This surah has three names Al-Israa relating to the night journey of the Prophet (S) from Mecca to Jerusalem, also Surah Bani Isra’eel because of the mention of the story and behavior of the children of Israel, it is also the surah of the Qur’an because in this surah we find the explanation of the purpose of the Qur’an. It is also known as the surah of the future because it discusses the future interactions of the Muslims and the people of the Book (Jews and Christians)
This surah’s main theme comes in verse 9. This surah has two main aspects, half of it deals with the interactions between Muslims and People of the Book, while the other half deals with the purpose of the Qur’an which is guiding to that which is best.
V.1 Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.
The verse begins with Subhan- Glory to the Perfect One. Subhan means to negate any imperfections, or faults, it means complete perfection in all aspects. Muslims use SubhanAllah when they experience something great, Here it is referring to the “Night Journey of the Prophet (S)” which was something great. Isra is to take a night journey in a secret way. The verse mentions ‘Abdahee, means slave, this culture has a strong negative connotation with the word slave due to the history of slavery in America. But to be a “slave” of Allah is the highest level of status for a human being. It means the person was raised up, empowered, guided and protected by Allah (SWT). This title is a beautiful thing. To be a slave to Allah, this is not like a person who is enslaved and oppressed by an unjust human being, these two kinds of slave are totally different.
The Prophet (S) was taken at night from Masjid Al Haraam, to the Masjid al Aqsa (the farthest Mosque). This Isra happened when Muslims were at their lowest point in Mecca. This was after the boycott, the loss of Khadija and Abu Talib, and after the Prophet (S) visited Ata’if. It definitely came at the right time to recharge the Prophet (S). This came at a time when both of these places were not a masjid, so this was a sign of the future that both of these places would return to being a Masjid only for the worship of Allah (SWT). This masjid Al-Aqsa was described in this ayah, and having blessings all around it, blessings mean both materialistic things and spiritual. We see materially from Palestine the best medicines and produce are produced there. Even some Jews sell the dirt from Palestine today as blessed soil.
The purpose of the Isra was to show the Prophet (S) some of Allah’s signs. The two names of Allah (SWT) at the end of the verse fit the story of Isra, All Hearing- Allah (SWT) heard what the disbelievers said and what the Prophet was praying for, and The All-Seeing fits because Allah (SWT) saw all that was going on and had the vision, of the future of the Ummah and the world. This verse calling both places Masjids Allah (SWT) is telling the Prophet (S) that both places would return to being masjids and would become under the control of Muslims. It means it is assigned for Muslims to be the guardians or protectors of these two Masjids.
V. 2-3 And We gave Moses the Scripture and made it a guidance for the Children of Israel that you not take other than Me as Disposer of affairs, O descendants of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah. Indeed, he was a grateful servant.
It is an introduction to the bad actions to come from the Children of Israel, but it begins by mentioning them at their best as a nation in the past. This is to call them to account, with the great history they have, how can they now disbelieve, or go against the Messengers. Allah (SWT) mentions for them not to take others than Allah (SWT) as a Wakeel, a Guardian, they put their reliance on other than Allah (SWT). They rely on their genealogy, their wealth, they rely on other nations. They are corrupt in their politics and manipulated and use others to further their agendas. Mentioning first the Isra and showing the Muslims will expand to Jerusalem, and mentioning the Children of Israel in the next verse foreshadows the future conflict of the two nations. Also Allah (SWT) reminds them of their greatness as a “Muslim” nation and so they should be joining the new Messenger, and they are unjustified not to or to be enemies of Muslims.
V.4 And We conveyed to the Children of Israel in the Scripture that, “You will surely cause corruption on the earth twice, and you will surely reach [a degree of] great haughtiness/Arrogance.
Allah (SWT) uses the word Qada’ Allah (SWT) has made a covenant to create all the potential and opportunity for them to cause and spread corruption through the world. This is a major part of their test, and the Bani Isra’eel were commanded not to do this and warned against doing this, but some will choose to do it. The words used LaT’aloona, has two letters of emphasis and assurance, telling that they will do it for certain and ‘Uluwan Kabeera, a great high status. We get seven confirmations that this will happen with the Children of Israel. They could never do a high level of corruption unless they have a high level of status, Allah (SWT) is saying they will elevate themselves to the highest level of status allowing them influence to cause total corruption. Allah (SWT) also mentioned it is written in the Book, and Allah (SWT) has Qada (provided the opportunity) it, not their fate. Allah (SWT) is The Just, so they were given the most potential to do good, and the most potential to do bad, then they make their choice and will be accountable. Allah (SWT) provided the favorable conditions and enablers for them to commit corruption on the land. This Uluwan Kabeera, means that they will reach a status where they would be untouchable, able to do whatever they wish without answering to anyone. They would be elevated above other human beings. They need money and power in order to be elevated in the world, they also as mentioned in verse 2 that they take others than Allah (SWT) as a Wakeel, so they will have someone serving as a guardian for them.
We see the connection of the Isra and Mir’aaj of Prophet Muhammad (S) and the Bani Isra’eel, we seen the connection between Musa (AS) and Muhammad (S) and the Qur’an and Tawrat (Torah) and the transition from the period Bani Isra’eel to the period of the Ummah of Muhammad (S)
V. 5-So when the [time of] promise comes for the first of them, We sent against you servants of Ours – those of great military might, and they probed [even] into the homes, and it was a promise fulfilled.
This verse begins with ida Jaaa- which is used for talking about something coming in the future. Many Mufasireen have thought of the “first time” referring to the Bani Israeel being conquered and thrown out by either the Babylonians or the Romans, but the Arabic is pointing to this happening at a future time, meaning after this surah at least which was revealed in the Meccan period. ‘Ibadan lana, refers to those who are in willing submission to Allah (SWT), this would be referring to Muslims, neither the Babylonians nor the Romans were voluntary servants of Allah (SWT). Also the verse says Ba’thna, meaning they suddenly appear, this description fits the Arabs who became Muslim very well, they came out of nothing and conquered the two superpowers of their time Rome and Persia. Also they are mentioned as strong fighters which describe the Sahaba. The servants penetrated (Jaasoo) into their homes, they went into every area and defeated them completely. This description fits very well to the battle of Khaiber, because this was when they were completely defeated and uprooted from their homes. The promise is almost fulfilled, which fits because Khaiber happened very shortly after the revelation of this verse maybe five or six years. This verse seems to be describing the battle of Khaiber very well. The Jews were given options after the battle, either leave, or stay and farm and give part of the profits to the landlord.
V. 6- Then We gave back to you a return victory over them. And We reinforced you with wealth and sons and made you more numerous in military power.
This verse also confirms because they were to defeat the same nation that defeated them, which fits today, how the Jews have defeated Muslims, and Jaasoo, defeated and uprooted the Palestinians. Then they also have been provided with money, population and military support and power.
V.7-[And said], “If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves.” Then when the final promise comes, [We will send your enemies] to sadden your faces and to enter the masjid in Jerusalem, as they entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with [total] destruction.
They have convinced the world that they are victims and need support from everyone, this verse talks about them being exposed, the truth will come out that they are taking advantage and misusing the support to do evil, though they could have done good with it. Yasoo’oo means that they will have their hopes dashed and they will be hurt. Many of them believe that Allah (SWT) will support them and take care of them no matter what they do because they are His “chosen people”, they will enter into the Masjid al Aqsa, using the work masjid implies that the people had a masjid there, and masjid term was not used before the ummah of Muhammad (SWT). It says they will enter it as they did the first time. The first time the Muslims entered Masjid al Aqsa, they had a Khalifah, they had the highest quality of Muslims, the people occupying the masjid completely surrendered. The next time the Muslims come in they will be like they were the first time, meaning a revived strong Ummah with Khalifah, and it says those who built it up will destroy what they built, and we know the Jews use Muslims for labor, so they will be the ones destroying. We know from the Qur’an how the Muslims will achieve victory, what we don’t know is the timing. If it refers to the Jews building up the temple of Solomon, it will be completely destroyed. If it refers to the Palestinians building something religious for the Jews, it will be destroyed. It is our opinion that the verse refers to both being destroyed, This means the conquering of Jerusalem can still be done peacefully, but the religious sites for other than Allah (SWT) will be utterly destroyed.
The word Ba’athna بعثنا fits the Muslims today as well we are at a low point currently in terms of power, economically, if you look at the Muslims today for them to come up and take back Jerusalem, we need to be brought up and we need to be rearranged (Ja’al) just like the sahabi were brought up and rearranged into a great nation. We have all the materials needed to be strong and successful, we have the Qur’an and Sunnah and Iman we need the Ummah to be rearranged (Ja’al)جعل to make us back to being the leaders of mankind and a world power. Ja’al leads to Ba’ath having things rearranged would allow us to be brought up and to return to greatness. If we look at the Muslims, Allah (SWT) did Ja’al (rearranging) from Muhammad (S) beginning his mission until about 3rd year Hijra for the Ba’ath (bringing up). The Muhajireen took 13 years due to their conditions the Ansar took only 3 years due to their conditions, so for us we get the range of 3-13 years for people to go from Ja’al to Ba’ath. To be arranged to rise up to be a world power and leaders of humanity.
V. 8-[Then Allah said], “It is expected, [if you repent], that your Lord will have mercy upon you. But if you return [to sin], We will return [to punishment]. And We have made Hell, for the disbelievers, a prison-bed.”
The verse is making it open showing Allah’s universal law. If the people repent and become righteous then Allah (SWT) will have mercy on them. The possibility is there for Jews to become righteous and return to Islam, or to return to sinning and corruption, and the same is true for the Muslims, if we repent and are good, then Allah (SWT) will return us to our higher state, but if we are sinning and corrupting then we will return to being humiliated.
V. 9-10-Indeed, this Qur’an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward. And that those who do not believe in the Hereafter – We have prepared for them a painful punishment.
Here Allah (SWT) is telling us how to take the good option mentioned in verse 8. We have to learn the Qur’an on a deep level, and act according to it, and focus on the hereafter. This is the best option to get the good part of verse 8. The Qur’an guides to Aqwaam. Aqwaam means it is excellent, just, perfectly designed to give us the best possible life, highly valuable it has the core values for humanity. V. 22-44 gives us these core values, they are not everything, but they give us the core what we need, what is essential to be successful.
V.11- And man supplicates for evil as he supplicates for good, and man is ever hasty.
Often, due to our hastiness and lack of patience and endurance, we pray for things, and in reality the thing we think we want is really evil for us. Often we want things but we are shortsighted, we make du’a on what we think is good, but we rely on and accept what Allah (SWT) provides for us. Out of His Mercy he won’t answer the du’a that is evil for us.
V. 12-And We have made the night and day two signs, and We erased the sign of the night and made the sign of the day visible that you may seek bounty from your Lord and may know the number of years and the account [of time]. And everything We have set out in detail.
He (SWT) erases the sign of the night, meaning since the majority of the universe is darkness, he erases part of the darkness with light. This is very scientifically accurate. Darkness and cold preserves, while light and heat consumes, the darkness is the default to allow for the maintenance of the universe. This tells us that the universe has a certain age, and that has been preserved from the darkness and the cold. This is why we sleep, to preserve our bodies and what we have consumed. Why did Allah (SWT) make things this way with day and night? First the day is the time of production. Also it allows us to know the number of years, and calculate time precisely. Allah (SWT) has given us the ability to make very precise calculations in the universe and the time.
V. 13-14-And [for] every person We have imposed his fate upon his neck, and We will produce for him on the Day of Resurrection a record which he will encounter spread open. [It will be said], “Read your record. Sufficient is yourself against you this Day as accountant.”
These verses relate to the verses before, just as the precision and accuracy is there in the creation of the universe, so too is it there for the human being and their lives. We have a very precise accurate recording of all that we do. This will be presented to us.
V. 15-Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We sent a messenger.
This verse reminds of the importance of guidance and it reminds us of the individual accountability we all have as human beings. It contradicts any beliefs that someone can take another’s sins for them.
V. 16-And when We determine to destroy a city, it is because We command its affluent but they defiantly disobey therein; so the word comes into effect upon it, and We destroy it with [complete] destruction.
The affluent people of a nation are empowered /ordered by Allah (SWT), once this happens they tend to become defiant, disobedient and spread corruption in morals, social life, spirituality until Fisq (disobedience to Allah) is the norm. Ordered means the message has reached the people, they have the Truth, once they are empowered they start to leave the message and spread corruption, then people support them and they increase their corruption. This leads to them being destroyed. For example ‘Ad, Thamood and Firaoun, they are empowered then get the message, they reject the message and spread corruption until they are destroyed. These are models in the Qur’an of how human beings behave. It is very likely that these models will be repeated by human beings, at our time now we may be following this model. When humans follow this model the consequences follow. These people go extreme in their tyranny and corruption until they are stopped by being destroyed.
V. 17-And how many have We destroyed from the generations after Noah. And sufficient is your Lord, concerning the sins of His servants, as Acquainted and Seeing.
Here Allah mentions that this has occurred many times throughout history. Their punishment is because of what they have done, Allah (SWT) is totally aware and has seen what they have done. His decision to destroy them is based on His Knowledge and Seeing of what the people have done.
V. 18-21-Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah ]. To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted. Look how We have favored [in provision] some of them over others. But the Hereafter is greater in degrees [of difference] and greater in distinction.
This is the rule of Allah (SWT). If the person’s only concern is for the dunya, Allah will give them according to His decision, the person will get something of the world, whatever Allah (SWT) decides to give him. Then in the hereafter the person will go straight to Hellfire, because they had no interest in the hereafter. If our focus is only on the dunya then Allah (SWT) will give us what He has determined for us. Even with all the focus and striving in the dunya, we will only get what Allah allows for us to get, but with no focus on the hereafter, then we will have nothing in the hereafter.
For the one who has three traits: desire the hereafter, puts in the effort that is expected/prescribed for it and believes. For the hereafter Allah (SWT) mentions the specific effort, the prescribed effort. For the dunya any effort will get dunya results, but for the afterlife the prescribed effort and correct belief is required. For these people they are appreciated by Allah (SWT). Not only do we get the reward we get the appreciation of Allah (SWT).
For the dunya we get instant gratification which keeps people motivated for the dunya, for the afterlife we have to have the Iman the belief in order to stay motivated to give the effort prescribed for the afterlife. The dunya is like pasturing a flock, while the afterlife is like farming. When pasturing the weeds grow on their own with no effort on my part, but for farming I have to constantly work to maintain the farm, to keep the crops growing to clean out the weeds and protect the crops from being eaten before the harvest.
- 20 mentions that the bounties on the bounties of Allah (SWT) are unrestricted in the dunya, for the believer and the disbeliever alike, we shouldn’t expect Allah (SWT) to restrict people in this dunya, as long as they do what is required they will get their portion from this dunya. This also tells us the believer has to do the work to get dunya. We shouldn’t blame Allah (SWT) for what we get in the dunya, we have equal access to the dunya. V. 21- emphasizes that even though the dunya is available for everyone, Allah (SWT) has the ultimate control, Allah (SWT) sets the limits for all people. Allah (SWT) wants us to compare the preference of this life, and how much greater is the preference in the hereafter. Judgement Day is called the day of Taghaboon, it means comparing, because we will see on Judgment Day we all had the same opportunities, same chances to get the highest level of reward in the afterlife, we will blame ourselves when we don’t reach the maximum.