصَلِّينَ, ‘Those people who pray!’
This is an Aayah all by itself “فَوَيۡلٌ۬ لِّلۡمُصَلِّينَ”. One complete Aayah. You know what lesson that teaches us? To never look at an Aayah by itself. This is a huge significant lesson.
Often you find people pick certain things out from the Quran and they say, ‘Look! This is an Aayah in Quran! Look what it says!’ Totally out of context without any understanding whatsoever. This also happens in Hadith literature. It’s a tragedy.
In this case, there’s an Aayah before it, and an Aayah after it that completes the meaning. If that’s the case here, then that must be the case everywhere across the Quran.
All of the Aayaat in Quran are connected in one way or another, all of them are in a flow. They all tie together, even when it seems there’s no clear correlation. It takes study and an in-depth look into the Aayaat, the context, the subject matter of the Surah and so on.
‘Terrible destruction for those who pray’, even though this is an Aayah by itself, it’s not isolated. Three more Aayahs complete the meaning
‘Terrible destruction/calamity for those who pray’
Then . . . “ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ عَن صَلَاتِہِمۡ سَاهُونَ” ‘They are the ones who, in regards to their prayer are heedless/careless.’
They pray in a way you can’t even tell they’re praying, they’re yawning, scratching their heads, playing with their hair, not standing upright, looking around, playing with their clothing, rushing etc. “سَاهُونَ”.
So they’re careless in prayer, then Allah adds, ” ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ يُرَآءُونَ” ‘(and at the same time) they are those who show off’
Now, showing off is a couple of things. It could be because you want to impress someone, or, ‘I’m praying because my mother’s shouting at me to pray, I’ll pray so I can show her I pray.’
Or that everyone’s praying and I feel awkward so I may as well pray. You should, and it’ at least a positive that it affects you, but better, is to have a sincere attitude and intention for prayer.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be that you show off because you want to be seen as ultra righteous, but sometimes just to fit in or for whatever other artificial reason you may pray.
Back to the Aayah, The worst most terrible destruction for those who combine these two things together; They pray carelessly/heedlessly, and at the same time, do it for the wrong reasons.
If that wasn’t enough, then on top of that. Allah concludes this Surah by saying “وَيَمۡنَعُونَ ٱلۡمَاعُونَ” ‘And they prohibit/forbid small favours’
This word “ٱلۡمَاعُونَ”, an example of it is like, imagine you’re in a classroom and the guy next to you has a bag full of stationery, countless different colours and types of pens.
You ask him, “May I borrow a pen?”. He zips close his bag aggressively, and says “I don’t have any! Go away!” – This is “يَمۡنَعُونَ ٱلۡمَاعُونَ”
Or you go to your neighbour’s house, “Hey, may I borrow some salt?” “No! I don’t know what that is! Go somewhere else!” and he slams the door in your face – That’s “يَمۡنَعُونَ ٱلۡمَاعُونَ”
These people, the Quraysh are so cheap, so miserly. First of all, they don’t give Allah his due (in Salaah), And they also don’t give people the minimum of their due.
They are neglectful, “showy” in front of Allah, and on top of that they are mean and aggressive to people.
Allah says, the worst destruction when he says “وَيۡل”. You’d think Allah would talk about murderers, and other horrible human beings. Yet Allah is talking about people who are just not good in the smallest of things. May Allah not make us from these people Aameen! _ _ _ _ _ _ _
So going back to how this Surah is connected to the previous. What is this Surah really about? What is it doing here and how is it connected?
This is actually a commentary on the leadership of Makkah at the time of the Prophet. These people who were in charge of the Ka’bah, themselves weren’t religious. They were only custodians of the Ka’bah because it was good business.
When the religion came to them, they called it a lie “يُكَذِّبُ بِٱلدِّينِ”
If they are going to call our religion Islam a lie, then that must mean that they have the right religion. A religion that calls you to some sort of righteousness? Right? The elite of Quraysh must have some higher spiritual calling that makes them the ‘rightful’ custodians of the Ka’bah?
Allah is saying, look at your behaviour. You push the orphan around. Remember in the previous Surah Allah reminded the Quraysh that they have all kinds of fruits. Allah granted them abundance of wealth, they don’t even have a need to shun anyone fearing shortages. There is no shortage, rather an abundance of wealth and ever increasing.
All the more reason, the Quraysh should be giving to the people, not taking away. Especially if you are custodians of God’s house, and you worship Allah, then it should make you more grateful to Allah, and make you more giving.
Yet, what religion do you follow? That you consider yourselves the custodians of the house of Allah and want to protect it, and at the same time you don’t even take care of orphans.
On top of that, forget about you yourself not giving, you actually tell and pressure other people not to give. You discourage giving to the poor. _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Now the question is why? One things is that they themselves don’t give, but what purpose does it serve to discourage other’s to give? Here’s the reason why. The Quraysh don’t encourage people to give the food of the Miskeen, which is rightfully theirs, because then the other people will turn to them and say, ‘Well, what about you? You’re the wealthiest amongst us. We’ve never seen you give!”
The finger will get pointed back at the Quraysh, so the Quraysh never talk about giving. _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The Quraysh are still the custodians of the Ka’bah, so they still need to maintain and should at least ceremonially show people that they have reverence for this place. They show up for some ceremonial prayer, and when they do pray, they don’t even really know what they’re doing anyway. They’re “سَاهُونَ”
The showing off is just all a political stunt. It’s nothing more. To show people they are legitimate custodians of the Ka’bah.” ٱلَّذِينَ هُمۡ يُرَآءُونَ”
These people who are meant to be role models of society, they have so much wealth that they could share. Millions. They can feed hundreds if not thousands, but their miserliness is so bad, that they don’t even have the generosity to give even small things. This is how cheap they are.
This commentary is here because in the previous Surah, Allah established his part in doing Quraysh a favour. Allah fulfilled for them, the Quraysh, the prayer of Ibrahim a.s.
Allah was the one who intervened against Abraha and his army of the elephant. keeepin Quraysh safe under impossible odds. Allah then also provided Quraysh fruit in the middle of the desert which has nothing going for it.
Allah is saying He took care of you, and look at how you return the favour. Look at what you’ve done. This is how you repay Allah?
Previous Surah was “فَلۡيَعۡبُدُواْ رَبَّ هَـٰذَا ٱلۡبَيۡتِ” ‘Therefore they should worship the Master of this house’ Now it’s as if Allah is saying, ‘This is how you worship? This is what you give?’ It’s been established in this Surah, that currently the people who are enjoying the custodianship of the Ka’bah are not worthy. They are just not worthy of the prayer of Ibrahim a.s that he made.
Quraysh need to be replaced. Their time must come to an end We’ll soon see in our upcoming Surah’s of what happens next.