Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey ) 17 : 89

وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِى هَٰذَا ٱلْقُرْءَانِ مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٍ فَأَبَىٰٓ أَكْثَرُ ٱلنَّاسِ إِلَّا كُفُورًا


 Muhsin Khan
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And We have certainly diversified for the people in this Qur’ān from every [kind of] example, but most of the people refused [anything] except disbelief.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

Against this background, the Prophet’s position is clearly stated. He will be the witness against his own people. This timely piece of detail adds power to the whole scene:

“And We will bring you, [Prophet] as a witness against these [i.e. your people].” (Verse 89)

The verse mentions then that the revelations given to the Prophet “makes everything clear,” leaving no excuse for anyone to justify turning away from them. The revelation of the Qur’ān also provides

“guidance and grace and gives good news to those who submit themselves to God.” (Verse 89)

This shows clearly that whoever wishes to follow right guidance and receive God’s mercy should declare his submission to God before the arrival of that awesome and fearful day. For when it comes, no one will be given leave to justify his position or to make amends for past deeds. Thus we see that the scenes of the Day of Judgement given in the Qur’ān serve a definite purpose endorsing the message given in the section where they occur.

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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10. Wiki Forum

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…

11. Tafsir Zone


Overview (Verses 89 - 96)

Only a Man and a Messenger
Indeed We have explained to mankind, in this Qur’ān, every kind of lesson. Yet most people refuse to accept anything other than disbelief They say: ‘We shall not believe in you till you cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth, or you have a garden of date palms and vines, and you cause rivers to flow through it, or you cause the sky to fall upon us in pieces, as you have threatened, or you bring God and the angels face to face before us, or you have a house of gold, or you ascend to heaven. Indeed we shall not believe in your ascent to heaven until you bring us a book for us to read.’ Say, ‘Limitless in His glory is my Lord. Surely I am only a man and a Messenger.’ (Verses 89-93)

Their limited perception has failed to appreciate the inimitability of the Qur’ān. Therefore they started asking for material miracles, enlisting absurd requests that only betrayed their childish thinking. Or they spoke with impudence about God Himself. They did not benefit by the expounding of cases and examples in the Qur’ān, nor were they satisfied with the wide variety of styles and approaches the Qur’ān employed in explaining its concepts, so as to be understood by people of different standards and faculties. Hence, “most people refuse to accept anything other than unbelief” (Verse 89) They started to place conditions which they required to be met so that they might believe in the Prophet’s message. Such conditions required him to “cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth.” (Verse 90)
Alternatively, they told him that they would not believe in him until “you have a garden of date-palms and vines, and you cause rivers to flow through it.” (Verse 91)
Their conditions were so irresponsible that they even demanded that the Prophet inflict on them some punishment from the sky above, mockingly stating that the sky itself should fall upon them in pieces, just as he had warned would happen on the Day of Judgement. A similarly absurd condition was that he should bring God and the angels before them, so that they could support him and defend his case, like they themselves used to do in tribal arguments. Absurdity knows no limit, for they even asked him to take for himself a house of gold and similarly precious metals. They further suggested to him that he should ascend to heaven as a proof of his special position. But even if he had done so, this too would not have been enough. For he was to bring back a book with him for them to read.
The childish absurdity of all these requests and conditions is clearly apparent. They are all arbitrary suggestions and widely different in scope and nature that they cannot be placed on the same level. How could residence in a luxurious house be considered of similar value to a person’s ascension to heaven? And how can the digging up of a water spring he treated as equivalent to bringing God and the angels marching in ranks before them? However, to them these are all miraculous matters, so they can be grouped together. Should Muĥammad accomplish any of these miraculous events, they would consider believing in him and his message.
They overlooked the permanent miracle of the Qur’ān when they were totally unable to produce anything similar to it in style, imagery, meaning and philosophy. Such a miracle is not physical, defying the senses. Hence they demanded to have before them a clearly physical miracle.
But producing a miracle was something that the Prophet could not accomplish. Miracles are only determined by God in His wisdom. It is not appropriate for the Prophet to request such a miracle, unless God wishes to give it to him. The Prophet’s understanding and appreciation of God’s wisdom prevented him from requesting such a miracle. Hence, he is commanded to say in reply to them: “Limitless in His glory is my Lord. Surely I am only a man and a Messenger.” (Verse 93) He confines himself to the limits of his human status and he works according to the duties outlined for him in his message. He does not suggest to God anything beyond this.
Before the Prophet Muĥammad was sent as God’s Messenger and even after he began to preach his message, people wallowed under the misconception that a human being could be God’s messenger. Hence they rejected God’s messengers and the messages He revealed to them: “Nothing has ever prevented people from believing, whenever guidance came to them except that they would say: ‘Can it be that God has sent a human being as His messenger?” (Verse 94). In this way they turned away from divine guidance.
This misconception results from people’s low rating of their own value and the honourable position God has given them. They thought it totally unlikely that a human being could be chosen by God to be His messenger. This betrayed a lack of understanding of the nature of the universe, the angels, and how, in their angelic form, they are unsuited to life on earth. In order for angels to live on earth, their nature must be modified which would then make it impossible for human beings to recognize them as angels.
“Say, Had there been angels walking about on earth as their natural abode, We would have sent them an angel messenger from heaven.” (Verse 95) Had God willed that angels should inhabit the earth, He would have made them in the form of human beings, because it is the form that suits the laws of nature affecting the earth. He says in another verse, “Even if We had appointed an angel as Our messenger, We would certainly have made him [appear as] a man.” (6: 9) God is certainly able to accomplish any purpose He may have. However, He has willed to set in operation laws of nature and He has made His creatures fit for life under the influence of such laws of nature which He, by His own power and choice, has made permanent and unalterable. Through the operation of His laws of nature, His purpose of creation is thus fulfilled. Yet the unbelievers understand nothing of this.
Since this is the pattern God has chosen for His creation, He instructs His Messenger to end all argument with them and leave the dispute between the two parties to God. He calls on God to be his witness, leaving them entirely to God to do with whatever He pleases. He is the One who knows everything about everyone. “Say: ‘Sufficient is God for a witness between me and you. He is indeed fully aware of His servants, and He sees all things.’” (Verse 96) This statement carries an implicit warning. The results, however, are painted in a frightening scene of what will happen on the Day of Judgement.

12. External Links

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