Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’ān; Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad (1980)
The name of this sūrah, which was revealed in the early years of the Prophet’s mission (probably after sūrah 102), is derived from the word al-māʿūn occurring in the last verse. The view of some commentators that verses 4–7 were revealed at Medina lacks all historical or textual evidence and may, therefore, be disregarded.
(1) Hast Thou ever considered [the kind of man] who gives the lie to all moral law?1
(2) Behold, it is this [kind of man] that thrusts the orphan away,
(3) and feels no urge 2 to feed the needy.
(4) Woe, then, unto those praying ones (5) whose hearts from their prayer are remote 3 –
(6) those who want only to be seen and praised,
(7) and, withal, deny all assistance [to their fellow-men]!4
1 I.e., who denies that there is any objective validity in religion as such and, thus, in the concept of moral law (which is one of the primary connotations of the term dīn – cf. note 3 on 109:6). Some commentators are of the opinion that in the above context dīn signifies “judgment”, i.e., the Day of Judgment, and interpret this phrase as meaning “who calls the Day of Judgment a lie”.
2 Lit., ‘‘does not urge”, i.e., himself.
3 Lit., “who are [knowingly] unmindful of their prayers”.
4 The term al-māʿūn comprises the many small items needed for one’s daily use, as well as the occasional acts of kindness consisting in helping out one’s fellow-men with such items. In its wider sense, it denotes “aid” or “assistance” in any difficulty.