July 14, 2024

An Infidel Reads Sūrah 83

This is the 48th part of this series, reading The Qur’an; A New Translation by Abdel Haleem. We’ll occasionally compare that to other translations and with tafsirs for clarification. We’re also reading each “chapter” [surah] in order of revelation [mostly] rather than the order in which they are typically printed. If you missed some of this series, you can see:
my 1st post on surahs 1 & 2.
my 2nd post on surahs 96, 68 & 73.
my 3rd post on surahs 74, 111 & 81.
my 4th post on surahs 87, 92, 89, 93, 94 & 103.
my 5th post jumping to surah 18.
my 6th post on surahs 100, 108, 102, 107, 109 & 105
my 7th post was on surahs 113, 114, 112 & 53.
my 8th post on surahs 80, 97, 91, 85, 95 & 106.
my 9th post on surahs 101, 75, 104 & 77.
my 1oth post on surahs 50, 90 & 86.
my 11th post on surah 54,
my 12th post on surah 38,
my 13th post on surah 7,
my 14th post on surah 72,
my 15th post on surah 36,
my 16th post on surah 25,
my 17th post on surah 43,
my 18th post on surah 35.
my 19th post on surah 19.
my 20th post on surah 20,
my 21st post on surah 56.
my 22nd post on surah 26.
my 23rd post on surah 27.
my 24th post on surah 28.
my 25th post on surah 17.
my 26th post on surah 10.
my 27th post on surah 11.
my 28th post on surah 12.
my 29th post on surah 15.
my 30th post on surah 6.
my 31st post on surah 37.
my 32nd post on suras 31 & 34.
my 33rd post on surah 39.
my 34th post on surah 40.
my 35th post on surah 41.
my 36th post on surah 42.
my 37th post on surah 44.
my 38th post on suras 45 & 46.
my 39th post of suras 51 & 88.
my 40th post on surah 16.
my 41st post post on suras 71 & 14.
my 42nd post on surah 21,
my 43rd post on surah 23
my 44th post on suras 32 & 52
my 45th post on suras 67, 69 & 70.
my 46th post on suras 78, 79, 82 & 84.
and my 47th post on suras 30 & 29.

Sūrah 83 (Al-Mutaffifin) Those Who Give Short Measure

1Woe to those who give short measure, 2who demand of other people full measure for themselves, 3but give less than they should when it is they who weigh or measure for others! 4Do these people not realize that they will be raised up 5on a mighty Day, 6a Day when everyone will stand before the Lord of the Worlds?

Other translations usually title this surah, “The Defrauders”. I have noticed that Abdel Haleem’s translation is usually the odd one out wherever there is a discrepancy. That is often suspect, and it has been used to infer an atypical translation, seemingly for the purpose of propaganda. But in this case, I think his translation is appropriate, as “defrauder” has a more precise meaning than the simple cheat being described here. Fraud is defined as “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.” Usually that applies to a con, verbal deceptions meant to dupe investors or donors. Thus the claims and promises of some religious ministries duping followers out of tithing for blessings also qualify as fraudulent.

7No indeed! The list of the wicked is in Sijjin ––8what will explain to you what Sijjin is?––9clearly numbered list.

Haleem’s footnote says “The root of this word, s–j–n, is the same as the one for sijn meaning ‘prison’. The form is intensive.” I’m not sure what that means. The list of the wicked is in a prison? Hell, I guess?

10Woe on that day to the deniers, 11those who deny the Day of Judgement! 12Only the evil aggressor denies it:

I would argue that’s not true, because I deny it too, and I am not an evil transgressor. But then, the Qur’an insists that the law of Islam is to believe and submit. Anyone who doesn’t is a transgressor, and the Qur’an says that anyone who doesn’t believe is evil by default. That’s hardly fair or accurate. Nor does Shariah have any jurisdiction over me.

13when Our revelations are recited to him, he says, ‘Ancient fables!’ 14No indeed! Their hearts are encrusted with what they have done. 15No indeed! On that Day they will be screened off from their Lord, 16they will burn in Hell, 17and they will be told, ‘This is what you called a lie.’

Until that day, it is a lie. That day will never come, and my “heart” is not “encrusted”, and what I have “done” is no more than not to be fooled by unsupported assertions. This verse is just making excuses for not having a convincing argument, and having to rely on threats instead.

18No indeed! The list of the truly good is in Illiyyin ––19what will explain to you what Illiyyin is?––20a clearly written list, 21witnessed by those brought near.

Again, Abdel Haleems’ footnotes say “The root of this word, –l–w, relates to height. The form is intensive.” So I guess the list of good people is in the sky? Who are “those brought near”? Haleem’s footnotes say they are “the elect”. Too bad he doesn’t go on to give me a clue as to who “the elect” are. Are these the angels who witnessed our lives from our shoulders? Or are these other believers? Or something else?

22The truly good will live in bliss, 23seated on couches, gazing around. 24You will recognize on their faces the radiance of bliss. 25They will be served a sealed nectar, 26its seal [perfumed with] a fragrant herb.

Haleem says this refers to “misk” or musk. That doesn’t sound like a good drink at all. But if it makes everyone’s face radiate bliss, I guess it must be potent.

––let those who strive, strive for this––27mixed with the water of Tasnim, 28a spring from which those brought near will drink.

OK, so “those brought near” must be other believers. And whatever that drink is, it’s so potent that they have to dilute it with spring water. This is almost tempting.

29The wicked used to laugh at the believers––30they would wink at one another when the believers passed by them, 31joke about them when they got back to their own people, 32and say, when they saw them, ‘These people are misguided,’ 33though they were not sent to be their keepers– 34so today the believers are laughing at the disbelievers 35as they sit on couches, gazing around. 36Have the disbelievers [not] been repaid for their deeds?

Again we have another chorus of “they didn’t believe us. They laughed at us and said we were stupid to believe that. Well, who is laughing now?” Except that believers still haven’t gotten to that point where they can laugh yet, and they never will. 

I was going to move on and cover Sūrah 8 next in this post, but my panel suggests that we change that plan. Because, when I started this series, I began with Sūrah 1, then Sūrah 2, as you do. But then someone told me that the Qur’an is printed out of order, arranged with the longest chapters first rather than in sequence. So I switched to reading these in “Order of Revelation”. That would mean that the next surah would be chapter two, (Al-Baqarah) “the cow”. I’ve already written about that in the first post in this series. But that was before we started doing video discussions with Arabic speakers raised in Islam, and that panel explained to me that there is so much there, that Al-Baqarah is so important that we can’t skip discussing it. In fact, we might even do more than one broadcast just about that one, since it is the longest chapter of the Qur’an. So we will have our video discussions on Sūrah 83 and look back at Sūrah 2, before I resume with Sūrah 8 sometime next month.

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