English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 17: Bani Israil — The Israelites (Revealed at Makkah: 12 sections, 111 verses)

Section 1 (Verses 17:1–17:10): Israelites Punished Twice

Translation:

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

Part 1517:1 Glory be to Him Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque, whose precincts We blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs!1 Surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing.
17:2 And We gave Moses the Book and made it a guidance to the Children of Israel (saying): Take no guardian beside Me2
17:3 (you) the offspring of those whom We bore with Noah. Surely he was a grateful servant.
17:4 And We made known to the Children of Israel in the Book: Certainly you will make mischief in the land twice, and behave insolently with mighty arrogance.3
17:5 So when the first warning of the two came to pass, We raised against you Our servants, of mighty prowess, so they made havoc in (your) houses. And it was an accomplished threat.
17:6 Then We gave you back the turn against them, and aided you with wealth and children and made you a numerous band.4
17:7 If you do good, you do good for your own souls. And if you do evil, it is for them. So when the second warning came, (We raised another people) that they might bring you to grief and that they might enter the Mosque as they entered it the first time, and that they might destroy, whatever they conquered, with utter destruction.5
17:8 It may be that your Lord will have mercy on you. And if you return (to mischief), We will return (to punishment).6 And We have made hell a prison for the disbelievers.
17:9 Surely this Quran guides to what is most upright, and gives good news to the believers who do good that theirs is a great reward,
17:10 and that those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have prepared for them a painful punishment.

Commentary:

  1. The carrying by night of the Holy Prophet Muhammad from the Sacred Mosque at Makkah to the Remote Mosque at Jerusalem (known as Isrā’) is in reference to the Prophet’s reported Ascension (known as Mi‘rāj). Isrā’ was the first stage in Mi‘rāj, as before his Ascension to heaven, the Prophet was taken to the Remote Mosque, or the Temple at Jerusalem. The Ascension was not a trans­la­tion of the body, but the spiritual experience of the Holy Prophet, as is shown in v. 60 where it is expressly called a vision. As the significance of the Ascension was the spiritual eminence of the Holy Prophet and indicated his triumph in the world, his being carried to the Temple at Jerusalem signified that he would also inherit the blessings of the Israelite prophets.
  2. The first verse really prophesies a great future for Islam and the Muslims, while this warns them of the pitfalls of greatness, citing the instance of a nation that had been made to rise to eminence before them.
  3. Jerusalem was destroyed twice as a punishment for the transgressions of the Jews, once by the Babylonians, and again by the Romans. See Jesus’ warning in Matthew 23:38 and Luke 21:24 and various other like references. The Psalms are also replete with warnings.
  4. V. 5 relates the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem and the murder, imprisonment, and banishment of the Jews by the Babylonians in the year 588 B.C., while v. 6 relates to the return of the Jews and rebuilding of the temple under Zerubbabel, and to their subsequent prosperity.
  5. This verse describes the destruction of the Temple a second time, which was accomplished by the Romans under Titus. There is a prophetical reference here to the history of the Muslims. The Caliphate of Islam was des­troyed twice, first by the Mongols under Hulagu in 656 A.H. (1258 C.E.), and again by the powers of Europe after the First World War. But while in the case of the Israelites their spiritual centre was laid waste on both occasions, the spiritual centre of Islam, the Ka‘bah, has remained intact on both occasions under a Divine promise. Following the first great reverse in Muslim history in 1258, Islam gained spiritual conquests in the coming over to Islam en masse of the Mongols and Turks. After the second reverse, the afflictions of Islam are giving birth to a spiri­tual resuscitation of the world. On both occasions, there has been a revival of its temporal power as well.
  6. This relates to the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, when the Israelites were again given a chance to reform, but they are told that if they return to mischief they will again be punished.

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