17. Surah Al Isra (The Night Journey), also known as Surah Bani Israil (The Children of Israel) – Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi

17. Surah Al Isra (The Night Journey), also known as Surah Bani Israil (The Children of Israel) – Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an

17. Surah Al Isra (The Night Journey), also known as Surah Bani Israil (The Children of Israel)


This Surah takes its name (Bani Israil) from v. 4. But this name is merely a distinctive appellation like the names of many other surahs and not a descriptive title, and does not mean that “Bani Isra’il” is the theme of this Sarah.

Period of Revelation

The very first verse indicates that this Surah was revealed on the occasion of Mi`raj (Ascension). According to the Traditions and books on the life of the Holy Prophet, this event happened one year before Hijrah. Thus, this Surah is one of those which were revealed in the last stage of Prophethood at Makkah.


The Holy Prophet had been propagating Tauhid for the previous twelve years and his opponents had been doing all they could to make his Mission a failure, but in spite of all their opposition, Islam had spread to every corner of Arabia and there was hardly any clan which had not been influenced by his invitation. In Makkah itself the true Believers had formed themselves into a small community and were ready and willing to face every danger to make Islam a success. Besides them, a very large number of the people of Aus and Khazraj (two influential clans of Al-Madinah) had accepted Islam. Thus the time had come for the Holy Prophet to emigrate from Makkah to Al- Madinah and there gather together the scattered Muslims and establish a state based on the principles of Islam.

These were the conditions when Mi`raj took place and on his return the Holy Prophet brought down the Message contained in this Surah.

Theme and Topics

This Surah is a wonderful combination of warning, admonition and instruction, which have been blended together in a balanced proportion.

The disbelievers of Makkah had been admonished to take a lesson from the miserable end of the Israelites and other communities and mend their ways within the period of respite given by Allah, which was about to expire. They should, therefore, accept the invitation that was being extended by Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him) and the Quran. Otherwise they shall be annihilated and replaced by other people. Incidentally, the Israelites, with whom Islam was going to come in direct contact in the near future at Al-Madinah have also been warned that they should learn a lesson from the chastisements that have already been inflicted on them. They were warned, “Take advantage of the Prophethood of Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him) because that is the last opportunity which is being given to you. If even now you behave as you have been behaving, you shall meet with a painful torment.”

As regards the education of mankind, it has been impressed that human success or failure, gain or loss, depends upon the right understanding of Tauhid, life-after- death and Prophethood. Accordingly, convincing arguments have been put forward to prove that the Quran is the Book of Allah and its teachings are true and genuine the doubts of the disbelievers about these basic realities have been removed and on suitable occasions they have been admonished and rebuked in regard to their ways of ignorance.

In this connection, those fundamental principles of morality and civilization on which the Islamic System of life is meant to be established have been put forward. Thus this was a sort of the Manifesto of the intended Islamic state which had been proclaimed a year before its actual establishment. It has been explicitly stated that that was the sketch of the system on which Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him) intended to build human life first in his own country and then in the outside world.

Besides these, the Holy Prophet has been instructed to stick firmly to his stand without minding the opposition and difficulties which he was encountering and should never think of making a compromise with unbelief. The Muslims who sometimes showed signs of impatience, when they met with persecution, calumny, and crooked arguments, have also been instructed to face adverse circumstances with patience and fortitude and keep full control over their feelings and passions. Moreover, salat was prescribed in order to reform and purify their souls, as if to say, “This is the thing which will produce in you those high qualities of character which are essential for everyone who intends to struggle in the righteous way Incidentally, we learn from Traditions that Mi’raj was the first occasion on which the five daily Prayers were prescribed to be offered at fixed times.

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

[1] Glory be to Him, Who transported His Servant one night from the Masjid-i-Haram to the distant Temple, whose surroundings We have blessed, so that we might show him some of Our Sings: the fact is that He alone is All-Hearing and All-Seeing.

[2-8] Before this We had given the Book to Moses and made it a means of guidance for the Israelites with this Command: “Do not make .any other guardian than Myself. You are the descendants of those whom We bore in the Ark with Noah, and he was truly a grateful servant”. Besides this, We forewarned the Israelites in the Scriptures: You will work great mischief twice in the land and will become overbearingly arrogant. When the occasion of the first of the two mischiefs came, O Israelites, We raised against you such of Our servants who were very mighty and formidable; so they penetrated through all parts of your country. This was a warning that was bound to be fulfilled. Then after this We afforded you an opportunity to over-power them and helped you with abundance of riches and children and increased you far more in numbers than before. Behold! If you did good it proved to be good for yourselves and if you committed evil it proved to be bad for your own selves. Then, when the time came for the fulfillment of the second warning, We set other enemies on you so that they might disfigure your faces and enter into the Temple just as the former enemies had entered and destroyed whatever they could lay their hands on. Now again your Lord may show compassion on you; but if you again repeat your former behavior; We will again visit you with. Our punishment, for We have prepared Hell to serve as a prison-house for the ungrateful people.

[9-10] Indeed the Qur’an shows that way which is perfectly straight: To those who believe in it and do good deeds, it gives the good news that there is a great reward for them and to those who do not believe in the Hereafter, it gives the warning that a painful torment has been made ready for them.

[11] Man invokes evil instead of goodness for he is very hasty and impatient.

[12] Behold! We have created day and night as two signs: We have deprived the sign of night of light and made the sign of day bright to enable you to seek bounty of your Lord and to reckon months and years. Thus We have made everything manifestly distinct.

[13-14] We have fastened the augury of every man to his own neck, and on the Day of Resurrection We will bring forth a writing which he will find like an open book. (It will be said to him,) “Here is your record: read it. Today you yourself suffice as reckoner against yourself.”

[15] Whosoever adopts the righteous way, his righteous conduct will be for his own good, and whosoever goes astray, his deviation shall bring its consequences on him. No bearer will bear the burden of another. And We do not inflict punishment until We have sent a Messenger (to make Truth distinct from falsehood.)

[16-17] When We decree that a habitation should be destroyed, We give Commands to its well-to-do people and they show disobedience; then that habitation incurs just torment and We totally exterminate it. Just see how many generations have been destroyed by Our Command after Noah. Your Lord is fully aware of the sins of his servants and is seeing everything.

[18-21] If a person hankers after the immediate good things of this worldly life, We give him whatever We will; then We condemn such a one to Hell, wherein he will burn, accursed and deprived of mercy. On the other hand, whoso desires the life of the Hereafter and strives for it as best as one should strive, and is a believer, the endeavor of every such person will be appreciated. As regards the provisions of this worldly life, We bestow them on these and on those; this is a gift of your Lord and there is none to withhold the gift of your Lord. But in spite of this you can see that We have exalted one people above the others and in the Hereafter these grades will be far greater, and their superiority will be far higher.

[22] Do not associate another deity with Allah, otherwise you shall he reduced to a state of ignominy and helplessness.

[23-24] Your Lord has enjoined the following:

1. You should not worship anyone but Him.

2. Treat your parents with great consideration; if either or both of them live with you in their old age, do not say even “fie” to them: nor rebuke them, but speak kind words to them; treat them with humility and tenderness and pray: “Lord, be merciful to them just as they brought me up with kindness and affection.”

[25-27] Your Lord best knows what is in your minds. if you live righteously, He surely forgives and turns towards all such people as are penitent and obedient.

3. Fulfill your obligations towards your relatives and the indigent and the wayfarer.

4. Do not be a spendthrift because the spendthrifts are the brethren of Satan and Satan has been ungrateful to his Lord.

[28] 5. If you have to put them (the needy persons) off because you are still waiting for Allah’s favor that you are expecting, put them off with tenderness.

[29-30] 6. Do not tie your hand to your neck nor stretch without any restraint lest you should become blameworthy and left destitute. Your Lord provides plentifully to whom He wills and withholds His provisions from anyone He pleases, for He is fully aware of the condition of His servants and observes them closely.

[31] 7. Do not kill your offspring for fear of want: for it is We Who provide them and you as well. Indeed their killing is a heinous crime.

[32] 8. Do not even go near fornication for it is a very indecent flung and a very evil way.

[33] 9. Do not kill any soul whose killing has been forbidden by Allah except by right: and if one is killed unjustly We have granted the right of retribution to his guardian. So he should not transgress the limits in retaliation, for he shall be helped.

[34-35] 10. Do not go near the property of an orphan except in the best manner until he reaches the age of maturity.

11. Keep your pledges, for you shall be accountable for your pledges.

12. Give full measure when you measure and weigh with even scales when you weigh. This is the best way and will prove to be the best in the end.

[36] 13. Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge for you shall be questioned for (the use) of your eyes, ears and minds.

[37] 14. Do not strut about in the land for you can neither cleave the earth nor attain the height of the mountains.

[38-40] The evil aspect of each of these Commandments is odious in the sight of your Lord. These are the things of wisdom which your Lord has revealed to you.

And behold! do not associate any other deity with Allah lest you should be cast into Hell reproached and deprived of every good What! has your Lord favored you with sons and adopted angels as daughters for Himself? Indeed it is a big lie that you are uttering.

[41-44] We have admonished the people in different ways in the Qur’an so that they may take warning, yet they are running further and further away from the Truth. O Muhammad, tell them that if there had been other deities beside Allah, as they assert, they would surely have tried to find a way to (dethrone) the Master of the Throne. He is free from and far above the things they say about Him. The seven heavens and the Earth and all the things therein are chanting hymns of His glory along with His praise but you do not understand their hymns. The fact is that He is very Forbearing and Forgiving.

[45-48] When you recite the Qur’an, we place an invisible curtain between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter and we cover their hearts with a covering so that they understand nothing and we make their ears hard of hearing. And when in the Qur’an you mention your one Lord only, they turn their faces away in aversion. We know best what they really wish to hear, when they listen to you, and also what they say, when they sit together in secret conversation. These wrongdoers say to one another, “The man you are following is really bewitched” Behold! what epithets they apply to you! They have gone astray, so they cannot find the Right Way.

[49-52] They say, “What! shall we really be raised up again into a new creation, when we are reduced to bones and dust?” Say to them, (“yes, most certainly you shall be brought back to life,) even if you be stone or iron or even something harder than this which you consider in your minds impossible to be brought to life.” At this they will ask, “Who is he who will bring us back to life?” Say to them, “The same Being Who brought you to life in the first instance.” Then they will shake their heads at you and ask. “Well, when will this happen?” Say, “That time may be near at hand. On the Day when He will call you, you will rise up in response to it, praising Him, and you will think, “We have remained in this state only for a little while.”

[53-54] And O Muhammad!, say to My servants, “They should utter only that which is the best of all. In reality, it is Satan who tries to sow discord between human beings. The fact is that Satan is the avowed enemy of man. Your Lord is fully aware of everything concerning you. If He will, He may show mercy to you, and if He will, He may give you severe chastisement.” And, O Prophet, We have not sent you to be the guardian over people.

[55] Your Lord is fully aware of all the creatures in the heavens and the earth. We have exalted some Prophets above the others in ranks, and We gave the Psalms to David.

[56-57] Say to them, “You may invoke for help those deities whom you consider to be (your helpers) beside Allah: They will not be able to relieve you of any trouble nor change it.” In fact those whom these people invoke for help themselves seek means of approach to their Lord and vie with one another to be nearer to Him and hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement. The fact is that the chastisement of your Lord is a thing to be dreaded.

[58] There is no habitation which We shall not destroy before the Day of Resurrection or punish with a severe chastisement. This has been ordained in the Eternal Record.

[59-60] And nothing has hindered Us from sending Signs except that the former people refused to acknowledge them as such. (For example,) We sent the She-camel as an open Sign to Thamud but they treated her with cruelty; whereas We send Signs only by way of warning. Call to mind, O Muhammad! We told you at the very beginning that your Lord is encircling these people. And We made what We have shown you now and also the Tree which has been cursed in the Qur’an as a trial for these people.” We are giving them warning after warning but each warning helps only to increase their insurrection.

[61-65] And remember: when We commanded the angels, “Bow yourselves before Adam,” all bowed down except Iblis. He replied, “Should I bow before the one whom you have created of clay?” Then he added, “Just consider this: Was he worthy of this that you have exalted him over me ? If you give me respite up to the Day of Resurrection, I will uproot the whole of his progeny; there shall be only a few of them who will be able to save themselves from me.” Allah replied, “Well, get away. Hell is your ample reward and the reward of those who follow you. You may try to allure with your invitation whomsoever you can. Rally against them your horsemen and your footmen: set a partner with them in their wealth and children and entice them with your false promises And Star’s promises are nothing but deception. Indeed you will have no power over my servants.” And your Lord suffices for you as a guardian.

[66-68] Your (real) Lord is the One, Who drives your ship across the sea so that you may seek His bounty. The fact is that He is very merciful towards you. When a misfortune befalls you on the sea, all of those whom you invoke for help fail you but He (is there to help you ): yet when He brings you safe to land, you turn away from Him. Indeed man is very ungrateful. What, do you feel quite secure that sometimes Allah would not cause you to sink underground even on land, or send a deadly whirlwind charged with stones toward you, and you may not find anyone to protect you from it?

[69-72] Or, are you not afraid that God may again send you to the sea and smite you with a violent tempest and drown you for your ingratitude, and you may not find any one to question Us in regard to this end of yours? It is a favor that We have honored the sons of Adam and blessed them with conveyances on land and sea and provided them with good and pure things and exalted them above many of Our other creatures. Just imagine the scene on the Day, when We will summon every community with its leader: then those, who will be given their records in their right hands, will read their records and will not be wronged in the least; on the other hand, the one, who leads his life in this world as if he were blind shall be blind in the Hereafter. nay, he shall fare even worse than a blind person in finding the way.

[73-75] O Muhammad these people have left no stone unturned to tempt you away from that which We have revealed to you so that you might fabricate something in Our name. Had you done that, they would have made you their friend. It was just possible that you might have inclined a little towards them, if We had not given you strength. But if you had done so, We would have made you taste double chastisement in this world as well as in the Hereafter: then you would have found no helper against Us.

[76] And these people have persistently been trying to uproot you from this land and exile you from it, but if they do so, they will not be able to stay here much longer.

[77] This has always been our Way with the Messengers whom We sent before you. and you will find no change in Our way.

[78-79] Establish Salat from the declining of the sun to the darkness of the night, and be particular about the recital of the Qur’an at the dawn of the morning, for the recital of the Qur’an at the dawn is witnessed. Besides this, offer Tahajjud Prayer at night: this is an additional prayer for you. That time is not far when your Lord may exalt you to a laudable position.

[80] And pray. “Lord, whereto Thou takest me, take me with truth, and where from Thou takest me out cause me to go out with truth: and grant me a power from Thee to help me.”

[81] And declare, “The Truth has come and falsehood has vanished: for falsehood is a thing that must by its nature vanish.”

[82-84] We are sending down to you through the revelation of the Qur’an what is a healing and mercy to the Believers, though it adds nothing but loss to the workers of iniquity. Man is a (strange) creature: when We bestow favor on him, he behaves arrogantly and turns his back, but when misfortune befalls him, he begins to despair. O Prophet, say to them, “Everyone is following his own way but your Lord alone knows best who is on the right way.”

[85] They ask you about “The Spirit.” Say, “This Spirit comes by the command of my Lord, but you have been given only a little of the Knowledge.”

[86-88] O Muhammad, We may, if We so will, take back from you all of what We have revealed to you: then you will find none to help you in getting it back from Us. All that you have received is by the favor of your Lord. Indeed His favor to you is very great. Declare this, “Even if human beings and jinns should cooperate with one another to bring forth a book like the Qur’an, they will never be able to bring anything like it, even though all of them help one another.”

[89-93] In this Qur’an, We employed different ways to make the people understand the Message, but the majority of them persisted in unbelief, and they said, “We will not believe in what you say until you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us, or a garden of date-palms and vines be created for you, and you cause canals to flow in it; or until you cause the sky to fall on us in fragments, as you threaten us; or you bring Allah and the angels face to face before us or a house of gold comes into being for you or you ascend the sky, and we are not going to believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a writing that we may read”O Muhammad, Say to them, “My Lord be glorified! have I ever claimed to be anything more than a human Messenger?”

[94-95] Whenever Guidance came before the people nothing prevented them from believing in it except this (excuse): they said: “Did Allah send a human being as His Messenger?” Say to them, “Had angels settled on the Earth and moved about in peace, We would certainly have sent an angel as a Messenger to them.”

[96] O Muhammad, say to them, “Allah suffices for a witness to judge between you and me: for He is fully aware of and is observing what His servants are doing.”

[97-99] Whomsoever Allah guides, he alone is rightly guided and whomsoever He lets go astray, you will find for such people no other protector and helper besides Him. On the Day of Resurrection, We will muster them prostrate upon their faces, blind, dumb and deaf. Their abode will be Hell: whenever its fire abates, We will rekindle it for them. This is their recompense, for they rejected Our Signs and said, “What! shall we really be raised up anew, when we have been reduced to bones and dust?” Could they not perceive that the same Allah, Who created the Earth and the Heavens, has the power to create the like of them? He has ordained a time for resurrecting them which shall inevitably come, but these workers of iniquity persist in their disbelief.

[100] O Muhammad, say to them, “Had the treasures of your Lord’s blessings been in your possession, you would have held them back lest they should be spent up. Indeed man is very narrow minded.”

[101-104] And We gave to Moses nine Signs which were quite manifest. Now you yourself may inquire from the children of Israel about it: when those Signs came before Pharaoh, he uttered these very words: “O Moses, I consider you to be a bewitched man.” Moses replied, “You know it full well that none but the lord of the Heavens and the earth had sent down these signs as eye-openers, and O Pharaoh, I consider you indeed to be a doomed person.” At last Pharaoh resolved to uproot Moses and the Israelites from the land but We drowned him and his followers all together. Then we said to the Israelites, “Now you should settle down in the land and when the prescribed time of Resurrection comes about, We will gather all of you together.”

[105-109] We have sent down the Qur’an with the truth and with the truth it has come down; and O Muhammad, We have sent you only to give good news (to the Believers) and warning (to the disbelievers). And we have sent down this Qur’an piecemeal so that you may recite it to the people gradually piece by piece, and We have sent it down by gradual Revelations (to suit particular occasions).O Muhammad, say to these people, “Whether you believe in it or not, those who were given the knowledge before this, fall prostrate on their faces when it is recited to them and cry out, “Our lord is glorious and His promise was surely to be fulfilled.” And they fall down on their faces, weeping when they listen to it, and this increases their Humility all the more.

[110-111] O Prophet, say to them, “You may call Him by any name, Allah or Rahman, for it is all the same by whichever name you call Him because all His names are most excellent. And do not raise your voice high in your Prayer nor make it very low but adopt the middle way between these two and say, “Praise is for that Allah who has begotten no son nor has any partner in His Kingdom nor is helpless to need any supporter,” And glorify Him in the most glorious way.”

17. Surah Al Isra (The Night Journey), also known as Surah Bani Israil (The Children of Israel) – Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi

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