Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey ) 17 : 34
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(of) the orphan
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
Having completed its instructions concerning the sanctity of people’s honour and life, the sūrah tackles the question of orphans’ property and the requirement of fulfilling one’s promises and pledges towards them:
Do not come near the property of an orphan before he comes of age, except with the best of intentions. Be true to all your promises, for you will be called to account for all that you promise. (Verse 34)
Islam makes it clear that a Muslim’s life, honour and property are to be protected and preserved. The Prophet says: “Everything that belongs to a Muslim is forbidden to be taken away by another: his blood, honour and property.” [Related by al- Bukhārī, Muslim, Mālik and Abū Dāwūd and al-Tirmidhī] The sūrah, however, makes a special case concerning the property of an orphan, ensuring its full protection. It forbids the mere coming near it except for what is best for the orphan. That is because an orphan is too weak to manage his property or defend it against assault. Hence, the Muslim community is required to take proper care of the orphan and his property until he comes of age and is able to take care of his own affairs.
An important point to be noted in connection with all these instructions is that matters which an individual needs to implement in person, as an individual, are phrased in the singular form. By contrast, the instructions that are addressed to the Muslim community are given in the plural. Thus we see that orders to be kind to parents, to be charitable to relatives, the needy and stranded travellers, and to refrain from extravagance, maintain a middle way between being tight-fisted and spendthrift, to ascertain the truth in every situation and refrain from showing arrogance and conceit, are all given in the singular form. This is due to the fact that responsibility in these areas is shouldered by the individual. On the other hand, the plural form is used to express the instructions prohibiting the killing of children, adultery, and homicide, and those concerning the protection of an orphan’s property, honouring promises and pledges, and giving fair weight and measure, because these concern the community as a whole.
Here we see that the order not to come near the property of an orphan, except with the best of intentions, is given in the plural in order to make the whole community responsible for the protection of orphans and their property. It is then a collective responsibility.
Looking after an orphan’s property is an act of trust which constitutes a pledge by the whole community. Hence, it is followed with an order to honour all promises and pledges: “Be true to all your promises, for you will be called to account for all that you promise.” (Verse 34) God will certainly question people about their promises and will hold to account anyone who is in breach of any trust or pledge. Islam attaches great importance to the fulfilment of promises and pledges and to being true to one’s trust because this is the essence of honesty and integrity, both personal and social. In fact, fulfilment of promises and honouring trust is mentioned in various ways and forms in the Qur’ān and ĥadīth, both with regard to pledges given to people or to God, by the individual, community or state, ruler or ruled. In practice, Islam has set an example for such fulfilment which humanity has never seen except under Islamic rule.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
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[ edit ]
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.