Chapter 17 (Al-Isra’)

Sūrah al-Isrāʾ (The Ascention) was revealed in Mecca and consists of 111 verses.

The chapter relates to God’s unity and His having no partner whatsoever, with the aspect of glorification outweighing that of praise. This is seen at the onset of the chapter: Glory be to Him Who made His servant… and is seen time and again later on: Glory be to Him and exalted be He in high exaltation above what they say (17:43); Say: Glory be to my Lord (17:93); And they say: Glory be to our Lord! (17:108). Even the last verse of the chapter praises God while freeing Him from having a partner, guardian or son: And say: (All) praise is due to Allah, Who has not taken a son and Who has not a partner in the kingdom, and Who has not a guardian to save Him from disgrace; and proclaim His greatness magnifying (Him) (17:111).

The chapter begins with its theme of glorifying God by alluding to the Prophet’s ascension. It mentions his nocturnal journey from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque which is Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis). This is the temple that was built by David and Solomon, and which was sanctified by God for the Israelites.

This is then linked to the rise, fall, honor and dishonor decreed by God for the Israelites. Whenever they obeyed, God raised them up, and whenever they disobeyed God put them down. He revealed the Book to them, commanded them to monotheism and prohibited them from polytheism.

He then turns the discourse to the state of this nation and the Book that has been sent to them, which is similar to the case of the Israelites; if the Muslims obey they will be rewarded, and if they disobey they will be punished. It is only a matter of one’s actions, for every individual is treated according to what he does. Thus was the divine tradition with regard to past nations.

It then refers to many truths pertaining to knowledge of the origin, the resurrection, general religious laws including commands and prohibitions, and so on.

Some cardinal verses (ghurar al-āyāt) in this chapter are: Say: Call upon Allah or call upon, the Beneficent God; whichever you call upon, He has the best names (17:110); All do We aid these as well as those out of the bounty of your Lord, and the bounty of your Lord is not confined (17:20); And there is not a town but We will destroy it… (17:58), and more.

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