Quran Reflections – Juz Fifteen‏

Juz Fifteen

This juz begins with Sūrah al-Isrā’ (also known as Sūrah Banī Isrā’īl). The very first āyah establishes the permanent, irrevocable  importance of Masjid al-Aqṣā for Muslims. It refers to the miraculous night journey of Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there to the high heavens for a meeting with Allāh, Most High. The  second part of this journey is known as Mi’rāj  or  Ascension. This second part is mentioned later in Sūrah an-Najm (53). The five daily prayers were ordained  during Mi’rāj and are referred to in āyah 78 in this sūrah.

This event took place toward the end of the Makkan period and signified the beginning of a new era where Islam would be established as a state. Thus important commandments for collective life were given in this sūrah in āyahs 22-39. The beginning and ending āyahs of this section are given below.

Tawḥīd

لَّا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتَقْعُدَ مَذْمُومًا مَّخْذُولًا
Do not set up any other deity besides Allāh, otherwise you will find yourself disgraced and forsaken. (Al-Isrā’, 17:22)

ذَٰلِكَ مِمَّا أَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْكَ رَبُّكَ مِنَ الْحِكْمَةِ ۗ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ فَتُلْقَىٰ فِي جَهَنَّمَ مَلُومًا مَّدْحُورًا
This is  part  of  that  knowledge  of  right  and  wrong  which  your Sustainer has revealed to you. Hence, do not set up any other deity besides Allāh, lest you be cast into hell, blamed (by yourself ) and rejected (by Him)! (Al-Isrā’, 17:39)

The list begins and ends with the reminder that we must not worship anyone except Allāh alone. Corrupt practices have corrupt ideas behind them and to remove the corruption from our lives, we must begin with the purification of our ideas and beliefs. Thus tawḥīd is the all important belief. A talk of “good deeds” is meaningless without it. Tawḥīd is the cornerstone of Islamic life, and shirk (polytheism) is its exact opposite. It follows that it must be a Muslim’s top most concern to avoid shirk of all forms in his beliefs and practices.

Parental Rights

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 Sustainer has decreed that you worship none but Him, and do good unto your parents. If any one of them or both of them reach old age, do not say to them: uff (a word or expression of anger or disgust) and do not scold them, and address them with respectful words. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Sustainer! Bestow on them your Mercy just as they cherished me in childhood.” (Al-Isrā’, 17:23-24)

These āyahs set the bar for kindness to parents so high that no one can ever be complacent about it and think that they have done all that they should have done. And to compensate for our shortcomings, we should be regularly praying for our parents as mentioned in the second āyah. It should be kept in mind that parents have rights even when they are non-Muslims. In the hierarchy of rights, parental rights are the greatest among all the rights of other human beings. But they are subservient to the rights of Allāh. Thus one cannot revoke obedience to Allāh under the command of his or her parents. Although even in that situation politeness is required.

Being Spendthrift

وَآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَىٰ حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَلَا تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا. إِنَّ الْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوا إِخْوَانَ الشَّيَاطِينِ ۖ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِرَبِّهِ كَفُورًا
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the satans; and the Satan is very ungrateful to his Sustainer. (Al-Isrā’, 17:26-27)

There are two related terms used in the Qur’ān regarding improper spending. Tabdhīr, used here, is spending on projects for which no spending is justified. Isrāf, mentioned elsewhere, is spending extravagantly on projects which are in themselves permissible. Both are condemned. Unfortunately, both are very common in the Muslim world today. The extravagant spending in weddings and celebrations, so common today one might think that it was normal or fine, is just one example of this epidemic.

Killing Children for Fear of Poverty

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا
Do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide sustenance to them and to you, too. Killing them is a great sin indeed. (Al-Isrā’,17:31)

This also refers to abortions. While the āyah refers to the economic motive, as it was the common motive in pre- Islamic Jāhiliyyah, it is obvious that killing for other reasons is no more permissible. Birth control for fear of poverty, as a personal or national project, is also prohibited in Islam.

Adultery and Fornication

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا
Do not even go close to fornication. It is indeed a shameful act, and an evil way to follow. (Al-Isrā’, 17:32)

Islam does not just prohibit all extramarital  sex, it also closes the doors that may lead to it. That is why what is prohibited here is getting close to fornication. This means it is obligatory to stay away from things that  can excite the desires and situations that can make extramarital sex possible or easy. The problem today is that while societies still claim that they want to eliminate adultery, they insist on leaving open all the channels that lead to it. Their strategies make as much sense as putting a pot full of water on the stove and turning on the stove, then prohibiting the production of steam.

Today’s media based commercial and cultural propaganda campaigns have put all their energy in exciting sexual desires because they help sell. The same can be said about the music industry, fashion industry, film industry, and all sorts of businesses that make money from exploitation of lust. This is the first time in history that the inviting picture of a woman has been placed on every square inch of available space. Coeducation and free mixing in general which have become commonplace today and are considered as marks of human progress, all stoke the fires that lead to fornication and adultery and all sorts of sexual perversions. The pot is full and the heat setting is at the highest level. Is it any wonder that steam production is also at the highest levels?

Quite expectedly those who have chosen to declare fueling the fires as a fundamental human right have taken fornication off the list of crimes. This makes the statistics not look as bad, but does not change anything in reality. The destruction of family life, which has reached epidemic proportions, is a direct result of this attitude.

Islam’s call is to end this fatal contradiction and self delusion. Solve the problem at its roots. Close the doors that lead to sexual anarchy. It is a shame that the Muslim world, in large parts, has also become deaf to this Qur’ānic message with the result that the graphs of incidents of sexual crimes are at an all time high and going up. This is another reminder that our problems will not be solved until we start listening to the Qur’ān.

Murder

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَمَن قُتِلَ مَظْلُومًا فَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا لِوَلِيِّهِ سُلْطَانًا فَلَا يُسْرِف فِّي الْقَتْلِ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مَنصُورًا
And do not take any human being’s life—(the life) which Allāh has willed to be sacred—otherwise than in (the pursuit of ) justice. Hence, if anyone has been slain wrongfully, We have empowered his heir (to exact a just retribution); but even so, let him not exceed the bounds of equity in (retributive) killing. Surely, he will be helped (in a just retribution). (Al-Isrā’, 17:33)

Killing is permitted only in the execution of a legal sentence,in a just war, or in legitimate self-defense. The overriding concern for justice demands that we avoid excesses in both directions: in letting murderers go unpunished, or going beyond limits in punishing the murderer and even others merely suspected of capital crimes. We see both extremes in the world today. Murderers go unpunished as capital sentence is considered too harsh. Yet killing men, women, and children on mere suspicions using remote killing mechanisms (like drones) is considered legitimate, even virtuous.

Vain Pursuits

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا
And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; verily, (your) hearing and sight and heart—all of them—will be called to account for it (on Judgment Day). (Al-Isrā’, 17:36)

This is banning idle curiosities, vain pursuits, and all pointless uses of our faculties of sense and intellect. This is the stuff that fills up most of the modern media and countless hours in Internet surfing, chatting, and texting. Social networks have taken this human weakness to an entirely new plane. This is a reminder that our use of our faculties must be made with a heavy sense of responsibility and accountability before Allāh. Only this sense of ultimate accountability can prevent us from misusing these God given faculties.

Arrogance

وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الْأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولًا
And walk not on earth with haughty self-conceit: for, verily, you can never rend the earth asunder, nor can you ever grow as tall as the mountains! (Al-Isrā’, 17:37)

This is meant to cut the megalomaniacs of all grades to size. A six foot tall human being walking arrogantly on the face of this vast earth, in comparison to which he is nothing more than a speck, makes an interesting spectacle. Let us be honest—and be humble.

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