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

Surah Introduction

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This Surah concentrates on some important moral and spiritual principles.  It emphasizes that human beings always need divine guidance.  Without the guidance of Allah, humans end up in evil, sin and misery.  Human beings must have good relations with each other and live in a society built on the principles of faith, justice and morality.  The Surah talks about the evils of pride and arrogance and urges human beings to reflect on Allah's signs and be humble before Him in prayers.


  1. Isra' journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem.
  2. Human beings are hasty.  Reward and punishment all have their time.
  3. Moral and spiritual principles are emphasized - Worship of Allah and respect of parents.
  4. Moral principles - children's rights, decency, right of life, orphans' property, honesty in dealings, humbleness.
  5. Tawhid is the basic message of the Qur'an.
  6. Gentleness is enjoined.
  7. Satan's pride against man and his pledge to mislead human beings.
  8. Every one will be brought on the Day of Judgement with his/her own deeds.
  9. Emphasis on prayers, and on the reading of the Qur'an.
  10. The Qur'an is inimitable.
  11. Non-believers have lame arguments against accepting the Prophets.
  12. The attitude of Pharaoh towards Prophet Moses and the signs that he showed. 

The Surah takes the name ‘al-Isra’ from the first Ayat of the Surah. “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa”. The Isra in ‘al-Isra wal-Mi’raj’ – is the first part of the journey which took place from Makkah to Jerusalem – the ‘Mir’aj’ being the ascension from Jerusalem to the Heavens.

The surah is also referred as ‘Bani Israel’ – Children of Israel.

There are 111 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat111
Total Words *1556
Root Words *354
Unique Root Words *11
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 50th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 11th year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
1st Pledge of Aqabah, Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1, 2nd Migration to Abyssinia, Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
2nd Pledge of Aqabah,,Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah,Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr,Battle of Uhud,,Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah,Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers,,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
Adam, Nuh, Musa, Dawud
Surah Index
Adam, Adversity (not burdened with another’s burden) , Ageing (behaviour towards ageing parents in your care) , God (false daughters of) , God (wills no wrong to His creation) , Angels, Behaviour (avoid becoming involved in matters you know nothing of) , Behaviour (speak justly toward those in want--- if you can do nothing else) , Behaviour (towards ageing parents in your care) , Behaviour (towards others) , Business (be fair in dealings) , Children, Children (do not kill for fear of poverty) , Children (of Israel) , David, Death (those communities who have no revelation will not be destroyed) , Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Disbelievers (speak kindly to them) , Earth, Earthquake, Forgetting, Heaven (several) , Hell, Horses, Humankind (creation of) (from clay), Iblis, Jinn, Judgement (Day) , Killing, Killing (don’t) , Killing (retribution) , Knowledge, Life (is sacred) , Marriage (adultery) , Marriage (adultery) (forbidden), Moses, Mountains, Noah, Orphans (leave their possessions) , Pharaoh (torture by and deliverance from) , Prayer (content) , Prayer (style of) , Prayer (times of day of) , Prophet (some superior) , Qur’an, Qur’an (invisible barrier during recitation) , Qur’an (source of health) , Record of personal deeds, Resurrection (Day) , Resurrection (of humans) , Resurrection (of soul) , Revelation, Sea, Ships, Sin, Thamud, Torah, Tree (of hell) , Weather (storms) , Weather (wind)

Central Theme

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Theme 1: Expounding the true value of the Qur'an

This Surah is a wonderful balance of warning and instruction. The disbelievers of Makkah are warned to take a lesson from the chastisement of the Israelites and other past civilisations.  They should therefore accept the message of Islam before they too are annihilated and replaced.

The Israelites, with whom Islam was now going to come in direct contact with in Madinah, are also admonished in the Surah and told to heed the chastisements that had historically been inflicted upon them. They are warned to take advantage of the Prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad as the last opportunity for them.

As regards the education of mankind it has been stressed that human success or failure, gain or loss, depends upon the right understanding of Monotheism, life-after-death and Prophethood. Accordingly, convincing arguments have been put forward to prove that the Qur’an is the Book of God and its teachings are true and genuine. The doubts of the disbelievers about these basic realities are removed and they are admonished and rebuked in regard to their ways of ignorance.

In connection with this, the fundamental principles of morality and civilisation on which the Islamic way of life is established have been put forward. This was like a manifesto for the intended Islamic state, which had been proclaimed a year before its actual establishment. It has been explicitly stated that this was the sketch of the system on which the Prophet Muhammad was instructed to build the foundations of society.

The Prophet was also instructed to stay firm regardless of the opposition and difficulties which he was encountering and not to compromise belief. Moreover, prayer (Salat) was prescribed in order to reform and purify their souls, producing the high qualities of character essential to faith. Incidentally we learn from hadith that ascension was the first occasion on which the five daily Prayers were prescribed.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The Virtues of the Surah

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Abdullah bin Masood said, “Surat Bani-lsrael, Al-Kahf (The Cave), Maryam, Taha, Al-Anbiya' (The prophets) are amongst my first earnings and my old property, and (in fact) they are my old property.”[ Bukhari no. 4994] . What Abdullah ibn Masood meant was that these surahs were amongst the first he learnt.

Aishah, the Mother of the Believers, said, “The Messenger of Allah would fast [so much] that we would say he will not stop [fasting]. Then he would not fast till we felt he would not fast [again] and he would recite every night Bani Israeel and Zumar [39].” [Tirmidhee]

Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • The word 'Qur'an' appears more times in this Surah than any other Surah. It appears 10 times
Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) = 11*

Unique Root Words to this Surah only

11 unique root words that do not appear in any other Surah *

Top 10 Most Frequent Root Words used in this Surah

Root Word Frequency
in Surah
in Qur'an
ق و ل 46 1722
ك و ن 44 1390
ر ب ب 32 980
إِلَّا 26 663
ٱلَّذِى 20 1464
ق ر أ 16 88
ج ع ل 15 346
إِلَىٰ 14 742
إِذَا 13 409
أ ل ه 13 2851

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.

Background 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.

Relevant Hadith

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  • Isra' & Mir’aj
  • Divine Commandments:
  • Worship none but Allah
  • Be kind and obedient to parents
  • Give to relatives and the needy
  • Do not be a miser or a spendthrift
  • Do not kill your children for fear of poverty
  • Do not commit adultery
  • Do not slay without just cause
  • Do not say anything without knowledge
  • Do not walk arrogantly on earth
  • Safeguard the property of orphans
  • Allah does not beget children and those who say this, utter a monstrous lie.
  • There is a life after death.
  • The obligation of Five Daily Prayers and the prayer of Tahajjud (special late night prayer).
  • Human Rasools are sent to human beings.
  • The Qur'an is a shifa [cure] and rahmah [mercy] (17:82)
  • Perform Salah in a voice which is neither too loud nor too soft.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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