Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey ) 17 : 31

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوٓا۟ أَوْلَٰدَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَٰقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْـًٔا كَبِيرًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

As the Qur’ān makes this statement clear, it follows it with reference to the fact that some people in pre-Islamic days used to kill their daughters for fear of want and poverty. It then adds a clear order prohibiting the killing of children for any such reason. Since God is the One who determines the means people have, there is no connection, then, between poverty and the number or sex of the children they have. The matter is fully in God’s hands. When people purge their thoughts of the false notion of any direct relationship between poverty and having children, and when they adopt the correct concept in this regard, there is no reason for that ghastly crime which flies in the face of human nature and the right to life:

“Do not kill your children for fear of want. It is We who shall provide for them and for you. To kill them is indeed a great sin.” (Verse 31)

When people adopt false beliefs, these beliefs affect their everyday lives. The effect is not confined to the adoption of wrong notions or the offering of worship rituals. On the other hand, purging faith from any false notion does have a positive effect on feelings, behaviour and social life generally. The fact that people in pre-Islamic Arabia used to bury their daughters alive provides a clear case of how far religious beliefs can affect human life so as to establish such horrendous crime as an acceptable social norm. It testifies to the fact that life is affected by the sort of beliefs people adopt. Indeed faith cannot remain isolated from human life.

A word should be said here about the meticulous care the Qur’ānic style reflects in its usage. In this particular verse we note that the provision for offspring is mentioned before provision for parents. In Sūrah 6, Cattle or al An`ām, it is provision for parents which comes first: “We provide for you and for them.” (6: 151) The usage in both cases is related to the different emphasis they have. Here the verse is translated as: “Do not kill your children for fear of want. It is We who shall provide for them and for you. To kill them is indeed a great sin.” (Verse 31) The verse in Sūrah 6 reads as follows: “Do not kill your children because of your poverty: We provide for you and for them.” (6: 151) It is clear that this sūrah is referring to the killing of children from fear that their presence will lead to poverty. Hence, providing for children is mentioned first. In Sūrah 6, the children are killed because of their parents’ actual poverty. Hence, the provision for parents is mentioned first. Thus every little Qur’ānic detail, even putting something first on one occasion and second on another is for a definite reason.

 

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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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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