Exposition of the Holy Quran – 17 Surah Bani Isra’el (G A Parwez)
Surah 17: Bani Isra’el
(The People of Israel)
(1) (The atmosphere in Makkah had become unbearable for the Jamat-ul-Momineen and there was little hope that the message of Islam would be accepted by those who had not only rejected it but planned to kill the Rasool.) Limitless glory to Allah who moved his devotee one night from the sacred mosque (of Makkah) to the farthest mosque (in Madinah – where the atmosphere was much more conducive) and its environs We had blessed. The purpose of the migration was that the promises made by Allah to him in Makkah should be fulfilled. Most certainly Allah is all-hearing and all-seeing (20:23). (Therefore every decision of His is based on knowledge and wisdom.)
(2) (Hijra is not a new phenomenon. It was part of the programme of almost all the rusul. It played a especially prominent part in the case of Moses.) Moses was given the book for the guidance of the Bani-Israel enjoining them not to take for guidance anyone but Allah.
(3) They were the posterity of those who were rescued along with Noah, who was a grateful servant (‘abd) of Allah.
(4) We had told the Bani-Israel in that book that they would cause fasad in the land twice and would indulge in arrogance and highhandedness.
(5) The first of these occasions was a mighty invasion (of Nebuchadnezzar). They entered the inmost part of your cities and the inevitable happened.
(6) Thereafter you made amends and We granted you a further chance of gaining control over the land. We helped you with wealth and children and greatly increased your numbers.
(7) You have seen for yourselves that when you did the right thing it was to your own advantage and when you went astray you had to suffer the consequences of your wrong actions. When the time of reaction to your second lapse (invasion of Titus) arrived, people were raised to humiliate you. They entered the temple as on the previous occasion and destroyed everything which came in their way (17:104).
(8) Your life of ignominy still continues but there is another chance for your renaissance. If following this rasool, who has come to your own habitation (Madinah), you adopt the right way, you will receive Allah’s bounty (7:156-57). If you treat him in the same way as you treated your previous anbiya, you will inevitably be recompensed for it by Allah and your abode will be jahannam which serves as a prison-home for those who discard the right way.
(9-10) The Qur’an, which We have revealed to this rasool, guides towards the path which is most upright (and balanced) and announces to those who believe and do good actions that they shall have great recompense, and to those who do not believe in the life hereafter that they shall have severe chastisement.
(11) (It is not possible for a man to determine what is absolutely good or evil for him.) This is why he sometimes covets what may in reality be harmful for him as he covets what may be good for him, for man is prone to be impetuous. (Therefore, he is in need of revelation which distinguishes between right and wrong.)
(12) Allah has made the night and the day as two signs – the sign of night is that it is devoid of light and the sign of day is that it is full of light – so that you may secure Allah’s bounties. The alternation of night and day is necessary so that you may reckon the years and keep account – Allah has made everything distinctly clear (6:97, 10:5).
(13) The struggle between good and evil continues within man himself and the record of this is fastened around his neck i.e., it is not anywhere outside but is within himself. During this life, there are many thoughts, feelings and desires which remain hidden in the subconscious mind. On the day of judgement all these will be brought out, in other words, the record which had remained folded hitherto will be spread out.
(14) Allah will say to him, “Read your own account. Today your own self should suffice to make out an account against yourself.”
(15) This record is evidence to show that whoever follows the right path will do so to his own benefit, and whoever goes astray will reap the consequences thereof himself; no bearer shall bear the burden of another,
Allah does not chastise any people before He sends a rasool to warn them of the consequences of following the wrong path.
(16) What generally happens is that instead of paying heed to the warning, those who exploit the labour of others become more intent in their misdoing. Our Law of Mukafat takes its course and the doom they deserve overtakes them and they are absolutely ruined.
(17) (Look at history and see) how many generations since Noah We have destroyed (which shows that your Rabb has enough awareness and insight about the misdeeds of his creatures).
(18-20) There are two categories of people – those who believe only in this world and those who believe in this world as well as in the next. Both make efforts to secure the bounties of this world which they will have in proportion to their efforts. Allah helps both of them and does not stand in the way of either of them. The fruits of the labour of those who believe only in this world will be confined to this world and in the hereafter they will be doomed to jahannam where they will be condemned and forsaken. But those who believe in the hereafter also, will be recompensed for their efforts both in this world and the next (2:200-201, 11:15-16, 42:20, 96:20).
(21-22) Just reflect on how some people exceed others as regards the bounties of this world but in the hereafter there are higher degrees and far greater bounties. (And in order to achieve this) you obey only Allah’s laws and associate no one else with Him. Otherwise you will stand condemned and forsaken (43:84).
(23-24) For the betterment of the life hereafter, Allah has prescribed some permanent values including:
1. You should obey only Allah’s laws;
2. You should make good the deficiencies of your old parents;
3. If one or both of them grow old, you should not prod or reproach them but speak to them respectfully (36:68);
4. You should give them protection with affection and say, “O my Rabb! (Enable me) to provide them means of nourishment as they had raised me from childhood.”
(25) You should do all this, not in a mechanical manner but from the core of your heart keeping always in mind that what you do for your parents helps in the development of your own self. Allah is the protector of those who revert to Him for His protection.
(26-37) Returning to the permanent values:
(26) 5. You should give their right to the near of kin as well as others who need your help and stranded wayfarers. (This should be given to them as their right and not as a matter of charity (70:24).)
(27) 6. You should not squander your wealth, for those who do so, belong to the fraternity of Satan who is a symbol of those who defy Allah’s laws;
(28) 7. If it so happens that a needy person comes to you and you yourself are seeking help from Allah and cannot help them, you should at least offer to him a word of sympathy;
(29) 8. As regards your personal expenses, the basic rule is: your hands should neither be tied to your neck nor so wide open that nothing is left for you and you are reduced to destitution;
(30) 9. Keep in mind that sustenance is given in proportion to efforts, so you should make your maximum efforts to secure it (53:39); and most certainly He has full awareness and insight about His people.
(31) 10. You should not kill your children or deprive them of means of development for fear of being reduced to poverty. It would be a grievous crime to do so. It is the responsibility of the Nizam-e-Rabubiyya to provide both for you and for them;
(32) 11. You should not let even the thought of fornication come near you for it is an indecent act and opens a way for other evils;
(33) 12. You should not take away anyone’s life, which Allah has made sacred, unjustly. If anyone is killed unjustly, the divine order itself becomes responsible for securing justice for him. The authority deciding the case should also see that the punishment does not out step the bounds of justice. Justice should be done to both parties (2:178, 5:32, 6:152, 42:40);
(34) 13. You should not touch the property of the orphan who is under your guardianship unless it is to his benefit, till he reaches the age of maturity (6:153);
14. You should always fulfil your commitments, for every commitment will have to be accounted for.
(35) 15. Whenever you measure out something, you should measure it in full; whenever you weigh something, you should hold the scale evenly. (This is how society will be able to maintain its economic balance-83:1-3.) This is fair (for everyone) and much better in the final analysis.
(36) 16. You should not take a stand (regarding anything) where you have no personal knowledge (use all means of inquiry and then come to a conclusion – Allah has given you all the faculties for this purpose). Mind it: the ear and the eye and the heart – all of them shall have to answer in regard to the question whether personal inquiry was made about the concerned matter;
(37) 17. You should not walk proudly for you cannot cleave the earth nor can you attain the stature of mountains (31:19, 40:75, 3:187).
(38) Your going against any of these directives will be odious to your Rabb.
(39) All these values which are full of wisdom have been revealed to you by your Rabb. None should therefore, set up peers to Allah. If anyone does so, he will be cast into jahannam, condemned and forsaken (2:269).
(40) Referring to the superstitious belief of these people namely, that Allah has taken malaika for daughters, ask them: Is it conceivable that Allah should exalt you by assigning sons to you and take malaika as daughters for Himself? How awful it is for you to say such things (16:57)!
(41) Just reflect in how many different ways We have explained in this Qur’an what is good for them.(1) Yet their aversion to it is
(42) These people say that Allah has associates whom they have set up as peers to Him. O Rasool! Tell them that had this been the case, these so-called associates would have devised means to share with Allah the control of the universe. In that event, there would have been utter chaos (21:22).
(43) It is clear, therefore, that Allah is much above what they ascribe to Him.
(44) Whatever there is in all the heavens and the earth and all that is therein, is busy in the accomplishment of Allah’s plan to make it worthy of all hamd. But (with your scanty knowledge) you cannot (for the time being) appreciate the functioning of this phenomenon. Allah provides protection for everything in a most subtle way (so that they continue to function without interruption).
(45-46) There are those who are pre-determined not to accept the message of the Rasool and do not believe in the life hereafter. When you present the Qur’an to them, O Rasool, an imperceptible curtain falls between them and you. This results in their hearts becoming covered and their ears becoming deaf so that they do not understand what you say and especially when you say that there is only one Allah they quickly turn their backs in aversion (39:45).
(47) We know what it is that they wish to hear when they give ear to you and what they whisper to each other when they are by themselves. We also know when they say to the believers, “You are only following a man who is bewildered.”
(48) Just see the similes they find for you, because they have gone astray (7:198, 10:42, 47:16), and now cannot find the way (to the truth).
(49) Amongst the things which they cite against you is that, you say that after they are reduced to bones and dust, they shall be raised up again as a new creation (17:98).
(50-52) Say to them, “This will be done even if you were turned to stones and iron or some other substance which you consider to be the hardest.” They will retort, “Who will bring us back to life?” Say, O Rasool, “The one who created you the first time” (when there was not even a speck of you; so, if the dead can come to life again, nations can also regain strength – by following His laws). Then they will shake their heads derisively and say, “When shall this be?” Say, “It may be near at hand. It will happen also in this world when you submit to Allah’s laws and participate in the divine programme to make it worthy of hamd. You will regain new life and forget all about what happened in the past and think that you had tarried but a little while.”
(53) O Rasool! You should ask those who have submitted to Allah’s laws, to speak gently to the unbelievers and to each other for Satan is always on the lookout as to how he may create dissension amongst you. Satan is man’s avowed enemy.
(54) Allah knows all about you. If you follow His laws, He will bestow rahma on you; if you go against them, you will be chastised. You are responsible for your actions and the Rasool has not been sent as a warden over you.
(55) Allah is well aware of everything in the universe. He had sent anbiya to every nation. Among them was David to whom was given the Zaboor (Psalms). There was no distinction amongst the anbiya so far as nabuwwah was concerned. They were, however, differentiated from each other by virtue of their sphere of activity (2:253).
(56) Say to the mushrikeen that they should call upon those whom they set up as peers to Allah for help. You will find that they have no power to relieve them from distress or to bring about a change in their condition.
(57) Amongst those whom they set up as peers to Allah, the ones whom they consider to be nearest to Allah are those who themselves strive to attain nearness to Allah and hope for His rahma, and fear His chastisement which should be shunned (at all costs).
(58) These people think that the system they have devised is so strong that none can touch them. Tell them that no system built on wrong foundations will last forever. It will be destroyed here in this world or its upholders are subjected to grievous chastisement. This is all laid down in the book containing the Law of Mukafat.
(59) They say, O Rasool, that if you are truthful in your claim you should show them some visible proof of it. Nothing can hinder Allah from bringing forth such proof but history has shown that human beings who do not apply their reason, seldom learn from such proofs. For instance, the people of Thamud had made an agreement with their rasool that they would allow all animals to drink water from the springs. To see whether they honoured the agreement, a she-camel was marked for the purpose. Not only did they disregard their agreement but they hamstrung her, and We do not send these signs for any other purpose than to convey a warning (7:77, 11:65, 26:155-156, 54:28-29, 91:11-15).
(60) Allah gives warning to the wrong-doers through the rusul. If they apply their minds to the warning without prejudice, the circumstantial evidence would lead them to believe that the warning would come true. For instance, during the early stages of this movement these people were told that they would be brought around towards it gradually, but they simply mocked at it. You had narrated your vision to them saying that you would enter Makkah victoriously one day (48:27) but they never took it seriously. By the parable of the “cursed tree” mentioned in the Qur’an (37:62, 44:43, 56:52) they were warned that if their ringleaders did not desist from opposing the movement, they would be disgraced and humiliated. But they simply mocked at it. These warnings were given in order to cure them but it only increased their rebelliousness as happened in the case of Iblees.
(61-62) The story of Iblees and Adam has been narrated before. We told the malaika to bow before Adam and they did so. Iblees, however, refused to do so saying, “Shall I bow before him whom You have created of mere clay and exalted above me? If You will only give me respite till man remains on the face of the earth, You will see how I will subdue and humiliate his progeny – all, but a few (2:30-39, 7:11-14, 15:27-41).”
(63-65) Allah said, “Go ahead, whosoever from amongst them follows you, the recompense for him and you will be jahannam – an ample recompense.” I know what schemes you will devise to lead them astray – some you will entice through your propaganda; some you will assault with all the forces at your command; others through polluting their economic order, some by ruining their children through wrong education and others by offering them various undertakings. In short, you will ruin them by holding out to them alluring promises. (You may do whatever you want but) You will not have any power over my devotees who will adhere to my laws(2). For none is worthy of trust as (the laws of Rabubiyyat given by) your Rabb.
(66) How trustworthy Allah’s laws are,
you experience daily. For instance, He makes the ships sail smoothly through the sea so that you may seek His bounty. This is His rahma for you.
(67) When any mishap befalls you on the sea those whom you call on besides Allah do not come to your rescue and you can overcome it only if you follow Allah’s laws; but when the trouble is over and you reach land safely, you turn away from Him. How very ungrateful man is!
(68) When you reach land you think that you are perfectly safe. Is it not possible that a landslide may swallow you or a sandstorm strike you? In that case, you will not find anyone except Allah’s laws to protect you.
(69) Are you certain that, if you go once more to the sea, no storm blast will drown you? You will then find no helper against Us.
(70) (Physical forces working in the universe are mighty and powerful, but to mankind We have given superiority over all of them) and certainly We have honoured man (and given him the knowledge as a result of which) he can conquer the forces of nature on land and sea and thus earn pleasant sustenance for himself. In fact, We have given superiority to man over most of Our creations.
(71) (But human life is not confined to physical life. There is another life constituted of his actions and beliefs which continues beyond this life – 15:13.) And that day all men will be called along with their records. Those who will be given their records in their right hands shall (be delighted to) read it and they will not be wronged in the slightest degree.
(72) (But this does not mean that the consequences of human actions will manifest themselves only in the life hereafter; they affect his life in this world also.) So, one who is blind in this world, will be blind in the hereafter – even farther astray from the path (of truth).
(73) Your opponents tried hard to lure you away from what We had revealed to you and cause you to substitute something else in Our name and thus take you as a friend.
(74) Had you not adhered steadfastly to Our laws, you might have leaned a little towards them (10:15, 11:113, 68:9).
(75) In that case, you would have tasted double chastisement in this world as well as in the next and you would not have found anyone as a helper against Allah.
(76) The Jews in Madinah had decided to make life so difficult for you in this city that you would be forced to leave it also. If that had happened, they would not have had any more respite.
(77) This was Our way for the rusul whom We had sent before you and you will not find any change therein, so far as you are concerned.
(78-79) This will not, however, happen automatically. You will have to strive hard for it. You will have to follow a definite programme. Set out your schedule for the whole day in the light of the Qur’an, before the day dawns, since that time is very congenial for such deliberation. Then, from the dawning of the day to the evening, follow it practically. In the early hours of the night consult with your companions (73:20). In the late hours of the night, you may rise if necessary; this is, however, voluntary devotion for you.
If you and your companions follow this programme assiduously, you will soon attain an exalted position of praise and glory in the eyes of the whole world.
(80) Say, “O My Rabb! Whatever be the situation in which I find myself or from which I have to come out, let it be in a perfectly right manner and grant me strength which in every situation shall bear me out.”
(81-82) O Rasool announce to the entire world that truth has manifested itself and falsehood has vanished; for falsehood by its very nature must perish eventually. This will also happen by following the Qur’an (step by step) which is a healing and rahma for those who believe but which increases the loss and distress of those who reject it.
(83) The position of those who do not believe in Allah’s laws is that when favours are bestowed on them, they grow indifferent and turn away but when distress overpowers them, they fall into despair.
(84) We have bestowed upon man freedom of will and choice but he creates for himself fetters which limit his freedom. His actions are, thus, limited by his self-made laws and beliefs. He remains in the self-deception that he is following the right path. But the criterion to judge who is following the right path is Allah’s laws and the limitations imposed by Him alone.
(85) When you say, “It is Allah’s wahi (revelation) which I communicate to you,” they ask you as to what the nature of wahi is. Tell them that it belongs to the realm of Allah’s amr which is not possible for human beings to grasp with their scanty knowledge.
(86-89) If We decide to take away what We have revealed to you, you cannot find anyone to plead your cause against Us. It is only Allah’s rahma that it is revealed to you and great indeed is His favour towards you (2:105, 6:125, 14:11). Should jinn and ins together attempt to produce the like of this Qur’an, it will not be possible for them to do so – however the one group may help the other (2:23, 10:38, 11:13). We have in this Qur’an explained the truth to man, in diverse manners, but the majority of men do nothing but deny it (17:41).
(90-93) Instead of reflecting on the Qur’an, they go on demanding that you should show them miracles e.g., “Cause a fountain to gush for us from the earth, or have an orchard of date palms and grapevine and cause streams to flow profusely therein, or cause the sky to fall (upon us) in pieces as you have threatened, or to bring Allah Himself or malaika before us, or you have a palace of gold built for you or you ascend to the heavens. We will not believe even by your ascension to heaven until you cause a book to descend on us which we can read (26:187, 6:35).”
Tell them, “My Rabb is much too exalted to compel you to believe through miracles and I am only a human being and His messenger.”
(94-98) They do not believe in You because you are a human being. This is not a new phenomenon. Whenever We had sent a rasool, they objected to why a human being had been sent as a rasool, and this (objection) stood in the way of accepting his teachings. Say to them O Rasool, “Were there angels walking about on earth as their natural abode instead of human beings, Allah would have certainly sent down an angel as a rasool (43:60). I can only say that Allah is a sufficient witness between you and me to decide this. He knows everything about human beings. I can only say this much that only those who follow His guidance will be on the right path and those who go astray will find none to help them. On the day of reckoning, We shall muster them on their faces, blind, deaf and dumb and their abode shall be jahannam. When its fire begins to abate We shall rekindle it – this is their recompense for having refused to believe in Our laws and for having declared, “When We are reduced to dust and bones shall we be raised once more as a new creation?”
(99) Do they not reflect that Allah Who created the entire universe out of nothingness is able to create the like of them, and has appointed for everything (according to His laws) a time of life in this world about which no one should entertain any doubt? Yet they persist in denial.
(100) The result of their belief that life is confined to this world is that they hold wealth for themselves. If you ask them to keep it open to the use of those in need of it, they refuse to do so for fear of its diminution. Man left to himself, becomes covetous.
(101) To make clear to them what the consequences of such an attitude are, narrate to them the story of Moses and the Pharaoh. Before the Pharaoh was ruined, We had sent Moses to him with nine clear signs. If your opponents entertain any doubts about it, ask them to ascertain it from the Bani-Israel. When Moses came to the Pharaoh, he said that in his opinion Moses was a bewitched man (7:130-33, 27:12).
(102) Moses said to the Pharaoh, “I feel that you are convinced in your heart that what I say is from the sustainer of the heavens and the earth but your ego does not permit you to confess this openly (27:14). You say that I am bewitched, but I find you a person devoid of reason because destruction and downfall engulf you from all sides, yet you do not see it.”
(103) The Pharaoh tried every tactic to dislodge the Bani-Israel in the country but to no avail. On the other hand, he and his companions were all drowned.
(104) Thereafter We told the Bani-Israel to settle down in the land and that when the second lapse came (17:4-7) they would be encircled and murdered. They were also told that they would be given another opportunity to revive when the last of the rusul was raised.
(105) And We have revealed this Qur’an with truth and it has come down to you with truth and We have sent you (O Rasool) to give glad tidings to the believers and warnings to the wrong-doers (7:156).
(106) Since the intention was that people should accept the Qur’an after being convinced of its truth, We descended it not in its entirety but piecemeal so that you may present it to them with slow deliberation.
(107-109) O Rasool! Say to them, “Whether you all believe in it or not (it does not make much difference, but this book can be understood by those who have insight, knowledge and wisdom and when it is presented to them) those who are previously endowed with knowledge, will reflect on it and will submit to it and exclaim, “Exalted is Our Rabb. We are sure that all His promises will come true.” They exclaim it with complete humility and tears in their eyes.
(110) O Rasool! Tell them, “Whether you call Him by the name of Allah or Rahman – it does not matter. All His names are excellent and facets of the same reality. In the sala, do not be too loud in voice nor too low but seek a way in between.”
(111) Tell them that the Allah we believe in:
1. is worthy of all hamd,
2. has not begotten a son,
3. has no partner in His sovereignty,
4. is not feeble and, therefore,
5. does not need a protector. The purpose of our life is that His order may be established in the world (9:33, 79:7).
- Qur’an does not deal with a topic fully at one time and at one place. Instead, it spreads it throughout the book through its method of repetition (tasreef-e-ayaat), that is, the explanation of its illustration through examples and exceptions sprinkled all over the Qur’an.
- Man is not evil by nature, and can overpower evil if he leads his life according to Allah’s directives.
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