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فَإِنْ عُثِرَ عَلَىٰ أَنَّهُمَا ٱسْتَحَقَّآ إِثْماً فَآخَرَانِ يَقُومَانِ مَقَامَهُمَا مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَحَقَّ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلأَوْلَيَانِ فَيُقْسِمَانِ بِٱللَّهِ لَشَهَادَتُنَا أَحَقُّ مِن شَهَادَتِهِمَا وَمَا ٱعْتَدَيْنَآ إِنَّا إِذاً لَّمِنَ ٱلظَّالِمِينَ
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-Al-Mâ’idah ( المائدة )

Tafsir al-Jalalayn

But if it be discovered, [if] it be ascertained after they have sworn their oaths, that both of them have merited [the suspicion of] sin, that is, that they have done something to incur it, in the way of a breach of faith or perjury in the testimony; for example, if what they are accused of is found with them and then they claim that they had bought it from the deceased or that he had bequeathed it to them, then two others shall take their place, so that the oaths are to be taken from them, being the nearest (al-awlayān is a substitution for ākharān, ‘two others’; a variant reading has al-awwalīn, plural of awwal, as an adjectival qualification of, or a substitution for, alladhīna, ‘of those’), in kinship to the deceased, of those most concerned, with the bequest, namely, the inheritors, and they shall swear by God, to the breach of faith of the two witnesses, and they shall both say, ‘Verily, our testimony, our oath, is truer, is more faithful, than their testimony, their oath, and we have not transgressed, we have [not] overstepped the [bounds of] truth in our oaths, for then we would assuredly be among the evildoers’: meaning, let the one about to die call two men as witnesses to his bequest, or let him instruct in his bequest that the two be from among his co-religionists or from among others, if he cannot find any [from among the former] because he is travelling or for some similar reason. If the inheritors have doubts about the two men and claim a breach of faith on the part of the two for having taken something or given it to some other person — alleging that the deceased bequeathed it to him — then let the two men swear in full [in the way mentioned above]. If then some indication surfaces that the two men have been lying and these two then claim some motivation for this action [of theirs], the nearest of the inheritors in kinship [to the deceased] shall swear to the perjury of the two men and to the truth of what they [the inheritors] suspected. This stipulation holds for the two trustees, but is abrogated in the case of the two witnesses. Likewise, the testimony of non co-religionists is abrogated. The reason for [stipulating] the mid-afternoon prayer is to consecrate the oaths. The specification in this verse that the oath be from the two inheritors nearest in kinship concerns the incident regarding which it was revealed. This [incident], as reported by al-Bukhārī, involved a man from the Banū Sahm who had set out on a journey with Tamīm al-Dārī and ‘Adiyy b. Baddā’, when they were both [still] Christians. The man from the Banū Sahm died in a place where there were no Muslims. When the two came back with his bequest, they [his relatives] found that a silver bowl plated with gold was missing and so the two were brought before the Prophet (s); thereupon this verse was revealed. The Prophet (s) made the two swear oaths. The bowl was later discovered in Mecca, where the owners said that they had bought it from Tamīm and ‘Udayy. The next verse was then revealed, after which two of the Sahmī man’s close kin came to swear their oaths; in al-Tirmidhī’s version, ‘Amr b. al-‘Ās, who was closer to the deceased man, stood up with one other from among the kin, and they swore an oath; in yet another version, the [Sahmī] man fell ill and instructed them as to his bequest and asked them to deliver what he had left to his family, but when he died, they took the bowl [and sold it] and then gave what remained [of that money] to his family.


Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza
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