Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey ) 17 : 16

وَإِذَآ أَرَدْنَآ أَن نُّهْلِكَ قَرْيَةً أَمَرْنَا مُتْرَفِيهَا فَفَسَقُوا۟ فِيهَا فَحَقَّ عَلَيْهَا ٱلْقَوْلُ فَدَمَّرْنَٰهَا تَدْمِيرًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And when We intend to destroy a city, We command its affluent but they defiantly disobey therein; so the word [i.e., deserved decree] comes into effect upon it, and We destroy it with [complete] destruction.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The same consistent and universal law that governs the succession of day and night also applies to the destruction of any community:

“When it is Our will to destroy a community, We convey Our command to those of its people who live a life of affluence. If they persist in sin, judgement is irrevocably passed, and We utterly destroy them.” (Verse 16)

The affluent who enjoy wealth, servants, luxuries, comfort and power are prone to carelessness and decadence in their lives. They thus lead a life of corruption, transgress all limits, trample over values, desecrate sanctities and defile other people’s honour. Unless they are taken to task for their misdeeds, they will spread corruption and indecency throughout their community. They will debase the sound values and principles which every community needs to observe in order to survive. Thus their corruption will lead to the loss of strength, vigour and means of survival by the whole community. It then becomes lifeless, and is soon overtaken by destruction.

The verse here restates this law which God has set in operation. When God determines that a certain community is to be destroyed, this is only the natural outcome of its pursuit of ways and practices that lead to destruction. The affluent become too numerous and no one takes any action to curb their transgressions. They spread corruption, and bit by bit the whole community becomes corrupt. Consequently, it is liable to the effects of the law God has set in operation, condemning such communities to destruction. Indeed the community in question is responsible for the destruction it suffers, because it did not take the necessary action to stop such foul practices. Had it done so, it would have spared itself destruction. It would not have had corrupt people to lead it astray until it has faced the dire results.

God has willed that human life should run according to set laws which never fail or change. A cause has its effect, and the effect takes place as a result of the operation of God’s will that has set this law in operation. God does not approve of indecency or transgression. However, the presence of those who are exceedingly rich in a community is indicative that its fabric has become loose and that it has set itself on the way to decline. This will seal its fate, because it has set itself open to the operation of this law when it allowed those who are excessively rich to lead their corrupt life.

The mention of God’s will in the verse, “When it is Our will to destroy a community, We convey Our command to those of its people who live a life of affluence,” does not mean a commanding will which initiates the cause. It is a will that brings the effect when the cause takes place. Thus the effect becomes inevitable as a result of the operation of God’s laws of nature. Similarly, the ‘command’ in the same statement does not refer to a directive requiring them to indulge in sin. It simply refers to the natural result which comes about in consequence of those people leading such a life. Hence, the verse states that: “If they persist in sin, judgement is irrevocably passed, and We utterly destroy them.” (Verse 16)

 

2. Linguistic Analysis

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3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The very first verse indicates that this Surah was revealed on the occasion of the ascension (Mi’raj). According to the narrations (hadith) on the life of the Prophet, this event happened one year before migration (Hijrah). Thus this Surah was revealed in the last stage of Prophethood in Makkah.

8. Reasons for Revelation

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The Prophet had been propagating Monotheism (Tawhid) for twelve years now. In spite of all the opposition, Islam had spread to every corner of Arabia and there was hardly a clan which had not been influenced by the invitation. In Makkah itself, the true Believers had formed themselves into a small community.  A large number of the people from the Aws and Khazraj tribes (two influential clans of Madinah) had also now accepted Islam. Thus the time had come for the Muslims to emigrate from Makkah to Madinah, at behest of the Aws and Khazraj to establish an Islamic state.

9. Relevant Hadith

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Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

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