17. Al-Isra’ (The Night Journey)
This sūrah consists of 111 verses. Al-Isra’ derives its name from the first verse, where the Messenger’s miraculous Night Journey from the Sacred Mosque in Makkah to the Masjid al-Aqsā in Quds (Jerusalem) is related. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was taken from there through the heavenly dimensions of existence and observed the greatest signs of God; this journey is known as al-Mi‘rāj (the Ascension). Some commentators call this Sūrah Banū Isrāīl (The Children of Israel) because it mentions the Children of Israel in verses 2–8 and 101–104. It was revealed in Makkah at the time of the Mi‘rāj, toward the end of the Makkan period. It warns the unbelievers and asks them to take a lesson from the history of the Children of Israel and other communities, explaining what leads to happiness and what leads to perdition. It states certain broad principles of morality and good conduct as the foundations of the laws which were to be legislated in Madīnah for the individual and collective life of the Muslims. The sūrah advises God’s Messenger and the believers to endure patiently all that they encounter on God’s way.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. 1All-Glorified is He Who took His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque2 the environs of which We have blessed, so that We might show him some of Our signs (of the truths concerning Our Divinity and Lordship). Surely He is the One Who hears and sees.3
2. We granted Moses the Book and made it a guidance for the Children of Israel (commanding them): “Take, apart from Me, no guardian (one to rely on and to whom affairs should be entrusted).”4
3. (They were among) the descendants of those whom We carried (in the Ark) with Noah. He surely was a servant greatly thankful.5
4. We decreed in the Book for the Children of Israel (as a consequence of their ingratitude and disobedience to the Book): “You will most certainly cause corruption and disorder in the land twice, and (elated with extreme arrogance) you will act with great insolence.”
5. Hence, when the time of the first of the two came, We roused and sent against you some servants of Ours of great might (chosen by Us to punish you), and they ravaged the land, searching the innermost parts of your homes. That was a threat to be executed.
6. Then We gave the turn back to you to prevail over them, and strengthened you with resources and children, and made you the more numerous in human power (than before).
7. If you do good (aware that God is seeing you), you do good to your own selves; and if you do evil, it is likewise to your own selves. And so, when the time (for the fulfillment) of the second decree comes, (We rouse new enemies against you) to disgrace you utterly and to enter the Temple as the others entered it before, and to destroy entirely all that they conquer.6
8. It is hoped that your Lord may show mercy to you, but if you return (to your sins), We will return (to Our punishment).7 And We have made Hell a prison for the unbelievers.
9. This Qur’ān surely guides (in all matters) to that which is most just and right, and gives the believers who do good, righteous deeds the glad tidings that for them there is a great reward.
10. And that for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, for them We have prepared a painful punishment.
11. Yet human (through his actions as well as his words) prays and calls for evil just as he prays and calls for good. Human is prone to be hasty.8
12. (As in the life of humankind, “days” and “nights” alternate in the world, also.) We have made the night and the day two signs (manifesting the truth of God’s Power, Knowledge, and absolute sovereignty, and His grace on you). We have obscured the sign of the night (made it dark), and We have made the sign of the day illuminating (therefore, a means for you) to see,9 that you may seek bounty from your Lord, and that you may know the computation of (time) the years and the reckoning; We set out all things in clear detail.
13. Every human being’s fate, We have fastened around his neck, and We will bring forth for him on the Day of Resurrection a book which he will see spread open.
14. “Read your book! Your own self suffices you this day as a reckoner against you.”10
15. Whoever takes the right way takes it for the good of his soul only; and whoever goes astray, goes astray but to its harm only. No soul, as bearer of burden, is made to bear the burden of another. We would never punish (a person or community for the wrong they have done) until We have sent a Messenger (to give counsel and warning).
16. And when We finally will to destroy a township (that has deserved destruction), We leave those of its people lost in the pursuit of pleasures to their own devices, and so they transgress all limits therein. In consequence, the word (of punishment) is justified against it, and so We annihilate it, reducing it to nothing.
17. How many a generation have We (thus) destroyed after Noah! Your Lord suffices as one All-Aware and All-Seeing of the sins of His servants.
18. Whoever wishes for only the immediate gains (of this transitory life), We readily grant thereof as much as We please to whomever We will. Thereafter, We consign him to Hell, wherein he will roast, disgraced and disowned.
19. But whoever wishes for the Hereafter and strives for it as it should be striven for, being a believer, then for those (who do so) their striving shall be recognized with thanks and reward.
20. Each do We supply – these ones as well as those ones – out of the free gifts of your Lord (in the world); the gift of your Lord is not confined.
21. See how We have made some of them excel others (in worldly gifts and in virtues); yet the Hereafter will certainly be greater in ranks and greater in excellence.11
22. Do not set up another deity besides God, or you will be sitting disgraced and forsaken.
23. Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him alone, and treat parents with the best of kindness. Should one of them, or both, attain old age in your lifetime, do not say “Ugh!” to them (as an indication of complaint or impatience), nor push them away; and always address them in gracious words.
24. Lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy, and say: “My Lord, have mercy on them even as they cared for me in childhood.”
25. Your Lord best knows what is in your souls (in respect of all matters, including what you think of your parents). If you are righteous (in your thoughts and deeds), then surely He is All-Forgiving to those who turn to Him in humble contrition,12
26. And give his due to the relative, as well as the destitute and the wayfarer; and do not squander (your wealth) senselessly.
27. Surely squanderers are ever brothers of satans; and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.
28. But if you (must) turn away from those (who are in need, because you are yourself in need, and) seeking mercy from your Lord in hopeful expectation, then (at least) speak to them gently and well-meaning.
29. Do not keep your hand bound to your neck (in niggardliness), nor stretch it without any restraint, or else you will be left sitting reproached and denuded.
30. Surely your Lord God enlarges provision for whom He wills, and straitens it (for whom He wills). Indeed He is fully aware of His servants and sees them well.13
31. Do not kill your children for fear of poverty; it is We Who provide for them as well as for you. Killing them is surely a grave sin.14
32. Do not draw near to any unlawful sexual intercourse; surely it is a shameful, indecent thing, and an evil way (leading to individual and social corruption).15
33. Do not kill any soul, which God has made forbidden, except in just cause. If anyone has been killed wrongfully and intentionally, We have given his heir (as defender of his rights) the authority (to claim retaliation or damages or to forgive outright). But let him (the heir) not exceed the legitimate bounds in (retaliatory) killing. Indeed he has been helped (already and sufficiently by the provisions and procedures of the Law).16
34. And do not draw near to the property of the orphan except in the best way (such as to improve and increase it) until he comes of age and is strong; and fulfill the covenant: the covenant is surely subject to questioning (on the Day of Judgment, you will be held accountable for your covenant).
35. Give full measure when you measure, and weigh with a true, accurate balance. That is what is good and (to do so is) best in the long term.
36. Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge (whether it is good or bad), and refrain from groundless assertions and conjectures. Surely the hearing, the sight, and the heart – each of these is subject to questioning about it (you are answerable, and will be called to account, for each of these on the Day of Judgment).17
37. Do not strut about the earth in haughty self-conceit; for you can never split the earth (no matter how hard you stamp your foot), nor can you stretch to the mountains in height (no matter how strenuously you seek to impress).
38. The evil of all this is abhorrent in the sight of your Lord.
39. All this is (part) of the Wisdom which your Lord has revealed to you (O Messenger). (As the source and basis of all wisdom), do not set up with God another deity, or you will be cast into Hell, blamed and disowned.18
40. Has, then, your Lord distinguished you (O unbelievers) by preferring for you sons, and taken for Himself from among the angels, daughters? Most certainly you utter an awful, horrendous saying.
41. We have set out (the truths) in diverse ways in this Qur’ān, so that they may reflect and be mindful, but all this increases them (the unbelievers) only in their aversion (to truth).
42. Say: “If there were, as they assert, deities apart from Him, surely they would seek a way to the Master of the Supreme Throne (the dominion of the creation).”19
43. All-Glorified is He, and absolutely exalted, immeasurably high above all that they say.
44. The seven heavens and the earth, and whoever is therein, glorify Him. There is nothing that does not glorify Him with His praise (proclaiming that He alone is God, without peer or partner, and all praise belongs to Him exclusively),20 but you cannot comprehend their glorification. Surely He is (despite what His servants have deserved from Him) All-Clement, All-Forgiving.
45. When you recite the Qur’ān, We place an invisible veil between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter (and who, by making themselves deaf and blind to the creation’s praise of its Creator, make themselves incapable of such belief).
46. And over their hearts, We lay veils (made from their ill-intention, wrongdoing, and arrogance) that prevent them from grasping it (the Qur’ān); and in their ears, heaviness. When you make mention of your Lord in the Qur’ān as the One (the Unique Divine Being), they turn their backs in aversion.
47. We know best what they wish to hear when they listen to you and that, when they are secluded among themselves, these wrongdoers say (to one another): “You are following but a man bewitched.”21
48. See what strange comparisons they invent about you. They have altogether strayed and are now unable to find a way (to the truth).
49. And they say: “What! Is it when we have already become bones and particles of dust – is it then that we will be raised as a new creation?”
50. Say: “Whether you have become stone or iron,
51. “Or any other created substance which, in your minds, is greater (in its resistance to being given life).” Then they will say: “Who will bring us back to life?” Say: “He Who originated you in the first instance, with a unique individuality.” They will shake their heads at you (in amazement and derision) and say: “When will that be?” Say: “It may well be soon,
52. “On the Day when He will call you and you will answer with (words of) His praise, thinking that you have stayed (on the earth) but a little while.”22
53. And say to My servants that they should always speak (even when disputing with others) that which is the best. Satan is ever ready to sow discord among them. For Satan indeed is a manifest enemy for humankind.
54. Your Lord knows you best (and what you deserve). If He so wills, He has mercy on you (which is sheer grace); and if He so wills, He punishes you (which is pure justice). We have not sent you (O Messenger) to be a guardian over them, responsible for them (you are only a warner).23
55. And your Lord knows best all that is in the heavens and on the earth. Assuredly, We have exalted some of the Prophets above others (some in an absolute sense, and others in some respects); and to David, We granted the Psalms.24
56. Say: “Call upon those (the angels, human beings, jinn,) whom you pretend are deities apart from Him! They have no power to remove any affliction from you, nor can they make any changes in your conditions.”
57. Those whom they invoke themselves seek a means to approach their Lord, each trying to be nearer to Him, hoping for His mercy and fearing His punishment.25 The punishment of your Lord is surely to be feared and avoided.
58. There is not a township but that We will have destroyed it before the Day of Resurrection (as a consequence of its people’s way of life, and in accordance with the laws We have established for the lives of communities), or punished it with a severe punishment (such as dissension, corruption, and foreign invasion): all this is written down in the (eternal) Book.26
59. Nothing stops Us from sending the miracles (they demand as evidence in support of the Messenger’s claim to be appointed by God) except that (many among the) former generations rejected them as false (and were destroyed). We had given the Thamūd the she-camel as a visible sign (miracle), but they did wrong in respect of her. We do not send such signs except to warn (and to make them aware of a possible destruction, and eternal punishment).
60. And (recall) when We said to you (by way of a warning) that your Lord encompasses all humankind (with His Knowledge and Power). We did not make the vision that We showed you (during the Ascension) but as a trial for humankind to mend their ways, and (in the same way, We mentioned) in the Qur’ān the Accursed Tree (the tree in Hell absolutely outside the sphere of God’s Mercy). And We warn them, exhorting them to be fearful and amend, but it increases them only in great insolence and rebellion.27
61. And (recall another instance of arrogance and insubordination) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” they prostrated themselves, but Iblīs did not; he said: “Shall I prostrate myself before one whom You created of clay?”
62. He said: “Do You see this that You have honored above me? Indeed, if You grant me respite till the Day of Resurrection, I will certainly bring his descendants under my sway, all but a few!”
63. He (God) said: “Go your way! Whoever of them follows you – surely, Hell will be the recompense of you all, a recompense most ample!
64. “Arouse with your (seductive) voice whomever you can from among them, and rally against them with your cavalry and foot soldiers, and be their partner in their wealth and children, and make promises to them.” And Satan promises them nothing but deceit.28
65. “But as for My (sincere, devoted) servants – you will have no authority over them.” And your Lord suffices as protecting guardian (as One on Whom to rely, and to Whom all affairs are referred).
66. Your Lord (O humankind) is He Who causes the ships to sail for you through the sea, that you may seek of His bounty.29 Surely He is ever Compassionate towards you.
67. When distress afflicts you in the sea, all that you invoke (as powers to help you) fail you save Him only; yet when He brings you safe to land, you turn away from Him. Indeed human is ever ungrateful.
68. Do you then feel secure that He will not cause a part of the land to (fall on you and) engulf you, or send a sand-storm upon you? Then you will not find a protecting guardian for yourselves.
69. Or do you feel secure that He will not send you back (to the sea) another time, and send against you a raging tempest to drown you because you disbelieve in ingratitude? Then you find none to uphold you against Us.
70. Assuredly We have honored the children of Adam (with many distinctions): We have sustained their traveling on the land and the sea, and provided for them (their sustenance) out of pure, wholesome things, and preferred them above many of those whom We have created with particular preferment.
71. On the Day when We will call every human community with its leader: whoever (has followed a leader towards true faith and righteousness and accountability in the Hereafter) is given his Record (of his life) in his right hand – those will read their book with contentment, and they will not be wronged by even so much as a tiny hair.
72. Whoever is blind in this (world) (who has followed no guidance towards true faith and righteousness and accountability in the Hereafter), will be blind in the Hereafter, and even further astray from the way (that leads to Divine forgiveness and eternal contentment).30
73. They have indeed sought to tempt you (O Messenger) away from what We have revealed to you so that you may fabricate something else against Us. And then (had you done so), they would have taken you as a trusted friend.
74. And had We not made you wholly firm (in what We reveal to you), you might just have inclined to them a little bit.
75. In that case, We would have made you taste double punishment in life and double punishment after death, and you would have found none to help you against Us.31
76. Indeed they have sought to estrange you from the land (of your birth) and drive you from it; but then, they themselves will not remain there, after you, except a little while.
77. (That has been Our) way with all those whom We sent (as Messengers) before you. You will never find any alteration in Our way.32
78. Establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, from the declining of the sun to the darkness of the night, and (be ever observant of) the recitation of the Qur’ān at dawn (the Dawn Prayer). Surely the recitation of the Qur’ān at dawn is witnessed (by the angels and the whole creation awakening to a new day).33
79. And in some part of the night, rise from sleep and observe vigil therein (through Prayer and recital of the Qur’ān) as additional worship for you;34 your Lord may well raise you to a glorious, praised station (of nearness to Him, and give you leave to intercede with Him, as He wills, on behalf of His servants, in the Hereafter).
80. And say: “My Lord! Cause me to enter in a manner sincere and faithful to the truth, and cause me to exit in a manner sincere and faithful to the truth, and grant me from Your Presence a sustaining authority!”35
81. And say: “The truth has come, and falsehood has vanished. Surely falsehood is ever bound to vanish by its very nature.”
82. We are sending down the Qur’ān in parts – it is a healing and a mercy for the believers, though for the wrongdoers, it increases them only in ruin.
83. When We favor human (an ungrateful one) with comfort and contentment, he draws aside and arrogantly keeps aloof (from any thought of Us); but when evil touches him, he is ever despairing.
84. Say: “Every one acts according to his own character (made up of his creed, worldview and disposition), and your Lord knows best who is better guided in his way.”
85. They ask you about the spirit. Say: “The spirit is of my Lord’s Command,36 and of knowledge, you have been granted only a little.”
86. (You are not, as the unbelievers allege, the author of the Qur’ān. It is only We Who reveal it entirely.) If We willed, We could certainly take away what We have revealed to you (by effacing it from the hearts and memory of you and those who have memorized it, and from any written record of it). Then you would find for yourself no protecting guardian against Us (to help you to claim or recover it.
87. But (you are one favored with) a great, special mercy from your Lord. His favor on you is great indeed.
88. Say: “Surely, if humankind and jinn were to come together to produce the like of this Qur’ān, they would never be able to produce the like of it, though they backed one another up with help and support.”
89. Assuredly We have set out in diverse ways for humankind in this Qur’ān all kinds of parables and comparisons (to help them understand the truth), yet most people refuse to accept anything save unbelief.
90. They say: “We will not believe in you (O Messenger), until you cause a spring to gush forth for us from this land (which is short of water);
91. “Or you have a garden of date-palms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst abundantly;
92. “Or you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have claimed (could happen); or bring God and the angels as a warrant (before our eyes, proving the truth of your message);
93. “Or you have a house of gold; or you ascend to the heaven. But we will even then not believe in your ascension until you bring down upon us (from heaven) a book that we can read.” Say, (O Messenger): “All-Glorified is my Lord (in that He is absolutely above what you conceive of Him)! Am I anything but a mortal sent as a Messenger?”
94. And what has kept people from believing when guidance has come to them, except that they said: “Has God sent a mortal man as the Messenger?”
95. Say: “If angels had been walking about on earth as their abode, then We would surely have sent down upon them an angel from heaven as Messenger.”
96. Say: “God suffices for a witness between me and you. Surely He is fully aware of His servants, and sees them well.”
97. Whoever God guides, then he it is who is rightly guided; and whoever He leads astray, you shall find for them, apart from Him, no guardians (who might own and help them). We will raise them to life and gather them together on the Day of Resurrection—prone upon their faces, blind, dumb, and deaf. Their refuge is Hell – every time it (seems to them that its torment) is abating (because of their being inured to it), We increase them in (suffering in its) blazing flame.
98. That will be their recompense because they disbelieved in Our Revelations and signs (manifesting the truth) and said: “What! Is it when we have already become bones and particles of dust – is it then that we will be raised as a new creation?”
99. Do they never consider that God Who has created the heavens and the earth, (the creation of which is something greater than the creation of human and never wearied Him) is able to create them anew (the dead) in their own likeness? And He has set a term for them about which there is no doubt; yet the wrongdoers refuse to accept anything save unbelief.
100. Say: “If you possessed the treasures of my Lord’s Mercy, still you would surely hold them back for fear of spending (in God’s cause, and as subsistence for the needy).” Indeed human is ever grudging.
101. We certainly granted to Moses nine clear signs (miracles).37 So ask the Children of Israel (what happened despite these miracles): when he came to them (and asked the Pharaoh to let the Children of Israel leave Egypt with him, and even after he showed to them these miracles), the Pharaoh said to him: “Earnestly, O Moses, I earnestly consider you to be one bewitched.”
102. (Moses) said: “You know for certain that no one but the Lord of the heavens and the earth has sent down these (signs) as openings to discernment and insight. And earnestly, O Pharaoh, I earnestly consider you to be one doomed to loss.”
103. Then the Pharaoh intended to terrify them from the land (of Egypt) and destroy them, but We caused him and all who were with him to drown.38
104. And after that, We said to the Children of Israel: “Dwell now securely in the land (which God has decreed for you and commanded you to enter). But when the time (for the fulfillment) of the last decree comes, We will bring you as a mixed crowd (gathered from disparate nations).39
105. It is with the truth that We have sent it down (this Qur’ān, embodying the truth and forever invulnerable to falsehood), and it is with the truth that it has come down. We have not sent you but as a bearer of glad tidings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness) and a warner (against the evil consequences of misguidance).
106. And (it is) a Qur’ān that We set forth in parts with clarity so that you may recite and convey it to people with deliberation (in order that they can absorb it), and We send it down in successive Revelations (each perfectly suited to its occasion and its wider purpose).
107. Say: “Believe in it or do not believe.” Surely those who were endowed before it with knowledge (of the truth and Divine Revelation and teachings, and still follow that knowledge) fall down on their faces in prostration when the Qur’ān is recited to them.
108. They say: “All-Glorified is our Lord. Surely the promise of our Lord is ever bound to be fulfilled.”
109. And they fall down on their faces, weeping, and it increases them in humility and a feeling of awe.40
110. Say: “Call upon Him as Allāh (God) or call upon Him as ar-Rahmān (the All-Merciful). By whichever Name you call upon Him, to Him belong the All-Beautiful Names.”41 And offer your Prayer neither in too loud a voice nor in a voice too low, but follow a middle course.42
111. And say: “All praise and gratitude are for God, Who has neither taken to Him a child, nor has a partner in the sovereignty (the dominion and ownership of the whole creation), nor (being exalted above all want or insufficiency) has He a guardian against neediness and weakness. And exalt Him in His immeasurable greatness.
1. The initial verse of this sūrah is concerned with the miraculous night journey of God’s Messenger from the Sacred Mosque in Makkah to the Masjid al-Aqsā in Jerusalem. The Messenger was taken from there through the dimensions of existence, reaching as high as the Presence of God. This second part of the journey is called the Ascension (Mi‘rāj). For an explanation, see Appendix 10.
2. The reason why the Qur’an mentions the Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem as Masjid al-Aqsā (The Farthest Mosque) is at least partially because at the time of the Revelation, it was the farthest (sacred) mosque for the Muslims in Madīnah. The Muslims regard three mosques in the world as sacred, and may desire and travel to perform worship in these mosques because of the special reward involved in such a journey. They are Masjid al-Harām (The Sacred Mosque in Makkah, in which the Ka‘bah is situated), Masjid an-Nabī (The Prophet’s Mosque in Madīnah), and Bayt al-Maqdis (Masjid al-Aqsā), in Jerusalem. These mosques are the fountainheads of the Divine Religion that is based on the absolute Oneness of God and was primarily preached and represented by the greatest Messengers of God, namely Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them all be peace. The word “farthest” also signifies greatness in degree. This sūrah was revealed in Makkah at a time when the Prophet’s Mosque in Madīnah had not yet been built and the Ka‘bah was full of idols; therefore, the Muslims turned to that Masjid in Jerusalem for their prayers.
3. The pronoun in the expression, Surely He is the One Who hears and sees, which alludes to the furthest point of the Ascension indicated by the relevant verses from Sūrah an-Najm (53), refers either to Almighty God or to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings.
If it refers to the Prophet (without capitalizing the inital letters in the words, “One” and “Who” – Surely he is the one who hears and sees), according to the rules of eloquence and the relationship between the pronoun and its antecedent, the meaning is this: ‘This journey, which is apparently particular, is in reality so comprehensive and signifies such a universal ascent that the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, heard and saw during it the greatest truths and signs of God’s Divinity and Lordship in the universal degree; no other mortal had ever been able to do this nor would any mortal ever be able to attain this level. . He perceived these, by sight and by hearing, as results of the manifestations of Divine Names in universal degrees as far as the Lote-tree of the utmost boundary and the distance between the strings of two bows (put adjacent to each other), or even nearer (for the meaning of these expressions, see 53: 9, 14 and the corresponding notes 4 and 6).’ Thus, through its conclusive phrase, the verse describes that particular journey as the key to understanding a (higher) journey that is universal and full of extraordinary events.
If, on the other hand, the pronoun in the expression (capitalizing the initial letters in the words, “One” and “Who”), Surely He is the One Who hears and sees, refers to God Almighty, then the meaning is this: ‘In order to call a servant of His on a journey to His Presence and entrust him with a duty, after sending him from Masjid al-Harām to Masjid al-Aqsā, which is where the Prophets gather, and causing him to meet with them and showing that he is the absolute, indisputable heir of the principles of the religions of all the Prophets, He took that servant through both the external and inner dimensions of His dominion as far as the Lote-tree of the utmost boundary and the distance between the strings of two bows (put adjacent to each other) or even nearer.’
The Prophet Muhammad, God’s most beloved servant, upon him be peace and blessings, was certainly a servant, and that journey was a unique ascension. However, since he was given a Trust which is connected to the whole of the universe, and was accorded a light which would change the color of the universe, and he also had with him a key which would open the door to eternal happiness, Almighty God describes Himself as the One Who hears and sees all things so that His world-embracing, comprehensive, and all-encompassing wisdom in the Trust, the light, and the key might be observed and understood.
4. The transition from a mention of the Ascension to observations about the history of the Children of Israel is made here to underline the significant correspondence between their fate and the history of other communities. Since the history of the Children of Israel, from their appearance on the earth to their rise and their subsequent decline, is a complete history, constituting a complete example for all other communities, the Qur’ān frequently refers to it. Another reason why the Qur’ān frequently refers to the history of the Children of Israel is that they will continue to play important parts in the history of humankind, and that the Muslims, in particular, will have dealings with them until the end of time.
The Ascension is especially significant with respect to the mission of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. As expounded in note 1 above, the Messenger met with many previous Messengers during the Ascension, including the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, and in addition to observing the greatest signs of God concerning His Divinity and Lordship, he also proved to be His greatest sign for all the dimensions of existence. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was also shown to be heir to the missions of all previous Prophets. Among the previous communities, it is primarily upon the Children of Israel, Moses’ people, that God completed His favor; therefore, from the perspective of the mission of Messengership, Moses most closely resembled the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. This is clear in the following verses of the Old Testament and the Qur’ān, respectively:
The Lord said unto me (Moses): “What they have spoken is good. I will raise them up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which he speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy, 18: 17–19)
It is clear from this verse that what is meant by “a Prophet like you from among their brothers” is a Prophet who will come from the line of Ishmael, since Ishmael is the brother of Isaac, the forefather of the Children of Israel, upon them both be peace. The only Prophet who came after the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, and resembled him in many ways, for example, in the bringing of a new law and fighting with his enemies, is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. The Qur’ān points to the same fact: Surely We have sent to you (O people) a Messenger, a witness against you, just as We sent a Messenger to the Pharaoh (73: 15).
5. By connecting the Children of Israel to the Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, whom it mentions as a greatly thankful servant, the verse implies that Noah’s being a thankful servant has a part in the Children of Israel being given the Book as a source of guidance. Thankfulness and efforts exerted in God’s cause purely for His sake never go without return. It also warns that a community honored with God’s Book as a source of guidance in life, which will also secure the afterlife, requires thankfulness; primarily, this means that it is God Who grants all the blessings one has in life; and, therefore, one must believe in Him without associating any partners with Him, as well as worshipping Him alone. Thankfulness in no way benefits God, nor does ingratitude cause Him any loss. But thankfulness is indispensably important for a person and community to realize true humanity. As long as people thank God, He increases His favors on them. By contrast, if they become ungrateful, then God punishes them. This punishment is the natural consequence of ingratitude, as it means corruption in both individual and collective life.
6. The warnings mentioned with their reasons occur in several places in the Bible (Leviticus, 26: 14–39; Deuteronomy, 28: 15–68; Psalms, 106: 34–38, 40–41; Isaiah, 1: 4-5, 21-24; 2: 6, 8; 8: 7; 30: 9–10, 12–13; Jeremiah, 2: 5, 7, 20; 3: 6, 8–9; Ezekiel, 22: 3, 6-12, 14-16; Matthew, 23: 37; 24: 2; Luke, 23: 28–30).
For example, Isaiah 1: 4–5 writes about corruption and its consequences:
Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.
Jeremiah 5: 1, 7–9 reads:
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, see now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks truth, and I will I pardon her…. “How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me, and sworn by those that are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. They were like well-fed lusty stallions; everyone neighed after his neighbor’s wife. Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the Lord. “And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?”
Jeremiah 5: 15–17 and 7: 33–34 tell about the people God would send against Israel, and the extent of the destruction:
“Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel,” says the Lord. “It is a mighty nation; it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. Their quiver is like an open tomb; they are all mighty men. And they shall eat up your harvest and your bread, which your sons and daughters should eat. They shall eat up your flocks and your herds; they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees; they shall destroy your fortified cities, in which you trust, with the sword.
The corpses of these people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beast of the earth. And no one will frighten them away. Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate.
During the time of the Prophet Samuel, upon him be peace, around 1020 bc, the Children of Israel were able to establish a unified state, under King Saul (Tālūt) (The Qur’ān, 2: 247–51); and during the time of the Prophets David and Solomon, upon them be peace, they reached the zenith of their power and magnificence. This lasted nearly one century, but after Solomon, upon him be God’s peace, dissension and feuding broke out with the result that the state divided into two kingdoms: one, Israel, with Samaria as its capital, comprising the northern part of Palestine and Transjordan; and the other, Judah, comprising the southern part of Palestine and Edom, with Jerusalem as its capital.
Polytheistic beliefs and moral corruption affected the kingdom of Israel more than Judah, and, despite the warnings of the Prophets and their great efforts at reformation, the people did not mend their ways. Eventually, the Assyrians launched a series of attacks, and the ruthless Assyrian king Sargon put an end to the kingdom of Israel in 721 bc.
The kingdom of Judah was able to survive as an Assyrian tributary. However, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, carried out a devastating attack on the kingdom in 586 bc and razed all the towns of the kingdom, sending the Jews into exile. Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon were totally destroyed.
Some people in Judah continued to adhere to righteousness and did not cease to call others to it. Eventually, out of compassion and mercy, God came to their rescue and the Babylonian Empire collapsed. In 539 bc, the Persian Emperor Cyrus conquered Babylonia, and the following year, he allowed the Children of Israel to return and settle once again in their homeland. This resulted in the reconstruction of the Temple of Solomon after great effort and the re-compilation and publication of the five books of the Old Testament by Ezra. While these occurred in the south and Jerusalem was restored, becoming once again the focal point of Judaic religion and culture, the Children of Israel of northern Palestine and Samaria did not benefit from Ezra’s reform efforts. As a whole, the Children of Israel were not able to recover the magnificence of the reigns of David and Solomon, upon them be peace. They suffered serious setbacks through a succession of events, and endured numerous invasions by Alexander the Great during the rise of the Greeks. But, deeply imbibed with the religious spirit inspired by Ezra, they were not daunted by the oppressive measures of these conquerors. Instead, their suffering led to the rise of the great resistance movement known as the Maccabean Revolt. They were able to set up their own independent, religious state, which lasted until 67 bc. The frontiers of the state gradually expanded, so that over the course of time, it came to embrace the entire territory that had once been under the control of the two Israelite kingdoms of Judah and Israel.
Eventually, however, the moral and religious fervor that marked the Maccabean Revolt declined and was replaced by worldliness and a mechanical, superficial adherence to a mere show of religious rites. Serious divisions appeared among the Children of Israel, and some of them invited the Roman general, Pompey, to attack Palestine. Pompey returned to Palestine in 63 bc and put an end to the independence of the Children of Israel.
The Jewish religious leadership betrayed the Prophets Zechariah, John, and Jesus, upon them all be peace, who appeared at around the same time and tried to reform them. The Prophet John, upon him be peace, was actually decapitated, and his head was placed at the feet of the dancing maiden at whose behest this heinous crime had been committed. Some Jews fiercely opposed the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, and pressed the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to have him put to death. However, God saved him.
Not long after, a fierce conflict ensued between the Children of Israel and the Romans, culminating in an open rebellion by the Jews against the Romans, in 64 ad. When the Roman governor failed to crush the rebellion, a large-scale military operation was carried out by the Roman Empire. The rebellion was suppressed, and in 70 ad, Titus forcibly seized Jerusalem. A massacre followed in which 133,000 people lost their lives, and a further 67,000 were made captive and enslaved. Additionally, thousands were conscripted to work in the mines in Egypt, and thousands of others were dispatched to amphitheaters and coliseums in different parts of the Roman Empire, to face either gladiators or wild beasts, who tore their bodies to pieces. All the beautiful girls were offered up to the lust of the conquerors. Jerusalem, along with the Temple of Solomon, was razed to the ground. All this put an end to Jewish power in Palestine for about 1,800 years (Summarized from al-Mawdūdī, 5: 9–26).
7. If the second punishment mentioned in the above verse is yet to come, and the first punishment refers to what the Assyrians and Babylonians and the Romans did, then this verse is in the continuation of the previous one and addresses all the Jews from 70 ad. If the second punishment is what Titus did in Palestine, then this verse addresses the Jews at the time of the Messenger and those to come. Islam, as the latest and most perfected form of God’s Religion and which Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, conveyed, was God’s great mercy for them; and as mentioned in 2: 89, they had been asking for a victory in Madīnah over the tribes of Khazraj and Aws, who were then unbelievers, saying: “The Last Prophet will come and we will defeat and destroy you under his leadership.” However, when there came to them the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, whom they knew as they knew their own sons (2: 146), they disbelieved in him,” except a few. Despite this and their continuing refusal to believe in Islam, Jews have lived their happiest years under Muslim governments, including, in particular, the Ottoman State. Finally, as God decreed, concerning the Jews, though ignominy has been their portion wherever they have been found, except for (when they hold onto) a rope from God or a rope from other peoples (3: 112), by being much more obedient to the commandments of their religion even if many were abrogated when Islam came, than the Muslims are to Islam, and more respectful to their religious heritage, and moreover, by being backed by many governments throughout the world, they have been able to acquire power and influence in many parts of the world, and established Israel in Palestine in 1948.
8. Unless God informs them, human beings cannot know what is ultimately to their advantage and what is to their disadvantage. The Qur’ān declares: It may well be that you dislike a thing but it is good for you, and it may well be that you like a thing but it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know (2: 216). For this reason, people usually desire and call down on themselves (by their words and actions) what is evil for them, thinking that it is for their own good. They even pray to God for evil, knowingly or unknowingly, under the spell of their carnal souls and worldly ambitions. They also desire what they think of as an advance payment, and dislike what they think of as a payment on credit. This is why they usually prefer a worldly advantage over eternal reward in the Hereafter, which is one of the primary reasons for their errors, including unbelief. The Qur’ān also draws attention to this important point in several verses: They choose the present, worldly life in preference to the Hereafter (14: 3); that is because they have chosen the present, worldly life in preference to the Hereafter (14: 3). This is mostly because people are disposed to haste. Humans are, by nature, hasty. Like other apparently negative attributes, such as greed, envy, and obstinacy, this attribute is ingrained in people so that they may channel it into virtues. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declares that undeliberate haste comes from Satan. However, he also advises that we should not postpone doing good, and we should show celerity in good things, such as doing the Prescribed Prayers on time and helping the needy.
9. According to Ibn ‘Abbās, the sign of the night refers to the moon, and the sign of the day, to the sun. Therefore, from the words, We have obscured the sign of the night, we might infer that the moon once emitted light as the sun does and God took its light from it, causing it to darken, or obscuring it. Or, we could infer that the solar system was a single mass, later dividing into the sun and its satellites. While the verse thus recounts the past of the moon, it also points to the future destiny of all heavenly bodies.
10. Everything exists in Divine Knowledge and is recorded. The Qur’ān calls this record “the Supreme Preserved Tablet” (85: 22; 13: 39, note 13). It explicitly states that nothing befalls us save that which God has decreed for us (9: 51); and no living creature moves on the earth, no bird flies on its two wings, but they are communities like us; and God has neglected nothing in the Book (the Qur’ān, the Supreme Preserved Tablet) (6: 38). Each thing is given a particular nature and identity, which constitutes its destined and determined existence. Then, the Divine Power gives each nature and identity external or witnessed existence, along with the dimensions or “tapes” of time and space, and branches into the worlds of the seen and unseen, as the Tree of Creation.
The Supreme Preserved Tablet is a title for Divine Knowledge as related to creation. We can also call it the Original, Manifest Record. In the “process” of creation, this Record is duplicated. Its first, most comprehensive copy or duplication, which comprises the whole of creation, is called the “Tablet of Effacement and Confirmation” in the Qur’ān. While the Manifest Record relates to the origins of creatures and the principles and laws of creation, the Manifest Book, or the Tablet of Effacement and Confirmation, is the reality of time. Divine Power transfers things from the Manifest Record onto the Tablet of Effacement and Confirmation. In other words, Divine Power arranges things on the page of time, or attaches them, in turn, to the string of time. Nothing changes on the Supreme Preserved Tablet; everything is fixed there. But in the “process” of creation, God effaces whatever He wills, and confirms and establishes whatever He wills (13: 39).
The second kind of duplication can be thought of as follows:
After birth, everyone is registered in their nation’s registry of births. Then, according to the information in this state register, everyone is given an identity document. Similarly, everyone is registered on the Supreme Preserved Tablet with all their personal characteristics, special features, and future life-history, down to the smallest details. This original register of everyone is copied out by angels, and the part of it which relates to our life as a conscious, intelligent being is fastened around our neck as an invisible book, as mentioned in the verse. During our whole life, we enact whatever is in that book. However, this in no way means that Destiny or the pre-determination of a person’s life-history compels them to behave in a certain way. It is better to think of it in the following way: you send someone to a place to do a job. You have previously procured whatever she or he will need during that journey and given her or him the necessary instructions to do the job. Since you know in advance how this person will behave at every step of the journey, you have recorded all the details of that future journey in a notebook and placed it in a secret pocket in the jacket of that person. She or he starts out unaware of the notebook and behaves however she or he wishes during the whole of their journey. Now, along with this person, you have dispatched two of your most reliable people to follow the first person wherever she or he goes, to observe all of that person’s acts, and to secretly record on video-tape whatever the person does or says, and however she or he acts. On that person’s return, you compare the video-tape recordings with the contents of the notebook hidden in the secret pocket and see that there is not the slightest difference between them. Afterwards, you call this person to account for the job performed, whether or not it was in accordance with your instructions, and either reward them, punish them, or forgive them.
As in the example above, God, Who knows everything in advance and is beyond all time and space, pre-records in registers the life-histories of all people to come to the world. The angels copy out the registers and fasten each person’s record or register around their neck; this is what we call destiny or fate. God’s fore-knowledge and recording of whatever a person will do throughout his or her whole life in no way compel that person to do these actions. Rather each person acts of his or her own free will, doing with that free will whatever he or she does. All of a person’s life is recorded by two angels, whom we call the Kirāmun Kātibūn (Noble Scribes). On Judgment Day, the angels’ recordings of a person’s life will be presented to that person, and he or she will be told to read that book.
These two verses have another meaning. Everyone’s life in this and the other world, their fate, and whatever they will encounter in both worlds, are dependent on a person’s own choice and actions. The original word translated as “fate” in verse 13 is tā’ir, meaning bird. The pre-Islamic Arabs would foretell the future from the manner and direction in which birds flew. The Qur’ān rejects such a superstition and concepts of good or bad omens, explicitly declaring that everyone’s future is dependent on their own acts, which they perform out of free choice.
11. Why does God not endow His servants equally? Why does He create some of them blind, disabled, or afflicted in other ways, and make some of His servants excel others in worldly things?
To begin with, God is Sovereign; He is the Lord of both the earthly and spiritual dominions of existence. He wills and creates whatever is in them, and does so however He pleases: Blessed and Supreme is He in Whose Hand is the Sovereignty; and He has full power over everything (67: 1). No one has any part in His Sovereignty, nor can anyone intervene in what He creates except as He wills and to the extent that He wills.
It is God Who has created every thing and every being and Who provides for them. It is God Who bestows our human nature upon us. We have given nothing to God, but He has given us everything without our having deserved it. What claim or right do we have, therefore, over anything? We have no right to impute injustice to Him because injustice comes from not giving what is due. Nor can we question Him. We can ask such questions only to learn His wisdom in creating and providing for His servants in a manner which appears unequal. He is absolutely free of injustice, since He is the Giver of everything that we have or use.
Secondly, we cannot know which conditions are for our own good, and everyone is responsible in proportion to their own capabilities. It is not possible for us to decide whether being wealthy or poor, or sound or disabled, is something that is good for us. The true criterion to decide on whether something is good or evil is the afterlife or what we will find in the Hereafter. God may deprive an individual of something which he or she values, but grant that individual a manifold return for that loss in the Hereafter. By means of that loss, God makes us feel our need, our powerlessness, and our poverty in relation to Him. In this way, He makes us turn to Him with a weightier sincerity, a fuller heart, and so makes us worthier of His Blessing and Favor. Thus, our apparent loss is, in reality, a gain.
Thirdly, there are innumerable degrees in worldly things. If we observe and investigate all that is around us, we will certainly realize that there are many things or people different from us, inferior or worse in our judgment, with which we would not change places – just as there may be others with which we might, out of misguided thinking or envy of some kind, wish to change places. So everyone should accept their place with sincerity. Also, just as there are differences that arise with creation, they are also differences caused by human beings themselves. The differences that arise with creation are causes of the different professions one can follow in life; these are indispensable to the social life of humanity. Moreover, no one person excels all others in all respects, and everyone excels and is excelled by others in one or more respects.
Fourthly, material possessions should not be seen as necessarily good or bad in and of themselves. God sometimes bestows material security and happiness upon those who petition Him for such things, but sometimes He does not. The truth is that there is good in His bestowing what He bestows, be it wealth or poverty. For the faithful individual who does good deeds and is charitable with what has been given to them, wealth is a means of good. If, however, the individual is of weak faith and has strayed from the path of right action and charity, wealth becomes a means of evil. Similarly, for an individual who has deserted the path of right action, poverty may be a means of unbelief, determining that each day that person inwardly or outwardly rebels against God. Whoever does not submit heart, mind, and soul completely to God—whoever does not try sincerely to act upon the teachings of Islam—will find that whatever level of wealth he or she owns will become a means of distress, a severe and demanding test: Know that your possessions and your children are but a trial and temptation, and God is He with Whom there is a tremendous reward (8: 28).
It is not poverty or richness itself which is good; rather, it is the state of mind which has disciplined (and triumphed over) the carnal soul (nafs) and set its sights upon the eternal life. The surest way for a person to please God, therefore, is to understand that whatever God gives is given in order to perfect that person in the best way. Whatever a person’s circumstances, he or she should strive to fulfill his or her duties toward the Creator and the created. The best attitude to adopt toward all the circumstances of this world, which is only a stopping-place on the way to our everlasting destination, is well-expressed in this brief poem:
I accept, my Lord, whatever comes to me from You,
For whatever comes to me from You is to my good;
Whether a robe of honor comes or a shroud,
Whether a sharp thorn or a sweet, fresh rose,
If it comes with Your blessing, it comes to my good.
(Questions and Answers, 158–160)
12. Parental affection for children is one of the sublime realities of worldly life and, in turn, filial gratitude to parents is a most urgent and strenuous duty. Parents sacrifice their lives lovingly for their children, and if this is so, what falls to a child who has not lost his or her humanity and become transformed into a monster of ingratitude, is to show sincere respect for them, to serve them willingly, and to try to gain their approval. And with regard to filial respect and service, uncles and aunts are like parents.
We should be aware of how disgraceful and how unscrupulous it is to be tired of the existence of old parents and to desire and wait for their death. We should know this and understand what an injustice it is for us to desire the end of the lives of ones who have sacrificed their lives for us.
Know, O friend, who complains about the scant of your livelihood, that your disabled relative whom you regard as unbearable in your house is, in fact, the means of blessing and abundance. Never complain that you can scarcely make a living (that your means of subsistence are strained); for were it not for the blessing and abundance bestowed on you through them, you would have to face even more difficulties in making your living. This is an undeniable reality.
Indeed, as is witnessed by the whole of the existence, when the Generous, Majestic Creator, Who is infinitely merciful, compassionate, gracious, and munificent, sends children to the world, He sends them along with their sustenance, which He provides in abundance through the breasts of the mothers. In the same way, He sends in the form of blessing and unseen, immaterial abundance, the sustenance of the old, who are like children and even more worthy and needy of compassion than children. He does not load their sustenance onto mean, greedy people.
The truth expressed in the verses, Surely God – it is He Who is the All-Providing, Lord of all might, and the All-Forceful (51: 58); and How many a living creature there is that does not carry its own provision (in store), but God provides for them, and indeed for you (29: 60), is openly proclaimed by living creatures of all kinds through the language of their dispositions. So, not only the sustenance of old relatives, but also that of pets, like cats, which have been created as friends to human beings and usually live on food from human beings, is, again, sent in the form of a blessing.
A human being is the most esteemed, noble, and worthy of respect among all creatures; among human beings, the believers are the most perfect. Among the believers, helpless old people are those who are the most worthy and needy of respect and compassion. Among the old, close relatives deserve affection, love, and service more than others; and among relatives, one’s parents are the most truthful confidants and the most intimate companions. Parents are an invaluable a means of blessing and mercy in a house; and, additionally, as stated in the hadīth, But for the old bent double (because of old age), calamities would be pouring down upon you (al-‘Ajlūnī, 2: 163). They are also an important means for the removal of calamities.
This being so, be careful! If our parents have been assigned a long life, certainly, we too, will grow old; and if we do not show due regard for our parents, then, according to the rule that one is rewarded or punished in accordance with one’s action, our children will not respect us either. Furthermore, if we consider our afterlife seriously, it is a precious provision for that life to gain the approval of our parents by serving them in this life. If we love the worldly life, again we should please them so that we, too, may lead a pleasant life. If, by contrast, we regard them as unbearable, if we break their easily-offended hearts, and if we desire their death, we will be the object of the Qur’ānic threat, Such incur loss of both this world and the Hereafter (22: 11). So, whoever wishes for the mercy of the All-Merciful must show mercy to those in his house who have been entrusted to him by God (The Letters, “The 21st Letter,” 2: 53–56).
13. Like everything else, provision for each person has also been (pre-)determined by God, and no one can obtain more than the provision that has been determined forhim, nor can anybody die without having consumed his provision. Every living being’s basic provision – the least amount of provision sufficient for its survival – is guaranteed by God, provided that being depends on Him in all respects. The procurement of any extra provision that will be needed because of certain conditions, like habits, depends on personal effort.
God does not forbid working or exerting effort, nor does He want His servants to be content with their basic provision. Rather He encourages the making of an effort, declaring, A human has only that for which he labors (53: 39), and wills that His servants should earn in lawful ways to spend in God’s cause, for the cause of Islam and for the good of people. He has created humankind as vicegerents to improve the earth, to share and distribute its provision justly, and to thank Him. One who earns lawfully, who is thankful, and who helps others is much better in the sight of God than one who is content with the basic provisions. Although asceticism is commended in order to keep one’s lusts under control and to help advance toward spiritual perfection, lawful earning, spending for the livelihood of oneself and one’s family and in God’s cause, and being thankful, without indulging in luxuries, without going into extremes of consumption, and stimulating one’s lusts, are better and more commendable than asceticism. What God forbids is greed, earning in unlawful ways, pursuing one’s own interests only, hoarding wealth, miserliness, and not helping the needy. He also forbids taking the worldly life as the goal for working and earning.
Concerning greed, Said Nursi writes as follows:
Greed demonstrates its evil consequences throughout the world of animate beings, both at the level of species and at that of particular individuals. On the other hand, seeking one’s lawful provision while putting one’s trust in God is, by contrast, a means to achieving tranquility, and it demonstrates its good effects everywhere. For example, in the animal and human kingdoms only the young, who “demonstrate their trust in God through their weakness and helplessness,” receive in full measure their rightful and delicious provision from the treasury of the Divine Compassion, Which sets the parents and some other elders at their service; while adult animals that leap greedily at their provision are able to obtain coarse food only at the cost of great effort. It is most pertinent to reflect on the fact that the more powerful wild animals get their food with greater difficulty and at greater intervals than others.
Greed is a source of humiliation and loss. There are so many instances of a greedy person being exposed to loss that the idea that “The greedy are subjected to disappointment and loss,” can be found in many proverbs and is a universally accepted truth. That being the case, if we love wealth, we should seek it not with impatience, but with contentment, so that we may earn it abundantly. (The Letters, “the 22nd Letter,” 2: 70-71).
Islam exhorts mutual assistance and solidarity, and orders Muslims to give a certain amount of their wealth to the needy, which is called Zakāh. What follows is a significant excerpt from what Said Nursi writes about the Zakāh:
All immorality and disturbances in human social life proceed mainly from two sources, from these two attitudes:
The first: Once my stomach is full, what do I care if others die of hunger?
The second: You work and I will eat.
The behavior that perpetuates these two attitudes is the prevalence of usury or interest on the one hand, and the abandonment of the Zakāh on the other. The sole remedy for these two awful diseases can only be provided through implementing the Zakāh as a universal principle and duty, and banning interest. Zakāh is an essential pillar, not only for individuals and particular communities, but for all of humankind, if we are to live a happy life. Humankind is usually divided into two classes: the elite and the commonalty. Only the obligation of the Zakāh can arouse compassion and generosity in the elite towards the commonalty, and respect among the commonalty towards the elite. In the absence of the Zakāh, what will come to the commonalty from the elite is oppression and cruelty, and what will rise from the commonalty towards the elite is rancor and rebellion. That will give rise to a constant struggle and a constant opposition between the two classes, resulting finally in the confrontation of labor and capital, such as happened in Russia at the beginning of the century (The Letters, “the 22nd Letter,” 2: 74).
14. It is clear that Islam forbids the killing of children, whether after their birth or before it (abortion), for economic or other reasons. Birth control today is encouraged apparently for economic reasons, especially in poorer countries, but, in truth, this is done to prevent an increase in population in those countries. The growth of population can never be an obstacle to economic development, nor does it cause poverty. On the contrary, population means a work force for a nation. Many of the rich countries of the world, such as Germany, England, France, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Japan, have a high density of population. What people should do, as al-Mawdūdī says (5: 39, note 31), is not to waste their energy on the destructive task of reducing the number of mouths that have to be fed; instead, they should devote their energy to constructive tasks which will lead to an increase in the production of wealth.
15. The word translated as unlawful sexual intercourse is zinā, a word which signifies all sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not husband and wife, and therefore denotes both “adultery” and “fornication” in English. The Qur’ān not only forbids any unlawful sexual intercourse, but also orders that all ways to it be blocked by saying, do not draw near. So, just as a Muslim community or state is obliged to take all measures to prevent unlawful sexual intercourse in society, so, too, are individuals required to hold back from everything that may lead to it. Through the rules it has introduced and the spiritual and moral training it offers, Islam seeks to close the door to unlawful sexual intercourse, as well as other evils.
16. For Islam’s view of life, the unjust taking thereof, and retaliation, see sūrah 2: 178, note 131; sūrah 2: 179, 194, note 140; sūrah 5: 31, 32, 45, note 10.
As well as murder or other unjust killing, Islam also forbids suicide. A person is not his own master and has no right to treat himself however he wishes. Our bodies, souls, and lives belong to God and are sacred. Some people try to justify euthanasia. However, we should consider the fact that we are in the world to improve it according to God’s laws and prepare for the other world, making it fertile ground for the other world; whatever misfortune a believer suffers, it causes one or some of his sins to be forgiven. The pain a believer suffers at death is also a means of forgiveness. God has endowed every person with the power to endure to a certain extent, and when his pain comes to an unbearable point, he either faints or ceases to feel. Therefore, Muslim jurists should approach the matter of euthanasia with great care in the light of Islam.
There are many ways in which one can exceed legitimate bounds in retaliatory killing. For example, killing someone other than the actual killer, taking the life of another person in addition to the killer, subjecting the killer to torture, mutilating the corpse, and harming relatives, are some examples of exceeding the bounds.
A legal authority can execute retaliation in the same way as with all other penalties. People cannot attempt to restore their rights by themselves without first applying to the court.
17. Islam decrees that people should be guided by knowledge rather than by conjecture and baseless assertions. The sources or means of knowledge are three: true reports (Divine Revelation and the authentic reports from the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the reports given by truthful persons), reason, and our five (sound) senses. A believer must accept the true report but can study its meaning and draw certain conclusions from it, if she or he has the authority to do so. The data perceived by reason and the five senses may be either true or false, or may require further investigation.
Rejecting the Divine Revelation and the authentic reports that come from the Prophets means restricting the scope of knowledge and knowledge itself to what is obtained through reason, the five senses, and experiences which relate to the visible, sensed world. But there are so many dimensions of existence, and almost innumerable things and beings outside the visible world, that restricting knowledge to this world in the name of scientific knowledge causes knowledge (or science) to either admit its ignorance of the other dimensions of existence or to remain agnostic. Also, science cannot deny these dimensions, simply because denial is a conclusion which should be based on investigation; therefore, science must be able to prove the non-existence of the dimensions it denies. This is why, like atheism, rejecting the existence of beings that we cannot see such as Satan, angels, and the jinn, can in no way be a scientific attitude. It can merely be a baseless assertion or allegation, or even dogmatism.
Science can neither excuse itself by attributing the acceptance of such beings to belief. Islam states that belief should be based on, or at least corroborated by, knowledge and that it is in no way incompatible with knowledge. Therefore, accepting the existence of God and beings such as angels and jinn is not dogmatism, but rather a scientific attitude. There are scientific criteria that support the acceptance of their existence. First of all, even if our five senses cannot perceive these truths, God has actually given humankind other senses with which to be able to perceive them. More than 100,000 Prophets, who were able to use those senses, who never lied during their lives, and who were followed by innumerable people, as well as millions of saints, have informed us of their existence; in addition to these, millions of other people have had similar experiences. Secondly, denial of the Divine Revelation as a source of knowledge means accusing all the Prophets and saints, whose truthfulness has been witnessed and accepted, of being the meanest liars in human history, and designating their billions of followers as fools who blindly follow liars. Moreover, to cite just one example of truthfulness out of countless ones, both in the Qur’ān and the sayings of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, there are many predictions, most of which have proven true. The remaining ones are waiting for their due time to be proven true. There are indeed so many scientific facts which have been discovered or are being discovered in parallel with developments in science that these alone are sufficient to establish the truth of the Divine Revelation.
18. Islam aims to develop human beings from being potentially human to being truly human, thus perfecting them. It develops the human character in the best way. The parts of the Wisdom which the Qur’ān enumerates in verses 22–39, beginning and ending with the absolute prohibition of associating partners with God in any way in His Divinity and Lordship, are important in developing that character and raising members of a Muslim society. We can summarize them as follows:
- Do not set up another deity besides God.
- Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him alone.
- Treat parents with the best of kindness.
- Give their due to your relatives, as well as to the destitute and the wayfarer; and do not squander (your wealth) senselessly.
- Do not keep your hand bound to your neck (in niggardliness) nor stretch it without any restraint.
- Do not kill your children for fear of poverty.
- Do not draw near to any unlawful sexual intercourse.
- Do not kill any soul, which God has made forbidden, except in just cause.
- Do not draw near to the property of an orphan, except in the best way (such as to improve and increase it) until they come of age; and fulfill your commitments.
- Give full measure when you measure, and weigh with a true, accurate balance.
- Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge, (refraining from groundless assertions and conjectures).
- Do not strut about the earth in haughty self-conceit.
- Do not set up with God another deity or you will be cast into Hell, blamed and disowned.
Before proceeding to promulgate the laws that regulate the life of Muslim society, the Qur’ān aims to instruct the members of that society in such a way that the laws can be applied without resorting to force. Moreover, the Qur’ān raises the members of a Muslim society so perfectly that, at the time of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, before such laws existed, the believers requested him to pray to God Almighty for such laws to be promulgated. For example, before the Qur’ān ordered Muslim women to cover themselves, there had been applications to the Messenger requesting that women should cover themselves; the people at this time were convinced of the necessity of such a law. As another example, some also applied to the Messenger for the prohibition of alcohol before it was banned.
We should also point out here that all the injunctions above, which were revealed during the Makkan period of the Messenger’s mission, end, with the exception of associating partners with God, by mentioning either the wisdom or reasoning in their revelation, or with the words of encouragement or discouragement. When the same injunctions were revealed in Madīnah, where the Muslims were organized as a society, they usually ended in either promises or threats in return for following or disobeying them, respectively, or the legal penalties that were to be given for committing the prohibitions.
For the meanings of wisdom in its special sense, see 2, notes 108 and 159.
19. It is the clearest fact that this universe, so harmonious, coherent, and balanced, and which obviously requires absolute, all-encompassing knowledge, will, and power, must have a Creator and Controller. Therefore, atheism is no more than a dogma— even the most incomprehensible dogma of all times.
As for associating partners with God in order to divide God’s power and acts between different deities, one of its basic reasons is the absence of knowing God with His Attributes. The perfect harmony, coherence, and balance observed in the universe clearly demonstrate that there cannot be more than one deity or lord with the same attributes. Having no beginning or end, and being eternal and uncontained by time and space, are indispensable attributes of Divinity. Obviously, there cannot be two beings with these attributes existing at the same time. In addition, having a beginning and end requires coming into existence at a certain time, as well as there being someone or something that brought this being into existence; yet, God eternally exists without having come into existence.
If, despite the clear facts which we have set out here, we were to conceive of more than one deity, then either these deities should be independent of the others, or there must be one true god, the others being subordinate to him. In the former case, it is simply inconceivable that several independent, sovereign deities would always concur on all matters, so that the universe could maintain its perfect harmony, coherence, and balance. Had there been a multiplicity of deities, there would have been clashes and discordance at every step. Moreover, it is sheer absurdity for there to be several independent, sovereign deities with the same attributes of, for example, absolute knowledge, will, and power.
In the second case, while there is an independent, sovereign, all-knowing, all-willing, and all-powerful God, then it can be no more than a fantasy to conceive of subordinate gods. If there were such gods, they would desire and attempt to be lord of the universe themselves or, at least, to have a part in the creation and administration of things. The order and operation of the universe also contradicts this. It is evident that everything in the universe is interconnected to everything else, and all the forces in the universe are set to collaborate even just for a single blade of grass to come into existence and grow. In conclusion, there is nothing in the universe more manifest than the existence of the One, All-Knowing, All-Willing, All-Powerful, and All-Independent, Sovereign God, to Whom the Qur’ān introduces us.
20. The last two verses succinctly express what we have tried to explain in the note above. As Divinity must be, and is, absolutely free from how the polytheists conceive of it, and God, the Sole Deity, is infinitely exalted above having any partners or similarity to the created, the universe, with all that is in it, declares this truth. Since it is the One God Who creates, sustains, maintains, and administers the whole universe with all that is in it, all praise is due to Him, and so the whole of creation praises Him exclusively. While conscious, believing beings praise Him consciously – verbally, actively, and by heart – the bodies of all beings also praise Him through the satisfaction of their needs and contentment of their senses and faculties.
21. This verse explains the reason why God places an invisible veil between the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and those who do not believe, and lays veils over their hearts and heaviness in their ears. They did not listen to the Messenger’s recitation of the Qur’ān to learn the truth; rather, they listened to him with the hope of finding something to support their denial. Then they would come together in secret and consult among themselves as to how they could effectively refute the Prophet’s Message and prevent people from believing in him.
22. Concerning the arguments about the Resurrection, see Appendix 11.
23. No one, including even the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, can judge or decide who will go to Paradise or Hell. It is God alone Who fully knows about all human beings, as to who among them deserves happiness or punishment in the other world. All that human beings can discuss, based on the teachings of the Qur’ān, is what kind of people deserve mercy and what kind deserve punishment. No one can know or say whether a particular person will be treated with mercy or be punished.
Although God, being the All-Wise and the All-Just, has set conditions for going to Paradise and has clearly stated what kind of creed and deeds cause one to deserve Hell, no one can compel Him to do something nor claim, as the Mu‘tazilites and Shī‘ah do, that He is obliged to admit those who believe and do good deeds to Paradise, while the others will go to Hell. God is not obliged to do anything, because He has absolute freedom to do what He wills. His admitting the believers into Paradise is out of His pure mercy, for no one can deserve Paradise with his or her own deeds, while His sending the unbelievers to Hell is pure justice. In viewing the judgments and acts of God, we must take into consideration all His Names and Attributes together.
24. This verse explains a Divine principle in choosing the Prophets. God knows best all that is in the heavens and on the earth, with the characteristics and abilities of each, and He also knows best who is worthy of Prophethood. However, the Makkan polytheists tried to find excuses for their rejection of the Divine Message brought by the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. They falsely argued that the Messengership should have been given to Walīd ibn Mughīrah, in Makkah, or Abū Mas‘ūd Urwah ibn Mas‘ūd, the chief of the Thaqīf Tribe of Tāif (43: 31), although God knows best upon whom to place His Message (6: 124). They also argued that a Prophet should not need to eat or drink, nor walk in the streets – in short, that he should be an angel. The Qur’ān mentions such false objections and answers them in several verses. By mentioning David, upon him be peace, in particular in this verse, the Qur’ān is saying that even a king with a splendid kingdom, who lived in a palace, and had several wives and children, can be chosen to be Prophet of God, whom He even exalted above many Prophets in certain respects. So, Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as a human being who ate, drank, and was married—and not an angel—can be a Prophet; he can even be the one who is the greatest of all Prophets.
This verse also hints at an important point concerning the evaluation of Prophethood and the Prophets. Both in the past and in the present, some people have tended to see the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, only as a means of transmitting the Divine Revelation, without any distinction of character. However, by beginning with an affectionate address to God’s Messenger, Your Lord knows best all that is in the heavens and on the earth, the verse stresses that being a Prophet requires certain qualities and distinctions worthy of it, and that God knows best who is worthy of Prophethood and upon whom to place His Message.
By continuing, Assuredly, We have exalted some of the Prophets above others (some in an absolute sense, and others in some respects), the verse suggests that God’s Messenger is one of those exalted above others. Among the Prophets, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, upon them all be peace, are the greatest; and the Prophet Muhammad, whose mission is universal and lasting until the Resurrection Day, is the greatest of all. It is worth quoting from Said Nursi here:
The behavior and characteristics of the noble Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, have been described in books of history and biographies. However, his spiritual persona and the sacred nature of his being are so sublime and illustrious that those of his qualities explained in books of history and biography fail to describe his high stature. For, according to the rule, “The cause is like the doer,” from the time of the declaration of his Prophethood through to the present time (and, indeed, until the end of time), the rewards from the good deeds of every Muslim are added to the accounts of the Prophet’s perfections, upon him be peace and blessings. He also receives countless invocations of all the members of his community every day, as well as the mercy of God, which is infinite and which he draws in without measure. Furthermore, since he is the result and most perfect fruit of creation, and the beloved interpreter of the Creator of the universe, his true nature and the truth of his perfections cannot be contained in the human qualities recorded in books of history and biography. Certainly, the stature of a blessed being who had the Archangels Gabriel and Michael, upon them be peace, as his aides-de-camp, one on each side, at the Battle of Badr, is not to be found within the incident of a man who haggled with a Bedouin in the marketplace over the price of a horse, calling Hudhayfah to be his witness in the deal.
Thus, in order not to fall into error, we must turn our attention away from the common human qualities of the holy Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, to his true nature and illustrious spiritual persona in his rank of Messengership. Otherwise, we may risk showing him disrespect or entertain uncertainties about his persona. To understand this point, study the following analogy:
Suppose that a date-stone, planted under the ground, has sprouted and become a tall, fruitful tree, and is still continuing to grow taller and broader. Or that from a peacock egg duly incubated, a chick has hatched and grown into a beautiful peacock adorned by the Pen of Divine Power, and is still growing larger and more beautiful. Now there exist qualities, properties, and precisely balanced elements possessed by that date-stone and that egg. They are, however, not as striking and significant as those of the tree and the peacock that grew from them. While describing, therefore, the qualities of the date-stone and the egg, along with those of the tree and the peacock, it is important to appropriately distinguish the qualities of the date-stone and the egg from the palm-tree and peacock, respectively, so that anyone reading or hearing the description may find it reasonable. Otherwise, if, for example, one claims to have got thousands of dates from a date-stone (and not from the tree) or commends the egg as (already) the prince of birds, people will be led to contradiction and denial.
The human nature of God’s most noble Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, may thus be likened to that date-stone or egg, but his true nature, illuminated with the Prophetic mission, is like the Tūbā Tree or the Royal Bird of Paradise. His true nature is, moreover, continually growing more and more perfect. That is why, when one is thinking of that exalted person while he was disputing with a Bedouin in the marketplace, one should turn the eye of one’s imagination to the illustrious essential nature of the man who rode the Burāq and Rafraf during the Mi‘rāj, who left Gabriel behind and reached the Divine Presence (See Appendix 10 for the Mi‘rāj). Otherwise, one risks either showing insufficient respect to or failing to convince one’s earth-bound soul of his true nature (The Letters, “The 19th Letter,” 1: 110–111).
For the superiority of some Prophets relative to others (in some aspects or respects), see 4: 164, note 33.
25. This verse categorically rejects the claim to deification of any other being besides God, including the Prophets, angels, and saintly beings among humankind and jinn, who themselves believe in God alone and try to do His commandments, seeking a means to approach Him, striving to be nearer to Him, hoping for His mercy, and fearing His punishment. As for other beings, such as Satan, devils, the unbelieving jinn, and satanic people, to whom some have attributed Divinity, their bodies also obey God unconditionally, and they themselves will offer utter submission to God in the Hereafter and seek a means to obtain God’s forgiveness.
26. For the Book and what is written down in it, see sūrah 6: 59, note 13; sūrah 13: 39, note 12; and in this sūrah, note 10.
27. When God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, returned from the Ascension, he narrated to the Makkan people what he had witnessed during his miraculous journey. He had transcended the corporeal dimensions of existence and saw the forms that the creed, deeds, and words of people take on in the Hereafter. Although Paradise and Hell still exist as “seeds,” they wait to be expanded into their eternal forms, which will take place during the Resurrection. People’s creed, deeds, and words provide the building blocks for their places in Paradise or Hell. For example, a word of thanks or praise such as al-hamdu li-l-lāh (All praise is for God) is returned to the one who utters it as an apple in Paradise. People sometimes see in their dreams the similar forms that their creed, deeds, and words will take on in the Hereafter. So, during the Ascension, God’s Messenger saw examples of these forms and of the people who have such creeds and do those deeds. The tree accursed in the Qur’ān, that is, the tree mentioned in the Qur’ān as being absolutely excluded from God’s Mercy, is the Tree of Zaqqūm (37: 62–67; 44: 42–46; 56: 51–54). It is a bitter tree that will grow in Hell and of which the people of Hell will eat. Certainly, this is as a consequence of some deeds of the unbelievers, and constitutes one of the forms of torment in Hell. Far from providing sustenance, it gives pain and causes torment as food for the people of Hell.
The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, related to the Makkan people all that he had seen during the Ascension. Although the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, exhibited several clear and undeniable signs of his miraculous journey, the unbelievers contradicted him willfully and persisted knowingly in unbelief. Like all other miracles and truths, the Ascension, with all its aspects, proved to be a test for people. However, we should point out that the Almighty does not create miracles or test people so as to lead them astray. People stray because of their arrogance, willful obstinacy, and their insistence on their way even in the face of the most manifest truths.
28. Satan seduces people in a variety of ways. As well as, in particular, whispering into people’s hearts and with his voice, which those near to him can hear, he also seduces people with sounds like obscene music and calls for disobedience to God. In addition to his offspring, Satan has well-equipped armies, both from among the jinn and human beings, and he is a partner with people in the wealth gained through, and spent in, unlawful ways, and in children who have not been brought up properly according to God’s commands. He continually makes false, deceptive promises to people. He deceives them with long-term ambitions, worldly aims, and false expectations. (For the deception of Satan, see also 7: 17, note 2.)
29. God has created the sea both as a treasure of bounties and as a way to overseas bounties. In order to benefit from it, He has inspired people to build ships. As He employed His Messengers as both the conveyors of His Message and the vanguard of scientific and technological developments, initially He taught Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, to build a ship.
30. As the Qur’ān explicitly states (6: 38), all beings created live in communities, and God, Who does not leave the bees without a queen bee, nor the ants without a leader, does not leave humankind without a true leader. So, throughout history He sent to every community a Messenger and granted a Book to the leading ones among them, such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them all be peace. After the Messengers, He sent Prophets in their footsteps, and after the Last Messenger – Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings – He has created leading scholars and guides who have fulfilled the mission of the Prophets, except that they did not receive Revelation. This is because, unlike the previous Books, the Qur’ān has remained intact, without the least change or interpolation.
God has honored human beings with distinctive attributes and abilities, such as intellect, conscious nature, and heart (spiritual intellect). However, although the Divine Book is a leader (11: 17), every human being is not able to understand it properly or deduce from it the principles for the governance of human life in every age and all conditions. This is why God has favored some persons with perfect guidance, namely the Prophets and those loyal to God, who are truthful in whatever they do and say, and the witnessing saints, who have seen the hidden Divine truths, the existence of which they bear witness to with their lives, and the righteous in all their deeds and sayings, and those dedicated to setting everything right (4: 69). He has ordered us to pray to Him in every rak‘ah of the daily Prescribed Prayers (in Sūrat al-Fātihah, 1: 6–7) to guide us to the Straight Path, as the Path of those whom He has favored; that is, those whom He has mentioned in 4: 69. So, what a person should do – if he or she does not have the necessary ability or purity to understand the Divine Book properly, and infer from it and the Prophetic Sunnah the necessary rules to order their life according to God’s Will and lead others – is not to be blind to the truth but rather, to try to find a true leader. God has promised that He will guide those who strive for His sake to any of the paths that lead to the Straight Path (29: 69). Whoever tries to find this Path sincerely will most certainly find what he seeks.
31. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, submitted himself wholly to God and fulfilled his mission solely because God commanded him to. He never resorted to compromise in order to be successful, and never deviated from his way.
When he began preaching his Message, he had to face severe opposition, but he confronted all the opposition with a smile on his lips. He stood firm, undeterred by criticism and coercion. When the locals realized that the threats had failed to frighten him and that the severest treatment of his person and his followers had not made them move even an inch, they played another trick on him – but that, too, was destined to failure.
A deputation of the leading Quraysh, his tribe, called upon the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and tried to bribe him by offering all the worldly glory they could imagine. They said: “If you want to possess wealth, we will amass for you as much as you wish; if you aspire to win honor and power, we are prepared to swear allegiance to you as our overlord and king; if you have a fancy for beauty, you shall have the hand of the most beautiful maiden of your choice.”
They wanted him to make a compromise, even if he did not abandon his mission. The terms were extremely tempting for any ordinary mortal, but they were of no significance in the eyes of the Great Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, who replied:
I want neither wealth nor power. I have been commissioned by God as a warner to humankind. I deliver His message to you. Should you accept it, you shall have felicity and joy in this life and eternal bliss in the life to come; should you reject the Word of God, surely God will decide between you and me.
On another occasion, he said to his uncle, who, because of pressure from the leaders of Arabia, was trying to persuade him to abandon his mission: “O uncle! Should they place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, so as to make me renounce this mission, I will not do so. I will never give it up; either it will please God to make it triumph, or I will perish in the attempt” (Ibn Hishām, 2: 285).
The unbelievers of the Prophet’s time were the most refractory and bitterest unbelievers of all times, and so were the hypocrites. But the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was never inclined to make a compromise; he never even contemplated the idea, by God’s help and grace. In the words of Said Nursi:
In his preaching of the Message and in his calling people to the truth, he displayed such steadfastness, firmness, and courage that, in spite of the antagonism of great powers and religions, and those of his own people and tribe, and even of his uncle, he never showed even the slightest trace of hesitation, anxiety, or fear, and he successfully challenged the world; as a result, he made Islam superior to all other religions and systems. This proves that there is not and cannot be anyone like him in his preaching of, and calling to, the message of the truth.
He had such extraordinary strength, such wonderful certainty, such miraculous perseverance, and such elevated and world-enlightening conviction in his faith, that none of the prevailing ideas and beliefs of that time, and none of the philosophies of the sages and teachings of the spiritual leaders, although they were all opposed and even hostile to him, were ever able to cause him any doubt, hesitation, or anxiety concerning his certainty, conviction, and assurance. Moreover, all saintly people throughout time, especially his Companions, have all benefited from his faith, which they admit to be of the highest degree. (The Letters, “The 19th Letter,” 1: 267)
The verse also teaches that for people to be able to overcome all the plots of the unbelievers, they are in dire need of God’s help and support; without this, no one can ever be successful.
32. The verse alludes to and gives tidings of the Messenger’s emigration to Madīnah. For the meaning and importance of emigration (Hijrah) for those who follow a sacred cause, see sūrah 19, note 10.
As emigration has a very important place in the preaching of the Divine Message and the missions and lives of those who carry it out, any people who force their Messenger to leave his native land are either destroyed or exposed to another calamity or defeated by the Messenger and his new followers. They cannot remain long in their former state. So, verse 76 gives the tidings that those who forced the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to leave Makkah would be destroyed soon after his departure. And this happened. The leading opponents of Islam in Makkah were killed in the Battle of Badr two years after the Messenger’s emigration, and Makkah was conquered six years later.
33. This verse alludes to the five daily Prescribed Prayers and the time of each prayer. The declining of the sun means that the sun has passed its zenith and, therefore, indicates the Noon Prayer. After the Noon Prayer comes the Afternoon Prayer. Immediately after sunset and after night has fully fallen, the Evening and Late Evening Prayers are performed, respectively. The verse specifically mentions the Dawn or Morning Prayer because of its importance and draws attention to the recitation of the Qur’ān during this time. The Messenger, under Divine Revelation, used to lengthen his recitation in the Dawn Prayer. In addition, recitation at this time is more effective upon our hearts.
Although the Prayer was prescribed in the early days of Islam, it was only established as five daily Prayers at the Ascension. This sūrah, which begins with mention of this miraculous journey, contains this prescription.
Although the Qur’ān mentions some pillars of the Prayer, such as bowing and prostration, it does not specify all the pillars and other acts, nor does it describe how they must be performed. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, performed the Prayer according to how God had taught him, and he declared: “Establish the Prayer the way you see me establishing it” (al-Bukhārī, “Salāh,” 70; Muslim, “Nikāh,” 5). So, like all other forms of worship, the way of establishing the Prayer is completely dependent on the Sunnah.
34. Each occasion of the Prayer is not only the opening of a significant turning-point but also a mirror to the Divine disposal of power and to the universal Divine bounties within that disposal. We are enjoined to perform the Prescribed Prayers at these defined times so as to give more adoration and glory to the All-Powerful One of Majesty, and to give more thanks to Him for all the bounties that have been accumulated between any two occasions, which is the meaning of the Prescribed Prayers.
The consecutive divisions of day and night, and the years and phases of each individual’s life in the world are, as it were, an immense clock, the parts of which function like the wheels and cogs which calculate seconds, minutes and hours as they move. For example:
The time of Fajr (dawn or early morning), which is designated for the Morning Prayer, may be likened to the birth of spring, or the moment when sperm takes refuge in the protective womb, or to the first of the six consecutive “days” during which the earth and the sky were created; and it recalls how God disposes His Power and acts at such times and events.
The time of Zuhr (just past midday) may be likened to the completion of adolescence, or the middle of summer, or the period of humankind’s creation in the lifetime of the world. It, too, points to God’s compassionate manifestations and abundant blessings in those events and periods of time.
The time of ‘Asr (afternoon) resembles autumn, old age, and the time of the Last Prophet, known as the Age of Happiness. It calls to mind the Divine acts and the favors of the All-Compassionate in them.
The time of Maghrib (sunset) reminds us of the decline of many creatures at the end of autumn, and the death of individual persons and, at the end of time, of humankind as a whole. It thus forewarns us of the destruction of the world at the beginning of Resurrection, and also teaches us how to understand the manifestation of God’s Majesty and, in this way, wakes us from a deep sleep of neglect.
The time of ‘Ishā (nightfall), calls to mind how the world of darkness veils all the objects of the daytime with its black shroud, and winter covers the surface of the dead earth with its white robe. It brings to mind, also, how the remaining works of the dead are completely forgotten, and points out to us the inevitable, complete decline of this world, which is a place of testing. Thus, ‘Ishā proclaims the awesome acts of the All-Powerful One of Majesty.
As for night-time, if we bring to mind winter, the grave, and the Intermediate World, we are reminded how much our spirit is really in need of the Mercy of the All-Merciful One.
The Tahajjud Prayer, in the later, deeper part of the night, reminds and warns us how necessary this Prayer will be as a light in the darkness of the grave. In this way, by recalling the infinite bounties of the True Bestower that have been granted to humankind within the sequence of all these extraordinary events, it proclaims how worthy He is of praise and thanks.
The following morning is a time that points to the Resurrection, or the morning that follows the destruction of the world. Just as it is reasonable, necessary, and certain that morning follows night, and spring comes after winter, so, too, will the morning of the Resurrection follow death.
We now understand that each appointed occasion for the five daily Prayers is itself the beginning of a vital turning-point and a reminder of greater revolutions or turning-points in the life of the universe. Through the incredible daily gifts of the Power of the Eternally Besought One, the times of the Prayers call to mind the miracles of Divine Power and the gifts of Divine Mercy found in every year, every age, and every epoch. So, the Prescribed Prayers, which are an innate need and the firm foundation of worship, and an unquestionable duty of humankind, are most appropriate and fitted for these times (The Words, “The 9th Word,” 58–59).
35. This prayer, taught to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, by God, indicates that the time of the emigration to Madīnah was close at hand. According to some, God taught it when the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, approached Madīnah during the Hijrah. It was a practice and recommendation of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to say this prayer when entering and leaving a place. It also instructs us in what manner we should enter a place and leave it.
36. About the spirit, see Appendix 12.
37. This, again, is in response to the Makkan polytheists’ demands that the Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings, work miracles. God granted Moses, upon him be peace, nine miracles as clear signs of the truth of his message, but despite all these, Pharaoh and his people persisted in unbelief. Some of these miracles are mentioned in 7: 133: We sent upon them floods and (plagues of) locusts and vermin, and frogs, and (water turning into) blood: distinct signs one after another. The other three are the Staff; Moses’ white, radiant hand; and the defeat of the magicians’ magic. Moses, upon him be peace, performed other miracles, too, such as making water gush forth from a rock by striking it with his staff, and bringing a cow back to life by striking it with a bone from its leg. However, the nine miracles mentioned in the verse are those that were shown to the Pharaoh and his people, in particular. Despite these miracles, the Pharaoh and his people persisted in unbelief. So, the unbelievers were not sincere in their demand for miracles. They demanded them only in order to cause problems for the Prophets. They well knew that the Prophets were not lying when they declared their Prophethood. There were many irrefutable proofs that showed the sincerity of the Prophets; their truthfulness, trustworthiness, intelligence, and sinlessness are but a few examples. However, when the people persisted in unbelief willfully, despite the miracles which they had demanded and which had been shown to them, they usually got what they deserved.
Being the last Divine Book valid until the Day of Judgment, and as a Book that serves us at a time when humankind has inclined greatly toward reason, sciences, and the exploration of the universe, the Qur’ān frequently and insistently calls on people to think, study, and reflect on the “natural” phenomena and the history of human communities. For this reason, except for a few times, like the Ascension and the splitting of the moon, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, did not work miracles that were visible to all during the Makkan period of his mission, the time when he preached the pillars of faith. Rather, he worked most of his miracles in Madīnah only in order to meet a need; these miracles were performed when there was no other way to solve a problem, such as the miraculous abundance of food or water, or a little food or water becoming sufficient for many people, or water flowing from his fingers. The Qur’ān is his greatest, most lasting miracle, and the greatest of all the miracles performed by all the Prophets.
38. The Qur’ān is full of tidings of many future events, some of which it mentions explicitly, such as the victory of the Romans over the Sassanids (30: 2–3), and the conquest of Makkah by the believers (48: 27), and others which are implied. In verse 76 above, the Qur’ān threatens the Makkan polytheists who tried to drive the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, away from Makkah, saying: Indeed they have sought to estrange you from the land (of your birth) and drive you from it; but then, they themselves will not remain there, after you, except a little while.
It strengthened this threat by adding that God always punishes those who drive Prophets from their home by destroying them: (That has been Our) way with all those whom We sent (as Messengers) before you. You will not find any means to change Our way (77). Verse 103 substantiates the threat with an important example from history and hints that those who forced the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to leave Makkah would soon be destroyed. This took place two years after the Messenger’s emigration to Madīnah at the Battle of Badr, in which 70 of the leading Makkans were killed; and six years later, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, conquered Makkah.
39. The original of the statement, when the time (for the fulfillment) of the last decree comes, is exactly the same as that which is in verse 7 above, which expresses the second rise and decline of the Children of Israel (narrated in note 6 above). This must be referring to the last phase of the second decline, which ended in their dispersal throughout the world as the consequence of their own deeds, and their coming together again in Palestine to establish a state in 1948.
However, as the word translated as the last decree also means the Last Day, the statement threatens them with a doom decreed after their coming together for the last time, and with the inevitable end that they will be questioned in the Hereafter for all that they did in the world. So, the verse is a miraculously succinct summary of the history of the Children of Israel.
40. When those endowed with knowledge of the truth and Divine Revelation and teachings, whether from among the People of the Book or others, recite or listen to the Qur’ān, they immediately understand that it belongs to God, and cannot help but fall down on their faces in prostration before God. When they see that what God promised concerning the advent of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and many other important events, like the sending of the Last Book, which came as the Qur’ān, were all fulfilled, they once more prostrate themselves before God in increasing humility and a feeling of awe before Him.
41. Almighty God has many Names that are included in the Qur’ān and which were taught by the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. They are all the All-Beautiful Names in the sense that all of God’s Titles and Attributes used to describe Him and His acts are absolutely free of any defect, because God is absolutely perfect, and whatever He does and decrees is absolutely good and free of any flaw. Allāh (God) and ar-Rahmān (the All-Merciful One) are His proper Names, names by which any other being cannot be called. For further explanations about Names, God and the All-Merciful, see al-Fātihah, notes 2–4.
42. One should neither raise one’s voice too loud, nor keep it too low during one’s invocations. The Qur’ān orders: Remember and mention your Lord within yourself (in the depths of your heart), most humbly and in awe, not loud of voice, at morning and evening (7: 205). In one’s Prayer (the Salāh), a person should recite loud enough so that he or she is distinctly able to hear his or her own recitation. It was a practice of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, which we must follow, that during the Morning, Evening and Late Evening (Nightfall) Prayers, the Qur’ān is to be recited loud enough that those standing behind can hear, while the Noon and Afternoon Prayers should be recited in a voice that only the worshipper him/herself can hear.