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 10 (Verses 17:85–17:93): The Quran — a Unique Guidance


وَ یَسۡـَٔلُوۡنَکَ عَنِ الرُّوۡحِ ؕ قُلِ الرُّوۡحُ مِنۡ اَمۡرِ رَبِّیۡ وَ مَاۤ اُوۡتِیۡتُمۡ مِّنَ الۡعِلۡمِ اِلَّا قَلِیۡلًا ﴿۸۵﴾

17:85 And they ask you about the revelation.1 Say: The revelation is by the commandment of my Lord, and you are not given knowledge but a little.

وَ لَئِنۡ شِئۡنَا لَنَذۡہَبَنَّ بِالَّذِیۡۤ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلَیۡکَ ثُمَّ لَا تَجِدُ لَکَ بِہٖ عَلَیۡنَا وَکِیۡلًا ﴿ۙ۸۶﴾

17:86 And if We please, We could certainly take away what We have revealed to you, then you would find none to plead (your cause) against Us —

اِلَّا رَحۡمَۃً مِّنۡ رَّبِّکَ ؕ اِنَّ فَضۡلَہٗ کَانَ عَلَیۡکَ کَبِیۡرًا ﴿۸۷﴾

17:87 But it is a mercy from your Lord. Surely His bounty to you is abundant.

قُلۡ لَّئِنِ اجۡتَمَعَتِ الۡاِنۡسُ وَ الۡجِنُّ عَلٰۤی اَنۡ یَّاۡتُوۡا بِمِثۡلِ ہٰذَا الۡقُرۡاٰنِ لَا یَاۡتُوۡنَ بِمِثۡلِہٖ وَ لَوۡ کَانَ بَعۡضُہُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ ظَہِیۡرًا ﴿۸۸﴾

17:88 Say: If people and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they could not bring the like of it, though they helped one another.2

وَ لَقَدۡ صَرَّفۡنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِیۡ ہٰذَا الۡقُرۡاٰنِ مِنۡ کُلِّ مَثَلٍ ۫ فَاَبٰۤی اَکۡثَرُ النَّاسِ اِلَّا کُفُوۡرًا ﴿۸۹﴾

17:89 And certainly We have made clear for people in this Quran every kind of description,3 but most people consent only to denying.

وَ قَالُوۡا لَنۡ نُّؤۡمِنَ لَکَ حَتّٰی تَفۡجُرَ لَنَا مِنَ الۡاَرۡضِ یَنۡۢبُوۡعًا ﴿ۙ۹۰﴾

17:90 And they say: We will by no means believe in you, till you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us,4

اَوۡ تَکُوۡنَ لَکَ جَنَّۃٌ مِّنۡ نَّخِیۡلٍ وَّ عِنَبٍ فَتُفَجِّرَ الۡاَنۡہٰرَ خِلٰلَہَا تَفۡجِیۡرًا ﴿ۙ۹۱﴾

17:91 or you have a garden of palms and grapes in the midst of which you cause rivers to flow forth abundantly,

اَوۡ تُسۡقِطَ السَّمَآءَ کَمَا زَعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡنَا کِسَفًا اَوۡ تَاۡتِیَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ قَبِیۡلًا ﴿ۙ۹۲﴾

17:92 or you cause the heaven to come down upon us in pieces, as you think, or bring Allah and the angels face to face (with us),

اَوۡ یَکُوۡنَ لَکَ بَیۡتٌ مِّنۡ زُخۡرُفٍ اَوۡ تَرۡقٰی فِی السَّمَآءِ ؕ وَ لَنۡ نُّؤۡمِنَ لِرُقِیِّکَ حَتّٰی تُنَزِّلَ عَلَیۡنَا کِتٰبًا نَّقۡرَؤُہٗ ؕ قُلۡ سُبۡحَانَ رَبِّیۡ ہَلۡ کُنۡتُ اِلَّا بَشَرًا رَّسُوۡلًا ﴿٪۹۳﴾

17:93 or you have a house of gold, or you ascend into heaven. And we will not believe in your ascending till you bring down to us a book we can read. Say: Glory be to my Lord! Am I anything but a mortal messenger?5


  1. The word rūḥ means inspiration or revelation as well as spirit. Here, before this verse as well as after it, the Quran is the only topic of discussion, and therefore the context shows clearly that the question of the disbelievers is not about the soul of man, but about the Quran itself.
  2. See 2:23 and 11:13 footnote. Out of the four places in which the disbelievers are challenged to produce the like of the Quran, this is the only one where the jinn and the people are spoken of together; in 2:23 the shuhadā’, meaning helpers, leaders or their great men, take the place of the jinn, while 10:38 and 11:13 refer to calling upon “whom you can besides Allah.” This shows that the word jinn is used in the Quran for the leaders of evil.
  3. It is here affirmed that all that contributes to the moral and spiritual welfare of man is made distinct in the Quran.
  4. The signs demanded in this and the following three verses relate to the promises made for the righteous and the threats of punishment for the wicked, and they were no doubt fulfilled in due time. But the disbelievers wanted to see the spiri­tual blessings of communion with God in a physical shape. The believers were granted gardens with rivers running in them even in this life, and punish­ment from heaven overtook the opponents, but this was to come about gradually.
  5. The answer to all the demands of the disbelievers is that the Prophet was only a mortal messenger, and the prophecies regarding his own great future or the discomfiture of his enemies would be brought to fulfilment gradually, as in the case of messengers before him.