Surah 83 (Al-Mutaffifin/The Defrauders): 1-6

1. Woe unto the scrimpers.

2. Those who, when they take by measure from mankind, exact the full,

3. And who, when they measure unto them or weigh for them, diminish.

4. Imagine such men not that they shall be raised up,

5. On a Mighty Day,

6. A Day whereon mankind shall stand before the Lord of the worlds?

The Quran instructs honesty through reference to two practical transactions: the giving of full measure and dealing equitably with property held on trust. Four verses instruct believers to give full measure: {6.152}, {17.34-35} (‘Give full measure when you measure and weigh with the straight balance’), {55.8-9} (’Set right the weight and fall not short in the balance’) and {83.1-6} above. The giving of false measure was singled out as the principal sin of the people of Midian, who, before their destruction, are reproached for it by the prophet Shuayb, {7.85}, {11.84} and {26.181-183} 〈26.〉 The Qur’an also contains a more general call for fair trading practices in:

{4.29} O you who believe! Consume not each other’s wealth falsely,
but trade by mutual consent and slay not yourselves.

Truly God is merciful unto you.

See also 〈75.〉 above.


The duty to honour trusts concerning the property of orphans in particular appears at {2.220}, {4.2-10} 〈58.〉, {4.127}, and, as an instruction to the children of Israel in times past, {2.83}. Kindness to orphans is also instructed at {4.36} 〈82.〉 and {107.2}. Whilst traditional accounts of the infancy of Muhammad are not to be relied upon, the particular closeness of the cause of orphans to the Qur’an author’s heart is undeniable. Honouring trusts, {2.283}, {4.58}, {8.27-27}, and oaths more generally, {2.177}, {23.8}, {70.32}, is instructed and {5.89} prescribes a punishment for the breach of an oath that has been ‘pledged in earnest’, namely that the oath-breaker feeds or clothes ten indigent people or frees a slave, and if this is beyond their means, that they fast for three (not necessarily consecutive) days.


{2.282-283} (see 〈78.〉 in relation to the value of a woman’s testimony) prescribes a requirement that debts be written down and witnessed, including safeguards for ‘the feeble minded and weak’, and also a recommendation that ‘if you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe’ some property should be transferred as a pledge of the debt. These are entirely sensible practices indicating that in all the above verses, the Qur’an is addressing the pragmatic issues of equitably managing property transactions, within a free market context. The fact that the duty to give full measure in both {6.152} and {17.34-35} appears within lists of ethical instructions that resemble the ten commandments 〈84.〉, is a good reason to interpret it as symbolic of a wider duty to act equitably, for example in personal interactions. However, the language of commerce and property rights is so pervasive within the Qur’an’s instructions to act honestly, that such a broader interpretation is not strictly required by the text.