Sūra al-Isrā' (Arabic: سورة الإسراء) also known as Sūra Subḥān or Banī Isrā'īl, one of the Meccan suras of the Qur'an, is the seventeenth sura located in Juz' fifteen of the Qur'an. The sura was titled al-Isra' (ascension) because it mentions the ascension of the Prophet (s) from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque. It is also called Sura Bani Isra'il as it relates parts of the story of the Israelites.
In this sura, various topics – such as monotheism, resurrection, the Prophet's ascension, evidence for his prophethood, the inimitability of the Qur'an, doing good to one's parents, the impact of one's sins on one's faith, prohibition of certain acts, and the superiority of human beings over other creatures – have been discussed.
Verse one, which mentions the Prophet's ascension; verse seventy, emphasizing human dignity; and verse eighty two, which states that the Qur'an is a cure, are among the well-known verses of this sura.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Contents
- 3 Stories and Historical Reports
- 4 Occasions of Revelation
- 5 Exegetical Points
- 6 Well-Known Verses
- 7 Jurisprudential Verses
- 8 Merits of Benefits
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
This sura is entitled "al-Isra'" (ascension) because of its first verse in which the Prophet's ascension and ascension are mentioned. According to some hadiths, this sura is also called "Bani Isra'il" (children of Israel), because the beginning and end of this sura relates parts of the story of the Israelites. The sura is also called "Subhan" as it starts with this word.
- Order and Place of Revelation
Sura al-Isra' is one of the Meccan suras and the fiftieth sura revealed to the Prophet (s) (in the year 11 after Bi'tha) after Qur'an 28 and before Qur'an 10. In the current order of Qur'anic chapters, Sura al-Isra' is the seventieth sura.
- Number of Verses and other Characteristics
Sura al-Isra' has 111 verses, 1558 words, and 6460 letters. It is one of the middle suras length-wise, which occupy seventy five percent of one juzʾ. This sura has some of the characteristics of Medinan suras, including long verses. Such characteristics are considered to indicate that it was revealed toward the end of the Meccan period, inaugurating the Medinan suras.
According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, the main theme of Sura al-Isra' is monotheism and glorification of God, and this theme is more predominant than the theme of praising God for His perfections. In several verses of this sura God is said to be without a partner or child.
The major themes of Sura al-Isra' are the following:
- The issue of resurrection, punishment and reward in the hereafter, and the record of deeds.
- A part of the history of the Israelites
- The issue of free will and facing the consequences of one's actions
- Punishment and reward in this world
- Being grateful towards one's relatives, especially one's parents
- Prohibition of extravagance, niggardliness, killing one's children, adultery, usurping the belongings of an orphan, not fulfilling one's financial obligations completely, arrogance and murder
- Discussions on monotheism and the doctrine of God
- Criticizing fanaticism and opposing the truth
- Human dignity and superiority over other creatures
- The effect of the Qur'an on curing ethical and social problems
- Inimitability of the Qur'an
- Warning against Satan's temptations
- Moral instructions
- Relating parts of the stories of prophets as lessons for all people
Contents of Sura
Criticizing the wrong ideas of the unbelievers and responding to their accusations against the Qur'an and the Prophet (s)
Introduction: the Ascension of the Prophet (s) as a sign of his truthfulness The first discourse: True happiness depends on following divine teachings 1. Revelation of Torah for the guidance of the Israelites 2. Revelation of the Quran for the guidance of all people
The second discourse: Wrong beliefs of the idolaters: 1. Considering the angels God’s children 2. Considering the Prophet (s) a magician 3. Denying the resurrection
The third discourse: the principles of refuting the beliefs of the pagans 1. Avoiding offensive language 2. Mentioning the weakness and incapability of the Pagan’s gods 3. Warning them of the punishment of those who deny divine signs 4. Reminding them that God is aware of us and all our thoughts and actions 5. Mentioning the hostility of Satan towards human beings 6. Criticizing ungratefulness towards God 7. Mentioning the consequences of following evil leaders
The fourth discourse: conspiracies and propaganda of the polytheists against the Quran and the Prophet (s) 1. Trying to change the Prophet’s method 2. Trying to banish the Prophet from Mecca 3. Denying that the Quran is a mercy for mankind 4. Asking the Prophet (s) complicated questions 5. Denying the inimitability of the Quran 6. Asking the Prophet (s) to perform various miracles 7. Denying the prophethood of the Prophet (s) because of his humanness 8. Denying resurrection 9. Objecting to gradual revelation of the Quran
Stories and Historical Reports
In Sura al-Isra', the following historical accounts have been mentioned:
- The account of the Prophet's (s) ascension from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque (verse 1)
- The report of the Israelites' corruption on earth for two times and their consequences (verses 4-7)
- the story of Thamud's camel (verse 59)
- The prostration of the angels before Adam (a) and the Satan's refusal to prostrate himself before him (verses 61-65)
- The story of Moses (a): the nine signs given to him, his conversation with Pharaoh, the drowning of Pharaoh and his soldiers, the Israelites inhabiting Egypt (verses 101-104)
Occasions of Revelation
Some verses of Sura al-Isra' are reported to have been revealed in specific occasions:
Jabir b. Abd Allah al-Ansari reported that one day the Prophet (s) was with his companions when a boy came to him and said, "My mother requests a shirt from you." The Prophet (s), who only had one shirt, went home, took off his shirt, and gave it to the boy. Because he did not have any other shirts, the Prophet (s) remained at home and did not came out when it was the time for prayer, and this made the companions worried. On this occasion, verse 29 "Do not keep your hand chained to your neck, nor open it altogether, or you will sit blameworthy and regretful." was revealed, which instructed the Prophet (s) to avoid excessive munificence.
Ibn 'Abbas has reported that the Meccans asked the Prophet (s) to turn Safa (a hill near the Sacred Mosque) into gold and to push back the mountains of Mecca so that they could have lands for agriculture. So, God revealed to the Prophet (s) that their requests can be fulfilled, but if they do not believe afterwards, they will be destroyed like their predecessors. In response, the Prophet (s) asked God to give them more time. It was on this occasion that verse fifty nine was revealed: "Nothing keeps Us from sending signs except that the ancients denied them."
Regarding the occasion of revelation of verse eighty five, "They question you concerning the Spirit. Say, ‘The Spirit is of the command of my Lord, and you have not been given of the knowledge except a few [of you].’" it is reported that the Qurashites asked the Jews to teach them questions to challenge the Prophet (s). The Jews told them to ask him about the spirit, the Companions of the Cave, and Dhu l-Qarnayn. They added, “If he responded to all or none of the questions, he is not a prophet, but if he responded to some and refused to respond to the others, he is a prophet." The Qurashites met the Prophet (s) and asked him those questions. Thus, some verses of Qur'an 18 was revealed to answer two of the questions, and verse eighty five was revealed in reaction to the question about the spirit, stating that the knowledge of the spirit is with God.
Below, the verses with special exegetical points will be mentioned.
Verse thirteen states that one's "ta'ir" (from the root t-y-r, which indicates flying) is attached to one's neck. According to Majma' al-bayan, this word here signifies one's actions, which "fly" around him like birds.
This verse commands to give the relatives their due right. The commentators disagree as to whether this verse is giving a general command about giving one's relatives their due rights, or it is giving a special command to give the Prophet's relatives their special rights. Tafsir-i Nimuna reports that according to many Shiite hadiths the ones who are meant here by "the relatives" are the Ahl al-Bayt (a); however, these hadiths do not restrict the meaning of the verse but mention its most important instances. According to Shiite and Sunni hadiths, after the revelation of this verse, the Prophet (s) granted Fatima (a) the land of Fadak.
In this verse, God commands people, "Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge." 'Allama Tabataba'i maintains that this includes both the beliefs and the actions that are not knowledge-based. Following knowledge, according to him, is rooted in human primordial nature, which is constantly in pursuit of the reality, which in turn is not obtained except through following knowledge.
According to this verse, being endowed with the hearing, eyesight, and heart brings us the responsibility to refuse to follow anything that is not based on knowledge.
According to verse seventy two of this sura, those who are "blind" in this world will be blind in the hereafter. 'Allama Tabataba'i explains that being blind means not seeing the truth or lacking insight; Qur'an 22:46 states, "Indeed it is not the eyes that turn blind, but the hearts turn blind those that are in the breasts". The verse is also interpreted to indicate that he who does not know the true Imam in this world, will not achieve eternal salvation and happiness in the hereafter.
According to al-Tabrisi, blindness in the hereafter is a consequence of refusing to see God's signs in this world. He reports Ibn Abbas as saying, "Failing to see God's blessings leads to blindness on the Day of Judgment."
According to verse 86, one's actions are rooted in one's "shakila", interpreted as meaning one's spiritual, psychological, and ethical personality, which is the root of one's actions. After mentioning this interpretation, 'Allama Tabataba'i emphasizes that a person's personality makes him only more inclined to do certain acts but never compels him to do anything.
The Ascension Verse
- Main article: Ascension Verse
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
"Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose environs We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing."
|— Qur'an 17:1|
Verse one of this sura relates the ascension of the Prophet (s) from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Farthest Mosque in Jerusalem, which was a preliminary to the Prophet's ascension. According to the Muslim belief, which is in line with the manifest meaning of the verse, this one-night journey, considering the transportation means of that time, was miraculous.
إِنَّ هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ يَهْدِي لِلَّتِي هِيَ أَقْوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا كَبِيرًا
"Indeed this Quran guides to what is most upright, and gives the good news to the faithful who do righteous deeds that there is a great reward for them."
|— Qur'an 17:9|
This verse introduces the Qur'an as guiding to the straightest and most upright path. According to Tafsir-i Nimuna, this characteristic is manifested in sound and unambiguous Islamic beliefs, the relation between the manifest and the hidden and between beliefs and actions in Islam, Islam's emphasizing both spiritual and material aspects, avoiding extremism in worship and other religious practices, establishing justice, and opposing oppression.
- Main article: The Verse of Doing Good to Parents
وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا _ وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
"Your Lord has decreed that you shall not worship anyone except Him, and [He has enjoined] kindness to parents. Should any of them or both reach old age at your side, do not say to them, ‘Fie!’ And do not chide them, but speak to them noble words._Lower the wing of humility to them, mercifully, and say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them, just as they reared me when I was [a] small [child]!’"
|— Qur'an 17:23,24|
These verses are frequently mentioned in moral and familial discussions. According to al-Mizan, this verse emphasizes doing good to parents immediately after its emphasis on monotheism, because doing good to parents is among the most important Islamic duties. Some Shiite hadiths state that the Prophet (s) and Imam Ali (a) are counted as one's parents.
- See Also: Disobedience to Parents
- Main article: Al-Mubadhdhirin Verse
إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوا إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ ۖ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا
"Indeed the wasteful are brothers of satans, and Satan is ungrateful to his Lord."
|— Qur'an 17:27|
In this verse, prodigal people are called the brothers of devils, which is interpreted as a great emphasis on the prohibition of wastefulness. According to commentators, the word "devils" in this verse refers to Satan, who showed ungratefulness towards God by misusing the power. Thus, in this verse, extravagance is regarded as a satanic deed and a kind of ungratefulness. Just as God honors believers by the brotherhood of other believers, He despises prodigal people by the brotherhood of devils.
- See Also: Tabdhir
- Main article: Humility Verse
وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا
"Do not walk exultantly on the earth. Indeed, you will neither pierce the earth, nor reach the mountains in height."
|— Qur'an 17:37|
Verse thirty seven is considered as an indication of the foolishness of people who act ostentatiously when they achieve power or wealth and then become perplexed when they lose their wealth or power. In contrast, a wise person is the one who knows his limitations and stays away from ostentatious behavior.
This part of the verse is regarded as indicating human weakness: humans cannot become as tall as mountains and cannot tear the earth open by their steps. This also shows the unrealistic thought of arrogant people, who do not see things that are better or greater than themselves.
- Main article: Dignity Verse
وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ وَحَمَلْنَاهُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَرَزَقْنَاهُم مِّنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَفَضَّلْنَاهُمْ عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقْنَا تَفْضِيلًا
"Certainly We have honoured the Children of Adam, and carried them over land and sea, and provided them with all the good things, and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created."
|— Qur'an 17:70|
Emphasizing human dignity, which is the theme of this verse, is considered an effective means for human edification, since those who value themselves do not engage in inappropriate or worthless actions. The roots of human dignity are to be found, among other things, in the fact that they were created "in the best of forms", have intellect, and seek perfection.
'Allama Tabataba'i states that God in this verse mentions His blessings upon people and at the same time rebukes them; He mentions His blessings, which people forget, to remind them that they must be grateful.
Other Well-Known Verses
The following are among other well-known verses of Sura al-Israʾ:
- Verse 80, which is a Qur'anic prayer
- Verse 81, which emphasizes that the Truth will remain and falsehood will perish
- Verse 82, known sometimes as the Cure Verse
- Verse 85, called the Spirit Verse
|31||Do not kill your children for the fear of penury:||Penal law||on the prohibition of murder|
|32||Do not approach fornication. It is indeed an indecency and an evil way.||Marriage||on the prohibition of adultery|
|33||Do not kill a soul [whose life] Allah has made inviolable, except with due cause, and whoever is killed wrongfully, We have certainly given his heir an authority...||Qisas||Prohibition of murder and legislation of retribution|
|34||Do not approach the orphan’s property except in the best manner, until he comes of age||Trade||Prohibition of spending an orphan’s possessions except in that which is good for him or her|
|34||Fulfill the covenants; indeed all covenants are accountable.||Vows||The necessity of fulfilling one’s vows|
|35||When you measure, observe fully the measure, [and] weigh with an even balance.||Trade||The Prohibition of not fulfilling one’s financial duties completely|
|78||Maintain the prayer [during the period] from the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night,||Prayer||Prayer times|
|79||And keep vigil for a part of the night, as a supererogatory [devotion] for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy station||Prayer||Instruction of night prayer|
|110||Be neither loud in your prayer, nor murmur it, but follow a middle course between these,||Prayer||Voice quality in prayer|
Merits of Benefits
Regarding the recitation of Sura al-Israʾ, Imam Ali (a) is reported to have said, "He who recites this sura and feels sympathy [for his parents] where they are mentioned, he will have tremendous riches in Paradise." Imam al-Sadiq (a) is also reported to have said, "He who recites Sura al-Israʾ on the eve of every Friday, he will not die unless he meets al-Mahdi (a) and will be among his companions."Al-Shaykh al-Tusi maintains that reciting this sura on the eve of Friday is supererogatory.
|For the full text, see text:Sura al-Isra'.|
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- Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 12, p. 197.
- Qur'an 95:4
- Mughnīya, al-Kāshif, vol. 5, p. 67-68.
- Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 13, p. 155.
- They question you concerning the Spirit. Say, ‘The Spirit is of the command of my Lord, and you have not been given of the knowledge except a few [of you].’
- Ḥuwayzī, Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn, vol. 3, p. 97.
- Ṣadūq, Thawāb al-aʿmāl, p. 107.
- Ṭūsī, Miṣbāḥ al-mutahajjid, p. 265.
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