Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey ) 17 : 23

۞ وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوٓا۟ إِلَّآ إِيَّاهُ وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَٰنًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ ٱلْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَآ أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَآ أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents the best [treatment]. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

“Your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him.” (Verse 23) This order to offer all worship to God alone follows the one prohibiting the association of partners with God. It takes the form of a decisive ruling to be implemented without fail, by all mankind. The term, qadā, used in the Arabic text and translated as ‘ordained’, signifies a final verdict imparting additional emphasis to an already emphatic order that also uses the construction of a negation and exception: “You shall worship none but Him.” The mode is one of total emphasis and stress. When this basic ruling is well established, individual and community duties are outlined. These rely on a firm belief in the One God. Hence, motives and goals behind actions and practices work towards the same end.

The most important bond next to that of faith is the family. Hence the sūrah links kindness to parents with the worship of God, in order to emphasize its importance in God’s sight:

And that you must be kind to your parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in your care, never say ‘Ugh’ to them or chide them, but always speak gently and kindly to them, and spread over them humbly the wings of your tenderness, and say, My Lord, bestow on them Your grace, even as they reared and nurtured me when I was a child.’ (Verses 23-24)

With inspirational expression that is full of tenderness the Qur’ān enhances our feelings of compassion towards our parents. As life goes on, its momentum carries the living and focuses our attention on what lies ahead, on our own children, the new generation. Rarely are we motivated to look back and attend to the former generation of parents, who represent a life that is already on the decline. Hence, as sons and daughters we need a strong charge of conscience so that we will look hack and take care of our mothers and fathers.

Parents are naturally motivated to look after their children, sacrificing everything in the process, even when the sacrifice includes them personally. An early green shoot absorbs every particle of nutrition in its seed to leave it as dust, and a chic eats up everything in the egg, leaving only the shell. Similarly, children take up all their parents’ vigour, health, effort and attention, leaving them in the weakness of old age, yet happy to have given their children everything they could give. But children soon forget all this and move ahead, caring more for their spouses and own offspring. This is the natural course of life.

Thus parents do not need any encouragement to be kind to their children. It is the children who need to be reminded of their duty towards the generation that has become dry, in need of tender care, after having spent most of its vitality in bringing up their young. Hence, the divine command to take good care of parents comes in the form of a ruling from God, following immediately after the command to worship God alone.

The sūrah then imparts an air of tenderness to the whole atmosphere. It engenders memories of childhood, of compassion, love and tender care: “Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in your care...,” (Verse 23) Old age commands veneration, and the weakness of the elderly imparts certain feelings. Use of the phrase, ‘in your care’, describes an elderly person weakened by advancing years needing shelter and care. Hence, sons and daughters are told: “Never say ‘Ugh’ to them or chide them.” (Verse 23) This is the first step in taking care of one’s parents and being kindly to them. Sons and daughters must never use words which suggest their being vexed or bothered by their parents, or say anything that betrays disrespect. On the contrary, they must “always speak gently and kindly to them.” (Verse 23) This is a higher and more positive step. What sons and daughters say to their parents must always be coupled with genuine respect.

 

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


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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