Updates
Home / Finance / A crime that eradicated a nation
Praneat / Shutterstock.com

A crime that eradicated a nation

Islam is a religion of justice. One of the greatest aspects of our religion is the list of Maqāsid, or grand objectives, that Islam seeks to establish. In one verse, Allāh mentions sending scripture and the scales side by side:

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ

“We have sent down our messengers with evidences and sent down with them the scripture and the scales so that mankind can keep up justice.”[1]

In another verse, the enormous construction of the heavens above us and the setting of scales are mentioned together:

وَالسَّمَاءَ رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ الْمِيزَانَ (7) أَلَّا تَطْغَوْا فِي الْمِيزَانِ (8)

“And the heaven: He has raised it high, and He has set up the scales, so that you do not transgress within the scales.”[2]

To the contrary, injustice is “many darknesses on the Day of Judgement”.[3] For the purpose of this piece, I will share with you one of the darkest yet most prevalent forms of injustice, listed by the scholars among the most major of sins: Tatfīf.

The people of Tatfīf are essentially those who short-change others, giving less than what is due, either by fraud, deception, lying, or any other way. Nations of the past were wiped off the map because of this, such as the people of Prophet Shu’aib. Prophet Shu’aib had repeatedly cautioned his people:

أَوْفُوا الْكَيْلَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُخْسِرِينَ (181) وَزِنُوا بِالْقِسْطَاسِ الْمُسْتَقِيمِ (182) وَلَا تَبْخَسُوا النَّاسَ أَشْيَاءهُمْ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ

“Give full measure and do not be of those who cause loss. And weigh with the true scales, and do not deprive people of their due. And do not commit abuse on earth, spreading corruption.”[4]

Their transactions, however, only worsened. So did their mockery and defiance. Hence, when their punishment finally arrived, it took three forms: a quaking, a scream, and a black cloud. Allāh said about their punishment:

إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ

“Indeed, it was the punishment of an awful day.”[5][6]

It is for this reason that one of the very first priorities upon the Prophet Muhammad’s entry to the city of Madina was to ensure that the markets were operating in a just manner. Ibn ‘Abbas said:

لَمَّا قَدِمَ النَّبِيُّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ الْمَدِينَةَ كَانُوا مِنْ أَخْبَثِ النَّاسِ كَيْلاً فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ سُبْحَانَهُ ‏{وَيْلٌ لِلْمُطَفِّفِينَ}‏ فَأَحْسَنُوا الْكَيْلَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ

“When the Prophet came to Madinah, its people were the worst in weights and measures. So, Allāh revealed: ‘Woe to the Mutaffifīn (those who engage in Tatfīf)’ and so they became excellent in measure after that.”[7]

In fact, Tatfīf has such an effect in tearing apart the fabric of societies and nations that Allāh revealed an entire Surah from the Qur’ān on this very topic: Surah Al-Mutaffifīn. The power of its opening verses leave no room for doubt:

وَيْلٌ لِّلْمُطَفِّفِينَ (1) الَّذِينَ إِذَا اكْتَالُواْ عَلَى النَّاسِ يَسْتَوْفُونَ (2) وَإِذَا كَالُوهُمْ أَو وَّزَنُوهُمْ يُخْسِرُونَ (3)

“Woe to the Mutaffifīn (those who short-change others). Who, when they take a measure from people, take in full. But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.”

So, when they are on the receiving end, they demand their rights in full, whether it is money, a service, or anything else. However, when they are on the giving end, they turn a blind eye and short-change people, giving less, cheating, stealing, weighing less, not giving the promised service, or failing to fulfil the agreed duty. The verses then issue a stern warning;

أَلَا يَظُنُّ أُولَئِكَ أَنَّهُم مَّبْعُوثُونَ (4) لِيَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (5) يَوْمَ يَقُومُ النَّاسُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (6)

Do they not think that they shall be raised again? For a tremendous Day – the Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?[8]

In other words, had the belief of the Day of Resurrection truly settled within their hearts, they would not have engaged in Tatfīf. It is worth noting here that this Surah is situated between two chapters that focus entirely on the Day of Judgement: Surah Al-Infitār (Surah 82) before it, and Surah Al-Inshiqāq (Surah 84) after it. Truly, the Day of Reckoning is the ultimate catalyst for reformation and repentance from such doings.

Furthermore, the nature of Tatfīf is one of subtle deception. The very word “Tatfīf” alludes to something minute (“Tafīf”), hence their deceptive tricks in taking what is not theirs is very discreet. Ibn ‘Arabi said that the scholars of the Arabic language have said:

المطففون هم الذين ينقصون المكيال والميزان، وقيل له المطفف لأنه لا يكاد يسرق من المكيال والميزان إلا الشيء الطفيف

“The people of Tatfīf are those who decrease from the measure and scales, and they were given this label because they pinch the smallest (Tafīf) of amounts.”[9]

Hence, if Allāh has levelled this type of threat towards the people of Tatfīf who, by definition, only take small amounts of what is not theirs, what then of those who have conned their way towards hundreds, thousands, and even millions?

So far, we have mentioned that the crime of Tatfīf is primarily in reference to cheating others with respect to measure and weight, and that it is done in the most discreet of ways. Most importantly, however, it is key to note that Tatfīf is not limited to measure and weight, but can be applied to almost all things of life.

Imam Malik said:

 يُقال: لكل شيء وفاءٌ وتطفيفٌ

“It is said that the aspect of giving people their dues (Wafā) or short-changing (Tatfīf) is applicable to all things.”[10]

Abu Hāmid Al-Ghazāli said:

فهو جار في جميع الأعمال، فصاحب الميزان في خطر الويل، وكل مكلف فهو صاحب موازين، في أفعاله، وأقواله، وخطراته، فالويل له إن عدل عن العدل، ومال عن الاستقامة

Tatfīf affects all doings. Yes, the one who deals with actual scales is included in the threat. However, every accountable Muslim has some form of dealing with scales, whether through their actions, statements, or thoughts, and hence the threat extends to him as well when he goes off the mark of justice.”[11]

So, our notion of Tatfīf is to be stretched beyond the obvious example of a seller in a marketplace who tricks his scale to show a higher or lower number. Rather, its cancerous roots can invade every aspect of life, whether financial, religious, physical, verbal, behavioural, social, marital, political, or anything else. Consider the following examples:

(1) Tatfīf in religious matters

Salman Al-Fārisi said:

الصلاة مكيال، فمن وفي وفى له، ومن طفف فقد علمتم ما قال الله في المطففين

“Prayer is like a measuring cup; those who give a correct measure will be treated well, and those who engage in Tatfīf, then you know what Allāh has said about the Mutaffifīn.”[12]

Hudhaifa Ibn Al-Yamān once saw a man whose prayer was lacking. Hudhaifa said to him: كم تصلي هذه الصلاة / “How long have you been praying like this?” The man said: “For forty years.” Hudhaifa replied:

ما صليت منذ أربعين سنة ولو مت وأنت تصلي هذه الصلاة لمت على غير فطرة محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم

“You have not been praying for forty years, and had you died praying like this, you would have died upon other than the Fitra (disposition) of Prophet Muhammad.”[13]

Part of one’s Tatfīf in prayer includes delaying the prayers without a valid Islamic excuse, or praying at home by those who are obligated to pray in the Masjid.

Once, ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab left after doing the ‘Asr (afternoon) prayer and met a man who was absent from it. ‘Umar asked him what had kept him from the prayer, and even though the man gave a reason, ‘Umar said: طفَّفتَ / “You have short-changed yourself.”[14]

Tatfīf can affect every part of a person’s religion and relationship with Allāh. For example, a person could demand his “rights” in full from Allāh – air, sunlight, health, steady income, and a beautiful spouse, yet when it comes to him giving Allāh His rights of worship and obedience, he is lazy and always looks for a shortcut, procrastinating the doing of good. This is nothing short of Tatfīf, and we advise such people just as Allāh did:

“Do these not think that they shall be raised again? For a tremendous Day – the Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?”

(2) Tatfīf in finances

This includes:

– Those who are consulted on a business venture and hide faults/risks whilst only shedding light on the positives, or even exaggerating the opportunity. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

المستشار مؤتمن

“The consulted one is in a position of trust.”[15]

– Businessmen who round up when taking their dues, but round down when paying investors.

– Workers on a fixed wage who claim every penny of their salary, but do not work the 8 or so hours when offering their services, instead spending prolonged periods doing their online shopping, taking children to school and back, or purposely arriving late or leaving early.

– Sellers of replica products as genuine.

– Fabric sellers who stretch out the material when selling to ensure they are not giving away more than they are selling, but keep fabric loose when buying it in the hope of gaining more material for less.[16]

– Window-dressing butchers who give their meat a false image of freshness, or add more than reasonable amounts of bone to increase the weight, or flip brown meat over, or claim that it is locally sourced or organic when it is not, or use hidden magnets beneath the tray of the scale to help with weight, or hide the fact that their meat is not actually Halāl.

– Teachers who purposely arrive late to the class, dismiss the students earlier than agreed, teach without enthusiasm, walk out of the classroom without a pressing need, play with their phones, or carry out their personal tasks during the session, all of which undermines the education of their students. That time is purely for students, and anything less than it is Tatfīf.

– Employers who hire workers for an agreed sum, and upon completion do not pay them their dues, detracting from the pay, or even failing to pay them. Not only is this Tatfīf, but the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said that Allāh said:

ثلاثةٌ أنا خصمهم يوم القيامة: رجل أعطى بي ثمَّ غدَر، ورجل باع حرًّا فأكلَ ثمنَه، ورجلٌ استأجر أجيرًا فاستوْفى منْه ولم يعْطِه أجْرَه

“On the Day of Resurrection, I will be the contender of three types of people: One who makes an agreement using My Name and then breaks it, one who sells a free man as a slave and devours his price, and one who hires someone and after having taken full work from him does not pay him his wages.[17]

– Employees who take on a job whilst hiding the fact that they do not have the qualifications nor the skillset to carry out the task.

– Taxi drivers who purposely take longer routes to charge their customers higher fees.

– Mechanics who prey on people’s ignorance of what is beneath the bonnet of their car, knowing that most people could not point out the distributor from the alternator or the radiator cap from the dipstick. They say “it’s complicated” or “you won’t understand” to fix or replace what is not actually broken. It also includes those who keep the car in for days to rack up the hours to overcharge despite the repair taking a maximum of an hour or two. Even if customers fall for it, it remains as the punishable crime of Tatfīf in Allāh’s Eyes.

As a rule, these shortcuts that are intended to reap greater profits will end up being the very cause of major losses, even if there is a temporary mirage of success. The Prophet Muhammad said:

وَلاَ نَقَصَ قَوْمٌ الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ إِلاَّ قُطِعَ عَنْهُمُ الرِّزْقُ

“Whenever a people cheat in weights and measures, provisions are cut off from them.”[18]

How does one advise such doers of financial Tatfīf? We say as Allāh said:

“Do they not think that they shall be raised again? For a tremendous Day – the Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?”[19]

(3) Tatfīf in family matters

This includes:

– Husbands who claim their full rights from their wives, dropping on them a barrage of evidences based on the Qur’ān and Sunnah regarding their rights, but when the time comes to discharge their duties, they are half-hearted, lazy, stingy, or forever ‘busy’.

‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbās said:

إني أحب أن أتزين للمرأة، كما أحب أن تتزين لي المرأة، لأن الله تعالى يقول: وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ

“I love that I beautify myself for my wife just like I love that she beautifies herself for me. This is because Allāh said: ‘And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, according to that which is reasonable.’”[20],[21]

– Wives who, on the off chance that their spouses fall short towards them, proclaim: “You have never done any good to me.” When the Prophet was asked about why it was that the majority of the inhabitants of the fire were women,[22] he responded:

يكفرن العشير، ويكفرن الإحسان، لو أحسنتَ إلى إحداهُنَّ الدَّهر ثمَّ رأَتْ منكَ شيئًا قالت: ما رأيتُ منك خيرًا قط

“They show ingratitude to their husbands and ingratitude towards kindness. Should you do a lifetime’s worth of good to her, but then sees in you a matter against her liking, she says, ‘I have never seen any good from you.’”[23]

The end of this particular path of Tatfīf is hell.

– Those who unfairly offer varying amounts of love and attention to their different children.

– Children who, after having drained their parents from every speck of health and money, deny the favours of their parents in their later years, arguing: “What have you ever done for me?”

– Those who give their friends and other recreational activities the core of their time, leaving their spouses, children, parents, and those who have God-given rights upon them with whatever time remains.

How does one advise such doers of Tatfīf? We say to them as Allāh said:

“Do these not think that they shall be raised again? For a tremendous Day – the Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the worlds?”[24]

Conclusion

We live in an era where it is more common to hear Muslims complaining in rage over the Muslim enemy before anyone else. Muslim rulers who have suffocated their own nations turn a blind eye to persecuted neighbouring Muslim communities, actively playing an instrumental role in the quashing of every attempt for revival and reformation wherever it may be. According to the Prophet, however, much of this is due to our Tatfīf.

He prophesied:

وَلَمْ يَنْقُصُوا الْمِكْيَالَ وَالْمِيزَانَ إِلاَّ أُخِذُوا بِالسِّنِينَ وَشِدَّةِ الْمَؤُنَةِ وَجَوْرِ السُّلْطَانِ عَلَيْهِمْ

“Whenever a people cheat in weights and measures, they will be stricken with famine, severe calamity, and the oppression of their rulers.”[25]

On the Day of Reckoning, Allāh’s forgiveness can extend to every sin between us and Him.[26] As for those sins between us and people, Allāh will not forgive us on behalf of someone else. Tatfīf can seriously complicate a person’s situation on the Day of Reckoning, even if that person had died as a martyr. A man once asked the Prophet:

يَا رَسُول اللَّهِ أَرأَيْتَ إنْ قُتِلْتُ في سبيلِ اللَّهِ أتُكَفَّرُ عنِّي خَطاياي؟

“O Messenger of Allāh, if I was to be killed in the path of Allāh, would my sins be forgiven?”

The Prophet responded:

نعمْ إنْ قُتِلت في سبيلِ اللَّهِ وَأَنْتَ صابِرٌ، مُحْتسِبٌ مُقبلٌ غيْرُ مُدْبِر

“Yes, if you are killed in the path of Allāh in a state of patience, expecting the reward, whilst advancing and not retreating.”

Then the Prophet said: “Can you repeat your question?”, and so the questioner repeated the question, to which the Prophet said:

نَعمْ وأَنْتَ صابِرٌ مُحْتَسِبٌ، مُقْبلٌ غَيْرُ مُدْبرٍ، إلاَّ الدَّيْنَ، فَإنَّ جِبْرِيلَ عليه السلامُ قَالَ لي ذلكَ

“Yes, if you are killed in the path of Allāh in a state of patience, expecting the reward, whilst advancing and not retreating, with the exception to debts. Angel Jibrīl informed me of this.”[27],[28]

What then do you make of someone who meets Allāh with years upon years of Tatfīf towards family, friends, and customers?

Beware of tipping the scales. As we discovered earlier, every Muslim is dealing with one scale or another on a day-to-day basis and is affected by Tatfīf. When you are on the verge of tipping those scales at work, at home, or in your religion, remember that Allāh’s scales on the Day of Judgment cannot be tipped.

Allāh says:

 وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا وَإِنْ كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا وَكَفَى بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ

“We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all, and if there is even the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth, and We are enough to take account.”[29]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Al-Qur’ān, 57:25

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 55:7-8

[3] Muslim, on the authority of Jābir

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 26:181-183

[5] Al-Qur’ān, 26:189

[6] Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr

[7] Ibn Mājah

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 83:1-6

[9] Ahkām al-Qur’ān

[10] Muwatta

[11] Ihyā ‘Ulūm Al-Dīn

[12] Al-Istidhkār, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr

[13] Al-Nasā’i

[14] Muwatta

[15] Al-Tirmidhi, on the authority of Umm Salama

[16] As was mentioned by Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami, as was recorded by Al-Qurtubi in his Tafsīr.

[17] Bukhari, on the authority of Abu Huraira

[18] Muwatta, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās

[19] Al-Qur’ān, 83:1-6

[20] Al-Qur’ān, 2:228

[21] Musannaf Ibn Abī Shayba

[22] It goes without saying that such statements by him are not to be understood as approval but as a much-needed forewarning with respect to what he saw when Paradise and Hell were shown to him.

[23] Bukhari and Muslim

[24] Al-Qur’ān, 83:1-6

[25] Ibn Mājah, on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar

[26] With the exception of rejection of faith.

[27] Muslim, on the authority of Abu Qatāda

[28] Unless such debts are cleared by someone else or the creditor waives it.

[29] Al-Qur’ān, 21:47

About Ustādh Ali Hammuda

Ustādh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is a UK national of Palestinian origin. He gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari'ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Ustādh Ali is the author of several books including 'The Daily Revivals' and 'The Ten Lanterns", and continues to deliver sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.

4 comments

  1. Julie Amal Rashid

    I second the comments of Umm Hafsa. I used to volunteer as a tutor for an Islamic online university and I had one particular student who had completed some Islamic studies in Saudi which were transferred as credits. This particular sister only completed maybe 2/3 of the modules required to gain her BA. The university asked me (as her main tutor) to give an overall mark for her work, meaning she would graduate without completing the course. This same student, I had reprimanded for copying and pasting from Shi’ite books, her work was always bare minimum. and lazy. Even when I would request she resubmit her paper for various reasons, no effort was made to correct her mistakes.

    Cut a long story short I refused to give her an overall mark. I assumed she graduated anyway and I know she wanted to go into teaching. That is a scary thought, she wasn’t Shi’ite by the way, she just didn’t have the knowledge to differentiate!

  2. It’s also unfair on Islamic organisations that work extremely hard and are very successful as some people will then refuse to believe that they were successful because of their own merits.

  3. While acknowledging my own shortcomings in all of the 3 aspects of life mentioned above, I would like to take this opportunity to voice my concern about Tatfīf in the following issue mentioned by Ustadh Ali Hammuda (I apologise in advance for airing our dirty laundry in public):

    – Employees who take on a job whilst hiding the fact that they do not have the qualifications nor the skillset to carry out the task.

    Often I have seen Muslims in senior leadership positions helping not only students but also staff members achieve qualifications without them having the knowledge or the skills to be worthy of those qualifications. This could take the form of blatant cheating where model answers are provided to pupils (whether for tests or assignments) or staff are given certificates using shortcut training routes without being given the time to learn and develop their knowledge and skills. It can also be more subtle and seem more innocent where some staff members complete online training sessions for other staff members/friends who are too busy to work through them themselves.

    The consequences of such behaviour are disastrous as not only are our ‘respected’ elders teaching the children (through their actions) that it’s okay to cheat or cut corners but also, in the end, as Islamic institutions we are shooting ourselves in the foot because these same children return to our institutions as adults and employees but they have useless certificates because they don’t have the knowledge or skills to benefit the organisation. This is also true of staff members who have taken short cuts in their training. For example, if you give staff members ‘written language’ training using a quick, short cut route then when it comes to the time that reports need to be written, the poor mug who agreed to proof read them will have an absolute nightmare of a time. We end up with stagnant institutions in which money is wasted patching up the incompetencies that are a natural consequence of Tatfīf.

    • It’s also unfair on Islamic organisations that work extremely hard and are very successful as some people will then refuse to believe that they were successful due to their own merits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Donate / Subscribe
Send this to a friend