¡ Woe unto the defrauders,
* who, when they take measure from people, demand [it] in full,
+ and when they measure for them or weigh for them, they stint.
J Do they not think that they will be resurrected Z unto a tremendous day—
1-5 Ibn ʿAbbās said, “When the Prophet first moved to Madinah, its inhabitants were the worst kind of defrauders, and so God revealed, Woe unto the defrauders, who, when they take measure from people, demand [it] in full. After the revelation of this verse, they became honest in their weighing” (Q, Ṭ, W). According to Abū Hurayrah, these verses refer directly to a man who had two scales, one that he used when buying and another for selling (Q, Ṭs). It is reported that when these verses were revealed, the Prophet recited them to the citizens of Madinah and said, “Five for five.” He was asked, “What is ‘Five for five’?” He answered, “No people broke their covenant, but that God set their enemies over them. None judged by other than what God sent down, but that poverty spread among them. None fornicated, but that death spread among them. None defrauded, but that their crops failed and they were plagued by famine. No community
refused to pay alms, but that God withheld rain from them” (Q, R). These verses can also be extended beyond their immediate context to imply that shame and suffering will befall anyone who intentionally falls short in any matter according to what has been ordained by God. With regard to prayer, it is reported that Ibn Masʿūd, a Companion of the Prophet and early Quranic commentator, said, “Prayer is a measure. Whosoever completes [its measure] God will complete [his reward] for him. And whosoever lightens (ṭaffafa) [its measure], you have heard what God has said regarding almuṭaffifīn [the defrauders, lit. “those who lighten”]” (Ṭs).
In a non-canonical variant reading, both instances of “them” (hum) in v. 3 can be read as an affirmation of the subject rather than as a direct object; “And when they measure, or they weigh, they stint.”